Deaton sends a crane to Derek’s desk at half past four. It reads: Is there a reason why I don’t have a crime scene report on the Matheson case yet?
There is, in fact, a reason, and that reason is an insane witness who apparently believes time-traveling kelpie-riding vampires killed Lorraine and Vernon Matheson, but Deaton (presumably) didn’t become head of Beacon Hills MLE by accepting theories from crackpots as truth and therefore doesn’t want to hear Stiles Stilinski’s rambling witness statement just as much as Derek hadn’t wanted to take it.
Working on it, he scribbles on a spare bit of parchment, and then he folds it up into a slightly lopsided crane and sends it to Deaton’s office down the hall.
Work faster, Deaton sends back almost immediately. His crane is impeccably folded, on a square of crane stationary that has ALAN DEATON, AUROR SUPERVISOR, BEACON HILLS MAGIC LAW ENFORCEMENT BUREAU written in the top in glittering black ink. Derek tends to rip the parchment for his cranes off of the bottom of his report scrolls, which is maybe why the supplies office hates him so much. It could also be the werewolf thing, but since the passing of the ISA, they’re shit out of luck if they don't want him around because of his fur problem.
Faced with a direct order, Derek can’t exactly continue to ignore the witness statement burning a hole in his desk drawer, so he finishes the last in his stack of claw discharge forms—they have a stupid technical name, like Report for Lycanthropic Shift in the Field or something else equally mind-numbing, but Laura calls them claw discharge and it’s stuck, sort of like how every time she sings a Celestina Warbuck song at home Derek finds himself humming it in the break room—and signs off on them and then he digs the Matheson case scroll out of the bottom drawer of his desk.
Pinned to the top is the transcript of Stilinski’s witness statement, tagged with the angry question marks that Derek had written in the margins instead of a thorough analysis. Whole sections of it don’t even make sense in the context of Stilinski’s skewed worldview, let alone the actual world that sane people occupy outside of Stilinski’s head. The more times that Derek reads it, trying to get a grip on at least the central storyline so he has somewhere to go in this case that doesn’t involve tipping into whatever potion bottle Stilinski’s been drinking from, the worse his headache gets because none of it makes sense.
Eventually, he gets tired of paperwork—not an uncommon phenomenon, in the Beacon Hills MLE office—and he grabs his robes from the hook by the door and decides to just go talk to Stilinski himself about his clarifying questions.
The address tagged as the residence of STILINSKI, “STILES” in the MLE’s files on Beacon Hills’ wizarding families doesn’t ring any bells, although Derek has been a dinner guest in the home of basically every wizarding family in the county, usually holding a pie plate and standing behind and slightly to the left of his mother. When he Apparates to the end of Chicanery Lane and gets a good look at the Stilinski residence, he realizes why the address hadn’t been familiar: Everyone calls it the Crazy House.
In retrospect, the name Stilinski isn’t common at all in any way, shape, or form, and Derek’s inability to connect Stiles Stilinski, the only witness in the murder of a pair of influential members of the wizarding community, to John Stilinski, editor-in-chief of The North American Quibbler, besmirches his credentials as an auror in an unflattering way. Thank God there’s no way Laura will be able to find out about this.
The witness statement begins to make a little bit more sense, now. Not that in the sense that it illuminates any part of Derek’s case; it’s just that the sheer insanity of the premise is now at least understandable.
Derek taps the top of the gate with his wand and it unlatches and swings away from him. He can hear a bell set up a sizeable racket inside the house, which is still a good two-dozen yards away. The garden is a riotous mess of familiar sights—household herbs and potions ingredients, aconite growing somewhere in high enough quantities to make the back of Derek’s nose burn, a colony of garden gnomes—and unfamiliar ones—the garden gnomes are so settled that they have apparently set up a farmer’s market, to judge by the produce they appear to be selling each other, and there’s four child-sized sheds painted a series of increasingly improbably neon colors, out of which are spilling junk like wheelbarrows full of Muggle coins, broken clocks, and lidless potions jars—and Derek’s headache is, unsurprisingly, even worse now than it had been back at his office.
The door opens, revealing Stiles Stilinski framed in the doorway. On a scale of one to Derek’s five-year-old niece, Stilinski’s sweater is in ‘Hannah wouldn’t touch it even if it had glitter’ territory, but it’s not as bad as the one he’d been wearing when Derek had questioned him at the Matheson crime scene.
“You realize your garden gnomes have set up infrastructure and a baseline economy, I hope?” Derek calls.
Stilinski tugs the arms of his purple and green striped sweater down over his hands and shrugs as he folds his arms across his chest. “Live and let live,” he says. “No one’s ever tested if garden gnomes stop being so pesky if you let them stay long enough to make a stable home.” There is actually an earring shaped like a tiny radish hanging from his left ear. His hair is admittedly a riotous mess—it looks like Derek’s does when he forgets to get it cut and then runs his hands through it a lot during an all-nighter for a case—but the earring is very clearly radish-shaped.
“Until now,” Derek says, unable to stop himself. Conversations with Stilinski are sort of like watching two Beaters collide and knowing that you could just close your eyes, but then again what’s the point of watching Quidditch in the first place if you aren’t going to appreciate the violence?
The grin that flits across Stilinski’s face is curled upwards in the corner, like a kiss. “Well, we’ll see at the end of the season. The fact that they’re taking initiative and establishing a rudimentary trade system seems to bode well.”
There’s honestly nothing that Derek could say to that, as he has very little interest in garden gnomes as a topic and he’s technically on duty right now, so he says, probably too aggressively considering how nice and easy their conversation has been up until now, “I have some questions about your statement.”
The kiss melts away, but the rest of the grin stays. Stilinski is kind of a jackass, Derek suspects. “Well, come on in,” Stilinski says, stepping back and gesturing Derek through the door. “I’ll put the kettle on.”
As Derek steps through the door, distracted briefly by the smell of the wards—they’re different; not bad, not Dark, but there’s a weird spicy aftertaste that doesn’t usually characterize the wards of wizarding homes—Stilinski turns and bellows, “Dad, put on the kettle!”
Derek suppresses the unprofessional urge to slaps his hands over his ears before they start bleeding. “Merlin,” he breathes. Stilinski has a voice like a harpy.
“What’s the magic word?” floats from further back in the house.
“HA. HA,” Stilinski shouts again, and Derek gives in this time by putting a restraining hand on Stilinski’s forearm.
“Volume,” he says through his teeth.
“Oh, right, werewolf,” Stilinski replies agreeably, apparently unconcerned that a werewolf who’d been slapped with the label ‘severe anger issues’ at his last employee review is holding onto his arm. “Sorry, bro.” He half-turns in the direction from which the voice had come and shouts, at a much more reasonable volume, “Still not a funny joke, Dad, but can you please put on the kettle?”
There’s a lot going on right now that Derek doesn’t really understand, especially because the ceiling of the Stilinski house is painted with family portraits and it’s fairly distracting. Great-Aunt Penelope—if the scrolling banner under her head is to be trusted—winks at Derek in a fairly lascivious way for an older witch; she’s promptly elbowed by Great-Grandfather Leroy.
To distract himself before he gets hypnotized by the sheer number of things going on, Derek makes a point to say, “Don’t call me bro. I’m an auror, not your housemate.”
“Hey, I thought Hufflepuffs were all about unity and love and whatnot.” Stilinski waggles his eyebrows and nudges Derek with the arm that he’s still holding. “Or so I’ve been told by a few Hufflepuffs in my time. If you know what I mean.”
“Unfortunately,” Derek says. He means to release Stilinski’s arm but then he catches sight of an enormous clock propped up against the far wall, half-hidden behind the bookshelves that are spewing books everywhere (figuratively and literally; Derek has to duck a second later because a copy of The Everyday Encyclopedia of Household Spells whizzes over his head), and it looks like skulls are painted onto the clock’s hands. “Is there somewhere in this house that doesn’t look like Borgin & Burke’s where we can talk?”
Stilinski’s face twists into a scowl that sits more adorably than threateningly on his babyish face. “Excuse you, Borgin & Burke’s is full of crazy evil shit. Nothing in this house is evil.”
“That we know of,” the man in a far doorway says.
“That we know of,” Stilinski promptly amends. He’s still scowling; Derek’s hand is still resting against his forearm, something he’s reminded of when the new man pointedly looks at it. Derek is uncomfortably reminded of meeting the parents of his last girlfriend, but that’s a painful story no one needs to relive, even Derek, so he shuts the comparison down before it has a chance to go anywhere. “Dad, this is Auror Hale, he’s running the investigation into what happened with Lorraine and Vernon Matheson.”
John Stilinski doesn’t look like an editor of a Quibbler subsidiary at first glance, probably because he’s wearing a dark green sweater and a pair of khakis and has a stare that might actually be more daunting than Deaton’s worst, but there’s a pair of silvery glasses perched on his nose with four extra lens splayed to either side like butterfly wings and he’s holding a vase in his left hand that looks ancient and Greco-Roman.
“Call me John. Nice to meet you,” John says, and he comes forward to shake Derek’s hand. “This about the kelpies?”
Derek smiles his professional grimace. “It’s about the Matheson murders, yes.”
John adjusts the bridge of his glasses across his nose. “Vampires on kelpies. I honestly wouldn’t have seen that one coming.”
“Yeah, everyone knows that vampires can’t stand large bodies of water,” Stilinski says blithely, as if that’s how normal people conduct conversations on vampires. “Well, I saw what I saw. Let’s talk in the kitchen.”
Derek rolls his eyes towards the ceiling for strength and what he gets instead is an eyeful of Cousin Matilda and Cousin Paul doing something that portraits should never be uninhibited enough to do in front of witnesses. When he hurriedly lowers his eyes, it’s to John Stilinski nailing him with an unfriendly look that clearly spells out, If you do anything to upset my son no one will ever find your body. Coming from a man in a pair of six-lensed glasses, it’s surprisingly effective.
“All right,” Derek grunts, and somehow between those two words coming out of his mouth and the moment he sits down in a rickety chair at the Stilinskis’ kitchen table someone must hit him with a counfounding spell, because four hours later he’s arguing with Merlin’s-dick-just-call-me-Stiles-already-Mr.-Stilinski-is-my-dad about the Cyclones’ chances at the regional qualifying match next month and very little about Stiles’ conspiracy theory has been explained to a degree that will either satisfy Deaton or provide any insight as to where Derek should look next for the Mathesons’ murderer.
“Look,” Stiles is saying, waving the hand that is currently holding half of a tuna sandwich and leaving little scattered drops of mayonnaise across his plate and the tabletop, “I get that the Cyclones are kind of really awful at Qudditch, but where’s your hometown loyalty?”
“You shouldn’t support a Quidditch team just because they’re from the same town that you are,” Derek tells him. “Pick a team with a playing style you can respect and follow them, instead.”
“I respect very few professional Quidditch players,” Stiles says, delicately licking a piece of diced pickle relish off of his pinkie. “I know Jackson Whittemore personally and he might actually be the world’s biggest asshole. Hard to tell, what with Gilderoy Lockhart no longer counted amongst the mentally stable, but I’d put my money on Jackson.”
Derek realizes that he’s staring with a little too much interest at the tip of Stiles’ pinkie, shiny with spit, and he puts down the two bites’ worth of sandwich that he has left and says, “We got off track.”
“That’s kind of my deal,” Stiles agrees. Mayonnaise drips onto the ribbon of flesh along the inside curve between his thumb and forefinger and he sucks the skin between his teeth to clean it and Derek is glad he’s already opened the door to their conversation moving in a more professional direction because a less professional one might actually kill him.
“Great,” Derek says blankly. “Back to the kelpies.”
Stiles nods and replies, in a reasonable and unoffended tone, “You don’t believe me.”
“Not a word,” Derek says. “Vampires don’t kill with wands, kelpies can’t live outside of the water for longer than a few hours, and how the hell would a kiss of vampires get a hold of enough Time-Turners to juice a trip centuries long when there’s only two Time-Turners left in existence?”
“Well, the last one’s easy.” Stiles finishes his sandwich and leans forward in his chair, his elbows propped on his knees and his face open with a kind of gruesome excitement. “They’re from the future, who knows what developments have been made in time travel? I have a friend working on this algorithm right now that she’s like 99% sure will completely phase out any need for a sand-based timer at all—it relies entirely on ritual.”
“If that’s true,” says Derek, because he’s currently picturing Stiles’ “friend” living in a shack on the edge of town, writing her “algorithm” on the walls with a candy quill, “it still doesn’t matter, because I can’t tell my boss that an important element of this case can’t be solved because the perpetrators traveled through time. We have regulations on stuff like that for a reason, Stiles.”
“Look, I told you straight up that the vampires were decked out in blood runes. I recognized at least four or five of the patterns as similar to what Lydia’s currently working on.”
“Why the hell would they kill the Mathesons?” Derek demands. He sort of can’t believe he’s letting the deregulated time-travel part of this clusterfuck go, but he is because he doesn’t want to end up arguing with Stiles about blood runes for another four hours. He’s supposed to be eating dinner at his parents’ house tonight.
There’s a pause; it’s not the kind of pause that comes from the other person stalling for time while they make something up. “I have an idea,” Stiles finally says. “It’s a little crazy.”
Derek’s face feels weird, probably because it’s trying to convey what is going through his head, which is I’m curious about how strange things have to get before Stiles Stilinski labels them as odd. “Really,” he says flatly. “How so.”
“How familiar are you with Lorraine Matheson’s family?” Stiles asks. “You know, on a sliding scale of not knowing her maiden name to congenial dinners during major national holidays?”
“Stiles,” Derek grinds out, “is this going somewhere?”
“Yes,” Stiles says hurriedly, jerking upwards at the sudden unveiling of Derek’s teeth. “Shit, yeah. It’s going to Lorraine Matheson being a cousin of the Argent family. Is where it’s going.”
It turns out Stiles has made a flowchart for this. Derek is extremely grateful, because otherwise there would be no way in hell for him to follow this convoluted trail of logic to its conclusion, not with Stiles occasionally branching off into small diatribes on tangentially related subjects, like how easy it is to find unicorn blood in Beacon Hills’ underground potions ingredients black market and the soil mix that Lorraine had used to keep her wisteria healthy.
At the bottom of the flowchart, written in Stiles’ spidery scrawl and underlined four times, is Rescind the Aleksandra Yelizarova Integrated Species Act. It’s followed by two exclamation marks and a frowny face.
“A little crazy?” Derek finally says, when Stiles has petered off. “Stiles, do you really think that a family of Dark magicians is trying to spark a bloodbath in order to eventually get the ISA repealed?”
“Well,” Stiles says. “Yes. Thus the flowchart.” He hands Derek a roll of parchment; when Derek unrolls it, he sees that it’s a smaller copy of the huge visual aid that’s currently spelled to the kitchen cabinets. “Also, this is for you.”
Derek finally gives in and presses a thumb against his temple; he’s earned the right to do that, considering that he sat through Stiles’ entire presentation without getting up and spelling him into restraints for immediate confinement at the Psychological Maladies ward at Beacon Hills Memorial. “If I ask you why they want to repeal the ISA badly enough to put this stupidly complex plan into motion, will it require another visual aid?”
“No,” Stiles says. He’s confined most of his energy down to his hands, which are fluttering in front of him and occasionally drifting to smooth the edges of his flowchart. “It’s for gold, of course. The Argents lost about 72% of their liquid assets when the ISA got put into place. The majority of their mines in this area alone got shut down for violations. If they can get the secretary of magic to repeal the ISA and use this debacle as a way to turn public opinion against the species currently protected under the ISA, they’ll manage to recoup at least 82.3% of their losses, inflation notwithstanding. If you want to know how I got that number, Lydia did the math and I’ve got it on a scroll somewhere in my office.”
The last thing Derek needs is more paperwork. He doesn’t like talking about the ISA, mostly because, as a werewolf born just when support for the ISA was gathering momentum, he’s lived under it for his entire adult life and people always expect him to have deep, introspective thoughts about it. He doesn’t, really. The ISA gave him the ability to go to school, get a job, and not have to disclose his species status to anyone he didn’t want to, but he’s lucky—unlike his parents, he never really had to live in the before.
Even though most of him thinks that Stiles is completely nuts and that this plan has the same likelihood of being correct that the Cyclones do of winning the regional qualifiers next month, the threat to the ISA sends a cold bite through him. He wouldn’t be surprised if the Argents did, in fact, have something in the works to recoup their losses. It’s just borderline inconceivable that they’re using time-traveling vampires on kelpies to do it.
When he vocalizes this, Stiles reminds him, “They have to turn public opinion, too. Even if the ISA gets yanked back, as long as the wizarding community thinks that it was a good idea it’ll be possible for its supporters to get their feet back under them and try to push it through with some revisions. They need to completely destroy the relationships that have been built in the past two decades.”
Stiles’ eyes are bright and his cheeks have turned pink with the force of his enthusiasm; it seems like Derek just listening to his idea and not ripping him to shreds is building him up. Derek’s been doing a really good job up until now of not letting himself be distracted by how often Stiles licks his lips and the rounded shape that his mouth makes when it’s half-open, but Derek’s ass is sore from sitting in a wooden chair for the past five and a half hours and he’s actually engaged enough to be listening to Stiles, so his rapid mental decline into total insanity isn’t completely unexpected.
“You didn't put this chart together to convince me,” Derek says, rolling the scroll between his palms and focusing on the radish earring to avoid thinking about what Stiles’ mouth might taste like. “What is this for?”
Stiles shrugs and slips his hands into the pockets of his jeans. He’s pushed up the sleeves of his sweater now and the veins in his forearm are starkly visible through thin, pale skin. “Originally I was thinking a Quibbler exclusive—we’d probably send it to the main rag in London, if simply to increase readership—but Dad’s fairly certain that if we do that I’m just going to end up dead and he’s not really in favor of that eventuality.”
“Really,” Derek says drily. “That’s surprising.”
Stiles rocks forward onto his toes. “Your sarcasm is noted, thanks. Then, when Lorraine and Vernon died, just like I’d predicted would happen to an upstanding member of the extended Argent family, Dad thought I should go to the MLE.” He sinks back onto his heels, his shoulders bobbing up and down. “I guess I’m doing that now, but judging from the incredulity that you’re barely managing to keep off of your face, I don’t think that’s going to go anywhere.”
“No one is going to believe this,” Derek tells him. “No one.”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it,” Stiles mutters. “Stiles Stilinski and his dad are the town crazies, no one believes the shit that they say just because of a little incident with Nifflers a few years ago—”
“That was you?!” Derek interrupts, pointing at his chest. “For fuck’s sake, why am I sitting here listening to the guy who got George Lahey’s Quidditch supply shop aerated for a Niffler infestation?” He knows why—it’s because he’s currently very interested in what Stiles would look like naked, preferably stretched across a bed—but that doesn’t excuse his brain deciding to walk off with his common sense.
“Oh Merlin, it’s always the Nifflers at Mr. Lahey’s,” Stiles shouts, throwing his hands up in the air. “Yes, children, let’s follow Stiles around and shout ‘Niffler-lover’ at him like that’s even at all an acceptable insult. Clearly, the man who graduated top of his class from Hogwarts doesn’t know what he’s talking about, despite the fact that his mother wrote the ISA.”
That sort of takes the wind out of Derek’s frustrated sails. “Aleksandra Yelizarova was your mother?”
“Yeah,” Stiles says aggressively. “Why do you think Dad and I run the Quibbler? Shit, Derek, he was an auror with the MLE until she died.”
A lot of this—the house, beloved but in shambles; the no-nonsense way that John Stilinski had carried himself; Stiles’ incredibly well-researched and totally insane theory—begins to make more sense now that Derek realizes what’s going on.
“Is that when you started looking into this?” he asks. He’s not good at people or emotion or even sympathy, really, but he doesn’t need his perfect werewolf vision to see that all of the threads of the flowchart come out of the same place: Sasha Y. dies, 8 October. “Stiles, that was twelve years ago.”
“It was,” Stiles says, voice tight and the veins in his forearms straining against the confines of his skin. “I started looking into this when I was at Hogwarts, and then two weeks ago Lorraine and Vernon Matheson turn up dead in their front garden and prove that I may have been shit at Divination in school but somehow I still managed to predict their deaths.”
Derek can’t really think of anything to say to that. In the back of his head, someone that sounds like Laura is shrieking LISTEN TO HIS FEELINGS, DEREK, but Derek tends to avoid situations where feelings are shared because he’s great at fucking things up when that happens. “Stiles,” he begins, and then he has no idea what to say next. The tips of Stiles’ ears are pink and there’s still a little bit of hope in his face, like he thinks Derek is going to flash his wand and produce a solution to this problem. “I don’t think the MLE can help you,” he finishes, lamely, and Stiles’ face closes off like a shuttered Floo grate.
“Okay,” he says. “Thanks for your time, Auror Hale.”
Shit. “Stiles, I meant—”
“It’s fine,” Stiles says. “Crazy Niffler-loving Stiles Stilinski knows when he needs to back off.” To judge from the flowchart that Stiles apparently started researching at the age of twelve, Derek highly doubts that.
“I’m serious,” Derek tells him, standing and putting on his robes even though the last thing he wants to do is leave Stiles with that awful, Vanished expression on his face. “The MLE isn’t equipped to handle this kind of investigation. You’d have better luck with one of the federal bureaus.”
“Thanks for your suggestion,” Stiles says. Even if his voice is level, his eyes burn when they meet Derek’s. “Have a nice evening.” Derek breaks their eye contact as he turns for the door, and he feels the focused intensity of Stiles’ stare against his back as he leaves the kitchen, passes through the front hall with its portraits and flying books and various knickknacks, and leaves. The garden gnomes are clustered to the left of the stone path that leads to the front gate, and one of them sticks his tongue out at Derek as he passes. Another makes an unpleasant squelching noise and waggles his butt in Derek’s direction; it makes the other gnomes laugh.
For some reason, the gnomes are just the icing on the anger cake that’s incubating inside of Derek. He takes the last few feet to the gate in large, furious stomps and then he blows through the gate, his robes swirling around him, and the memory of the look on Stiles’ face, empty and drawn except for the furious light in his eyes, leaves a cold nugget buried in Derek’s chest.
It’s not really surprising, then, that Derek gets a Floo in the middle of the night a month later. He’s not asleep—Derek is very rarely asleep—but he’s pretending to be with all of the curtains drawn so that he doesn't have to acknowledge the owl that Laura had sent, presumably seeking his mental status so she can bully him about it like she does everything else.
There’s a small burst of green flame and Deaton’s head appears in the grate across from Derek’s desk. “Good, you’re awake,” he says. Deaton is not a very expressive person, but his mouth is tight in the corners now as he says, “There was a fire at the Stilinski house, you need to get over there.”
In his haste, Derek breaks the quill he’s holding, his desk chair, and the rack next to the front door where he keeps his traveling cloaks. He might lock his apartment door behind him as he leaves, but he can’t actually remember; besides, that’s why wizards have wards. His anti-Apparition ones extend down to the first floor, so Derek throws himself down the stairs and then bolts for the back alley, where hopefully he should be able to Apparate without one of his Muggle neighbors noticing.
He Apparates at a run, which is never an okay idea, and the fact that he manages to arrive at the end of Chicanery Lane without splinching himself is a miracle. He’s still running when he crests the hill before the Stilinski house and catches his first sight of it.
There’s not really a lot left. The fire had been aggressive—if it was a spell, it was probably Fiendfyre, the clinical, auror part of his brain notes—and the upper floors of the formerly needle-like house have collapsed in on themselves, leaving the silhouette muffin-shaped. All Derek can smell is the smoke and ash; it clogs up his nose and leaves no room for anything else.
When Derek reaches the perimeter established by the first-responder, he grabs the first person he sees—it’s Reyes, her bottle-green robes covered in soot—and roars in her face until she points him to where Deaton is standing with two tall, familiar men, both of them wrapped in blankets.
“Oh, hey, Derek,” Stiles says. His voice is raw but still a little frosty, presumably because the last time he and Derek had spoken, Derek had basically told him to forget ever getting justice for whomever had killed his mother.
Derek’s been running since he first heard the word fire out of Deaton’s mouth. It takes a lot to make a werewolf breathe hard, but Derek’s left side aches from the sprinting. “Stiles,” he says, and he can’t even begin to categorize what’s happened to his voice. “You’re okay.”
Some of the ice in Stiles’ expression melts. “Hey, yeah, dude, Dad and I were in the garden.” He frowns. “Did you—are you okay? You’re kind of. Fanged.” Stiles makes two hooks with his index fingers and holds them near his mouth, presumably to illustrate what the adjective fanged means in case Derek was born under a rock.
“Oh,” Derek says. It takes conscious effort, almost more than he really has available, to shift back into his fully human form. “Yeah.” He sees now that Stiles and his father are surrounded by the garden gnomes, who are piled like lumpy, writhing potatoes at their feet. For some reasons, Derek wants to laugh. Instead, he says, “Something like this happening was on your chart.” Derek remembers because, even though he’s basically given up on the Matheson case ever getting solved to Deaton’s satisfaction, he’s read the scroll Stiles had given him sixteen times in the past month.
John nails Derek with an unpleasantly bald stare; he’s either angry about Derek upsetting his son, or furious that Derek’s brought up something he would probably prefer his son not investigate at all. John’s history as an auror shines out right now, in the chaos of a crime scene; Stiles’ left leg is twitching minutely, but John is firmly planted, his feet shoulder-width apart, and he’s mirroring Deaton.
“Yes,” Stiles says. He beams at Derek, so bright that the whiplash is confusing. “Yes, exactly!” He turns to his father. “Told you.”
“I’m sorry that I’m not excited that our house was set on fire,” John says. “Being the victim of attempted murder has a tendency to tamp down my enthusiasm, Stiles.”
“You know what this means?” Stiles asks Derek, leaning forward and clamping his wrist. The move exposes his arm to the shoulder; his sweater today is blue dotted with yellow snitches. “I’m right. I’m not even half-right, I’m at least two-thirds right because now they want to kill me, and no one ever tries to kill the conspiracy theorists that are wrong.”
“I’m still concerned about your near brush with death, Stiles,” Derek says, although he’s having a hard time focusing beyond the cool anchor of Stiles’ fingers against his pulse. Stiles is so thin that, from far away, he looks small and manageable—but this close, the knowledge that Stiles is two inches taller than Derek and just as broad across the shoulders is basically unavoidable.
Stiles makes a small noise in the back of this throat and shrugs dismissively. His fingers are like ice against Derek’s skin; without really thinking about it, Derek presses his free hand against Stiles’ fingers in an attempt to warm them. “I’m hoping that a clear death threat like this will make the Beacon Hills MLE more willing to work with me,” he says, loudly, to Deaton.
Deaton says, “The Beacon Hills MLE would be happy to take any information you might have relating to its still-open investigations into the deaths of Aleksandra Yelizarova and Lorraine and Vernon Matheson, Mr. Stilinski.” It’s the nicest thing Derek has ever heard Deaton say.
“And to think,” Stiles tells Derek happily, knee-deep in garden gnomes, “all it took for people to listen was for the Argents to try to burn down my house.”
“They didn’t try, Stiles,” John says, but Stiles ignores him.
“Have you heard the best part?” he asks Derek. His fingers have slipped from Derek’s wrist to his palm; they’re rather unapologetically holding hands, now, but Derek doesn’t mind.
“No,” Derek says, although he can think of a few contenders.
“They sent leprechauns.”
Reflexively, Derek says, “Merlin wept,” and tries not to laugh. It seems rude to laugh considering that John and Stiles’ house just burned down.
Stiles has no such compunction; he gives an open-mouthed shout of laughter and assures Derek, “I’m not kidding! They send a group of surly, surly leprechauns on a Chinese Fireball. These were some angry motherfuckers.”
After a moment, his father adds, “With some bridges to burn,” in a contemplative sort of way.
The gnomes at his feet clap appreciatively as Stiles groans, “Lame, Dad,” and leans into Derek’s shoulder.
His father begins a speech that’s clearly by rote about how Stiles should respect his elders and his father slaved over a cold desk in the MLE offices for many years to make sure there was food on the tables for a growing Stiles; the gnomes get bored at one point and try to tie the laces of Derek’s boots together.
Eventually Deaton manages to get some kind of witness statement out of Stiles—he has Derek’s sympathy for how long it takes—and then John throws an impressive hissy fit to get security detail for his son and somehow it’s three hours later and Derek is still holding Stiles’ hand, his fingers cramped but the ice in his chest completely gone. The smoke has dissipated and Derek’s nose clears and then he’s just filled with the scent of Stiles, who is vibrating with enthusiasm for whatever disastrously awful idea he’s going to have next: musky and crisp like fall apples and the best thing Derek has ever smelled.