Finding Stiles was the easy part.
Finding Stiles was always the easy part. Derek either followed the noise of Stiles telling a story with more animation than Dreamworks had in his entire history, or the sweet scent of sticky candy and ink, or the stupid sound of his breathing, like if there was nothing else he would fill the silence with that. And seven times out of ten, if Stiles wasn’t in his room, or school, he was in the woods by Derek’s house, claiming a need in the dark recesses of his soul to get closer to nature.
This time, Stiles wasn’t even hiding. He was in Derek’s kitchen, trying to open the barely standing refrigerator.
The hard part was that Stiles was apparently four.
“Hey, I want ice cream,” Stiles said, his hands and shorts dark with dirt, and a smear of something suspiciously blue on his cheek. “Will you get it? Scott’s being mean. Are you going to be mean like Scott? I’ll eat my nuggets. Please can I have ice cream now? Please, please, please, please?”
Derk blinked. And blinked. And blinked again.
Stiles kept being four.
“Please, please, please, pleeeease?”
Very, very four.
“Um,” Derek said, as Scott yelled something from the front door about ruined dinners, and food groups, and healthy brain development, while the smell of McDonald’s followed him inside.
“Please, please, please, please, please, please, please,” Stiles kept saying, tugging on Derek’s wrist. Which was good, really, because it meant his jacket was safe from tiny, dirty handprints. And also bad, because Stiles had tiny handprints to leave. “Please, please, please, please, please, NO, NO, SCOTT I WANT ICE CREAM, PLEEEEASE—”
This, Derek knew, with absolute certainty, was hell. His trip had obviously gone much, much worse than he'd thought, and now, here he was, in hell. Derek never imagined he would think back fondly of the time when he nearly forced Stiles’ to saw off his arm after hours in the back of a vet's office. Never dreamed that a time would come when those would be the good days, when things were so much simpler.
Stiles clung to Derek like a lifeline when Scott stepped up with a Happy Meal and a, “Come on, Stiles, it has a toy if you eat your french fries! You know you love french fries.”
“No, I don’t,” Stiles cried, burying his face into Derek’s jeans. “Fries are gross I want ice cream, Derek promised,” he said in a blatant, unhesitating lie.
Even Scott wasn’t fooled.
Stiles stuck his bottom lip out and it wobbled dangerously.
Derek would definitely rather be shot again.
There were two clear courses of action: Run away and hope the situation managed to fix itself on its own before he had to try and explain to the Sheriff what had happened to his son, or try to make Stiles not be four anymore. Again. To not be four anymore again. Or. Derek was really getting a headache.
“I have to go fix this,” Scott said, before Derek could open his mouth to jump on either plan. He pointed at Stiles—who still looked ready to burst into tears at any moment—and then back to Derek. “Take care of him,” he said, his tone edging toward something a little too close to threatening for Derek’s taste, slamming the door behind himself half a second later.
Derek stared down at Stiles.
Stiles sniffed, and his bottom lip wobbled again. And he didn’t suddenly stop being four and start being Stiles.
Derek gave him the carton of ice cream and a spoon.