lol yep I drew fanart for my own dang story
“You have to see this dog,” Scott told him. “Just trust me.”
Stiles looked around at the kennel of fifty-one Alaskan huskies to which he had just finished doling out food. Everyone was eating well — each dog had slobbered up its soup (consisting of high-performance kibble, fatty meat and water mixed into a highly appetizing-looking brown slop) in forty seconds or less. Which was good! A good eater meant a good sledder, Kay always said. He went to rinse out the bucket and said into his phone, “Scott, I think I’ve got more dogs on my hands than a guy can manage, even such a perspicacious and photogenic guy as myself.”
“Perspi— really, Stiles?” He could practically hear Scott rolling his eyes on the other end of the line. “Seriously though. You will thank me if you just come down to the shelter. He’s, uh, not exactly… conventionally beautiful, but you being so photogenic you probably wouldn’t want to share the spotlight with like, a dog version of Adriana Lima anyway, right?”
“Really selling the case here,” Stiles said. “I mean, as long as he isn’t Dog Quasimodo, I do not actually require flowing locks or flawless tits in my dogs, so… fine. But we’re kinda already ass-deep in dogs, dude.” He paused. “Uh, that sounded wrong. I did not mean to imply any sort of bestiality sexytimes.”
Stiles could just imagine the grossed-out scrunchy face Scott was making while waiting out this blather. He sighed and said, “Okay, okay, I’ll go by the shelter and just take a look. But I don’t know what you’re so worked up about, shelter dogs almost never make good sled dogs!”
“You’ll thank me later,” Scott said again. “Oops, Deaton’s calling me. Talk to you later?”
“Sure, dude. Bye,” Stiles said, hanging up, and promptly forgot all about it as he harnessed the dogs up to the sled for a a longer training run. He had to train as much as possible during weekends, since it was hard to get much done during school days and they still had plenty of work to do to get in full condition. Princess had a fair amount of experience leading, but Tony Stark (yes, he’d named some of his dogs after superheroes, what of it?), like his namesake, did not respond well to authority and teaching him the commands had been a struggle. Tony was smart enough, even if he was an ornery bastard, and had eventually learned to be a good enough lead dog. Most days.
There was a good layer of powder on the ground, having snowed two nights before. It was early December, dark and blustery. He still had almost two months to train. No big deal.
Not until the next day did Stiles remember his quest. The run had gone well and he needed a break, so he made the drive out to the Beacon Hills animal shelter to see Scott’s legendary not-supermodel dog.
* * *
He was going to kill Scott.
Or kiss him. It depended on many factors, such as whether or not Kay and/or Stiles’ dad killed Stiles first, or if the dog turned out to be a ravenous eater of human flesh or, in some freak of luck, became a star sled dog. Because despite any of that, no matter what, Stiles had to have this dog.
“His name’s Derek,” Joanna, the volunteer at the shelter, told him. “Had a collar and a tag and everythin’ when we found him, though no owner information or vaccination tags neither. Growled a bit when we first brought him in but hasn’t shown much aggression otherwise. Too early to tell if he’s really suitable for adoption, though. Deaton checked him out and he’s in perfect health. Not fixed though.”
“Yeah? No bad human’s taken away your balls, huh boy?” Stiles crooned at the dog. Joanna laughed. The dog did not look amused. In fact the dog looked pretty scary.
Scary, sure, but Scott was totally insane, he reflected. “Not conventionally beautiful,” yeah, right. You didn’t have to look like fucking Lassie to be one hell of a handsome animal. Sure, Derek’s dark coat looked kinda ragged and lacked luster, but was obviously thick and warm, nor did the scruffy fur conceal the powerful build underneath. This dog was clearly a beast.
And that face. That long, classically lupine snout and pointed ears… if it hadn’t been for the collar and tags, people probably would have thought he was a straight up wolf. And he was steadily glaring at Stiles with wide-set green-gray eyes that glowed with intelligence.
Okay, he was way huge for a sled dog, which tended to average around 50 pounds, prizing speed and stamina over size, but— Stiles caught himself and shook his head vigorously to clear his thoughts. This was crazy talk. You couldn’t just take some rando dog from god knew where out of a shelter and expect it to take to mushing. Especially at this stage in training! He might not get along with the other dogs. He might have obedience issues. He might just not like pulling — not having been bred specifically for it and surrounded by it from puppyhood like the other dogs in Kay’s kennel. He might—
“So what do you think?” Joanna asked dryly.
“I want him so bad, you don’t even know,” Stiles said instantly. “It’s a terrible idea and will almost certainly end in tears, but holy shit, this dog! Just imagine, like, this guy leading your team on the Iditarod! So badass.”
“Or… the T200?” Joanna asked innocently.
Stiles eyed her. “Okay, who spilled the beans? Am I gonna have to fight some filthy rumormongers with a stick? Does everyone know?”
“Oh, you know, small town, talk gets around…” Joanna said, grinning. “Tustumena’s a good choice. Pretty challenging for a first adult-class race. Coming up pretty soon.”
“I am 18 now. Totally an adult. Ready for an adult challenge. And yeah, I’m all too aware that the clock is ticking.” Stiles wondered whether he’d get his whole hand back if he tried to pet Derek. The dog was eyeballing him like he knew what Stiles was thinking and wasn’t into it. He kept his hands to himself. For now.
“Kay’s real proud of you, you know. She couldn’t run that kennel without you, for all that she’s one tough lady.”
“Yeah, well…” Stiles muttered, embarrassed. “I’d probably wither away after two days without seeing those dogs, it’s like sunlight to Superman. Y’know. Aaaanyway… so! How about if I go sweet-talk my dad and Kay and I come back when I’ve pestered them into giving me a chance with this awesome creature? Yeah, that’s you, you just need a good brushing and some premium moose steaks and you’d be winning freakin’ Eukanuba Championships hands down.” Stiles was aware that he was babbling and probably making disgusting gooey eyes at the dog, who was — yes — glaring between him and Joanna.
She shrugged. “I’m not seeing anyone else knockin’ down the door to adopt a large, possibly feral wolfdog, so… take your own sweet time, Stiles. Good luck to ya.”
“Thanks, Joanna. Derek,” Stiles said very seriously. “I’m coming for you. I’ll be back. Save yourself for me.”
Absconding in a rush, he thought for a second he glimpsed the big black dog roll his eyes. Just yet more evidence that he was losing his mind.
* * *
Stiles wasted no time commencing the plan of attack.
“Is this an actual meat burger?” Sheriff John Stilinski said incredulously. “Who are you, and what have you done with my son?”
Stiles tried out what he thought was a generous filial smile. “Well, I know work has been tough lately, and I thought you could use, y’know, a restorative. A little honest animal protein once in a while, no big deal, right?”
His dad’s eyebrows conveyed a disappointing lack of faith in this statement’s sincerity. “All right, Stiles. Just lay it on me. What did you do?”
“I resent that, I’ve been an absolute paragon, ask anyone,” Stiles said. “But—“
“Yeah. I thought I smelled a butt.”
“Ha ha. So anyway, I took a quick sojourn over to the animal shelter today, and I, uh, kind of met someone. And obviously it’s like way too early to come to any conclusions about long-term prospects or anything, and this probably sounds all kinds of crazy, but I just have, like, a really good feeling about it. So… would you, Dad, support me were I to embark on this relationship… ship?”
“Of course I support you, no matter what,” his dad said automatically, which was cool. Best dad ever. “As long as you’re talking about an actual human person. Because you mentioned the shelter, which triggers in me a certain suspicion that you are, in fact, talking about a dog.”
Sometimes it sucked having a dad who knew you way too well and was a sheriff and therefore had detective-level insights into your cunning plans.
“Okay, yes, I am talking about a dog,” Stiles said. “You should see this dog, dad. He is really super badass, let me tell you. He was looking at me with, like, genuine human intelligence in his eyes. He’s like Dog Einstein. There is clearly a lot going on his head. Like me! We’d totally get along.”
“Stiles. You have fourteen dogs that are officially yours, and thirty-seven others that you feed, manage and exercise every day. As your father, I’m just wondering if there’s an upper limit or if I’m gonna be stuck with having only canines for grandchildren.”
“I swear I wouldn’t do this for just any shelter dog. Okay, I admit I’m probably getting a little ahead of myself here. Derek — his name’s Derek — might turn out to be unmanageable or aggressive or he might have weak wrists for all I know. In which case we could still use him for breeding purposes I guess. But I just want to give him a chance, you know? He’s a full grown, large dog of unknown provenance at the shelter, they’d probably end up having to putt him down. And I think it would be a real shame.”
“Have you talked to Kay about this?” his dad asked, which definitely sounded promising.
“Not yet,” Stiles admitted. “I was sort of hoping that she’d at least let me try keeping him at the kennel, but if she says no… well, I don’t know if he’ll turn out to be any kind of sled dog, so… hey, haven’t you ever wanted a pet around the house?”
John sighed the sigh of the long-suffering. “Well, it’s not like you don’t know how to take care of a dog. I just want you to be careful about how much you’re taking on. You’re training for your first big mid-length race pretty soon, you’re still in school, filling out college applications… It’s fair to give this dog a chance, but if he turns out to be a problem, just remember that you can’t save everyone. You have to take care of yourself first.”
“Yeah, dad, I know,” Stiles said. “If he’s terrible, I’ll take him back to the shelter, I promise.”
“Well, all right then,” his dad said. “Hope you don’t regret this, kid.”
Stiles couldn’t resist a celebratory fist-pump. “Yessss! You’re the best. But don’t think that this means I’m not bringing the veggie burgers right back tomorrow.”
* * *
When Stiles went to Kay’s the next day and gingerly brought up the subject of adding a new face to the kennel and specifically to Stiles’ team — a very handsome face, he made sure to emphasize — Kay only raised her eyebrows and said, “Sure. If you think he might be able to do the job, then we can give him a shot.”
His mouth opened in surprise. “Really? Just like that?”
She shrugged. “Yeah. At this point, you oughta have some sense of what you’re doing. And if it’s a disaster, then you’ll learn something from that too. Gotta loosen the tether at some point, kid, let you make some decisions.”
“Giving me enough just rope to hang myself with, huh? I see how it is,” Stiles said, though he couldn’t deny the little flush of pride at this display of trust.
Kay just grinned at him, her short hair and ruddy cheeks making her look impish despite her advancing middle age. “All right, now go muck out the kennel out in preparation for our new guest, eh? Don’t skimp with the mop, I saw you neglecting some corners last time.”
“Ugh, you slavedriver. I’m so onto you, Kay Locklear,” he said, narrowing his eyes, but he went off to get the broom with a light step and a warm feeling in his chest.
* * *
After school the next day, Stiles rushed to the shelter and pretty soon he was signing the last of the paperwork and handing the clipboard back to Joanna with a flourish. “All set! Now gimme the dog.”
“Someone’s excited,” she remarked dryly, but brought him back to the cages and got Derek out. The big black dog walked a full circle around Stiles, sniffing him intently. Stiles was struck all over again by the piercing, serious look in Derek’s eyes, not to mention the weird green color. He’d never seen eyes like that on a dog before.
Stiles got down on the floor to talk to Derek face to face. “Hey Derek. I’m Stiles. Time for some real talk. I’m gonna cut right through the bullshit. I know you don’t know me and I don’t really know you, I just thought you looked cool and you seem smart and all. Wanna come live with me and maybe run together with some other dogs and have a really awesome new life? Promise it’ll be way fun.”
The dog stared at him, totally still and quiet. It worried him a little. He was aware that the Stiles Experience could be kind of overwhelming at first. Maybe he’d warm up to Stiles over time.
“All right, well, let’s try it anyway,” he said, taking the leash and taking his new dog out of the shelter and into the long Alaskan winter twilight.
“Good luck!” Joanna called as he left. “You’ll probably need it!”
As he drove towards the kennel, Derek loaded into the front seat of the Jeep, Stiles noticed the dog getting more tense, staring fixedly forward. He pulled into the driveway and killed the engine. Carefully, Stiles reached out, clearly telegraphing his actions, and laid his hand on Derek’s coarse-furred back.
It wasn’t immediately bitten off, that was definitely a good sign. The big sharp face turned, pinning Stiles with that intense gaze.
Stiles started up what he hoped was a soothing petting action. The dog didn’t move, but gradually seemed to lose the coiled, hard tension in his body. “Yeah, that’s good, right?” Stiles said. “Will you let me touch your head? I knew you’d be a good dog despite the scary looks, I am really thrilled you’re proving me right.”
Derek permitted Stiles’ hand to migrate up to his head and pat him around the ears. Maybe this wouldn’t end in tears after all.
Then, when he got Derek out of the car, things got… interesting.
The barking started bare seconds after the Jeep’s door closed. It sounded like every one of the fifty-one dogs in the fenced-off outdoor kennel area around the corner of the house had started baying at once. Sure, they usually got pretty excited when he arrived, since it meant food would be not long after, but never like this.
Stiles shortened the leash and led Derek round the corner. He stared. Every dog, staked out in its patch of territory next to an individual shelter, was awake and on its feet facing them, barking like Derek was a demonic entity.
Was Derek a demonic entity? Stiles tried to detect any hint of creepy Exorcist-style possession, hellfire or other supernatural effects, but the dog remained rigidly composed in the face of this un-welcome.
Then Derek growled.
The sound seemed to reverberate somehow, feeling like it was bypassing his ears entirely and reaching directly into Stiles’ brain. It wasn’t actually loud, but it felt like a Superbowl stadium’s worth of noise, packed into a much smaller sound. Which didn’t make any sense, but that was the closest he could come to explaining the growl’s effect.
All the dogs fell silent.
Princess, staked close to the front, came forward to the end of her chain, neck outstretched, head cocked curiously. She was a reddish-furred husky, on the small side but tenacious and crazy smart. However, she wasn’t afraid of bigger dogs and gotten in the middle of a few fights before, so Stiles tensed, prepared to pull Derek back, even if there was a chain-link fence between the two animals.
Derek barked once — a surprisingly high pitched bark considering his size. Princess seemed to be considering this. Much to Stiles’ surprise, she lowered her front quarters in the universal dog gesture for playfulness and yipped back.
It was like the ice had broken. Bodies relaxed. Normal barking commenced — a few yaps here and there, unlike the earlier wall of sound. Dogs sat down, moved around, began socializing with each other rather than all staring at the newcomer. Derek sat and lolled out his tongue, surveying the scene like he was master of all he gazed upon.
“What the fuck just happened?” Stiles said, bemused, but the crisis seemed to be over and no one was dead and there hadn’t been any demons or supernatural entities, so he was willing to chalk it up as a win. “Good job quelling the insurrection,” he told Derek, who looked up at him and huffed what might have been a doggy laugh. “Let’s get you in there and really face the proletariat masses.”
* * *
Later that evening, Stiles had to endure Scott’s smug self-congratulations on the phone when he was forced to admit that yes, Scott had been right and the dog was pretty awesome. “Even though he’s probably going to be too big and have bad feet or something,” Stiles said warningly. “So this may still all end in tears!”
“Too big? Oh,” Scott said.
“You thought bigger was better, didn’t you,” Stiles said. “Scott, let me remind you that it is not the size of the boat but the motion of the ocean that counts.”
“Dick jokes, always your best material,” Scott said. “But seriously, I only thought you’d want him because he was, like, the biggest husky-looking sort of dog I’d ever seen.”
Oh, Scott. “Well, let’s just say you meant well and I do like the dog despite his giant hulking frame, so thanks, buddy!”
“You’re welcome,” said Scott cheerfully, and moved smoothly into a detailed discussion of what he should get his girlfriend Allison for her upcoming birthday.
Stiles went to bed excited for the possibilities of familiarizing Derek with the kennel routines and introducing him to some of the equipment, and seeing him interact more with the other dogs. He’d seemed fine with his new situation — the stake and chain hadn’t bothered him, and he’d taken his portion of food without hesitation. Stiles was feeling pretty optimistic about it all.
So of course, because the universe hated him, the next morning Stiles arrived at the kennel to find a loose chain and no sign of Derek anywhere.
The other dogs greeted him as usual, like the newcomer had been some kind of prank or dream that was now finished.
Derek was gone.