Stiles was six and still very small. (Okay, she'd never be huge, but she was tinier then) Daddy called her Thumbelina and made her a little stool with blue flowers so she could reach the sink to brush her teeth. It wasn't easy even then. Sometimes, Daddy just sat her on the bathroom counter and winked saying, "Our little secret, okay?" because Stiles wasn't supposed to be up on the counter. She could fall and stab herself with the toothbrush and Mommy said that would be bad.
She didn't like being small (still doesn't, but that's not news), but Mommy and Daddy said she'd get bigger and she believed them. She didn't realize that bigger didn't mean 'big', but she was just a kid and kids don't know that sort of thing. She just knew that it made her feel better because Stiles didn't like being tiny. She liked Daddy calling her Thumbelina, but she didn't like why. She didn't like needing help all the time and she didn't like that everyone had to 'look after her'.
Nobody liked doing it. Looking after Stiles was hard. She made sure of it. She was little, but she could take care of herself and she did it all the time. Nobody who wasn't Stiles liked it much at all when she did that. She got Yelled. At. and sent to bed early, only to get right up and do it again the next day.
Somewhere along the lines, though, Mom and Aunt Cyn decided to be mean.
Stiles liked Laura. Laura told good stories and saved the best cookies. When she babysat, she let Stiles stay up just a little too long and always read one more book before turning out the lights. Stiles didn't like Derek. Derek was a grumpywolf who complained about everything. One time, she had to change her shampoo three times in a week because they all made him sneeze. (Stupid wolf and his sniffing)
Stiles didn't like it when they followed her everywhere (though Aunt Cyn said it was good practice for them to find her and she liked helping the pack practice) but her mom and dad loved it when they kept Stiles out of trouble.
They weren't there the night the men came. Daddy was fresh off his shift, still in his uniform with his gun, and he went out to talk to them like he knew them. Stiles thought that he did. Maybe. One looked like that mean old man from down the street. She wasn't allowed to talk to that man. She wasn't allowed to talk to anyone in his family. Mommy said they didn't like the wolves, so Stiles didn't mind. Anyone who didn't like the wolves was stupid.
That was probably why she knelt up on her bed, peering over the windowsill to watch Daddy confront the men. She'd never seen her daddy arrest someone before and she really, really wanted to. She watched them talk, heard their voices get loud, and watched the old man in the lead wave his hand.
She didn't see what he was holding, didn't recognize the sound when it cracked through the air, but she knew it was bad when her daddy dropped to the ground.
The men didn't even stop. They stepped right over his body and came for the house. Mommy slammed into Stiles' room, grabbing her up off the bed. Stiles fought at her, scrambling to get free, wanting to get downstairs to Daddy.
Mommy didn't let go, didn't say anything, just pressed Stiles' face into her shoulder and ran. Stiles didn't know where, not until she felt the cold air of the night against her neck. They were running out of the house.
"No!" she wailed, pushing against her mother. "No, no, no, no!!! DADDDYYYYYYYYY!" She didn't care if the men could hear her, she didn't care who heard her, she just wanted to go back there. She knew Daddy was lying on the ground in front of the house. She knew he was hurt and he couldn't run and follow them. He wouldn't know where they were and she couldn't leave him.
Didn't matter, though. Mommy wouldn't stop. Wouldn't slow down. She just shifted Stiles and clapped a hand over her mouth. It was awkward and she started to trip, but she kept moving and kept her hand right where it was.
Stiles heard shouting behind them, clear and crisp in the night air. They were following. She stopped fighting at that. She didn't really understand why, but she knew it was bad. They were following them and they'd hurt her Daddy. She didn't think that they wanted anyone to know about that, but she knew. Mommy knew.
She started to cry.
The shouting was getting closer and Mommy turned to look. It was a mistake. She twisted, tripped, and lost her balance. Stiles and her Mommy fell to the forest floor with a thump and a sickening crack. Mommy cried out, saying something she wasn't supposed to say, and didn't move for a minute. At least, she didn't seem to.
Not until Stiles realized that Mommy was crying. Stiles got up on her hands and knees, crawling over to look at her. "Mommy?"
Mommy looked up, eyes red and puffy. She smiled sadly, cupping Stiles' face with her hand. Her hand was dirty, cut, and nothing like Mommy's hands were supposed to be, but Stiles didn't care. She clung to it anyway. Especially when Mommy murmured her name, her real name and said, "You need to run, sweetie. You need to run to Laura and Derek's house, okay? Aunt Cyn and the pack, they'll take care of you."
Stiles was little. Too little. She didn't know what to say. She didn't know what to do, but she knew this wasn't right. Mommy wasn't supposed to look like she did or sound like she did. It was wrong. It was the kind of wrong that never went right again and didn't matter how little Stiles might be—she understood.
"You need to, Stiles," Mommy said. She pulled off her necklace, draping it over Stiles' neck. "You need to run there as fast as you can and you don't look back. Do you promise?"
Stiles hesitated, but Mommy curled her hand tight around her wrist and repeated, "Do you promise?"
Nodding silently, Stiles wrapped her arms around her Mommy's neck and hugged her one last time. She started to cry, they both did, but she still got up and ran with the sound of her mother's, "Go" echoing in her ears.
She ran. She ran faster than she ever had before, but not fast enough to miss that cracking sound. The same one she'd heard before Daddy fell.
Skidding to a stop in the trees, she looked back, but she couldn't see anything. She heard the men, though. The same voices as before. She didn't understand, really. She couldn't. It would be years before Stiles would know what the hunters were and that they did more than just hate the wolves. She couldn't yet understand how that hate could extend beyond the wolves to the humans that supported them. She couldn't understand how they could chase a little girl through the woods after murdering her parents.
When she did, though, she'd hate them. She'd hate them more than any wolf ever could. She would and she'd do something about it. That much she understood even then. Some day, she was going to fix this. She was going to make sure they couldn't hurt anyone else the way they'd hurt her family.
For now, though, all she could do was keep her promise and run. She was little, but she was fast. Not even stupid Derek could catch her when she meant business.
She kicked up the leaves as she ran, ignoring the rocks and twigs that scraped at her bare feet. The house wasn't far and she made it before the men could catch her. She didn't care if she left a trail behind her.
The door slammed open before she hit the front steps. Aunt Cyn was there, eyes red and her teeth bared at the sight of Stiles in her nightgown and bloody feet, holding tight to her Mommy's necklace.
Safe and sure of that, Stiles crumpled. She dropped into a ball, sobbing. Aunt Cyn swept down the stairs, making noises of comfort, lifting Stiles into her arms and carrying her into the house. She said something, but she wasn't talking to Stiles. A second later, Stiles heard the howling of the wolves and the pounding of feet as they raced out into the night.
"I'm sorry, sweetheart," Aunt Cyn said, carrying Stiles into the kitchen. "This wasn't supposed to happen."
Which was a dumb thing to say, Stiles thought. Of course it wasn't supposed to happen. It wasn't Aunt Cyn's fault, though. What else were you supposed to say? Stiles was little, but she understood that. When awful things happened, adults had to say important things to make kids feel better. At least, they thought they did. Stiles just sniffled and let Aunt Cyn settle her on the kitchen counter.
It was Laura, but Laura never sounded like that. Stiles had never heard her sound small and afraid. She didn't like it and she started to cry again.
Except there was a noise and when she rubbed at one eye, opening the other, she found Derek sitting on the counter next to her. He gave her a box of tissues (dummy) and then took her by the hand. He let her squish his hand when Aunt Cyn got the disinfectant and put it on Stiles' feet. He didn't even make fun when she hid her face against his shoulder and cried.
Sometimes, Derek wasn't a total grumpywolf.
Aunt Cyn finished bandaging up Stiles' feet and lifted her up again. "You probably won't be walking much on those for a while."
Stiles nodded. She looped her arms around Aunt Cyn's neck. She'd been upstairs before. She'd even slept over a couple of times. She had the lower bunk in Laura's room so she wasn't surprised when Aunt Cyn settled her there.
"I know you don't want to," she said, tucking Stiles in, "but try to sleep." She didn't say anything silly about everything looking better in the morning. Aunt Cyn said silly things sometimes, but even she wasn't that bad.
Stiles nodded and closed her eyes like she was supposed to.
Aunt Cyn kissed her forehead, tucked her in a little more, then got up and left. A second later the light clicked out and Laura climbed up into the upper bunk. She was silent for a long time, then said, "I'm sorry."
She sounded like Stiles felt and that made Stiles start crying again. She curled onto her side, pressing her face into the pillow, and tried to muffle it. She knew, though, that the wolves would hear.
Howling outside the house said as much.
She didn't sleep for a long time. Not until the door opened and someone crept in. Laura made a questioning noise above her, but didn't complain when no one answered. That told the tale of who it was.
Stiles sat up and looked at Derek. Stupid Derek with his sad eyes and tear-stained cheeks. He climbed onto the bed with her, sitting against the wall. After a second, Stiles sat up with him. He wrapped an arm around her shoulder and rested his head against hers.
Crying was easier when you didn't do it alone.