“One, two, three,” Stiles says.
Scissors. Scott always goes for scissors first. Always. So now, when he goes for paper, Stiles is shocked.
“Paper?” he exclaims, staring down at his own fist. “Oh, fuck you Scotty! Seriously?”
Scott uses Stiles’s rock-fist to fist bump him.
“Sorry, dude,” he says, and doesn’t sound sorry at all. “Guess I picked the right time to mix it up, yeah?”
“Fuck you,” Stiles sighs. “Fuck you sideways.”
“You wish, bro.”
Stiles grumbles and reaches for his hat, which is wedged on the dashboard.
“I’ll get the next one, okay?”
“Yeah,” Stiles mutters, and pushes the door of the cruiser open. “You owe me, asshole.”
They climb out of the cruiser, and Stiles pushes his irritation aside to make room for his game face. That highwire balance act between serious and sympathetic that he always worries he’s fucking up. Most people don’t notice his awkwardness though. Because the people he uses this face for generally don’t notice anything, not once Stiles breaks the news to them.
Stiles loves almost all aspects of being a deputy. Okay, he’s only in his fourth month, and everything is still new and shiny and exciting. But he already hates delivering death messages, and he always will. On his first week in the job he got sent to a car crash on the highway with multiple fatalities, and yeah, it had been horrible, but at least Stiles had been kept busy doing stuff. With death messages, it’s different. Stiles is never sure if he overstays his welcome or not. He’s never sure when to excuse himself and leave. He’s never sure what to do when people won’t let go of his hand.
The house they’re approaching is a small one. A typical California bungalow. It’s well kept, with a neatly maintained lawn. An unremarkable house in an unremarkable street. Stiles notes a security camera on the porch, red light blinking at them as they approach. And the windows appear to have bars. Okay, so the homeowner is a little security conscious. Stiles isn’t in a position to judge. He knows he’s an idiot to sleep with his windows open. His dad’s been telling him so for years.
He checks the number on the door: 8.
8 Hastings Lane.
The address the dead woman had written on a piece of paper tucked inside the pocket of her jeans. An address, and a name, scrawled on a scrap of paper torn from a magazine. Stiles still shudders at the memory. They’d found the bottom half of the dead woman first. It had taken until the middle of the night for the dogs to sniff out her torso.
Hell of a night. He and Scott had been called in on overtime for the search. They hadn’t found the torso. They’d been up on a ridge a few miles from where she’d been found. Stiles had almost gotten caught in some sort of weird deer stampede, and then Scott had got bitten by something and totally freaked out. By the time Stiles had tracked him down again though, he’d been okay. His shirt had been soaked in blood, which was freaky, because Stiles couldn’t even find any puncture marks on him, even though Scott had sworn he’d felt a bite. The next morning he didn’t even have any bruising or anything.
Stiles kind of wishes that the half a dead woman in the woods had been the weirdest thing about that night.
The porch step creaks as they stand on it. Stiles sighs, and continued on to the front door. He presses the doorbell and hears the faint buzz somewhere inside. Then he knocks.
“Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Department,” he calls.
He and Scott both step to either side of the door.
That’s a habit ingrained in them now, one that the instructors at the academy pretty much beat into them. Stiles has noticed he’s started to do it even at friends’ houses on his days off. Knock, call out, and move aside. Just in case it’s not a warm welcome waiting.
It’s not a warm welcome at this house.
It’s no welcome at all.
Maybe there’s nobody home.
Stiles knocks again, and presses the doorbell again. “Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Department. Anyone home?”
It’s the middle of the day, so the occupants are probably at work. Stiles ran an address check back at the station before heading out. The house belongs to Kate Argent. No criminal record, but enough traffic violations to even put Stiles to shame. What? Before he was a cop he was a kid who thought stop meant stoptional. He’s now an upstanding citizen. Totally.
“Dude,” he says in an undertone. “There’s nobody home.”
Which is great, because that way he and Scott will be able to head back to the station and flick this shitty job to the next shift. Stiles turns around to head back to the car.
“Did you hear that?” Scott asks.
Stiles turns back. “Hear what?”
“There’s someone in there,” Scott says, his forehead creased in a frown.
“Huh.” Stiles listens for a moment, but can’t hear a thing. “Must be those enhanced werewolf senses kicking in, Scotty.”
Scott rolls his eyes. “I am not a werewolf.”
Stiles shows him the palms of his hands. “Um, okay. So you got bitten by something badly enough that you were freaking out, and the next morning you’re miraculously better? How else do you explain it?”
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought, obviously,” Scott mutters.
“Dude, you thought you were dying.” It’s not that much of an exaggeration. Scott had asked Stiles to adopt Kylo. It had been serious.
Kylo is an evil cat that Stiles hates. But he’d promised, because Scott is his bro, and Kylo is the nephew he never wanted but would look after if he really, really had to.
“You’re letting your imagination run away with you.” Scott fixes him with a judgmental stare. “Remember that time you threw a slushie in Mr. Jorgenson’s face because you thought he was a monster?”
“Well, I didn’t have any holy water,” Stiles says. “And also I was eight, and he was speaking in a demon tongue.”
“He was having a stroke!” Scott’s shakes his head. “If Mom hadn’t been there, he might have died.”
“I think you’re underestimating the power of the slushie,” Stiles tells him.
Scott frowns, and he holds up his hand. He tilts his head. “There is definitely someone in there. I can hear breathing.”
“Really?” Stiles leans closer to the door. “I can’t hear shit.”
It’s Scott’s turn to bang on the door. “Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Department! Can you open the door, please?”
There’s no answer.
“Ugh.” Stiles steps off the porch and checks out the front of the house. He steps into a flower bed and crushes a bunch of what might be peonies under his boot. “Shit.”
Way to make a good impression.
Mr. Hale. Mr. Derek Hale? I’m sorry to tell you that your sister is dead. Also, your peonies? My bad.
Stiles gets as close as he can without trampling too many more flowers to death, and shades his eyes as he peers in the window. Through a crack in the curtains he can see a glimpse of hardwood floors and a leather couch. He’s just about to call bullshit on Scott’s ‘I can hear breathing’ when there’s a sudden flash of movement across Stiles’s narrow field of vision.
“Shit!” Stiles reels back in surprise, squashes another bunch of innocent flowers, and then gets the hell out of the flowerbed before he tramples the entire thing.
“Yeah,” he says to Scott. “There is definitely someone in there.”
Scott presses the doorbell again, and gets the same result as the last six hundred times. Then he gives up and joins Stiles in front of the flowerbed. Then they head down the side of the house.
The gate squeaks.
“Are you getting a horror movie vibe?” Stiles asks in an undertone. “Because, Scotty, I’m getting a horror movie vibe.”
“Shut up,” Scott whispers back, looking worried. “It’s the middle of the day! Horror movie stuff doesn’t happen in the middle of the day.”
“Plot twist,” Stiles mutters.
They get their shit together again by the time they reach the back of the house. Because they are Serious Professionals.
“Beacon Hills Sherriff’s Department,” Scott says, rapping on what is probably the kitchen door.
Stiles squints in the window. There are bars in the frame, just like out the front, but the window itself is ajar. Stiles leans down so he can peer inside. He catches another glimpse of movement on the far side of the well-kept kitchen, in the doorway to the corridor.
“Hey,” he calls out. “Hey, are you okay in there?” He curls his fingers around the window frame. “My name’s Deputy Stilinski. My partner and I are looking for Derek Hale.”
He sees another flash of movement, and the light shifts in the hallway as though there’s someone standing right by the kitchen door.
“Hello?” he asks.
A pale face slowly appears around the kitchen doorjamb.
“Hey,” Stiles says. “”Are you Derek Hale?”
The guy steps warily into the kitchen.
Holy mother of the Abtronic 2000. The guy is built. He’s wearing nothing but a pair of sweatpants that hang loosely off his hips in all sort of interesting ways, and wow, not the time to be thinking that, because not only did Stiles crush his peonies, he’s about to crush his world. Also, there’s something really off about the guy.
“Can you open the door, please?” Stiles asks. “Sir?”
The guy just stares at him.
Scott leans down beside Stiles. “Sir, I—” And then he coughs, and moves back rapidly.
“Scotty?” Stiles asks, worried. It’s been a few years since Scott’s had an asthma attack. The only reason he got into the academy was because everyone figured he’d grown out of them. But Stiles still remembers the symptoms with terror. Watching Scott struggle to breathe. Watching his face turn gray and his lips turn blue. “Scotty!”
Scott straightens up, waving away his concern. “It’s okay. But something smells really bad in there.”
Stiles sniffs the air carefully. Lemon Dawn?
“It’s Derek, isn’t it? Derek Hale?” Stiles asks the guy. “Can you open the door for me, Derek?”
The guy looks at the door, and then back at where Stiles is peering through the narrow gap in the window. “It’s locked.”
“Yeah,” Stiles agrees, wondering what’s up with this guy. “Can you unlock it?”
The guy shakes his head. “It’s locked. Kate locked it.”
“Yeah, dude, can you unlock it?” Stiles is trying hard not to lose his patience with this guy, but it’s a fucking struggle, right? Clearly the guy is not playing with a full deck.
“Kate has the key,” the guy says, his voice soft.
Scott’s rattling the kitchen door, and then he’s back beside Stiles again. “Stiles, I think that maybe he’s locked in!”
Stiles squints at the guy. “Are you locked in?”
The guy nods.
“Shit,” Stiles says. He straightens up again and raises his eyebrows at Scott. “Dude?”
“I know, dude!” Scott is wide-eyed. “What if there’s like a fire or something?”
Stiles hears a sudden sound from inside the kitchen. Like a whine or something. When he peers through the window again, the guy has vanished.
“We have to do something,” Stiles says. “Like, maybe he’s like mentally ill or he has developmental issues or something, but we can’t just leave him locked up here!”
“What should we do?” Scott asks, like they’re twelve years old again and trying to solve the Great Mystery of the Missing Peanut Butter Cups.
Spoiler alert: it was Stiles’s dad.
“Dude,” Stiles says, gesturing to his uniform. “We’re the police. We get to break in and get him out of there, right?”
“Right,” Scott says. “Because we have immediate concerns for his safety.”
Stiles’s first instinct is to call his dad. Not just because he’s his dad, but also because he’s the sheriff. And it seems like thinking of breaking into a citizen’s house is like something Stiles should maybe get authorization for? Particularly since he’s a rookie. And so is Scott. And they’re not even supposed to be working together, but since this murder the department has been really stretched, and all they had to do was—it morphs into his dad’s voice in Stiles’s head—deliver a death message, Stiles, and how the hell did that turn into a forced entry and an investigation into deprivation of liberty?
And then he hears that faint whine again, and he knows he can’t wait. There is something very wrong here.
“Scotty,” he says. “Get the ax out of the trunk.”
Scott hurries to obey.
Stiles curls his fingers around the bars on the window and tugs against them pointlessly. It’s only then, when he’s looking out for Scott to get back, that he notices another security camera nestled under the eaves at the corner of the roof. Stiles raises his eyebrows at it, and resists the urge to flip it the bird.
Because he is a Serious Professional.
He grabs the ax off Scott when Scott gets back, and goes to town on the kitchen door.
Scott’s still complaining about the imaginary smell when Stiles smashes enough of the lock on the kitchen door to kick it open.
The house is clean. Spotless, in fact. Unnaturally so, in Stiles’s opinion. He’s never trusted anyone who doesn’t at least have one crumb-dusted plate in the sink. Who lives like that? Kate Argent and Derek Hale, apparently.
“Mr. Hale?” he calls out softly as he makes his way to the front of the house. “Mr. Hale, it’s Deputy Stilinski, remember? Like Sheriff Stilinski, only younger.”
That joke never fails to get a laugh around town, but it doesn’t even raise the hint of a giggle in this house.
The living room is empty. So is the dining room.
“Stiles!” Scott calls.
In another house, Stiles guesses, this room might by the second bedroom. Except there’s no bed, no wardrobe, no dresser, nothing. Just a mostly empty room with white walls, and a massive padlock on the door. The door is open though. And the man Stiles assumes is Derek Hale is waiting on his knees in the middle of the floor, with his hands clasped behind his neck.
“I didn’t leave,” he mutters to the floor. “I’m good, Kate. I didn’t leave.”
Something in the tone of his voice—so quiet, so desperate, so afraid—makes Stiles feel sick.
“Hey,” Scott says, and steps forward. He reaches out a hand to touch Derek Hale. “Are you—”
And suddenly Derek Hale straightens up, and his eyes flash blue, and there are ears, and there is hair, and there are fangs, and Stiles screeches in a totally manly way, and reaches out to grab Scott by the arm to get him the hell out of there.
Only to discover that Scott is a horror movie monster too.
“Holy shit!” All of Stiles’s training falls immediately into the screaming vortex of his panic and is scattered on the wind. What Stiles should do, of course, is draw his weapon and aim it steadily at the threat, and instruct him to get down on the floor with his hands behind his neck. Which—okay, that’s not going to work because Hale is already on the floor with his hands behind his neck, and also he’s not the only threat, because Scott. Scott!
Stiles flails backward, arms windmilling in his desperation to get away, and—because gravity has always been an asshole to Stiles—he manages to trip over thin air and end up lying on his back on the floor, blinking up at the ceiling and wondering if he’s dead yet.
When Derek Hale looms over him suddenly, Stiles squawks and shoves away. Not that there’s anything to shove against. Nothing except Derek’s Hale’s thankfully now non-monstrous torso. So Stiles shoves against that, and doesn’t move an inch.
But hey, apparently he’s not dead.
“I’m sorry,” Derek Hale says, his voice deceptively soft. His face is human again. And fucking gorgeous, but that’s really beside the point. Actually, that’s not even beside the point. It’s in a different room and a different house than the point. Possibly even a different hemisphere.
“Wha—” Stiles manages.
Derek Hale shuffles back, still on his knees.
“Scotty?” Stiles asks, twisting his head to look up at Scott.
Scott is staring back down at him. He’s not hairy and fangy anymore either. He looks like the same guy Stiles has known for most of his life. Harmless, and kind of goofy, and the polar opposite of ball-twistingly terrifying.
“Scotty?” Stiles asks again.
“Dude,” Scott breathes. He looks pale, like he’s going to pass out. “I think I really am a werewolf!”