When he returns to the hospital after a gruelling night of trying to figure out just what the hell happened to his son, Sheriff Stilinski knows something is up. That he knows something is up has nothing to do with his prowess at detecting things (although Stiles says he is awesome at that and he believes his son because, well. There are some things in life a father truly needs.) No, the what that is up is plainly visible in the form of Derek (he is pretty sure Stiles would add ‘freaking’ in here) Hale lurking – no, lounging – no, he thinks he’ll go with lurking – in a chair next to his son’s hospital bed, his eyes half-closed but still alert.
When he sees the sheriff, Derek eases out of the chair rather lithely considering Stilinski is almost 100 percent sure Derek (freaking – ok, he can’t resist it) Hale had just camped out all night in that chair keeping a watch over Stiles.
“Derek,” the sheriff says tentatively because he may be the sheriff, and twice the young man’s age, and although Derek had been exonerated of all the murders he had been accused of, the twenty-four year old was still, to be honest, a little terrifying.
“Sheriff,” Derek returns guardedly through stiff jaws and a scowl that the sheriff is not sure is meant for him or is just Derek’s default expression. It’s all Derek says as he glides past him, his brows knitted down, his expression unreadable otherwise. He thinks he hears a noise low in Derek’s throat as he exits.
The sheriff stands there for a moment, gathering his wits. Did Derek Hale just growl at him? And what the hell did those downturned eyebrows mean?
“Gonna tell me what that was about?” the sheriff asks his son as he drops heavily into the chair Derek had vacated.
He knows Stiles won’t answer him. They had said that Stiles might drift in and out but that it would probably take a few days before he’d regain full consciousness. So the sheriff knows it’s pretty much going to be a one-sided conversation for the next couple of days. He’s careful not to let his mind dwell too much on the no conversation that likely took place between his son and Derek over the past night. Instead, he lets his mind ponder over the possible scenarios that had led to Stiles being here, even voicing some of them out loud in hopes that his son would give a subconscious ‘nay’ or ‘yay’ to one of them.
They had brought Stiles in just after six the night before. The sheriff had been on duty when it had happened – an accident involving Stiles’ jeep. He had heard the call come through and was at the hospital as the trauma unit wheeled his son into the OR to stop some internal bleeding his injuries had caused. After Stiles was safely out of surgery, the sheriff had been allowed to see him. He whispered some words of comfort, telling Stiles he’d be back and then went to the scene of the accident to find out if his deputies had been able to piece together what had happened to his son.
The sight he had been confronted with hadn’t left the sheriff any less flabbergasted than the rest of them. If he’d had to guess, he would have said Stiles had hit a gigantic two-ton moose with his jeep – which was ridiculous because moose, as a general rule, did not make much of an appearance in this corner of Northern California – and that the moose, obviously annoyed and disgruntled at having been interrupted in its journey, had picked up the jeep with its hoofed feet and had hurled it – with Stiles unfortunately in it – clear across the highway where it had landed in a mangled heap upside down in a nearby field of mud.
Of course, his guess was just that – even if it was the most ridiculous thing he could ponder. Because, again, moose in Northern California – rare. And he was more than sure that hooves did not lend themselves well to picking up jeeps and hurling them, no matter how pissed off a particular moose might be. In any event, Stiles wasn’t saying ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to his theory, so the sheriff still had to consider it a working one at this point.
He is roused by an insistent nudge to his shoulder and opens his eyes (when had he fallen asleep?), startled to find Derek Hale looming over him, his eyebrows communicating some kind of code too complicated for the sheriff to decipher.
“Go home,” Derek tells him. “Get some rest.”
The sheriff blinks, trying to digest the fact that the twenty-four year old two-time murder suspect was telling him, the Sheriff of Beacon Hills, to go home.
“I—It’s—what?” He suddenly finds he’s at a loss for words.
“Go home,” Derek repeats slowly. “You need to rest. I’ll watch over him now.”
The sheriff scrubs a hand over his face, feeling the exhaustion running through his world-weary (though he was just over the hump of fifty) body. He is sure he hadn’t slept long, even if the evening had somehow crept up on him. He casts a look at his son then gives a searching one to Derek. He doesn’t want to leave Stiles but the way Derek Hale is looking at him – intense and brooding and something that almost looks like concern mixed in – manages to coax him out of the chair.
“He’ll be fine,” Derek reassures him (and isn’t Derek and reassuring some kind of oxymoron?), taking up the chair like it’s his rightful place, ushering the sheriff along with an insistent flick of his hand.
Sheriff Stilinski is crawling under the covers in his bed before he even knows what just happened.
He and Derek take turns keepings watch over Stiles – the sheriff on days, Derek on nights – (and, really, how bizarre does that sound?) waiting for Stiles to wake up and begin the full recovery the doctors have assured would happen. Their exchanges are mostly punctuated with not-quite-friendly-but-slowly-getting-there nods and the occasional acknowledging grunt. Derek, at least, has stopped scowling (and growling) at him, although the complicated eyebrow signals continue, which the sheriff still can’t decipher despite his attempt (as Stiles always tells him) to “google it”.
During the third night’s change of the guard, Derek surprises him by saying, “His blood pressure’s up. And he’s starting to...fidget.” The word seems strange coming out of Derek’s mouth but the sheriff supposes it’s the most appropriate one to fit Stiles’ even subconscious unconscious state. “Doctor thinks he’ll wake up soon.”
It’s the most Derek has ever said to him (and that’s including his interrogation for murder two times) and the sheriff feels both warmed and flummoxed by it.
But Derek turns out to be right and Stiles comes to fully that afternoon.
There is a lot the sheriff wants to ask Stiles but recognizes now is not the time and instead relishes in the comfort that his son is alive and on his way to recovering from what must remain, for the time being, an accident shrouded in complete mystery.
“So, Scott’s been around to see to you,” he tells his son, staying focused on the positive. “And so has Lydia and Allison. Also, the Lahey kid with someone called Boyd – is that his last name or his first name? – and a blonde girl named Erica who – I gotta be honest, son – is a bit terrifying (not Derek terrifying, he thinks, but still a five or six on the terrifying scale). And I’m the town sheriff.” He hears Stiles huff out a weak laugh and follows with, “And Derek Hale.”
“What?” Stiles croaks out softly but indignantly. “No Jackson?”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is his son making wisecracks from his hospital bed a mere few hours after recovering consciousness and effectively avoiding his father’s gentle prodding. Stiles’ mother would be impressed.
There are several minutes of silence before Stiles says, his voice low and raspy, “He thinks it’s his fault.”
The sheriff doesn’t have to ask to know Stiles is talking about Derek.
Stiles seems to think about it for a moment, as though trying to weigh Derek’s blameworthiness in all of it. Then he moves his head from side to side carefully. “No.”
The sheriff breathes an internal sigh of relief. Because he really wasn’t sure how he was going to fit Derek into his working theory of the gigantic, two-ton pissed off moose who showed great promise of taking the gold medal in shot (er, jeep?) put at the next Moose Olympics.
Stiles remains in the hospital for five days afterwards. The sheriff returns to work part-time, visiting Stiles in between work and sleep. Scott visits Stiles every day and most of the time, the sheriff notices, so does Derek, his visits usually occurring at night, despite the fact that regular visiting hours end at eight. He supposes Derek must have some unseen charming powers if he’s able to coax the nurses into letting him stay with Stiles over the night but the sheriff doesn’t want to think about that right now.
He happens upon Derek after a day shift on the fourth day of his son’s post-conscious recovery. Stiles is babbling animatedly about something while Derek is pretending to listen, hunkered down in the chair next to Stiles’ bed, his face (and his eyebrows, if the sheriff can correctly guess) expressing some kind of pained, long-suffering tolerance. Derek looks almost relieved when he spots the sheriff standing in the doorway and he quickly moves to get up even though Stiles appears to be in the middle of a long-winded monologue.
The sheriff gets it. People have little patience for Stiles and his constant rambling. Hell, he is the boy’s father and his patience often wears thin with Stiles. Derek Hale does not strike him as someone with more than an ounce of patience, so he imagines Stiles has got to get on Derek’s last nerve most of the time.
“Ah. His babbling getting to you?” the sheriff asks sympathetically as Derek moves past him, his face looking...well, kind of sour.
He is surprised completely when Derek responds, “A babbling Stiles is an okay Stiles,” before leaving the sheriff standing there and wondering when the hell Derek Hale had managed to gain such wisdom regarding his son.
His son beams from his hospital bed and the sheriff knows it’s going to be a long few hours visit, with Stiles likely talking until one of them falls asleep (the sheriff guesses it will probably be him, if past experience is anything to go by).
They let him take Stiles home with strict orders that his son must continue to get a lot of bed rest with minimal exertion.
It’s the first evening and the sheriff crosses the upstairs landing toward the bathroom, intending to check on Stiles along the way. His hand is on the door knob pushing gently when he hears Stiles say, “I’m fine, Derek. You don’t need to keep playing guard-wolf ”, and the sheriff abruptly pauses.
For a minute, the sheriff thinks Stiles must be on the phone but then he hears Derek say, “You’re not fine, Stiles. You almost died.” There’s a second’s pause then, “I don’t care what you say. I’m staying.”
He hears his son release a long-suffering sigh and tries to imagine what Derek’s eyebrows must be doing right now. “Dude, don’t just lurk about in the corner on the floor,” Stiles tells him. “Climb in, for fuck’s sake.”
The sheriff is about to call Stiles out and scold him for swearing when he remembers that a) Stiles had just spent the last week and a half in hospital and had, as Derek pointed out, almost died, and figures that b) swear words were probably necessary from time to time to deal with the stubborn likes of Derek Hale. So, he lets it pass and moves to pull the door firmly closed.
And if he thinks he notices Derek’s eyes glow red in the darkness as he climbs into the bed next to Stiles, or that Derek’s gaze falls intensely on him like he knows he’s been listening, the sheriff tells himself he imagines it because he is very tired to the point of feeling world-weary and he deserves to give himself a break.
He shuffles onward to the bathroom and tries not to think about the twenty-four year old two-time murder suspect in bed with his seventeen year old son and ignores the niggling over how Derek came to be in Stiles’ room in the first place since the sheriff definitely does not remember letting him in through the front door. Because world-weary, remember? And, besides, Derek spent almost every night watching over Stiles in the hospital so the sheriff is inclined to agree over the insistent point of letting him stay.
At breakfast two days later, the sheriff decides it’s time to confront Stiles about the accident. He expects Stiles to skirt the issue (because Stiles is very good at skirting, and not in the cross-dressing way) and is surprised when Stiles tells him, “I was tracking a troll that had been enchanted by a witch. It suddenly came out of nowhere and I hit it. It got pissed off and tossed the jeep clear across the highway. Derek obviously found me, wolfed out, and used his werewolf superpowers to pull me free and call an ambulance.”
The sheriff allows himself to blink a few times. “Did you just say troll, witch and werewolf?” he asks.
“Yeah, Dad,” his son responds hesitantly. “I did.”
Okay. Well, an enchanted troll makes a hell of a lot more sense than a gigantic two-ton hoofed moose that is not common in these parts of Northern California, so at least he can put that working theory to rest.
From there the flood gates open. Stiles tells him all about how Scott was bitten by an alpha werewolf (Peter not Derek), how Derek Hale became alpha, how he and Scott have been helping Derek and his pack battle supernatural baddies who seem to be drawn to the Beacon Hills area. At the end of it all, Stiles looks at his father, puffs out his cheeks and lets out a whoosh of air as if to say, “Wow. Is that ever a load off.”
The sheriff is digesting everything Stiles has just told him but decides he needs a short recap to get it all straight and hopes his son will oblige him.
“So, Scott?” he asks, his brows knitting.
“Werewolf. Born. Now alpha. Trying to establish a pack.”
“The Lahey kid?”
“Werewolf. Bitten. Derek’s pack.”
“That terrifying blonde girl?”
“Erica. Also Derek’s pack,” Stiles says with a cheeky grin. “And Boyd. Which is his last name, by the way.”
“Lydia?” the sheriff questions further.
“Has some latent magical powers – enough to bring Peter Hale back to the living, but that’s another story – but more Glenda the Good Witch kind than the Wicked Witch of the West. Or so we’re hoping.”
The sheriff lets that sink in before continuing. “Allison?”
“Uh, hunter.” The sheriff’s eyebrows raise. “It’s complicated,” his son tells him.
“What about Jackson?”
“Well, the good thing is Jackson’s no long a slimy, scaly lizard assassin – which also, another long story – and is now one of Derek’s pack. The bad thing is he’s still a first-rate douchebag.”
The sheriff nods to concede the point then dares to ask,” And you? What are you?”
“Me?” Stiles says, looking surprised by the question. “I’m Stiles. Human. No special powers. Just 147 pounds of awkwardness and persistence. I’m nothing.”
The sheriff takes the time to regard his son for a moment. The way Stiles has his head cocked to the side, kind of forlornly, he is sure the boy believes he is nothing special even though it is clear from everything the kid’s told him that nothing is as far away from the truth as the gigantic two-ton moose had been. His son is a teenage boy who runs with wolves – well, werewolves anyway and that is even more harrowing a thought than actual wolves (although he makes a mental note to ask Stiles what the whole ‘wolfed-out’ thing actually means).
He chooses his words carefully. “I don’t think Scott thinks you’re nothing,” he tells his son, who tilts his head as if to concede, although reluctantly. “And I really don’t think Derek Hale thinks you’re nothing.”
Stiles half rolls his eyes and gives him a wry smile. “I’m just human, Dad,” he says. “Weak and pathetic. The only thing Derek thinks I am is a fragile and annoying human teenager who talks too much and puts himself in danger so that he constantly needs someone to save his sorry ass.”
The sheriff puts a hand on Stiles’ shoulder. “Look, I know you think I’m old, son,” he says. “And dumb.” (He really hopes more old than dumb.) “But I actually know some things.” (Granted, he didn’t know about werewolves and trolls and witches but, damn it, he was old, okay?) He looks at Stiles intently. “Derek may be some kind of badass alpha werewolf with superpowers, but I see the way he looks at you. And that look is not one that says you’re nothing. It’s a look full of awe – like he can’t believe you actually exist.” He smiles at Stiles. “I’m telling you, kid, if I didn’t know better – and I think I do, despite your lack of faith in my ability to know things – I would say the badass werewolf is in love with you. All 147 pounds of awkward, persistent, fragile, babbling human that you are.”
Stiles honest to goodness splutters then works his mouth open and closed like a gaping fish. The sheriff grins, taking a moment to enjoy the feeling of having rendered his son – Stiles, ladies and gentlemen, who started babbling less than five minutes out of the womb– speechless.
It doesn’t last long.
“Dad, you’re completely mistaken. Derek doesn’t—is not--”
Okay, so at least there’s still the spluttering to enjoy. The sheriff gets up from the table to pour himself another cup of coffee. “And if Derek’s going to be more of a fixture around here now,” he says, deciding to push his son’s spluttering a little further, “you might want to tell him to use the front door instead of your bedroom window.” He fixes a look at Stiles, who has gone back to gaping, and is also now, to the sheriff’s delight, blushing. “And,” he says, taking a sip of his freshly poured coffee, “let him protect you.”
Stiles stares at him as he sits back down at the table. He sips at his coffee and idly flips through the sports section of the newspaper, wondering how long it will take before Stiles returns to himself and goes back to eating his breakfast. It turns out not long. It’s not even two minutes later that Stiles resumes spreading jam on his toast and the sheriff doesn’t even attempt to hide his grin.
When he’s clearing off the table ten minutes later, Stiles patting his full stomach with satisfaction, the sheriff says suddenly, “You’re really gonna have to teach me how to interpret Derek’s facial expressions.” He waves a hand at his forehead. “And the whole eyebrow thing.”
“I know, right?” Stiles expresses with glee. “It’s like he’s landing planes with those things.”
When he gets home after working the afternoon shift, he finds Stiles and Derek on the couch in the family room, watching TV. He gets a split second to notice Stiles has his head in Derek’s lap and that Derek is tracing the curve of Stiles’ cheekbone with his thumb before they’re aware of his presence (and didn’t Stiles tell him werewolves had a super-sense of hearing and smell? Which only confirms the sheriff’s affirmations that Derek Hale is far too easily distracted by his son) and Stiles bolts up from the couch and Derek’s lap like he’d been zapped by the sheriff’s taser.
(The sheriff also notices the redness around Stiles’ lips, cheeks and jaw, most likely caused by stubble burn and he doesn’t have to stretch his imagination much to realize what his son and Derek Hale must have been up to prior to stretching out on the couch lazily and watching TV.)
“I invited Derek over to watch TV,” Stiles starts to explain and the sheriff doesn’t grin right away because it’s too much fun watching his son squirm at the moment, even if it is a tad evil – in the Glenda the Good Witch kind of way. “And Derek used the door,” Stiles adds, gesture-flailing toward Derek who is still sitting on the couch and looking, to the sheriff’s surprise and wonder, amused.
He decides to let Stiles off the hook. “That’s great,” he says, moving toward the kitchen to make himself a snack. “Don’t let me interrupt,” he tosses over his shoulder at the boys, catching his son’s wide eyes and an honest-to-goodness grin from Derek.
Because he may be a little slow on the uptake when it comes to witches, trolls and werewolves, but Sheriff Stilinski knows one thing definitely. He knows when someone is in love. And right now that someone is Derek, who is in love with Stiles – a fragile, awkward human, and Stiles, who is in love with Derek – a grumpy, growling werewolf.
And he knows what Stiles’ mother would think of all of it. Well, she’d probably think they were all nuts but, deep down, she’d be pleased. The sheriff is sure of that.