Derek shifts nervously from one foot to the other, fist hovering over the dark wood of his mom’s office door. He’s not sure if he should knock or not, he’s not sure if this is reason enough to bother his mom.
In any other circumstances, Derek wouldn’t hesitate in knocking on the office door and poking his head in, knowing his mom always makes time for him and whatever it is he needs to talk about.
But the thing is, when Derek had gone to Laura, she had shrugged him off and continued painting her nails as that depressing band she likes blared through her headphones. When he had asked Peter, he had shrugged like it was none of his concern and continued to teach Malia how to peel things with her claws while looking threatening.
Derek hadn’t tried to approach anyone else because- well, his werewolf senses aren’t the best per se.
It’s embarrassing having worse senses than his little brother who’s barely six; it’s even more embarrassing how his mom strokes his hair and calls him a late bloomer while the others throw around the word runt.
It’s not malicious, not really, but it’s enough to make Derek double guess everything he hears or scents that’s not in his immediately line of sight.
So it’s understandable, that when he had heard the distinct clinking and scrabbling sounds of someone climbing the drain pipe on the side of the house accompanied by a rabbit fast heartbeat, and no one else had reacted to it, he worried he’s imagining things.
“Derek, sweetheart, are you going to come in or stay out there all night?” his mom calls out, and he winces, forcing himself to push the door open.
His mother pointedly looks up from her papers and crosses her arms on top of them, making sure Derek knows he has her full attention.
“I think there’s someone climbing the drain pipe,” he mumbles, still not willing to step completely into the office, not wanting to bother his mom in case it’s just his broken senses acting up again.
Talia frowns and tilts her head, listening.
“Huh,” she says, “I think you’re right. Do you want to come see?”
Derek bites his lip and nods, finally moving into the room and rushing to help his mom open the door to the little veranda in her office.
They both look down and slightly sideways, towards where the drainpipe runs up the house, and sure enough there’s a small figure clutching to it, heaving slightly panicked breaths.
“Always trust your senses, baby,” his mom tells him with a fond smile and a hand ruffling through his hair, before she climbs over the veranda railing and leans down, grabbing the intruder by the back of the shirt and hauling them inside effortlessly.
The boy lands on the soft carpet of his mom’s office with a soft thud, eyes wide and heartbeat accelerated.
It’s not the first time something like this has happened, and it surely won’t be the last.
If there’s a thing Beacon Hills doesn’t have a shortage of, it’s children and teens trying to break and enter into the old Hale masion, trying to pull a fast one on a pack of werewolves even though they know their chances of actually doing it are close to nil.
In all honesty, it’s become a family game, see who can catch more people trying to sneak into the Hale property. There’s a tally in a blackboard hanging in the kitchen and everything.
(This will be the first time Derek’s name goes up there.)
The ones who venture into Hale land that are from Beacon Hills aren’t afraid of being caught; it’s a game to them too. They know the Hales are here to protect them, not bring them harm.
It’s like the worst kept secret of Beacon Hills, or the best, depending on how you look at it.
The boy is trembling finely, and when he opens his mouth Derek expects him to apologize profusely and blame a classmate for daring them.
Instead what comes out is, “I want to speak with the Alpha.”
Derek looks up at his mom, stunned and unsure, shuffling so he’s half behind her.
“Okay. Speak,” his mom orders.
The kid bites his lip and stands up, raising his chin defiantly like he’s ready to fight everyone that gets in his way if he needs to.
Derek has to admit it’s pretty ballsy to act like that in front of an Alpha.
“You need to fix my mom,” the kid demands. “She’s sick-“
“Oh, honey, I can’t just-“ his mom starts, but is quickly interrupted by the kid.
“No!” he slams his foot on the floor, cheeks puffing up, and for a second the overhead lights start flickering. “She’s magic sick. In her head,” he says, jamming a bony finger into his forehead, “and Mr. Doctor Deaton won’t do anything even though everyone knows if it’s magic you have to go to him. So you have to fix her. She got hurt in the woods,” his lip starts wobbling. “In the fae rings.”
Derek clutches his mom’s shirt and pulls lightly, getting her attention. “Are you gonna help him?” he whispers, and hates that he feels his lip wobble a little bit.
He’s not a baby anymore, he shouldn’t cry just because things are really sad.
Talia gives him a reassuring smile and runs her fingers through his hair soothingly. “Of course, baby. That’s what we do.”
Derek nods. “We protect people.”
That gets him another hair ruffle before his mom turns back to the kid and asks, “What’s your name?”
The kid stands a little taller, chin jutting up. “Stiles Stilinski.”
“Well, Stiles, I’m going to leave you with Derek for a bit while I call your parents to tell them you’re okay, and get Olivia. She’s the one who’s going to help your mom get better. Is that okay?”
Stiles looks at Derek suspiciously for a minute before giving a jerky nod.
Talia nods to herself before heading towards the door, trusting Derek to take care of this random, possibly magic intruder even though Derek must be barely two years older than him.
As soon as the door closes, the usual awkwardness that always happens when parents shove two kids together and expect them to get along because they’re roughly the same age descends, only to be rudely snapped in half by Stiles asking, “Can I see your wolf face?”
Derek blinks once, twice, tilts his head and frowns in confusion. “My- wolf face?”
“You know,” Stiles says, pulling his lips over his teeth, bending his fingers into claws and grr-ing at him. “Your wolf face.”
Derek flushes all over, ducks his head and kicks the carpet awkwardly. “I, uh, can’t really shift into my beta shift.”
Stiles throws himself on the armchair in front of his mom’s desk and sprawls like he owns the place. “Can you shift to an actual wolf then?”
“Don’t be silly. Only my mom can do that.”
Stiles squints at him and for a split second the color of his eyes turns liquid, like there’s whiskey sloshing around in the irises. It’s subtle enough that it could pass for a trick of the light but Derek knows better; growing up peeking at an array of supernatural creatures from behind his mom’s legs taught him enough to take a step back.
“Maybe you need a push.”
“You look like you need a push.” Stiles scrunches up his face. “It’s weird.”
“You’re weird,” Derek throws at him, glaring and crossing his arms over his chest huffily.
Stiles gets up and takes a couple of steps towards him, tilting his chin to look up at Derek still squinting like he’s trying to see something far away.
“Maybe your wolf is stuck,” he starts, “and it needs a push to get unstuck.”
“My wolf is not-“ Derek starts but Stiles is nodding to himself like that makes sense, and the next thing Derek knows he has the younger boy’s splayed palms on his stomach and then he shoves.
In normal circumstances, it shouldn’t hurt, but it does. Derek might not be able to shift and his senses might be underdeveloped but he’s strong, his pain tolerance is higher than even Laura’s and she’s going to be Alpha one day.
So a ten year old human kid pushing him shouldn’t hurt. It shouldn’t even be enough to make Derek list backwards, but it does.
It hurts like someone is snapping his bones and grinding them until they’re smaller. He can’t help but whimper and fall backwards, hearing the telltale sound of cloth ripping and feeling something in his brain readjusting like the click of a key in a lock. Suddenly he’s sitting down on his hindlegs, blinking at a world in shades of grey, and there’s a snout in front of his eyes.
Stiles stands in front of him, opening and closing his mouth in shock like he has no idea what happened either even though he caused it.
The door bursts open and his mom barges in, eyes flashing and claws out, the pack at her heels, all of them trying to pass through the study door at the same time. The pack bond bounces around the panic and fear and anger until Derek winces and lowers his head close to the ground, trying to get away from it, whining pitifully.
“I didn’t mean to!” Stiles squeaks out, looking everything like a deer caught in the headlights. “It was an accident, I swear!”
His mom looks between them for a second before rolling her shoulders and shrugging off the shift.
“I’m sorry,” Stiles says miserably. “He was stuck. I was just trying to help, I’m sorry.”
Talia looks over at Aunt Olivia who gives her a tiny nod and steps forward.
“It’s okay, you didn’t know what you were doing, and no one’s permanently injured so no harm done, sweetheart,” Aunt Olivia tries to reassure, speaking with her usual calm and soothing tone. “No one’s mad at you.”
“I’m pretty ma-“ Laura starts but is elbowed by someone and promptly shuts up.
“No one is mad at you. But I think it’d be better to leave Talia and Derek alone for a little bit, so why don’t you come down to the kitchen with me and we can drink some hot chocolate and talk about what you just did. Does that sound good, honey?”
Stiles nods, sending a panicky look towards Talia. “I’m sorry,” he says again. “Are you still going to help my mom?”
“Of course,” Talia nods. “Now go with Olivia; she’s the one who knows about magic. You can tell her what happened to your mom.”
Stiles bites his lip and looks down at Derek. “Sorry.”
Derek chuffs because he can’t very well say it’s okay, and then watches as Aunt Olivia takes Stiles’ hand and guides him out of the room, ushering the rest of the family along, until only him and his mom are left in her office.
Talia crouches down in front of him and buries one of her hands in the fur at the top of his head, petting him like she does when he’s feeling restless and can’t sleep.
“Jesus, kiddo,” his mom sighs, “you can’t do anything the easy way, can you?”
Derek whines and wiggles until he’s in her lap and can bury his snout under her arm.
It takes most of the rest of the afternoon to shift back, and it’s a hard, frustrating experience, for both him, his mom, and the several members of the family who come in and out to pitch in their two cents.
But he does it, and once he does it’s easy, so stupidly, absolutely easy that he wonders how he couldn’t do it in the first place.
He shifts back and forward a couple of times, feeling giddy with it now, feeling like he’s not such a failure of a wolf anymore because he can full shift and not even Laura can do that and she’s going to be Alpha one day.
His mom looks down at him, radiating pride for twenty solid minutes, indulging Derek and letting him run around her office on four paws, before she announces he needs to get dressed and they need to take care of Stiles.
By the time they get downstairs, there’s a woman sitting on a couch, squeezing her hands together and frowning down at her lap, Stiles fluttering around her anxiously and a deputy staring uncomprehendingly at Derek’s shifted uncle.
“Werewolves,” the man says, hand hovering over his gun but never quite making contact.
Stiles makes a noise and holds the man’s hand, effectively preventing him from reaching for his gun.
“Werewolves,” Stiles confirms.
“I can’t believe the Hale weirdness is werewolves.” He shakes his head. “I had my money on cult; you just lost me twenty dollars,” he says and then sits down on the couch, bringing Stiles down with him and holding the woman’s hand.
By the familiarity, Derek guesses those are Stiles’ parents.
“We could reimburse you for that,” Talia says, moving into the living room and offering a polite smile with no teeth at their guests. “I’m Talia Hale, the Alpha. Pleasure to meet you deputy…”
“John Stilinski,” the man introduces himself, offering a hand for her to shake. “This little deviant you already know, and this is my wife, Claudia.”
Talia’s attention turns to Claudia. “Pleasure to meet you.”
Claudia looks up distractedly, still frowning, confusion and pain wafting off of her in waves. “Pleasure.”
Talia trades a look with Aunt Olivia.
“Is anything the matter, Claudia? You seem- conflicted.”
Claudia looks at a loss, sneaks a glance at Stiles, and frowns harder.
“It’s just- I don’t have a son.”
The room goes completely silent for three agonizing seconds, Stiles breaking it with a heartbroken “Mommy” before John gets up as if to build a physical barrier between his wife and his son.
“She’s having a bad day,” he says, sounding pained. “We should go.”
“Or you should stay,” his mom says, her tone leaving no space for argument that the Stilinskis will stay. “We can help your wife. Stiles tells us that the cause is magical. Well, I’ve got two fae magic experts sitting in this room alone and one more out getting groceries.”
“I-“ John looks at his son.
“Derek can entertain Stiles while we try to figure this out, can’t you, darling?”
Derek nods, raising his chin a little and straightening his back because this is important and his mom trusts him for the important stuff, so he has to be grown up about it.
John looks at his wife, who’s frowning down at her hands, looking a special kind of lost and devastated, and then at his son who looks two seconds away from breaking into tears, and ever so slowly nods, making a decision.
“Okay. Okay, if you can help, we’re willing to try it.”
There’s this ingrained belief in Beacon Hills that if you’re in trouble and there isn’t a police officer around, you can search for a Hale and they will help you, be it your cat being stuck in a tree or you being robbed. A Hale will help you if they’re within hearing distance.
This belief has been a truth for almost as long as the Hales established themselves in the then-usually-quiet town of Beacon Hills.
Derek’s seventeen now and he can’t even begin to fanthom the number of times someone has stopped him on the street asking for help, the number of cats he's ‘rescued’ from trees, the pickpocketers he's chased down, the number of people he has pulled away from getting hit by a car, the number of kids that have come to him with a helpless grin and an untied shoelace.
He’s leaving for college soon, following after his sister and his older cousins. He doesn’t know how he’ll cope without a community that sees him and just assumes he’s a nice person because he’s a Hale and the Hales are there to help.
“Mister, can you get my ball from that tree?” he hears a high pitched voice beg, and he’s just turning towards it to say yes of course, when he sees the child speaking to Stiles.
“Me?” Stiles asks, tone amused and slightly confused even as he walks towards the appointed tree and looks at it critically, thinking up the best way to get the brightly colored rubber ball.
“You’re a Hale, right?” the kid asks, and Stiles laughs.
The kid’s face scrunches up. “That’s the same thing though, isn’t it?”
Derek snorts and leans against a lamppost, waiting for Stiles’ answer.
“I guess it is,” Stiles says and concentrates hard on the branches, waves his hand around like he’s been practicing until the branches start shaking and the ball falls down and rolls away.
The kid stares up at him with an open mouth and wide eyes.
“You’re magic?” they gasp.
Stiles brings his finger to his lips in a shushing gesture, pressing it against his smile. “Don’t tell; it’s a secret.”
The kid nods fervently, and then runs after their ball.
“This is why everyone knows about us, you know?” Derek says, raising an eyebrow at him so Stiles feels judged. He has it from a good source (read: Stiles himself) that his eyebrows are the judgiest eyebrows. He also has it from a good source that Stiles should never get drunk and be left unattended because he will try to climb every single tree or person in sight. Despite what his younger cousins and siblings seem to think, Derek doesn’t actually appreciate getting climbed like a tree.
Stiles rolls his eyes and pffts at him. “Yeah, and you turning into a wolf to go frolic on the playground or ‘accidentally’ turning back to human bucknaked in the middle of the city has nothing to do with it.”
Derek huffs. “That was one time.”
Stiles bumps his shoulder and starts down the street, trusting Derek to follow, and Derek does. He’s been following this brat around since his mom entrusted him with Stiles’ safety five years ago when Stiles thought the best way to save his mom would be by climbing the side of the Hale house.
“And that was hardly my fault.”
Stiles smirks. “You’re right. It’s not your fault that you can’t hold your laced liquor.”
“I will throw you over my shoulder and carry you all the way to the preserve,” Derek threatens.
“You wouldn’t dare. Mom would give you her disappointed look, and you hate my mom’s disappointed look almost as much as you hate your mom’s disappointed look.”
Derek huffs. Stiles is right.
So instead of throwing him over his shoulder, he settles on putting him in a headlock and rubbing his knuckles over Stiles’ scalp.
Stiles yelps and tries to wrestle away, digging his bony fingers into Derek’s ribs.
Derek shies away because that tickles and lets go of him.
“Why would your mom be disappointed anyway?”
If there is something Claudia Stilinski loves, it is to laugh, so Derek doesn’t really get the why of her being disappointed since he’s sure she’d find her son squawking indignantly down the street funny.
“She’s tired of trying to reassure people that her fifteen year old son isn’t dating a seventeen year old boy who looks like he dead lifts school buses for a living.”
Derek rolls his eyes and Stiles trips him up because he’s a brat, and Derek has no idea why he puts up with him.
“Rude, I’m a great catch.”
Derek opens his mouth to tell him he’s not catching anything Stiles might or might not be throwing when something makes him stop and look.
He tilts his head and just stares for a couple of seconds, trying to figure out what is it in Stiles that always makes him stop and stand to attention, what is it about him that makes his heartbeat the loudest in a crowded room, what is it about him that made Derek hear him five years back when he shouldn’t have been able to, what is it about him that with one push he could break down whatever mental block Derek had that was preventing him from shifting and made him stumble straight into a full shift, something that a lot of ‘wolves much more experienced than Derek spend years trying to achieve and fail.The last two things should’ve been impossible by all accounts, but here they are.
And is it just him or are Stiles’ shoulders getting broader?
Stiles punches him in the chest. “Stop staring, you weirdo,” he huffs, a blush high on his cheeks and Derek turns away, starts walking again.
“You’re not a bad catch.”
He’s asked his mother what is it about Stiles exactly, and he’s always gotten the same response back. A knowing smile and an ambiguous you’ll figure it out when it’s time.
It’s been five years. Derek doesn’t know when it’ll be time, but he hopes that it’s soon, he hopes that he can find the answer to this restless feeling he gets sometimes when they’re near each other, this anticipation that keeps building and building and appears to reach no climax or resolution.
“I can’t believe you said that,” Stiles crows. “Wait, say it again. I should record this. What a historic moment! Derek Hale said I-“
Derek huffs, shoots a hand out to catch Stiles’ arm and easily hauls him over his shoulder making the boy let out a half-panicked shout followed by indignant squeaking.
“Put me down, you asshole.”
“No,” Derek says simply and starts walking towards where he parked the car, the sound of Stiles complaining loudly accompanying him.
Stiles punches him in the thigh and squeaks some insult or other and the anticipation builds, that restless feeling of not finding exactly the right position to be comfortable in takes over, and Derek trudges down the street with Stiles’ voice breaking when it goes too high and wondering why it doesn’t grate on his ears like it should.
He hopes he’ll figure it out soon.