There’s a boy sitting outside his daddy’s office and across the hall. Stiles is staring out of the window while his daddy talks on the phone until the end of his shift because people are scared after the fire and his daddy is good at chasing away bad guys. The boy looks sad and that makes Stiles fidget because his games got boring and he wants to go home but his daddy won't let Stiles stay home alone.
“No… No, listen to me Mrs. Greenberg, don’t worry about it… Yes I’m serious. There is no serial arsonist in Beacon Hills, I can promise you – Mrs. Greenberg, we’re very busy and I don’t think – Stiles,” his dad stage-whispered with one hand over the mouthpiece of the phone on his desk, “You leave him alone. Go back to playing your Gamebuddy or whatever it is, alright? He’s hurting right now and I don’t have time for – Yes Mrs. Greenberg, I’m still here…”
Hurting? Stiles knew about hurting. For example, his mommy had just gone away and she wasn’t coming back and whenever Stiles thought about that, his chest got all tight and he couldn’t breathe and sometimes he’d pass out but he really tried hard not to wake his daddy up because he looked so tired and his daddy was hurting too. But today is Friday and mommy had gone away last Saturday and daddy said Beacon Hills couldn’t live without him forever and mommy’s not coming back so Stiles should just sit in the corner and be a good boy.
Stiles tries. He really, really tries hard to be a good boy. He tried cooking his daddy breakfast this morning but the chair slipped out from underneath him and he burned his hand. Daddy had gotten mad at him for that but Stiles had just looked down at his feet and waited to cry until later (a feeling he’ll be all too familiar with later) because if daddy hadn’t cried since Saturday then Stiles wasn’t going to either.
Which is why Stiles can see how hard the boy outside his daddy’s office is trying not to cry. He’s got his hands clenched tight like he wants to punch someone and his head is down because he doesn’t want people to be disappointed because he can’t act like a grown-up.
With a glance to his daddy, Stiles notices how distracted he is. That’s the face he gets when he forgets Stiles is there (but Stiles doesn’t mind because his daddy is important) so Stiles puts his Gameboy down and hops off the couch. Daddy won’t want Stiles to disturb him right now anyways so he’ll just go outside.
To see the boy, of course.
Wearing a sweater that’s just a little too big – he’ll grow into it – and sneakers with the laces untied, Stiles quietly walks over to where the dark-haired, pointy-faced boy is sitting and just stands there for a minute.
“Hi. I’m Stiles,” he says quietly, after he realizes that the boy doesn’t want him there but Stiles knows that he’s afraid of looking up or talking because then all the hurt will come out and he won’t be able to stop. “My daddy said you’re hurt because ‘f a fire and I’m really sorry… I hurted my hand this morning with fire, see?” Stiles says, holding out his thickly bandaged hand.
Stiles doesn’t expect the boy’s hand to dart out and squeeze his boo-boo so hard… Like Stiles still squeezes his Beary when he misses mommy… So Stiles just bites his lip really hard and tells the tears they aren’t allowed to fall because this boy hurts too even though his nails are really pointy and sharp.
“Um… M-my real name’s not S-Stiles… b-but momma came up w-with my real name and I don’t want daddy to be sad anymore so I made him call me Stiles… C-Cause he wanted to call me S-Stanley but I don’t like Stanley… U-Um… Your name’s Derek I think cause ‘s what D-Daddy said… Um… I-I turned eight… Last week…,” he trails off, his hand now throbbing dully under the pressure Derek’s got it under and Stiles thinks his fingers might be blue like when he wrapped the rubber band around his finger and Scott’s mommy had to cut it off at the Doctor’s because Stiles did it too hard.
Derek doesn’t wanna talk and Stiles understands that because he talks too much and sometimes daddy yells at him but when he’s too quiet people ask him questions he doesn’t wanna answer like where his mommy went and that makes his chest tight and he doesn’t like that feeling. So instead, Stiles is quiet. He just lets Derek hold his hand as hard as he wants even though it hurts.
Stiles shoves his free hand into the pocket of his sweater so that Derek won’t see how hard Stiles is trying not to yell because his hand hurts… And he finds the Band-Aid. The one his mommy put in every pocket of every pair of pants and sweater and jacket Stiles had a month ago, just in case. This was the last one left. For a very long time, it seems like Stiles might forget how to breathe again and he starts feeling like there’s something sitting on him and his vision goes funny for a second but then Derek squeezes his hand and it’s okay again.
But Stiles doesn’t need the Band-Aid.
Derek hurts more than Stiles does.
So he takes the Band-Aid from his pocket and holds it out to Derek, like he did his hand. But Stiles is looking at the floor this time instead of at Derek, who looked up at him when he saw the Band-Aid.
“Here… Um… Mommy put these in my pocket ‘cause I fall down and bump into stuff a lot and they make my ouchies feel better but she’s gone now because she g-got sick but I still have my daddy so I’ll stop hurting eventually but you don’t have anyone, do you so maybe the Band-Aid will help just a little bit and if not you can keep squeezing my hand ‘til it falls off, I don’t mind because sometimes I –“
“Stiles,” Derek says, cutting him off with a rough voice. Stiles stops talking and looks up and Derek looks tired and confused, like Stiles in school sometimes when he just can’t pay attention so he starts to play with his pencils and the teacher gets mad at him.
“I won’t get mad at you,” Stiles almost whispers, looking back at the floor and it’s like something inside Derek breaks because all of a sudden the grip on Stiles’ hand is loosening and he’s got his arms wrapped around this scrawny, stupid, annoying kid and he’s burying his head in his neck and crying so quietly that the only two people who know it’s happening are Stiles and Derek. Derek wants Laura to come home. Derek wants his mom and his dad and his cousins and his baby sister to come home. But Laura won’t be home for another week because she wanted to go to boarding school once she figured out how to control herself and everyone else… They’re never coming back.
So if Stiles’ dad comes out of his office looking angry and Stiles wilts a little in thirteen year-old Derek’s arms and Derek looks up and growls just a little… Well who can blame him? The Sheriff looks a little surprised and Stiles looks up and tells his dad that Derek’s staying over their house tonight and Stiles will sleep on the floor because Derek doesn’t have a house and Stiles has slept in the precinct before and it’s lonely… Derek can smell the sadness rolling off of the Sheriff.
Because Stiles? Stiles is exactly like his mother – the love of the Sheriff’s life, lost less than a week ago. All he wants is to make everyone feel better and if that means he tells his daddy that he scraped his hand on the door when his daddy notices the fresh red on his bandage because he doesn’t want Derek in trouble, then fine. Stiles will protect everyone and he’ll kiss all the boo-boos better and no one will be lonely again because Stiles is a grown-up and he can handle it.