When Stiles was seven, his parents took him to the zoo. It was the last thing they did as a family, before his mother got sick. After that pretty much the only time they were all in the same room was in Claudia Stilinski’s hospital room. Stiles remembers vividly the day his mother had died. He couldn’t look at any animal for months, without feeling that sick feeling in the pit of his stomach; or taste the bitterness at the back of his throat.
The day he could bring himself to ask his father to take him to the zoo, was also the day of his eighth birthday. Melissa McCall and Scott McCall also came along with Stiles and his father. Stiles clenched to Mrs McCall’s hand pretending it was his mother; his other was held in his father’s reassuringly.
When Scott got lost, Melissa and Stiles’ dad were in a flurry of panic. They have left Stiles by the elephants, with the strict and stern instructions not to move. With them gone, Stiles finally felt the pain of loss. He missed his mother; she loved animals, and had introduced him to them at a early age. In fact the zoo trips often were something they did when the Sheriff was at work.
Now looking at the elephants, he firmly gripped the barricade, leaning his face against the fence and peered at the elephants. They were always his mother’s favourite. Stiles heard other children approaching, running around and laughing, as he continued to focus of the movements of elephants. Trying to push his face further into the cold metal. Stiles slowly felt himself crying.
In a startle he felt a hand touch his shoulder. Turning around quickly he found himself staring at a boy, a little older than Stiles. His bright green eyes looked at Stiles with concern, and Stiles couldn’t help but feel his breath escape. All of a sudden it was hard to breathe, and his body was vibrating violently.
The boy looked panicked, quickly calling his mother to them. In the mean while stroking Stiles’ arms in long, form movements. He whispered hushed words as he held Stiles in his arms. Just like Stiles’ mother use to when he felt ill.
When his father returned with Melissa and Scott in tow, he found Stiles sitting with the Hales eating lunch at the picnic table by the elephants. The Sheriff gave them a small smile, thanking them, when they had to leave.
Many years later, when Stiles was starting college he met the love of his life. Derek. He held eyes so familiar, that Stiles instantly fell in love with him.
Derek felt the same without an explanation. It was a nice change for Derek, especially after all these years dealing with the death of his family. The grief was toxic, eating him away, that is until he meet Stiles. The crazy, spontaneous man. Stiles warmed Derek’s heart in a way no one else has, well expect for his family. The connection sent the static, empty feeling away and filled it with obsession for this man.
The pair dated for a few years, before deciding there was no point in waiting. They both knew the other one was their soulmate. The one. So they got married the day after Stiles graduated. It was a small and intimate wedding, only including Stiles’ dad and their closest friends.
On their first anniversary, Derek bought Stiles a painting of an elephant. Not any painting, but one that was done by Stiles’ mother before she died. Stiles doesn’t think he cried so hard, not even at their wedding. But Derek understood, and simply just held Stiles, stroking reassuring movements down his back and along his arms. Derek whispered small nothings into Stiles’ ear, kissing his firmly against his forehead; letting Stiles know he is there.
It was natural progression for them to adopt a child. In preparation for the little baby girl’s arrival, they went shopping. When Stiles saw the little plush elephant, he imagined his child carrying that toy everywhere she went. Just like Stiles did with the bear his parents bought him, when he was younger. Derek saw the look in Stiles’ eye and took it to the cashier to pay for the toy immediately.
Stiles was grateful, because he doesn’t think he could have conveyed how much that toy was important to him, if Derek decided he didn’t want it for their child. He let out a sigh of relief as he watched Derek come back with a paper bag.
Emily loved it instantly. In fact she did take it everywhere she went, just like Stiles’ imagined. He felt like his child was carrying a part of his grandmother with her constantly. Claudia would have been so proud and fond of little Emily. That night he cried. He missed his mother like crazy everyday, and it hurt to know his daughter would never know his mother. Never know the great, loving and inspirational personality of her grandmother.
When Stiles and Derek decided to take their 3 year old to the zoo, Stiles sat in his room for 10 whole minutes. He had not gone to the zoo since that day Scott got lost. Stiles thinks he just was never able to return, knowing one, his mother would never take him there again, and two, he would never see that dark haired, green eyed boy.
Derek found him just sitting on their bed. He was holding a little sleeping Toby in his arms, with Emily holding tightly to his legs. Derek never really understood Stiles’ problem with the zoo, but he assumed it was like Derek’s problem with the lake. It reminded them of the ones they lost. So Derek simply just sat down next to his husband in silence until he was ready.
They arrived around late afternoon. The first thing Emily wanted to see were the elephants. Stiles got this uncomfortable look to his face at the mention , but marched on with Emily at the end of his arm. At the sight of the elephants, Stiles sighed. Derek gave him a curious look but didn’t ask.
“I met a boy here once.” Stiles said in a quiet voice. Derek just stood next to him looking at the elephants. “It was the only time I came here after my mother’s death” Derek hummed to show he was listening. “I actually had a panic attack that day, and a dark haired boy helped me” Stiles sighed again. The story was starting to sound familiar to Derek. “And I dunno, there was something about him that just made it okay. Not losing my mother, but made it okay...” Stiles paused.
“To be alive?” Derek asked. He knew the feeling he had felt it when his whole family died, the dark, looming feeling of wanting to die. But when he met Stiles, he made it okay to feel alive, to be alive. Stiles nodded, now turning towards Derek. Derek also turned and looked at his husband, with a small smile, he said.
“I think I was here that day you met that boy” Stiles looked confused for a second, as he looked into those familiar green eyes. They held a little brightness, but dimmed from the death of his loved ones. But the brightness was there, and Stiles recognised it as the look that boy gave him the first time they were at the zoo. The they were younger, less weighed down by pain. But they were the same green eyes.
In Stiles’ silence, Derek continued. “I remember helping a little boy through a panic attack. I remember being scared shitless of not knowing what to do. I remember the way he looked at me when I rubbed his arms reassuringly. I remember being that boy that fell a little in love with a stranger” Stiles gasped. How could he have been so dense. Of course Derek was that boy. Derek always was that boy, always helping Stiles through.
“How did I not notice? You were there all this time under my nose” Derek smiled, telling Stiles he had no idea either.