Stiles sat at the reception desk at the police station, idly sketching in his notepad. They were short staff ever since some almost 90 year old WWII vet had sent a bomb to the station. He was, very clearly, suffering from severe PTSD and had become delusional in his age, yelling about the Japanese internment camp that had been in the town ages ago. A couple people died. He and his best friend Scott had been there in the aftermath, Stiles running in to make sure his dad was okay. It wasn’t a day he liked to think about. But as for now, Stiles was happy to be a civilian helping out while he figured his life out after graduating college.
He hadn’t noticed his pencil had stopped moving, that he had stopped sketching, hand still as he stared blankly at the spot in the corner where he had watched someone die.
Stiles startled, jumping in his seat. His arms flailed and his pencil went flying. “Ah, shit,” Stiles muttered, scrambling off his chair to get it. It was a really nice pencil, okay. Cost him like four bucks at the local art supply store. Stiles popped up, triumphantly holding his pencil and grinned at the stranger waiting with a scowling expression. Stiles quickly schooled his face to something a bit more professional and sat back down at the desk. He cleared his throat. “Sorry. What can I help you with?”
The scowly man scrunched his heavy eyebrows, a confused frown tugging at the corners of his parted mouth. Stiles had to say in a word he was breathtaking, but there was something about him that gave Stiles the chills. “Are you a cop?” the man asked hesitantly.
“Uh, no. I just work reception,” Stiles said, tugging nervously at his hoodie. There was something about this man that made his anxiety start to build. Normally Stiles was great at charming the people who walk into the station, even calming down the angry moms. “We’ve been understaffed for years so I help out where I can. You needed something?”
“I need to file a missing person’s report.”
Stiles’s eyes widened. “Oh, jeeze. Yeah, sure. Follow me, I’ll bring you to the Sheriff.” Stiles led Scowly to his dad’s office and knocked on the door. His dad called for him to come in and Stiles opened the door. “Uh, there’s a guy here who needs to file a missing persons,” he informed as professionally as possible and gestured for Scowly to enter. His dad was quick to his feet, reaching a hand over to shake the stranger’s. Stiles shut the door as the Sheriff introduced himself before getting down to business.
Stiles went back to the front desk and looked at his half-finished sketch. It looked like he had a stroke in the middle of it. Stiles sighed and flipped the page. He needed to start something new. He looked over to that spot where a deputy died again. He needed something new.
It was over an hour later that Scowly left the station, his dad walking him to the door and giving the stoic man a firm grip on his shoulder. As soon as the door was shut and a few seconds had passed, Stiles gave up the pretence of not watching the whole exchange. “Who’s missing?”
“The kid’s sister.”
“Kid? He’s looks almost 30.”
The Sheriff laughed, although there was still something sad around his eyes. “I knew his parents when he was younger, it’s not hard to picture him still twelve.” The Sheriff sighed. “I’ll put Parrish and Yukimura on it. They’re good at these types of things.”
“So it’s,” Stiles raised his hands up to his face and wiggled his fingers at his father, “related?”
The Sheriff shrugged. “No way to know yet, but considering the circumstances, best give it to the experts first.” He ran a tired hand over his face. “Give me twenty and let’s break for dinner?”
“Sounds good, dad.”
Stiles was off after dinner, a new transfer working the phones at night so that someone actually qualified could answer the phone when there were less cops around for Stiles to hand things off to. His apartment was on 5th and Wells, which wasn’t the best part of town but it wasn’t terrible either. It was affordable for a recent grad who didn’t want to move back in with his dad and there was enough space for his living room to mostly be his studio. Stiles had gone to school for criminology but took his art credit freshman year and then ended up graduating with a degree in Fine Art. His minor was still in criminology though, so Stiles was thinking of saving up for grad school to become a professional Angela from Bones. But the longer he worked in the station the more he realized that might not be the best idea, if he wanted to stay in town.
Two years working summers after the bombing and now a half year out of school, Stiles was coming to the timid conclusion that he wasn’t as healed mentally as he had thought. Stiles had a lot of traumas in his life, and he didn’t want to leave his comfort zone: the medium sized town of Beacon Hills, his father, his best friend Scott who was the veterinary assistant in town, Scott’s mom Mellissa who was a nurse at the hospital, his friends at the precinct. Stiles didn’t have a large social circle, true, but this was his home and this was his safety net.
Stiles had a routine, of sorts. On the days he worked, he woke up early, made lunch for the day before getting his hands covered in paint, painted until ten, went to work until dinner, ate at the diner with his dad, and then went home and painted until he fell asleep. On the days he didn’t have work, Stiles did his laundry, went grocery shopping, visited Scott and his new girlfriend, Allison, did whatever other errands he needed to get done, drink starting from 5 in the afternoon, and then paint until he fell asleep. It was a nice cycle. He liked it. He had enough time for everybody in his life. And he got to look forward to a day without work tomorrow.
So Stiles woke up, ate some cereal, did some touch ups, not allowing himself to get too wrapped up in the art as to forget the day, got dressed and left for the grocery store. Where he ran into Mr. Scowly again. Literally. “Sorry, sorry!” Stiles flailed, pulling his basket back to try and not hit the guy who was today sporting a leather jacket. “Oh!” Stiles said, when he noticed who he ran into. “Hey.”
The man just jerked his chin up in recognition and walked by. “Okay,” Stiles said to himself, checking the contents of his basket to remind himself what he still needed to pick up. His heart was beating wildly in his chest and he wasn’t sure if it was because of the running into Scowly or if it was because the color of his eyes. There was something startling about them, familiar. Deep set and pale blue with a rim of hazel, sharp cheekbones and a sense of something dangerous.
Stiles shivered. He convinced himself it was just the refrigerator section.
Later Stiles visited Scott, today at the animal clinic since they both didn’t have off, he pet some puppies to calm down and told Scott all about the stranger with the missing sister.
“Sucks man,” Scott said. “Hope she turns up soon. But he sounds a little creepy. Maybe it’s just a cover up, he says she’s missing to detract him from being a suspect.”
Stiles snorted. “Okay, on one of my crazier days I would agree with you, but the way my dad comforted him on his way out the station says he’s on Scowly’s side.”
“Dude, how do you, master of the snoop, not know his name?” Scott asked, as he pulled out the cat food for the ones up for adoption and staying there.
“I didn’t ask,” Stiles said with a bit of wonder. He always asks. And he didn’t bring it up once during dinner with his dad. “I don’t know. There’s just something about the guy. I didn’t want to get to know him better.”
“Even with his, and I quote, supernaturally good looks?” Scott scoffed, picking up an older cat that was trying to get at the kitten food.
Stiles snorted. “Yeah. Man, this guy was hot, but…” he trailed off, eyes distant.
Scott smartly put a cat in Stiles’s lap, which then hissed at the dog Stiles had been petting. It was enough to wake Stiles up from whatever washy memory that was surfacing. “Deaton’s been asking if you’ve been practicing,” Scott said, herding the dog back to his kennel.
Stiles sighed and slouched in his stool, trying to keep the cat on his lap. “Yes, I’ve been practicing.”
“When was the last time you spent more than five minutes working on anything?” Scott asked, his eyes sharp like Melissa’s when she knew they were fibbing as kids. Stiles’s shrug was answer enough. “You know it’s not good for you if you keep all that magic bottled up, Stiles,” he scolded. “And you know if I don’t bug you Deaton will drag you out to the woods again.” Stiles stiffened at that. He hated the woods. “That’s what I thought,” Scott said, collecting the cat.
Stiles sighed and stood up to stretch. “I’ll skip the drinking tonight, since you’re stuck here ‘til closing anyway. And I’ll practice, okay?” Scott nodded sagely as if he were Stiles’s elder or something. Just because Scott worked for Deaton, the vet, who was also Stile’s shaman teacher didn’t mean that Scott had rank over him, even if he acted that way. “Tell Allison I have Sunday off if she wants to go out Saturday night since your dumb butt is stuck working mornings this weekend.”
Scott laughed. “Will do. See you, Stiles.”
Stiles said his goodbyes and then headed out. It was only four but it was getting dark, which was wrong for the time of year. Stiles looked up. Rain clouds. He hoped to beat the storm home, then. His apartment was on the other side of town.
Less than two minutes out and the clouds broke. A deluge of water coated the window of his car, not even giving him the cursory droplets of a low speed window wiper. He could barely see. Stiles was thankful it was the middle of a weekday, less people were on the roads at this hour. A beam of headlights caught his vision, coming right towards him like the other car didn’t know where the yellow line in the road was. Fair enough, Stiles thought in a state of utter panic as he yanked his car to the side. Stiles could barely see it either.
Stiles screeched to a halt on the side of the road, trying to get his breath back to normal. Panic clutched at his chest but he could hold it at bay. He’d had enough panic attacks that he could sometimes pull them back early on. There was a knock on the window.
“AAAAH!” Stiles yelled, twisting in his seat and smacking his elbow against the window. He turned, wide eyed to see a man standing in the pouring rain, looking through the glass with a frown. It was Mr. Scowly. “Oh, Jesus fucking Christ,” Stiles muttered, his heart stuttering in his chest at the sight. “I’m going to get myself killed.” Then, without another second’s hesitation, opened his door just long enough to yell over the deafening sound of rain, “GET IN!”
The man nodded and rounded the car to slip into the passenger seat. Stiles didn’t mourn the faux leather seating, it had been peeling for years. The stranger was dripping and in a nicer car it could ruin the seats.
“Sorry for scaring you,” the man said.
“Nah, it’s cool,” Stiles said a bit breathlessly. “Um, do you need a ride?” He looked around for a car that maybe needed a jumpstart but didn’t see anything. “Were you walking in this?”
The guy nodded, peeling off his leather jacket. “Got caught while trying to…” he glanced at Stiles briefly before focusing on ringing out his shirt. Obviously the guy didn’t have a problem making puddles in a random person’s car. “Doesn’t matter. You’re the kid from the Sheriff’s station?”
“I’m 23, but yes. Stiles. Nice to meet you, I guess.”
“Derek,” he said with an absent nod. “Is it possible to give me a lift? Sorry, I feel like I put you in a situation where you can’t say no.”
Stiles shook his head. “It’s fine. If I wanted to say no I never would have let you in my car.”
The guy – Derek – looked Stiles up and down, assessing him in a way that made Stiles feel a bit uncomfortable, but Stiles didn’t get the sense that he was in danger, even though this Derek still felt like something dangerous.
“Where do you live?” Stiles asked.
“Down past Canyon, a little side road into the woods beyond the preserve.”
Stiles’s heart stuttered. He must have gone white because the man gave him a confused look.
“You okay?” he asked.
Stiles nodded. “Yeah, yeah. Sorry. I uh, it’s nothing.”
They drove in silence, Stiles extra attentive to the road with the rain coming down in sheets, especially once he had to turn onto a dirt and gravel path that made up Reed Lane, which was essentially a glorified driveway. The house Derek lived in was huge, the kind that housed extended families, where people moved out but always moved back in. It was probably in his family for generations by the style of it.
Of course, it’s pulling up to this grand old house that Stiles’s car jerks, both of them slamming forward against their seatbelts as the front wheel hits a rock and then sinks and then spins and spins and the front of the car dips. Stiles rested his head against the wheel, the purr of his engine sounding more like a whine. “Aw, fuck. Please don’t tell me I’m stuck.”
“Let me see if I can dig you out,” Derek offered, putting his jacket over his head and ducking out the car.
In the musty light of his headlights, Derek looks like a great beast, black and large, hunched over like an animal of all fours. For a second the image of a wolf, too large to be natural, too vicious to be sane, black and stalking and that sound…
A hand on his shoulder startled Stiles. He hadn’t even noticed slipping into a panic attack. He could barely breathe. Derek’s eyes looked over him, worried and flustered, but Stiles couldn’t speak enough to tell him it was alright, this happened all the time. Stiles locked eyes with him and the panic grew. Blue eyes, so pale, so cold, flashing like something sinister. Stiles had to close his eyes against the images, against the memories and Derek’s face.
“Stiles, are you okay? Stiles.”
Stiles nodded, keeping his eyes scrunched closed. He gasped for breath, reaching out blindingly and finding Derek’s hand. He hoped it wouldn’t be too intimate with someone he’s barely said more than two words to. Stiles lead their hands to Derek’s chest, resting his own against the firm muscle above Derek’s heart. It was a little fast but it was steady and Stiles breathed out a shaky breath. He breathed in time with Derek’s heartbeat 1-2-3 in, 1-2-3 out; quick enough Derek caught on, breathing in time with Stiles. Eventually Stiles felt he was okay enough to open his eyes and take his hand away.
“Sorry,” he croaked. “What an introduction, right?” he laughed a bit nervously.
Derek seemed to let out a deep breath of relief. “Yeah. You okay?” Stiles nodded. Derek grimaced a little. “It doesn’t look like I can get your car out until the rain lets up or you can call a tow. Either way, you’re welcome to come in while you wait. I can get you some water. Maybe lie down? I don’t know if… whatever that was, has any side effects.”
“Panic attack,” Stiles supplied. “And yeah,” he looked at Derek again, gauging if this was the type of stranger he followed into a house in the middle of the woods. Then figured he already drove him here, what’s one more reckless decision. “They can be kind of draining, sometimes. A lie down might be nice.” He swallowed thickly before gathering his things from the cup holders and following Derek through the pouring rain.