It’s Nalini who wakes him, the cold shove of her snout against the side of his face before her tongue hits him, wet and rough as sandpaper as his hands scrabble for purchase against the scruff of her neck, pushing her away.
“Whu?” He mumbles, mouth slow and still working around a sleep addled brain as his Dad walks into the room in his uniform, pillow creases still marking his cheek, looking apologetic and sad.
“Sorry kiddo,” he says, voice soft and quiet, as if he’s afraid of waking someone else up, running a hand through his sandy hair and fiddling around with his radio as it starts to beat out static and the practiced calm undercurrent of rising voices trying to get his attention.
“Where this time?” Stiles asks, rubbing his eyes as Olesia perches on the bed, just above his hip, preening her feathers.
His Dad quickly checks his watch and winces, “You’ve gotta come with us,” He sighs. “But-”
“Yes!” Stiles interrupts him, quickly throwing the covers back and startling Olesia into the air, feathers ruffled she hops up and settles onto his shoulder, pecking at him lightly in retribution. “Sorry, ow, sorry,” he mutters, placing his hand in between them before running it soothingly down her back, the pair of them looking up at his Dad expectantly.
On a normal call he gets woken up and taken next door to Mrs Stellen’s, who has an alpaca for a daemon that tends to spit, its thick and shaggy fur smelling of a curious mixture between mothballs and mint, and in the middle of the night the pair of them usually conk out after fifteen minutes on her sunken in sofa, the tv quietly buzzing in the background as the two of them snore away like a pair of gorillas, but she’s gone away for the week, visiting her kids in some city that Stiles has already forgotten the name of, with the promise to bring him back something sweet so long as he remembers to water her plants every other evening.
His Dad isn’t supposed to be on call tonight though, which means whatever happened must be serious and it’s too late to wake up Scott’s Mom and take him round, so the four of them pad out onto the drive quietly, his Dad packing Stiles and Olesia into the back of his squad car with some juice and a book, throwing a fleece blanket over Stiles’ knees.
“The rules?” His Dad asks, ten minutes in and with Stiles too wired to go back to sleep now, eyeing him in the rear view mirror. They’re making their way through the woods, long dark limbs from the trees scratching at the side of the car and his window, and its dark enough out that it seems like shadows lurk behind the thickest of the tree trunks, waiting in the thickets of bush off to the side, watching; Olesia presses herself against his stomach, the claw of one foot wrapped tight around his little finger.
“Stiles?” He blinks, turning his head, rolling his eyes.
Nalini’s ears prick up as the commotion starts to make itself known, the bright lights of the cop cars shining and flashing in the distance, the sharp and brilliant reds and blues looking at odds with the muted greens and dark browns of the wood around them. He pulls back his focus to find his Dad still waiting. “Right,” he says, “No getting out of the car.” His Dad nods. “Keeping the door locked at all times unless you ask me to open it.”
“And?” his Dad says, swearing as the car lurches over a fallen branch that he’s managed to miss from watching his son instead of the road in front of him.
“Try to get some sleep,” Stiles answers, the words easily rolling off of his tongue, practiced.
“Right,” his Dad says, driving into the commotion and parking up just on the outskirts, far enough away that Stiles isn’t in the thick of whatever’s going on, but close enough that he can still keep checking on the car and his hopefully asleep kid and daemon inside of it - yeah like that’s going to happen.
Nalini barks getting out of the car, heading off to meet the leading cop as his Dad hesitates, fingers curling around the hood of the car. “Just be good, okay?” Stiles nods, snapping the locks shut on the door until his Dad nods and grins down at him, already a few steps away as he turns and mouths that he’ll be back as soon as possible, but this isn’t Stiles’ first late night crime scene, he knows it’ll take as long as it takes and then after that’ll be the beginnings of paperwork back at the station, but at least he’ll get a good story to tell Scott tomorrow.
As soon as his Dad’s out of sight, Stiles shifts, pushing his top half out of the blanket and letting it fall to his feet, hands pressing up against the car window, the heat of his skin marking the cool glass in webbed fingerprints. “You said we’d stay put,” scolds Olesia.
Stiles looks down at her, pressing one hand on his chest as if wounded and says, “We are staying put, but he never said we couldn’t get a closer look, did he?”
She clicks her beak back at him. “You said we’d try to get some sleep.”
“Try,” he emphasises, “And I don’t know about you but I’m definitely not in the slightest bit sleepy.” Not when he can see ambulance doors stretched as wide open as a yawn, thick smoke curling into the sky behind them in the distance, the tops of the fire engine trucks just visible in front.
“It looks like a fire,” Olesia says, perched on the dash by the window, entirely too curious for someone who a second ago was lecturing him about the rules.
“Must be bad,” he murmurs, counting up the amount of cops, ambulance and firemen scrambling around the woods in varying degrees of stressed and distracted.
“What do you think happened?” She asks, looking straight at him, unblinking.
Stiles shrugs, curling up closer to the door as a couple of men roll a trolley into the back of an ambulance, grim faces dark in the moonlight, a crisp white sheet covering what looks like, even from this distance, a body.
Olesia flits to his knee, tucking her head away under her wing and suddenly Stiles feels uneasy, thinking of how many black and broken bodies might be wheeled away in the night. He looks away from the window, tightly closing his eyes, hands twisting together, fingers as tight and wrapped around each other as the thick tree roots just outside. He tries to get the image out of his head: crisp white sheets and the smell of the hospital, everything too white and stinking of bleach, and everything that came after, the funeral and the quiet, the way that sometimes he’d wake up in the morning and forget for just a second, only to remember everything at once, the sharp reality of not having his Mom in his life anymore taking away even his breath.
Olesia pushes herself into his hands, head prying his clenched fingers apart in order to bring him back to reality, his lungs already beginning to feel stretched and too tight inside his chest.
“Maybe we should read the book?” She suggests as Stiles nods and cracks it open, forcing himself to breath deep and slow, the words one big blur on the paper.
He gets through about ten pages before his Dad makes it back, face lined with fear and worry, dark smudges of soot circling his jaw.
“Good book?” He asks him, distracted, and Stiles nods, not that he can remember a word that he’s just read, Nalini crawling into the back with them, snuffling her cold nose up and down his neck.
His Dad explains to him about it being a house fire, how the majority of the family hadn’t survived, and most likely inhaled too much smoke before the flames even caught. There are a few that are at the hospital now though, an older man and a younger girl, skin covered in burns as the doctors try to keep them alive and breathing.
“We just have to hope,” his Dad says, shaking his head wearily, his jacket looking too heavy, as if it could pin his shoulders down to the floor.
Stiles still has his blanket, his book, the bottle of water now warm in his hand as Olesia swoops low over his head, the station’s lights flickering up above them. There’s an empty waiting room with his name on it, calling out even though the last thing Stiles can even think about right now is sleep. His Dad still has to wait on the fire report, his teeth on edge as he gnaws at the end of a pen and Stiles can guess that he already suspects arson, not that he’s admitted it to him, but sometimes his Dad is just an easily read, open book.
“Looks like it’s going to be a late one,” he says, blowing air out of his cheeks. “D’you wanna hunker down for the night, in a bit I’ll go out and get us a really unhealthy breakfast?”
The last thing Stiles can think about is eating, but he nods his head anyway, watching as his Dad tries his best not to crack a yawn. Nalini’s already settled down in the corner, her head flat against the floor, eyes alert and watching.
“Coffee?” He asks. There’s a machine down the corridor, one of those that gives you a choice of options, you just have to stand there, push the button and wait for the machine to fill your cup. It’s not the best brew but Stiles knows his Dad practically lives on it during bad night shifts.
“For me,” he says, raising one eyebrow, “You are not to touch a drop of the stuff.”
“No caffeine,” Stiles agrees, crossing his heart and leaving the room to get the next best thing at his age, which has to be hot chocolate.
The machine’s located near the first questioning room and to get to that Stiles has to pass Marlene on the front desk who has a hawk daemon that never misses a thing and a sympathetic smile always at the ready; she has a kid around Stiles’ age, maybe a year or two older, who’s probably tucked up in bed right now fast asleep. “Midnight binge?” She asks, eyeing his current direction and giving him a huge grin.
“Sure thing,” he answers, “You want one? I’m grabbing my Dad a coffee.”
But she shakes her head no, “But those kids right there could probably do with a dose of something sweet.” She tosses her head in the direction of the row of chairs ahead of him, where right now two kids sit hunched together waiting, both circled by two of the biggest wolf daemon’s Stiles has ever seen, they even make Nalini seem small in comparison.
“The two Hale kids,” she says, keeping her voice low. “They weren’t in the house when the fire started; they’re here until we know what’s going on at the hospital.” And with that she purses her lips, her hawk daemon letting loose a shrill hoot.
Olesia flies to his shoulder, landing deftly and kneading at his skin with her claws. “They’re big,” she whispers, the curve of her beak catching his ear.
The black wolf seems to be the smaller of the two, hunched back against the younger boy’s legs, it’s paws crossed one over the other, but still alert and ready looking, in fact even from here Stiles can see the beginnings of its sharp white teeth peeking out over its lower lip. It’s the red wolf that seems more edgy though, constantly pacing up and down between the girl and the boy, claws tapping out a clicking rhythm against the tiled floor.
He tries not to look at them as he passes, hoping his ears just imagine the low grumble of a growl as he scurries past.
“What are you doing?” Olesia asks, still perched on his shoulder as he finds himself filling two extra plastic cups full of hot chocolate, after he’s filled his own and his Dad’s. His fingers warm and tingling against the side as he carries them back. He shrugs, not feeling like giving an answer, not able to explain how losing not just one, but almost all of your family so sudden and swift can’t do anything but hurt. It’s really no wonder the daemon’s so tense, hovering over the pair protectively, not willing to let anybody else hurt what he guesses in wolf terms would be considered a pack.
The red wolf glowers when he approaches, the girl looking slowly up. Her hair’s loose and bedraggled, like she’s run her fingers through it a few too many times and there’s still the marking’s of dirt on her face, smudged like at some point she’s tried to hastily rub it off. “Um,” he says, eloquently, suddenly unsure if this was his best idea, even if he can feel Marlene’s approving smile down the hall. “I thought you might like a drink.” He swallows thickly, the girl’s red and raw eyes blinking wetly as what looks like the beginnings of what could be a small smile start to take shape on her face.
“Thank you,” she says, voice a low burr, the red wolf seemingly relaxing a little to sit back watching at her side. “Derek,” she calls, elbowing the younger teen next to her until he sniffs a little and looks up.
He’s in that in between stage of growing up that Stiles has yet to, and feels like he never will hit; where his limbs seem just a little too long for his body, making his movements a little awkward and stilted as he shifts. He makes Stiles nervous, like the older kids at school that you can tell just by looking don’t even know you exist. He waits and holds out the next cup, bumping Derek’s hand and accidentally splashing a little of the liquid across his fingers, the teen not even flinching as it hits his bare skin.
“Sorry,” he says, Olesia ruffling her wings as the black wolf lets out a low snarl in response.
But Derek just grunts in acknowledgment, going back to wherever he’d been lost before inside his own head.
“Don’t worry,” the girl says, taking a small sip from the cup and closing her eyes. “His bark’s worse than his bite.”
And Stiles smiles, nodding and taking a step back, unsure if she means the daemon, her own brother or both.
“Miss Hale?” The girl looks up, “If you’d like to come this way.” Officer Stuart has a wad of papers in his hand, obviously hoping to go over any information that might help, holding the door open as the girl and the red wolf get up and walk past. She’s still clutching the hot chocolate in her hand, fingers tight and shaking just the slightest bit against the lip of the cup.
The black wolf doesn’t even bother with him once the girl’s gone, so he turns and grabs his own drink and his Dad’s coffee, taking one last glance at Derek as he passes to see that he hasn’t even moved an inch, still just sitting there, his wolf resting her head on top of his feet.
“You should drink it while it’s still hot,” he says, Olesia scrabbling about the back of his neck as if to say abort, abort, stop talking now before you regret it, and he sort of does already, as Derek blinks once again and looks up, like there’s a cloud lifting from his gaze as he stares at Stiles and then back at the drink, as if it’s the first time he’s seen either of them, flexing his fingers around the cup.
His daemon gets up after that, resting her head on top of his lap as with his free hand Derek strokes the scruff of her neck, fingers resting deep in her fur, seemingly more content. He’s taking a sip of the drink as Stiles walks away, the black wolf daemon leaning closer as she whispers something to him just out of Stiles’ earshot.
“Hey kid,” he hears, turning around to see the black wolf shoving its snout into Derek’s side as he glares back at her, no doubt trying to get her to stop. “Um, thanks,” he says, once she’s stopped pestering, voice coming out gruff like he’s chewing gravel.
Stiles nods and stumbles, clipping his side on the front desk as he turns back, earning him an extra grin from Marlene and a quick, “Go on, get that coffee back to your Dad.”
His Dad’s on the phone when he slips in, putting the cup down on his desk and getting a terse and distracted nod as thanks, Olesia fluttering down to the corner where there’s another chair for Stiles to sit in.
“What do you think will happen to them?” She asks, keeping her voice low so as not to disturb the phone call as Stiles sits back to think. When his own Mom had died he’d at least had his Dad, a constant in his life that even when dealing with his own grief had always been there for Stiles.
“At least they have each other,” he says, watching his Dad reach for the coffee and take a burning hot mouthful. You can get by with two he thinks, just look at Scott and his Mom, or Stiles and his Dad; it might not be the best situation but at least they still had each other whole and intact.
That has to count for something, Stiles thinks, as Olesia dips her head in his cup, stealing a sip of his drink.