Stiles stares down at the ivory bistro mug he holds loosely in his hands, the untouched coffee inside long since gone cold.
It's January seventh. Seven days since the start of 2015, and seven days since his father's death. His eyes and throat are raw from crying, his insides numb. He blinks, unfazed as he watches another tear fall to the dark liquid below and break the surface in a plethora of tiny ripples.
Happy fucking new year.
He'd been living at home the past week, although it had been too much of a blur to really reaccount how he spent it. There were tiny snippets of crying softly in his dad's bed, pressing his face into the sheets as if the fabric could smother the reality of the outside world. Wretched panic attacks that reduced him to a quivering, hyperventilating mess on his bedroom floor until he passed out and woke up a few hours later on the carpet with gooseflesh and a headache, wondering if he would be able to endure another one the next day. Sometimes he would sit down in front of the TV and stare at it for lengthy periods of time before realizing that he never even switched it on.
Also, he's pretty sure he hasn't brushed his teeth since last year.
Ms. McCall had stopped by a lot, knocking softly at the porch and reaching out to wrap him in a warm hug when he opened the door. She would cautiously step into the house and glance around the living room, eyes going misty before she quickly reeled in her gaze and offered her best smile for him, as if his dad's absence didn't make the air thick and heavy and wrong. Then she usually murmured a stream of hushed, comforting words before leaving tupperwares of home-cooked casseroles and meals on the table. They had stacked up in his fridge, untouched. He felt bad for wasting her food.
Scott texted him every day. Lydia and the others too, just not as excessively. It was all they could do, since he refused to answer their calls. His phone buzzed from dawn until dusk, the cracked screen lighting up with short phrases of 'how are you?' and 'I'm here if you need me' and 'come over for dinner, we'll pick you up' again and again until he couldn't take it anymore and finally turned the device off, because he knew that seeing any of their faces would only make it worse. They would look at him differently now, with pity etched in their features and eyes filled with uncertainty. They would speak to him as if he were made of glass, ready to shatter at the slightest touch.
The description wasn't too far from the truth.
The plastic clock on the wall behind him ticks softly, but each secondhand stroke cuts through the silence like a booming countdown. He slowly turns his head to glance at it, heart sinking a little when he sees the hands: 2:01pm. He blows out a shaky breath, clumsily wiping a sleeve across his damp eyelashes as he reluctantly turns back to his cold coffee.
He slowly pushes his chair out away from the table, hauling himself to his feet before quietly trudging over to the door where his suitcases are. The walk feels like he's dragging himself through water, body heavy and uncooperative as if dragging a fifty pound weight behind him.
John Stilinski had been a man of sacrifice. He had sacrificed his sleep the countless number of nights Stiles had nightmares or panic attacks in the early hours of the morning, when his dad would stumble into his room with crummy eyes and rub small circles against his back until he fell asleep. His dad had sacrificed his integrity every time he fabricated a lie for the department in order to cover up some crazy, supernatural-related bullshit that Scott's furry side had dragged him into. His dad would have sacrificed his badge for him, if it had come down to it.
But seven days ago, he had ended up sacrificing his life instead.
Apparently they had been in more financial trouble than he thought; his dad had given up his life insurance policy in order to keep the house a few years ago, to pay off his mom's hospital bills. Risky, yes. His dad was planning on paying it back within a few years, but fate never gave him the chance, which left his son with a small chunk of savings in a house that now belonged to the bank. Stiles wanted to stay longer, but Melissa McCall had won that argument. She won a lot of arguments, really. Today, the house was to be foreclosed.
Stiles clasps the cold door handle, dragging his suitcase behind him as he shuffles past the frame and onto the front porch. He pauses, fingers curling loosely over the brass knob as he turns back and drinks in the last view of the living room he grew up in, savoring the tiny details in hope that they'll embed themselves in to his memory for at least a little while. His features are taut and expressionless as his gaze flickers from the ugly beige couch he and Scott used to sit on for movie nights, the pale blue wallpaper dotted with tiny periwinkle flowers his mother had picked out long ago, and his dad's old leather reading chair, now forever unoccupied. His coffee cup is still on the table, where it would stay until one of the realtors came in to sweep through the house and place sticky notes on everything that needed to be 'improved.'
"Thanks for the memories, I guess," he mutters quietly, and surprises himself with how hoarse his voice is. Then he swings the door shut, biting his lip as the hinges creak in agony against the weathered frame, protesting against the movement. He never thought he could resonate with a door.
He makes his way over to the jeep on autopilot, tossing his trunk in the passenger seat. The familiar sound of the engine roars to life as he twists his keys in the ignition. The clutch vibrates beneath his cold fingers. He was always cold now. It's a kind of chill that no number of layers seemed to fix.
He casts one last look at the house before finally ripping his gaze away, rolling out onto the pavement before tearing down the street. He doesn't look back. Despite the chilly temperature, he refuses to roll the windows up as he flies down the road, letting the frigid wind cut through his hair and ruffle his brewing thoughts.
His dad is dead.
If he earned a buck for every time the phrase had echoed in his mind the past week, he'd have enough to pay back the mortgage himself, and then he wouldn't have to spend his Thursday afternoon driving to his new 'home.' The McCalls would have taken him in (God knows Melissa felt terrible), but since Isaac moved in the house was crammed. Melissa nearly worked herself to death with double-shifts every night, and with finances overstretched already they just couldn't afford to feed another mouth. Lucky for him, his only local relative had passed away last year, and his remaining family members were located out in nowhere-ville Ohio and wanted nothing to do with him. Thus, he'd been forced to move in with someone else.
But of all the people, it had to be him.
He doesn't remember that much from that night, aside from the pale, shocked face of his father just before he crumpled to the ground in a bloodied, lifeless heap. It was the face that haunted his dreams, showing up in reflections during the day and leaving imprints in his vision when he blinked. Vaguely, he recalled collapsing boneless and screaming in Scott's arms after it happened, sucking in wretched gasps of air as the rest of the pack hovered uneasily by his side— but he had simply stood there, wide-eyed and stony from afar.
The bastard, Stiles thinks bitterly. The past year Derek Hale had made it blatantly obvious that he hated his scrawny guts, taking every given opportunity to shove him up against a wall, growl threats in his ears and roll his eyes whenever he stepped into the room, muttering some snide comment about how spastic or idiotic he was.
So why did he fucking volunteer to take him in?
Sure, Stiles wasn't sleeping much. He could hardly stand being in his old house at all since it happened, but he was pretty sure that sleeping there or even living on the streets would be more comfortable than residing in some giant, burnt-out mansion with a grumpy scowl-enthusiast whose main talent was flaring his nostrils in annoyance. God knows his dad would be rolling over in his grave if he knew, but for some inexplicable reason Melissa had held him by the shoulders and pinned him down with those big brown eyes that looked so much like Scott's, and made him promise to take the grump's offer.
"Good for you," she had said. Living with Derek would be good for him, apparently.
He huffs, curling his fingers tighter around the steering wheel. When Melissa McCall suddenly started trusting Derek Hale? He didn't know. But one thing for certain was that he didn't need to be coddled, especially not by an oversized grump who, last time he checked, didn't even have 'comfort' in his vocabulary. But maybe that was a good thing, because truthfully, he just wants to wallow in his grief.
A symphony of fallen leaves crunch beneath his tires as he pulls the jeep up to the house. His eyes grow wide as he kills the engine and gazes up through the window: it's huge, a towering silhouette of outdated gloom against a foggy grey backdrop littered with barren trees. Intricate details are carved into the structure's frame— tiny spiral patterns that look like the triskele tattoo on Derek's back, only these ones are covered in a layer of grey ash and dirty rainwater tracks. The windows are blackened and cracked in places, mirroring the charred wood splintering on the support beams and banisters. It looks like something out of a horror movie: ugly and dark and lonesome, the perfect mirror to the broody soul living inside.
Well. Aside from the 'ugly' part. He'll give him that.
Stiles takes his time getting out of the car, stealing nervous glances at the weathered mansion. The place looks like it needs to be condemned, or at least commissioned as a haunted mansion for some horror flick. Werewolves were even included.
He blinks hard, rubbing a heavy hand over his features as if ironing out a wrinkly shirt. Hopefully the introductions wouldn't last too long because he hadn't been sleeping well, and conveniently it was catching up with him now. His limbs feel heavy as he trudges up the weathered front steps, and he cringes inwardly as the burnt wood creaks noisily under his weight. When he reaches the massive oak door he hesitates mid-knock, knuckles hovering over the wood as he debates wether or not to bolt and live a life of peddling on the streets, promise be damned. Lucky for him, he doesn't even need to decide, because then the door suddenly swings open, revealing a scowling Derek Hale.
So much for that.
The alpha stands tensely in the doorway, looking unusually casual in a plain black tee and faded denim jeans. A few awkward moments slip by as Derek observes him, eyes narrowing a touch as they sweep curiously over his frame, features almost taking on a look of concern. Stiles uneasily shifts his weight on his heels, grip subconsciously tightening around the handle of his suitcase. Derek seems to notice and immediately snaps his expression back into an extra-broody scowl, stepping back so that he didn't block the doorway.
"You coming in?" He states bluntly. The words are spoken carefully, like he's trying to bite back the harshness in his tone. It doesn't work very well.
"Hello to you, too," Stiles mutters, but he wipes his feet on the beaten-up mat anyway and cautiously pokes his head inside the doorway. He can't help but gape as he steps foot into the living room, faintly registering the door swinging closed behind him with a rough squeak.
He had never actually been inside the Hale mansion before, but judging from his collective glimpses of the shoddy outside appearance, he never would have guessed the interior would look like this. An intricate glass chandelier hangs from the ceiling, illuminating the spacious loft in a warm glow. It's missing a few crystals, but it sparkles like sunlit diamonds. A rustic brick fireplace and large flatscreen are embedded in the wall across a cushioned leather couch and matching armchair, from which a simple maroon rug rolls out over the weathered hardwood floor. The windows are plentiful, smudged with a light film of smoky charcoal residue that filters the outside light into scattered patterns on the faded buttercream walls, which have a few simple pieces of black and white photography placed over the larger cracks in the paint. There's a small dining table situated by the kitchen, which is old-fashioned and cozy with peeling pinstripe wallpaper and a white tile counter. The place is spotless and oddly beautiful despite it's rough edges, and the shabbiness is subtle, barely peeking out behind a layer of carefully-arranged furnishings.
He dazedly walks to the center of the room, feeling slightly dizzy as he cranes his neck around, gazing at his surroundings. It's… Nice. Way nicer than he expected. Derek wordlessly side-steps him from behind, motioning for him to follow with a small jerk of his head.
"Bring your stuff. Follow me."
Wow, five whole words. He usually voiced such sarcastic thoughts, but lately he couldn't muster the energy to summon the phrase to his lips. Instead he just silently follows Derek down the hallway, suitcase dragging heavily behind him. Derek glances back at him, eyebrows twitching a fraction before he turns away again, pushing open the first door with the palm of his hand. Stiles wearily peeks into the room, which is spacious and bare. Empty white walls frame a double-paned window, from which the overcast skies spill a cool light onto a large bed set with fresh pillows and a navy comforter. It smells clean, with a faint scent of shampoo wafting from the plush ivory carpet that looks too white not to be new.
"This is your room," Derek states. "If you want the walls a different color, just let me know. I'll get you the paint."
Stiles blinks, nearly choking on his disbelief. He jerks his gaze from the room to stare incredulously at Derek, who avoids his stare and spins on his heels to lead him back down the hall. Maybe he had hallucinated. Trauma could do that to you, right? Because there was no way that Derek rip-your-throat-out-with-my-teeth Hale just offered to buy him paint for his beautiful new bedroom. Honestly, he had expected to sleep on the couch. A mat on the floor, maybe.
He blinks again, not realizing that he had just been standing there staring at the room. His room, apparently. He quickly snaps his mouth shut, letting go of his suitcase to hobble after him. Derek leads him to the kitchen, which is just as warm and well-poslished as it had looked from the front door.
"Help yourself to whatever is in the fridge and cupboards," Derek announces, reaching up to open one of the wood cabinets for emphasis. Stiles spots several boxes of pasta, beef jerky, protein bars, pretzels, and even a half-empty jar of Nutella inside, which surprises him. He doesn't know what he was expecting (fresh rabbits, maybe?), but crackers and hazelnut spread just seemed so…
"If you want anything specific, just let me know before I go to the store," Derek adds nonchalantly, bending down to swing open a rolling drawer beside the sink. "Pots and pans are in here, this is where I keep the dishes. You eat on a plate, you clean the plate. The dishwasher isn't there for show."
Stiles nods, struggling to combat his fatigue. His mind reels over Derek's words. It's almost too much for him, the way Derek was addressing him without a growl or barred fangs, offering to buy him paint and food of his choice all while maintaining that signature (annoying) monotone phrasing. His lips twitch as he thinks about blurting, "inflection is a thing, you know," But the words die again before they even reach his throat.
Derek gives him another funny look, but the expression only lasts a second before the default scowl clicks into place again. Much to his dismay Derek starts heading towards the living room, although Stiles really couldn't care less about the layout of the house. He has a headache, the same one that had stuck with him chronically the past few days, making sleep impossible while simultaneously reducing him to a sack of exhaustion. He thinks of the tempting navy comforter on his new bed, and nearly drools at the imagery.
Somehow, he manages to make it through the majority of the tour without falling asleep on his feet.
Derek takes him to most of the rooms, all of which have the same tarnished beauty and rustic design. The fire had left scathing burns on most of the floors and wall space, but it looks like the guy had invested quite a bit of time artfully repainting and refurbishing the worst of the damage. There's even a study, equipped with a large armchair and several shelves of antique books that were probably magical/supernatural encyclopedias or some sort of ancient werewolf whatnot. Derek is stiff and formal throughout the entire trip, speaking no more than what little words are needed. He's blunt, even harsh in some of his phrasing, but surprisingly courteous. It isn't until they finally make it upstairs when Stiles blows out a quiet sigh, tiredly pressing his fingers to his temple before he can stop himself.
"What is it?"
He jerks his hand back down to his side, neck shrinking into his hoodie a bit as Derek scrutinizes him, eyebrows drawn together in a curious line.
Oh, nothing much, Stiles thinks, a sudden frustration flaring in his chest. Only that I've slept a total of twelve hours the past week because I'm plagued with nightmares and visions of blood, advil and coffee make up most of my current diet, there's a constant chill clinging to my bones and most of the time my head feels like it's been bashed in with a jackhammer, which is really inconvenient considering how I apparently live with your furry ass now, which should be miserable at best but hey, look on the bright side, the only home I've ever known was just claimed by a bunch of suited assholes at the bank, and oh, yeah, my dad is fucking d—
"Sorry," he mumbles, voice cracking on the low register. "I'm just… Tired."
Derek studies him, his expression infuriatingly impassive as ever.
"If you want to go to bed, I'm not stopping you," Derek says flatly. "We're done, anyway. This is my room. I'm not in it much, but try knocking if you need me."
Stiles observes the closed door through half-lidded eyes, briefly wondering what the space looked like on the other side. He envisions chin-up bars and a double mirror. A pile of bones for snacking, perhaps. Derek steps forward to lead them back down the stairs, but Stiles pauses, frowning a little as his gaze wanders down the dimly-lit hallway and catches on something.
"What about that room?" He asks, staring at a battered wood door nestled at the end of corridor. It isn't renovated like the other doors of the house, instead splintered with scaly black burn marks.
Derek halts, shoulders tensing slightly. A stretch of silence stings the air, and Stiles feels the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. This is it, he thinks. He figured that the stubbly jerk would eventually follow through with one of his werewolfy death-threats, but he just didn't expect to have his throat torn out this soon.
Derek doesn't turn around to face him when he finally speaks, his voice low and dangerously calm.
"You're never to go in there. Ever. Got it?"
Stiles swallows nervously and quietly steps back, wondering what sore spot he accidentally poked.
"Yeah… Got it."
When they reach the bottom of the stairs Derek breaks off towards the living room, pausing briefly to address him.
"There are extra blankets in the closet. Your bathroom is the next door down."
Derek pauses. His features do that funny twitch again before he nods and walks away, adding, "If you have any questions, I'll be in the living room" over his shoulder. Stiles watches him go, thinking that yes, he did have questions. For starters, "if you can't stand my existence, then why the fuck did you take me in?" He turns back to his room, shoving his suitcase inside before softly shutting the door behind him.
It's even more spacious from inside, and every new detail he observes is like a slap in face. It's brighter, cleaner, and bigger than his old room. A mahogany desk sits across from the window, marked by a simple blue halogen lamp that matches the color of the curtains. The carpet squishes softly beneath his feet, reminding him of a cloud. But he doesn't want a cloud for a carpet. He wants his old rug, cheap and faded and marked with the grape soda stain from seventh grade. He wants his old room small and shabby as it was, and he wants his old house.
He wants his dad.
His temples pound as he sucks in a deep breath and forces himself to count to four, forcing his emotions down. He fumbles with the outer zipper of his suitcase, fishing out the bottle of Advil he'd stashed there and knocks a couple pills back, swallowing them dry. Dazedly he staggers over to the bed and gingerly sits down on the edge, noting how the mattress compresses softly under his weight, undoubtedly memory foam. Fingers trembling, he carefully slips his hand into his sweatshirt pocket until his fingers brush up against the cold metal of his father's badge.
A small hiccup worms past his lips as he screws his eyes shut, willing the sobs in his chest to die before they escape and Derek hears him.
He angrily bites down on the inside of his cheek. Get a grip, he scolds himself, but it doesn't help, and within a minute hot tears are slipping down his cheeks, dripping off his chin to the plush carpet below. Reluctantly he he lets himself fall back and sink into the mattress, and hates the memory foam because his old bed had been a crappy box-spring. He doesn't even bother kicking off his shoes as he curls into a fetal position, stomach clenching painfully as silent sobs wrack his frame. The dented metal of his dad's badge digs painfully into his palm, but he only clenches it tighter, pulling it out in front of his face to examine it as if it were a piece of gold.
Beacon Hills Police Department: Sheriff John Stilinski
Stiles traces his thumb over the engraved words, feeling the minuscule nicks and dents in the brass. His lips quiver as they part, and he tastes salt as fresh tears slip between them and onto his dry tongue. The cracked whisper escapes before he can stop it.
"I hope you say hi to mom for me."