The end of the world had been quick and brutal, and nothing any sane person on Earth had anticipated or could have prepared for.
Chris had been away from home on a business trip, the legal one for a change, and in less than 48 hours the world had crumbled to dust, stranding him on the other side of the country without a way to know if his family was still alive, or let them know that he was. Ninety per cent of the human population was dead or trying to eat the remaining ten per cent, half the time both at the same time. The ones that stayed alive were the ones that put up a good fight, something Chis knew how to do well enough.
Since then, since that fateful day six months ago, Chris had been steadily making his way to California, trying to reach Beacon Hills and hoping that the werewolf population of the town had kept his family alive. He knew it was probably an empty hope, had seen no proof that werewolves had better chances of surviving the Apocalypse, even with their advanced healing and strength. Werewolves might be immune to the bite of Walkers but when taken by surprise and overwhelmed by numbers, something the dead had to spare, they went down the same way as normal humans did, Chris had been an unfortunate witness to that fact.
And yet, Chris held on to the hope they were still alive, that Scott and his pack had protected his family.
It was the only thing he had to keep him going from day to day, the one thing that spurred him on, moving slowly but steadily towards home. He was in New Mexico, only two states away from California; the motley group of survivors he had been traveling with had decided to put roots there, in a small town west of Santa Fe. Chris had been travelling with them for a couple of months, helping protect the group of men and women, the few children still living with them, his skill with a crossbow and his hunting experience had proven invaluable to their survival, and they had been reluctant to see him go.
But he couldn't stay.
"I'm sorry, Nick," he had told the leader that last night. The town they had found had been miraculously almost untouched by the end of the world. It probably shouldn't even be called a town, just a few buildings with shops surrounded by several farms. It was easy to clear the area, pick the walkers one by one and establish a perimeter, have the people settle there. If circumstances had been different, Chris would have loved to stay; he liked the people, and he knew he wouldn't have to be alone, he could start a new family were he so inclined. Everyone had paired up as soon as the group had settled, looking for solace and a connection among the people who had survived the same hell they had. But Chris couldn't do that, not while there was a small chance his family was still out there. "I have to make sure."
"I understand," Nick had said, shaking his hand briefly before he pulled him into a tight hug. "You will always be welcome here. If--when you find them, you will all be welcome here."
Chris had nodded, grateful. "Thank you." And that had been it, the next morning he had left, moving west, driving when he could, walking when not, avoiding the walkers when he saw them, always moving.
It had been two long and exhausting days with only his thoughts to keep him company, images of Allison and Scott, of Derek, of the Sheriff and Melissa, and everyone he had left behind in Beacon Hills coming to the front of his mind, making him smile at the memories, the silence of a dead world surrounding him.
He could picture Allison after the Nogitsune, hanging on to life by a thread, fighting for every breath, the wolves taking turns to be with her in the hospital, always touching her and draining her pain. He could still see Derek's exhausted face, the black veins crawling up his arms, his expression tout with stolen pain. "They can't give her more drugs," he had said, voice soft and apologetic. "This way is better in any case, less taxing for her body." He hadn't mentioned anything about how taxing it was for him, and Chris hadn't said anything either, had just taken a seat next to him, waiting for Allison to wake up.
He thought about that first dinner with Melissa and the Sheriff, of Allison's surprised face when Derek had joined them. They had fun, that night, and Chris had not hesitated to invite them again the following week. All of them needed some normalcy and adult company to balance the amount of teenaged supernatural drama in their lives, and Derek fit in there with them, the adults, much better than he ever had with their kids.
He remembered the first date, Derek asking him out on one night both Melissa and John had to work. It had not surprised Chris as much as it should have, not when they usually stayed alone, talking, after everyone else had gone home. No when Chris had found himself staring a Derek appreciatively, when he had wondered how he would taste and if some skills acquired during school lasted into adulthood.
He could still see perfectly Allison's face when she had come back early one night, only to find them making out on the couch, a movie nobody was paying any attention to playing in the background. She had stared at them, her pretty mouth curled in distaste, and Chris had feared an scene or a fight, but she had just glared at them and said, "Damn it, couldn't you have waited another month? Stiles win this one. At least I won the one about the Sheriff, now there's only Lyds and Parrish left."
He remembered them as they were the morning Chris left, six months and a lifetime ago; Allison rumpled and drowsy sitting in the kitchen island, a mug of milky coffee and a stack of pancakes dripping in syrup in front of her, complaining that Chris was leaving at the right time to avoid taking her shopping for her senior prom dress. Derek in the kitchen, the complete chaos that signified any of his attempts at cooking, smiling sleepily while he pressed a chaste kiss to his lips and a take away mug of coffee to his hands.
"Call when you get there," Derek had said, and he had tried to turn back to the pancakes but Chris had sneaked his free hand around his waist, pressing them together and kissing him deeply; Allison had laughed at them.
"I will," he had said against Derek's mouth, both of them smiling widely. "Talk to you later, love you both."
That had been the last time he had spoken to them; the world had gone to shit the moment he landed in New York, the first wave of the infection spreading like wildfire and destroying everything in its wake. There had been no time for phone calls or panic, there had only been time for a frantic scramble to survive and get out of the death trap that was Manhattan. By the time he was out, a week had passed, communications were a thing of the past, and the only thing for him to do was to make his way home.
And now he was almost there, after six long months, he was almost about to cross into Arizona, and from there to California and, hopefully, his family.
He heard them before he saw them; the nasty shuffling sound of dead bodies slowly walking, the rustling of clothes and the low, guttural moaning they emitted. It was a sound he was unfortunately familiar with, and he slowed his pace, approaching the entrance to the town ahead with care. There, after the first couple of houses, was a cluster of walkers, around a dozen by the look of it. They weren't idly moving, as they usually did when left to their own devices, they were pressed against the door to a pharmacy, trying to get inside, moaning and groaning loudly enough to probably attract any other walkers in the town it they weren't already there.
If Chris was reading the situation right, and he had enough experience to, there had to be someone inside the building. Someone alive.
He didn't think about it, he raised his crossbow and shot the walkers one by one, silently getting rid them. He approached the door and knocked on the glass as quietly as he could, and then turned to check that no more walkers were coming while whomever it was inside opened the door.
He heard the click of the door being unlocked, and then a familiar voice, already mid rant, washed over him.
"Thanks dude, but I had it all under control, I was just filling the backpack with everything and waiting--" he turned to look and there was Stiles Stilinski, eyes comically wide as if he had seen a ghost. Chris understood the feeling perfectly, he felt as if he had been punched in the gut. "Holy shit! Holy shit, Chris Argent! Holy fuck, Ally is going to freak! Derek is going to freak! Fuck, I am freaking!" Two wiry but strong arms enveloped him before Chris had a chance to do anything, the stream of words still falling from Stiles lips, but he had stopped listening the moment they had confirmed that his family was alive and nearby. "I can't believe this, they kept telling that if anyone had a chance of surviving it was you, but holy fuck, I think at this point they were more trying to convince themselves than anyone else, and I can't believe this. It's a fucking miracle, we have to go back. We have to get back to camp like right now, forget the rest of the provisions, they need to see you!"
Chris took a step back, disentangling himself from the surprisingly tight hug, and he felt himself laughing. "Hey, stop, Stiles, slow down!" he said, chuckling. He had not known he had missed Stiles’ nervous babbling until now, hearing it again, but he needed to stop him. Stiles was still staring at him as if he wasn't real, and his eyes were bright, his mouth stretched in the widest grin Chris had seen. He looked older, much older than any eighteen years old was supposed to look, and exhausted. He didn't look like a boy anymore, there weren't many who did in this new world, and the shotgun strapped to his back and the two machetes dangling by his hips made him look dangerous. But his smile was still the same, and Chris had never been gladder to see anyone else in his life. "We have to get out of the open and get back to your camp."
Stiles nodded. "Are you on your own or do you have a group to get back to?" He started to walk towards a car and Chris followed him.
"I left my group a few days back," Chris admitted. "I was trying to get home."
Stiles shot him a look and nodded once, as if confirming something to himself. "Of course you were. There is nothing in Beacon Hills; we were overrun within a day of the infection. Even with the pack and everything, there was just nothing we could do except run." He climbed on to a red pick up truck, and Chris got into the co-pilot seat. "You were in NY, and what we heard was that nobody got away from there before they closed the city," Stiles explained while he drove, darting constant looks at Chris, as if he wasn't totally convinced he wasn't going to suddenly disappear. "It was on the news, images of the infection spreading there, quick like nothing we've ever seen, and Ally and Derek were trying to reach you, but the lines were all tied and nothing was getting through. My dad," here Stiles voice went low and choked, the words obviously painful to him, and Chris didn't need to ask whether the sheriff made it, the answer painfully obvious to him. "He tried to contact the police there, the hospitals, but then the infection was also in Beacon Hills, in less than one day, and the first focus…"
"The hospital," Chris guessed. The relationship between the sheriff and Melissa had still been new and full of wonder, the kind of love of one who hadn’t believed he’d get to have that again, and he knew John would have gone to the hospital to try to save her, even at the cost of his life.
"The hospital," Stiles confirmed. "They got out, but they were already infected and Scott tried to bite them."
"It didn't take." Chis had seen it before, in one of the first groups he had travelled with. It had not ended well for anyone there.
"No, it didn't. But at least it was a clean death, and we made sure they wouldn't come back. After that, we got out of the town. It was just us, the pack and Parrish, but we've picked up some strays along the way. Derek and Ally didn't want to leave, said we should wait for you to come back because you were alive, and you would be coming home. They wanted to go back once we settled here, leave instructions for you to find us, but there hasn’t been time yet, and we didn’t believe it was really necessary." The smile Stiles sent him was rueful. "I guess we should have believed in them."
Chris shook his head. "No, you did the right thing. I almost didn't make it out of New York, and you had no way to know. Not with most of the world dead."
Stiles nodded, some of the tension leaving his frame. "Oh, but they are going to freak, my god, I can't wait for them to see you. We're kind of settled in this farm we found, there are even a few animals, and we've been there for the past months, but some supplies run low no matter what, and living all together in a farm, colds and other nasty things have this way of spreading, so I decided to do an early run for medicines, because Kira has been under the weather and I'd much rather not have everyone sniffling and miserable," he took a deep breath, ready to continue his tirade, when the farm came into view. There was a perimeter fence, with some watchtowers and lookouts spread. The farm itself, right in the back, was huge, a three story white house, a barn a hundred yards from it and some animals milling around. There were five cars parked at the front of the house, a couple of caravans and a few tents there. And people, a lot of people wandering in and out of the house, all of them looked busy and settled. "They're here." Stiles stuck his head out of the car as it advanced and bellowed. "Allison, Derek, I brought back something special for you!"
Chris was out of the car almost before it had fully stopped, eyes frantically searching for Allison and Derek. She was the first one to come out of the house, cleaning her hands on a cloth, smudges of dark oil on her face and hands where she had probably been cleaning guns, and she was the most beautiful, most perfect thing Chris had seen in a long time.
"What's the ruckus about, Stiles? What have you--? Her voice died the moment she saw him, the cloth falling from her hands, the same moment her knees buckled, and she would have fallen except Chris was moving, running to her and breaking her fall, folding her into his arms and they were both crying, clutching at each other and touching and making sure the other was alive. "Dad, you're alive, dad."
"Allison, I can't believe I found you again!" Chris was saying, his face pressed against her neck. He felt a hard body collide against his back, rocking them, and there were strong arms surrounding them both, a face pressed against the back of his neck, and he could feel Derek also crying against his skin.
"Chris, you're alive." Spoken like a prayer, like they didn't believe it.
"I am," he said, and he clutched them tighter, pressed himself harder against Derek, and he didn't care that the entire group was there; he could hear Scott and Isaac around them and another twenty people he didn't know, knew that Lydia and Parrish and probably Deaton would be around at some point too, and he was crying like he hadn't done in years, all three of them were, and neither of them cared. "I am home."
They were together again, in the middle of the Apocalypse, they had managed to find each other, and that was all that mattered.
The rest could wait.