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Chapter Two

When Bara finally skids the cruiser to a halt in the lot behind the clinic John is up and out of his seat before the kid can even throw it in park. Whatever it was he'd been expecting to find when they finally got here, it wasn't this. It wasn't to roll up on every single emergency vehicle in Beacon Hills jammed into the little lot behind the clinic or to see his own son's jeep at the epicenter of world war three.

John stumbles away from the cruiser, Stiles' name ghosting past his lips.

The massive red fire department engines may be taking up half the lot, but John can still see the jeep. He can still see it through the darting bodies and the smoke and the kick in the gut, all-encompassing terror that descends down around him at what he's seeing.

"Oh my god." He's not sure who mutters it, him or Bara, but time lurches forward again and before he knows it, he's got Bara wrapped around his middle, two of his other guys hanging from his arms and the fire chief himself standing in front of him with arms raised, trying to talk him down.

But John there's not talking John down tonight. Tonight he fights like a rabid animal and it takes every single one of those men holding him down to keep him from running into the fire and to his son.

The heat of the fire is intense. It reaches him even here on the periphery and it feels like his skin is about to bubble off, but the pain is tolerable. It's tolerable because it's nothing compared to the primal, parental instinct to protect his son that roars to life in his veins so spectacularly that he actually bites and kicks, gnashes and screams at the men who hold him down. He surges forward on that pure instinct alone; find, protect, make safepushing him forward relentlessly and overriding any thought he has of maintaining his professional decorum.

"Jesus John, calm down!" Bara pleads at his side, sounding scared but refusing to let go. "You've got to let them do their jobs!" But John doesn't hear it.

Even though he knows there's nothing he can do, even though he knows if he runs into that blazing inferno it might just take his life too, he fights like a man possessed to be allowed to get to his son.

"Stiles! Jesus, let me go! Stiles! STILES!" He repeats the name like a mantra. Like if saying it enough will produce his son from within the billowing smoke and red, licking flame that surrounds the jeep and reaches for the sky.

"Sherriff Stilinski, please!"

They've got him down on one knee now. Bara's hand is fisted in his collar, forcing his face towards the dirt. The deputy's lips are right next to his ear and warm breath splays over his neck.

"We're going to let you up, but you've gotta calm the fuck down!"

John lets his head fall and draws in a ragged breath that shudders his entire frame. He's a cop, for christ's sake, and until he sees Stiles' dead body with his own two eyes, he can't give up on his kid. So he pulls together the bits of himself that are still capable of rational thought and claws his way out of the red haze his panic has pushed him down into. Bara stays close beside him, offering a hand when John stumbles, but he ignores it. Just like he ignores his men who let him get up but hover nearby like they half expect him to go ape shit again and try to break through the perimeter.

The panic doesn't entirely go away, but John does manage to get himself back under control and he stands for unknowable moments on the loose stone of the clinic's back lot, watching his only son's jeep burn in numb silence. The stupid, piece of shit car he couldn't talk Stiles into getting rid of this summer is lying upside down in the gravel with windows shattered and frame utterly engulfed in flames. The interior is nothing more than a concentrated box of thick, swirling smoke and John can't see Stiles anywhere. His eyes dart in every imaginable direction, absorbing every bit of the chaotic scene that they can, but with the fire trucks and the squad cars and the swirl of the lights, he can't make sense of any of it.

God, this isn't supposed to be happening! Stiles is part of the pack. He should have been protected at all times. So where the hell is everyone? Why isn't Scott here, pulling the jeep door off its hinges with that wolfy, superhuman strength? Why isn't Liam with him, helping to pull Stiles from the burning wreckage without fear because they both know they'll heal from whatever burns they receive?

Why does it fall to John to be the only one standing here watching as the fire department tries to control the flames slowly devouring his son's jeep?

'Because,' he reminds himself, 'they're all at the high school trying to protect the town from the latest supernatural threat.'

Scott and Lydia had come up with some harebrained plan and he knows Parish is with them right now. Stiles wasn't even going to be there, which is probably why John agreed to go along with the plan in the first place….

But now look what's happened.

Stiles was left unprotected and the only other person on the police force who actually knows what the hell is going on in Beacon Hills, isn't here with him. John is utterly alone, and if the firemen find something they can't explain, it's going to fall to him to try and cover it up.

Shit, is this what his life's been reduced to? Constant worry that some supernatural scourge is going to come and take his only son away from him? Leave him alone to pick up the pieces and explain away the impossible things left behind? Well he's tired of it. Tired of the lies and the cover-ups and the constant danger his little dwindling family keeps getting into. He didn't sign up for this. Stiles most certainly did not. Yet they continue to pay the price for it in blood nonetheless.

As if to give credence to his darkening thoughts, the seemingly uncontrollable fire must finally reach the gas tank of Stile's jeep because a moment later a fiery explosion knocks John and everyone else standing in the lot back a few steps. He instinctively throws himself over the closest person to him (who just happens to be Bara) and tries not to cry out when they're pushed over the hood of the cruiser by the force of the blast. They land on the other side of the car, bits of smoldering leather and red hot metal pattering against the hood right where their heads had been.

"What the hell!" Bara coughs, taking the hand John holds out to help him up off of the ground. "That should not have just happened!"

The firemen are swarming the jeep, redoubling all their efforts on trying to get the blaze back under control. John can feel something wet making its way down the side of his face, but he has no time to pay attention to it. Bara's comment has him worried and he's too busy searching the frenzied scene for his son who is still nowhere to be seen.

There's a quiet moment of introspection that always seems to foreshadow tragedy. It's a strange, disjointed moment whene time seems to slow down or stop altogether to give it's unsuspecting victim a moment to think back on all the things they'll never get to say or do with the one they're about to loose. John's pretty sure he's about to get his moment when he hears someone calling out his name.

At first John chalks it up to wishful thinking and then as a trick of his already addled brain. But when the voice doesn't stop he finally pauses to look around for the source.

"Sheriff! Sheriff Stilinski! Over here!"

John tilts his head to the side trying to get a fix on who's calling for him and finally spots Deaton a moment later. The animal clinic's owner is standing near the rear bumper of an ambulance and waiving his arms wildly in the air. Without even thinking, John takes off towards the vet at a sprint, Bara following close behind. At first John wants to tell the kid to get lost, but is happy he doesn't in the end. The swirling lights of the emergency vehicles reflect off the brick of the buildings around them and make it difficult to run. They distort the space around him and throw off his balance and Bara has to grab him at the elbow just to keep him upright when they finally reach the other side of the ambulance.

Any other time John would have rebuffed such help. Any other situation and he would have pushed his deputy's hands away from him and insisted that he was fine, but not this time. This time he clings to whatever support he can find because, as the now smoldering remains of Stile's jeep disappear behind the ambulance, John can see that the paramedics are working feverishly over a prone body lying against the pale stones of the lot.

John can't tell who the person on the ground is at first, but there's another boy hovering on the periphery of the chaos, wringing his hands in worry. The act is so familiar that for one glorious moment, John's jackhammering heart lets him believe the pacing kid is his; his Stiles. His brain even goes along with it, accepting for one moment that his son is okay. But when that soot-smudged face finally looks up at him, John can immediately see that it isn't Stiles. It's Theo Raeken, the last person John would have ever expected to find with his boy. He almost rushes the teen then, anything to find out just what the hell is going here, but the hectic commotion playing out on the ground in front of him chases all other conscious thought from his mind.

Stiles, his headstrong, spastic, beautiful boy is sprawled across the gravel, eyes closed and face spattered in blood. The paramedics are struggling to intubate him and something that sounds like obstructed airway drifts up and out of the confusing cacophony of sound bouncing about him. John's knees begin to quake beneath him, and it's suddenly not just Bara holding him up, but Deaton as well.

"What the hell happened?" He asks to no one in particular and it's Deaton who actually answers.

"S-someone tripped the alarm," the vet stammers as they all watch the paramedics work frantically over Stiles. "I just wanted to make sure they were okay."

John glances over at the vet. Under the flickering red and blue light of the emergency vehicles it looks as though he's about ready to pass out. John understands how he feels. It's too much, you see. Too much like when he lost Claudia, and he doesn't think he'll be strong enough to survive another loss like that. He's nowhere near strong enough to lose them both.

So he prays.

God help him, he closes his eyes and sends up a plea to whatever deity might be listening that his child's life be spared.

When no answer is forthcoming John watches on in silence as the paramedics finally stabilize Stiles enough to load him into the back of their rig. When they're finished, they hold the doors open for him and John is secretly relived. He knows the two EMT's manning the ambulance tonight well and they wisely haven't tried to bar him from entering the back of the rig with his boy.

That's a good thing. Because if they had, there's no telling what John would have done.


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