Scott gasps and twists to the side just as Ennis's fist swings down and slams into the earth, missing his torso by a hair. He blinks the blood out of his eye and whips his head towards the shouted warning, heart sinking when he sees Stiles sprinting towards him, somehow back on his feet from when he was brained against a tree. A molotov cocktail is clenched in his fist, and Scott doesn't need more than that split second to piece together what he's about to do.
With a grunt he quickly rolls to his knees and scrambles wildly to put some distance between himself and Ennis, throwing his body out of reach. He hits the dirt with a wheeze and screws his eyes shut, praying that Stiles will make the shot and won't get himself killed in the process.
Stiles throws his arm back and lets out a yell, chucking the cocktail at Ennis with everything he has. The momentum knocks him off balance, sending him sprawling hard onto his stomach as the bottle hurtles through the air and shatters a good teen feet to the left of the alpha, erupting in a ball of flame that does little more than toast his sideburns. Scott throws his arms over his head against the blast of heat, mentally face palming.
They never were very good lacrosse players.
Lydia shrieks from somewhere across the clearing, Scott is too disoriented from the explosion to know exactly where. He blinks against the hot light of the flames, vaguely aware that behind him Isaac is lying motionless in a crumpled heap beside Derek, who's struggling to stand and face Kali. The three of them whip their heads up in the direction of the fire, to where Ennis is standing rigid with clawed fists, staring at Stiles with a murderous glint in his eyes.
And dread grips Scott like a steel trap, because he knows that in one second Ennis will charge towards Stiles faster than any of them will be able to reach.
He tries to stand and scream a warning but he hacks out a wet cough instead, wind knocked out of him from when he hit the ground. Stiles coughs out a lungful of dirt too, apparently in the same predicament. After a few hard blinks his friend wrenches his head up and freezes when he spots Ennis, wide eyes painted orange from the sickening light of the flames.
Then without warning Ennis bellows and shoots forward at impossible speed, lunging straight for his throat.
Scott wheezes and attempts to claw forwards, surprised when he hears Derek shout his friend's name from across the clearing. In a blink Ennis is nearly upon Stiles's throat, Lydia and Allison scream from the sidelines, Kali smiles, Stiles squeezes his eyes shut, lips a thin line—
The gunshot tears through the woods like a sonic boom.
Scott claps his hands over his ears as the sound rips painfully through his scull, fingers shaking as he scrambles onto his back. Across the clearing Derek flinches and does the same from his fallen position on the ground, Kali dropping to a crouch a few feet from him. The blast draws everyone's attention to where Stiles is sprawled on his stomach, nails scrabbling in the dirt to push himself away from the figure in front of him. A shocked silence sweeps across the clearing as Ennis jerks back with a spray of blood, gagging soundlessly while crimson gushes from a gaping hole in his chest, right over his heart. He crumples heavily to the ground in front of Stiles, convulsing briefly as the wound turns black. Then with a final spasm his head flops to the side and stills, eyes wide open and unseeing.
Stiles scrambles onto his back and whips his head around, eyes stretching wide when they land on the figure a few yards behind him. Scott curls his fingers into the dirt and does the same, staring at the Sheriff's cold stance silhouetted by the dim moonlight. His face set in stone, gaze grim and steely and condemned all at once upon the motionless figure on the ground. His arm is still outstretched, the cocked gun in his hand still smoking.
And then there's a roar, one so tortured and enraged that it shoots straight through his bones.
A blur of motion darts past him, followed by another distant shout from Derek. He catches a flash of wild black hair and a streak of neon red eyes, a pair of sharpened toenails kicking up the dead leaves by his head as they race towards the Sheriff— and with a jolt he realizes that it's Kali, and she's about to get her revenge.
He lurches to his knees and throws himself forward in a desperate attempt to get to Stiles. His fangs are thick against his tongue, every ounce of him screaming to go after the she-wolf and rip her to shreds for what she's about to do, but he fights back against the instinct with everything he has— he knows that Derek will take care of her, Derek can kill things without hesitation— but in a split second Stiles is going to need his best friend by his side.
It's the sound that will end up sticking with him the longest.
The scream tears from Stiles's throat in a shredded wail, one that makes Scott's breath catch in his throat as he grabs him from behind. Stiles struggles and howls in his grip as Kali's claws slice through the Sheriff's ribcage with a sickening squelch, sending a shower of sticky crimson droplets to the dead leaves below. Stiles's dad staggers, back snapping erect as her claws burst through his flesh, a shredded slab that looks like raw meat. The wail of a banshee pierces the night sky, and Kali retracts her claws with a yank and grins, moonlight reflecting off her jagged canines.
Chaos errupts, stark in contrast to the dead silence that permeated the woods mere seconds ago.
Stiles jerks in his grasp and screams as if it were his own chest being ripped open, a horrible, animalistic sound that Scott knows will stick with him for a while. Lydia's scream matches his in haunting harmony, loud and shrill and high with anguish. Derek roars louder than Scott's ever heard and catches up to Kali from behind, making quick work of her throat. He rakes his claws against her jugular again and again even after she stops breathing, then drops her like a rag doll. She crumples to the ground in a fountain of blood and sightless red eyes, lips eternally frozen in a sick smile.
But not even all the noise can drown out the silent, choked gurgle of the Sheriff.
The whisper of breath catching in his throat—
The way his eyes lock on Stiles, grey irises filled with everything left unsaid.
A second later the light seems to drain away from them, and his knees hit the dirt with a heavy thud. A red bubble glistens on his lip, spilling over in a single bead as he drops lifelessly to the ground, shock still etched into his face.
Stiles arches against him, screaming out for his dad in a shrill, broken sob that stabs Scott in the chest, finally triggering the hot cascade of tears adrenaline held back for him. Stiles kicks and elbows him, trying in vain to get closer to the bloodied body in the middle of the clearing, but Scott won't let him because he doesn't need his father's blood on his hands. He tries to say something, anything to help calm him and block out the horrible screams— but he can't make a sound, unable to tear his eyes away from the Sheriff's unmoving body. All he can do is hold Stiles tighter against his chest.
Lydia's scream putters out across the clearing. She finishes with a gasp, immediately clapping her hands over her mouth as if trying to take it back. Scott can see the glint of tears streaming down her face as Allison stumbles over and latches onto her shoulders. They cling to each other in shocked horror as they stare at The Sheriff, seemingly too afraid to make a sound over Stiles's wretched sobs. Out of the corner of his eye Isaac stirs from whatever blow knocked him unconscious, and Scott doesn't want to look over and catch what his face looks like when he sees what he missed.
And Derek stands stiffly in the middle of it all, quiet and stony. Spatially he's the center of attention, yet no one spares him a glance. His lips are a thin line, eyes two pained shadows as he stares at his fingertips, which are still quietly dripping crimson to the forest floor below. Three unmoving masses lie dead at his feet; two alphas and one father. The remaining dregs of the molotov fire flicker away in the background, casting a dim orangey light on the blood slicking their skin.
Silence hangs over it all like an eerie deadweight, disrupted only by the faint crackle of the flames and Stiles's sobs.
Slowly Allison and Lydia begin to creep their way towards them, hesitant and shaky in their footing. Isaac rises unsteadily and staggers over too, eyes wide and glued the Sheriff, pink lips agape. Scott lets them come, clutching Stiles's hoodie like a lifeline. He cries too, stoically and without sound as he stares at the lifeless form of the only father figure he ever knew. The lawman. The guardian. The father of his best friend, who loved his dad more than he loved himself.
The Sheriff was just killed.
John Stilinski died.
Stiles's dad is dead.
Scott snaps out of his trance as Stiles's sobs start to turn into ragged gasps, and a new kind of dread flares up when he realizes he's descending into a panic attack. He quickly shuffles backwards and twists around to lay Stiles out flat on his back, ignoring the way his bloody hands leave imprints on his friend's sleeves. He grips him by the shoulders and shakes him a little, only vaguely aware of how his own tears fall and splash on Stiles's cheeks as he orders him to breathe.
"Stiles," he chokes out, amazed he can make his mouth work at all. "Stiles! Stiles, breathe!"
But Stiles is too far gone— Scott isn't even sure he can see or comprehend anything as the shock and horror of the carnage he just witnessed envelops him, splaying his eyes wide and dark upon the treetops above them. He sputters and makes nauseating noises, seemingly choking on his own grief as he throws his head back against the dirt, jugular working desperately to suck in a full breath.
Scott shouts his name with increasing alarm and shakes him, perhaps a little rougher than he should. He can feel everyone's eyes on them, hears their feet freeze in their tracks as Stiles jerks for air but finds none.
Beneath him Stiles twists and trembles violently, eyes two dazed slits staring up at the sky. He makes sounds somewhere between sobbing and choking, high-pitched squeaks like nails on a chalkboard. His fingers find Scott's arms and scrabble desperately at his sleeves, nails digging into his skin. But then they stop and his hands slip off, falling to the earth with a soft thump as his body slackens. A second later Stiles's gasps cut off entirely as his eyes flutter closed and his head flops to the side, breathing evening out.
The woods fall quiet once again.
Scott sucks in a breath and immediately spits it back out again, feeling sick. He lets his head hang down so that his hair grazes Stiles's chest, arms trembling in their effort to keep him suspended. He's fine, he tells himself, running the words over and over in his mind in a crazed mantra. He's fine, he's fine, he's just passed out, not dead, not Stiles, he's okay…
But when he woke up he wouldn't be.
Across the clearing he hears Allison gasp and Lydia clap a hand to her mouth, listens to their footsteps pick up the pace in his direction. He blinks and suddenly they and Isaac are standing at his side, another blink and he registers a curtain of dark curls as the girls crouch down and stare wide-eyed at Stiles. Scott is still huddled over him protectively, keeping his face down in an effort to get a grip on his emotions. He's worried that if he moves he'll crack into a million little pieces.
It's actually Allison who makes the first move, reaching out a tentative hand. Her fingers shake as she gently taps Stiles's cheek, which is still tracked with tear stains.
"Stiles?" She asks meekly, but her voice cracks off into a whisper. Stiles doesn't respond.
"Don't," Scott grits out, a bit angrier than he means to. His voice is rough, oozing with internalized grief. Allison snaps her hand back, startled.
"Let him be," he chokes, tone weighed down as it dawns on him what's to come. Beside him Lydia squeezes her eyes shut and bites her lip, a single tear slipping off her chin. She gets it. Stiles would wake up to a world comprised of pain and devoid of laughter, and the longer that could be delayed by him being unconscious, so be it.
Isaac stands behind them, awkward and swaying slightly, clearly unsure of what to do. His eyes flicker to Derek, who's still standing over Kali's body, only now the alpha is staring at Stiles with something Scott's never seen in his eyes before. Even he looks perturbed, eyes wide and mouth slightly ajar, making him look oddly vulnerable even in his blood-splattered shirt.
Scott turns away. He takes a deep breath to compose himself— right now they're depending on him not to lose it. He needs to be strong— as the pack leader and for Stiles's sake. He glances down at Stiles, feeling a prick of concern as he studies the nasty gash on his temple, which is still bleeding sluggish trickles of red down his forehead. His face is white, lips pale either from cold, lack of oxygen or something else he can't see. Scott's eyes flicker to his lips, wondering when he would see them smile again.
"Isaac, call my mom," He instructs, voice still taut. "Get an ambulance over here, they should check out his head. Allison, get your dad down here to deal with the bodies, then call the—" He breaks off, and he has a feeling that everybody catches how almost says, 'the Sheriff.'
"—The police. Call the police."
The group does as told. They leave him to dial over by the trees, leaning shaky hands up against the bark. Trusting and following his orders as leader; the position he never asked for, got anyway, and then expected to execute despite having no idea what he was doing half the time. He often wondered why Derek tried so hard to teach him.
Lydia hesitates before leaving, eyeing Stiles dolefully. Guilt rolls off her in waves, although she hides it well behind a pretty face. She looks like she probably wants to stay by Stiles's side, but once their eyes meet she turns to follow Allison instead, maybe because she can tell that he needs the moment.
He scoots back behind Stiles, shifting him up so that his head is cushioned against his chest. He wraps his arms around his torso, this time averting his eyes from the Sheriff's body. His gaze snags on Derek instead, who still hasn't moved from his stance in the middle of the clearing, only now he's looking at the forest floor like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Scott would be lying if he said that a small part of him didn't blame Derek for it. At the very least, he didn't understand why Derek was just standing there doing nothing. He got that the guy found Stiles nothing short of the token human idiot, but to stand off now without an ounce of compassion was heartless, even for him.
Stiles stirs slightly in his arms.
Scott braces himself as he watches him blearily blink open his eyes. It takes a minute for it all to come rushing back, and when it hits Stiles curls in on himself like he's been shot. He shamelessly presses his face into the crook of Scott's neck like he wants to twist far away as possible from the body a few yards in front of him, shoulders shuddering with resumed sobs— but this time it's quieter, not as severe as before. His spirit is broken this time, and Scott just holds him tighter, because he knows that Stiles won't be the same after this. He's never felt so useless.
The next chunk of time passes in a blur.
Argent pulls up in his black SUV and and pulls Allison and the others aside about what to say when the police show up. His eyes flicker to Stiles and then the Sheriff, but they only soften for a moment before hardening again, experienced with business over grief. The ambulance arrives shortly afterwards, and his mom is jumping out from the back before it even grinds to a halt. Just her luck to be working the red-eye shift tonight, one of the few weekends she actually got a twenty-four hour window off duty. She was going to celebrate by taking him and Isaac to the movies tomorrow, and Scott hates the universe for robbing her of what should have been a couple hours of relaxation.
Melissa makes a beeline for him, and Scott can tell that she's been crying on the way. Halfway to his side her eyes fall upon the Sheriff, and her composure shatters. A hand flies to her mouth, feet stumbling to a stop. Scott can see her heart breaking right there, expression twisting into something he hasn't seen since his dad struck him back when he was six.
Scott looks away. He knows how much Stiles's dad meant to her. Years of shared late night coffee between friends, partners in parenting tactics, shoulders to cry on when he and Stiles weren't around, and most recently, bewildered guardians facing the new supernatural world their kids shoved them into. Scott always suspected they had been something else, too— something quieter beneath the scrubs and the badge, betrayed by the shy glances and sidelong smiles they threw at each other when they thought no one was looking. He and Stiles had often joked about becoming actual brothers someday.
His mom rips her eyes away from the Sheriff. Scott can see her swallowing her pain, shoving it down and hiding it so she can be the levelheaded nurse right now. She was good at that. Her lashes glisten as she hurries over, dropping to a crouch at his side. She's wearing Scott's favorite lavender scrubs.
"Mom," he chokes, hating how much of a whine it is. Melissa bites her lip and spares him a glance away from Stiles, eyes glassy.
"Scott, I know," she bites out, voice wavering a little. "I know, but right now I need you to move him over so I can look at him."
He quickly obliges, fingers shaking as he gently pries Stiles's fingers off of his collar. Stiles lets himself be manhandled into a better position, seemingly oblivious to what's going on. His head tips back against Scott's arm, and Melissa quickly shuffles closer and examines him, tapping a gloved hand to his cheek.
"Stiles. Stiles, honey?" Her voice shakes a little, but she asks it professionally.
Stiles has no reaction. He's pale and wheezing slightly, pupils alarmingly dilated.
"When did he hit his head?" His mom asks sharply, gently prodding a thumb at the bloody gash on Stiles's temple.
"Just h-half an hour ago, maybe," Scott supplies quickly. "H-he was only out for a few minutes but he seemed okay. Then…" He swallows stiffly as he glances at the Sheriff. "Then he had a panic attack and passed out, he's been out of it since he came around."
His mom frowns and takes Stiles's wrist to check his pulse. His fingers are stiff and curled awkwardly in tense positions, and Scott tries not to look at the blood crusted in his fingernails. Small tremors race up his frame, teeth gritted tight together and chattering. If anything he looks worse than he did before, pale and still not really breathing properly as he sucks in little wheezy mouthfuls of air.
"Stiles?" His mom says. Slowly, clearly. "Can you hear me?"
Stiles doesn't answer. His eyes are unfocused, rolling dazedly between the two of them but not really seeing anything. He makes a strangled sound like a whimper and Melissa runs a hand over his hair, murmuring shaky streams of reassurance. A tear rolls off her cheek and lands in the dirt.
"I know, honey, I know. Stiles, sweetie, I need you to come with me, I want to make sure you don't have a concussion, okay?"
But Scott can tell that even to her the words sound stupid. His best friend just lost his dad, the only family he had. Nothing could hurt more than that.
"Stiles?" He tries. "Hey man, say something."
But Stiles just stares into space, lids drooping until his eyes abruptly roll back in their sockets, body going boneless and slumping in his arms.
"Mom!" Scott cries in alarm, voice panicky and two octaves higher than normal. Over by the SUV Allison and the others look over at the sound of his voice, foreheads creasing.
"Scott, honey, he's okay," his mom says sharply, but she doesn't seem entirely sure. She quickly lifts up Stiles's eyelids and shines a little light over his pupils, frowning. "I need another medic!" she calls over her shoulder, and another woman in a blue uniform opens the back of the ambulance and pulls out a gurney.
"What's wrong!" Scott barks, some small, irrational piece of him terrified that his friend just died in his arms. "Is it shock? Is it because he hit his head?"
"Scott, it's okay!" His mom says firmly, nerves sharpening her tone into impatience. "We're gonna check him out, alright?" She lowers her head and adds quietly, "Considering what happened, I probably wouldn't want to be awake either."
Stiles remains limp and unresponsive as the paramedics haul him onto the gurney. An oxygen mask is strapped over his face and a bunch of medical jargon is tossed back and forth that Scott doesn't quite understand. It's strange to see him so still. He looks small and broken against the plastic, gangly limbs splayed out like life swung a bat and clocked him without warning.
The police arrive, sirens blaring obnoxiously. It's too loud, he thinks. Allison and the others stand together and answer questions just as Chris instructed them to. The cruiser lights flash against the outline of the trees, and Scott watches on autopilot as they paint the canopies: red, blue, red, blue, red, blue—
He's pulled out of his trance by a familiar voice, a pair of warm hands around his shoulders. He stumbles a little as his mom suddenly pulls him over and starts prodding his head and arms, anxiously checking him over for injuries.
"I'm fine," he croaks out, even though he's not. "I heal."
Her eyes jump to the smear of blood on his forehead. The gash below it has already closed up. She looks at him then, and beyond the glassy film of tears he can see a billion questions, things like what were they all doing in the woods in the middle of the night, who were the dead alphas in the clearing, why there were remnants of a fire— how he died. But instead of voicing any of them she just wraps her arms around him in a bone-crushing hug, which he doesn't mind the slightest. He buries his nose in her shoulder and chokes on a sob, not even caring how it looks to anyone who may be watching.
Questions were for later.
When she pulls back she quickly wipes her eyes and moves towards the the back of the ambulance, motioning for him to follow. Mascara stains her cheeks like wet ash.
"Come on, honey, get in."
It's not a question. He gets to ride because Stiles is going to need him when he wakes up.
He follows, stealing a glance back out at the woods over his shoulder. He sees deputy Parrish walk over to a tree and wipe his eyes as the Sheriff's body is blocked off with yellow tape. Kali and Ennis lie a few feet away, eyes staring sightlessly up at the sky. Scott quells his anger by reminding himself that they won't get a funeral or a eulogy, and that their bodies will be turned to ash and forgotten about, unlike the man lying a few feet from them.
His eyes flicker from Stiles's beat up jeep to the baseball bat abandoned by it's side, and the Sheriff's Crown Victoria parked a few yards from it. The headlights are still on, casting two beams of white light onto the police tape. They flutter in the wind, looking like yellow ribbons. It takes him a moment to realize that something is missing. He scans the clearing to see where Derek went, but Derek is gone. Fled the scene.
"Honey, are you okay?"
His mom eyes him anxiously, lips taut like it's taking everything she has not to lose it. He waits too long to turn around and face her, just in time to catch the Sheriff's face before it disappears behind the closed zipper of a black bag.
"No," he answers truthfully.