There's something seriously creepy going on with Mr. Hale's kindergarten class.
Stiles notices it in the middle of an unplanned fire drill. He's already outside with his class when he hears the fire alarm go off, which is nice because he doesn't even really have to do anything in response, and is doubly nice because at least he knows it wasn't any of his own hellions who actually set off the alarm this time. He honors the code of fire drills — that being that fire drills mean an immediate cessation to all learning activities — and gives up on his lecture about the vascular systems of plants. He's going to be busy enough just keeping his fourth-graders from wandering off to chat with their friends. He does a quick head-count to make sure he's still got them all, and he's finishing it up with counting Janey and Michael's stooped heads — God, they're plotting something again, what even is his life — when he spots the Stepford class making their eerie way out of the school.
Scott's kindergarten class is exiting the building at the same time, so the contrast is obvious. Scott's kids are in a barely-restrained state of sheer unadulterated joy. They look like an unruly mob of Corgis, adorable and trying to run in every direction on stubby little legs. Scott's given up all pretense of control and is resorting to herding them along, running back and forth at high speeds like a sheepdog to corral the stragglers.
Hale's class, on the other hand, leave the building in three extremely orderly rows, all of them holding hands and freakishly silent, moving in unnatural unison.
It's a thing of chilling glory to behold, until Scott's class barrels right into them, scattering the back half of Hale's orderly rows, sending kids running in every direction, the chain of hands tragically broken. Stiles watches it with his mouth open, wondering whether he's going to have to wade in to the sea of tiny people to rescue Scott because Hale looks like he's considering the situation to be justification for homicide. But Hale just turns away with an honest-to-God snarl on his face and ushers the intact half of his human chain toward their designated fire-drill slice of lawn. The rest of the kids are in chaos, some of them crying because they're lost in the middle of a bunch of other kids who aren't the right kids, some of them wandering off in different directions entirely, getting lost among the legs of older students streaming out of the school building. Scott can't even seem to tell which ones are his; he just helplessly tries to herd the suddenly-larger group toward the nearest open patch of lawn, which thankfully is on the other side of a first-grade class, so Hale won't actually be nearby enough to find murder convenient.
And then things get really freaky, because Hale squeezes what's left of his class into a huddle, gives them some kind of extremely brief pep talk, and then they do start making noise. Really weird noise. They start howling.
At least, that's what Stiles would call it. They don't exactly sound like wolves, but their warbling arrroooooooooooos seem pretty obvious. Scott's just barely got his mixed group of ankle-biters settled when some of them start answering back, howling their little hearts out and following the sound of their compatriots back toward their own class. The confusion seems to be gone, now that they've got a goal in mind and a sound to follow; they filter themselves out of Scott's group and in between the first graders, back to where they belong. A few of the more profoundly lost kids find their way over, too, but there's one howling her little heart out from way over by Mrs. Harvell's class, which is not actually that far from Stiles', and the kid's not moving toward her class. She sounds like she's not so much giving an I'm-on-my-way howl as she's giving an oh-god-where-am-I-someone-rescue-me howl.
Hale's still busy with the rest of his lost sheep, which is why Stiles turns to his class and says, "Okay, let's make a deal! I'm gonna go help out Mr. Hale, and if all of you are right here when I get back, our medieval history unit is going to involve practical Nerf warfare on this very battlefield."
Janey and Michael are the first to drop themselves butt-first into the grass, signaling their willingness to agree to those terms. They look incredibly cunning, like they're considering their options for medieval-themed long-range Nerf weapons and how difficult it might be to build some sort of dodgeball-flinging trebuchet. Stiles is extremely suspicious. But the rest of the class follows their lead, dropping like some sort of falling-down flashmob, so Stiles just counts it as at least a temporary win, turns around, and follows the quavering sound of sort-of-howling.
Even though the rest of Hale's class are still calling — admittedly with less gusto than before, but they're kids, they have a certain innate capacity for high-volume wailing — the little lost wolf has actually managed to migrate further away from them, and from Mrs. Harvell's class, and is hiding behind a tree, scrambling at the bark like she's trying to climb it or possibly just hug it into submission.
When Stiles finds her, he stops and allows her to process his presence for a second, because she looks like she's thinking thoughts about stranger danger and seriously considering fleeing in an upward direction. He can hear the sirens of fire engines already approaching, he just thinks it'll be embarrassing for everyone if instead of fighting an actual fire they end up having to fish a student out of an oak.
He says, "Wolves can't climb trees."
Her howl cuts off abruptly, and she stares at him in altogether too suspicious a manner for a five-year-old. "They can't?" she says, like she's testing his truthfulness.
"Nope, they're more ground wolves," he says. "They're really good at tracking things, though. You want some help tracking down your teacher?"
She sniffles, but doesn't look convinced. "My Alpha," she says, and it takes Stiles a second to realize that's a correction. Alpha. Jesus Christ. Hale is the weirdest. "You're not in my pack, though. I don't trust you."
"Well, that's fair," Stiles says, and thinks it's a sad day in his life when he's scrambling to outwit a toddler. "I'm not very wolf-like, I guess. Hey, you ever seen The Secret of NIMH?"
"That's the one with the mice," the kid says. She finally eases up her death-grip on the tree. "I like Mrs. Brisby."
"Everybody likes Mrs. Brisby," Stiles agrees, because it is a known fact that Mrs. B is the fucking baddest. "I'm more like the bird, though, remember him?"
The girl's eyes go wide. "The owl?" she says, and shudders.
"No, no! The crow, with the string. Remember him? He's awesome, right? I'm just like that crow. I too an easily distracted by shiny things."
"So?" the kid says, and Stiles will give her this, she's totally good at cutting to the chase.
"So," Stiles repeats, and crouches down at her level, "Crows and wolves are totally bros. Your Alpha didn't tell you about this?"
The kid shakes her head, her little braided pigtails flopping against her shoulders. She's fucking adorable, it's unreal.
"Well, crows can see from high up in the sky, so sometimes when they find food they'll call out, and the wolves can hear them and find the food too, and then everybody has dinner together. Like Thanksgiving without the genocide. And sometimes they even play games of tag together. You know, when the crows start to get worried about whether the wolves are going to get fat and develop a heart condition."
"Really?" the kid says, and finally creeps out from behind the tree, taking a few careful steps toward him. "And you're a crow?"
Stiles manfully holds back all of his Game of Thrones jokes, mostly because they'd be wasted on a kindergartner, but they would've been good. "I'm totally a crow, and I spotted your pack a little while ago. How 'bout I help you find them again?"
"And then we'll all have dinner?" the girl says, and she seems to have officially bought into this argument with the offering of food, because she's lost all of her reservations now, slipping her hand into his and then scrambling against his legs until he realizes she's climbing him instead of the tree and he boosts her up into his arms. He's not really used to dealing with students that are this... portable.
"Well, I'm sure Mr. Hale can at least find you a pudding cup or something," Stiles says, and if it's a lie then it's about to be Mr. Hale's problem.
He passes his fourth-graders on the way, and they're all still accounted for, although Stiles doesn't even want to know why they seem to be practicing trust-falls, or why Janey and Michael are eying him like that. He regrets leaving Lord of the Flies on the summer reading list.
He has his hands full with the kid, anyway, because from her new heightened vantage point she can see her "pack," too, and she starts arooooooooooing excitedly in his ear and squirming in his arms, though whether she's doing that with the aim of getting loose or kicking him in the spleen, he's really not sure. She's definitely accomplished the second one.
"Mr. Hale," Stiles greets, when they're close enough that he doesn't have to out-howl the kid in his arms. "Or should I say Alpha?"
Hale looks simultaneously relieved and annoyed, which is a special talent of his that Stiles has noticed. He's able to express any emotion at all while still looking annoyed. Stiles likes to tell his kids that everybody has at least one special skill; the perpetual frown is one of Hale's.
The annoyance turns into a smirk, anyway, as Stiles passes the squirming kid from his hands into Hale's, and Hale says, "Not necessary, you're not pack." It actually stings a little. Stiles is hurt. He is wounded.
"Well, I found your little lost pup for you, so, you're welcome." Stiles can do annoyed, too. He's a master of annoyed. He's not even noticing how multi-colored Hale's stupid eyes are or wondering what it might taste like if he licked the seam of Hale's frowning lips. He has not at all, not even once, wondered about those things since Hale started at the school last month. He has absolutely not checked out Hale's ass in the teacher's lounge when he's been getting a drink from the water cooler. "I was sort of promised a reward of dinner, but that's okay, I can see that you're too busy to hunt down any deer with your teeth right now."
Hale frowns at him, but the kid in his arms flops around until she's swinging upside down from her knees, and says, "He's a crow!" and somehow miraculously understanding crosses Hale's face as he stoops to set the upside-down kid on the ground.
When he straightens up, he's already got an eyebrow raised. "Are you asking me out to dinner?" he says, his voice completely even. "Or are you trying to tell me that you're a brother of the Night's Watch and you're sworn to celibacy?"
Stiles' heart does a little skip in his chest because that was a Game of Thrones joke, Hale is in fact the perfect man. Even with his generally-disapproving eyebrows. "I like to think of it less as a vow and more as a dry spell." He sticks out his hand, offering it for a shake. "Stiles; House Stilinski. Ours Is The Hunger."
Hale snorts, but he takes the offered hand, and his grip is warm and snug and wonderful in every way. "Derek, House Hale. Supper Is Coming."
"Really," Stiles says, raising his own eyebrows. "If you did want to get dinner with me, it wouldn't be the only thing that was— no, I can't go there. There are too many five-year-olds around."
Derek rolls his eyes. Behind him, from a safe distance, Scott is frantically waving his arms like he's trying to avert a crash landing. Stiles ignores him because Scott is the best best friend a guy could ask for but he's a terrible wingman.
"You teach fourth grade, right?" Derek says. "You've got the twins in your class?"
"Janey and Michael, yeah," Stiles says, and then, "Oh! They're Hales, too!"
"My niece and nephew," Derek says, with a nod. "I only mention it because they've got that look right now."
Stiles spins around, his eyes seeking out the twins automatically, as they've been trained to do in mere weeks since the start of the school year. They've got Toby boxed in between them and he looks like a tiny rabbit about to be devoured by actual wolves.
"Thanks," Stiles says, and spins back around long enough to take in Derek's everything, even as he starts backing away toward his class. "I uh... I guess I'll see you?"
Derek nods, and then he actually smiles, and for the first time he doesn't look even a little bit annoyed. He does look kind of predatory, though, suddenly a little wolf-like himself; maybe it runs in the family. "You'll see me after your class lets out," he says. "Swing by my classroom on your way out; you're taking me to dinner."
Stiles pumps a fist in the air, victorious, and his little wolf pup sings a goodbye arrrrrrrooooooo at him as he goes.