Actions

Work Header

We Will Get There

Chapter Text

You probably already know what happened. Then again, you might not. You might not even give a shit. But I’m going to tell you about it anyway. We went about our daily lives, oblivious to how bad things were getting in the world. And then they hit the reset button, erasing all of their problems along with hundreds of millions of lives.

No one saw it coming, the end.

The lucky ones were killed in seconds. As for the rest of us, immune to the black poison, we had to decide; hang on to the civility of the past, or become savages in a new dark future.

 

Derek turned the radio on, going through the waves in hopes someone out there would have made a message. There was none. Just the static mocking him. With a sigh of defeat, Derek went to the only station that was on the air, got out his notebook, red pen, and expanded his map on the table. The map was his only resource for safety. He’d gotten the idea a few months ago when one of his neighbours had come running back hollering about Nailers in their supermarket, which brought an uproar about how they were going to get food if a gang had taken the only store that supplied it.

It was a useful tool, and Derek wouldn’t go anywhere without it. He needed to know what their territories were, where they were going, how big were they getting. This was survival, and he couldn’t just stay in his home and hope for the best. Looking down at his map, Derek uncapped his red pen and started planning out his next route. It was difficult to get around nowadays with people giving up on trying to get by on their own and joining an expanding gang, or just eating a bullet. Derek had marked whole cities off as gang land as he tried to figure out a route to Milwaukee, where Stiles’ father was holding down the fort and keeping them informed on their portable radio.

“Hey kids! This is 99.2 KILU, and you’re listening to Crazy Al’s radio party, The Last Radio Show. Here’s another safety update for all you domestics out there, just trying to stay alive. If you’re new to the area, listen up and I’ll fill you in on all the shit we’ve been dealing with here in the once beautiful Midwest.” Crazy Al’s voice was an annoying but comforting background noise, it gave him hope that there was someone out there who actually wanted to help people that weren’t involved in the gangs. It also helped that he played really great music – it was rare that anyone got to listen to music since no one could keep electricity going.

He did go on a tirade though which Derek found really fucking annoying, sometimes it went on for hours, but who could stop him? No one, he was alone in the studio, the only radio station left as he likes to often remind his listeners of whenever he goes on the air. At least the crazy man could give him proper information about where was safe. “This once great nation on God’s green earth no longer belongs to God. It belongs to the gangs. That’s right daddy-oh, the Midwest may have been the land of macaroni casserole, fresh cut lawns, and Schlitz beer, but we’ve got some of the worst gangs in the country. Nailers, Plowboys, Gamblers, Cherries, Sheets, just to name a few.”

As if trying to live in this desolate wasteland wasn’t bad enough, there were gangs actively trying to kill you. Nailers; they were expanding every day. They were sadistic people who used anything as a weapon but they were mostly known for wielding axes. They wouldn’t take survivors, instead whenever they met people who weren’t in their gang, they would slaughter them and take their possessions. Plowboys, in Derek’s opinion were a collection of the worst people. Looking for any woman they could find to kidnap and then enslave them to be raped until they died. They thought of women as breeding stock to be handed out as prizes or would give another gang a lady if they’d let them go. They were disgusting cowards who bargained other people’s lives to save their own neck. Cherries, the complete opposite of Plowboys. It was a gang of women who severely hated men, and who could blame them in this world? They would go about America trying to save as many women as they could while killing men without remorse.

Gamblers, descriptions with the title. They spend all their days gambling what they had on anything. While that sounds harmless, they are one of the deadliest gangs out there. They wear animal heads as helmets, and carry around a wheel that decides whether someone lives and walks away, dies, or lives and becomes a bet at their base. Derek doesn’t know what happens once they take you but no one’s lived to talk about it, and he isn’t planning on finding out. Sheets. There wasn’t much to say about the Sheets, they were kind of a mystery but people have had their ideas. Most people think they’re made up of white men who go looking for non-white people to murder. Some think that they’re only hellbent on stealing cars and weapons, while attempting to decimate the Nailers. Who knows, but it’s the Sheets that have made it unsafe for people to go on the road at night.

By the end of the fourth record playing, Derek had found a plan to get down to Milwaukee. It may be the longest route taking all the backroads but everyone knew that the highways were blocked and even trying to cross it on foot would make you a dead man. He had a car, he had gas and extra to spare, he had plenty of weapons should he have to use them, and he had enough food and water to last a couple of days. 

 

--

 

“So you’re really doing this huh?” Boyd stood by the car watching Derek haul all the luggage into the back of Stiles’ jeep. It was a miracle this car had survived so much, but it was running on empty by the time Derek had gotten round to fixing the disaster as much as he could.

He sighed and pushed the backseats down while stacking the box of food on top of them, shaking his head. “Stiles wants to get his father, what can I say?”

“Well, you could always say no. You’ve got everything you need right here.” Boyd was one of the good ones, he had come to the neighbourhood a year ago with his wife begging them to help. He’s been loyal ever since, assisting anyone with the heavy lifting or going on supply runs while Erica could fix a gun faster than anyone in their small town.

Placing everything inside the trunk, Derek shut it and turned to his friend. “You think I don’t know that? This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, but if this saves our relationship then I’m going to risk it.”

They were all safe here. It was barricades up to the nines, with a multiple people doing perimeter checks, and enough guns and ammo to knock out anyone who tried to fight them. They had shelter, and food, and Kira had actually made something that connected to the electricity so they had power to warm showers. It was his slice of heaven, but he knew that Stiles would never be happy here without his father, who lived right in the middle of a warzone. He had also barricaded his neighbourhood but they still had gang members coming up and down their street. It wasn’t safe, and Stiles knew that. He needed to protect his family.

Boyd leaned against the jeep, crossing his arms and watching the way Derek rubbed his face with frustration. He loved Stiles with every fibre of his being, it crushes him every day knowing that Stiles is pulling away. He pat Derek on the shoulder, letting out a chuckle. “If you feel this is the best option, for the love of God, take a different car.”

“I fixed it.” Derek grinned and brought his friend into an embrace, patting Boyd’s firm back before going around to where Stiles was waiting on the doorstep with his arms crossed. He had already said his goodbyes to everyone last night; they had a small party. No one said anything but it was clear that they thought this would be the last time they would see the disjointed couple and they were going to make the most of it. Boyd didn’t say anything, just waved as they got into the jeep and pulled out the driveway down the road and to the gates, slowing down and waving at Jackson who had the roster this morning. The man sniped a hello and manually pulled the gates apart enough to Derek to get through and they were off. This was it. They could turn back now if they wanted to but by the determination in Stiles’ eyes, Derek would never be able to forgive himself if he didn’t take this.

With a full tank of gas, and a spare in the back, they had enough to get most of the way to Milwaukee without any stopping. Derek didn’t know what they were going to do about nights just yet but it was likely they were going to be breaking in to other houses to sleep and get supplies. This was all so they could get to Milwaukee, how they were going to get back Derek had no idea, and that’s even if they get there under the radar of the gangs and other survivors who weren’t above killing someone for food or shelter.

Stiles leaned forward, turning the radio on and fiddling with it until it came onto Crazy Al’s station. The soft tunes were a relief from the awkward silence that had built up. He doesn’t know what went wrong with their relationship, why Stiles was so distant. Maybe it was because he was more focused on staying alive rather than being in the moment and enjoying the time they had, maybe it was because he wanted to give back to their small town by being out most of the night doing perimeter checks and fixing small problems. It was going to be a long and dangerous journey, and he hopes that they could make it. He hopes that the Sheriff appreciated breaking their backs to get down there, hell, he hopes Noah is still alive by the time they get to Milwaukee.

With Roosevelt Nettles playing softly in the background, Derek turned the corner until their safe town was out of view, pulled out of the cul-de-sac and onto the open road. They drove.

Chapter Text

So, it didn’t take long until the jeep overheated from the continuous driving that it hadn’t been used to for the better part of a year, and they had to pull into a garage to cool it down. Derek was pissed. If this was going to happen every twenty miles then they’d never make it to Milwaukee. He had the hood up and luckily the garage had some tools that weren’t stolen because while he was tinkering, he’d found that one of the headlights had gone flat and needed a new bulb. At least it got him away from Stiles at the moment, who wasn’t even talking to him. Like the jeep overheating was his fault. Stiles was in the passenger seat holding the only photo he had left of his family; it was when they were in hospital and his mother was still alive. One of the nurses had politely accepted to take a picture of them, it was one of the better days. The next day she had broken down completely. Stiles stroked his thumb over his mother’s face and sighed a shaky breath, leaning forward to tuck the corner of the photograph into the glove compartment door. Looking at it every day would keep him going, it was like a mantra that he needed to have his family with him once more.

The garage door in the other car department swung open with a loud rattling that startled the couple from their thoughts. Shit, had they been found? There was only a window between them, Derek ducking down and crawling over to it to have better look. There were three men. They swaggered into the garage with enough confidence to know that they were a part of a gang. One of them shut the garage door again and started talking about the fucking Sheets.

Ah, they were Nailers.

It seems that they hadn’t been noticed, the men sitting down in the other room and cracking open a can of beans while one spotted a tag of Sheets. He sneered in disgust and uncapped one of his spray paints, giving it a shake and heading over to it, drawing a big black X over it before throwing his middle fingers up at the picture. They were tired and hungry after dealing with a group of them only minutes before, this would be a secure place to just lay low for a little while and get their energy back and check how much ammo they have left in case they needed restocking.

Even unnoticed, they needed to get out of there. Derek to turned to the car, mouthing to open the driver’s door then crept round to the front of the jeep and ever so carefully unhooked the hood, gently bringing it down until it clicked closed. He grabbed the toolbox and his gun, making his way back to the driver’s door while Stiles leaned over and slowly popped it open with a soft clack, pushing it open until it squeaked. They both froze in place, hearts beating wildly and praying to whoever was out there that the Nailers didn’t notice them.

Unfortunately, one of them did. He turned to the window, standing up from his chair and reaching for his gun. Derek had to hurry, but he had no idea if the jeep had cooled down enough to start again. Setting the toolbox down as gently as he could, he cocked his gun ready to fire if need be.

The Nailer was getting closer to the window, there was something there. Could be an animal, could be a fucking Sheet thinking they could sneak up and take them out. It was better to be safe than sorry. He was just about to open the side door when one of his mates asked if he wanted salt or pepper.

It happened so fast. The garage door breaking open and a massive truck flew in, guns blazing and taking out two Nailers without pause. This was Derek’s chance, flinging himself into the driver’s seat and starting the engine. It stuttered to nothing. Fuck, he didn’t have time for this! He tried again, Stiles’ breath panting with panic as he kept an eye on the window while grabbing the abandoned gun and aiming it, someone needed to keep them protected while Derek tried for the third time to start the fucking car. “Come on, come on!”

The Sheets took out the last Nailer, keeping their guns up when they heard the whining of a car in the other room, turning their heads and cocking their guns. Fuck, they’d been spotted. Derek shouted as he tried one more time, Stiles getting ready to fire when the jeep roared to life. He didn’t waste anymore time, stamping on the gas and flooring it through the garage door, speeding out of there like a bat out of hell while the Sheets ran out and started firing their guns in hopes they hit their target.

They rounded the corner of the mechanic’s in seconds, Stiles looking over his shoulder at the back to check they were being followed while Derek focused on getting the fuck out of there and onto the road to find safety. After a few minutes of driving erratically, Stiles turned around and relaxed into his seat once more to breathe and set the gun on his lap, turning the safety on. “We’re clear.”

 

--

 

 “Here’s another safety update for all you domestics out there braving the barren countryside. It’s official that Sheets and Nailers are in a turf war. I know you fuckers can hear me out there so do us all a favour and just kill each other, so we can get on with our lives. With all that said, it’s time to get safe. Pull off the roads, find some shelter, because the sun is going down.” They drove all day, not stopping until the sky had just started to dim and they had just under two hundred miles until they were in Milwaukee. Derek had pulled into a run down suburban neighbourhood that didn’t look like anyone lived there for months. He found the most hidden one at the end of the road and pulled in, parking and turning off the jeep.

“Do you think it’s safe?” This was the most that Stiles had spoken to Derek in hours, keeping his eyes to the windows of the house searching for anyone walking around in there. He had grown quiet since the beginning, gone still when before he would fiddle with anything and chatter everyone’s ears off. It’s what Derek fell in love with. Even now without the Adderall keeping him in check, it was the fear alone that if he kept making noise he would be discovered and they would die that kept him from making any unnecessary movement. It didn’t appear to have any life inside so they stepped out the car, stretching a little after their long journey in one position. They took what they needed for the night; some food, some matches and lanterns, the map, and of course weapons. Anything else was hidden away in the car in hopes it just looks abandoned and no one would have an interest in it to look for their supplies.

Derek went first; going to the front door with his gun up in case someone was just biding their time. He opened the door and waited a couple of seconds before hurrying in, Stiles quick to follow behind him and shut the door. He stayed in the entrance of the house while Derek did a sweep, his eyes wandering as he took in the place. It was dusty from no one tending to it, but it wasn’t dirty, so someone must have taken good care of the place which meant people must have been here recently. Maybe a couple of weeks ago at most. Once he got the all clear from Derek on the first floor and heard footsteps of him going up the stairs, Stiles picked up his bag and starting hunting for anything that could be useful to them.

Going into the bathroom, he found a couple medications which could come in handy to them, along with a woman’s perfume. Unable to help himself, he spritzed some onto his wrists and took a whiff of the lavender fragrance, humming in pleasure. A nice smelling man was rare these days, so Stiles slipped it into his bag and left the bathroom to go find anything else. Everything was messy, like people had been looking for anything that could possibly be useful so he doubted that there would be anything left for him and Derek. Stiles did find a record box, flicking through it for anything that would interest him. As if he had power to actually play anything.

Next was the kitchen. He had little hope for what was left in the pantry by now, and sure enough when he opened the doors there was nothing there that would be substantial. There were no cans, no food that didn’t have an expiry date, the food that was available was green and furry. They weren’t meant to be green and furry. Digging around a little more, Stiles searched the top of the pantry and actually found some honey that didn’t look like it’s gone off. He doesn’t remember the last time he had honey, they didn’t have any in their town. Stuffing it in his bag and calling it quits on the rest, Stiles continued upstairs to see if there were extra clothes for them or something similar.

The house definitely didn’t have anyone in it which relaxed Derek, rounding the corner upstairs and finishing the last of his sweep. They were bedrooms, one was dusty but clean enough that the two of them could sleep in it, but they other just made his heart sink into this stomach. There was blood on the walls, blood on the doorway and the door, blood on the floor. Just a lot of blood everywhere in the room. There was the Nailers tag spray painted on the wall, as if they were proud of their work. The two people in the stained bed were obviously dead, hacked up beyond any recognition. At least they died together.

He heard footsteps behind him and before Derek could warn him, Stiles had already taken in the scene before him with shock in his eyes. He hadn’t seen anything like this. He never went on supply runs and he hadn’t witnessed the horrors that the gangs do. Stiles couldn’t stop staring at the butchery in front of him, so Derek stepped forward and pulled the bloody sheets up to cover their bodies. “This will never be us, I promise.”

When he turned back to the doorway, Stiles had already left down the hallway to vomit into the bathrooms toilet. He needed to get rid of the bodies, so Stiles didn’t have to see them again, so the dead couple could have some kind of peace. He didn’t really have anything that could help though, and so he dug through the laundry pile for two bedcovers. Derek hauled the man in first, making sure to tie it up properly so he wouldn’t break the bag and make more of a mess, then set the woman in the other bag and doing the same. He dragged them out one at a time to the garage and left them there together, shutting the door.

Stiles was in the car again, he didn’t want to accidently walk in on Derek doing whatever he was doing. He needed to talk to his dad. Picking up the radio and finding their wavelength, Stiles listened for a moment to see if anything was on the air before speaking. “Sheriff Stilinski this is Jedi Starfighter, over.”

He waited for a couple of minutes for his father to pick up. There was nothing but static laughing back at him so he tried again, maybe his father didn’t hear him. “Sheriff Stilinski this is Jedi Starfighter, over.”

Again, nothing. He hadn’t been getting through to his dad for a couple of weeks now, and it was really worrying him. Anything could have happened. He could have run out of battery, or kidnapped, or worse. He wasn’t going to think about that right now. His bottom lip trembled the more the static continued with nothing replying back to him. Pressing the button again, he took a breath. “Dad?”

Another range of silence from his father’s end and it took the wind out of Stiles’ sails, slumping his shoulders and pressing the button once more. “Okay, just letting you know that we’re on our way. I miss you.”

With that, he got out the car and entered the house once more, going up the stairs and noticing that the bedroom door had been cleaned and closed. At least he felt a little better before going past it to enter the other room and getting to work on getting all the dust off the bedsheets. By the time they were both finished with fixing the house to their liking, it was dark outside and they had lit a couple of candles to get some light on the situation. They were in the cleaner bedroom, Derek at the desk with his map and his notebook updating it with another Sheet and Nailer tag before planning another route on where they were. Stiles had relaxed as much as he could in the bed, watching the way the fire flickers on the candle.

There was silence, the type that showed there was obvious problems between the two of them that they didn’t know how to solve, and so they ignored it for more pressing matters. Derek focused on his work, while Stiles zoned out and tried to get some sleep. Derek finished his map, noticing where he had gone through and smiled softly at the memory. “Remember when we used to complain about the Milwaukee drive?”

Stiles thought back to when they used to be happier, before the arguments and avoidance. They would go down the state with a full tank of gas and an extra in the trunk singing songs with the windows down and holding hands over the gearstick, their rings shining in the sunlight. He hugged his pillow and tried to remember why it had to change. “Five hours… Seems like nothing now.”

“You think I’d be able to get your dad to give me his gun this time?” Derek stretched in the chair, feeling his back crack and relaxed back down, turning his head to the bed.

Stiles was turned away from him, watching the candle drip wax down the side of its body before slowly drying out and becoming stiff. “The Wildy Magnum in his safe? I doubt it. He doesn’t like you.”

Sheriff Noah Stilinski has never liked Derek, he thought he was too old for Stiles since they were nearly seven years apart from each other which doesn’t sound like a lot. But because Stiles was sixteen when they started dating, it would have qualified as statutory and as the Sheriff, his dad never approved of it. He always thought Derek was taking advantage of Stiles even though it was always the teenager that made the first move. Even now that Stiles is well past being an adult, twenty-three, and Derek was nearing thirty, his father still doesn’t like him. When Stiles moved out and headed to his father’s place for a little while, it was difficult for Derek to even get a word in before Noah had intervened. “I think the last thing he said to me was ‘get your shit together, you clown’, it was very tasteful.”

“Sounds like something he’d say.” Stiles hummed softly at the memory of when his dad would sit in front of the television watching the Mets and having a very colourful vocabulary whenever something happened that he didn’t agree with.

Derek took the moment to enjoy the longest conversation they’ve had in months, placing his glasses on the desk and rubbing his eyes before blowing out his candle and climbing into the bed. He laid there silently, turning his head to watch Stiles’ back unmoving from his position. He remembers when they would take every opportunity to roll around in the sheets together, any time of the day they were free. The both of them would have condoms on their person just for moments when they had a few spare minutes to get off. He hasn’t touched Stiles in almost a year. A part of him was almost glad that the government covered the world with chemical gas if it meant Stiles came home to him, that he could get this chance to show Stiles that he never stopped loving him.

Stiles didn’t look at him, simply leaned over and blew out the candle before resuming the same position facing away from his ex. “Goodnight Derek.”

They lay there in the darkness listening to each other breathe but not doing anything, Derek couldn’t sleep without knowing he was safe. It was often to the point of exhaustion that he would just pass out. Stiles zonked out after a good quarter of an hour; he had a tiring day more than he was used to, he’d probably get nightmares from what he’s been through today. Derek just counted sheep until his eyelids got too heavy for him to keep open.

They should have been more careful when it came to the light. It should have been the first thing to know when squatting in a house that wasn’t theirs. Any kind of light from a house that isn’t meant to have life in it was an easy sign for people outside to come in and take what they want. They were obviously too tired, or were too used to living in their relaxed little town where they didn’t have to worry about that sort of thing.

It was their downfall; outside on the road stood a figure, staring up at the window that once held candlelight.

Chapter Text

The night was uneventful and the light poured into the room, waking both of them up from their sleep. Derek was the first to get up though because while Stiles was awake, he wasn’t exactly kind in the morning and would often try many times to go back to sleep. Derek made sure to pack everything up apart from their supply bag and weapon and stuff it into the car before anything else so they could get going faster, making his way inside once more and digging through the bag for his toothbrush and paste.

Standing in the kitchen brushing his teeth, he heard Stiles get out of bed from the footstep and soft grumbling. He could always count on Stiles being the same day-hater as he was before the apocalypse. The day was sunny and warm but the chilled night left the floor cold on his feet, at least it wasn’t frosty, they didn’t bring any winter gear and it would be a pain to keep chiselling ice from the windshield.

That’s when he heard it.

It was just a small revving noise off in the distance but Derek knew what that fucking meant. He wasn’t safe, and they were coming for them. He opened the curtain and peered out the window, sure enough he could see a motorbike coming down the road with a passenger seat extended on them. That was two guys, and he had no time to get in the car and go without being noticed. They would have to hide or fight. Spitting in the sink, Derek bolted up the stairs and grabbed Stiles from where the man was blurrily getting changed. “We’ve got to hide, now.”

The bike’s engine was much closer now, enough that Stiles could hear it. His face drained of color as he yanked his trousers up and ran out the bedroom trying to find somewhere that would hold them both undetected. Then, he looked up. There was a latched door on the ceiling that led to the attic, it would be perfect. Derek reached his hand up to press on the door, hearing it click and open before swinging down. Stiles was smart enough to grab the chair from the bedroom as leverage to get up into the attic with Derek quick behind him. He needed to move the chair and found an old broomstick from the dusty pile of old tools from the corner, putting it down and moving the chair across to the wall so it looked inconspicuous.

They were right on time, as soon as Derek pulled the broomstick up they both heard the front door slam open as if someone has kicked it down. Stiles jolted and covered his face in pure panic. He curled his body up as tight as he could by bringing his knees to his chest as spoke in the tiniest voice he could muster. “I don’t want to die here, I want to go home.”

“Hey, look at me. We are, okay? I’m taking you home.” Derek whispered back to him, kneeling down in front of Stiles and cupping the younger man’s face, bringing it up to look at him. There were tears welling up in his eyes, he was shaking, and Derek wanted nothing more than to sweep him off his feet and fly away to a better place but right now he needed to protect his partner. They could both hear footsteps clunking their way down below and ever so slowly, Derek moved to place the gun he’d swiped in their panic, in front of Stiles on the wooden floor with the silent notion that he may have to use it. He picked up the small but sharpened screwdriver as his only weapon and observed at Stiles once more. “We’re going to be fine. Say it for me.”

Stiles just stared at him with a crestfallen expression on his face, as if Derek needed him to say it so he could believe it. He took a deep breath and let it out gently, blinking and letting a tear spill down his cheek. “Be careful.”

It wasn’t what he wanted to hear, but he’ll take it. Rising slowly to his feet with his small but deadly weapon in hand, he tip-toed to the door and carefully lowered himself down until the pads of his feet touched the floor in the hallway. He had about ten seconds before he heard the thudding of a heavy-footed boot make its way upstairs, peering around the corner to take him in before turning back and silently running back to the bedroom.

The man was wearing multiple sized spikes on one side of the shoulder of his leather jacket, and steampunk glasses on his face, he was taller than average and has thick arms which meant he did a lot of swinging, he must be part of the Nailers or something that involved a large weapon. Derek wasn’t going to be able to win in a fair fight, especially if he only had a screwdriver and barely any clothes on. The thug stopped in the hallway, listening to any noise from someone in the other rooms while swinging his axe painted with the American flag. It was a little rusty, probably from the amount of fluid it’s been drowned in throughout its life.

He started moving again, and Stiles could hear each weighted footstep on the wood just below the latched door of the attic. He couldn’t stand waiting but he knew he would be useless in a fight. His eyes caught a glimpse of a radio and tattered headphones, picking them up slowly as to not make any noise before putting them over his head. They were noise silencers, and once they were placed securely over his ears, he barely heard a thing. With that, Stiles closed his eyes and hugged his legs tight to his body, praying to anyone still out there in this Godforsaken world that Derek would get out of this alive.

The Nailer was peering into every room he came across, chuckling when he opened the door to where the butchered couple once laid before turning around and poking his head into another room. Derek was in the last room at the end of the hall and it would only be a matter of time until he would be found if he stayed there and did nothing. There was a small tinkering up in the attic that made Derek’s heart stop. The guy must have heard it too because his footfalls had stopped. This was his only chance or Stiles would be found out.

Derek peeked out of the room just enough to notice the Nailer turn around and creep towards where the door latch for the attic was. Tightening his hold on the screwdrivers handle, Derek tip-toed quietly behind him before jamming the tool as hard as he could through the back of the guy’s head. He heard a gasp and a choking noise, he must have stabbed him right in the throat. He felt the warm wetness of blood on his hand as he pulled the screwdriver out, ready to catch the now dead thug but fucking hell he was heavy, the guy’s knee hitting the floor with a loud thud. Shit, his friend must have heard that downstairs. He would have to work with the element of offensive surprise.

Setting the dead Nailer down onto the floor, Derek stepped over his body and wiped his hand down his shirt to get rid the of the blood. He would have to change his shirt after this anyway. He headed downstairs as gradually as he could to not make any noise, keeping his eyes and ears open in case the other thug was going to come near. He spotted the guy in the living room with a gun and a white armband with the Nailer tag stitched into it. He thought so, Nailers coming back to finish the job.

Derek ran into the living room behind the Nailer, practically jumping on top of the older man and bringing his screwdriver down hard into his shoulder. The force bringing them both rolling over the sofa and down onto the carpet, struggling to get control. Derek was quick to kick the gun out of the guy’s reach before bowling over to straddle the man’s waist and start stabbing anywhere he could get.

He was screaming in pain with his arms up trying to protect his face and chest from the penetrating stabs, while also trying to find his gun to shoot this son of a bitch. But Derek was too fast, too headstrong on getting this done and hurrying out of the house onto the road and the fuck out of this town. He brought the screwdriver down hard at the old man’s face, and even with the man holding his hand up it was too late. The tool stabbed straight through his hand and out the other side, right into his eye. The shrill shriek of agony coming from the man was enough for Derek to scramble off of him and fall back against the sofa, watching in horror as the Nailer slumped and went limp on the carpet.

Panting heavily, Derek thought about pulling the screwdriver out but then he saw the man wasn’t dead. He wasn’t fucking dead, and with the one eye he had left, he was looking right at Derek. He needed to get the fuck out of here. He got up and ran out the room, swallowing the bile rising in his throat to unlatch the attic door, haul the chair over and climbing up into the attic to get Stiles who had headphones on and picking at his nails anxiously.

He grabbed the gun first, Stiles startling out of his mind but understanding to hurry the fuck up. He threw the headphones off and followed Derek down out the attic and to the bedroom trying to ignore the fact that there was a fucking dead body right in the middle of the hallway, grabbing the bag and heading down the stairs not looking at anything but the front door. He didn’t need to see it, he couldn’t change anything even if he had the chance to. Derek wasn’t far behind him, making sure he had everything before slamming the door behind him and unlocking the car, swinging the boot open and throwing everything in the back haphazardly before slamming it closed once more and getting into the driver’s side. He didn’t even have fucking trousers or shoes on but he started the car and reversed out the driveway, speeding off down the road and not looking back.

 

 

--

 

They had gotten another thirty or so miles before they had to restock their food supply, they had half a bottle of water and a packet of crackers to spare. Stiles had tried to get in touch with his father again but no one was replying and hadn’t been active for days now. Derek wasn’t going to say anything but he knew something had happened to Noah and Stiles was just too stubborn to admit it. They couldn’t turn back now anyway, so it was no use fighting about it. “Here’s another safety update for all you domestics out there. Word on the street is there’s a new renegade Cherry, saving women and killing anyone in her way. Look out boys, she’s a fucking psycho! There’s also a lone wolf roaming the countryside who likes to get kinky with a straight razor. I mean, come on! Who comes up with this shit? Is the world really this crazy? Of course it is, or my name isn’t Crazy Al!”

They were a hundred and thirty four miles to Milwaukee when they found a store that wasn’t around any known gang territory, and looked abandoned enough to park up and restock. Inside wasn’t much to take in, it looked pretty barren actually. Most of the aisles had been wiped clean of any kind of edible resources but Stiles was determined. He picked up a basket from the front door and headed down each aisle picking things up to see if they were useable. There were cans that looked alright but when he picked them up, found that they had already been opened and the contents eaten already. Rotting fruit wasn’t even attempted. They did manage to salvage a couple packets of biscuits and a jar of jam for the road, which Stiles called a win.  

Derek was far too concerned with the man sneaking up behind him, before he could turn around and cock his gun at the man, there was a gun already pointed at him. “Hold it! Drop the basket and put the gun on the ground. Slowly.”

The man had a black woollen mask over his face but his body language had a look of total zen, like he could fire the gun and go on about his day without a single piece of regret, like holding a gun was completely natural to him. Stiles dropped the basket and let it hit the floor with a loud clank, hoping that the jam jar survived the fall. Derek was more stubborn, he didn’t want to be left vulnerable to this stranger without his gun and even thought about firing it when the man spoke again knowing exactly what he was thinking. “Don’t even try anything, I’m not alone.”

It took the fight of his body, and knew he couldn’t win this battle. He knelt down, putting his gun on the floor and swore softly as the man stepped closer now that he wasn’t in danger of being shot at. Derek stepped closer to Stiles, trying to protect him with his body if that’s all he could do. “Just take whatever you want, okay? Just let us go.”

“All I’m looking for is a handshake, friend.” The man switched the safety on his gun and aimed it away from the disjointed couple to hike the strap up through his arm and onto his shoulder, pulling off the woollen mask and pocketing it in his thick camouflage coat before holding out his hand. Derek couldn’t trust him, and with the way Stiles was looking at the guy’s hand like it was some kind of serpent, neither did he. The man seemed to notice the obvious discomfort and knelt down, picking up Derek’s gun before handing it back. “Here, take it.”

Derek was confused as fuck. Why was this man being so nice to them? If he wasn’t alone he could be part of a gang but he’s never known any gang members to be kind to anyone outside of their group. Hell, he’s seen other domestics become savage to other people without any excuses. The man stuck his hand out again once Derek took his gun back and secured it on his shoulder. “Alan Deaton.”

“Derek Hale.” They shook hands, and Alan turned to shake Stiles’ as he introduced himself as well. It was still awkward, they didn’t know what to make of it. Alan seemed content though and that was always a positive thing, they never wanted to upset someone who had the upper hand.

“Sorry for the theatrics but you know how it is, it’s been a while since we’ve seen people like you.” Alan chuckled and bent down to pick up their basket as well, handing it back to Stiles who thanked him and checked on the jam jar – still intact thank fuck.

Derek raised an eyebrow, he wasn’t going to say anything to give it away but he needed to know every possible outcome of this meeting. He could still be part of a gang for all he knew. “We?”

“I’ve been watching you.” Alan didn’t seem to mind about the questions though, happy to talk to people. Stiles tensed up and glanced at Derek who tried to keep a stoic face but Alan could tell he had said the wrong thing and held up hands up peacefully. “That came out wrong. Listen, we’re the same. We want the same things. As a matter of fact, well, it sounds crazy but I was wondering –.”

Before Alan could finish his sentence, he heard a talking outside and went on high alert, moving them down to the back of the store and hid behind an aisle. It was a small space so Stiles practically sat on top of Derek to keep himself hidden, keeping his eyes on Alan as he heard the store’s doors open with the cheery bell ringing to alert the store of new arrivals. There were four people who entered, the leader of the group had his face covered as well with more steampunk glasses on. The rest all wielded heavy guns made to intimidate. Derek heard one of them – most likely the leader – speak to the others. “If you find the one with the moles, don’t mess up his face.”

He tightened his grip on Stiles, tucking him tighter into his body. These people were looking for Stiles, they must have known about him from one of their kills. It could be the Nailers since he offed one of their men and severely injured and possibly killed another. Shit, they must have been tracking them for miles, how did he not see that?

Alan leaned over to the pair, whispering while the gang members started searching. “Listen, my sister and I would like to invite you both over for dinner.”

Wait. What the fuck?

What?” Derek frowned deeply at the other man. He must have a fucking screw loose if he was talking about dinner, while gang members were going up and down the aisles searching to kill them.

Alan didn’t even seem fazed at the scene going on around them, further giving evidence to Derek’s ideals about him not being all there in the head. “Oh sorry, late lunch. You don’t have to dress up, my sister will open up a bottle of wine, and you can meet my niece and nephew.”

Gunshots fired in the shop causing the three of them to flinch and tuck themselves tight into each other, Stiles clinging to Derek’s arms as he wrapped them around the man’s smaller frame. It finished in a matter of seconds, with the silence deafening. Was it another gang outside? Was it the people Alan said he was with? Derek spoke up after a few moments of ongoing silence. “What the fuck was that?”

“Oh, my nephew, Steven. All clear?” Alan had turned his head to look up, Derek following his gaze to where a small lump under a blanket was laid down across the top of the cabinets, a machine gun on a tripod smoking next to him. The boy pulled the camouflage blanket back and kneeled as he sorted out his gun, getting rid of the shells, then gave the thumbs up. What the fuck was going on?

Alan was hellbent on them going to their house for dinner, following them around the store as they collected a couple other pieces of food for supplies. They left the store and Alan spotted their jeep hiding around the corner of the store, whistling and checking it out. Stiles had preened at how Alan was looking at it with interest; he takes very good care of his baby and to have someone appreciate that gives him a sense of pride. It’s been through thick and thin with him; with it first being his mother’s car and sitting in the back in the kid’s seat watching her flick through the radio and sing along to the tunes, to getting the keys on his sixteenth birthday. His father had told him to take extra care with it considering how old it was and Stiles had followed that rule ever since, he researched how to take proper care of the engine, how to clean everything to make the car drive to its maximum potential.

It had started to wither in its old age, the parts harder to come by once it stops working. Coughing whenever Stiles started the engine, and he had almost run out of duct tape from the amount of times he had to bandage a pipe up. He wasn’t going to give up on it though, no matter how many times it has broken down or overheated and other people – Derek – may get frustrated all they want but he wasn’t going to quit on his baby. Alan walked around the car and gave it a full sweep before turning to the couple. “This is a real beauty, done in the eighties correct?”

“Right, nineteen eighty exactly. One of their better makes, it used to be my mum’s precious before it was bequeathed to me.” Stiles was delighted to discuss about his car for hours on end, especially with someone so full of knowledge about the subject as well. He could see Derek rolling his eyes but frankly he didn’t give a fuck, stepping forward and giving him a full tour of the jeep. “I’ve just been messing with the radiator, it’s been overheating a lot recently.”

Alan nodded along and smiled warmly at the affectionate way Stiles was speaking about his baby, running his hand over the hood of the jeep. “Well, my offer still stands. You can talk it over if you’d like, but if you did happen to come, I might just happen to have an original service manual for a CJ-5 jeep.”

Stiles mouth gaped open, this had to be a fucking joke. His mother had lost the manual a decade ago and since then Stiles had been thanking the internet ever since, but now that there was no electricity he had to say goodbye to google and hello to guessing. “Bullshit,”

But Alan just shook his head, his grin turning more smug than kind. “It was my old man’s. You’re welcome to have it.”

They continued obsessing over the jeep while Derek kept his eye out for snipers and any other gangs that may come by. He saw Alan’s nephew coming out of the stores side door with a machine almost half his size being carried on his shoulder, holding the tripod in his other hand. He turned to the kid – he now remembers Alan calling him Steven in the heat of the gunfire – not even in his teenage years yet, probably wasn’t even into double digits. “You into cars?”

The kid, Steven, watched his uncle talking animatingly with Stiles before shaking his head and giving a shrug. “Nah. I like guns.”

Well, fair enough then.

With that, Steven walked away to where their car was and opened the door to the backseat, placing the gun and tripod into the back before getting in. Derek shook the small encounter off; the kid probably wasn’t old enough to remember what it was like before the world went to shit. This was his life from the start, being brought up knowing fear in this kill or be killed environment, he probably never got to finish his primary school years before picking up a gun.

“You know, it would mean the world to me and my sister if you would join us.” Alan’s voice cut Derek out of his thoughts, turning away from where he was watching Steven in the back of the car fiddling around with his ammo.

No matter how kind Alan was being, he couldn’t trust anyone but Stiles. No one in this world was this nice unless they wanted people to join their cause or they wanted something from him and thought they could try talking it out first before resorting to violence. Derek shook his head, looking over Alan’s shoulder to where Stiles was standing with his arms crossed. “Oh, we really should get going.”

He knew Stiles had wanted to go, if not for anything but that service manual, but they needed to get back on the road and to Milwaukee, or at least somewhere safe to lay low for the night and start again in the morning. Alan wasn’t going to give up though, his shoulders slumping in disappointment. “I understand. I just can’t help but think that we met for a reason. People like us don’t just cross paths, not out here. And seeing you two… It gave me hope.”

He didn’t know what to say to that, trying not to make eye contact with either Stiles or Alan, looking down at his shoes before the man spoke up again. “And might I add. Marin makes the best green bean casserole you’ll ever have.”

Derek wasn’t going to win this, letting out a soft sigh and rocking himself back and forth on his feet as he turned to Alan’s car again where his nephew had stopped playing with his bullets and was staring longingly out the window at them. Well, alright. His options; he could refuse again and the guy might not want to hear that and actually force them to his house. He could refuse and Alan just lets him go – preferable. Or, they could go and possibly stay there for the night with full stomachs and make new friends, and Stiles could be content with getting that damn service manual. He wasn’t happy about it, but Derek knew where the most logic was. “I guess, if it’s on the way.”

Alan was delighted by the news, perking right back up and laughing as he waved at Steven to get out the car. “Now that’s the spirit! Steven! Let’s get this beautiful car hooked up to the rig. It’ll be safer for us to ride in the truck. Pull around back and I’ll get the truck ready.”

With that, he ran off to get his own car set up, leaving Derek to glare at Stiles who honestly didn’t give a fuck right now because it was hope that he could fix everything wrong with his baby. He just shrugged and took the keys from Derek’s pocket without so much as a care for what the other man wanted, getting into the jeep and starting it up before driving it around the back of the truck, getting it as close as he could while Alan gave the thumbs up for him to turn the engine off and get out to let him sort it out.

He hooked the front and started pulling the chains until it started lifting, making sure that it was secure and wouldn’t fall off while Steven was standing on the back of the truck making sure that the excess chain wouldn’t get tangled or drag across the road and potentially scrape Stiles’ jeep. Once they locked it in place they climbed into their truck with Derek and Stiles sharing the passenger seat, started the engine and made their way to the main road with Alan tapping his thumbs against the steering wheel cheerily. “I can’t wait for you to meet Marin, I think you two would really hit it off –.”

Before Alan could get another word out, there was a huge fog horn breaking the peaceful silence of the neighbourhood. The rumbling of a heavy vehicle and police sirens following shortly after, with two utes and a massive plow-truck blocked their path in the junction, Alan slamming the emergency break on. Oh fuck. They were Plowboys.

Chapter Text

Plowboys were disgusting creatures, known for stealing women and forcing them into sexual slavery. They were raped daily, multiple times and made to bear children to the fuckers who ruined their lives. Plowboys thought that they were the more superior sex and could do whatever they wanted without any kind of repercussions, but if they were being threatened they would be quick to use a girl as a bargaining tool to get out of the situation. Even though they came across heavy handed with their plow being upgraded to have a tower with a gun installed so they could destroy anything in their path as well as a lot of firepower, in all truth they were cowards and known for running away from a fight if there didn’t need to be one.

Alan shut off the engine as the Plowboys exited their vehicles, murmuring to them as he opened his own door. “Just sit tight.”

He stepped out the truck and came to meet with the group that were waiting for him, the leader looking smug but absolutely filthy, like he’d never even seen a shower in weeks. The man held his gun and drummed his fingers over the barrel, nodding his head. “Alan, how’s the family?”

“Safe. And yours, Theo?” Alan didn’t particularly enjoy his conversations with Theo Raeken, but he knew that if they got off on the wrong foot then he would have some serious problems with keeping his sister and niece out of their clutches.

Theo grinned and bounced on his feet, his eyes darting to the new folks in Alan’s car. “Steadfast.”

They needed to get to the point, Alan didn’t like niceties and he had an itch to get home and see to it that his family were safe. Seems Theo wasn’t going to talk first though, so he had to take the first initiative. “So, what are you doing out here?”

“Just patrolling the neighbourhood, hunting for Gamblers. You know they stole nine of my girls? Fucking freaks. Probably using them to make babies.” Some of the Plowboys chuckled as if Theo had said a joke, the dirty man turning to look at them before shrugging and bouncing on his feet once more. He moved so his finger was on the trigger of his gun, tapping it mindlessly and tilting his body so Alan could tell he was obviously looking past him and to the new couple in the truck. “You have some fresh faces with you.”

Alan wasn’t going to let them see that he was concerned, keeping his tone light hearted as always while Stiles could hear their conversation and unconsciously moved his hand to grab hold of Derek’s. “They’re friends.”

Theo nodded his head in understanding before taking another gander at the two in the truck, noticing how one of them had a very fine and feminine face. He was obviously male but some men loved a bit of flavour, some fight with their pleasure. He could rack a pretty penny, especially with those lips. “Couldn’t help but notice the merchandise.”

“K-98. Where’d you get it?” The easiest way to stop that direction was to change the conversation entirely. Theo loved to brag about new things he’d collected along his travels, either it be women, or guns, or new plows. As he suspected, Theo broke out into a grin and held his gun out to inspect it proudly.

Once again some of the Plowboys broke out into laughter, but Theo spoke over them to nod at the plowtruck behind him. “You see the cooch in the truck? I call her Betsy.”

There was indeed a woman in the passenger side of the truck, Alan could see that she had blood covering the lower part of her face, and a thick collar around her neck connecting to a chain. She looked pissed. Alan couldn’t blame her though he was surprised; usually the women that Plowboys find are terrified and begging someone to save them, to help them. She had that expression on her face that once she was freed she would destroy everyone who did this to her. “Is she a Cherry? What’s she doing down here?”

“I don’t know, deserter maybe. Didn’t see any more of those man-hating bitches, so.” He shrugged again, looking back at the truck where the girl – Betsy, as he has eloquently named her – was pulling against the chain she was connected to in frustration while the driver was grinning at her and telling her to relax while rubbing her leg. “I assumed she was alone. She will turn a pretty penny.”

Theo almost forgot, letting his gun drop down to his side while he fumbled around in his coat pockets. Finding what he was looking for, he pulled out a square with a blinker on it. He’d written her name on it to keep it from being confused as anything else than what it was. He’d done it before with a couple of the runners, and it didn’t take long for them to lose hope of ever escaping. “I even injected her with one of those animal tracking devices. Just like old Ginger.”

He remembers old Ginger. She was a fighter for sure. Beautiful red hair, extremely smart with great tits and good child bearing hips. It didn’t matter how intelligent she was, but boy did it give him satisfaction to foil her plans whenever she had that look in her eye about getting out. She’d broke his lock plenty of times, even ran away in the middle of the night after electrocuting the man she was meant to be with. He had no choice but to inject her. She’d lost hope after that, sitting in the corner of the lady’s room and ignoring everyone for days, only showing emotion when she was with a man. She’d given birth to two wonderful little girls after that, fuck knows who the father is.

“This one ain’t getting away. She’s a wild one too. She bit Matt’s finger clean off when we caught her. Oh yeah, I’m going to test drive her tonight…” Theo laughed at the memory, pocketing the device as he spoke. He heard Betsy struggling once more in the truck but didn’t bother to turn his head, instead he focused on the pretty boy in Alan’s passenger seat. “So, who’s the cha-cha in the truck?”

Derek could feel the bile rising in his throat at how this Theo guy was staring at Stiles, squeezing his hand as Stiles resting his head on Derek’s shoulder. He was shaking in fear, trying to control his breathing. They didn’t know if Alan was just going to give Stiles up to let them pass, or if the Plowboys were just going to kill everyone and take Stiles as a consolation prize. Why were they even interested in Stiles in the first place? They went for women, and while he had some smooth edges, it was pretty clear even from far away that Stiles was a man. Steven had poked his head from the backseat, speaking up. “Don’t worry, Plowboys are pussies. Don’t tell uncle I said ‘pussies’.”

The girl in the plow leaned forward as much as she could and stared out the window at the truck, she couldn’t understand why they were acting so friendly with these evil guys. Then again, they were all fucking men. Maybe they were a part of the gang as well. Though, from the way Theo was talking it didn’t sound like it. He had his eye on the younger man in the truck and even though she was too far away to get a proper read on his face, it appeared the two men in the front seat were a couple with the way his head was on the other guy’s shoulder. A gay couple. It was pretty rare nowadays, even with there being more men in the world. It just made them starved for women even more, like pigs.

The black man talking to Theo spoke up once more, bringing her attention back to the conversation. “I would really appreciate it if you would move your plow. I’m going to be late for dinner.”

Theo took a moment to think before bouncing on the spot and keeping his eye on Stiles, not even caring about what Alan was doing. His boys would have his back if he stepped out of line. “And what if I don’t?”

The tension was thick in the air, Stiles letting out a soft whimper because that Theo guy was fucking terrifying with the way he was just staring at him like he was a freshly cooked roast. He didn’t even notice at first when something slid out from the backseat, but when it came into full view he gasped and tried to inch away from it. Steven had pulled his machine gun out and was aiming it at Theo, flicking off the safety and waiting for his uncle to say the word.

Alan stood his ground, his face expressionless while Theo started to smile thinly. He turned his gaze away from their truck to face Alan once more. He took the man in for a moment and hummed amusingly before picking his gun back up and chuckling darkly before holding his hand out, shaking it when Alan reciprocated. “Give my best to Marin.”

“Will do.” With that, they broke apart and Theo clicked his fingers. The other Plowboys disarming the guns and plodded back to their own vehicles. Alan didn’t move until they had all gotten into their trucks and started their engines, then made his way back to his car and got in. Steven had pulled the machine gun back and was putting it away, making it all that much easier for Stiles to break away from Derek with a small cough, letting go of the other man’s hand. He didn’t even try to look at Derek’s face, he didn’t want to know what his ex was thinking right now, instead he turned to Alan and gave him a half-hearted smile when the engine roared to life. “I really appreciate you doing this.”

He then pulled out onto the main road, holding his hand up in thanks to Theo as the plow moved out the way of their path. With that they were home free, Derek finally relaxing once more now that Stiles was away from any imminent danger. Alan hummed to himself and started tapping his thumbs on the steering wheel once more, the light rhythm soothing him as they made their way to the Deaton home.

 

--

 

With one hundred and sixteen miles to Milwaukee, they had finally parked up for the night with Alan letting the jeep off his truck and wheeling it into the garage for him and Stiles to have a little heart to heart. He had opened up the hood and was inspecting the radiator with frustration when Alan tapped his arm with a small booklet, he took it as light up with glee when he read the title for a CJ-5 manual. “Wow, thank you.”

“As promised.” Alan chuckled as Stiles opened it up to have a look at what could possibly help him fix his baby. He would have to go into full detail later when he had time and they were both safe in a place that they had been to before. Either their town or at his father’s. “So, where are you headed?”

He may have been stargazed about the manual because he knew better than to just give his information outright to strangers, even if they were very nice and had given them shelter for the night along with feeding them. He kicked himself after his opened his mouth, but it was already too late to go back now. “Milwaukee.”

The man nodded his head with a thoughtful expression, rubbing his chin with his finger. “So obviously, you want to stay off I-94 and highway ten. If the snipers don’t get you, the gangs will spot you from the radio towers. You came from Two Harbors?”

Stiles jotted the information down for Derek to put on his map later, humming affirmatively. He didn’t know why Alan wanted to know all the details so badly, but if it came with useful routes then he wasn’t going to refuse. Derek would thank him later. “It’s supposed to be safe up there, why’d you leave?”

He scratched the back of his head with a soft chuckle, slotting the jeep manual into his back pocket as he tried to think wisely about what he was going to say next. “My dad. It’s not exactly safe down there for him so…”

He didn’t want to think about his dad right now, he was already filled up with worry. He hadn’t heard from him in so long, anything could have happened and while he really wanted to be with his father, he knows Derek thinks it’s not the best decision to make. Especially when there’s been no contact for this long. Alan seemed to notice the anxiety on his head, tilting his head down and murmuring softly as if talking to a scared animal. “Having second thoughts?

“No! No, it’s uh…” Stiles didn’t know what to say. He let out a breath and shook his head. He couldn’t really talk about this with Derek, or anyone at the town. He had to bottle his feelings on the matter and while he’s headstrong about getting to his father, he’s scared about what he will find once he’s there. After today he’s probably never going to see Alan again, or he could become a great ally for the future so Stiles didn’t feel the need to lie when he’d already given so much away. “He doesn’t know that we’re coming to get him. He used to speak over the CB to me every day, but I haven’t heard from him in a couple of weeks.”

Alan crossed his arms in concern, watching Stiles’ expression go from worry to frustration then guilt. “You think something happened?”

He didn’t want to admit it. He didn’t. it was too painful to think about and if he told Derek, it would only make things worse for the both of them. Derek is risking his life – both of their lives – by making this journey just to get Stiles’ dad, with the mindset that he would get into Noah’s good books once more and they could start anew. Stiles knew what Derek’s plan was, he wasn’t blind, and while he was touched that Derek would go so far to start the flame between them again, he doesn’t know how to think about them actually getting together. “I can’t really say that to him now, can I?”

They both heard Marin in the other room call to everyone that dinner was ready. Alan pat Stiles on the arm and dropped the hood down with a soft click before they both left the garage to wash up before dinner.

It did smell amazing. They were all seated around the dining table with the kids sitting next to each other on one side while Derek and Stiles sat on the opposite. Both Marin and Alan sat at the ends of the table, handing out bowls full of fresh vegetables and steamed potatoes. They all had two slices of meat each, Derek couldn’t really put his finger on what kind of meat it was as he chewed. It was delicious though and he told Marin so, who flushed and thanked him. The lights flickered above them and Alan scoffed a little. “Sorry, generator.”

Like he had anything to be sorry for, it was a feat in itself that they had any sort of electricity. Derek doesn’t remember the last time he had a cooked meal from an electric oven. Even in the town with Kira’s work fixing the electricity, there was really only enough to heat up water or use it on lights. Anything else they would use fire to cook, not that they had anything to complain about compared to other people who didn’t have that luxury. They ate in silence, sipping on wine and enjoying their meal listening to the soft music from the radio in the background. Marin spoke up once they were halfway through their dinner, savouring the taste of her pinot gris. “So Stiles, what did you do? Out there, before.”

“I worked behind the scenes in the police department, in downtown Minneapolis. Tech work, computers all that jazz.” Stiles smiled softly at the memory; he had always wanted to be like his father and become a cop, but when he got older and started a dislike for guns, seeing the way people were so careless with them, he swayed a little on his career choice. Being in the tech lab for the police was a safer and more appropriate job for him, he could still say he was part of the police and at the same time he didn’t have to use any guns.

Marin nodded her head and sipped some more of her wine, looking very interested in Stiles’ work before her eyes darted to Derek. “And you, Derek?”

He was put on the spot, chewing his mouthful of meat – steak? Lamb? Got to be one of those – before answering. He was kind of embarrassed about it, but it’s not like he could change how his life ended up. “Uh, I was in-between jobs. You know, did some handyman stuff, construction.”

“Derek was trying to get his contractors license.” Stiles spoke up, which flared a spark of anger through Derek. As if Stiles had to make excuses as to why he was struggling to find work back then, he didn’t have to explain himself to strangers he just met and barely knew about.

It was hard work keeping yourself afloat while also bending to fit into all the loops of what they wanted him to do to get the licence, he had to sacrifice a lot of time and effort to make it. Just because Stiles had his whole career planned out from the get-go, it felt like Derek’s life was a mess of going from work to work. He scoffed a little, shaking his head. “I wasn’t trying to get it, I was getting it.”

“That’s what I meant.” Stiles frowned at him, not understanding why his tone had suddenly changed, did he say something wrong? He didn’t think he did. Then again, Derek was always touchy when it came to talking about his job. 

“… Right.” He wasn’t going to argue, seeing the way Alan glanced at his sister. He ducked his head down in embarrassment, resuming his meal. Luckily just as the silence was beginning to get awkward, Crazy Al had turned on another new song, Till by The Angels, and Alan set his fork down with a chuckle.

Marin’s face lit up as she recognised the tune, facing her brother who started to stand up. She pushed her chair back, turning to Stiles and Derek who looked at the two of them in confusion. “So sorry, this is our song since we were children.”

The two of them stood and moved behind Derek and Stiles, to a sparse enough area where they could dance. It was a slow tune and they embraced, with Alan’s hand resting on his sister’s back and Marin’s on her brother’s chest. They had their eyes closed as they swayed with the music, most likely thinking of better times. Stiles felt like an outsider in that moment, it was obviously something special between the two of them, so he moved his eyes elsewhere to observe as the little girl, who he had now known as Bella, had her chin resting on the palm of her hand while she watched her uncle and mother dance, while Steven stuck his tongue out in disgust at the two of them.

It was a little awkward to say the least, with Derek’s eyes darting to Stiles before quickly ducking down and staring at his plate. While only seconds later, Stiles did the same. It was odd, how these two siblings could love each other so deeply after going through whatever trauma they have and survived up to this far doing God knows what. This was a time to love one another and create allies, friends, not split apart into groups and try to kill the only people left in this world. A part of Derek had wanted to join in and ask Stiles to dance, but for one he couldn’t take this moment away from Alan and Marin. He also dreaded knowing that Stiles would refuse.

Instead, they just sat there. Sipping wine and trying to avoid eye contact with each other until Marin patted her brother’s chest and chuckle before pulling away and going to the table once more. “Okay, okay. We have guests.”

Alan apologized as he sat down, Derek waving it off with a smile. It was good to see people relaxing once in a while. It was almost like old times. “Man, Crazy Al. The world may have gone to shit but damn, did the radio get better. You like this music?”

Derek nodded his head, but Stiles smiled tightly. No, he didn’t. But he wasn’t going to say that after all, it was their song and he didn’t want to ruin it. “It’s okay.”

They finished up their dinner, with no leftovers to spare and while Derek may have tried to feel guilty about it, his stomach definitely wasn’t going to apologize. It was the most he’s eaten in a while. Neither of them left the table, content to just lean back and let the food go down, Marin started the questions again. “So Stiles, you’re a tech guy. No police technician gangs for you to join?”

“Oh no, I used to work away from the action. Handling coding things. How to bug a phone, how to wire a person without it being detected, how to print fake money. I don’t think they have a gang for that.” Stiles joked, his face red as the adults chuckled along.

Steven seemed to get the idea though, frowning and scrunching up his face in thought before pointing at Stiles. “The Gamblers!”

“The Gamblers?” Stiles was lost with that one. Though, the kid could be right if they were talking about the money, the Gamblers were all about their money.

He seemed to be on a role though now he had a subject he could talk about, sitting up properly in his seat. “I saw a Gambler once, he was wearing a buffalo head.”

Yep, that sounded like a Gambler alright. They had a thing about anonymity, when they left their hideout they would always be wearing masks and their most popular masks were animal heads. Derek could tell for sure if they were real and just taxidermized, or if they were fake, but he wasn’t exactly going to ask if he ever saw a Gambler. Alan watched Steven animate wildly, leaning forward with his arms on the table. “You should tell them about the Bobbies.”

“The Bobbies?” That was a gang he didn’t know a single thing about. Derek raised his eyebrow at the boy to continue, he needed to know everything about the potential dangers out there.

Steven glancing over at his mother to see if he was allowed to talk about this at the table and beaming when she nodded her head in approval. “I found this Nailer, with uncle Alan once on the side of the road. He was stabbed all over his body. Blood was everywhere! All of his cuts were below his chest, like, whatever was stabbing at him was short. Like Bella.”

“We’re thinking they’re kids.” Alan had leaned back in his chair now, moving his hand as if to stab himself in his stomach. “Little Stabbers.”

It was concerning, that there would be a gang of people getting children to kill so outwardly violent. Derek made a note in his mind to write about them in his notebook later, and maybe ask Alan more questions on the matter. Stiles had turned a little green around the gills; just thinking that a little kid like Bella with her afro tied into adorable pigtails, coloring in her book, could murder someone. He didn’t want to think about it. Instead, Stiles tried to change the subject again, asking Bella if she’d like to show him her room. The little girl was obviously delighted to show off all her toys and slid off her chair to show him, grabbing Stiles’ hand and giggling when he held it up for her to spin around like a ballerina. Marin stood up to get the dishes cleaned up when Alan held hid hand up. “Derek and I will wash up, you go be with your girl.”

With that, Marin left the table to follow Stiles and Bella up to her room. It felt easy, getting out a puzzle and helping Bella piece it together. They sat on the fluffy purple rug in the middle of the room, Bella on her stomach kicking her feet in the air as she hummed to herself. Stiles had always loved children, if his life had gone smoother then he could have saw a future with him and Derek adopting, but obviously none of that mattered now.

The sun was just setting, the last glimmers of natural light peeking through the blinds and making it bright enough for them to enjoy the peace and quiet. It was a lovely home; clean and well kept together, with that homely feel that nowadays was unheard of. “You guys seem really happy.”

Marin watched over the two of them working through the puzzle, thinking about how much time and effort it took for them to get to this point. Alan had to go out on supply runs every day, and Steven had often asked to accompany him with his machine gun. She wasn’t a fan of her son risking his life so easily but she trusted her brother to always bring him home safe. “We are, Alan is amazing. What about you and Derek?”

Stiles dropped the piece of a puzzle he was holding and faltered to reply, biting his lip but Marin was too quick for him, goading him to answer. “Come on. Don’t pretend I didn’t see that little thing at dinner.”

It was actually refreshing being able to talk to someone like this, without the fear that they will turn on you in a second, or just using you. Marin was a genuine good person, and she didn’t seem to care that he was gay, or that he was with – but not with – Derek.  He let out a sigh and handed the puzzle piece over to Bella. “It’s complicated.”

“I used to be a psychiatrist, try me.” Marin warm and welcoming, Stiles could definitely get the therapist vibe from her. She was trained to deal with other people’s problems, and she obviously had to keep an open mind about everything, so Stiles just let go.

He spoke about everything that he had been bottling up for so long, that he could talk about with his friends, or his father. Things that he didn’t feel ready to admit until just then. “We were going through a separation when everything happened. And it feels weird that even though we shouldn’t be together, we are. He’s trying so hard to get me to see how much he loves me. In the beginning, things were different. He would pick me up from school and take me on adventures in his camaro. When I went to university he would make sure that his schedule fit mine so we could go on dates, and we could still be strong. When I was with the police he would sneak into my workplace and leave sweet notes all over the place for me to find. We were crazy about each other.”

He remembers that he used to keep all of the notes in a drawer at his work, and occasionally his workmates would complain about finding a love note on their desk confessing a deep and undying affection towards Stiles. He would laugh it off, but his stomach would flip with every badly drawn heart on a damn sticky note. He remembers when Derek asked him to move in with him, and how his father almost keeled over from the stress. How their apartment was small but it felt like home to them, and they could make all the noise they wanted because their only neighbour was a partially deaf old lady who had too many cats.

Then his mind starts going down the wrong road, down to memories of Derek going out late at night to find a job. Their arguments about how Stiles was the only one keeping them afloat in the rent, how Derek was too busy finding work that he’d forgotten about their relationship. The sticky notes are disappeared, along with their flame. “But then life got hard. All we did was fight. It broke my heart.”

He took a deep breath and wondered to himself if Derek even knew where he went wrong. Stiles never gave a reason for leaving, he just had enough one day and packed himself a bag, got in his car and took the five-hour drive down to his father’s house. He should have tried more, maybe saw a couples’ therapist or something. Attempted to fix things. Guess it didn’t matter now. “And then the world changed.”

Marin was taking this all in her stride, listening to Stiles pour his heart out and knew he needed this. There were obviously some issues that they never got to discuss before the government gassed the world, but that doesn’t mean they’ve given up on each other or they wouldn’t be together now. “Happiness isn’t out there, Stiles. It’s in front of you.”

It was a simple sentence with a whole lot of meaning behind it, but Stiles understood it perfectly. He teared up and shook his head, huffing out a laugh. Marin just smiled before breaking the tension. “We need more wine.”

 

 

--

 

Derek was in the kitchen helped clean the dishes from tonight, Alan doing most of the work by pouring the bottled water on the plates and giving them a good scrub before handing them over to Derek to be dried and stacked to be placed in the cupboard for another day. It was a good system.

Still, Derek’s mind was going off into his checks for what he needed to get by. He had plenty of fuel and was high on ammo, they found some water in the store and a couple of items of food but it wouldn’t be enough to fully sustain them. He coughed a little to get Alan’s attention before speaking, he didn’t want to come off as rude. “Those, uh. Hamburger steaks that we had tonight, do you think you’d be willing to do some trading? Dry foods been getting a little bit old, and I’ve got bullets, tools, gas.”

“How about I just give you some.” Alan didn’t take his eyes from the sink, scrubbing some grease from the plate. “If you can guess what it is.”

Derek chuckled and thought for a moment. “Uh… Beef?”

“And when was the last time you saw a cow?”

Huh, that was a good point. He’d also not seen a lamb or sheep for a while either so that wouldn’t have the same reply. Alan did say he hunts from time to time. “Venison?”

Alan just shook his head with a small smile on his face, taking his gaze away from the plate and turning to the other man. “Derek, when was the last time you saw a cow, deer, dog, bird? Hell, they died out before we started to.”

What the fuck could it have been then? Oh, they could have made veggie burgers. It wasn’t that difficult and they obviously had the time and tools to make them. “It was meat, right? It wasn’t like a veggie burger or a bean patty or, I don’t know, some vegan shit.”

Alan just stopped what he was doing and turned his whole body, causing Derek to stop drying the cutlery in his hands. He didn’t say anything, just shook his head. He couldn’t think of anything else. If it wasn’t fake meat, but it wasn’t meat from an animal, then… No. “No.”

No.

“Not bad, right?”

No, God. He was going to throw up.

Alan just continued like it was nothing, shrugging his shoulders. “I mean, a little gamey. But tender.”

Dropping the cutlery onto the counter when a strong wave of nausea hit, Derek covered his mouth. Fuck. He ate it. He ate it. Alan frowned in concern as Derek retched into the sink but nothing was coming up. “You alright?”

“I ate a fucking person?” He needed to fucking know. If this was some sick joke or the real deal.

“We all did.”

“Jesus Christ.” Derek retched again, trying to force his body to deny the food – the person – he just ate back up. It wasn’t working. Fuck, this guy fed his family human. Did they fucking know? Did they know what they were eating, or was Alan keeping it a secret from them all? He took deep breaths trying to control the panic attack that was about to happen. This was a family of fucking cannibals and the worst part was they were so normal. He leaned against the sink trying to get his breathing back to normal, he had to get out of there, he had to get Stiles out of there, he knew this was a fucking bad idea.

Alan had seemed to have this kind of conversation before, because he had this look of determination on his face. He had probably come across many people and persuaded them into coming again for a meal, or hell, maybe they had turned full cannibal too. Jesus Christ. “Come on, Derek. The Darwin Awards, we made it. Look, we didn’t drink the government’s Kool-Aid, we escaped the race wars, toxins didn’t do jack shit to our immune systems. When they hit the reset button and we said, ‘fuck you’, now I think that allows us a little freedom.”

He probably thought everything he was saying was true. That just because he didn’t die, that somehow, he was meant to do this, that he was meant to do whatever he wanted including eating a fucking person. How many people has he come across and killed just for his family to survive. “Good people didn’t survive, Derek. We did.”

He didn’t need to hear anything else from this man, he didn’t need to be around this man. They needed to leave immediately. Derek stood up from his position leaning against the sink, pointing a finger at Alan. “If you tell Stiles what we ate, I will kill you.”

Stiles didn’t need to know about this, he could live in the bubble of ignorance and Derek can live with all the harsh realities. He wants Stiles safe, whatever the costs. Alan blinked at him, as if what Derek said was somehow absurd. His face scrunched a little, eyebrows turning down into a light frown before tilting his head ever so slightly. “Keeping secrets from your partner? Not the healthiest choice in a relationship.”

As if he was the one to talk about fucking healthy relationships.

Derek scoffed and took a step closer to Alan, noticing how the man was now seeing him as some sort of threat. His whole demeanour changed, body going from a relaxed slump leaning against the counter to standing up to his full height on his feet. “I assume you tell your sister everything.”

“I do.”

“Then you’re a fucking liar. We’re leaving. Stiles!” Derek cried out for the other man, God knows what was going on in the other room. If the wife knew what they were eating, maybe she was trying to convince Stiles to join them, as if splitting them up and talking to them one on one was going to give them some sort of peer pressure into cannibalism.

He’d stepped to the side to get past Alan but the man followed him, holding his hands up peacefully while trying to keep his face calm. It was obvious the man didn’t want him to leave, which only made Derek want to get the fuck out of there even faster. He spoke in his usual soft voice, as if none of this phased him. Derek was ready to gear up, ready to barrel into Alan to get through him if he had to. “Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. Let me tell you what’s going to happen. You and Stiles will stay and continue to have a wonderful time."

Derek scoffed again and stepped to the side once more, only to have Alan quick on his heels to get in front of him again. His voice suddenly had an eerie tone to it, his body suddenly too close to Derek for comfort that made him want to take a step back but knew it would show vulnerability. “And! And if you don’t, I will bleed you both out like pigs, and feed you to my sister and her children. You understand?”

Derek didn’t know what to say to that. The look in Alan’s eyes only showed pure bloodlust, with a hint of insanity that only came with a man who knew what he was doing and had done it plenty of times before. He continued though, as if the blood draining from Derek’s face wasn’t enough for him to stop, he took a step forward now Derek wasn’t so confident, those hungry eyes flickering down his body as if to see which part would be the juiciest. “Or maybe just you? Seems to me, Stiles would be better off.”

Alan’s eyes came back up to stare into Derek now frightened ones, they both didn’t move. It was a power move, whoever broke it first would be the one to die.

They both heard laughter as Stiles and Marin came down the stairs, wine glasses in their hands as they finished off their conversation with laughter. It was Marin that came into the kitchen first, taking in the scene of the two men doing a stand-off and their chuckles died down to nothing. She glanced at her brother before speaking nonchalantly, not knowing what was going on that made the room so tense. “Is everything alright here?”

"I was just about to mix up a couple of cocktails for Derek and me.” Alan reached for the knife that laid on the counter, putting his hand over it which made Derek’s eyes dart down to the utensil. Fuck. They both knew he had lost the power in that moment, the man turning as he leaned on the counter continuing to rest his hand on the knife as he faced his sister with a polite smile. “You two want one? I make a killer Old Fashioned.”

Stiles didn’t know what the fuck was going on, but Derek was white as a sheet and had his shoulders square in a way that he only did when he was about to swing a fist. He didn’t want to interfere, and shook his head before lifting his glass of wine to give an excuse. “I’m okay.”

Alan nodded his head, turning it a little when Derek replied with the same rejection. He nodded his head with a small tut and shrugged a little before breaking out into a beam. It was like his whole mood had changed from the stoic yet stormy attitude to the ray of sunshine that they had been introduced to in the store. “So! Who wants to play a board game?”

“How about Monopoly?” A tired monotone voice broke their tension, everyone’s head whipping to the corner of the dining room where a man with a dirty bandana over his head, covering his eye and creating a bloody circle, stood holding a gun to Bella’s head. He had his other hand firmly on the little girl’s shoulder, so she wouldn’t have the chance to escape.

Bella appeared almost confused as to why this man was doing this to her, her eyes darting to her mother’s face to her uncle. Alan had dashed round the kitchen table pushing aside Derek as he went, brandishing the knife he had kept his hand on. Marin was in pieces, her wine glass falling out of her hand and smashing onto the kitchen floor as tears welled up in her eyes. This was her little girl, she didn’t know what to do.

The man has walked closer since he knew that no one was going to risk a little girl’s life over something as stupid as trying to fight him right now, but he kept the barrel on the gun pressed against the temple of her head just in case. He entered the kitchen and Derek gasped softly in recognition, his lungs tightening in his chest because this was all his fault.

He seemed to notice that Derek knew him, he didn’t smile, didn’t chortle evilly. He just simply limped closer, until he was against the counter and Alan was a mere three feet away from them. “Didn’t expect to see me again, did you? Should have finished the job.”

With that he smirked and took the safety off, excited with Marin’s whimper of fear. Bella seemed to have gone into shock, her face void of any emotion now as she stared forward almost looking through her uncle. Marin whispered gently to her daughter that everything was going to be okay, that she loved her so much, that’s everything was going to be just fine, but honestly, she didn’t know shit. She didn’t know if this man was here just for Derek and give everyone else mercy, or if he was just going to shoot everyone out of spite. He looked run down, like he had been walking for miles on a dirt road being baked in the sun for days. Before she could think about her own safety, she warbled to the man. “Who are you?”

For a moment the man just stared unnervingly at Derek before he turned his head to the voice. Ah, so this much be the mother. It must be very disturbing having her daughter so close to a loaded gun. He simply tilted his arm to show off the dirty but recognisable tag on his bicep, he was from the Nailers. “Gerard Argent.”

“Please, don’t hurt her. What do you want, Gerard? Anything.” Alan was being so calm about this, his knife up and ready to pounce but kept his head. He didn’t want his niece to be injured or killed because he was too quick to move. Gerard kept the gun against Bella’s head but let go of her shoulder to hold a finger to his lips, shushing Alan before pointing to Derek, then at Stiles. He didn’t need to be told any more, already giving them up. They were going to ruin everything anyway, since Derek refused to join them and was so adamant to leave. “They’re yours, just give me my niece.”

Stiles’ head darted over to Derek for help, his eyes wide with fear. How easy it was for this family to sell them out, and to think he was getting along with Marin so well. Though, to be fair he would kick them under the bus if it meant his father was safe.

What the adults didn’t realize was that while they were conversing, Steven had taken things into his own hands. Once he had heard the commotion, he had dropped to the floor before started to army crawl across the wood to the counter. He needed to get close enough to the man’s feet, being as quiet as he had ever been, he pulled his switchblade out and pressed the button to free the knife.

“Do what you gotta do, just give me my niece back.” Alan held his free hand up peacefully to Gerard, Stiles pressing his back to the fridge in fear as his eyes kept going back and forth from Derek to the other man.

Gerard seemed to take this into consideration. He was tired, he was hungry, he was thirsty, and he was half fucking blind. He had lost the fuel for his bike thirty miles into the chase and couldn’t find anything to drive for the rest of the way. He’d have to struggle with the other fucking gangs, killing one of the stragglers and taking his gun. If it wasn’t for that gun, he wouldn’t have made it down here. The Nailers wouldn’t want him now because he couldn’t fucking aim properly. He was a liability, and they didn’t need liabilities.

He needed to do this, to get honour back. If not for his gang them to himself. This man killed his partner, almost killed him. He needed to pay and what better way to do that than to make him watch as he killed his partner first, then shoot him while he was devastated. He let the girl go, pushing her forward to the black man with the end of his gun, she ran to her uncle and clung on tight while he lifted his arm up and aimed it at Stiles.

That was all it took, once Steven saw that Bella was out of the danger zone he pounce, reaching out with the knife and slicing through the back of the man’s achilles tendon. It was the softest part of the ankle and it would make the target fall on their ass, his uncle had taught him to always go for the back of the foot if he were able to hit it directly. As he predicted, cutting through the tendon was easy and the man tilted back. What he didn’t realise was that the man was just about to fire his gun.

With that, all hell broke loose.

The bullet ended up getting stuck in the ceiling and Derek took it as a chance to escape, running across and grabbing Stiles’ arm. Gerard went down like a rock, the back of his head smashing into the wooden kitchen floor. Now he was just pissed and with one blurry eye he aimed the gun over to the doorway and blindly shot but didn’t hit it’s intended target. Instead, the bullet went straight through Marin’s chest, she didn’t even have time to cry out in pain before she was shot again and went down. Alan screamed in agony at the sight of his sister dying and knowing he couldn’t do anything about it. The rage built in his chest, turning to Gerard just as he saw Steven kicking the gun out of the old man’s hands.

Derek didn’t look back, he just ran. His grip was tight enough to bruise on Stiles’ wrist but he didn’t want to accidently let go of have him be torn from his grip. He ran to the garage, pulling Stiles in and slamming the door. There were screams of pain and others of anguish in the kitchen, but it was muffled now, and Derek put it out of his mind to focus on the task at hand. He grabbed the keys on the side before unlocking the jeep and pushing Stiles round to get into the passenger seat. He heard footsteps running their way and didn’t hesitate to jam the key in the ignition and start the engine. With that, he turned over his shoulder and reversed the fuck out of the garage. Luckily enough the door was open because he wouldn’t have had enough power behind the jeep to break down the door otherwise and must open it manually which would have ended them.

Stiles was reaching into the back and grabbing the gun in case they needed to fire it, before pausing and turning to Derek. He was obviously worried about the little girl, she was innocent in this and who knows what was going on in there. “What about Bella?”

There weren’t any words about Stiles’ stupidity when it came to saving children, so Derek didn’t bother to reply that they would fucking die if they went back int hat house again to check up on Bella. He simply kept reversing and didn’t stop until he hit the pavement before slamming the breaks and shifting the gear into drive. He floored it, and may have apologized to Stiles for hitting Alan’s truck with the corner of his jeep but right now he didn’t even care because the man was running out of the garage with his gun. Alan shot a couple of times, the bullets hitting the back of the jeep as Derek sped out the driveway and down the road. He didn’t stop. Didn’t even look back to see if Alan would chase after him.

Fuck.

How could have be had been so stupid as to leave someone alive? He could have killed Stiles. Derek berated himself mentally as he drove down the road at a speed that would have any police offer pulling him over and taking away his license on the spot. He was still panting from the panic, his hands firmly squeezing the steering wheel. It was only when they got to a dirt road and Derek turned around to check he wasn’t being followed that he slowed down a little and checked up on Stiles. “You okay? Are you hurt?”

Stiles just stared ahead at the road before bringing his hands up to rub at his face. He scrubbed at the sweat before licking his lips, trying to control his heartbeat. “I can’t do this anymore.”

“What? Do what?” Derek didn’t fucking need this right now. He gave Stiles a once over to check for blood and didn’t find any which calmed him down for now. He kept his eyes on the road, occasionally darting down to check on the amount of fuel they had left. A little over quarter a tank, that should get them far enough to pull over and refill.

Stiles just couldn’t right now. He had seen so much in the past few days being with Derek, seeing how he changes and acts so violent. But the worst part was how he was so okay with it, and while Stiles knows he used to go on supply runs and never spoke about the horrors he may have gone through out there, he never knew Derek until now. He’d changed completely. “I can’t play this delusional game of survival with you.”

Everything was just building up for years, with Derek focusing on finding a job, then Derek focusing on getting his license, then when the world changed Derek focused on staying alive and keeping the town safe. Now, fuck, he was so different Stiles can’t even see the man who he fell in love with. It was just covered in blood and anger, and excuses.

The vein in Derek’s forehead popped. That was it. He tried to have his eyes on the road but kept turning his head to Stiles who was deflated in his seat. “Delusional? You, you wanna talk about delusional? Who are you talking to on that radio, Stiles?”

It was a low blow, but Stiles needed to hear it. He needed to fucking know that his father hadn’t contacted him for weeks, that they were going out and putting themselves in the hands of gangs, cannibals, for nothing but a small hope that Noah’s radio battery was just flat. No, fuck that. His father was most likely dead.

Stiles’ eyes welled up in tears as he tried to control his emotions. He knew he couldn’t involve everything right now, he couldn’t fight about this right now. He needed Derek to focus on the road but fuck, bringing up his dad was something else. They both knew something was up, but it wasn’t his fault for wanting to have some fucking hope that the only family he had was still alive. “I want to get home to my father.”

“You know what? That’s your problem!” Derek wasn’t quitting though. This was frustration that had built up for years, the questions that he had unanswered. Stiles left without an explanation, he left without a fucking note, left in the middle of the night with no fucking word. He had to find out in the morning that the love of his life left him for no reason he could think of, to live with his father five hours away, and wouldn’t return his calls or texts, wouldn’t even see him when he took the trip down there to talk it out. He had to get turned away and go home with his tail between his legs because his father would have him arrested for trespassing.

Only to have the world end, and have Stiles run back to him in tears about helping him. He was the one who had to suck it up and let Stiles into his life again, he was the one that had to plan to keep them alive away from people who would do anything to get supplies. He would do anything for Stiles, and Stiles fucking knew that. “If you would have just played along with any of this, instead of running home to daddy, you would have realised, you know what, it’s not that bad.”

Not that bad?” Stiles’ voice rose with Derek’s talking over him, flinging his arms out to point out where they are, on a dirt road, in the middle of nowhere, running from a guy that was trying to kill them and most likely slaughtered a family because of them. “Look around!”

It happened so fast. A bullet flew through the windshield. Derek swore loudly and noticed the blood on the dashboard, covering the single picture of Stiles’ childhood in spatters of red. Stiles gasped and ducked his head down to look as the blood seeped through his shirt, creating a steadily growing circle before his hands flew up to cover the wound and put pressure on it.

Stiles had been shot, and who knows where the snipers were, and what they were planning to do next.

“Shit, Stiles!” All the anger drained out of Derek’s system in a second, his mind whirring in the need to make things better. They had to get out here before the snipers shot again. He slammed on the breaks and turned the jeep around just as another shot came out of nowhere and hit the passenger side door. His eyes were darting everywhere for where the shooting was coming from as he swung the car back the way they came and stomped on the gas, speeding off once more.

Stiles’ breath was labouring, his body slumping against the door as he started to lose grip on the bullet wound. Derek was trying to get his attention, but Stiles has gone unconscious. “Stiles? Stay with me, Stiles!”

He couldn’t do anything while he was driving, he need to get them out of there before anything else. Derek hit the steering wheel as he drove back down the dirt road and spun round the bend that they’d missed before barrelling down the straight road like a bat out of hell.

Chapter Text

The house was quiet. So quiet. It’s never been this quiet before.

Steven had gone to his room, snivelling softly behind the wooden door while Alan was burying half of his family. He’d dragged the dead body of Gerard out into the middle of the road, he didn’t even want to involve him with their meal. He didn’t care that someone could see and come after them. He didn’t care. He was so full of rage.

Derek. Stiles. They did this to his family. They brought a man, half dead, to finish the job. They ran, while he was dealing with the problem they gave him. They were the reason his sister and niece were dead.

They were too far away right now but he could fucking catch them, he could hunt them down for the rest of his life after what they’ve done. He just needed help. So with that in mind, Alan stumbled lifelessly to the garage where the CB radio was hanging on the wall. He made sure a few months ago to have the connection to the Plowboys, for the safety of his sister and niece, he never thought he would have to ask them for help. He turned the radio on and picked up the line, pressing the button. “Theo, you copy? Over.”

The Plowboys unit wasn’t much when you looked at it; just a couple of mechanic shops put together, a few sheds moved outside the lot for the guns and gas. There were several police cars scattered around the place, with the massive plow-trucks up in the front of the area. They were the first to leave and the last to come back.

Theo was working under the hood of a car when he heard the CB radio going off, standing up and picking up a mucky rag to clean his hands of grease and grime before going over to where the radio crackled to life again. “Theo, you copy?”

“Alan, how’s dinner?” Theo spoke into the receiver, bringing a cigarette up to his lips and lighting it with his zippo before having a take of the sweet nicotine.

He watched some of the other Plowboys going into the other shed that held the merchandise and sat back in his chair. He hoped they get their money’s worth. He was about to cross his leg when he heard Alan’s voice over the radio. “Marin and Bella are dead.”

He blinked and thought he didn’t hear it right, swearing lightly and shaking his head before tilting his head up to the ceiling and giving the two of them a small prayer up to the heavens. They were good girls, they would have been a lot of money if they came to him. Still, Marin made a great green bean casserole, what a waste of a good woman. “What happened?”

“You remember those friends of mine I introduced to you today?” His voice was like ice and it made Theo swallow, he’s glad all that anger isn’t aimed at him or he would have gone to the bunker and hid for the next forty years.

Of course he remembered the new folks in Alan’s truck, especially the one with those wonderful lips. A grin creeped on to his face at the thought of what they would look like after he was done with them. “How could I forget?”

“What if I told you, you could have the small one?” Theo blinked before his smile went predatory, pressing the receiver and letting out a chuckle before agreeing. With that, Alan told him to come by in the morning and they would go on the hunt before stopping all communication to Theo. Well, he wasn’t going to stop the man right now, he had to get his boys up and ready for a long day ahead of them tomorrow.

Theo slipped off the stool and stood, setting the radio away before skipping out of his workshop and to the other shed to get the guys geared up. He loved his job. It’s been a while since he found a man so interesting though, he wasn’t a damn faggot but that little trap in the truck was a real fine specimen. Most were dirty or had their lives changed so much that they had the aura around them that would chase other’s away, but not that little one. He had pure innocent eyes. He may have seen some shit but the lumberjack next to him did all the heavy lifting for certain.

He danced his way into the shed, throwing the butt of his cigarette onto the floor before rounding the corner and freezing as he took in the scene in front of him. Some of his men were dead on the floor, some of his most loyal clients having the same treatment, with their throats cut and left to bleed out onto the pavement. He knew what the fuck had just happened. That damn cunt Cherry did this, he knew she was bad luck, but she was a trophy so he took her anyway. “Shit on a fucking shingle –.”

Before he could call for help or sound the alarm, or make another sound, he was thwacked round the back of the head with something hard. He went down like a brick, his body unconscious before he even hit the ground.

Behind him, was the Cherry. They had forced her out of her usual attire and dressed her in some sort of dolly suit, it was a small black corset top that hugged her breasts, while she had a short white skirt with love heart pockets on the front, and to top it all off they had taken away her boots and replaced them with a pair of black strappy high heels. They had tried to do her hair up into something from the fifties, curling the front into what was supposed to look like a love heart and let the back flow down her shoulder blades. Her clothes were splattered with blood, and her nose broken from when they knocked her out and abducted her. She held her weapon just in case the guy stood up again before deeming him uselessly out cold and dropped the crowbar onto the floor as she started walking towards the weapons laid out.

There were a couple of regular pistols, but she wasn’t interested in that, she wanted her gun back that they stole from her. if she couldn’t have that, then she would have the next best thing. Her hand roamed over a couple of machine guns before landing on an MG-42. It had ropes of ammo, it had a tripod attached to it, this was the gun she was taking with her. Before anything else though, she was changing her clothes and fixing her hair, she preferred it in a ponytail.

The cage where they locked the women in was easy to find; it was the only door that had several padlocks on it. She gripped her gun and slammed the butt of it into each padlock, hearing them snap apart and fall to the floor before turning the handle and flinging the door open. The room smelled like piss; it was obvious the women couldn’t go out and do their business. They were all dressed the same as her, with tattered and dirty outfits from that looked to be something out of the fifties, their hair done up the same as hers. The women were cowering in fear at the door being opened, knowing it had only caused one or more of them to be picked and then taken to a stranger for the night. One of the women looked hopeful though, kneeling up and speaking to the other girls. “Oh my god, she’s a Cherry!”

With that shred of hope, the other girls stood up on shaky legs and started to head for the door, almost admiring the Cherry. It broke her heart when one of them spoke shyly, her eyes searching her face for any kind of spite that this is all a hoax. “Can we go?”

She just nodded, but that was enough for the other girls to get out, thanking her as they passed. She led them to the cars but one of them had the idea that she had already planned out for an exit, they shouldn’t take the cars or the plows because they were too noisy, and the men would know in a heartbeat. Instead, they should head through the back of the building and run to the long grass outside. Not only would it hide their footprints, but it would also shield them from being seen once they were in deep enough. Once they were home free, they would head to the Cherries gang just out west. They would provide food, shelter, new clothes, and they would teach them how to protect themselves from the men who wanted them dead or lock them up where they longed for death.

The Cherry just left them to it, going out to the front and hot wiring one of the police vehicles and collecting her treasures, taking all the witnesses with her by stuffing them in the trunk before pulling out the workshop and through the front. She drove slowly to not alert anyone and continued down the road without a second glance. One of the men were in the plow-trucks but he didn’t seem too concerned with anything going on, she was home free.

 

 

 

--

 

 

 

 

With ninety-eight miles to Milwaukee, Derek had found a log cabin in the middle of the woods. It was the only place house nearby for miles, away from the road enough that they wouldn’t be seen, and it was far away from the snipers. No one would suspect them here, and it was the perfect place for Derek to take care of Stiles’ wounds, give him time to heal, before they could get on the road again.

It was touch and go for a while, with Stiles’ skin turning pale from the lack of blood. His breathing had gone shallow and sweat had beaded on his forehead when a fever broke out, but Derek had cooled him down and wiped the sweat away with a wet flannel. He learned how to get bullets out of wounds and stitch them up after Boyd had been shot by a Nailer on a supply run. He made sure to never be left wondering what to do again and practised his sewing skills on anything that felt like skin. After cleaning the wound, getting the bullet and shards out, and stitching it up, he couldn’t do anything else and left Stiles to rest.

Stiles woke up in a bed, gasping suddenly before the flare of pain rang down his arm. Oh fuck that’s right, he was shot. Came outta of nowhere. He turned his head down to where there was a bandage covering the wound, and noticed he was clean. Then realised he was in a bed. So, Derek must have found a safe house, cleaned his wounds, and gone to do whatever it is he’s doing, probably mapping. He turned his head over to the bedside table, where a radio was standing, along with a tall glass of water and a pill bottle. There was also a note attached to the radio; ‘Stiles, just next door looking for food. Call me, I’ll come. – D.’

He’d never been shot before, so when he sat up he had to bite his tongue not to cry. Snatching the pill bottle from the side, he read the contents and when he deemed it acceptable for consumption, he poured three out and stuffed them in his mouth, swallowing them dry. He found some clothes in the wardrobe and put on one in his size; it was a lovely gold and blue lettermen’s jacket with the words Korea stitched over the shoulder blades and a dragon down the back. He found a radio and flicked it on, turning it to the only station available anymore and carried it around with him as he took a tour of the house. “Hi, this is Crazy Al with another safety update for all you domestics out there. Gambler territory is now spreading like a fucking cancer, so keep your loved ones close, stay indoors, because if those horned sons-of-bitches catch you and spin that wheel of death – chances are they’re gonna send you straight to hell! Now here’s Rickie Paige and her never released 1959 track, Forever.”

The house was quite big if he does say so himself. There were two levels, with four bedrooms, two bathroom and downstairs there was a living room, a kitchen, a garage, what looks like a dining room but could just be a place to just store expensive china plates. He went to the door, only to see another note stuck to the knob; ‘don’t use this door, use the bedroom window.’ He noticed the string attached to the door then and followed it up to see what looks like a booby trap. There was a plank of wood with rusty nails sticking out of it, they had been sharpened too, for extra stabbing capacity.

Bedroom window it was, then. He grabbed the keys for the shed hanging next to the front door and went back upstairs to go through the window, grunting in pain with every movement. He swung his leg over the ledge and saw that there were blocks of wood that made half-hearted stairs to the ground. He didn’t trust them, but they were the only things he had to get down, so followed suit. Once on the ground, Stiles set off to the shed.

The ‘shed’ was a gross understatement, it was more like a barn. The ceiling was so tall and when he noticed the six-foot car lift, he understood why. He let out a whistle, whoever had this place before him was obviously loaded because there was also a camaro too. Just like the one that Derek used to drive, and Stiles lit up with glee as he hurried over to it. His jeep looked almost pathetic next to it, but he didn’t care because it felt like how it was before everything went wrong. It was like fate had told them to come here, the lift could help them fix Stiles’ poor jeep, while Derek could live out his life enjoy the perks of having a camaro again. Once he finds his dad, they had to come back to this place.

There were several gas tanks too, and Stiles filled the jeep with some before getting in and starting it, letting out a whoop before turning it off and kissing the steering wheel. They had two escape cars now, with a whole bunch of gas. They could stock up on water, possibly food too. Stiles almost thanked whoever shot him for this chance, or they wouldn’t have found this place.

For a moment he thought about just taking what he could, leaving Derek with some weapons, water, food, and just taking off. He was scared, with good reason. Derek had changed, stitching him up and keeping him safe wasn’t going to take back all the things they had been through. He’d never been so in danger than he has been while travelling with Derek. But he knows the man is only doing this because he loves him. He also knows it’s Derek’s skill, knowledge, and well thought out plans that were getting them to Milwaukee. If he was on his own, Stiles would probably be dead by now.

No, he would stay until Derek returned. He was only getting supplies from the neighboured house.

Derek was going through the brush of the overgrown grass with his gun up, wading slowly in the green in case anyone had the same idea he did and camped out in a log cabin with the intent for it to all blow over. This house wasn’t logged though, it was brick. And huge. And fancy. He entered through the side door and checked for noise before continuing, his steps cautious as he made his way to the stairs. Inside was clean, like someone had been taking care of the place, and it set Derek’s mental alarm bells ringing.

There were paintings on the walls that appeared to be something from the renaissance era. The stairs curved slightly to the left and Derek checked round the side before continuing upwards, noticing another painting hanging there. Even the wallpaper was fancy, it was cream with some sort of white swirls and dots that looked like pearls. There was a fucking crystal chandelier.

In the hallway there were three doors, one which was slightly ajar at the end of the hall. It took Derek’s interest, he made sure to keep his footfalls light as he padded to the door and moved his finger to the trigger just in case. When he opened the door though, he was both confused and cautious. The bedroom was well cleaned, with the Queen-sized bed being made. There was a grey sofa opposite the bed and a glass coffee table in the middle, the room was extravagant, but it was the two people tied up with bags on their heads that had Derek’s full attention.

He glanced around the room to check that no one was going to pop out on him before making his way over to the bed to pull the fabric off their heads. Derek stared at Alan’s face unblinkingly before darting it to Steven’s and back to the other man. How could they have been caught way out here? Were they following him and Stiles? Shit, they must have been, they had lost half of their family and it was his mess that brought their world crashing down. “Holy fuck.”

“Now where do I get one of those? Right there!” A voice spoke behind him, Derek swinging around with his gun raised only to notice the guy already had one pointing at him. The man was dressed in a fashionable suit, slightly dusty but still giving off the effect of being wealthy, accessorized with a soft pink bow tie to finish off the look as if this world was beneath him. His hair obviously bleached blonde and his skin tanned to show that he had product which meant he must have traded up or knew how to steal. He appeared well off, but the only way someone would be in this world is if they had fought his way to get there. “It would be such a shame to splatter your brains before all the fun and games.”

Derek was at a loss; he thought about who would be the fastest in pulling the trigger, but if he got shot then Stiles wouldn’t have anyone to protect him, and there was a child in the room who could die in the cross fire. He could give up but who knows what this guy has planned for a surrendered party. “Would you kindly place that gun on the ottoman, there?”

He would have to find out apparently, the guy wasn’t going to let him win. Maybe he could fight back when the guy deemed him not a threat anymore, and so Derek obeyed the order and stepped over to the coffee table, placing his gun on top and lifted his hands over his head slowly. The man hummed in approval, giving him some praise as if he were a child who just learned how to tie his shoelaces. The condescending tone made his shoulders tense. Once the gun was down the man strode into the room with confidence, not moving his gun or gaze from Derek.

The man continued until the barrel of his pistol was poking Derek’s chest, only then did he stop. He let his gaze flick up and down Derek’s body and hummed appreciatively once again, liking what he saw apparently. Once his eyes were back up to Derek’s face, he raised his eyebrows playfully and smirked. “So handsome.”

Chapter Text

She drove with the radio on, listening to the static and occasionally flicking the channel in hopes that there would be something else on the waves apart from that fucking pig who liked nothing that to hear himself talk. Also, the occasional good tune. But it was mostly Crazy Al that was too much for her.

There was a thud from the trunk, quickly followed by muffled yelling. It’s not like she could turn up the static, but a small part of her was glad that this fucker was with her and wasn’t dead, it wouldn’t have been fun to bring this piece of shit to the Cherries dead. She wanted to find her girls and be safe once more to heal up before going back out into the fight, and bring along her trophy; the leader of the Plowboys. It would be a revolution for them, knowing that she took out one of their biggest enemies would pave the way to giving them a name. It would make men scared of them for once, as they should be.

She chewed the gum she found in the glove compartment, trying to remember the days when she would just enjoy the road trip when the world wasn’t built to destroy everyone. She used to love going from one end of the country to the other exploring the world and the different cultures and cuisines that came with it. Now, she was at war with half of the remaining population because they couldn’t stop trying to rape the women, like fucking animals. Another thud came from the trunk along with some rude remarks and she rolled her eyes; don’t people know that no matter how many times they ask to be let out of the trunk, they’re not going to be let out the fucking trunk?

Still, it would be fun to give him something to think over, or better yet just to shut him up completely before she could get to her basecamp. She was running low on fuel anyway, so she pulled over to the side of the road and parked the stolen car before turning off the engine and getting out, taking the keys with her. She thought it was only appropriate to put her signature cherry keyring onto the set. Unlocking the trunk, she opened it up to see the pig still in his confinements. She had to make do with duct tape since she didn’t have any rope on hand, but it still works. The pig named Theo still has his gag on too, his hands and feet bound tight though it had been stretched a little from all the struggling. She stared down at him trying to talk behind the tape, chewing her gum in thought before pulling the gum out of her mouth and throwing it on his face.

She may not have heard him correctly from his head wound – that she had caused, you’re welcome – or it could have been the gag but she thinks she heard Theo asking if that was all she got. Well.

Pulling her gun out of its holster, she aimed it at his thigh and shot without blinking. His wail of agony enough to satiate her for now, shutting the lid of the trunk once more and seeing movement from the corner of her eye. She turned her head and sure enough there was someone there in the trees. Squinting, she must have been seeing things because that looked like one of the men from the other day, the gay ones. They should be dead by now, or at least still with that black man that had been associated with the Plowboys.

Slamming the boot of the truck, she sheathed her pistol back on her hip and reached behind her to pull the MG-42 off her back, curiosity peaking as she crept closer to the foliage and watched the man run. He didn’t seem to know she was out there, or simply didn’t care. It could be an ambush; men were all the same in this world, preying on women and though they may be gay, they could still take her hostage or sell her to the highest bidder. Or kill her.

No, she would not let that happen. Take them out before they have the chance.

 

--

 

Alan and Steven were staring straight ahead, knowing from training that they shouldn’t show any kind of emotion because that would excite the one keeping them hostage. The man was confident, sitting on the grey sofa and his feet up on the ottoman table in, his gun pointing at Derek who had his hands up. Alan thought about trying to free himself from the confines of the fabric tying him up but if he got away, the guy still had a gun and looked like he was ready to use it, and he didn’t want to have this crazy man shoot his only living family.

“You know these two poor souls?” The man gestured at the two on the bed with his pistol, his gaze not leaving Derek.

“Yes.”

“Seems that they were following you. Why?” Derek wanted to ask Alan that too, but it was more than that. This guy wanted to know his history, why he was here in this house alone, or why he knew Alan and Steven. Trying to catch him out in some way. Which could spread into a whole catastrophe, or a sick game depending on this guy’s mood, and from the look of him, he seems to be the one that would want to play a sick game.

Though, he wondered where the fuck this guy came from too. Did he live here? He certainly looked like he fit in with the décor of the house. Derek could ask the same question about this guy, in fact, he will. “Why were you following me?”

The man broke out into a grin before jumping up off of the sofa and standing up straight and proud. He stepped around the ottoman, gun never leaving its target as he spoke. “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jackson Whittemore. But, you, my new friend, have the divine pleasure of calling me Jack.”

Derek couldn’t have been more deadpan. “That’s fantastic.”

“There are two things that Jack loves…” He didn’t stop moving until he was right in Derek’s personal space. Jackson’s eyes glided down Derek’s body slowly, taking in every inch of man meat that he could get before looking back up at his face. His eyebrows rose with excitement of what was to come next, he could think of so many ways to make this evening the best he’s had in a long time. He turned his head at Alan, winking at him when he spoke. “A show, and a bit of ultra-violence.”

Derek couldn’t help the snort, shaking his head because really? Clockwork Orange? This guy must have been an art major before the end of the world. “That’s very original.”

“You know it?” Jackson’s face lit up, eyes brightening at the information. Almost as if he just made a new friend. Derek didn’t want to be the new friend.

“It was my favorite film when I was seventeen.” He meant it as snide remark, or to offend him for his bad taste in movies, but the guy just continued to articulate now that he had some sort of personal connection to him. He really should have seen it coming. Maybe it was something that Stiles had said to him a long time ago about being held hostage; keep the person talking, get on their good side if that gives you a chance to live.

“Not anymore? A shame.” He nodded solemnly as if it was some tragedy, glancing over at the two men still tied up on the bed. Jackson strode over to Alan with smug confidence, articulating at him like he was some sort of gum beneath his shoe. “Surprised me though. You’re the first person to ever call me out on it. These fucking simpletons out here are clueless when it comes to classic cinema! Could you believe this one, he’d never even heard of Eyes Without a Face!”

It was hitting him now that Derek shouldn’t have brought up knowing the movie, it must have been this guy’s go-to speech before murdering people. Though, he may have just continued on without a care for their tastes in genres and would decide to kill them anyway. Jackson tutted at Alan before turning and heading to the bedside cabinet, collecting one of the razors that had been placed there delicately. “But uh… I was getting ready to teach him all about it.”

The man stepped forward slowly with the cut-throat razor in hand, breathing over it to watch the stainless-steel fog. Alan started to struggle when Jackson got closer, already knowing what the pain of being cut was. Before Derek had got there, he’d had a taste of what was to come, Jackson wasn’t patient about his guests and decided to slice into his cheek. He would go through all that pain again if it meant that Steven would live unharmed. Derek let his hands drop now that he wasn’t the centre of Jackson’s attention, speaking up impatiently, this charade has been going on long enough. “What do you want?”

“Ooh! A man who likes to get right down to the nitty-gritty. I like it.” Jackson pulled the razor away with a moan of delight, pacing back and shrugging before he was back up in Derek’s face once more. He leaned into the other man, breathing in and panting softly before returning to his straighten stance.

Derek had enough, either he was going to die today or he was going to kill this fucker. “I’m pretty tired man, can you just get to the fucking point?”

Jackson shut his mouth with an audible click, blinking in surprise. He must have not expecting someone being held at gunpoint to speak to him like that, he was probably used to people begging for their lives, or them trying to slide their way out of being killed. But, if Derek wanted to get to the point, then he wasn’t going to ruin the moment. Pulling out of Derek’s personal space, Jackson strode over to where the en-suite bathroom door was and made sure that everyone was watching him before he swung the door open. “Meet Ennis.”

Ennis was apparently a fucking bodybuilder or was on some sort of steroids, because he was over six foot and he was a wall of muscle. Derek’s eye widened as Ennis huffed with each breath, like his lungs couldn’t even hold all that weight. He stomped out of the bathroom and moved to Jackson’s side and now that he was out of the darkness of the bathroom, Derek could see that he had some sort of harness on his head. It was all black, the straps keeping a strong grip on Ennis’ bald head and over the arch of his nose. His mouth was free to talk and his eyes able to see, but other than that, it was all covered with the harness. There was also a giant metal ring in the middle of his forehead, which Derek could only think of bondage. This was a fucking bondage device. “I, uh, call him ‘The Big’.”

Jackson hooked his finger through Ennis’ ring and he started to walk, Ennis hesitating a little but was tugged so took a step forward until he was shuffling behind his master. Jackson’s voice changed in pitch when he was talking to Ennis, like he was a small child or a pet of some sort, like only baby talk would make him understand. “Now, you and The Big. Come on, Big.”

Jackson stopped in front of the bed, Ennis following suit and his eyes darting at the two men tied up. Alan’s breathing had picked up, knowing that if he was to fight The Big, he could no doubt lose, especially if he wasn’t allowed to get out of his restraints. But it looked like Jackson had another idea, pointing the razor at Alan while talking to Derek. “You two are going to get to know each other a little bit. Unless, of course, you want to finish the job that I started on these two poor bastards. With me watching, of course.”

Derek stared at Jackson like he was crazy. There was little-to-no chance of him winning against Ennis, he was almost double his size and he had probably been born to fight. But on the other hand, he would never want to hurt a child, and even though Alan and Steven probably came to kill both him and Stiles, he would never be able to live with himself if he murdered them. Jackson spoke up again, like his opinion even mattered at this moment. “That allows you to leave with your findings and your good looks. What do you say? You want to go Big, or do you want to go home.”

 

--

 

Stiles was digging through the pantry for any kind of supplies he may need. He wasn’t kidding about leaving Derek in the car, bullet wound be damned. Waking up this morning alone, in pain, in a strange bed, was just the last straw that broke the camel’s back. He was so sick of being left in danger for Derek because the guy wanted to go out there alone, he was sick of Derek thinking he was some defenceless little animal that he needed to protect. He was just sick of it all.

Forget his plan to stay with Derek until Milwaukee, he was being left behind without Derek even being gone yet. It was just like old times and it was breaking Stiles apart.

This is why they broke up in the first place; because Derek just couldn’t get his shit together and choose whether distractions, or Stiles, was more important to him. He was always busy, and leaving love notes every now and again is not the same as being in the arms of your boyfriend, it’s not the same as a kiss, or making love. It’s just a bandaid on a leaky pipe and soon enough all the water will just come flooding in and no one would be prepared to handle the damage.

He had already scavenged everything upstairs. The moment he decided on this, Stiles followed through by pulling his ring off and setting it on the bedside table. Keeping it on his finger was just giving Derek false hope, and it was just another chain that Stiles needed to break free from. He found a can of beans in the pantry and two bottles of beer alongside a whole full bottle of liquor in the fridge, it would be enough to last a few days. If he just bottled some of the tap water with something he could put a lid on, he would be fine for another week. The jeep would need to be patched up but nothing hit the hood so it would still be fine for driving, and need to cool down every now and again which he could do. Derek’s map had to be somewhere around here and once he found that he would be gone.

Stuffing the can and beer into his suitcase he had dragged out of the jeep, Stiles looked around for anything else that he could use on the way. He thought about bringing the liquor too but it would only make things worse and he would rather be sober to look out for predators out there. Derek had all the guns, and he needed to protect himself out there too. Maybe there was a knife or something. Glancing over at the small drawers at the side of the bannister, Stiles noticed a note taped on the record player and stepped awkwardly to it as he rubbed his damaged shoulder. ‘If you want to listen’. It was Derek’s writing once more, and a little love heart as a full-stop. It pissed him off that now he chose to try and get Stiles back after he’d been shot with these stupid love letters, and pretend that nothing had happened.

Kneeling down slowly to not pull his stitches, Stiles dug through the box of records that was underneath the player, trying to find something that he knew. If he was honest, any kind of music was good music from not listening to anything but what Crazy Al has available. There was a couple of unforgettable hits that would always be in someone’s head, such as Bohemian Rhapsody, I Will Always Love You, Thriller. He kept flipping through until he saw another note attached to one; ‘Found your favorite’, with another love heart at the end. Derek was right, it was his favorite song when they were dating. He used to play it all the time in the car when they were going on road trips to his father’s, he would play it with his headphones in while cleaning the apartment or cooking their dinner for the evening. It wasn’t a love song like other people would think, the idea that people needed to listen to cushy lovey-dovey shit whenever they’re in love was completely bullshit, it was the metal band Goatsnake, with his favorite song being Slippin’ the Stealth.

Pulling it out of the box, Stiles noticed yet another one of Derek’s notes. ‘I’m sorry. Please don’t give up on us.’ It nearly broke his heart that Derek was still trying to fix everything. Maybe if Stiles was the pushover type, he would have run to Derek’s arms much earlier in hopes to continue where they left off. When they were good together, they were untouchable and while Stiles may want to have that same feeling again, he knew that it would never be the same.

Thinking back to the car ride, their final argument before he was shot. Derek wanted him to stop running to his father whenever things got scary, he wanted Stiles to play along with the world they are living in now. Derek didn’t understand how worried he was getting knowing that his only family is miles away from him, and could be dead. He would do anything to make sure that his dad was safe, even if it meant playing along to the sick rules of this new world. He could argue with Derek about this for hours but the truth was that Stiles was just terrified of losing himself. He could fight, he could gamble and steal, but he didn’t want to pick up a gun and kill someone.

Stiles let out a sigh as he stared at the Goatsnake cover, deciding that he would listen to it one more time before leaving. For once he was safe out in the middle of nowhere and he could fully enjoy himself without the tension that Derek caused in the room. He was going to party his ass off as much as he could with his shoulder. He knew it would probably hurt thought and so he would need some Dutch courage, collecting the two beers from the suitcase and opening one up, getting a good gulp in before. Collecting the liquor from the fridge as well, Stiles headed back to the living room and set the bottles down while he unsheathed the record carefully from its cover and placed it on the record player, moving the stylus to the edge of the vinyl and waiting for it to play.

The scream echoed out of the record player before the heavy drums and guitar thrashed through the speakers. Stiles picked up the beer bottle and chugged the remainder before starting on the liquor, carrying it with him while he danced around the living room. He headbanged and winced as his shoulder throbbed to caution him that he would pull stitches if he continued. Right now he didn’t give a single fuck. He was living in the moment, letting the heavy music flow through his body and let the rhythm take him wherever it needed to go.

If he paid more attention, if he cared a little bit more about where he was or who could listen in to find them, if he was a slightly more paranoid, Stiles would have noticed that he wasn’t alone. There were eyes through the window watching him bounce around the living room.

Meanwhile, Derek had chosen to go Big. The spectators staying on the bed while Jackson laid himself out on the sofa in delight as Ennis lifted his huge fists up. Derek pulled his loose jacket off and bundled it up before throwing it onto the bed where it wouldn’t get stepped on or tripped over. He had to do this for Stiles. If he died, then who knows what Jackson would do with the information that Stiles was out there on his own injured, especially if it meant that Alan was there, and mostly definitely wanted to take revenge. “This is fucking bullshit.”

Ennis’ legs were spread in a fighting stance, and Derek took full advantage by kicking him in the crotch. He felt the huge man flinch but he barely moved. He tried again by going for the head this time, swinging his fist and connected with this bone of Big’s temple but the man responded with vigour, swatting Derek away like a fly. He fell to the ground and rolled at the force behind it, shaking his head to get his bearings but instead, Ennis followed him. He didn’t have enough time to hit him again and decided to run, flinging himself onto the bed and tried to crawl away even with the strong grip on his hips grabbing him and throwing him onto the floor.

Derek collided with the ottoman table and grunted at the pain in his ribs, Jackson breaking out in laughter and standing up on the sofa out of the way in case any of the fighters settled to involve him. Ennis kicked Derek in the stomach, causing him to groan and swallow the bile rising in his throat. The man was a force of nature and he knew that if he kept running, the Big would keep chasing him. Struggling to get on his knees, Ennis seized Derek by the neck and lifted him up all the way until his feet were no longer touching the ground.

He couldn’t breathe, the grip so tight that no matter how many times he clawed at those hands, they wouldn’t let go. Derek got some momentum before headbutting Ennis in hopes that it was the guys weak spot. Unfortunately for him, he seemed to forget that Big was wearing a harness, his forehead colliding with the metal ring resting on Ennis’ brow, luckily it was enough for Ennis to let him go. Derek tumbled to the ground and held his forehead in agony.

No matter how many times he lunged, Big was always there to throw him away.

No matter how many times he punched and kicked at Ennis, the man was strong enough to duplicate and send Derek flying into the furniture.

It almost felt futile. He wasn’t going to win against this beast of a man. His lungs were on fire, his ribs aching, his head screaming, and his arms and legs were wobbly from overuse and abuse.

It didn’t help that every time Ennis has him in his grasp, Jackson was screaming profanities at him like it was some sort of soccer game and his side was winning. His rage and frustration building up with every failed attempt, until enough was fucking enough. Derek lunged at Ennis and, yet again, he was enveloped in a headlock, but instead of struggling this time Derek held onto the man’s thick arm and bit down with all of his might.

Ennis screamed with pain before throwing Derek backward into his master. This was Derek’s chance. He twisted to grab the gun from Jackson, the other man wasn’t ready to have another man on top of him and yelped but held his own. They ended up rolling over each other on the carpet, kicking and punching at whatever they could get. Jackson pistol whipped him but Derek didn’t give a fuck right now because this was going to end right now. Blood was trickling down his forehead and he grabbed the Jackson’s wrist in order to snatch the gun away.

They tossed and turned, with Jackson on his back with Derek between his legs, the gun between them. Though Jackson didn’t have the same strength as Derek had, he’d wanted to have some blood tonight and it wasn’t going to be him, while Derek was tired from fighting Ennis but he needed to finish this and get back to Stiles.

Derek finally had a proper hold on the pistol along with Jackson’s hand, and started to bend it backwards towards the other man’s head. He could feel Jackson floundering beneath him but he didn’t let up, pushing the hand until he felt something pop under his fingers and the scream wrenched from Jackson’s throat. His eyes were wide with terror as the barrel of the pistol pointed at his face, and Derek didn’t blink before pressing down on the trigger and firing. 

Ringing in his ears was like the victory bell to Derek. Standing up over the corpse and keeping a hold on the pistol. He gave himself a moment to breathe, both fights taking its toll on his energy before he looked over his shoulder at where Ennis was holding his arm trying to slow the blood from pouring out. His eyes also finding where Alan was staring at him with this acceptance, like Derek had already killed him. Derek let out a sigh and flipped the safety on the pistol, tucking it into his jeans as he spoke. “No one else dies tonight.”

He meant it too. Derek went over to the ottoman where Jackson had left the razor, picking it up and coming across to Alan and his nephew on the bed, slicing through their restraints with ease and letting them have a moment while he picked up his jacket from the bed and pulled it on. They embraced and spoke hushed to each other but Derek was respecting their privacy and looked at Ennis once more before nodding to him and asking if he knew where the first aid kit was. He understood and trudged his way over to the bathroom with Derek following close behind.

He could tell that the other man didn’t want to hurt anyone, that Jackson had simply forced him to do it because he was huge and could withstand a lot of abuse physically. The hesitation Derek saw in their first encounter was enough to trust that he wouldn’t get his head smashed in when he focused on collecting the first aid kit, going back out to the bedroom and setting the case on the bed. He no doubt had some bruising and the cut on his temple from the pistol whipping should probably need some attention but he was alright for now, the other two were in much worse conditions. Alan has parts of the flesh on his face cut off from the razor, with Stephen only having a slight bump on his head which Derek could gather was to knock the child out. Ennis was the worse out of them, with his arm being held to stop blood. “Right, let’s do you first since you’re losing the most blood.”

He patched them up as quick as he could, going into the bathroom for some towels to clean the wounds before sticking gauze on the cuts he didn’t need to stitch up, and bandaging the ones that did. The room was silent apart from the hissing of pain whenever there was an alcohol wipe rubbed on a sensitive cut, but it was enough to relax Derek for now. Alan had seemed to lose all fight he had with Derek which he was surprised by since it was his fault that most of his whole family was slaughtered.

Climbing up onto the bed, Derek grabbed the harness clinging to Ennis’ head so he could undo it. Ennis waited with a blank face, which quickly turned into relief once the offending item was dropped onto the mattress. It seems that he had the harness on ever since he was with Jackson, which would drive anyone insane with the way it was squeezing his skull.

They all exited the house with their items intact, and Derek bringing the remainder of the first aid kit with him to use whenever they would need it. Alan paused at the end of the driveway with Derek while they watched Ennis trudge off. There was a tense moment where both of the men didn’t talk, and for a moment Derek thought that their short parlay would be broken, but the cannibal simply held out his hand to be shaken. “You’re different than the rest of us. Make sure he understands that.”

He turned to where Ennis was waving at Stephen, the boy enthusiastically reciprocating. Derek knew what he meant; he could have killed them all in there, he could have stopped anyone from knowing who he was, or where he was going. He could have used Ennis to kill Alan and Stephen, or simply kept Ennis for himself as a bodyguard. But instead, he let the man be free to live his life and do whatever he felt like, while also letting Alan decide what to do next with what’s left of his family. This wasn’t mercy, this wasn’t a power complex. This was just being a decent human being, like before, when the world wasn’t burnt to shit. Derek nodded his head without another word, knowing there was nothing needed to say, and headed back to their cottage for the rest of the night, leaving Alan to find his way back.

Coming into the cottage through the window, Derek set his bag down and listened for any movement. He heard nothing, but he didn’t worry yet since Stiles should be resting anyway. When he came into the living room though, his heart sank. Stiles was sleeping on the sofa, the record player had been turned on and was left to go around the finished vinyl, the two suitcases were packed and almost waiting to leave. Stiles had been ready to leave him. Though it made his throat clog up with emotions, the thought of Stiles no longer in his life enough to finish off all the energy out of his body. He doesn’t know what made Stiles stay; could have been the bullet wound in his shoulder, or the post-it notes that Derek had been laying around the cottage in hopes that Stiles would find them and fall in love all over again, or just the fact that he’d drank a whole bottle of liquor and was too drunk to move, who knows. But Derek promised himself then that he would do everything in his power to make sure that Stiles would never regret being with him, he would try every day to remind Stiles just how much he loves him.

He picked the stylus up and set it back on its holster, treading softly to the sofa where he lifted Stiles up without any effort, carrying him up the stairs to the bedroom. He laid Stiles down on the bed, gentle to slip his shoes off before tucking him under the sheets and bending down to kiss his forehead. He noticed the ring resting on the bedside table and swallowed thickly, blinking away the tears that welled up. If Stiles needed this, then he wouldn’t fight it. They had already broken up before all this began, and having Stiles come back didn’t change any of his thoughts. He needed to show Stiles that he had changed for the better, that just because the world went to shit doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy their time together and make it last.

He left the ring stay on the bedside table, not even wanting to let it be a solid fact in his head. He repeated his newly formed promise; he would do everything to remind Stiles how much he was loved. Making sure that Stiles was tucked in properly, Derek headed to the door and shut it with a soft click, letting him get some well-earned rest.

 

--

 

She had seen enough to peak her curiosity. After what she just witnessed with these two men, she knew they were in love. This was something she had never seen in this new world. It was interesting and she didn’t want to stop watching them.

The injured man was the one that really got to her. All he wanted to do was be normal, she could tell the struggle in this man’s body even through the window. He hated this kind of life, and though he may have tried to leave from the way he was searching for supplies, he still stayed. A small part of her wanted to protect this man from the new world, that slither of hope that this man would be different from all the other pigs that didn’t deserve lungs. She needed to make sure that he wouldn’t become one of them. Yes, she would stay hidden, keep watch on this couple.

She could still keep to her mission or diminishing the pigs from this world, but she wouldn’t be returning to the Cherries just yet. With that, knowing that the bigger man was in the house now with the means to protect his partner, she left to where she had abandoned the car. The noise of thumping from the trunk enough to amuse her that this man still thought he would be able to get out. He had enough time to escape, she had been there for hours. No, he was just an imbecile.

Unlocking the trunk, she swung the boot open and took a look at the Plowboy. The bullet wound she made in his thigh had made a mess on the floor of the trunk, and from the looks of it, Theo had also pissed himself. He panted in the fresh air before glaring at her and spitting. “Fucking cow!”

Not even giving a damn, she simply unsheathed her gun out of the holster once more and shot the pig four times. Just to be sure he would stay dead. Couldn’t be too careful. With that, she shut the trunk once more, locked it and pulled the key out, heading back to the cottage. She would be able to sneak in easily, and if the house was that big, she could use the attic without the couple ever finding her.

Chapter Text

It was good relief to shoot things, and nowadays it was all that people did, so Derek didn’t feel too bad about the noise. They were far away from anyone else, away from the road so no one could overhear the gunshots from the road, and even if they did it would have just echoed in every direction leading them in spirals of confusion. He just needed to get the anger out without pushing Stiles away more. Seeing that ring on the bedside table, the bags, knowing that Stiles was this close to just ending everything they’ve worked so hard for, Derek needed to shoot something.

He emptied rounds and rounds of bullets into his stuffed target. He’d found a hay bale in the garage and stuffed some into a bag to make the head while putting hay into an old shirt for the body. It was a neat dummy, didn’t have to be perfect since all it was useful for was being pelted by bullets. While Derek was searching for more weapons or something that would make him useful, he found a sniper scope without the gun which he could use on his rifle, he just needed to test it out a few times to get the angle right.  

Of course the gunshots would wake Stiles up though, the man leaning against the kitchen counter nursing some water which he’s currently imagining is coffee – fuck he misses coffee – but by the way Derek was cursing to himself, he felt like he would be intruding, or shot, if he went out now. It did interest him though, waking up in the bed again after he knew he passed out on the sofa. Derek must have seen the bags, they were obvious, they hadn’t moved from their spot in the living room which means Derek’s not forcing him to stay, still giving him that choice to leave if he wants to. He kind of does, but he kind of doesn’t.

It’s obvious that the man still has feelings, and Stiles respects that, might even be able to reciprocate if he wasn’t in pain in his shoulder. But the fear, the fear that Derek has changed, even if he repetitively says how he’s still the same man who he fell in love with. Everything’s changed, and Derek had to have adapted, they both had to, or they would have died a long time ago. Thing was, Stiles was fighting him all the way because he didn’t want to lose his humanity, and that had to have been weighing on Derek.

Letting out a sigh, Stiles set the glass of water down on the counter and headed to the living room, digging through the suitcase until he found a bottle of liquor that he hasn’t guzzled last night, bringing the jacket with him outside when the chill of the air on his bare arms made his goosebumps rise up. He was worried Derek didn’t want to talk to him anymore, or the small fear that he would be shot, but he knew that Derek wouldn’t hurt him. He came out just as Derek was reloading the gun, crossing the last few steps to the small table Derek had set up, and placed the bottle on it. It was a shitty peace offering but it was all he had at the moment, he wasn’t going to say sorry because there was nothing to apologize for, no one was in the right and no one was in the wrong. “Target practise?”

Derek nodded, looking down at the gun he was refilling. There was the awkward tension in the air, and neither of them were going to talk about it, so Derek coughed briefly as he spoke up. “Yeah. I, um, found a scope down in the cellar. I’m trying to see if I can make it work.”

“Can I try?” The look that he received was warranted; Stiles hadn’t wanted to get in touch with the evil of this world, he’d rather let Derek do the dirty work like he’d offered. Still, the same words reverberated in his head when they were arguing in the car. He doesn’t know how to play along with the world he’s living in. He’d outrightly refused, and while that is justified because hello, everyone is a murderer, it wasn’t fair on Derek.

Derek didn’t say anything though, his face said it all if he was honest. He wasn’t going to question the motives, but flicked the safety on and passed the gun over. Stiles lifted the gun up and pressed the butt into his good shoulder, peering down the lenses at the target. He felt Derek walk behind him and adjust him now and again, trying to let the man have a perfect angle before shooting. Once he flicked the safety off, Stiles closed one of his eyes, and pulled the trigger.

Well, obviously he wasn’t going to get the target after the first shot.

But really, really? How far away was he aiming? This thing must have been broken.

“That’s, uh, not bad.” Derek chuckled behind him and Stiles narrowed his eyes, letting the other man manoeuvre him accordingly. He pressed up alongside Stiles, hip to hip and holding up the barrel of the gun while leading Stiles through it. “Square up. Now step forward, lean into your front foot, and relax.”

He rested his hand on Stiles’ shoulder, feeling the tension ease down as Stiles exhaled. It was nice, doing this with Derek. It reminded him of that one time when he and his father went out to the gun ranch, when the Sheriff didn’t yet know what a clumsy mess his son was. Seems all the information he learned that day was null, and the instructor is far better this time around. Derek’s voice made him shiver just a little, not enough to get noticed, but enough for Stiles to feel ashamed of standing there. This wasn’t supposed to be sexual, yet apparently having a gun in his hands, and Derek’s giving instructions in his ear was worthy of chills. He focused on the orders and not the breath against his neck, tightening his grip on the rifle. “Now, when pick out a target, you’ll wanna pick something small. So, let’s say, the zipper. Then when you pull the trigger, don’t pull. Just squeeze, nice and easy.”

Derek stepped away from him then and Stiles was a big boy, but he’d be lying if he said he wanted that space between them just now. He tried to shake it off, focusing on the zipper of the target and instead of pulling the gun with him when he fired, he gently pressed on the trigger.

This time, it hit dead centre of the target, making the stuffed hay jerk violently back. He was so excited that he actually hit something that he fired again, and again. Each time, it hit the exactly same spot. If only his father was here to see this, he would have been so proud that he hadn’t sucked at shooting, especially in this world. Derek whistled behind him, and when Stiles let the gun down on the ground like he remembered, Derek praised him for the great aim. Stiles just hummed a moment, keeping his eye on where he’d just shot. “Felt good. I didn’t think I’d like it.”

“Yeah? A little change of heart?” He took the gun from Stiles, switching the safety on and setting it on the makeshift table so he could find bullet to reload.

“Just trying to play along.” There was a lot of meaning in between the lines all of which Derek picked up, pausing what he was doing and glancing over at the other man. Neither of them said anything while Derek reloaded, though Stiles opened his mouth plenty of times to start the awkward conversation they needed to have to get through this. It wasn’t easy and both of them didn’t want to step on a landmine. In the end, Stiles just went with his gut, knowing that Derek would be heartbroken either way. “Are you going to question me about the suitcase?”

Derek’s hands stopped, breathing out through his nose. He did, he wanted to shout and cry and beg Stiles never to do something like that again. But he was a grown man, and they weren’t together no matter how many times Derek had prayed for their relationship to be fixed. So he simply stated, hoping that the his confidence in the answer would stop any other questions coming up about the subject. “No.”

They stood there silently for a moment before Stiles broke the tension, taking hold of Derek’s arm and squeezing a little. “I wanna show you something.”

“We’re almost there, we should go.” He was right, there were less than a hundred miles to Milwaukee and if they left now while it was still early, they would almost be there. But this was important so Stiles persisted. Derek sighed and picked up the gun, hiking it up his shoulder and followed Stiles, ignoring the way the other man’s heat radiated into his arm as he was tugged. 

 

--

 

She watched through the window as the two men marched their way to the garage, deeming it safe to snoop around the house properly now that she wouldn’t be disturbed for a while. She could take a few pieces of food for her trouble, but the pantry was bare enough as it is.

Stepping into the bedroom they most likely shared together, she noticed a glint on the bedside table. Coming closer, she realised that it was a ring, shining from the sunlight coming in the window. It wasn’t much to look at, worn down from over the years but she knew it belonged to the smaller man, and in a way, she wanted to be closer to him through this small piece of jewellery. As if it would tell her all the secrets these two unfamiliar people are involved in, she pinched the ring and slid it into her pocket. If he wanted it he would have to fight for it, or until she was bored of it anyway. 

Though, it’s not like having a ring on the bedside table was a good omen. From the looks of it, they had broken up or something around that nature but with the way they were looking and acting around each other earlier, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all.

She would just have to stay a while longer and fully investigate.

 

--

 

Derek hadn’t gone into the garage yet, but after Stiles opened the door and let them both in, he gathered why Stiles was so pushy to get him inside. That was a beautiful camaro. Fuck. It was the same make as his old one, the color was different but it still gave him nostalgia from when he used to work overtime to keep his baby insured and serviced, driving around in it and feeling the wind through his hair while turning the radio up loud to his favorite station.

He stood in the doorway of the garage just staring at the car, while Stiles went ahead and ran his fingers over the hood of the muscle car, shrugging. “This is it, right?”

“Wow.” Is all he could say. After so long not having his baby with him, this was like a dream. Stiles took that as a good sign and opened the door, getting into the backseat and leaving the door open for Derek to come in when he chose to.

Of course he didn’t waste any time to get in, slipping into the driver’s seat and shutting the door behind him, taking a moment to just breathe in the smell of the leather seats. His hands unconsciously made their way to the steering wheel, running his fingers over the red suede and silver logo in the middle.

Stiles watched Derek from the backseat and felt something in his stomach swell with emotion, he could see the other man’s face in the rear-view mirror, the thousands of thoughts running through his head. He wanted to ask Derek what he was thinking, if the memories of the drive through dates and outdoor theatres came back in a flurry. He hadn’t felt this way for a long time, and though they weren’t perfect, and would likely never be. Stiles was challenged to play along with the harsh present they’re in, and fuck sake he was going to accept it. His voice was soft without meaning to, almost broken as he spoke. “Well?”

Derek took a deep breath and let it out slowly, gripping the wheel and giving it a squeeze. “This is it. I mean… My seats were black, but I kind of like the red better.”

He shook his head as his eyes glanced up to the rear-view, spotting Stiles staring at him as if hopeful for some reason. He didn’t know why but seeing the raw emotion in Stiles’ face brought forth a lump in his throat, turning his eyes away to stare at the interior once more. “Man, a lot of memories in this car. First real date, first ticket, first accident. First roadie… Goose’n down the on-ramps…”

He spotted the origami necklace wrapped round the neck of the rear-view mirror, reaching up to touch it fondly as his huffed out a breath in amusement as he flicked it and watched it spin around in circles. Stiles leaning in and putting his hands on the shoulders of the driver’s seat, his voice remaining soft. “What about back here?”

The memories of staying out late past curfew flitted through his mind, turning his head back a moment to scoff at Stiles’ question. He was such a dork, hadn’t grown into his bunny teeth, hadn’t learned how to clean his face so he either looked like he went for a two mile run without stopping, or had a new pimple in the middle of his forehead. “Uh, yeah, I was pretty cool back then, but no, not that cool.”

Stiles doesn’t know what is getting into him, leaning his chin on the back of his hand as his voice turned almost alluring? He didn’t even know how his voice could do that. They were just talking about the good ol’ times and now that familiar boiling was beginning in his stomach that he hadn’t felt in years. “So, you never ever? Not even in the backseat?”

“Never in a car.” He frowned a little deeper at the way Stiles was acting. It was definitely weird, but not a bad kind of weird. Still, if this was what it was going to take for Stiles to open up to him, so they could figure out how to get back together, then Derek would try anything. He could hear Stiles shuffle around in the backseat but didn’t chance to look at what he was doing, instead he focused on the steering wheel, then imagined how fast he could go in this beauty without having any police to pull him over or anyone to get into an accident.

“That makes two of us.” Stiles’ voice was hushed but was his breath tickled the back of Derek’s neck, bringing up goosebumps. They remained silent for a good minute, he doesn’t know what going through Stiles’ mind right now but his voice had hit that tone he used to shiver at. That was the tone to show Stiles had a frustrating day and wanted to forget it all by rolling around under the covers. “And here we are…”

He doesn’t know if it’s the pure need to have Stiles in his arms once more, the confidence of being behind the wheel of a car that reminded him of the confidence he once had with his own ride, or the fact that he had not fucked anyone for who knows how long and Stiles’ voice had been the last straw. Whatever it was, Derek wasn’t going to waste any time. He checked in the rear-view what Stiles was up to before turning his body around as much as he could so he could watch the other man’s face.

Stiles had a smirk on his lips, the smugness knowing what he could do to Derek after dropping his voice a couple octaves. In this moment he didn’t need to think about what was out there, or how they would get to Milwaukee, he didn’t need to think about his dad right now. It was just Stiles, and Derek, leaning in to press a soft kiss on each other’s lips and feeling the bond that they hadn’t experienced for months finally connect.

At first it was tentative, like it was their first time all over again, before Stiles’ hand unconsciously found the back of Derek’s neck and pulled him closer. Their kiss turned opened mouthed, tongues tasting each other after so long. It brought a hum of pleasure out of Derek, who copied the other man by cradling the back of Stiles’ head. It was like coming home after being at war. The stress bleeding out the both of them while their kiss became more desperate, being touched starved for so long only pushing them further.

Derek manoeuvring himself out of the driver’s seat and over, pushing Stiles down into the backseat while keeping their lips locked together, Stiles going with the flow and gripping the back of Derek’s shirt. The smell of dry sweat from no running water and the musk of the clothing they had found in the house filled Stiles’ nostrils but it only built the tension higher. There was a lot of pulling, plenty of tugging in the tight space they had to work with. At one point they had to break the kiss to laugh because Derek was way too big to fit in the backseat by himself, let alone trying to pull his shirt off and not smack Stiles.

The front seats were kicked and used as supports to fit the two of them together while they undressed. Shirts went in the front, shoes remaining on while trousers unzipped and pushed down to their thighs as both men became heated, their lips finding every inch of skin. Stiles didn’t care that they weren’t prepared, hiking his leg up over Derek’s hip and accidently booting the window but neither caring as their cocks rubbed against each other’s. “Oh my god, oh my god. Derek, oh my god.”

“Fuck, Stiles.” Derek ground his hips down to get some much needed friction, his tongue finding Stiles’ once more and swallowing the other man’s gasp. It had been a long time since they’ve been like this, and Derek had missed every second. He doesn’t know if this will fix anything, and they would most likely need to have a proper conversation later on about where they go from here. But for now, he could imagine that they had stayed in love, and that there hadn’t been a time where they broke up.

They continued to roll their hips, the awkward position along with the limited space they had with their long limbs would have only been a matter of time. Stiles pulled away from the kiss with a pant, hands finding Derek’s cheeks and cupping them. “My legs cramping, lemme up, lemme up.”

Derek helped sit up so Stiles could stretch out his leg as much as he could, there weren’t teenagers with bodies that sprung back. They fumbled around, Stiles leaning in once more to bringing Derek into a heated kiss until finally they both found the most comfortable position available; with Derek leaning against the door while Stiles half-straddled his lap. His trousers had been pulled off one leg to give better access, gripping their cocks and jerking them.

His hands had found Stiles’ ass and pulled him closer, his fingers kneading the soft cheeks and spreading them so he could press his thumb against the furl of skin there. Stiles groaned into Derek’s mouth, his hand stroking faster and using their precum to slick the way. He always got soaked when he was turned on, staining the front of his boxers whenever the two of them were rubbing off on one another.

They were like young lovers again, panting into each other’s mouths, hips thrusting as their orgasms rocketed closer almost embarrassingly quick. They couldn’t help it, after so long without any sexual touch from one another or by themselves it was easy for the feelings to rush to the surface. Stiles could feel it bubbling, ready to burst. His stomach fluttered and his breath caught on a moan as he came first, forehead resting on Derek’s shoulder as the other man thrust his hips up to follow his partner in bliss. He came shortly after, gripping Stiles’ ass enough that it would most likely leave bruises, his cum mixing with the mess already puddling on his lower stomach. “Oh fuck…”

Stiles closed his eyes and hummed out in pleasure, leaning back to peck Derek’s lips once more as they enjoyed the aftermath of their bliss. They were perfect in that moment, feeding off one another’s content.

If they had been smarter with their surroundings, they would have been able to notice the group of men standing in the doorway of the garage. They entered one by one, some wearing different animal heads; a deer skull, a fox head, and a bull with a cracked horn. Some didn’t have a head but instead wore caveman masks, with long matted hair attached and carrying rifles. If only the two of them had been more inclined to take a look at the boot of the camaro, or more precisely, the Gambler logo spray painted there.

They were in a Gambler house, and they would yet to know the repercussions.

Chapter Text

Before either of them could get their bearings, before they even knew they were in danger, the car door was flung open. Hands reached in to grab Stiles first, yanking him out onto the cold garage floor and pin him down. Derek was next, he put up more of a fight, wanting to make sure Stiles was safe but there were too many of them, pulling him out of the camaro.

There was no time to get dressed, there was no time to react besides the internal need to fight for their lives. They were in bliss one moment and in complete fear the next.

They weren’t gentle, practically dragging the struggling couple out of the garage to the back of the truck where a deer skull Gambler was waiting with the Wheel. One of the Gamblers let the truck door lift up to present a row of human sized cages lying in wait. Another Gambler, a fox head, pushed Stiles onto the floor in front, making him grunt in pain as his shoulder throbbed at the sudden movement. Derek was only being held by one of his arms and was quick to fight free, pushing the fox head up against the wall and getting a good punch in the gut before the Gamblers threw him onto the ground next to Stiles.

The two of them knew what would happen next. The deer skulled Gambler didn’t even need to explain anything; everyone knew once Gamblers got you, they would spin the Wheel of Death and you had to pray to everything that it didn’t land on skull and crossbones. That was instant death.

They opened the door to the Wheel, the colourful balls around the edges there to slow the handle down until it landed on whatever answer fate would provide. The Wheel was a fucking disaster; with only one red heart on the Wheel that allowed the victims to walk away, leaving one chance of their survival. There were four skull and crossbones, and two black spades covering the rest of the Wheel. Some would say that the black spade was the worst, at least with the skulls there would be no fighting, no waiting for death, it was instant. With the black spades, they would take their prisoners to their territory to do who knows what with them.

There were rumors, but no one knew for sure what happened with the black spade. No one survived to tell the tale.

One of the Gamblers wearing the bull with a cracked horn did the honours, grabbing the lever and giving the Wheel a fair amount of momentum. They all watched it spin, Stiles and Derek keeping their eyes on the single heart on it and praying it would land on that, which would make the Gamblers release them. Stiles sniffled and reached out to grab Derek’s hand unconsciously, feeling Derek squeeze.

The Wheel didn’t want to fucking stop, it felt like forever. The clacking sound of the balls being hit at full speed was like gunshots to Stiles’ nerves. He had to remain positive, there was one chance, he could still make it out of here if he hoped for the red heart.

Please let it land on the red heart.

As the momentum slowed down, the Gamblers were getting more hyped up. They began to giggle and fidget, probably hoping it would land on a skull so they could kill their prisoners. Maybe some of them wanted it to land on the black spade so they could do whatever atrocities they wanted to their new toys.

The Wheel slowed to the last ticks, and Stiles heart sank. It was nowhere near the red heart, it was going to land on the skull. He would never be able to see his father again, he would never be able to hold Derek one more time, never see a sunset again, never hear Derek’s laugh, see his smile, never be able to drive his jeep again.

Then he saw it. The Wheel of Death had stopped completely. There was a whoop from behind them and Derek was the first to be moved, his arms grabbed and his body hauled up. Stiles burst into tears, scrambling after Derek to try and get him back but was halted. The fox head, who had stole his jacket he just realized, had grabbed hold of him and lifted him up off the ground to push him towards the truck.

They had struck the black spade. Who knows what the fuck was going to happen now. While they weren’t going to die right away, neither of them was certain about what the future held. Gamblers threw Derek and Stiles into separate cages in the back of the truck, and Stiles continued to cry while Derek pummelled his shoulder into the cage door in hopes it would come free from the force. But it was too late now. The fox head waved childishly at the couple before pulling the truck door down, cloaking the two of them in darkness.

 

--

 

The ride was bumpy, Stiles could feel every pebble on the road as it was driven over. There were no comfortable ways to sit in the cages and so he rests his unharmed shoulder on the bars nearest to Derek, the other man doing the same. Their hands could fit through the bars, holding onto each other tightly. “I don’t want to die, Der.”

Derek didn’t know how to respond to that, it’s not like he could say everything was going to be alright. He didn’t know. The rumours were that once Gamblers had their hold on you, it was all over. He squeezed Stiles’ hand gently, kissing the knuckles there as he shushed his boyfriend. Were they boyfriends now? Stiles seemed to act like it in the back of the camaro, but then again it could have been because he felt lonely and Derek was the only one left.

It was pitch black in the back of the truck, it must have been rusty from the amount of creaking on the body of the truck, maybe it was from the cages. Derek thought with amusement, if he was strong enough, he could bust out of the cage, free Stiles, and pull the backdoor open enough to make a run for it. But those were fleeting thoughts of comfort for something that wasn’t possible. They were most likely going to die at the hands of these scumbags and there was little they could do about it. Stiles sniffed wetly in the dark, and Derek tightened his grip on his hands. “I love you.”

Forty-five miles to Milwaukee was when the truck stopped, the doors being pulled open to reveal the Gamblers once more. The sunset blazed in their eyes, making Stiles look away as they teared up once more, Derek facing the animal-headed freaks when they unlocked the cages. They pulled the couple out the truck, and Stiles’ face flushed as he saw the amount of people standing around, all eyes on the two of them.

The place itself was dank and lifeless even with hundreds of men and women dotted around. The cars were all painted with the Gambler logo somewhere on the hood or trunk, sometimes both. There were some run down pick-ups and trailers but it was mostly cars that were well taken care of, seems the Gamblers took liberty in making sure their rides were in style with the amount of sports or racing cars nearby. Stiles noted that mentally; fast cars meant fast escape.

The land had three buildings on it from what Stiles could see, with the biggest one being the main. There were windows covering the front of the building, looked like it used to be some kind of warehouse or supermarket back when America wasn’t gassed. They used the space and filled it as much as they possibly could, but seemed no one knew how to clean. The ground was muddy, while some of the Gamblers were well kept if they had animal heads, but the ones without were dingy. They wore stained clothes to match their filthy skin, smoking rolled up cigarettes and holding wads of cash in their fists like it was the most precious thing they owned. Probably was from the look of them.

Stiles was jostled out of his thoughts when the fox head pushed him forward, flinching since their hand landed on bare skin. They didn’t have their shirts, still in the back of the camaro and Stiles felt like an idiot as he shivered in the breeze. At least they were smart enough to keep their jeans and shoes on. He was feeling it now, everyone’s eyes focused on his clean mole dotted skin, and Derek’s muscled torso. He tried to remain calm as the group moved forward to the main building, but his eyes kept wandering to the dirty crowd whooping and hollering by them.

He could hear some of their words but tried to down them out. Derek tried to get closer to Stiles but was forcefully pushed further away by the deer skulled man.

“Vanilla latte!”

“Ooh baby! They smell like sweet Kool-Aid.”

“Special cream…”

“Check out this dame.”

Some of the men were confident enough to touch Stiles’ skin, and he flinched back into the fox head’s grip but yelped when the man pushed him onwards. Seems like they’d not seen someone who was attractive in quite a while, or at least clean enough to appear it. There was no remorse from these animals, no guilt as they marched the couple through the crowds of whistling men. His hand shook when he felt someone grab his wrist, eyes darting down and noticing it was just Derek’s hand, warm to the touch. Derek had his head up, eyes focused on getting through the crowd but he knew it must have been scaring Stiles with what everyone was shouting. They linked their fingers together, and Stiles could have sworn he felt just a dash of confidence.

Soon enough they entered the building, only for Stiles to be smacked in the face by the smell of rotten fruit, piss, and stale cigarettes. He had to take a few breaths to not vomit right there, and from the looks of it, Derek wasn’t far behind in that department, his eyebrows furrowed as his mouth turned down in disgust. There was graffiti on the windows and walls, the floor covered with people’s belongings from dirty blankets to lingerie thrown across the cement. There were empty bottles littered around, some of them smashed and Stiles was so glad they kept their shoes on or they could have cut their feet on the broken glass. Of course, as always, there was money everywhere. Fluttering in the air from people throwing it, on tables, on chairs, on the floor but quickly swept up by greedy hands.

The front of the building was dark and sectioned off with fencing, and for a moment Stiles was appreciative of his animal headed group that knew the way around all of the chaos around him. The noise was almost deafening; loud rock music playing through imbedded speakers around the walls, screaming and shouting from the drunken men, whistling and whooping from people at gambling stations that just got their jackpots. Stiles wouldn’t have been able to take any directions.  But they moved through the Gambling drunks with ease, an aura around them Stiles sensed must have been that these men were important somehow, like a hierarchy.

There was still music blaring through the speakers but it was quieter in the hallway, and Derek’s eyes landed on the neon sign that read Gun Check. It was an armoury; fenced off under lock and key with a man behind the counter taking chips and dishing them out whenever someone handed their gun in or wanted to check them out again. It seemed organised at least, he didn’t think what would happen if they were allowed their guns with the madness in the other room. No one would have survived. Though, Derek wishes that it would have happened so they wouldn’t have been in this situation right now.

The animal heads finally stopped the group in front of a desk and dinged the bell that was sitting in the middle of the counter. They then pushed the couple in front so the older man behind the desk could take a good look at them. He was wearing a bell-hops uniform, smartly dressed and donning a groomed white beard. He appeared to be the only one in this place that knew how to work a shower. He had deer antlers pinned to the fencing, crosses made by some kind of bark or bamboo sticks, and files littered around. Seems the man must have been in charge of who gets what in this gang, and Stiles tightened his grip on Derek’s hand.

“Names?” The man spoke softly, and Stiles had to lean forward in order to hear him. He was calm, and waited as Derek took in his surroundings.

There were people betting in another section, walking away counting bills and Derek caught a couple of the gambling men staring at them before talking to the clerk behind the red counter, handing over a wad of rolled up cash. The frowned deeply, turning to the smartly dressed man in front of them. “What’s the money for?”

The man simply tilted his head, not even blinking as he repeated himself softly. “Names, please?”

“What’s the goddamn money for – fuck!” Derek tried to get his answers but the deer skull behind him hit him in the back of the head with a gun, he turned as if to start a fight but Stiles squeezed his hand so tight. He knew when they were outnumbered.

“Money’s the only God you have left.” The man spoke like he used the phrase daily, watching as the couple in front of him had a silent conversation with their eyes. “Names.”

Derek kept his head down, breathing through the pain from the blow to the back of his head. Stiles knew they weren’t going to get around this, they could kill them right then and there for not participating. If they got through this then there was still a chance they could get out of this alive. “Stiles and Derek. Hale.”

He could feel Derek’s head turn to him, and now was not the time but he felt if they were going to die then they might as well die as husbands. The man seemed confused by this for a moment, eyes flickering down each other until they landed on the couple holding each other’s hands for dear life. He giggled childishly, eyes bright with amusement as he spoke to the animal headed men around them. “Married. Take them to the Snake Eyes Suite.”

He dinged the bell on the counter again, and there was a gut feeling that Stiles wasn’t going to enjoy the suite. Hands were on them again, and they were yanked away to another room. There was another hallway, cleaner than what Stiles had seen so far, and quieter than before. For a moment he wanted to go back to the chaos at the front of the building. The animal heads kept the two of them in the front of the group, hands tight on Stiles’ arm while Derek had both of his biceps in a different man’s hand. Seems they deemed Derek stronger and more willing to wrench out of their hold than Stiles was, at least he had that under his belt. He was skinny, but he was the son of the sheriff, he knew how to defend himself if he was in danger.

He flinched a little when he heard a commotion, two men fighting about money, just another day in Gamblers territory. They were pushed left through a doorway where there were people leaning against the walls, watching the two of them like hawks. There was a neon sign on the wall next to an open door, with two dice printed across it, one of them had a broke fuse or something because only one of them was lit up. This must have been the Snake Eyes Suite.

As they turned the corner into the room, noise broke out in waves of cheers so loud it made Stiles step back. He was shoved once more by the fox head until they were stepping into the clearing. The room was dark, with only a spotlight in the centre of the room. There were at least a hundred people circled around the spotlight and as Stiles got closer, he could see people’s faces but realised real quick what was so important about the spotlight.

It was a simply table and chairs, with the seats opposite so they would be facing each other. It was like a romantic date almost with mood lighting but there were two things on the table that made Stiles start to fight against the animal heads. No. He couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t. This wasn’t happening right now.

There were two wooden poles bolted into the table, with two gloves attached to the pole. But what scared Stiles the most was the two revolvers that were connected to the poles. The table was stained with blood, with spattering on the gloves. He screamed as the fox headed man grabbed him around his waist, and he fought as hard as he could, kicking and pushing himself back. The wound in his shoulder was throbbing insanely at him as he tried to fight the other man. The couple were torn apart from each other as Derek starting fighting against the two men that were holding him. He managed to punch someone in the gut and break free for a moment before others in the group grabbed him and dragged him to the chair, pushing him down in the seat by his shoulders.

Stiles was close behind, his throat raw from its sudden use. He was sobbing, the fox head seating him in the chair opposite Derek and held him in place while people flitted around them, zip tying one of their wrists to the back of the chair. Stiles stared straight ahead at Derek who was panting with exertion, the sweat on his brow glistening from the spotlight. He tried to get the zip tie undone with his free hand but the deer skull was quick to grip it, holding his arm up so he couldn’t do anything but wait, the fox head copying their lead and grabbing Stiles’ hand, lifting it up.

The crowd seemed overjoyed by their attempts at escape, only furthering to rile them up. Stiles jolted when he heard a man behind him below and turned his head to see who was commentating. “Alright, bets are open!”

It was a cowboy of some kind. He had a thick greying beard and a cowboy hat that matching his jacket, completing the look with some ragged jeans and boots that clinked whenever he walked. He kept shouting to the crowd who were waving their money at him to take it. Some short woman with a deer antler hat paced around the circle collecting the bids, and Stiles hated every single one of them right now. He wanted to shoot all of them with this revolver. That’s if he could even get the gun free from the pole. He was shaken out of his thoughts when he was grabbed by the same man who zip tied his wrist, taking over from the fox head and grabbing Stiles’ arm. “Get in there.”

He was forcibly moved around, trying to get him into the glove in front of him. He tried to fight, but the pain in his shoulder from his previous struggling left him weak. Derek had two men on him, manoeuvring his hand into the glove as he swore and cussed them out. Stiles just cried as his hand was pushed into the glove, feeling that the index and middle finger were cut off so they could fit in the trigger of the revolver. Fox head was back again, holding his arm in place in case he tried to remove it from the glove, the deer skulled man doing the same to Derek.

Then he saw the drills.

He screamed.

There was nothing neither of them could do, it was like time slowed down for the both of them. Derek tried to resist, cursing them out as the men placed a rusty nail on the small bloody hole in the glove. Seems this is a custom far too familiar for these people, no, they were fucking animals, they were less than human. Who would willingly watch something like this, pay money on someone’s life? These were just pigs, too greedy to care about others, selfish motherfuckers.

Stiles cried loudly, hiccupping as he begged the man to stop and think about what he was about to do. He didn’t listen, simply making sure everything was aligned before starting the drill up and forcing the nail through the hole in the glove, and piercing Stiles’ skin. He screamed and tried to break free from the chair to fight back, tried to rip his hand out of the glove and fight the fox headed man from holding onto his wrist. The nail screwed through his hand, blood gushing from the wound and soaking the inside of the glove with thick warmth that trickled down Stiles’ wrist.

There was a rush of adrenaline then, Stiles closing his eyes as he tried to breathe through the pain. The men had moved away when he opened his eyes again, the commentator still circling along the edge of the circle, riling up the crowd for as much money as possible. There was a woman in the crowd sitting behind Derek, pulling a massive wad of cash out of her dirty bra and placing it into the hat that was being circled. She spoke then, and Stiles didn’t fucking hear a thing, his ears ringing from the blood pulsing way too fast for it to be normal – then again nothing was fucking normal about this situation, he had a nail in his fucking hand, forcing him to point a gun at his newly made reinstated boyfriend. Her eyes said it all though, she was betting on Stiles to lose, she thought with the way he was crying, his cheeks wet from snot and tears, that he was the weak link and wouldn’t do anything but let his death happen.

She didn’t matter at the moment, Stiles didn’t fucking care about what happened to this bitch. She wants to blow all her cash on a fucking life, then he would hardly stop her. Instead, Stiles focused his eyes on Derek, who was sweating and breathing laboured from the pain. He tried to make it across enough for Derek to understand that he loved him, that it was going to be alright, he would find a way to get them out of this mess. The commentator seemed to be finalising the bets though, his voice calming down but still reaching out to take the bills flapping from dirty fingers in the crowd. “Let’s see some gambling now, we got fresh meat here. We got some live ones, hurry up!”

Derek kept his eyes on Stiles, gritting his teeth at the wave of pain throbbing out of his hand. He wondered if this would cause permanent nerve damage, the nail was old and rusted, and it must have gone through something important. Everything in the hand was important in some way to movement or feeling, or pain response. If they fucked up his trigger finger that could possibly put Stiles in danger again, he was going to curse them all to hell.

Then again, it was most likely that he would never be able to make it out of this situation alive either way, no matter how many times Stiles gave him that look, that he was trying to think up a plan. How the fuck was he going to fix this? He had his hand nailed to a pole. In front of hundreds of people, with weapons to use, and money hungry bloodthirst the only things on their minds.

The commentator lifted his arm up then, forcing it through the air until it came down onto his thigh with a slap, shouting out into the crowd. “All right! Bets are closed!”

Some members of the crowd started causing a fuss then, obviously wanting to put their bids in. Stiles didn’t care, he was taking in Derek’s face, how his eyes were almost sparkling in the spotlight, he still felt that rush from the camaro, and didn’t want it to end like this. His shoulders shook as he called out Derek’s name, trying not to spill anymore tears. He couldn’t think up any plan for this situation, and from the looks coming from Derek, he didn’t have anything up his sleeve apart from drying blood. Derek caught his eyes then, shaking his head as he panted heavily. “I don’t know, I don’t know.”

The commentator knelt down next to the tables, fumbling in his pocket for a moment before pulling out a handful of bullets. He unlatched the cylinder from the revolver and started filling it with one single bullet for each of the guns, before spinning them both and popping them back in their respective place in the revolver. He then stood up with confidence, and Stiles’ stomach was in his throat, trying to keep any bile down. They were going to play Russian Roulette it seems, where they had five empty slots and one bullet that they would fire, hoping that each time the gun would click signalling an empty round. With each turn, the cylinder would be spun, but it seems these fuckers weren’t going to do that, making the game more suspenseful. As if the game wasn’t already dangerous enough with the original game using a single gun.

He got down on one knee, talking calmly to the couple as he discussed the rules to them. Seems everyone around them were attuned to the rules and were anxious to get the game going already. “Now, after my count down from five, I want you both to pull the trigger. If you both fail to pull the trigger on my count, I will be forced to add another two bullets to each gun, thus making the total bullet count three.”

Stiles glared at the commentator, fuck him for making such ludicrous new rules, only assuring that the people playing wouldn’t want to hurt their loved ones. With that idea, it would make him only add more bullets to the gun and putting their loved ones more at risk. From the eyes he was giving the commentator, he grinned then, amused at the display. “I think you see where I’m going with this. So, do yourselves a favour, and pull the fucking triggers.”

The commentator rubbed his hands as he stood up, eager to get the game going. Stiles turned his head to keep his eyes on Derek then, the man still struggling to keep his pain under control. There was a twinkle in his eye that made it look like Derek wanted to cry and to be honest, Stiles felt the same. Their position was almost futile unless Stiles came up with an idea really quick, and even then, it was a matter of time and confidence, which neither of them had at the moment. “I heard you two are married. You make it six rounds, and you get to go home. Capisce?”

It sounded easy enough. It gave them ten out of twelve chances to win, but Stiles didn’t trust the fucking revolver, didn’t trust the commentator and didn’t trust any of the Gamblers saying that the two of them would be letting them walk after all the trouble of bringing them here in the first place. The commentator riled the crowd up once more, gathering a microphone from a member of the crowd and speaking into it, asking everyone to count down with him from five.

“Stiles.” Derek panted heavily, his face tense from both the pain and the nerves rushing through him in that moment, Stiles paying attention to his every move in case it was the last thing he would ever see. “Point the gun down as far as you can and pull the trigger.”

“I can’t.” Stiles couldn’t think of shooting Derek, couldn’t make himself do it even if it would be a blank. Just the thought was making bile rise up in his throat once more. The movement of the pole was minimal, with his revolver tilted just a tad up enough that it would most likely hit Derek in the neck or the shoulder if Stiles was to shoot him, while Derek’s gun was pointed directly to Stiles’ chest. No amount of wiggling or pointing would loosen the revolver, especially not with the fucking nail in his hand connecting him to the pole. Derek’s plan had so many flaws.

The crowd started getting louder after three, almost screaming the numbers. An idea popped into Stiles’ head then, and as it was the only choice they had, Stiles decided to run with it. It could cost then their lives but he knew they weren’t going to let both of them go unscathed. The only thing that was holding him back was the fear that if this went south, he could lose the man he loved.

Derek was desperate then, growling at Stiles. “It’s our only chance, you have to.”

It wasn’t the only chance they had to survive, but Stiles couldn’t explain with the crowd counting down, bellowing out at the top of his lungs in hopes that they would listen to him. “Wait!”

For a moment Stiles thought that they weren’t going to listen, that they would take the plea for a way to sabotage the game, count it as a failure to fire, and add two more bullets. But as the commentator turned towards Stiles, and the crowd quietened down in confusion, Stiles had a spark of hope in his gut. The commentator was also perplexed, scratching his beard and trying to play it off. “You got a kiss for me, little sweetheart?”

There was a count of chuckles from the crowd, with some members turning their noses up in disgust about two men kissing, some even spitting on the floor. Stiles ignored them, he had an idea and he had to play it out to the best of his performance. Derek looked at him wildly, but Stiles didn’t have time right now, eyeing him in hopes that he wouldn’t say anything and let him continue without a hitch. He spoke then, keeping his voice as confident as he could. It wasn’t very good, seeing as his body was thrumming with agony and fear, but Stiles was proud that he spat the words out. “A wager.”

“I’m listening.” The commentator was dumbfounded, and it seems people who were in his position would normally be begging for their lives at this point, but Stiles’ idea was quite the fucking opposite.  

At first it was difficult to get the words out, knowing that it was put him directly in the firing line. But he couldn’t hurt Derek, didn’t want to be the one to kill him. He wanted to see his dad, and with the way Derek’s revolver was aiming, it was unlikely that he would survive the wound. But this gave an interesting twist that the sadistic fucks would thrive on, and with any luck, eat out the palm of Stiles’ hand. “You put three bullets in his gun, and we walk in two.”

Chapter Text

“You put three bullets in his gun, and we walk in two.”

It was like a freefall of icy cold water dunked on Derek’s head. He couldn’t feel any pain, no thoughts going through his head or fear for his life anymore, it was just Stiles’ words revolving around in his mind. Stiles wanted himself to be put into the firing line, probably in the hopes that they would leave earlier, but it gave him a significantly high death rate than before, and Derek didn’t want to be the one to pull the trigger on the love of his life. He knew the moment he started to fight this, the crowd would just be more eager to agree to the terms. They were sick fucks who just wanted to see some blood, no matter the anguish that came after. He needed to know what to do, why Stiles was doing this, anything so that he would be able to understand the reasoning behind such a suicidal move. “Stiles, what are you doing?”

Playing along.” Stiles’ eyes darted away from the commentators, to stare at him almost insanely as he panted. Any ideas about Stiles having a plan was muddled with the dilated pupils. He was obviously confused and Derek wanted to help any way that he could, tugging at the zip tie on his wrist, but Stiles just turned back to the commentator once more. “Higher stakes, bigger take.”

Derek was shaking now, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to get through to his husband right now, and turned his head to the other man almost pleadingly. The bets were good right now, they could leave in six turns, no matter if they were loaded or not. Putting the added two loads wasn’t going to get them any closer to the exit. The commentator appeared to be as dumbfounded as Derek was, glancing between the two before shrugging and raising his hands up to the crowd to quieten the murmuring to hurry the game up. “Ladies and gentlemen, the stakes have just risen!”

The crowd roared with approval, and the woman holding the betting hat began to walk around once more to collect the new wads of cash practically being thrown at her. Stiles noticed how she pocketed a couple that had fell on the floor, their eyes met for a second but he wasn’t going to bring it up, fuck ‘em for all he cared, he had more important things to think about. A man strode forward with the two extra bullets, taking hold of the revolver and opening it up once more to pop them in, spinning the cartridge before closing it once more. “Three bullets in his gun, and one in vanilla latte’s! Three and one!”

Stiles kept his gaze on Derek, his frown deep. Why is it they kept calling him that, what kind of name is vanilla latte, what the fuck was that even about. For a moment his mind wandered to when he was able to look something like that up in the internet and felt a twist in his chest, knowing that won’t ever happen again. Fuck this guy for making him think about the past.

Derek was shaking harder by the second, his breathing picking up and knowing that there was no way to talk himself out of it or communicate to Stiles that he didn’t want to shoot him. This was a dead end for him, and Stiles knew he had been backed into a corner. He just hoped that he could tilt his gun up enough to miss Stiles completely, or he wouldn’t be able to live with himself. The commentator had walked his way around the crowd until he was on Stiles’ side of the table, quietening the audience to their final bets. The woman sat down again counting the pile on money in the hat, happy to be rich in that moment.

“This was a good idea.” The commentator whispered in Stiles’ ear, and he cringed a little when the man sniffed at the crook of his neck, the bristles of his beard tickling his bare skin. He lifted his head again to shout to the crowd. “Count with me!”

The next few seconds were so fast that Derek could barely comprehend what was going on. The commentator had grabbed Stiles’ hand on the revolver, Stiles wincing in pain as the nail was jostled but that was the least of his problems right now. The audience started the countdown with the commentator again, louder and louder as they got down to the last second, Stiles’ eyes keeping Derek in his sights while Derek was shaking to hard. His breathing heavy as the sweat on his fingers made his trigger finger almost slippery.

They got down to one, and Derek bit his tongue as they both pulled the trigger at the same time. Shutting their eyes so the two of them didn’t have to see the horror that could ensue.

Click.

The crowd erupted in outrage at the empty casings, and the commentator got up once more to pump the crowd up that there was another shot free, there was still a chance for blood. But for now, Derek leaned back against the chair as much as he could in relief, and from the looks of it, Stiles was the same. His head fell forward as he closed his eyes once more, breathing a sigh of praise to whoever was out there that they were empty, and praying again that the next one was the same.

They had a fucking chance, they were halfway there, one more empty shot and they could go home. They were so close.

“Round two! Place your bets! We got a marriage on the line here!” The crowd was hyped up with the hopes that this was the round they were going to see some action, their bids rising just a little. Stiles kept a cool head about this, breathing through the fear while Derek was a fucking wreck of nerves. He had three bullets in his gun, and there were only three empty cartridges, they could be anywhere. The commentator came back with excited glee and he knelt down once more behind Stiles, catching a whiff behind his ear before calling to his audience. Stiles wished Derek turned his gun enough to fucking shoot the man right between those sunglasses. “Count down with me!”

They all started their countdown, and Stiles started to look scared. There was something in his eyes that needed Derek to understand that they were going to get through this together, that what he didn’t wasn’t stupid or a bad plan. Maybe this next shot would be another blank and they could go home no strings attached. He nodded his head, trying to show on his face that he Stiles had done good, that they would be safe. “I’m okay.”

Bang.

Stiles felt the gun hit something hard before he even fired, screaming as he watched Derek’s shoulder become red. The smoke cleared from the revolver, and the crowd cheered for more now that the leverage Stiles had to leave in two rounds was a no-go. Stiles screamed and started to jump in his seat, trying to yank his arm out of the zip tie.

Of all the shots to fire he hit Derek. Derek had more bullets than him and yet with the single bullet he had, he hit his husband. The shot Derek. He could bleed out right now, he could have hit a vital artery, he could have gotten bone, he needed to put pressure on the wound. Derek just sat there with his head down grunting in pain as the blood flowed through his shirt creating a wider puddle.

“There you have it. A short game, but a good game!” The commentator smugly strode away from the scene and collected his payment for the round, Stiles feeling a smidge of room from all the sweat seeping out of his pores. If he could just get it out a couple more inches, he could be free.

He heard a commotion and lifted his head to see behind Derek there was a dirty blonde shouting at another woman to pay up her wager, only for the woman to jump up and grab the blonde by her shirt and push her down. She started to pummel the woman with everything she had, the blonde’s face becoming red with every strike. The crowd had quietened down at the beginning of the fight, the attention being put on them.

This was Stiles’ chance, their attentions directed elsewhere, Stiles didn’t care if the skin of his wrist was raw and seeping from the amount of movement from the zip tie. No doubt his wrist must look chicken scratched right now, and will need to be looked at but right now Derek was more important than his raw skin.

“Whoa, ladies!” The commentator was even getting involved, calling out to the women fighting. The tanned woman didn’t seem to give a fuck where she was or who would hold her back, she didn’t want to give up her money. Typical Gamblers would rather die than pay up. She picked up her chair and nailed it down on the blonde’s head, hearing it crack as the woman went limp on the floor. “Kali! Kali, goddamn it! I’m gonna kick your ass outta here.”

The oozing on his wrist was enough for Stiles, tucking his thumb in as much as he could before slipping his hand free. Frantically, Stiles held onto the bar of the chair just in case anyone spotted that his hand was free but they were all too concerned about this Kali woman killing one of their own over this bet. The commentator didn’t even give Stiles a second glance as he strode past them.

This was the last mistake that man would ever take. Stiles knew he had a fucking gun on him, and leant over, ripping it out of the commentator’s holster, pointing it straight at his back and firing. Once, twice. The man went down, and the crowd jumped at the sound. All their eyes turned to Stiles, and he knew he had to fucking get out of there right now. There was a man already pacing towards him but he was quick to point it at him before ordering. “Sit the fuck down!”

Once he made sure no one else was going to intervene with his escape, Stiles turned the gun on the wooden pole keeping him secure. He thought about ordering someone to undo the nail but thought against it, it would lead to people being able to take the gun away from him or pinning him down. So, he did what he thought was best. He fired the gun on the pole, blasting it into splinters. It ricocheted back on his face, closing his eyes but feeling some digging into his cheeks as he turned his head away. It sent shockwaves up the pole into the nail and in affect, jolting his hand into bleeding once more but Stiles ignored it for now.

Getting up off the chair, he kept an eye out for anyone that tried to get between him and Derek. He had about four rounds left maybe in the gun, and he wasn’t afraid to use it at this point. He’d already killed one man, they knew he wasn’t bluffing. Hurrying round the table to fire a shot into Derek’s pole, he wondered if he made it in time to save Derek. He hadn’t moved since he was shot, and the blood had soaked through half of his shirt by now. His chin was pressed against his chest, and the only thing that Stiles noticed was his shallow breathing.

It was enough for now, coming to the other side to pull the zip tie as far out as he could, Derek’s arm moving just a little. He grunted through the pain as he lifted his arm out of the zip tie, Stiles quick to assist him as he stood up. They were a fucking mess; both of their hands immobilized, their shoulders shot into, both running on adrenaline and fear alone to get them out of this situation. Stiles knew he had to do all the work, his mind running through all the memory he had of the small maze they had to get through without being caught.

Stiles pointed his gun out as he stumbled, Derek leaning most of his weight on him. He felt the power of a gun in his hand, with other people at his mercy. He could light it up right now and take out five more people if he had to, and the three in Derek’s revolver would be supported if he needed assistance. As if by a fucking miracle, the commentator was still breathing, croaking out for somebody to stop them from escaping but Stiles wasn’t having anyone take them back into that situation again. Fuck that. He didn’t even blink, shooting the man in the head and stepping over his body.

That woman was the in front of him, blocking off the view of the exit. He shook the gun, screaming at her. She was obviously stunned by the violence against the man, even though she literally beat a woman to death with a chair just a moment ago. Maybe the commentator was her friend or what the fuck ever, Stiles didn’t give a fuck right now, everyone in this building could die for all he cared. “Stay the fuck back!”

She didn’t seem phased by the gun in her face, more concerned about her apparent friend with his brain scrambled on the concrete. She stepped closer even, and Stiles was quick to follow her lead until the pistol was nearly butting against her forehead. She spoke calmly, but there was a light in her eyes that glinted with the urge to create more bloodshed. “Bitch, you better have a plan because we’re coming to get you.”

“Shut your fucking mouth.” Stiles wasn’t going to let this woman get into his head, or distract him enough to have someone grab them from behind. He kept pushing forward until the woman moved to the side for them, her eyes not blinking as she trained them on the bleeding couple. They were all staring at the two of them as Stiles shuffled them closer to the exit before he saw him. The fox headed Gambler, who stole his jacket standing right next to this Kali girl. A shiver ran down his spine as he remembered how they just dragging him out the back of that camaro, how they didn’t give him the chance to dress himself and left him to be pawed at like some fucking cheap hooker on the street. He didn’t have any clothes spare right now and he knew that the nights would get fucking cold, especially if they didn’t have any shelter. He aimed the gun at the fox head, shouting at him and he shook the gun. “Jacket. Give me the fucking jacket!”

The fox head was quick to comply, practically ripping it off his body and handing it over before waving his hands to the crowd to get them enticed. “Let’s rush them! He can’t kill us all.”

“Then I’ll just have to kill you first.” Stiles trained the pistol to the fox head, already trying to find ways to kill him with a single bullet. Maybe a shot straight to the heart, since a headshot would be impossible with that fake fox head on him.

“It’s okay, let him go.” Stiles was taken aback as Kali lifted her hand slowly, placing it between the pistol and the other Gambler’s chest. It was like something a mother would do when they braked too fast in a car and wanted to protect their passenger. Something so unlike the Kali Stiles knew so far. Well, he wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth, keeping the gun aimed at Kali as he shuffled past.

The crowd followed the woman’s order, making way for them to get to the exit. Kali had gotten into the front of the group, her eyes trained on them as she kept a safe distance, while continuing to move forward. “This is gonna be fun…”

Once they got to the doorway, Stiles paused. He didn’t want to look away from the group trying to invade their space but on the other hand he needed to look around the corner for anyone that was likely to be there to stop them. The woman, Kali, seemed to sense his problem and held up her hand, fingers apart. “Bitch, I’m gonna give you to the count of five.”

With that, she went silent and closed her eyes. She started counting down with her fingers and Stiles wasn’t going to argue with that, hurrying out of the room and checking for anyone down the hallway. It was empty, and Stiles pushed Derek to follow his pace, moving as fast as they could to give them enough distance from the bloodthirsty crowd in the other room. They couldn’t get away on foot, they would be moving too slow. No, they needed to grab a car. Which meant he’d have to either hot wire one or find one – unlikely since his fucking hand was still nailed to a wooden pole – or have keys already in the vehicle.

“Guns!” He heard Kali’s voice ring out through the hallway as he turned the corner, and the hollers that came after. They were coming for him. But from the sounds of it they were going in the other direction to grab the guns, probably from that cage they had in the front. This mean that they probably had another thirty seconds or so until someone had their gun and would come looking for the two of them. He turned around another corner, spotting a couple of people round a table betting, a neon sign indicating the emergency exit a few paces behind them. He needed to get past them in order to be free.

He didn’t give a fuck right now, holding his gun up to them as he got closer. One of them was obviously high as a kite, and laughed at the couple. The other one on the other hand was sober, or appeared to be, he held his hands up though and that was enough for Stiles. He was quick to demand they didn’t see shit, to which they both nodded their heads and continued to play their game as the couple hobbled past them to the exit. He pushed Derek onto the wall as he opened the door with his good hand, Derek groaning in pain as his wounded shoulder pressed against the wall. The exit door had obviously not been used as much as the front, and creaked loudly as he pushed against it. “Come on, come on…!”

With a harsh shove of his shoulder into the door, it swung open with the hinges moaning in protest. Stiles hefted Derek’s arm over his shoulder once more and pulled him outside to the sunlight outside. There were several cars outside and Stiles let Derek go as he tried all the doors on each car. Derek leaned against one of the dusty cars resting in the lot, blinking away the fog of unconsciousness that came with losing too much blood. He spotted movement in the corner of his eye and turned his head to see two Gamblers on top of the roof doing rock, paper, scissors. One of them wore another deer skull with elongated antlers, while the other has some sort of black hood and tusks coming out the sides.

Before he could say anything, Stiles had found an open door on an old but well taken care of truck, opening the back door and practically yanking Derek by his wrist into the back. He toppled in with a grunt of agony as Stiles slammed the back door and got into the driver’s seat.

He checked the ignition, no key, he opened the glove compartment, no fucking key. Stiles was about to get out the car when he remembered what his father used to say about the station cars the cops would share. It irritated the fuck out of his dad, because it was a sure way to have the car stolen by hooligans who wanted to appear bad ass in front of their friends. Stiles hurried to pull down the sun visor and lo and behold, the keys fell out and onto his lap. “Thank you, dad.”

He stuck the key in the ignition and turned it, hearing gunshots and flinching down automatically. The group couldn’t have found them already, though right now he was more worried that the car was coughing as he turned the ignition again. Maybe this was an old truck that nobody used because it kept shitting itself. Maybe this lot was for abandoned cars that didn’t work anymore, who knows. This was their only chance right now to survive and the car was going to have to deal with it for however long it took until they were safe. “Come on!”

“Shoot those motherfuckers!” Now, he could definitely hear Kali’s voice loud and clear. The truck rumbled to a miserable life, but that was enough for Stiles to stamp on the accelerator and get the fuck out of dodge. The tyres squealed with underuse as they sped off, Stiles ducking his head as the bullets hit the back of the truck. He was lucky that Derek was lying flat on the seats or he would have been hit again.

It wouldn’t have stopped Stiles right now though, pulling a hard right out onto the street and didn’t stop there, flooring it away from the building in case anyone else decided to get in their cars and start a chase. Once he couldn’t see the collection of buildings anymore in his rear-view mirror, and no cars coming after him, Stiles cheered, slamming his good hand into the steering wheel as he whooped for joy.

He slowed down a little to turn his head and check if Derek was alright. He was alive; covered in glass, bleeding out, fading in and out of consciousness, but alive. They did it. They were out. They were safe, and Stiles would not stop until they were in Milwaukee.

 

--

 

Kali was in pieces, panting heavily as she watched the truck pull out onto the street. She tried to breathe through the anger, but there was too much of it, she was exploding. “Fucking cunt!”

She needed to fucking kill those motherfuckers. They needed to be dead right now. They were worth a lot of fucking money, and she needed to get her bids set now she was in debt because of that bitch. There was no use standing there with their dicks out, they needed to get moving right fucking now or they would lose them forever. “Somebody get my Stutz. Who’s comin’ with me?”

The group behind her didn’t want to meet her eyes when Kali turned around, she raised her eyebrow, repeating the question as she paced forward. While it was fun for the rush of the moment, they didn’t actually want to start an all-out war with these two people. They were for entertainment. Kali wasn’t having any of it though; that bitch made her go in debt, in her eyes, this was war. She pointed with a man in the front, getting in his face. “You comin’ with me?”

He was obviously put out, thinking up anything to stop her from bringing him into this mess. He scratched at his arm sheepishly, shrugging his shoulders. “I just painted flames on my car, so I don’t really want to –.”

Before he could finish, Kali had slocked him with a right hook to the face. He held his jaw as he drooled blood onto the pavement below, keeping his head turned as she spat at him. “Fuck you! Let’s go.”

She knew they would follow her, she was the fucking leader of this situation now. Anyone who would argue with her about this was going to get shot, she wasn’t fucking around. She was in the hole, and she was going to make damn well sure that the stuck up mole-bitch knew what was coming to him. Dead or alive, she was going to get what she was owed.

Chapter Text

They were speeding down the road, and while Stiles kept getting the feeling that he was being followed, no matter how many times he looked in the rear-view mirror or turned around, no one was chasing them. Still, he didn’t put his foot off the gas once, hurdling down the road and far away from Gambler territory.

At first Stiles didn’t believe it when he drove past the sign that said they were nearing closer to Milwaukee, thinking maybe it was the heat or the stress finally making him hallucinate. But soon enough there was another sign, rusty and riddled with bullet holes, but there was the welcome sign to Milwaukee. Stiles took a sigh of relief as he turned to look at Derek in the back seat, who had passed out hours prior due to the lack of blood and the sudden drop of adrenaline. He needed to see a doctor, or at least get someone to patch him up and get the damn wooden pole out of their hands. Stiles had started to feel the tingling in his fingers that meant the nail should really come out right about now, or there would be lasting damage.

He was running on fumes, both the car and his energy levels. The only reason Stiles was still driving was because of pure will to make sure Derek was safe, get him healed up. He knew the route by now to get into the safe zone his father’s neighbourhood had commandeered before this all began, slowing down and letting the Gambler’s car cough as he poked his head out of the window. One of the neighbours had recognised him, telling the other to reverse the cars blocking the road. They didn’t have a gate set up, but to be fair it was probably easier to just pile cars in both directions and prevent drive-bys. The last thing Stiles remembers before he passed out was a couple of neighbours gasping in shock at the state of him and Derek, hauling them in and laying them both on a bed to get them medical attention. He knew he should stay awake and wait for Derek to come to but he was way too tired, and knowing that the other man wasn’t going to be awake for some time, Stiles thought it was adequate to take a god damn well-deserved nap.

 

--

 

When Derek woke up it was with a splitting headache, a roaring throb through his shoulder that only seemed to duplicate said aforementioned headache, and a deep twinge in his hand that only brought memories of guns and screaming and blood. So much blood.

He opened his eyes carefully as if still thinking that this was a dream, that once he could see his surroundings then those crowd of Gamblers would suddenly burst into life and start the countdown all over again. But no, when Derek opened then it was to a cream colored ceiling, and light seeping through the wide-open curtains of a bedroom. It wasn’t a room that he recognised, and Derek thought for a split second that he was still in his dream. That idea was quickly shattered when he tried to sit up, pain blaring through his senses and making Derek tense up, choking on a gasp before relaxing back down on the mattress.

So if he wasn’t dream, where the fuck was he?

Getting his breathing under control again to relax his muscles and subside the pain, Derek turned his head this way and that to get a picture of where he might be. It was only when his eyes caught a glimpse of two young people in a picture; it was pretty faded but Derek knew the sheriff’s face well. So this must have been Stiles’ father’s place in Milwaukee. He didn’t even remember getting out of the Gambler’s cruel game let alone having travelled fuck knows how many miles to Milwaukee.

The place looked clean and untouched to anything in the outside world, showing Derek just how well protected they were over here. It made him feel better knowing that he didn’t come down all the way here and was shot to find out it was all for nothing, but then when he caught blue in the corner of his eye, Derek began to change his mind. Stiles was outside with a group of people he didn’t know but they didn’t look like they were going to attack so Derek didn’t jump out of bed to defend his partner, but from where he could see through the window was that Stiles stood by a wooden cross with his shoulders hunched together. Shit.

Stiles was sniffling as he started at his father’s grave, berating himself for ever leaving his father alone. He was stupid to think he should have gone anywhere without taking his old man, it was obvious now. What didn’t make sense, was how it had to end up this way, from the looks of this town it mustn’t have been touched and yet his father was dead. Stiles whispered to himself, to any of the neighbours around him that might have overheard his soft voice. “I don’t understand.”

Apparently one of them did, thinking better of resting her hand on Stiles’ shoulder, simply crossing her arms over her chest instead. Melissa was the mother of Stiles’ friend Scott, who had died in the fallout and left her running to the sheriff in mourning. They had bonded over their sons, the fear that Stiles could be dead, and the sorrow that Scott was already gone from this world. She spoke up softly, trying to explain it in a way that would make the most amount of sense to Stiles’ grieving mind. “Your father was very ill. This was in his hand when I found him.”

She gently took the envelope out of her back pocket, handing it over to Stiles with such care, as if it could crumple into ask by any rough touch. “I think your father just wanted to be with her.”

Melissa didn’t have to explain what Noah meant by her was, not with the way Stiles’ bottom lip trembled at he stared down at the unopened letter. There was nothing else she could do, turning and assisting Deuc away from the burial site to let Stiles mourn properly. Stiles didn’t take long, not wanting to stand and read it over his father’s grave. He found the rusting swing set that he used to play with Scott on, watching to see how high they went together until ultimately falling off and injuring themselves.

He sat on the seat with the opened letter on his lap, blinking the tears in his eyes away so he could read. It was a private moment, with the wind blowing through Stiles’ hair and cooling the tear tracks on his cheeks. The sun was just glimmering through the trees where he sat, almost as if his father was peering down at him and touching his chilled skin with the warmth of the afternoon rays. Reading the letter, while destroying Stiles’ heart, also brought him a sense of peace now that he didn’t have to worry about whether his father was struggling anymore, he had let go and moved on to be with his wife and Stiles’ mother. He didn’t have to stress his heart out every day while on patrol, he didn’t have to think about his son out there in the fucked up world wondering if he would ever see Stiles in once piece again.

By the time Stiles had read through the letter four more times and let enough tears out to sting his eyes, he stood up and folded the letter away carefully, pocketing it in his jacket and heading back inside. Derek was awake and had managed to sit himself up by then, leaning against the headboard and watching as Stiles padded into the bedroom. “Hey…”

“Hey.” Derek replied huskily, mouth dry from underuse. He could tell how Stiles was attempting to build up the wall of emotions that were just shattered by his father’s death, but he knew he shouldn’t push the other man right now.

Stiles sat on the side of the bed, exhaling a long sigh before keeping his tone hopeful. “How are you feeling?”

He was going to reply about how he needed a drink of water, some pills to throw back with that water. Or maybe just say how he had been shot, how else was he supposed to feel. Instead, Derek simply joked, knowing that lightening the mood would ease Stiles. “I’ve been better.”

Or at least, he attempted to joke. It sounded more like he was making a jab at the whole situation. Either way, Stiles huffed out a laugh, even if his eyes weren’t into it. Derek huffed out a sigh through his nose and struggled to sit up properly, breathing through the pain as he took Stiles’ good hand in his. “Are you okay?”

“No, I’m not.” Stiles shook his head, squeezing Derek’s palm. He knew it was the hardest thing for him to go through, but the peace laying underneath the surface and knowing that Noah didn’t have to go through any of this fucked up world anymore was enough for Stiles to see the brightness. Even a little bit of light was enough for him right now. And so, he smiled, even just a lift from the tips of his mouth. It was enough. “But that’s okay.”

“I’m sorry.” Derek tried, but Stiles just shook his head, tightening his grip on his partner’s hand.

“No.” There was a finalisation in Stiles’ voice that brought the message across that no matter what either of them said, it wouldn’t take back or change anything about the outcome. “I never would have made it here without you.”

The way Derek was looking at him right now, as if he could say anything in the whole world and Derek would take it, accept it, and keep it close to him as a treasure. His eyes were reflecting the sunlight beaming through the bedroom window, making them shine in multiple shades of blue and greens that Stiles couldn’t take his eyes away from. “Dad wrote me a letter.”

“What’d it say?” Derek spoke softly, knowing the feeling of his family dying and having to then go through it alone before Stiles came running back to him, he knows the heartache. Stiles seemed to be dealing with it the only way he knew how; breathing deep and talking it out. Something they were never good at doing together.

Stiles’ lips turned up just the slightest remembering what the letter said, feeling the tension in his shoulders subside a little. There were some things in there that he didn’t want to dredge up, other things that his mind couldn’t comprehend right now due to the grief of it all. The last few sentences were good enough for him to repeat though, knowing it would make Derek laugh. “Don’t shoot your husband.”

He was right, Derek chuffed out a chuckle and took Stiles’ hand again, giving it another squeeze. They stayed like that for fuck knows how long, but it was enough that Stiles relaxed against him and for a while it was just them. Soon enough though Derek began to hide his yawns and Stiles, being the overbearing partner that he was, made him lay back down and rest again while he went out to get some information about this place.

Shutting the door and leaving Derek to fall asleep on his own time, knowing the man wouldn’t get out of bed and wander anywhere in his condition, Stiles made it out of the house and winced as he turned the knob closed with his injured hand. He completely forgot that he had a fucking nail through it not even twenty-four hours ago. He needed answers to questions, mostly about the neighbourhood and what had been going on while he was up north, wanting as much information about what his father was up to while he was alive. He noticed a couple of neighbours talking at a house on the opposite side of the road and took the plunge, stuffing his hands into his pockets and trying to act nonchalant as he approached them.

They had seen him coming but didn’t stop their conversation, chuckling at a joke one of them made before turning to face Stiles fully. He’d recognised one of them to be Parrish, his father’s Deputy if the police didn’t give it away first and copied him when Parrish nodded his head in greeting. The other man, Stiles thought his face was familiar but he couldn’t place it. Parrish spoke up, hoisting a vintage grass cutter up higher on his hip. “How you doing, Stiles?”

“Hey.” Stiles hushed out in welcome and glanced down at the grass cutter; it was times like these that the end of the world was more prominent. How technology was so advanced and then after the fall out everything just went to shit, how everyone had to resort back to the ways where machinery was the lead source instead of pressing a button or using electricity. Even something as simple as mowing the lawn was needed using petrol which they were obviously low supply on, so pushing the metal blades through the grass was the only way to go. They could leave it to grow out he guessed but there was something normalising about trying to keep your home neat and tidy instead of using it as a base to protect yourself from impending enemies. He said as much, trying to keep a light-hearted approach. “I didn’t think people mowed their lawns anymore.”

“Well, normality… Uh, routine, home life. Keeps us going.” Parrish basically explained everything that Stiles had monologued internally, but he nodded his head nonetheless because it was expected of him. It was a good thing, keeping a routine once in a while. Stiles had forgotten what that felt like.

“What about out there? The gangs.” He noticed Melissa coming out of her house next door with something in her hands. It was like that woman had a detector with people who haven’t been eating properly. He remembered whenever he used to go over to their house when he was younger, Scott would run in and grab something to eat off the counter but Stiles knew better to take food. Melissa would always encourage him to eat so he could grow up to become a strong man in the future. Some future.

The tanned man spoke up then, and even his voice sounded familiar too. “We get a Gambler or two every so often. That’s why we have the car barricades.”

He nodded his head to where the cars were at the end of the cul-de-sac like a gate, still opened up from last night. Stiles turned his head in the opposite direction and took in the sight of the ‘gate’ of cars that blocked the other end of the neighbourhood off. There were vans holding the edges while the rest of the cars were lined up three in a row to make them extra bulky. Someone might ram one of the gates and it could get through one car, but not three, they had thought well.

“That’s why it took so long to get you in here, hun.” Melissa smiled as she stepped into the triangle they had formed while talking. She passed what Stiles could now see was a mug of coffee into his uninjured hand and he thanked her, holding it close to him and letting the warmth soak through his skin.

The man continued on with his minor tour of the place, pointing to the areas he was talking about. “We do lookout shifts on the rooftops. Ethan is up there now.”

“Why don’t you leave? Find someplace safer.” It was a long shot but Stiles sipped his coffee as he watched Parrish turn his head to the other man while he spoke, his face shutting off from emotion.

“Safety doesn’t exist anymore. You have to fight for it.”

There was silence for a moment and Stiles tilted his head down to his shoes, scuffing them a little bit on the newly trimmed grass. He doesn’t know if he overstepped seeing how he had only been here less than a day, not knowing the dangers that arose from being here, though he never knows they might have carved protection out here on their own after all this time. Parrish spoke up then, trying to change the subject. “Hey, want to see something cool?”

With the nod of Stiles’ head, he led the three of them to where there were a bunch of leaves in a pile surrounding a giant wheel, slightly rusting from either age or overuse in the conditions. It was connected to a bench, with poles knocked into the ground to keep everything steady. “What am I looking at here?”

“Well basically it’s a trip wire on steroids. Instead of stopping a man, in theory, it should stop a tank.” Parrish beamed like a child as he got closer to the wheel, placing his hand on it like it was an old friend.

Just the thought of what this wire could do brought chills down Stiles’ spine, but he knew his husband and the nut job he was when it came to safety and protecting Stiles. He murmured in thought, staring at the wheel. “Derek’s gonna love this.”

“See, someone has to turn the crank on the boat lift here…” The deputy chuckled as he gently pulled the wheel down, it groaned before clicking the line a little tighter and Stiles noticed a little movement under the leaves. Must have been why they were there. “That picks up the slack in the line. Once the line is taught, whatever runs into it takes the brunt of that little bad boy right over there.”

He turned the crank back to where it was so it was nice and loose since they weren’t under threat, and without ado he led them to the mailbox on the other side of the road. The tanned man kept his distance from the mailbox and Stiles was concerned that he should be copying the man, but Parrish pat the top gently so he didn’t feel so alarmed. Until the deputy opened the mailbox and Stiles moved straight back to where the other man was, because holy fuck.

“Inside, enough explosive matter to level a house.” Parrish wasn’t kidding; the mailbox was packed with different kinds of bombs from detonators to clay bombs to simple C4. He shut the lid and with a jut in his chin, spoke proudly of himself. “I made that.”

Stiles chuckled and marvelled at how the mechanics; he remembers his father telling him about how Jordan used to work in the bomb squad when he was stationed in Afghanistan. It obviously worked a charm in this kind of world where you can rig anything up to some bombs without the law stopping you. He heard a shuffle behind him and turned to spot Deucalion tapping his way through the leaves. “I thought I heard this beautiful ray of sunshine.”

“Deuc, hey.” Stiles paced the rest of the way and the older man must have heard him coming – his eyes may not work but his ears were marvellous at picking up any trace of sound – and opened his arms up for a hug. Stiles went in them willingly, patting Deucalion’s back with a huff of laughter.

Deucalion had been their neighbour for almost seven years before the fall out began, never needing a handler for his blindness, he’d much rather work his way around on his own terms and his trusty stick. Still, he had a soft spot for Stiles in his youth, letting the young man help him out with simple things like bringing him the newspaper and driving him to the clinic instead of catching the bus. They knew each other well, and Stiles would happily say he trusted Deuc to hold down the fort in their neighbourhood when he went to live with Derek after they moved in together. They pulled away and the blind man pat Stiles’ shoulders, nodding his head. “Welcome home.”

They had obviously needed to catch up, having not spoken for over a year. He had come over a couple of times while Stiles was on the radio with his father, letting Deuc have a chat before getting on with whatever he had came there for. Melissa waved her hands and announced cheerfully, getting a feeling that it was getting a little crowded. “We’ll talk later, come by for a refill.”

With that, she shooed Jordan and the tanned man that Stiles still cannot remember the name of, down the street and away from the reacquainted pair. Deuc nodded his head when Jordan commented about helping him reset the barricade later on, setting his stick down on the ground once more and smiling in Stiles’ general area. “I’m sorry about your father, he was a good person.”

“Thank you.”

 

--

 

The window was elbowed until it smashed in the corner, just enough for Braeden to stick her hand through the wood to get to the lock on the other side of the door. She gripped the knob and turned it, opening the door silently and stepping over the glass so she wouldn’t make anymore sound. Scanning the area for anyone else in the house, though when she was scanning it earlier in the day there didn’t seem to have anyone that lived in it. Shutting the backdoor with a soft click and creeping in, Braeden made her way up the stairs and dropped her duffel bag on the ratty sofa that was collecting dust.

The windows had their curtains open but she was far enough away that peeking out of them wouldn’t get anyone to notice her. She had done well getting past the single look-out that this group had, which was idiotic on their part because she could slip by him easily. Hell, a fucking Plowboy could have snuck through his spying. Men were fucking imbeciles. For a moment Braeden mentally berated herself for even following the couple all the way down to Milwaukee, but she was determined to figure out the smaller man for who he was. He was interesting, in a stupid, childish way that men were when it came to figuring out their lives without a woman’s assistance. No, this one was somewhat intelligent; escaping the Gambler’s clutches and stealing their car with only one hand, while hauling that giant bulking partner of his. He was interesting.

Still, it was a thoughtless thing to do since now they had made an enemy of the Gamblers. They probably didn’t even know it, having driven away to safety and tucked away in this peppy neighbourhood to hide away until the coast was clear. Fucking idiot. This is the reason she followed him, to protect him. He was different from the others in this apocalypse.

Peering out the window, Braeden deemed it good enough to view out of and opened it with a little effort, hauling her gun from behind her to rest it on the windowsill. She spied through the scope and noticed movement from behind her view of the bushes, following it until a family of three came into view. A woman, a man, and a young girl. They were holding something, it looked like a dish. The three of them were heading straight to the house that the gay couple had been placed in, and from the looks of it they were simply there to welcome the two of them into this weakly protected neighbourhood.

She set her gun down and rested it against the sill again, but kept her eyes on the door, lying in wait from the perfect view of the house opposite. They may seem nice, but there was still a man with them, she needed to keep alert.