The first thing he realized upon opening his eyes was that he really shouldn’t have been asleep in the first place—considering the last thought he could recall had to do with his jeep getting a flat tire on the way home from training at Derek’s. One minute, he’d been cursing the fates and clambering out to inspect the damage, and the next had him waking up somewhere dark, cramped, and musty.
A droplet of water hit his cheek, wet and dirty, and slid down to his jaw. Stiles tried to bring his hand up, but his knuckles smashed against solid wood that must have been less than half a foot above him. He sucked in a breath, heart stuttering in his chest when he felt pressure on either side of him, like he was trapped inside of a giant box.
"Okay," he croaked softly, trying to ignore the way his face burned with the sudden and overwhelming desire to just cry like a baby. "Okay, Stiles… looks like you’ve been buried alive…" Stiles dragged his arms in close to his body, wriggling them up so he could press his palms against his ‘roof’. "Rule number one: Don’t panic."
He was already panicking. His chest was tight and his lungs kept constricting with every attempt he made to inhale. It was like he’d sucked all of the oxygen out already during his time unconscious. What if he had? What if he was ten minutes away from dying? Who knows how long he’d been out—who knows if anyone was even aware that Stiles was anywhere but at home. He could die and nobody would find out until hours, maybe even days later.
Suddenly, it was very hard to breathe. Stiles clawed against the wood above him, clenching his eyes shut when another bead of muddy water plunked on his brow and slid across his temple. He pushed up, breath hitching when more droplets showered down, spraying onto his mouth and cheeks. He could taste gritty dirt, wet and sticking to his lips, and that only solidified the fact that he was underground. Buried alive. Six feet under.
Going to die.
"No," Stiles gasped out, pressing up against the wood and twisting his head to the side when more mud and dirt sprinkled down, "no, Mister Stilinski. You are not—not dying today," his voice was barely a wheeze, hands shaking uncontrollably as the panic set in. He wriggled his legs, knees banging against the top of the coffin and his ankles tangling together. It only made things worse, reminding Stiles that he was completely trapped.
He tried to shift, tried to at least bend his knees or move down enough that he could bring his arms up higher, but his elbows bumped against the walls so hard that it made his fingers tingle.
It was times like these that Stiles wish he’d taken the bite. Maybe if he was a werewolf, then at least Derek would be able to sense his imminent death. The air was practically being sucked out of the coffin, and Stiles could feel his heartbeat pounding against his ribs, rattling his bones and making his lungs wheeze when he tried to draw in enough air to breathe.
"No," he whined, choking on the sob that wanted to well up, "no no no no no," he shoved up, wood cracking and making mud sluice down, spattering onto his neck and face. He froze, struggling through his panic to try and remember something he’d read about this. He didn’t have enough room to pull his shirt up and tie it over his head, but he could drag the collar up, protect his nose and mouth.
Stiles’ arms shook as he brought his palms to the surface again, shoving so hard he could feel the muscles in his biceps protesting and tearing, pain lancing all the way up to his shoulder. Nobody was going to save him. He had to get out or he was going to die. There was no air here, no air anywhere. He’d rather die escaping than die crying in a panic like he was 12 all over again.
Another sob bubbled up in his throat and Stiles let it out before he could stop himself. He choked halfway through as the wood finally gave way during his exhale, mud and dirt falling in so quickly that Stiles had to clench his eyes shut and start shoving it down towards his feet lest he be completely buried by it.
He thought about his dad, about Scott and Derek. The three people who were constants in his life. He thought about Isaac, how Scott had started to drift towards his new friendship, leaving Stiles completely behind. Stiles thought about how Derek had weaseled his way under Stiles’ skin and into his small circle of friends because he had no one else. His dad, who knew something was wrong but didn’t want to pressure Stiles for answers, always there and always with open arms.
No—he couldn’t die. He had too much to do; too many people to help. The mud was rolling in now, thick and heavy and almost impossible to work through as Stiles tried to pull himself up and out of the coffin. He could feel it in his fingernails, sticking to his skin and pushing the air out of him with every inch that he dragged himself up. His shirt had been dragged down at some point, mud sticking inside of his nose, pushing into his mouth, eyes and ears.
Stiles was surrounded completely by a heavy blackness that was thicker than tar and heavier than water. He couldn’t breath, could barely move. It took every ounce of strength to shove an arm up and drag it down, pulling mud and dirt with him, only to repeat the process with his other arm. Stiles knew he’d hardly moved—his legs were still halfway in the coffin. It was like trying to swim to the surface from a bottomless pit.
His lungs were burning, aching and pushing and trying to force Stiles to breathe in dirt and mud. Suddenly, he realized there was a fate worse than drowning.
This was it.
Stiles knew he was crying, could feel the tears leaking out the corners of his eyes and being absorbed into the mud around him. He could feel the sobs and whimpers pushing at his lungs, trying to force him into crying out. He was so tired—exhausted—and he wanted to just lie there until he passed out. Already, he felt weak and lightheaded, body on the brink of giving up and shutting down. Stiles didn’t want to die, but suddenly he was terrified that no matter how hard he tried, he would inevitably be snuffed out like so many other humans in Beacon Hills.
Stiles tried to pull himself further up, foot catching on the inside of the coffin before he managed to wriggle it enough that he could push himself a little higher. His right arm was trapped against his body, the mud too thick and wet for Stiles to be able to move it. However, he could still push his left arm—just a little higher, a little further.
The way out seemed endless, though. No matter how hard Stiles pushed, he felt nothing but the same continuing stretch of mud above him. This time, a sob left him, and when he tried to suck in air, he got a mouthful of nothing but watery dirt that sat heavy on his tongue.
Something touched his fingertips and Stiles jerked. He stretched impossibly far, wriggling as a burst of desperation hit him. Surging upward, Stiles tried to find that movement again. When a palm brushed against his fingers and a hand grasped at his wrist, Stiles clung to it. He dug his nails into that arm, clutching at it because he knew this was the only way he would live.
The wrench in his arm was enough to make Stiles cry out in pain as he was dragged up through the mud. He felt kitten weak, body sliding through mud and dirt until he felt fresh rainwater hitting his arm, and then his head came to the surface and he sucked in a shuddering breath and screamed. Hands were grappling at him, dragging him up out of the mud and he couldn’t even open his eyes or move. He clutched at the shoulders of a strong body, shuddering and pressed in tight someone’s warm, wet chest. Another screaming sob escaped him and he lost all his composure.
He was alive.
"Stiles, Jesus, Stiles. It’s okay. I’ve got you. You’re alive. You’re here, calm down—fuck, Stiles, you need to breathe, please,” hands wiped at his face, smearing mud away from his mouth and eyes and Stiles tried to suck in another breath of air. He slitted his eyes open, blinking at the fresh rain that dripped into them and then looking at Derek’s ashen face. His entire body was wracked with tremors, bones rattling and muscles twitching as Derek dragged him in close and continued to wipe as his face, pinching mud from Stiles’ nostrils to try and help clear them so he could breathe better.
Stiles choked, rasping for air and then letting out a terrified laugh. Derek’s eyes went wide and he hesitated, looking up at whoever must have been around them. Stiles didn’t care, though. He didn’t care if the alpha wolves were coming, or if it was Lydia witnessing him crying like a baby. He was alive.
"That’s it, just breathe," Derek soothed, now watching him again as Stiles’ hysterical giggling broke down into desperate pants for air. Stiles felt a warm hand wrapped around his shoulders, felt the steady, but hurried beat of Derek’s heart against his ear.
He had to know, though. Stiles was well aware that it should have been impossible to find him. So how did Derek do it?
"Ho-how?" he croaked, struggling for air as Derek wiped mud from his neck and out of his ears.
"You’re pack," Derek said quietly, fingers stopping right at Stiles’ pulse point and digging in—like just hearing it wasn’t enough. "Just like Scott."
Stiles peered up, blinking through the rain and his own tears and catching the look of intense determination on Derek’s face. It was a look that clearly stated Stiles was not allowed to argue. That was okay. Stiles didn’t want to argue.
He was alive.