Sheriff Stilinski turns back on his way out the door and asks his son, “Is there anything you want me to pick up while I'm in the city?”
Stiles shuffles his eggs on his plate. “Um, flowers? Something nice. For Mom.”
The sheriff nods and swallows down the lump in his throat. “Will do, kid,” he says with fake cheer. “And remember, no parties, no girls, clean up after yourself, and if Scott stays over, tell his mom so she doesn't think he wandered into the forest again and got lost.”
“Oh my God, Dad it was one time,” Stiles whines, shoving a slice of toast into his mouth. “And I still maintain that it says something about her parenting skills that she was surprised that Scott turned up clean and well-fed rather than starving and covered in leaves and twigs.”
“Don't talk with your mouth full, son. I'll see you in five days, and when I get back I expect the house to still be standing or you will be grounded for eternity.”
Stiles grunts into his bacon. “Yeah, yeah, have fun at summer camp, and shouldn't you be getting on the road?”
The Sheriff sighs. “Don't forget to take out the trash,” he reminds Stiles as he steps out and pulls the door shut behind him. He takes in a deep breath of the unseasonably cool morning air, reminds himself that he'd just changed the batteries of the fire alarms not two weeks prior, and gets in his car and drives away.
It's half a day's drive to get to the city, and then three days of conference that keep the Sheriff busy enough that he forgets about Stiles' request for flowers. He's just half an hour away from Beacon Hills when he remembers, slamming a fist on his steering wheel in frustration. Drumming his fingers on the molded plastic, he mentally scrambles for options. The back road he's taking to get home doesn't pass through any towns, but it wouldn't take too long to backtrack to the highway, which does. It'll put him about an hour behind, but at least he'll be able to buy something Stiles won't recognize as being from one of Beacon Hills' two florists.
The Sheriff doesn't see the small lane leading off the main road until he glances back in his rear view mirror, but when he does, he immediately pulls over and idles in the shoulder.
The lane leads up to the abandoned Hale mansion.
The sheriff grips the steering wheel, remembering the day he'd been called out to investigate the sudden disappearance of the family. It had been eerie, walking into the house and seeing it so abruptly abandoned, like everyone had just vanished into thin air mid-meal, mid-bath, and even mid-step. A few of the more superstitious guys at the station had put it down to magic, and when the police eventually gave up on the case citing a complete lack of evidence, the Sheriff found himself hard-pressed to disagree with them.
But what stood out most in Sheriff Stilinski's memory of the case were the roses. The Hale family was an old Beacon Hills institution and had been growing award-winning roses for as long as anyone could remember. The scent of roses, of all varieties and colors, had been so strong around and even in the house that it had sent one of the deputies to the hospital, his allergies had kicked up so severely.
The Sheriff looks back at the lane. It had been six years since the family's disappearance, but if some of the roses had survived... He makes the u-turn and pulls slowly onto the leaf-littered side road.
The mansion is quiet and dark and in better shape than he'd expected the abandoned house to be. More importantly, the scent of roses is just as overpowering as he remembers.
The gate to the garden is locked, unsurprisingly, but isn't that tall, and the Sheriff is in pretty good shape for his age no matter what jokes Stiles likes to make, so he climbs up and over, calling on skills he hasn't practiced since he was first dating his wife to land neatly on the garden path on the other side.
The smell of roses smashes him in the face like a baseball bat. The bushes and shrubs have survived just fine, apparently, growing so much in the six years they'd been neglected that they're big enough to be proper hedges, while the climbing roses have completely consumed the extensive latticework they'd been trained to. The Sheriff wanders deeper into the garden, looking over the endless varieties to find something special for Stiles. But when he steps into the center of the massive garden, one bush in particular catches his eye.
The bush is set apart from the rest of the roses, and when the Sheriff gets closer, it's obvious that it's meant to be the centerpiece of the garden. The blossoms are enormous and a rich indigo color, a shade so close to real blue that he's tempted to call them the fabled blue roses. The thorns on the stems are large and dense enough that he pricks himself a good half-dozen times cutting one of the roses free, but it's a small price to pay for the look on Stiles' face when he sees that his old dad has brought home a bouquet of genuinely blue roses.
He sets the rose gently on the ground beside him and is reaching for the stem of another when the sound of a lion's roar breaks the stillness of the rose garden. There's a crash of wood and shattering glass from the house and the Sheriff turns on his heel to face it, dropping his pocket knife and pulling out his sidearm just as something massive crashes through the roses, sending petals flying into the air. He manages to put a bullet into the thing before it's on him, slamming him to the ground and knocking his gun out of his hand and into the thorny bushes a few feet away. The – the thing opens its mouth wide, dense, dagger-sharp teeth aimed for his throat, and all he can think about it Stiles, how Stiles will be an orphan because his only remaining parent was killed by a monster, and he screams, “ Don't kill me! ”
The monster hesitates. Sensing an opening, the Sheriff pulls a Stiles and keeps talking.
“Please. Please. I have a son and I need to live. Please, please don't kill me,” he begs, vision blurring as tears stream down his temples into the greying hair.
The thing snarls at him, catches the collar of his uniform jacket in one claw, and drags him away.
The indigo rose lies where it was set down, pristine and forgotten.
When Stiles' dad doesn't show up that evening, Stiles sends a text: Dinner's in the microwave for when you get home.
The next morning, when Stiles sees the untouched food and the empty driveway, he calls the station.
Shelly sighs. “What did you burn down, break, and/or temporarily misappropriate this time, Stiles?” she asks dryly.
“Nothing! I swear to God. I just wanted to know if my dad has checked in yet.”
“Not to my knowledge,” Shelly answers. “Wasn't he supposed to get back from that conference last night?”
Stiles glances out at the empty driveway and fakes a relaxed tone. “Yeah. But he's probably fine. Just got distracted by all the shiny cop toys they've got in the city. You know how it is.”
“Well, alright,” Shelly concedes, sounding about as sure as Stiles feels. “But if he doesn't show up and you still can't get hold of him, just call me back. His cruiser is LoJacked, so we can track it if worse comes to worst.”
“Will do. Thanks, Shelly.”
“No problem, honey. I'll tell him to call you if he stops by. And don't get Scott into any trouble before your Dad gets back. Or after he gets back, either.”
Stiles huffs in perfectly righteous indignation. “I would never! Scott is perfectly safe with me.”
“Uh-huh. And he was so safe with you that time the two of you were caught on Mrs. Matheson's property.”
“That was a fluke. And the time with Mr. Gronig was completely different and can't be used as a follow-up example because it was completely different.”
“Right. I'll let you keep thinking that if it helps you sleep at night. Goodbye, Stiles.”
The first thing he does after hanging up is go to his computer and log into the app that tracks his dad's phone. He squints at the map when it loads, zooms out, then zooms back in again.
Why the hell is his dad at the old Hale house?
Stiles pulls up next to his dad's cruiser, peering through the windshield up at the massive house. He blinks hard and shakes his head as he slides out of the Jeep, the smell of roses so strong in the air that he has to force back a sneeze. God, he'd forgotten about the roses. Hopefully they won't send his allergies into fits while he's looking for his dad. Flashlight in hand, he creeps up the steps, cringing as the squeal under his weight.
“Dad?” he whispers. He swallows and tries again, a little louder. “Dad?”
Nothing. He reaches out for the door knob and it turns smoothly under his shaking hand. It creaks a little as he eases it open – and wow, horror movie much? - and the interior is as still and quiet and rose-smelling as the exterior.
“Dad? You here?”
Stiles leaves the door wide open. Hell if he's going to scrabble at a doorknob like some stupid horror flick jock when a poltergeist comes chasing after him. He clicks on the flashlight and stares at the foyer in confusion.
It's clean and well kept. Too well kept. Stiles runs his finger along the top of a table and it comes away spotless. Apparently the abandoned Hale house is not so abandoned after all.
“Hello?” he tries again. “Is there someone here? I'm looking for my dad.”
The wood floor doesn't creak under his weight, which is both comforting and deeply disconcerting, and the rug that lines the main staircase looks way too clean. Stiles shivers. This whole setup is looking more and more teen-horror-flick by the second, but his dad's cruiser is outside and his dad's cell phone is here, and Stiles may be about one and a half nasty surprises from shitting himself, but he's not leaving without his dad, come hell or messed boxer-briefs. He steels himself and walks deeper into the house.
The archway behind the main staircase leads into a living room/parlor area, the large space dotted with richly upholstered couches and round tables circled with matching chairs. Tall bookcases line one whole wall and there's an honest-to-god curio cabinet stocked with – Stiles shines the flashlight in – wolf figurines. The whole thing looks like something out of a period film. Not that Stiles watches a lot of period films, no matter what kind of jokes his dad makes, and he watched those four different versions of Jane Eyre for educational purposes, thank you very much.
The light switches don't work, and neither do the ones in the massive kitchen, but the refrigerator is humming and fully stocked and the water runs clear in the sink, so Stiles isn't sure what kind of conclusion to draw except that he has clearly stepped out of reality somehow and into a horror movie. He feels his balls and dick shrivel and try to crawl into his body like the cowards they are.
Stiles calls out a few more times, even whistles a few commercial jingles, but he's met with silence every time.
One of the doors off the living room leads into a hallway lined with more doors. He picks one at random, the door opening on silent hinges into a room that is most definitely called a study , and holy God, this whole period/horror film mash-up is seriously damaging his calm. He pops a few Adderall, not because he's worried about his ADHD, but more for the placebo effect of self-medicating.
He drags the curtains back to let the morning sun in, because of course there are heavy velvet curtains, and sits in the freaking amazing chair behind the desk, sinking so deep into the soft leather that he feels like he should fall out the other side.
Okay, so. His dad's cruiser is parked outside and his dad's cell phone is somewhere on the premises. The Hale house is not abandoned, but nobody seems to be home, and whoever 'nobody' is, he or she is either too cheap or too lazy to spring for light bulbs because none of the lights in the house seem to work. Stiles drums his hands on the blotter, the sound of the solid wood desk ringing in the silence of the study as he considers his options.
He could call in reinforcements, namely Scott. Scott makes everything better. Or at least more entertaining.
He could call it a day and come back tomorrow. Which doesn't make much sense, seeing as it's still morning.
He could keep snooping around until he either finds his dad or until whoever is living here shows up and calls the cops on him, at which point...
He could call in reinforcements from the Sheriff's department, which is probably the sensible thing to do.
He decides to call Scott. His phone rings twice before the call is dropped and he swears viciously at the one flickering bar he has. Goddamn AT&T. He is so talking his dad into switching them to Verizon once his stupid contract is up.
Number two doesn't make much sense, so he defaults to option number three, and since four is a natural outcome of three, he ignores it for the time being. And his dad says he has poor planning skills, pfft.
Phone in pocket and Maglite in hand, he steps back out into the dark hallway. He taps the flashlight against his palm and looks left and then right. What would Stanley Kubrick do?
Stiles doesn't really know what Stanley Kubrick would do, so he picks another door at random and peers in. It's a bedroom.
The next one though, the one at the very end of the hall, jackpot . The door opens to a set of stairs leading down into a cellar-like space. Racks and racks of wine line the basement walls. A few tunnels branch off from the main cellar, at least two leading to the outside, if the smell of fresh air is any indication.
“Dad?” Stiles calls. “You down here?”
Stiles peers down a tunnel that he's pretty sure doesn't open into the woods when he hears a voice.
Stiles' heart thuds hard in his chest and he takes off down the tunnel, his sneakers slapping on the concrete. “Dad!” The light of the flashlight shines on fingers curled around bars set in a door and he skids to a stop in front of it, his dad's face pale in the bright beam.
“Stiles! What the hell are you doing here?” he snaps.
“You didn't come home! What did you expect me to do?”
“Get out of here, Stiles,” his dad hisses sharply. “Get out now and don't ever come back.”
Stiles reels back. Okay, this shit needs to stop getting freakier. “No. I'm not leaving without you.” He grabs and yanks at the padlock holding the door shut, then shines the flashlight down at the floor, hoping against hope that whoever locked his dad up was stupid enough to have dropped the key or left behind a crowbar or something .
“Stiles, come here. Please.”
Stiles looks up from the floor at his dad. He looks haggard and too old and even more terrified than he did when he realized that he'd have to raise an eleven year-old Stiles all by himself. He steps closer and his dad reaches out, catching his face between two ice-cold palms.
“Stiles, son, you need to get out of this house right now before the beast shows up. I can't have him hurt you. I can't. You are all I have left.”
“Beast? Dad, what are you-”
But his dad isn't looking at him anymore. He's looking at something behind Stiles, something big that breathes a hot, ominous breath right down on Stiles' head. Stiles shrieks, because there's no manlier word for it, and whips around, trying to get a look at it, but the flashlight is knocked from his hand and rolls away, lighting up the way back to the cellar and leaving him, his father, and the thing or person or whatever in the dark.
Stiles backs up against the door and his dad's hands grab him.
“Leave him alone, you bastard!” his dad shouts at the darkness. “He's just a kid! Let him go home. Let him go back to town and I promise he'll leave you alone!”
Stiles turns his head to look back at his dad, or where he knows his dad is. “No! I'm not leaving you here!”
But it's like Stiles isn't even there, because his dad just keeps talking over him, begging whoever or whatever it is to let Stiles go.
Something that feels like a hook catches in the front of Stiles' shirt and rips him away from his dad, slamming him into the wall opposite the door. Stiles' dad screams his name.
“Shut up!” Stiles hears from the thing – the guy – pinning him to the wall, and oh God, it's an actual person and he's huge and probably an ax murderer and Stiles totally jinxed himself by wondering what Stanley Kubrick would do, and his heart is pounding like a fucking stampede in his chest and he's hyperventilating and he's either going to honest-to-god faint or go into a freaking panic attack and he had been doing so well for the past two years, and oh my God, Stiles feels like he's in a furnace because the guy is standing so close Stiles can feel his insanely high body heat and there's something brushing over his temples and scalp and there's someone shouting and Stiles just can't--
“Slow down,” Stiles hears. Fingers press against his abdomen. “Focus on your breathing.”
Stiles squeezes his eyes shut and focuses on the fingers resting on his belly, focuses on using his breath to push them out and pull them in. 5-2-5, in, hold, and out, a rhythm he knows from too much experience. He repeats, the dizziness fading away, and when he no longer feels like he's going to collapse, he opens his eyes again.
“Oh. Wow. Thanks,” he wheezes, reaching up to pat the hand supporting him against the wall. It jerks away before he can find it and Stiles slips down the wall a little, his knees still a little rubbery.
“Stiles? Are you okay?” his dad asks.
“Yeah,” he pants. “Peachy. Now can we go back to talking about what we were talking about before? Except maybe somewhere with a little light?”
“No!” his dad and the ax murderer shout in unison.
“Or not. We could talk about something else. Parcheesi, anyone? And maybe some light bulbs?”
“No,” tall, dark, and murdery snarls. A finger hooks into the shoulder seam of his shirt and turns him to face the main cellar. “You're going home and he's staying here.”
“Thanks but no thanks,” Stiles says flippantly.
The guy roars, literally roars in Stiles' face, bad breath and all, and Stiles' heart rate spikes. He takes a few controlled breaths before making his witty retort.
“Dude. You have got to get a hold on your temper or I'm going to die of a heart attack right here. Think happy thoughts.”
The guy growls and Stiles can't help but be jealous at how much more growlier it sounds than when Stiles does it. And seriously. Growl envy. How is this even his life?
“Look,” he says, straightening his shirt. “My dad's the sheriff, right? If he doesn't show up for work, a lot of professional investigators are going to get curious, and since my dad's cruiser is LoJacked, they'll be able to trace it right to this house.”
The growl tapers off. “Then you'll drive your dad's car home and never come back .”
“Sure. I promise never to come back.” Stiles hears his dad sigh in relief. “And then when my dad's coworkers come knocking, wondering where their boss has gone, I'll tell them exactly what happened and they'll come right to your house anyway.”
“Stiles,” his dad sighs.
Stiles can practically hear the cogs in Growly's head turning.
“And what if I threaten to kill your dad?”
Stiles' teeth ache as he clenches his jaw hard. “If you hurt my dad, I will dedicate my life to making you suffer.” And wow, maybe Stiles has a pretty decent growl after all.
Growly makes a noise of frustration. It's a sound Stiles is intimately familiar with.
“Fine. What do you want.”
It's the sound of victory.
“A trade. Me for my dad.”
Growly snorts. “What the hell is in it for me?”
And that is an excellent question that Stiles does not know the answer to. “Uh. I'll behave?”
Growly grunts, obviously not impressed.
“I'm a great conversationalist!”
Stiles' dad sighs. And that is so not fair. Stiles' dad is supposed to take Stiles ' side!
Stiles mentally flails for something, anything.
“I'll help you with your roses! Garden work, digging, weeding, whatever you want, and I won't complain!”
“Seriously? Not one complaint?” And why is it Stiles' dad who's asking that question?
“Stop helping,” Stiles hisses. “Just stop.”
“Answer the question,” Growly says. He sounds amused. This is not going how Stiles intended it to go.
Stiles makes a face. “Ugh. Fine. No complaints. Not one. Happy?”
“Happy, no. Surprised, yes,” his father answers.
“Yeah, I love you too, Dad.”
“As wonderful as it is to know how deeply your filial devotion runs, I still refuse. You're going home, Stiles. And that's final.”
“Fine. I told Shelly I'd call back later today anyway, so I'll see you sometime this afternoon.”
Growly grabs him by the front of his shirt and shoves him against the wall again. “I will kill your father,” he snarls.
Stiles forces down his terror and breaks out his best poker face. “You do that and I'll call the fucking FBI. I'll even tell them you're the one who killed the Hale family six years ago.”
Growly throws him to the ground, pins him there, and roars in his face again. It takes every scrap of courage Stiles has to cling to his poker face, especially when something sharp and serrated closes around his throat, but he hangs on, just barely.
“What,” he goads, trying to hide the tremble in his voice under pure bravado. “You gonna kill me too? Right here? You'll have to kill my dad, next. And then Shelly, because I did actually tell her I'd call her back. And then you'll have to kill all the deputies that come looking for my dad's cruiser. And by then, I won't even have to call the FBI, they'll come looking for you on their own. How about them apples, eh?”
Growly growls, and it's just as impressive as before, but he pulls the serrated knives away from Stiles' throat. There's a sound of metal screeching and the door to the cell is being wrenched open. Stiles hears his dad moving, and then he's being hauled by the collar of his shirt. He lands on the ground again and hears the door clang shut.
“Stiles!” his dad shouts.
“Dad?” Stiles gets up and rushes toward the voice, only to slam into the cell door. “Dad! Wait!” He slams against the door again, but it doesn't budge.
“Stiles, I'll get you out of here!” he hears his dad shout, his voice echoing down the corridor. And then there's the slam of another door, probably one leading outside, and Stiles doesn't hear his dad's voice anymore after that.
Growly comes back. Stiles can't hear or see or even really smell him, but his face is pressed up against the bars set in the door and he feels the air currents brush over his face as Growly walks by on ghost-silent feet.
“Are you going to leave me here?” he asks, because he's pathologically incapable of keeping his mouth shut.
“My dad said he'd bust me out.”
“I told your dad that if I so much as suspected him of lurking around my property I would slit your throat and dump the body on the front porch for the scavengers.”
Oh , Stiles thinks. “Oh.” Wait . “I thought this was still Hale land.”
Growly doesn't reply. Maybe he's already walked away? Stiles wishes he had some way of knowing.
“Hey,” he tries. There's no answer, so Stiles pushes off the door and leans his back against it instead. With a long sigh he slides down until he's sitting on the floor, the concrete cold under his butt. He stays like that for a long time.
Introducing Derek, who has too many eyes.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Stiles wakes up starving, shivering, and in dire need of a piss. Luckily, he still has his trusty phone, and while he gets literally no service underground, the screen is bright enough for him to use as a makeshift flashlight. Stiles feels a pang of longing for his trusty Maglite and hopes Growly is more respectful to inanimate objects than he is to people.
The cell actually isn't that bad, once he gets a look at it. There's a cot with a decent mattress, a toilet that smells a little off but flushes clear, a working sink, and even a bar for doing pull-ups. And best, or maybe worst of all, the blanket smells like his dad.
He curls up on the bed, huddled under the blanket, and listens to his stomach try to eat its way out of him Aliens-style.
What the hell is he supposed to do now?
It takes a few seconds to realize that someone is actually speaking to him, and another few after that to realize that it's Growly. Stiles blames his stupor on low blood sugar.
The door creaks open and Stiles hears the jostling of silverware on a tray. The glorious smell of food perfumes the air and Stiles swipes his hand across his chin in a preemptive measure, just in case any drool has already escaped. Dishes clink as the tray is set down on the floor.
“The others will be bringing your meals from now on,” Growly says.
“Others? There's more people living here?”
“No. They're just... the Others.”
Stiles hears the capital 'O' that time. “So they're like, your servants?”
“No,” Growly growls. “Do you ever shut up?”
“In your dreams, Growly,” Stiles snarks.
“What did you just call me?”
Shit . “Uh. G-Gerard?”
“My name is Derek,” Growly snarls. Derek snarls.
“Cool. I'm Stiles.”
“No. You're a pain in my ass,” Derek snarls. Again. Derek snarls a lot.
“In your dreams, Derek,” Stiles taunts. Derek growls, and he does a lot of that too, but Stiles just laughs. The cell door slams shut and Derek's growl trails off down the corridor. Scott would probably be telling him not to provoke ax murderers right about now, but if Derek's feeding him, then Stiles is reasonably sure he's safe from imminent death. Unless Derek is a cannibalistic ax murderer and he's trying to fatten Stiles up before he ax murders him and eats him... Stiles' good mood trails off mid-laugh.
When he turns the lit screen of his cell phone down at the tray, his eyebrows jump in surprise. Next to the covered plates is a small kerosene lamp and a box of matches.
It takes a few tries to get the thing lit, mostly because he's crap at lighting matches, but once he gets one lit, realizes that you actually have to take the glass chimney off first , and gets a second match lit, it's all downhill from there. He tucks into the food, which is delicious , like wow in his mouth , bathed in the modest light and thinking that maybe this whole prisoner deal won't be so bad after all.
He's singing another tune sometime the next morning, bored out of his mind and missing the sunlight.
“Derek!” he shouts. “Hey, Derek!”
There's no answer, so he switches to belting Christina Aguilera at the top of his lungs. He barely gets halfway through a pretty excellent rendition of What a Girl Wants before Derek shows up and kicks the door of the cell.
“SHUT THE HELL UP!” he bellows. And wow, with lungs like those, Derek could probably belt out a good few Broadway show tunes with the best of them.
“Heyyyy, Derek. 'Sup?”
“What. Do. You. Want.”
“Are you gonna let me out yet?”
“I don't care.”
“I'll keep singing.”
Stiles can hear Derek gnash and click his teeth. “Ask one of the Others to bring you a book.”
“What kind of books do you have?”
“What if I want a specific book?”
“Then ask. If the library has it, they'll bring it. If it doesn't, they won't.”
“You have a library?”
More gnashing and clicking. “If I say please, will you shut up?”
Stiles grins. “Probably not?”
“What will make you shut up?”
“Fine. But if you try to run away I will rip your throat out. With my teeth.”
Stiles fist-pumps silently when the door creaks open and rushes out to get a glimpse of his jailor, but what little of the corridor he can see in the dim light of the lamp is empty.
“Thanks, dude!” he calls. Derek doesn't answer, but Stiles doesn't really care. He picks up the lantern and makes his way through the dark house, backtracking the way he'd come in until he's out on the porch, blinking against the sunlight.
Stiles breathes in deep, not caring about the overbearing reek of roses, and looks down at the front yard, at his trusty jeep-
-whose hood is propped open.
“What the hell?” Stiles rushes down the stairs to his Jeep and peers in. Someone has detached a bunch of the lines and wires and taken out enough pieces that even Stiles, who is mechanically illiterate on a good day, can tell that his beloved isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
“Bastard,” he hisses.
The doors to the Jeep are unlocked, but Stiles can't tell that anything is missing. That is, except for his spare cell phone charger . Which means that his cell phone battery will run out, which means he won't be able to call Scott in for a rescue, which means Scott will probably wander into the forest like the kinda dumb kid he is and get lost and starve to death, and then Mrs. McCall will be all alone in the world and it'll all be Derek's fault.
“Asshole,” Stiles spits.
Still, at least he has an extra change of clothes. It's not much, but it's better than wearing the same boxer-briefs for the rest of his imprisonment. He sighs and drapes himself over the bench seat.
Doing nothing outside is just as boring as doing nothing in a cell, so he wanders back into the house, figuring that he could probably talk Derek into giving him free reign in the house now that he's already conceded the outdoors. And Stiles really does want to talk Derek into it, if only to be bugging someone, but either Derek is out or hiding in the locked garage and just really doesn't care, because Stiles ends up exploring the whole house without seeing or hearing from Derek once. So Stiles takes it as unspoken permission to do whatever he likes and moves his crap into one of the bedrooms on the first floor. Actually, Stiles doesn't hear a peep out of Derek until a week later, so it's pretty much just him alone in the house, getting into the swing of things.
The absolute silence drives Stiles a little crazy at first, and he goes tramping around the house and forest sometimes just for the sake of hearing something other than the sound of his own breathing. As he gets used to it though, he notices that the silence isn't as absolute as it seems. The forest constantly makes noise, even though it's sometimes just the wind rustling the leaves. Most of the time though, Stiles hears the unique calls of more types of birds than he knew Beacon hills even had and the occasional animal rooting through the underbrush.
The library is awesome, though. The whole house is three stories tall, but the library is three stories of open space, bookshelves climbing all the way to the ceiling forty feet up. There are carpeted balconies that run the circumference with doors opening into other parts and floors of the house and the ground floor is dotted with free-standing bookshelves and tables and comfy chairs and couches and Stiles never thought it would be possible to have a crush on a room, but seriously, the library is awesome.
His sleeping schedule changes, too. After a very thorough sweep of the premises, he discovers that there is literally not a single working light fixture in the entire house, so the only sources of light are the sun and Stiles' little kerosene lamp. And while Stiles will admit to a fondness, (and only a fondness, no matter what his Dad likes to tell his deputies), for period dramas, reading by firelight gives him a headache, so he either reads by sunlight or not at all. And since this means that he literally has nothing to do after the sun goes down, he gets into the habit where he just eats dinner, takes a shower, and goes to sleep. Ten blissful hours on his heavenly California king later, he gets up, eats breakfast, stomps around the rose garden a little, gawks at the actual blue roses (because they are an actual thing that is actually growing and Stiles is a little terrified of even going near them), and by the time he's pricked himself on a couple of thorns, the sun is up high enough he can go back to the awesome library and keep reading.
He wonders what his dad would say if he knew that Stiles was not only voluntarily getting up before noon but keeping grown-up hours . It depresses him enough that he tries not to think about his dad after that.
But definitely the weirdest thing that Stiles gets used to is the Others. They'll pretty much do anything he asks and make any food he's craving, but as far as Stiles can tell, they're not actually there . They're invisible, soundless, weightless, and capable of doing things that aren't supposed to be possible. The first time he catches them refilling his kerosene lamp without turning it off or even opening it, he spends ten minutes examining the lamp for the hole they'd put the kerosene in through. But when he connects it to all the other impossible things the Others have done, he forces himself to think that maybe magic isn't as fake as most people like to believe. After that, he watches for signs of them wherever he can. He watches them wipe down shelves, the layer of dust peeling away into thin air like it had never been there, or make his dinner, vegetables and meats soaring across the kitchen from the sink to the cutting board to the stove and then onto his plate. Which, hell yeah, it's dinner and a freaking magic show . And if he pretends he's Harry Potter every now and again well, that's between him and the Others.
But still, even though he keeps himself busy, one week alone for an ADHD teenager fresh out of Adderall is one long freaking week alone . By the time he hits the one-week anniversary of his deal with Derek, he's going stir crazy with the need to just talk at someone, or even to see a face that isn't a picture in a book. In a fit of restlessness, he walks a mile down the road, hoping that Derek will follow through on his threat and chase him down. He doesn't, and Stiles doesn't actually want to walk twenty miles along the winding forest road to get to town, so he goes back.
Only to discover a massive pile of clothes on his bed. None of it's his, and Stiles knows because he isn't really the black jean, grey Henley, and leather jacket kinda guy, and also because all the clothes are a size too large. But there's clean underwear, and even though Stiles is a typical teenage-male slob, at least he's a slob who prides himself on always having clean underwear.
He pokes his head out of his room.
“Derek?” he calls hesitantly.
Silence, then, “What?” comes from somewhere nearby.
“Oh, hey! You're back!”
“I never left.”
“What?” Stiles yelps, incredulous. Derek had been lurking in the house like a creepy lurker the whole time Stiles had been slowly going crazy for lack of company? Jerk!
“It's my house. Why would I leave?”
“Oh my God, you could've said something. I thought I was alone!”
“I know. Listening to you sing Brittney Spears' entire discography was simultaneously hilarious and migraine-inducing.”
“Hey!” Stiles scowls at the empty hallway. “Don't talk smack about Brittney!”
“I wasn't,” Derek says wryly. “I was talking smack about you.”
Derek doesn't ignore him again after that. Well, not intentionally. He doesn't voluntarily start conversations with Stiles, but when Stiles yells, Derek yells back and somehow they manage to get along. In fact, living with Derek is kinda like what Stiles imagined dorm life would be like, sharing a space with someone else and having all those awkward getting-to-know-you conversations. Except Stiles never actually sees Derek in the flesh. And because Stiles is Stiles, he has to know why.
“If this is about that bonfire you wanted, I will rip your throat out with my teeth.”
“What? Nah. It was a lame idea anyway. How come I never see you around?”
There's a moment of silence as Derek hesitates. “Because I don't want to be seen.”
“Dude, why not?”
“Because I'm ugly.”
Stiles laughs. “Okay, so on a scale of fugly to wrong-end-of-a-sea-cucumber, how ugly are we talking about here?”
“I make the wrong end of a sea cucumber look like Johnny Depp.”
“Holy crap, Batman. That is ugly.”
“Yes. Now can we drop it?”
There's real and actual bitterness there and Stiles' grin drops off his face. Okay, so this whole horror film/period drama/Harry Potter movie has some Lifetime special thrown in, but Stiles is nothing if not good at rolling with the punches, not thanks to one Jackson Whittemore.
“Sure,” he replies. And that's the last time Stiles mentions it.
A few nights later, he's sprawled out on the porch in the warm July evening looking up at more stars than he'd ever seen before coming to the Hale house. He wonders what his dad did for the Fourth and hopes that whatever it was, it didn't involve eating too many hot dogs. His dad has this love-hate relationship with relish, in that he loves eating it and his body hates digesting it.
“Hey, Derek?” he asks.
“Stiles,” Derek answers. His voice sounds close, like he's sitting just on the other side of the front wall.
“You're a good guy. When I got here, I thought you hated me and wanted to cut out my entrails and eat them, but you're actually pretty cool.”
Derek snorts. “I never hated you,” he admits. “Sure, you pissed me off then and continue to occasionally piss me off now, but I never actually hated you.”
Stiles nods up at the moon. “Hey, Derek.”
“You ever gonna take me up on my offer to work in the garden?”
“Do you even know anything about gardening?”
“No, but you could totally teach me!”
“Maybe later. There's a lot of books on horticulture and roses in the library. Read some of those and we'll talk.”
Stiles grunts. “Fine. But if you don't put me to work doing something other than sitting on my ass reading all day, I'm gonna get fat.”
“I'm pretty sure you could eat half of Beacon Hills and not get fat, you black hole. How did your father ever afford to clothe you with all the money he spent feeding you?”
Stiles shrugs. “I try not to look gift horses in the mouth.”
He watches the stars for a while, idly counting them while his foot jiggles contentedly where it's dangling over the edge.
“What else, Stiles,” Derek says.
Stiles hesitates. He's enjoying this little quiet time conversation they're having, but... “It's just – why did you put my dad in that cell?”
Stiles hears the sound of something hard scraping over wood. It's the first sound Stiles has ever heard Derek make that wasn't his voice and he turns his head toward it, wondering if it was the heel of a shoe or maybe the drag of a belt buckle.
“He tried to take something that was precious to me,” Derek snarls. “I put him in that cell to hold him while I thought of a way to take something that was precious to him.”
There's another scraping noise and Stiles doesn't need to see Derek to know that he's walked away.
Reading about horticulture is really freaking boring. But Derek insists and Stiles promised not to bitch about it, so Stiles reads every book Derek leaves out for him, no matter how mind-numbing it is. So Stiles ends up with a lot of theoretical knowledge about soil and seeds and rose hips but no practical knowledge, which sucks, because summer is wasting away and without lacrosse practice to tire him out Stiles is feeling the restlessness of the young. (Not to be confused with The Young and the Restless, which Stiles will not watch, no matter how much Scott whines and pouts.) Stiles likes living at the Hale mansion, but sometimes he wishes his horror/historical/fantasy/drama movie of a life included a little more of the action genre. Or even the sports genre. He could do with a little sports genre right about now as long as it gets him doing something.
And because Stiles is Stiles, he decides to take things into his own hands like the action man he is. He marches out into the garden, plants his butt on one of the few benches that hasn't been overtaken by the roses, and yells for Derek to haul his ugly ass out of the house.
“You already know what to do,” Derek shouts back from somewhere inside. “So just do it!”
The Others are always listening for orders, so Stiles goes out on a limb and commands, “Bring Derek to the garden.”
He's really not expecting it to work, mostly because that kind of thing seems like it should go against the unwritten rules of the fantasy genre, but apparently Stiles' crazy life is breaking new ground because he hears the sounds of a scuffle coming from one of the upstairs bedrooms and Derek's voice is drifting through the house, calling him every combination of 'asshole', 'motherfucker', and 'bastard' he can think of. The Others dump him on the back porch, which overlooks the bench that Stiles is sitting on, and snap the door shut behind him.
“Dude,” Stiles calls. “I think they like me!”
Derek growls and doesn't get up from the heap of blanket he's cocooned in, so Stiles gets up and walks over to the edge of the porch, trying to peer into the shadows under the edge of the sheet.
“C'mon, Derek,” Stiles cajoles. “Pitter-patter, let's get at 'er, and all that. Daylight's a'wastin.” Of course, it's just gone eight in the morning, but whatever. And oh God, his dad would freak if he knew that Stiles was up and out by eight in the morning. There would be so many suspicious cop stares. So many.
Derek's growl trails off. “I didn't want to do it like this,” he mutters.
“Yeah well, do it nice and quick like ripping off a band-aid. Or getting a bikini wax. If it helps, I promise not to scream in horror at your ugliness.”
Derek makes a noise like he wants to say something but cut it off at the last second. Then he starts crawling to the edge of the porch. Stiles wants to ask why but backs up to give him space as Derek eases himself off the porch and onto the grass below. And then the blanket are sliding off and-
Stiles stumbles back until he trips on his feet and lands on his ass. Then he scrambles back on his hands and feet until he backs up against the bench.
What he'd thought was Derek is some kind of fucked up insect-wolf-lizard thing , and what he'd thought were hands are actually paired claws like a freaking spider and it's looking at him with too many eyes – compound eyes, holy God – and too many legs and oh my God those mandibles are serrated , and Stiles remembers those serrated edges closing around his neck and oh holy God that thing is Derek -
“Stiles!” the thing – Derek – snaps. “Slow down!”
Stiles claps his hand to his abdomen, pressing right where he remembers Derek pressing his claws – oh God oh God – and forces himself to concentrate on the familiar pattern, 5-2-5, in, hold, out.
Stiles looks at Derek except that that's still too many eyes, so he looks up at the sky instead, focusing on the clouds rather than the, the whole terrifying monster thing with the eyes and the scales and the fur and the legs and the claws. Suddenly everything his dad said that day in the dungeon makes a hell of a lot more sense, and yeah, thanks for that, Captain Hindsight. When he's breathing mostly normally and finally ready to look again, he claps his hands over his eyes, points his head in Derek's direction, and peeks between his fingers.
He's still there, still hunched over on the grass, and still horrifically ugly. But Stiles' brain reminds him that he's also still Derek, still the guy who regularly makes fun of him and makes him read boring books and gives him free reign over the house and property. Meaning, he's still Stiles' friend . Stiles takes his hands off his face and makes himself look.
“You really weren't kidding about the whole sea cucumber/Johnny Depp thing, were you?” he quips.
“No,” Derek says, and his voice sounds kinda miserable. Stiles can't really tell what he's feeling by looking at him, since his face seems to have been designed to induce maximum pants-wetting terror at the cost of facial expressions, but he figures that once he stops wanting to piss himself in terror, he'll be able to figure them out along the way. According to the internet, body language usually helps in these kinds of situations, or at least it will once he stops wanting to hide in a corner away from Derek's freakish number of eyes and starts putting two and two together.
Stiles forces himself to his feet and breathes deep and slow, supporting himself on the bench when his knees wobble. Against all odds, it's not actually as bad as it was last time Derek freaked him out, and he pats his hands and butt clean before collapsing back down onto the bench.
“Well?” he asks. His voice only shakes a little. “Is it padawan lecture time or what?”
Derek's...knees/joints/whatevers ripple as he shifts his clawed feet under him and he just sort of...stares at Stiles.
“How the hell are you so okay with this?” he demands, voice rough. His mandibles wiggle while he talks. Stiles bites the inside of his lip against a gigglesnort because suddenly Derek is ten times less scary.
He licks his lips and shrugs. “If people can get over actual phobias, then I can get over the fact that you have way too many eyes. Exposure therapy for the win, right?”
Derek stands up, because apparently he hadn't been before, and walks over to Stiles. Seeing all the legs move is just straight-up freaky, but Stiles is kind of distracted by how big Derek is. From head to end, he's probably ten feet long and definitely bulky enough that he could probably eat all one hundred fifty pounds of Stiles and not look any bigger. And how the hell does something that huge get around so quietly?
“We'll start with weeding,” Derek says, mandibles wiggling. Stiles bites his lips between his teeth. “I've been neglecting it since you came and started occupying my house.”
Stiles gawks up at Derek's looming figure and his internal filter just dies on him. “Will you carry me?”
Derek stares back down at him for an awkwardly long moment, then reaches down and hooks his paired claws into the back of Stiles' waistband, hauling him effortlessly into the air by the waist of his pants.
“Owowowowow! Dude, watch the frangibles!” Stiles yelps, trying to adjust himself in midair so the seam doesn't cut his dick off.
Derek drops him face down in the dirt next to a weed-ridden plot. “If you don't want to be carried, then you're welcome to walk .”
Stiles hitches his too-big jeans up around his waist, desperately glad his belt had put most of the pressure on his belly. Still, he'll probably have a funny bruise just under his belly button.
“Yeah, yeah. Jerk.”
Derek is already claws deep in the dirt, pulling out weeds with the ease of long practice. “Get to work, Stiles.”
Stiles drops to his knees next to Derek's neatly folded legs and is buffeted by his insane body heat. “On it, slave driver,” he grumbles, pulling on his gloves as he observes Derek's work.
He imitates what he sees, grabbing at the base of the weeds and pulling, and the whole morning is an endless repetition of kneeling and pulling, weeds piling up on the garden paths to be collected and composted. By the time Derek calls it a day three endless hours later, Stiles' body is aching all over, especially his back and knees. The knee pads Derek digs out of storage while Stiles sucks down lemonade and BLTs will help with the latter, but only good posture will prevent the former. And God and Stiles' dad know that it'll be a miracle the day Stiles manages even mostly-decent posture.
Stiles moans in relief when Derek dismisses him and hies himself to the library to collapse on his favorite couch. It's a fainting couch upholstered in sinfully lush velvet and Stiles is not ashamed to admit that lounging in it makes him feel like a diva. But no sooner is he comfortably arranged than he's back up on his feet.
“Hey, Derek!” he shouts.
Derek ambles into the library a moment later. He seems a little hesitant, which makes sense, but now that he's shown himself, Stiles intends to have him in visual range as much as possible. Derek is creepy as all get out to look at, but once Stiles got past the instinctive surge of terror that swamped him every time he looked at Derek's still-way-too-many eyes, he realized that Derek is kinda awesome to look at, too. He's like a mashup of all the scariest parts of whatever animals he's made up of, like a horror film monster Hollywood only wishes it could have dreamt up.
“Well?” Derek asks impatiently. His mandibles do this little clicking thing that Stiles had thought was him snapping his teeth in irritation. And yeah, Stiles is so gonna learn the fuck out of Derek's facial expressions.
Stiles flops down onto his diva-couch and gestures broadly at the rug. “Pull up some carpet, dude.”
Derek cocks his head in a half-roll that Stiles doesn't know how to interpret (yet), but curls up on the rug in front of Stiles' diva-couch like a dog. It shouldn't work, not when only half of his legs are only sort of the right shape for it, but somehow it does, the joints bending in such a way that Derek actually looks pretty cozy.
“Is this the Q&A session?” Derek asks dryly.
“Yep. So get comfy.”
Q&A lasts well into the afternoon. Stiles asks every question that comes to mind, from 'what are your scales made of' to 'isn't it weird not to blink'. They break for lunch, and watching Derek eat is simultaneously horrifying and impressive: horrifying because behind the knife-sharp mandibles is an actual mouth with multiple rows of very pointy fang-like teeth, and impressive because Derek eats very neatly for someone with four hooks instead of ten fingers. Stiles goes back for seconds because he's a growing boy and growing boys gotta eat, and Derek rubs his mandibles together, making a grating sound like bone rubbing against bone.
Something about the sound drives Stiles up a wall. It's probably the fact that it sounds like something straight out of a horror flick. “Dude. What,” Stiles snaps after a gulp of orange juice.
Derek stops grinding his mandibles and clicks them the way Scott's Mom sometimes clicks her tongue. “Where the hell do you even put all that?”
Stiles puts down his bread roll to pat a skinny bicep. “What can I say? I'm a growing boy. If I don't eat at least five meals a day I implode and turn into a neutron star of concentrated passive aggression. Not even Jackson bothers me when I've got my bitchface on.”
Derek tips his head to the side and a little forward and clicks his mandibles again. Stiles immediately makes a mental gif of it and adds the caption, bitch plz .
“No, seriously. I missed lunch one day and made Greenberg cry during lacrosse practice. Scott and Danny had to drag me away and stuff me full of vending machine carbs to make me stop.”
And maybe it's a sign that Stiles is an overshare to the point that Derek doesn't even need to ask who any of these people are, but he keeps on going with the story of when he made Allison punch him in the face that one time he skipped breakfast. Q&A turns into storytime, and by the time the sun sets over the trees and all the starvation anecdotes have been told, Stiles barely notices the claws and the scales and the rough, patchy fur that grows around the segmented plates of Derek's carapace. It all becomes part of Stiles' mental image of Derek, slotting in next to 'dedicated botanist' and 'desert-dry humor', and squeezing up next to the bulk that is rather vaguely labeled 'mysterious past'.
After that, it seems like they spend every waking moment, (and some napping moments), in each others' company. Stiles loves it, thrives on it, because he genuinely likes being around people, even needs to be around people. And most of all, he needs to feel like he's useful to other people. In a moment of weakness he'd once admitted it to Scott's mom, worried that it was unhealthy for him to peg so much of his self-esteem on how helpful he could be to others. She'd sighed, pulled him in for a hug, and called him a 'nurturer' and a 'well-intentioned hell-raiser' in the same breath. They'd been bros ever since.
So Stiles thrives off of nurturing Derek, because if there's anyone who needs nurturing, it's a spider-wolf-lizard chimera shut-in who hasn't interacted with anyone but his roses and Stiles in God knows how long. Derek needs someone to be his friend, to look at him and talk to him and to just touch him without hesitating, so Stiles does all those things; he talks to Derek until Derek tells Stiles to shut the fuck up, and then talks some more; he looks at Derek's scales or his too-many compound eyes or the leathery folds of skin at his joints and asks the weirdest and most intrusive questions he can think of just for the sake of asking weird and intrusive questions; he jumps onto Derek's back while he's drowsing on the library rug even though it means some really weird bruises when Derek flinches in surprise and knocks him onto the floor with five elbows and a paw.
And yeah, maybe Stiles starts to feel a little more for Derek than just friendship, maybe wants to just curl up with him and find out what's so damn great about that library rug, maybe even wants to feel the heat of the tough skin under Derek's fur with his lips, (which should really be a more disturbing thought than it is), but Derek's needs are more important than Stiles' maybes, so he just takes that fledgling 'something more' and locks it away where it can't do any damage to Stiles' ongoing nurturing.
No cuddly werewolf beast for you, readers. Nuh-uh. And anyone who says the scariest part of a spider is anything other than its too-many eyes is lying.