Stiles likes to know things. He really does. His mom used to laugh at him when he would pepper her with questions about things, about places, about people. Especially the last one; she’d grin at him and tell him to stop being nosy, but there was no real admonishment in it. So Stiles has always been a bit of an information hog. An inquisitive mind, he’d say. A gossip lover, Allison might respond.
Either way the fact remains that he doesn’t know very much about Derek Hale’s past besides what’s been revealed in the past few months and in the police reports he scoured until he practically had them memorized. The time between when Derek and Laura left town and when they returned is a big blank page, and Stiles wants desperately to know.
And so one night he just gives in. He pokes and prods and searches and sifts through information on countless people named “Hale” online and tries to figure out when he became so determined to figure Derek out. Stiles doesn’t even know if Derek and Laura went by their real names, or where exactly they travelled to, or anything at all really, and it’s so damn frustrating.
When he stumbles across a grainy picture in the archives of an independent New York City arts scene newsletter, he thinks it must be the sleep deprivation. There is no way that’s Derek. But it is. Derek Hale, sourwolf extraordinaire, is smiling pleasantly at the camera. His long fingers are curled around the neck of a violin; the instrument looks small and delicate in his grasp. His eyes are little balls of light, and the caption makes a note to apologize for the their equipment’s difficulty. Even without the eyes, though, Stiles recognizes him; the slope of the shoulders, the rounded ears, the harsh angles of his face are all perfectly recognizable. The rest of the caption reads: “Hale, the up-and-coming violinist, impressed critics at his latest invitation only performance…”
‘Hale, the up-and-coming violinist’. Derek plays the violin? That’s what he did in New York? Stiles doesn’t know what he expected to find but certainly wasn’t this.
Stiles can’t even remember Derek listening to music, much less playing it. There aren’t any CDs in the glovebox of the camero (he’s checked), Derek barely deigns to use his phone much less own an iPod, and there’s not even a radio in the tiny room he calls an apartment. Stiles has only been there a few times, and that’s mostly been to utilize the First Aid kit Derek has learned to keep stocked and ready. The place is cramped but organized, and Stiles is sure that there would be no place to hide a violin case or sheet music… except maybe under the bed. But the other members of the pack are there all the time, and Stiles is sure that one of them would have found anything unusual by now, if there was anything unusual to find. Like a violin. That Derek plays.
Stiles is going to go out on a limb and say that the Alpha hasn’t continued the hobby since his return.
It’s weird to think of Derek having a hobby. Having a hobby that he is apparently very good at. Stiles kind of assumed that Derek spent his time not with the pack lurking or driving around in his nice car or thinking of new ways and places to lurk. But he supposes that’s not really fair. Werewolves may be supernatural creatures but they’re still people, with interests and dreams. Sure, it seems like most of the wolves he knows are weirdly focused on lacrosse, but he’s seen the way Erica’s eyes light up when a hockey match is on television and the sketchbooks that Isaac shyly hides. Boyd loves music, he jams along to his iPod while driving the zamboni at the rink. So why should Derek be any different?
The scowly growly wolf has a secret and Stiles knows it now. All is right with the world. Sort of.
The next full moon Stiles drives Scott to the old Hale house. Even if Derek isn’t living there anymore, the hunters have since abandoned it, and it’s a perfect meeting place for things of a wolfy nature. Normally Stiles would at least pretend to make a fuss over being Scott’s chauffeur to an event he is expressly not allowed to stay and witness, but this time he lets himself get talked into it rather easily, stating that he might as well take this chance to possibly see one of the girls naked.
On the way he over he bombards Scott with questions, as usual. But these have a particular topic.
“So has Derek told you guys anything about his time away from Beacon Hills? Like, before all this?”
Scott shakes his head.
“No, he doesn’t really like to talk about his past much. Besides what we need to know for training, of course. I know Erica asked him once and he totally shut her down.” He shrugs. “Who ever knows with him, dude.”
Stiles makes a low hum of agreement.
“But does he have, uh, interests? Like, what does he do with his time?”
Scott throws him an odd look.
“I don’t know, man. He reads a lot, I guess. Works out? What is with these questions?”
“I’m just curious! He’s been your Alpha for a few months now, don’t you feel like we should at least get to know him better?”
Scott shrugs and Stiles knows that’s the end of it.
They pull up to the Hale house and spot the rest of the pack lounging on the decrepit front porch. The boys have all pulled off their shirts, restless for the change, but to Stiles’s great disappointment Lydia and Erica are still fully clothed. Not that the view isn’t fascinating anyway, especially the broad bare chest of the Alpha approaching them.
Derek sticks his head in through the open window on the driver’s side.
“Thanks for bringing him.”
His hands are on the sill and Stiles suddenly can’t stop looking at them.
He’s picturing a scene in his head: Derek’s dark head bent over the chin rest, those long blunt fingers moving deftly across the strings.
But then he’s seeing Derek in his Alpha state, the form he’ll take tonight, and the long claws are breaking the strings and scratching the fingerboard. It should be kind of a humorous picture, but it’s not. It sets off a deep ache in Stiles’s chest.
“Stiles?” Derek’s voice brings him back. Scott is out of the car now, bounding towards the others, giddy with excitement for the coming run.
“Uh, yeah, sure no problem. Happy hunting and all that. Try not to maul anyone.” And he’s backing out, leaving the werewolves to their own devices for the night, trying desperately to ignore the niggling idea that’s formed in his brain.
Of course, as with so many ideas, no matter how stupid, Stiles can’t ignore it for long.
While the wolves are scaring the hell out of the rest of the animals on the reserve, Stiles is clicking through the online selections of a music shop two towns over. He reads reviews and tries to figure out the musician lingo he doesn’t quite understand, but eventually finds a violin that seems to be pretty decent without completely diminishing his savings. It will take a fairly decent chunk out of it, though. These damn things aren’t cheap.
He’s been saving to have the sound system in his Jeep replaced, but what with all her recent mishaps, he’s already been questioning if it’s even worth it. With his luck the day after he’d gotten it installed another freaky lizard monster would show up in town and rip it out.
It may be stupid but he wants to do it. He wants to give this, this little piece of a life where Derek smiled, back to him.
He knows the wolves will be passed out in post-beasty bliss until at least noon the next day, so he hauls himself up in the morning and makes the drive alone.
The woman in the store is lively and helpful, and she helps him find the instrument he’d seen online. He blushes when she asks if it’s for him, and he responds that it’s a gift for a friend.
“Well, this is certainly a big gift,” she says through a smile.
“He’s a big, uh, friend, er,” Stiles stammers back and her smile gets bigger.
He doesn’t really know what he and Derek are. If they’re friends, acquaintances, pack. He just knows that this is something that he is doing and there’s no going back now because he’s a hell a of a lot poorer than he was this morning (even with the discount she gave him on the bow) and there’s a black instrument case sitting in his back seat.
Erica mentions that she and Isaac are dragging Derek to a movie a few days later. Stiles is invited, but declines; he gets a weird look from them across the lunch table at this, since normally he’d be jumping at the chance to see the latest action flick, but he cries homework and they let it go.
The perfect time to give a gift you aren’t sure will be received well is when the recipient isn’t there.
Stiles waits that night until he’s sure they’ll be out and about. He considers going to Derek’s apartment, but he can’t get in and he certainly doesn’t want to explain to Boyd why he needs that key and he also doesn’t want to just leave this thing outside the door where anybody could just take it, so that idea is scraped.
He drives to the Hale house.
The pack doesn’t come here often without Derek, so there’s little chance of them discovering it on their own. Derek, however, is here much more often these days. He’s let slip a few thoughts about finally having it restored, and Stiles suspects that he spends a lot of time here deliberating, soaking up and sorting through memories of before the fire.
Stiles slides the black case just inside the front door and drives home, his hands shaking on the wheel.
He guesses he really shouldn’t be as surprised as he is when his window slides open and a huge black form unfurls itself. But hey, can’t a guy get a full night’s rest without a supernatural creature barging in on him?
“I thought you’d learned what a door was by now. Also, a clock.” The one by Stiles bedside reads 3:17 AM.
“How did you know,” is all Derek says in response.
It’s difficult to shrug while horizontal and wrapped in a sheet, but Stiles manages.
“The internet is full of crazy things, dude."
Stiles scrambles up and gets himself untangled enough to lean on his elbow.
“Do you like it? I know it’s probably not as nice as the ones you played in New York but, hey, I’m not made of money so, - ”
“Jeez, can’t a guy do a nice thing for his friendly neighborhood Alpha?”
Derek’s head tilts to the side like he’s confused. Well, to be fair, he probably is.
“Buying me a violin is more than a ‘nice thing’.”
“Sure, yeah, it was a little more of a grand gesture than I’m used to, but what can I say? The full moon does things to people. Crazy things.”
Derek continues to stare. Stiles sighs.
“I found an article about you, one from New York. It said you were basically a prodigy. That’s not something that just goes away, it was obviously important to you at some point. And now that things are finally settling down around this place, I figured you might be interested in picking it up again.” He licks his lips nervously. “I thought… I thought you might miss it.” Silence as taut as the strings on the instrument they’re discussing stretches. “But, seriously, do you like it?”
“Yeah,” and even though he can barely see Derek in the darkness, Stiles hears the odd thickness in his voice and imagines his face, sort of pinched up and uncomfortable. Derek doesn’t do very well with expressing emotion in a non-growly way. He’s gone through the window before Stiles’s “Well, you’re welcome then” even leaves his throat.
He’s actually trying to do that homework he supposedly bailed on the movie for when he gets a text from Scott.
get to the hale house. now
And Stiles is out of the house in flash, avoiding the local police force’s favorite speed traps and flying down the road towards Derek’s.
What happened now? Another body? Another monster? More hunters? Was there no peace in this town?
He pulls up the Hale house expecting fangs and franticness. Instead, the entire pack, minus Derek, is standing in a semi-circle a few feet back from it, staring raptly up at the charred building. He flings himself from the Jeep and approaches Scott.
“Dude, what’s up with you guys? What’s going on?”
His speaking garners an admonishing glare from Erica.
Scott blinks at him.
“Can’t you hear it?”
Hear what? So Stiles listens.
And there – there’s what they’re hearing, soft to his ears, but no doubt perfectly clear to theirs. That’s what has got them struck dumb.
The music is haunting. It sounds like moonlight dripping off dark leaves, like fresh flowers on an old grave, each note crawling off the strings and burying itself in his chest. There’s plenty of music about heartbreak, but Stiles wonders how much of it is like this, heartbreak incarnate?
He was right, he supposes. Derek did miss this. Just as he misses Laura, his family, his life before.
Stiles cannot bring himself to regret his rash decision. He remembers his mother’s voice when she would sing him to sleep. He’s replayed it in his mind countless times now, and even though it’s not the same, the memory of the music sometimes still lulls him to sleep. It helps.
He hopes this helps Derek. He hopes the music gives him peace.
Derek isn’t playing for the pack now, though Stiles is sure he’s aware of their presence. He’s playing for the ghosts that haunt that house. It’s not a requiem, but Stiles imagines that it is a goodbye of sorts. A farewell performance.
The final note rings through the clearing, painful in its softness.
Blood rushes in his ears and combats the sudden awful silence.
From inside the house, a new noise begins. The howl echoes through the charred remains and into the night sky, and around him, the rest of the werewolves lift their faces to the moon and join in. Stiles can feel the mournful sound in his bones.