Curiosity killed the cat isn’t exactly true. Curiosity simply led the cat to the place where its untimely death happened to occur. Does the cat regret being impulsive and inquisitive? Probably not. The cat has lived a very full life, thank you very much. At least, that’s what Stiles would say if his dad were to push him about any of the myriad of things he has been caught doing in his life. His mother used to just shrug off his morbid curiosity, tell him stories about some of her own young misadventures. He kind of hopes she’s at least a little proud of him in the afterlife, even if he’s not entirely sure he believes in it.
He’s pretty sure it all happened when he first stumbled on his dad’s case files. Well, stumbled isn’t the right word. Searching for is probably a hell of a lot closer to the real truth but no one could ever get him to admit it. He’s wondered about death since his mother explained it to him at age five, after the class guinea pig died on his weekend. Since his father had just made deputy and had been stuck on homicide, it couldn’t have been more perfect if he’d orchestrated it himself somehow. The librarians could finally stop giving him weird looks as he read up on mysteries and grim histories and he could stop worrying about someone checking his search history on the home PC. All he had to do was break into his dad’s tiny home office and sneak peeks at the files. Easy as making cookies.
As far as he knows, no one ever figured it out and it was never brought up around him. He was just quenching his thirst for knowledge after all. No harm, no foul, just a lot of pictures of bodies and chalk lines and autopsy report details.
But then his mom died and he had to fill the hole in him with something. Why not fill it with more of his obsession? He researched non-stop, finally getting good enough with a computer to cover his tracks as he studied crime scenes, serial killers, and methods of killing. He’s pretty sure he’d be institutionalized if anyone figured it out at this point. It was just harmless curiosity and he couldn’t help it. No one ever got hurt and maybe, in some deeply buried corner of his mind, that was the problem. He was okay with useless knowledge. Most knowledge was, after all. But he wanted to see what would happen. He smothered the urge whenever it came up.
He’s had a police scanner in his car since his dad made sheriff, partly to keep an eye on him and partly more curiosity. He knows more things happen in Beacon Hills than his dad brings home to work on. He buys the second one for his room when his dad catches him in his jeep at 5am. The first laptop is just a conveniently timed birthday gift when he turns 14. He’s a lot less careful about the porn than the research.
That’s how he hears about the body, decides it’s a great idea to grab Scott and drag him deep into the woods to find it. He just wants to see the real thing, satisfy his curiosity, maybe help solve a murder. He’s actually really excited about the potential murder-solving. It’s constructive something he can do with all of his inquisitiveness and constant researching. Maybe he’ll even get a reality TV show or book or something about him eventually. Like Sherlock Holmes but with less bullet-time deductive reasoning and, sadly, Robert Downey Jr.
To say the least, it all sort of goes to shit and he ends up far deeper in than he ever wants to be. He’ll be honest, finding out that werewolves are real is pretty cool. He just doesn’t want to always be the Robin. He immediately turns his curiosity to the supernatural but it just backfires and starts to fill him with paranoia. It only grows with everything that he sees. He’d almost want to be one but he’d probably just spend all his time seeing how far he could push things before the hyperspeed healing wouldn’t cut it, turn himself into his own experiment because that’s just who he is. It’s not worth being Batman over yet, even if he does still want to be Batman just once.
After a few months of running with wolves and stumbling from one massive batch of trouble to the next, he’s pretty sure he’ll never rise above loveable and sometimes expendable sidekick. Right around the near brush with death at the hands of the alpha pack but before he’s kidnapped by some very confused fae lords, he starts to make a plan. It involves a lot of research but he likes to think it’s a solid and very Batman-like plan. Anyone who knows a thing about the DCU knows that Batman never trusted anyone completely and Stiles takes some cues from his Justice League backup plans. He likes having backup plans. They make you feel safe when you really have no right at all to feel safe. They’re exactly what he needs right now to have even a passing semblance of sanity while he finishes high school and starts thinking about where to go for college.
He makes it almost a full year before it all bites him in the ass. Well, technically, he prevents the whole biting thing by bashing in the zombie, not-quite-a-werewolf head of Gerard Argent in with a wolfsbane-soaked and -wrapped baseball bat with a couple of large nails decorating the head for good measure. He’s taken to keeping it behind the rarely touched spare and tools in his Jeep thanks to Derek’s sometimes erratic behavior. Not that he’ll ever tell anyone it was meant for someone in the Pack. He’s just following Batman’s lead there. Everyone needs a Justice League Plan when they’re dealing with the supernatural.
Allison brushes it off the same way she does the small arsenal of carefully labeled ammo in her own trunk. Scott is a little bit terrified but a lot impressed because he’s used to Stiles doing things like this, just to a lesser extent. Lydia is skeptical but grudgingly accepting. He’s beginning to think that’s just how she deals with all the shit they face when the chemical cocktails she concocts for herself don’t quite work. The Betas at least look at him a little differently, with just a smidgen more respect now that he’s shown a little power. Derek... Derek doesn’t even look at him for a week and only speaks when it’s absolutely necessary. Stiles doesn’t know how to take that. He never really factors in the reactions to his planning and preparing. That’s pretty un-Batman-like of him in retrospect, he’ll admit it freely. He devises a new contingency plan for Derek but keeps the bat on hand just in case he needs it in another fight. Recent times have only supported the fact that he should be prepared for anything.
The next time he has to use one of his backup plans is against a crazed coven of witches in their freshman year of college. It’s the plan he made in case Lydia ever snapped, the one that he likes to think is the most clever, and he’s almost surprised when the mountain ash-holy water mix the internet told him would burn a witch enough to distract them leaves a rash on his hands. Lydia refuses to be alone in a room with him after that, which grinds all their Pack researching to a snail’s pace and frustrates him beyond all reason. He tells himself the vibrating objects in the room are just because Derek picked a townhouse near a fault line for the Pack and nothing else. No one even questions her irrational behavior. It’s absolutely irrational behavior because he was never going to use it unless they absolutely needed it. He decides to make an even more clever plan for Lydia next time. He’s obviously going to need the extra dose of ingenious plotting.
Stiles doesn’t start feeling like he might be the latest villain until he realizes that there’s at least one person in Rapid Response Radius at all times, even when he’s at work. He’s not sure how Derek and Lydia manage it, and he knows they’re the ones behind it because they’ve started getting really paranoid around him lately, but someone is always there. He writes off bumping into Erica at lunch downtown every day to some kind of security detail. They’ve all been on edge since the siren incident and it only makes sense. He’s glad for it at first, since the Big Bads do have this tendency to kidnap and threaten him. He doesn’t even begin to suspect until Jackson comes to town for a visit and shows up in the tiny indie coffee shop he does research in, annoyed and frowning and weary and out of nowhere. The whole thing puts him on watch and gradually ratchets up his paranoia to the point that he barely trusts anyone anymore. He puts up a beautiful, Oscar-worthy front while plotting and researching, really channeling his inner Batman. He’s practically waiting for the mantle to be passed to him with a hand stretched out.
That’s when he finds a tiny gris-gris at his desk, figures out there’s someone outside the Pack that he can talk to about all the shit he deals with day to day. He starts making excuses and sneaking off to meet with a small coven more powerful than any he’s ever heard of, past or present. He learns more than he could ever dream of, taps deep into something he barely knows is there. He makes sure not to breathe a word or even think vaguely about it around his found family, guilt only just tickling at his mind where before it would have nearly broken him. He should probably be more concerned about that than he is but he can’t find the room to care when they’ve spied on him and distrusted him for months now.
He doesn’t bat an eyelash when his obsessive research returns with a vengeance after years, starts turning away from the weak points in those closest to him to amplifying his own strengths. For what might be the first time in a very long time, he spends some time focusing on himself. It gets to the point that he rarely spends time at the Pack house, spends even less time in the bedroom he shares with Derek. The fact that it never gets addressed only makes him certain that it’s the best thing. He shoves back the stronger guilty twinge.
He stays quiet about what he learns and discovers, working alone and only pulling out the comparative parlor tricks when they really need them. Batman never gave away all his secrets either, played cards pressed tight against his chest. The things he can truly do would probably turn them all against him anyway and, as much as he wishes he didn’t, he needs them. He would say they help keep his curiosity to a manageable level if everything weren’t evidence to the contrary but he needs them for something he doesn’t have words for yet.
A tiny part of him worries that maybe he’s gone too far, that he should reel in his curiosity and leave things well enough alone. The same part, or maybe one close to it, wonders if that cat feels like this right before it dies.