The first time that Stiles sees Derek appear out of the woods, it isn’t the intimidating glare or the leather jacket or even the stunning attractiveness of him that catches Stiles with his jaw hanging open; it’s that he glows the brightest, most beautiful blue Stiles has ever seen.
It’s not like it’s the first time Stiles has seen the colors; Scott normally brings with him a pleasant woodsy brown, his dad has a solid navy blue, and Lydia glows almost golden. It started when his mother died. She had been sick for months, they knew it was coming, and it was all his father could do to get Stiles to go to class sometimes or home to take a shower before Stiles was back to camping out in her hospital room.
His mother had always been different the same way Stiles is, filled with a sort of energy that felt like it might brim over at any point and infect the space around it. Only his mother had always seemed more controlled, like the energy that in Stiles resulted in flailing arms and mile-a-minute babbling in his mother was directed into a kind of brilliantly intense focus. Stiles could never seem to focus much at all.
It was that day in the hospital that Stiles mom told him how they were different, how he was different. She told him about the power of the moon and the earth, about how people glowed with the strength of their souls, about how he need only listen to the world and it would talk back to him; she told him how being outside would ground him, how he would attract wild, unbalanced things to him, how it was his job to balance and heal and love, that the stories she’d told him every night had all been true. She told him that when she died, he would inherit her powers--that he would have to learn what he could about them on his own. She told him to trust himself. And she told him she loved him, that it had to be this way, that it was his turn.
When she passed away that night, Stiles watched as the world began to glow around him and could only think of how unfair a trade it was.
So it had been years, and Stiles was used to the colors, and he knows always to leave a broom close to the door to keep out bad luck, that if he makes his father’s food himself he looks healthier the next day, that Scott always has fewer asthma attacks if Stiles imagines the air to be cleaner around them, and mostly he learns that if he fills the space around him with words, any words, he can ignore the way the world clamors and clanks at him, demanding to be fixed.
So yeah, it’s not really his dad’s police scanner that alerts him to the first death, the death of Laura Hale, though it does give him the details. The forest had screamed to him, so loud that even his words couldn’t drown it out, screamed of bloodshed and unbalance. And because he is his mother’s son, he has to listen.
So the police scanner wasn’t why they were here, exactly, but it’s not like Stiles is going to ignore that his dad is out investigating in the same forest that had been screaming bloody murder at him just yesterday. He can feel something wild out there and it isn’t something he can let his dad face alone, not when it’s supposed to be his job, the one he’s been, well, yeah, ignoring up till now. Not when his dad is all he really has left.
Scott is an idiot but he’s Stiles’ best friend for a reason. It’s not like just anybody would agree to follow their best friend on a hunt for half a dead body in a forest at night. So maybe Stiles has downplayed the dangers a bit but whatever, this is their forest, Stiles’ forest, and it isn’t like he’s about to let Scott get hurt.
“Dude, are you sure this is a good idea? I can’t believe we’re doing this!”
Scott reaches for his inhaler as he wheezes after Stiles, stumbling over a tree branch. Stiles waves his flashlight in front of them with a wild gesture and tries to concentrate more on mojo-ing Scott’s breathing without losing the trail the forest is leading him on.
“This is the best idea, Scott, come on! You’re always saying nothing happens in this town,” Stiles says, “now that something has we obviously have to investigate.”
“But what if whoever did it is still out here?” Scott breathes out after taking a hit from his inhaler.
Stiles pauses for a minute because he’s sort of banking on that being the case but it’s not like Scott knows that and he can’t exactly tell him that, and wait, what is he going to do with Scott once he actually finds the thing that did this? It’s possible he didn’t think this plan through entirely.
“It’s…possible I didn’t think this plan through entirely.”
“Y’think?” Scott’s voice is dry and Stiles can practically see his eyes rolling in the dark.
“It’s fine, man, we’ll make it up as we go along. Besides, looking for a dead body in the woods? That is classic right-of-passage stuff, Stand by Me style.”
“Weren’t they like, 12 in that movie?” Scott is bumping up a little faster on his tail now.
“Better late than never, my friend, and I am telling you, this is our year!” Stiles says, waving his arms grandly.
A burst of noise comes from the right and Stiles ducks behind a tree with a curse. He’d been concentrating so hard on Scott’s breathing and the path the forest was showing him that he’d forgotten to keep track of the cops. Scott, oblivious as usual, continues walking forward, yapping about how he’s definitely going to make first line on the lacrosse team this year. Another few steps is all it takes before the police are making their way quickly and noisily towards Scott’s not very stealthy voice.
“Shit,” Stiles mumbles, knocking the back of his head against the tree.
“Hang on, I know this one,” his dad’s voice comes out of the brush. He has his hand on the back of Scott’s hoodie and looks seriously not thrilled.
“Scott, what are you doing here? Wait, don’t answer that, why am I even asking? Stiles! Come on out, Stiles!”
Stiles sighs and starts to move from behind the tree.
“He’s not here, Mr. Stilinski, it’s just me,” Scott says. Stiles freezes again. Best. Friend. Ever.
“Stiles!” his dad calls again. Stiles bites down hard on his lip but doesn’t move.
“Really, Mr. Stilinski, I just dropped my inhaler here earlier, I was training for lacrosse…” Scott starts elaborating on his plans to make first line and Stiles peeks out and catches a glimpse of the same bored, exasperated expression on his dad’s face he knows is reflected on his own any time Scott and lacrosse are involved.
“Alright, alright. Scott, you’d better head home,” his dad interrupts Scott’s manifesto and pushes him gently in the direction of the road. “Your mom will be hearing about this.”
Scott sighs and Stiles listens as the sound of footsteps once again travel away from him. Well, at least this solves the minute problem of how to keep his awesome best friend from finding out about his weird…thing.
Stiles waits another ten minutes or so before popping out from behind the tree and continuing down the trail. The forest is louder than before when he doesn’t have Scott to concentrate on. He feels it pulling at him, directing him towards the center of the maelstrom.
He only moves faster when he hears the howl. It is a howl of despair, the howl of something rabid and alone and angry, and it makes him shiver. Stiles isn’t exactly anybody’s idea of a hero, he knows, but that’s not going to stop him from trying to do something about this.
It’s another ten minutes before he reaches the small clearing in the trees and his breath catches at what he sees. The wolf is gigantic---too large to be a natural wolf, which Stiles would know even if the space around it weren’t shining an angry red. And then there are the eyes, the same shade of red and full of pain. The creature huffs in his direction, pacing the small area cautiously without taking its eyes from the human in its midst. Stiles knows somehow that it’s important not to be the one to look away. This is his forest and it will not lie to him.
He’s not sure how long the stand-off lasts. He’s trying to think calm feelings at the wolf-thing but his eyes are beginning to feel dry and he’s itching to look anywhere else. He’s getting desperate when he feels something break inside him and the wolf suddenly shifts its position, lowering its hackles before looking off at something on the ground a short distance away. It lets out one more howl, this one full of mourning, before darting off into the woods.
Stiles lets it go. He nearly trips in his haste to see what it is the wolf had been trying to show him, even less graceful than usual after whatever the hell that was. The dry leaves crackle under his feet as he edges towards the lump on the ground. The lump that is starting to look more and more like the missing half of a body.
“Oh, god,” his voice breaks.
The woman is---was---beautiful. Light brown hair, high cheekbones, an aquiline nose and no lower body. Stiles fights the urge to throw up or run. There’s no way she died peacefully. The forest is mourning her loss. He’s trying to decide what to do with her when he feels another tugging on his mind. The police are getting closer and it feels like there’s someone else nearby. There’s no way he can get her out of there in time. He takes one last look around the clearing, vows to come back tomorrow, and hightails it out of there.
A wolf-creature and a dead body were enough pressure for one night; he really doesn’t need to get caught by his dad and grounded, too.
“Dude, I was in so much trouble!” Scott grumbles at him angrily. Stiles winces and throws his hands up defensively.
“I know, man, seriously, I am so sorry but you are the best friend ever and I love you?” he tries.
Scott purses his lips and glares.
“Ok, I know, but Scott, I found the body,” Stiles flails his arms again, certain this piece of information will convince Scott to let bygones be bygones.
He’s not wrong.
“Wait, are you serious?” Scott’s eyes have gone considerably wider and he leans into Stiles’ space.
“Yes,” Stiles hisses, “and there was a freaky wolf thing there, too!” because he may as well go all out, he keeps enough secrets from Scott as it is with his weird thingy.
Scott make a face again.
“Stop fucking with me, dude,” he grouses, turning to stomp away.
“I’m not.” Stiles bunches his fists in Scott’s shirt and holds him there. “I am so not joking here it’s not even funny. Dude, you know my lying face, this is not my lying face.”
Scott squints at his face as if he doesn’t know Stiles is the worst liar on the planet before he apparently decides to believe him.
“It couldn’t have been a wolf,” Scott says, “Dr. Deaton says there haven’t been wolves in California for like, sixty years or something.”
“I know that, man, that’s why I said a wolf-thing. It was like, a wolf, but way bigger and with like, red eyes.” Stiles waves his hand in front of his face in order to demonstrate the alarmingness of this.
“Did you take like, a ton of adderall last night or something? Cause I’m pretty sure you were hallucinating,” Scott says, and he almost looks concerned.
“Ugh, fine, don’t believe me. I’ll take you back to the body! There’s gotta be like, paw prints or something out there I can show you. After classes?”
“After lacrosse tryouts! You cannot have forgotten,” Scott makes a face like Stiles has forgotten his own birthday or something.
“Oh, yeah, no, of course not, after tryouts. Don’t, uh….eat anything before we go though, it’s a little…” Stiles trails off, flashing back to blood and missing limbs.
Scott sticks his tongue out and then bell rings for homeroom. They shoot up the stairs and into the building. There’ll be time for warnings later.
“That was awful,” Scott mumbles through his hands as Stiles leads him into the woods.
“Come on, Scotty, it wasn’t that bad,” Stiles pats his friend on the back. Sure, it wasn’t exactly Scott’s best moment, but…
“He hit me in the face! I went down before we even really started. Stiles, Allison saw.”
“Who’s Allison?” Stiles asks distractedly, focusing on which direction he had come from last night, “that hot new girl?”
“Yes. Stiles, she’s perfect and I totally humiliated myself in front of her. There’s no way I’ll even make first line this year, either.” Scott tugs his hoodie down with a grumble.
“We’ll keep practicing, man, don’t even worry about it. You know what Winston Churchill said about falling down and getting back up!”
“What?” Scott asks.
“If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again!” Stiles pokes him in the side.
“Dude, that was Aaliyah,” Scott says.
“And a very wise woman she was!” Stiles says, earning a small smile from Scott. “Now come on, we’re almost there.”
They reach the clearing and it’s fairly obvious that there is no body there.
“I swear, man, it was here yesterday! It was a chick, brown hair, really hot, missing her legs…” Stiles spins in a circle, trying to spot where she might have gone.
“Stiles,” Scott taps his shoulder to get his attention. Stiles is still staring at the floor in confusion. He closes his eyes to focus on the forest, which he maybe should’ve just done to begin with.
“Stiles,” Scott says with more urgency, shoving him in the shoulder.
“What,” Stiles snaps, opening his eyes and looking up at Scott. Scott is gestures to where he is staring ahead. Stiles looks up and his jaw drops.
This is the first time Stiles sees Derek Hale.