That night, Uncle Peter is a few minutes late to dinner. Derek’s been welcome at the adults’ table for all of a week, but it takes only a glance at the twitching corner of Peter’s mouth for him to understand that this is a display of dramatic timing. Uncle Peter is never late unless he means to be, and the look Peter tosses Derek’s way before pulling out a chair and joining the rest of the family means that the joke is going to be on him tonight.
Derek holds back the growl that wants to rumble through his chest. Uncle Peter makes fun of everyone, and if Derek gets angry then all of his family will start ribbing him for losing his sense of humor while he was out running in the woods for the last five years. Peter will offer to organize a search party to scour the forest for it, and Aunts Carly and Alex will undoubtedly volunteer because they always back their baby brother in his amusements, and then half of the little ones--not understanding that it is all a joke--will beg to come along, too. It will be a month, at least, before they hear the end of it, and it will drive Derek spare, because he can’t remember exactly--five years is a long time--but he’s fairly certain he didn’t have much of a sense of humor to start with.
Laura kicks his ankle, and Derek turns his gaze to her. She’s the closest to him, not just seated beside him at the table tonight, but his only sibling in a crowd of cousins and close enough in age to him that they’d spent nearly two years together running as wolves.
“You’re glaring,” she tells him, not bothering to be quiet. There’s no point whispering in the Hale household. For every human who might miss a whisper, there are four werewolves happy to repeat it for them.
He hadn’t been glaring, though now he is. She ought to know the difference between a normal look and a proper glare. He tries to communicate this to her through the power of his stare, and Peter chuckles.
“You are glaring, Derek. In fact... I’d call that expression down right ‘sour.’” Peter’s eyes flash with gold, turning his expression into a definite smirk as he leans forward and picks up a serving platter that is still piled high with beef. He hands the platter to Alexandra and nudges her so that she passes it down the line towards Derek. “Some more roast beef should cheer up our Sour Wolf--”
Derek can’t hold that growl back. His mother shoots a “Manners, young man!” look his way, and Peter laughs.
“Why, Derek, what’s wrong? Isn’t roast beef your favorite? I’m certain I read that somewhere.”
Laura claps her hands, and her laugh peals through the room like an invitation howl on the full moon. “Oh, my god! Oh, my god! How priceless! Uncle Peter, you saw it, too?”
“Saw. What,” Derek says.
“‘Saw it’?” Peter says. “No. I saw them.”
“Oh! There’s more than one? Are they all--?”
“Saw. What,” Derek says again.
The rest of the family makes inquisitive noises, their expressions ranging through the narrow spectrum between amusement and bemusement--all except for Derek’s father, who only has eyes for the platter of beef. Derek really likes his father. You have to have respect for a man, for an Alpha, who knows his priorities and sticks to them. Derek helps himself to another slice--though he most definitely does not need cheering up--and hands the platter to his father.
“I stopped in at Dr. Deaton’s while I was in town today,” Peter tells his audience. “There was a lost dog sign posted in the clinic’s parking lot.”
“That’s not very interesting,” Aunt Carly says. “Dogs get lost all the time.”
“Oh, no,” Peter says. “This was a very special sign... about a very special dog. Isn’t that right, Derek?”
“I wouldn’t know. I haven’t lost a dog.”
“No,” Peter says. “But I think someone’s lost you.” He stands up and pulls several pages of folded paper out of his back pocket. “The first one was so fascinating, I had to sniff around and see if I could find more.”
Derek reaches for the pages. “Give me--”
Peter yanks them out of reach. “No! Bad dog! These are not for you.”
“Oh, for crying out loud,” Derek’s father says. “Peter. Stop teasing the boy. If those are about him, give them to him.”
“They’re not about me,” Derek says. He knows better than to complain about being called a boy. He’s seventeen and human-shaped again and sitting with the adults. That means he’s mature enough to ignore the epithet, at least when it’s coming from his father.
“I think they might be,” Laura says and grabs the papers from Peter’s hand. “The one I saw... Yes. This one, this is it. Missing: One Husky Dog, possibly a Husky-Wolf mix? Do they mix? I don’t know, but he looks like a wolf and likes to be told that he does. Blue eyes. Black and gray fur. Very soft. Answers to Fang sometimes--”
“Why are you--? Stop,” Derek says. “No one’s lost a dog. Stop reading that.”
“No, no. Listen. It’s adorable. Also answers to Wolf. Will definitely not answer to: Lassie, Snoopy, Sour Wolf, or Yo Quiero Taco Bell even though he will eat Taco Bell and Mexican macaroni and a truly amazing amount of roast beef sandwiches and even some green bean casserole, but only if it’s the kind with potato chips on top and the potato chips have not gone all mushy. If found, please call Stiles. And give him a sandwich if he looks hungry. Thank you for looking! PS: IMPORTANT!!! If found, DO NOT CALL SHERRIFF.”
What. The. Hell.
There are no words. Derek has no words. The world turns red around him and he’s maybe growling around a mouthful of roast because Laura kicks him again, but that’s it. That’s all that can be said.
Uncle Peter grins.
“What’s Mexican macaroni?” Uncle Ed, Aunt Carly’s mate, asks.
“More importantly,” Derek’s mother says, “what is a Stiles?”
“I think the question is, ‘Who is Stiles?’” Peter and Laura both say.
Laura sets the page she was reading down on the table. The haze clears from Derek’s eyes just enough that he sees that it was handwritten. Dammit. Derek knew he should have bitten that boy’s hand clean off the first time he’d met him. Only Stiles had shared that plate of macaroni with him, and it had been really good, and he’d been a natural at scratching gently behind wolf ears... and Derek’s mother had always said not to bite the hand that feeds you.
Damn kid. Why did he have to do this? Why did he have to get attached to some dumb stray dog? ‘Cause Derek sure as hell can’t give him his "dog" back and now he has to figure out how to get rid of every one of those signs. And, dammit, what makes Derek really, really mad is that he knows this is all his own fault. He should have listened all those times his mother told him not to take food from strangers.