The Tale of Beacon Hills Woods
The first time Derek ever saw Stiles he knew the bird was trouble. Perched on the back of a wolf named Scott, Stiles was recounting a story of his supposedly daring rescue of a ladybug named Lydia from the clutches of a lizard called Peter.
Derek watched as Stiles excitedly flapped his wings as he told Scott how he’d jumped on the back of the lizard and allowed Lydia to fly away into the leaves of that douchey bush, Jackson.
“Any day now, dude. She’s just laying low until she’s sure that Peter’s moved on to the next pretty young thing. But then…Bam! Your pal Stiles is gonna be sharing his nest with that gorgeous bug.”
“I don’t know, Stiles. Every time I’ve walked by Jackson she’s always been out in the open on one of his leaves. I think they might, you know, have a…thing.”
Derek watched as Stiles clutched a wing to his breast and fell dramatically onto Scott’s back. “You wound me with your lies. My beautiful ladybug wouldn’t bother with a bush as boring and dull as Jackson. He doesn’t even have berries, dude. What kind of bush doesn’t have berries? A useless one, that’s what.”
Derek didn’t know what the wolf said next because the pair had wandered too far away to hear. He could see Stiles hop his way up to the top of Scott’s head – no doubt pointing out all the things wrong with Jackson, judging by the look of the wolf’s bored nod every few paces.
Thank the gods of the forest he never had to deal with the drama that came with having woodland creatures living in and on your boughs. Derek was well known throughout the forest to be a ‘no-habitation’ tree.
His sister, Laura, had welcomed all kinds of creatures into her branches when she had stood tall beside him. But when the dry spell came, they had abandoned her - and it was just Laura and Derek left to survive alone.
It had surprised Derek to watch as her leaves began to wilt and slowly flutter to the ground. Laura had always been the stronger of the two of them. She was taller and wider and her leaves were the most beautiful colour green he had and would ever see.
But no matter how hard he tried to stop his roots from taking nutrients so that Laura could gather up as much as she needed - he watched as she withered away over that summer. She withered until her branches were bare and she turned a sickly, grey colour.
Her final words to him - Derek thinks they were her final words, but they were so quiet they could have been the wind whispering through his remaining leaves - were: ‘Stand strong, baby brother.’
That was all.
The rains came two weeks later and Derek hoped desperately that they would bring her back, that she had only been saving her energy…but she was gone.
He stood guard beside her until the day the humans came and took her away from him, saying words like ‘eyesore’ and ‘not aesthetically pleasing’. To Derek, she was still the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
After that, Derek kept his promise of standing strong. But if anybody tried to make a home in his branches he would shake and rustle until the creature realized they had made the wrong choice for a home.
Laura had been abandoned by her inhabitants and Derek couldn’t help think that if they had stayed, maybe his sister would have survived those extra weeks. They could have searched for something, anything but they had left and he hated them for it.
Therefore the next time he saw Stiles, Derek was definitely not amused. The annoying bird had flown onto one of his middle branches with a beak full of twigs and appeared to be eyeing up his bough.
“Don’t even think about it. Go away,” Derek grumbled and added a little extra shake of his branch for emphasis.
Stiles squawked in surprise and watched as his twigs fell from his beak down to the ground. “Dude!” The bird reared back and angrily pecked at his trunk. “It took me hours to find those twigs. Do you know how hard it is to find the perfect ratio of firmness and give needed to make the perfect nest? Do you?!” Stiles added an extra hard peck to Derek’s already chipped bark.
“Stop whining. All of your precious twigs are right there on the ground. So why don’t you just fly down, pick them all up and get your feathery little ass away from me.”
“While I appreciate you noticing - if I say so myself - my best asset…Come on! Look at all your prime real estate here! You’ve totally got room for little old me.” Stiles proceeded to unashamedly nuzzle the side of his head against Derek’s bark.
Derek took a second to calculate the precise angle and then he released a medium-sized stick from his upper branches to land with a thud on Stiles’ back. He watched as the annoying bird fell backwards off of his branch and half-fluttered, half-dropped to the ground below.
After a minute of watching as Stiles lay unmoving on the forest floor, Derek began to get a little worried. “Hey, you there. Birdbrain. Get up.” No movement. “Stiles!”
Releasing a few leaves to drop on the stupid bird, Derek waited for any signs of life. “You are not allowed to die beside me. I’m gonna look pretty guilty standing here with you there - dead. Your wolf friend is going to use me as his personal pissing post if you don’t wake up now. Stiles!”
If Derek hadn’t been watching the bird so closely, he might not have noticed the sly peek Stiles took before he closed both eyes tightly and slowly writhed around on the ground.
“Oh, the pain. It’s alright though. I can survive in the woods with a broken back. I’m sure it’s only a little broken. No need for you to feel guilty or anything,” Stiles sighed as he dramatically laid a wing over his eyes and parted his feathers to sneak a look at Derek.
“Too bad it wasn’t your beak. I think breaking that would do the woods a lot of good,” Derek snarled as he rained down a heap of almost dried out twigs on top of the lying bird’s head.
Stiles screeched as he jumped up to take cover right at the base of Derek’s trunk. He shook out his feathers and settled down in the curve of a root-as if nothing had even happened.
“You have the communication skills of a rock. And I know rocks. There’s one called Harris next hill over. Total asshole. Thinks he’s all superior because the humans picked his dad to be at their entrance here. I take the chance to shit on him every time I fly over,” Stiles said, as he got comfy. Derek could feel the bird’s tail feathers brushing some soil off of his bark. “It’s not surprising - your lack of communication skills - with the whole ‘lone tree’ act you’ve got going on. Tall, shady and brooding-I’m amazed your branches aren’t full of lady birds and squirrels with daddy issues.” Derek watched as the annoying bird rested his head at the spot where the root met his trunk, and calmly closed his eyes.
“I’m amazed you don’t have a flock or tree to go to, what with you being so small and clingy,” Derek said sarcastically as he tried to nudge Stiles with his root. “You can not go to sleep on me.”
“Hmm, I think I can. No way you can drop anything on me here, so I think I will sleep now. Good night.” Derek felt the full weight of Stiles lean against him as the bird seemingly went to sleep.
This was unacceptable. Even though the idiot bird was right when he said that Derek couldn’t drop anything on him, there was definitely another thing he could do.
Focusing intently on the root that Stiles was resting on, Derek forced it to slowly rip itself out of the soil. It was an extremely slow and an agonizingly painful process - but effective as Stiles was shocked from his rest from the strong vibrations coming from the root.
“What are you doing?!” Stiles exclaimed as he watched as the root stopped shaking and settled back in the ground.
“I told you already - go away,” Derek grumbled. He hadn’t moved up a root in years - not since his pitiful attempts to save Laura. He’d forgotten exactly how painful it was. But Derek was adamant that this bird would not set up his home anywhere near him.
“You could’ve hurt yourself, you idiot! I mean, I’m not an expert or anything, but I’m pretty sure you should keep those things in the ground!” Stiles was pacing in front of Derek, his wings gesticulating wildly. “Idiot! If you wanted me gone so badly, just tell me. Don’t hurt yourself!”
Derek was stunned into silence as he watched the look of anger on Stiles’ face melt away into a look of hurt, which quickly got hidden behind the smirk that the bird always seemed to wear. He continued to watch as Stiles turned around and flew away to some poor other tree.
Derek was not going to feel guilty about this. No way. Not at all.
Derek had lost control of the situation. Not that he had ever had control, but that was neither here nor there.
After that first day, Stiles had made it part of his daily routine to annoy Derek. The bird had finally gotten it through his head that branches were a definite no-go area - physical pain seemed to be the only way Derek could find to get that message across - but apparently the nook at the base of Derek’s trunk had been turned into ‘Stiles’ Place of Zen’. Whatever that meant.
Every day Stiles would gather a few leaves that Derek had dropped that morning, then he would pile them up in his nook and settle down to torture Derek with gossip that the bird had picked up on his flights around the woods.
“…And I said to Scott, I said just because Lydia’s now living on Jackson’s inner leaves full-time doesn’t mean anything. Right?” Derek sighed heavily as Stiles went on with his rant. Today was going to be a ‘Lydia’ day.
Derek, if forced, would admit that he thought that Stiles was a pretty smart bird - but when it came to that stupid ladybug, Stiles was as a dumb as a rock. A Harris rock.
“Scott thinks I should ‘expand my horizons.’ Like he can talk,” Stiles snorted as his left wing flailed wildly. “He didn’t even have to leave his cave to meet Allison. She’s a flea. A flea. Scott didn’t do a thing - she jumped on him and they’ve been sickeningly in love ever since. What’s he know anyway?”
“Well, he has a girlfriend-who actually knows he exists - so I would guess more than you.” Stiles didn’t even bother to feign annoyance at Derek’s words, but just calmy preened his wings.
“Excuse me if I don’t take advice from a hermit - a stationary hermit.”
“So, why do you keep coming here?” Derek exasperated. Honestly he didn’t know what it was about this bird, but Stiles made Derek just want to shake all his branches really hard until all his leaves fluttered off into the wind. Annoying bird.
“Yes, barkbutt. I have a weakness for the strong and silent type and you fit the bill.” Derek ruffled his leaves awkwardly at Stiles’ words. It always made him feel strange when Stiles alluded to the fact that he actually liked Derek’s personality. Definitely something he wasn’t used to. He wasn’t sure if he liked it or not. Leaning towards not.
“You’ve filled me in on the fascinating events happening in the woods, but thankfully the day is starting to end. Shouldn’t you be flying away to annoy the tree that you actually nest in?” Derek had no idea where Stiles went to when he left him. Probably to one of those stupid new growth trees that all the animals rushed to as soon as they sprouted the tiniest bit of greenery. Sure they were trendy, but definitely no good for a long-term home. But what did Derek care anyway?
“Yeah…I should be off. I’m sure you’ve got an action packed night planned - what with the standing there and ignoring everybody. I’m sure you’ll tell me all about your exploits tomorrow. I can’t wait,” Stiles said sarcastically as he got up and shook himself free of the soil that had settled on his feathers.
“Sure. And I can’t wait to hear the further exploits of your one-sided love affair with Lydia.”
“My love won’t be denied,” Stiles retorted as he readied his wings and fluttered up into the air. “Seeya tomorrow, barkbutt.”
“She’s with that douchey bush!” Derek shouted as he watched Stiles fly off into the evening air.
Stiles didn’t respond, but Derek was sure that the bird would be extra descriptive of that damned ladybugs wings tomorrow for payback.
Stiles was late and Derek was completely not bothered by it. Not at all. It was only a little odd because, if anything, Stiles’ visits had been getting earlier and therefore much longer. But by the look of the sun the day was nearly coming to a close - and there was no sign of the familiar sight of the small brown-red bird flying towards him.
Maybe Derek had been wrong and that ladybug had actually shown some interest. Or maybe Stiles had found another tree to hassle with his stories of using Harris rocks to relieve himself. Well good luck to that tree. Derek could enjoy his silence - alone.
For the life of him, Derek couldn’t remember what he had done to fill the hours before sunset since Stiles had come along. That bird hadn’t been visiting him for long, but it had become a sort of routine.
Derek ruffled his leaves a little harder than usual as he told himself to stop being an idiot. He’d been alone longer than that silly bird had probably been alive and he could go on-
He was shaken from his looping thoughts by the sight of Scott running through the clearing a few yards away. Derek would deny it forever but his roots definitely shrivelled slightly at the sight - knowing that the wolf rushing towards him was not bringing good news about Stiles.
Derek watched as the wolf stopped abruptly at the base of his trunk and gently dropped Stiles out of his mouth and onto the grass. It was strange seeing Stiles quiet…not moving. Derek decided it was something he didn’t like.
“What…what happened to him?” From what Derek could see, there was blood around Stiles’ neck and left wing. Nothing seemed to be missing though.
Scott panted a few breaths. “Danny accidentally wandered too far out and Matt tried to swoop him up…Stiles stopped him…I didn’t know what to do and you were close and he really-”
“Okay, okay Scott. It’s gonna be okay.” Derek had no idea who Danny and Matt were, but it didn’t surprise him that Stiles was such an idiot. But he was going to be okay. Yes he was.
“But…he’s bleeding…and he wouldn’t wake up…and I…I just want to hear his voice,” Scott said mournfully as he gently nosed Stiles’ beak.
Derek had no idea what to do. He hadn’t had any birds living in his branches for so long, he didn’t know what to do if one was hurt. Derek thought back to his sister. Laura would always do everything in her power to make sure her inhabitants were safe and healthy and to do that she called on-
“Deaton!” Derek shouted which made the sad looking wolf in front of him jump back a little. Stiles didn’t move at all.
“Who’s Deaton? Can he help Stiles? Or is it somewhere to take him?”
“No, it’s a him. An owl who lives a few clearings over. In the oak near the human’s entrance to the woods. He can help.” Derek’s was pretty sure Deaton was still around as he thought he had spotted the old owl flying around the area once in a while.
Scott turned to run off. “Okay. I’ll go and get him.”
“No wait! You can’t leave Stiles there, it’s too out in the open.” Scott turned back at Derek’s worried words and turned his head side to side - searching for a spot for his friend.
“I don’t know where-”
“He likes that spot there near that root. It should also shield him from anything prowling around,” Derek hoped and watched as Scott padded over to the still unconscious bird. “Wait, wait. Here put these down first so it’s a little softer than the hard ground,” Derek said as he released six of his biggest and hopefully softest leaves to the ground.
He watched as Scott carefully fixed a makeshift nest in the nook and lifted up Stiles into his jaw and placed him on the leaves. Derek thought he heard a small tweet, but when Scott stepped back Stiles was still lying motionless.
“Okay. I’ll go find this Deaton guy and bring him back here. Are you sure he’s okay there?” Scott asked as he looked pleadingly at Derek.
“Yes, now go! I’ll watch over him.” Whatever Scott heard in Derek’s voice must have been enough to satisfy him because he turned and ran off in the direction of Deaton’s tree.
Derek watched until Scott disappeared before he steadied himself and looked at the bird nestled in his usual nook. Just like any other day, Derek thought grimly. Surprisingly a silent Stiles was not as relaxing as Derek had imagined it would be. In fact it was downright annoying.
“I’m not falling for this you know. You’ve certainly gotten more elaborate with your plans, but it’s still not enough to move your nest into my branches,” Derek said. “And dragging your friend into your plan is just pathetic.” Nothing.
“What were you thinking, Stiles? You are a puny little bird…it’s not your job to help everybody that gets themselves in trouble. That Danny guy sounds like he would’ve deserved to get swooped up for not being careful…Why couldn’t you just let it be? Stiles!”
Derek wasn’t used to this feeling and he didn’t like it all. It felt like every part of him was vibrating. Vibrating so hard that eventually all of his roots and branches and leaves would shake off. He didn’t even like the stupid bird that much. What the hell was wrong with him?
“Danny’s a worm…and he didn’t deserve…anything.” All of sudden the vibrations stopped as Derek heard Stiles’ pained words.
“Stiles! What are…Are you okay? Don’t move. What did you say?” Derek watched as Stiles’ tiny left eye blinked blearily at him.
“I said Danny’s a worm and I wasn’t going to let him be lunch to that douchebag of an eagle.”
“Don’t you eat worms?” Derek was aware of the strangeness of this conversation - a conversation with a thankfully conscious Stiles.
“I am offended. I’m a total seeds-and-nuts-only guy and…” Stiles was cut off by a cough that seemed to wrack his entire body. “Geez, that hurt a hell of a lot more than it usually does.”
“Then don’t do it,” Derek muttered angrily. Where was that wolf?
“Sorry, dude. But I don’t think my throat responds on command - and probably, actually definitely, not on your command.”
“It’s good to know that even ripped open you’re still an obnoxious asshole.”
“I wouldn’t want to disappoint you.” Stiles started to cough again.
“It’s all you know how to do,” Derek retorted as he worriedly watched as the bird’s tiny body continued to shiver even after the coughing had stopped. Derek waited for a sarcastic response but there was nothing. “Hey, you are not allowed to die at my base, Stiles. We’ve talked about this. It would make me look bad.”
Stiles shivered again and tiredly looked at Derek. “Sorry, but I might disappoint you with that. I’m not really…feeling…too good.”
“Nothing as annoying as you can be killed by something as boring as an eagle called Matt. Now stop it. You’re gonna be fine.” Yes, he was. Those wounds were totally nothing.
“I always thought you were too arrogant to bother lying to me…I guess you’ve proven me wrong big guy…Con…grat….” Stiles never finished the sentence as his body seized up for a moment and then went totally still.
“Stiles! Stiles! You are not doing this to me! You are fine! Get up!” Derek looked at the bird lying still at his root. “Move, damn it! Scott! Deaton! Stiles!” Derek had no idea how much time passed - everything was hazy. This wasn’t supposed to happen. He wasn’t supposed to care about anything. Not caring meant not feeling like this. Derek wished as hard as he could not to care.
“Derek! Derek! Is he alright?!” Derek was shaken out of his breakdown with the appearance of Scott and Deaton from god knows where. “Derek!”
“He…he woke up…he talked…but then…I don’t know what happened. He’s not moving. He’s not moving. Get up Stiles! Stop just laying there!”
“Okay, Derek. It’s okay.” The old owl walked up to Stiles and bent over him. “He’s alive. But I need to treat this neck wound right away.” Deaton turned around towards Scott.
“I need you to get some things for me.” Deaton took the pack that was hanging around his neck and laid it down on the grass. “I’ve got most of the things I need but there’s a vine I need to you to collect for me. It’ll be finer for stitching for such a small bird like Stiles.”
“Anything. Where do I have to go?”
“Go see Greenberg. He’s a vine hidden in Finstock’s branches. Tell him I sent you. They’ll know what to do.” Deaton didn’t wait to see if Scott had left before he got busy grinding some kind of seeds into a paste.
Derek watched the owl for a minute, constantly checking that Stiles’ chest was still rising and falling steadily. “Is he gonna be okay, Deaton?”
Deaton placed the paste on a flat stick and began to spread it liberally on the cuts at Stiles’ neck and wing. “He’ll live. But I think he’s going to be flying a little unevenly from now on. That eagle managed to cut a few nerves in that wing…But he’ll fly again.”
“Oh…okay.” Derek felt useless. He didn’t like that feeling. At least Scott could go and fetch things. All Derek got to do was watch Stiles as he possibly could have taken his last breath. Useless.
“It’s been a long time, Derek. I didn’t think you were housing anybody anymore,” Deaton said as he finished spreading the paste and then grabbed some kind of leaf to begin wiping it off. Derek had no idea what he was doing.
“I’m not…But Stiles isn’t one for being told no, apparently.”
“Ha. Fighting stubbornness with stubbornness. Effective.”
“Just fix that bird or I’ll make sure Scott takes a bite out of your wing.” Deaton gave a quiet laugh as he put the leaf away and began to check Stiles’ legs and his right wing.
“It’s always astounded me how violently you talk and yet how peacefully you act…I think everything else is okay.”
“It better b-” Derek was interrupted by Scott running up and dropping a piece of vine in front of Deaton.
“Thank you, Scott. You did good,” Deaton said as he began to strip off the fine spikes from the vine and collected them into a nut shell.
“He’s going to be okay,” Derek muttered to Scott. This was a situation Derek hadn’t been in for a long time. Having to talk to so many creatures in such a short amount of time was definitely not comfortable.
“Yeah, it’s hard to get Stiles to stay still for too long…He’d be too impatient to ever let himself be too hurt,” Scott said with absolutely no conviction in his voice, but Derek understood the sentiment.
Deaton began to stitch Stiles’ wounds as both Derek and Scott tried to not notice the painful twitches the bird would give every time a thorn went in.
“He’s going to need a few days of total rest and then about two weeks of very light flying. Just enough that the remaining nerves and the muscles in that left wing don’t seize up, okay. Definitely no more than that.” Derek had no idea if Deaton was talking to him or Scott, but just to be safe he memorized the instructions. “Now where is this bird’s nest? He can’t stay here with the traces of blood on him and his wounds will probably bleed more over the next few days. I’m going to need to move him before it gets too dark.”
Derek waited for Scott to answer Deaton, but the wolf just idly scratched into the soil with his front paw.
“Scott, this isn’t a medical question he’s asking you here. Where’s Stiles’ nest?” Derek asked irritably as he was pretty certain he knew what Scott’s answer was.
“Well, you see…I mean you know Stiles. If you don’t get to know him he can seem to be a bit…annoying. So the trees around here have kind of banned him from nesting in them.” This was not guilt Derek was feeling right now. No it wasn’t. It was annoyance at the annoyingness of Stiles’ personality. Yep, that was it.
“So, where is his nest Scott?” Derek gritted out. He was definitely remembering all the downsides of socialising. God, creatures were frustrating.
“He doesn’t really have one. He just collects some sticks every night and finds a hole or something,” Scott said as he glanced from Stiles to both Deaton and Derek. “I tried to get him to come and stay in our cave but he gave me some speech about cramping his love life or something. So…”
Before Derek even thought it through he blurted out, “Stiles is staying here.” He decided to ignore Deaton’s little smirk and focused on dropping what Derek thought were twigs that would make a pretty comfortable nest. He had absolutely no idea what he was doing, but they kind of seemed similar to those sticks that Stiles was so protective of the first time he tried to move onto Derek’s branches.
Scott quickly gathered them up and gave them to Deaton. The owl flew up to one of Derek’s bottom branches and craned his neck to look for a good spot for the nest.
“Actually…he might be better up higher. Five branches up from you on the right. There’s a fork in the bough that Stiles kind of liked…I guess.”
Deaton went about fixing up a nest that would be easy for Stiles to get in and out of while he was still weak. Derek donated a few more soft leaves and they finished it just as the evening stars began to twinkle.
Scott snuffled the top of Stiles’ head as Deaton gingerly picked up the injured bird. “He’s going to need you to collect his food for the next few days, okay Scott. Can you do that for him?”
Scott tearily nodded his head and stepped back to watch as Deaton fluttered up to the nest and gently placed him in it. “And he’s going to need you to watch for any infection, okay Derek? If you notice the liquid seeping from his wounds turn milky - send for me. But I’ll visit daily until he’s up and I’ll reapply the ointment, so that should stave off any infection.”
“What if he wakes up during the night?…I can’t…there’s nobody…” Derek tried to hide the panic in his voice.
“It’s okay. The combination of herbs I’ve given him will keep him groggy and pretty still for the next eight to ten hours. I’ll come back in seven.” Deaton gathered up all his things into his pack and flew off into the night.
Derek took some time to calm himself and looked at the strange sight of a bird in a nest on his branches. The weight felt strange.
“There’s a cave just down that hill. I’m gonna stay there tonight. If anything…and I mean anything happens, you call out to me. I’ll hear you. Got it?” Scott said as he looked fiercely at Derek waiting for an answer.
“I’m starting to see why the two of you are friends…But, don’t worry. I’ll yell loudly if there’s any change,” Derek promised sincerely. Sincerity was something that made Derek uncomfortable - emotionally naked - but the look in Scott’s eyes told Derek he had done the right thing.
“I’ll be here at sunrise to check on him and then I’ll go get him some breakfast…He’s really gonna be okay,” Scott said. It wasn’t a question but something the wolf needed to tell himself.
“Deaton wouldn’t sugar coat if he wasn’t. Go get some sleep ‘cause I’m sure you’re going to need the energy when Stiles realizes he’s got you as his own personal butler for the foreseeable future.”
Scott laughed as he stretched. “That’s totally something that Stiles is gonna take advantage of. And I’m gonna love every second of it. If he’s bossing me around it means he’s really alright…you know what I mean.”
Derek flashed back to those weeks of silence as Laura had slowly faded away from him. “I know what you mean,” he whispered.
“Wake up! Wake up! I can’t show off if you keep sleeping, dude. Wake up!” Derek slowly emerged from his resting state to the sight of a lopsided-looking Stiles fluttering in and out of his branches.
“Get back in your nest, you idiot. You shouldn’t be using that wing so much.” Derek watched as Stiles pointedly ignored him and continued to weave in and out of Derek’s boughs. Every so often the bird would misjudge a space, due to the now-permanent crookedness of his flight and scrape his head on some bark.
“It’s been over three weeks, Derek. And don’t pretend you didn’t hear Deaton yesterday. He totally said I can do this. I’m a free bird again! Free!” Stiles shouted as he managed to dovetail down to his nest with a thud. Derek watched as Stiles put his right wing behind his neck and laid back.
“I heard him. But what he said was that you could fly to Scott’s today…not pretend you’re a goddamn acrobatic hummingbird.”
“Hummingbird’s fly backwards, Derek.”
“I know that! I meant the speed! Can’t you just take it easier a little longer? I’m sure Scott will still turn up with a pile of seeds if you don’t show up to his cave by lunch.”
Derek had spent a lot of time with the wolf over the last few weeks of Stiles’ recovery. He didn’t think they would ever be the best of friends - Scott was way to positive and optimistic about everything - but Derek respected the commitment to Stiles that the wolf had shown. Right on sunrise, Scott would come by to check on the bird before going out to gather some food for breakfast. It had taken him two weeks, but the wolf had finally moved back to his cave. And this was the first day that Stiles was allowed to fly there.
“I’m going, Derek. Now don’t get your root system in a knot. I promised my bro I’d meet him at his cave and that is exactly what I’ll be doing.” Derek didn’t know what was more frustrating - the calm tone in Stiles’ voice, like everything was already final, or the fact that this was annoying Derek so much. Damn frustrating bird.
Derek knew any argument was useless, so he maturely responded to Stiles with absolute silence.
“Oh, don’t be like that big guy,” Stiles said as he jumped out of his nest and made tiny hops up the branch until he got to Derek’s trunk.
“Don’t even think about it, Stiles,” Derek warned as the bird proceeded to gently rub his head over Derek’s bark.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have an itch.” Lies. “I’ll be back after lunch. I’ll tell Scott you said hello,” Stiles continued as he turned his head and snuggled against Derek with his other side.
“Whatever,” Derek replied stoically. Damn bird.
After cradling an unconscious Stiles in his branch for those first few days, Derek had discovered that he wasn’t exactly adverse to the moments when Stiles returned the gesture. Actually, it usually forced Derek to cave to whatever Stiles was demanding - extra twigs for his now ludicrously large nest, or leaving to ride on Scott’s back around the woods when he couldn’t fly. Damn bird.
“Don’t worry. You’re stuck with me now, barkbutt.” Damn that nickname. “I’ve got the sweetest nest in all the woods in your branches. No take backs.”
“I can shake that nest out anytime I want to, birdbrain.” He probably wouldn’t. “Just…if your wing…just be careful, idiot.”
Stiles raised his right wing in a mock salute and began his slow and lopsided flight towards Scott’s cave.
And from that moment on Derek the hermit had an permanent inhabitant.
Not an always welcome inhabitant.
“No, Stiles. No way.” Derek watched as Stiles fluttered around with a resigned looking snail clutched in his toes. Scott looked on amusedly from his place on the grass.
“Boyd’s a cool dude. He’s just moved out of his parents and he needs a place to stay,” Stiles whined.
“First day away from home and I get kidnapped by a bird and a wolf. Weird,” Boyd added calmly as he bobbed up and down a few feet off the ground.
“Kidnapping is such a strong word, helping out…” Stiles trailed off as Derek noticed he was slowly draining his strength holding up a way above average-sized snail.
“Put him down, Stiles.” He waited until Stiles gently placed Boyd on the ground before continuing. “What exactly did you think was going to happen here? I barely tolerate having you here! What made you think I would be open to the idea of some strange snail living here? Do you know anything about him? He could be anybody?!...No offense,” Derek quickly added to Boyd.
“None taken. You never know what types are hanging around…Like kidnapping birds perhaps?” Boyd said. Stiles turned indignantly to the snail.
“Stop throwing that word around. I told you where I was taking you…I’m helping.” Stiles flew up off the ground to be level to Derek’s lower branches. “And to you Derek, come on. Look at the guy. He’s a great starter creature for you. Quiet, sticks to himself…I thought you two would get along…Plus he has his own shell! He could stay under one of your roots.” Derek watched as Stiles’ flying became more erratic and crooked the more the bird ranted.
“I don’t need a ‘starter creature’. What the hell is that even?”
“You need to widen your social horizons, Derek. Yes, I’m pretty amazing and enough for any grumpy tree, but other animals might be good for you!”
“Uh, guys. I’m just gonna get Scott here to take me back to where I was. There was a pretty good…” Boyd started.
“Stay there!” Both Derek and Stiles said.
“I’d stay out of it,” Scott said to Boyd. “They scream and yell, Derek caves and Stiles gets what he wants. And you get some cool new digs. Just wait.”
Derek bristled at Scott’s words. Why did everyone think he could be taken advantage of?
Stiles noticed the effect of Scott’s words and quickly flew up to a higher branch so he could talk without the wolf and snail overhearing them.
“Derek, hey. If this is something you really don’t want, I’m not gonna force it big guy…I wouldn’t do that.” Stiles waited about a foot away from Derek’s trunk, studying the tree closely.
Derek took a few moments to centre himself. He felt the coolness of the breeze rustling through his upper boughs, and he felt the soft familiarity of the soil below him.
“Why are you doing this, Stiles?”
“I just…I know you don’t really like other creatures but you’re pretty great, you know.” Stiles absentmindedly rubbed the healed wound on his neck. “I think others should know that…and I just thought that you and Boyd could be friends. He really does seem like somebody you might like. That’s all.” Damn this bird.
“He stays on the ground,” Derek said determinedly. Stiles gave a slight nod. “And if I find I don’t like him, he’s gone. With no arguments from you.” Stiles gave another little nod and then rushed over to wrap his wings around Derek’s trunk.
“You won’t regret it, Derek. I’ll make sure of it.” Stiles finally dropped his wings and took a few steps back. “But you are gonna give him a chance, right? You can’t just ignore him hoping he’ll go away on his own.”
“That didn’t work with you, did it? Why would I think it would possibly work with Boyd?”
Stiles laughed as he floated back down to the ground to share the ‘good’ news and help get Boyd settled into his new home.
Damn that bird.
Derek would never ever admit it, but Stiles was right. Boyd was a pretty good guy. Didn’t have to share his every feeling and talk much at all. Plus he often sided with Derek when Stiles tried to talk them into some harebrained plan he’d thought up. Like digging up a hole for a swimming pool for ‘bro time’. Or the complicated elevator plans Stiles had thought up so that Boyd could come and visit his nest whenever he wanted. Definitely a united ‘no’ on both of those plans.
And Derek had discovered that he was starting to enjoy his alone time less and less. He’d watch as Stiles would pick up Boyd in the morning and fly off into the woods to visit ‘Boyd’s sexy bluebell, Erica’ - according to Stiles. And he’d find that he would miss them. Stupid creatures.
That didn’t mean that Derek was suddenly Mr. Social. Stiles had brought a few of his friends around, like the worms Danny and Isaac. Derek liked them fine, but he didn’t think he could have them around all the time. Like Scott, they were way too optimistic for Derek’s cynical mind.
But suddenly it all ended…and it wasn’t Derek’s fault. Definitely not. It was the fault of the interfering Stiles.
It had been a normal night, too. Boyd had been snuggled up in his usual space sleeping and Stiles and Derek had talked long into the night about nothing in particular, like they always did.
Then morning came.
Derek woke up earlier than usual, a little confused. Stiles wasn’t in his nest. This was the bird that believed sunrise was a myth because he’d never seen it. And now the morning light was still a little ways off and apparently Stiles was already up.
Up and violating Derek’s past.
Stiles had been busy raking and digging up the soil where Laura had once stood tall. For a few moments anger rushed so strongly through Derek that he couldn’t see, talk or even hear.
“What are you doing?” Derek gritted out. Stiles jumped a little and then turned to face Derek, waving his wings wildly.
“Shhhh. You’ll wake up Boyd. It’s a surprise for him. We’re gonna move Erica and the other bluebells over and watch true love blossom.” Stiles continued to dig.
“How dare you?! You have no right to be there!” Derek felt himself start to shake. Boyd slid out from his resting place to see what the trouble was.
“Hey, hey. Derek. Hey. Calm down. What’s wrong?” Stiles said quietly as he slowly walked towards Derek.
“You have no right! I know you all think you can do anything you want around here, but that is it! How dare you?!”
“Derek…” Stiles began, but Derek was too lost in his anger to hear the bird.
“That’s it! Get out of here! You said if I didn’t like anything I didn’t have to put up with it. Well, I’m done with you!” Derek shook Stiles’ branch harder than he’d ever shaken anything before. The large nest teetered for a second before it came crashing down in front of Stiles. The bird jumped back with a squawk.
“Derek, hey. What’s wrong? Just tell me and I’ll fix it…I’ll put the dirt back…I…I…I don’t know what I did. Derek!” Derek ignored the emotion in Stiles’ voice.
“You’ve done enough, Stiles,” Derek replied coldly. “I’m done. Go away.”
“You don’t just get to say ‘you’re done’! That’s not how this works.” Stiles went to move closer to Derek, but the tree rained down a few medium-sized twigs on the bird, which stopped him in his tracks.
“So, what? After everything we’ve been through, after everything we are to each other…”Stiles throat hitched at the words, “…you’re just gonna kick me out and give me the silent treatment. You can’t do that Derek!” Yes Derek could. And he was going to. That bird wasn’t going to take advantage of him anymore.
“Derek, come on. Just tell-” Stiles was interrupted by the sight of Boyd falling from the perch he’d found on top of Derek’s root.
“You’re trying to pull your roots up again?! Mature, Derek. Really mature…Are you okay, Boyd?” Stiles waited for Boyd to nod his head before he continued. “Fine, Derek. Fine. Okay. You’ve won. Stop trying to kill yourself. I’ll go.” Derek ignored the tears falling down Stiles’ face. There were many things that Derek could put up with from Stiles, but this was about his sister. Derek was the only one around to protect her memory. And by God, he was going to do it.
Derek watched as Stiles walked towards the smashed remnants of his nest and clutched one of Derek’s leaves with his toes.
“I…Look, just because you’re angry at me, don’t take it out on Boyd.” Silence. “Stick together okay. I’ll…um…see you around…I guess.”
Stiles gripped the leaf tightly and sadly flew off in his familiar lopsided way.
“You’re an asshole,” Boyd said before sliding away to go look for food.
“You’re an asshole!” A very angry Scott yelled as he bounded up to Derek.
“Go away, Scott,” Derek said calmly.
“No, I’m not Stiles. I don’t give a damn what you want. I only give a damn about the fact that my best friend is absolutely devastated and he didn’t know why!”
Scott stalked over and raked his claw deeply through Derek’s bark. The tree was not going to give the wolf the satisfaction of knowing that it hurt.
“I don’t care, Scott.”
“Like hell you don’t. I know what Stiles means to you, you bastard.” Scott cocked his leg and peed on the marks he had made on Derek’s trunk. Damn it.
“Do whatever you need to do and go.” Scott took another swipe through Derek’s bark and took a step back.
“You’re not fooling anybody, asshole. You’re gonna miss him way more than he will you.” Derek decided he was done with this conversation. Time to bring back the silent treatment.
“I don’t care if you won’t talk to me,” Scott ranted, “I’ll sure as hell talk to you. Why can’t you just be normal and talk to him? If you had’ve just talked to him, he would’ve understood.”
“Why should I have to explain everything?! Certain birds should just learn not to interfere.”
“He didn’t know, okay. About your sister. He would never…”
“What do you know about Laura?” Derek was confused. He was pretty sure Scott had never known her. Laura had been friends with a wolf, but it was a woman and her name was… “Melissa. You know Melissa.”
“That’s my mom. She said Laura was really amazing.”
“She…she was.” Derek was not going to have a breakdown in front of this stupid wolf.
“Stiles didn’t know that he’d been digging where Laura had stood, Derek. He was absolutely horrified when I told him. You know Stiles. He’d hurt himself before he’d ever hurt you. You know that.”
“I don’t want to talk about this, Scott. It’s done, I’m done. Go away.” Stubbornness, thy name is Derek.
“You aren’t the only one who’s lost someone, asshole. I bet Stiles has never talked about his family, has he? Didn’t you think that was strange?” Derek had wondered about that. Stiles talked non-stop, but about his family he was absolutely silent. “He lost his mom pretty much as soon as he hatched. Stiles doesn’t even remember her. And he lost his dad a few years ago. You might remember him. The animals around here called him Sheriff.”
Derek definitely remembered the name. That bird had been one of the few creatures Derek respected. Always helping out and making sure the smaller creatures weren’t taken advantage of by the larger ones. Derek had actually felt a little sad when he’d heard that evil bear, Gerard, had killed the old bird. Apparently, Gerard had tried to attack Sheriff’s son and Sheriff had swooped in and gotten a claw in the chest.
Of course. It made complete sense that Sheriff was Stiles’ dad.
“What’s your point, Scott?” Derek could feel his anger fading. And then he felt angry about that. Damn, this is why he avoided emotions. They never made sense.
“Just that you’ve both lost family, asshole. And you two managed to find each other, despite how annoying you both are. I’m only going to admit this once - I was actually pretty jealous of you.”
“Then you’re an idiot.”
“Maybe. But Stiles doesn’t really get close to anybody…Sure he has a lot of friends. But not friends that he talks to. You really matter to him, Derek. I never thought you deserved it, but you’ve always been there for him so I accepted it. But right now you’re proving all my early doubts true.” Scott turned around and started to walk away.
“That’s it? No more speeches or urinating? I’m surprised,” Derek said to the wolf.
“If you need any more convincing to not just throw away what you have with Stiles, then you really don’t deserve him.”
God, Derek really hated that wolf.
It’d been a week of no Stiles. Derek decided he didn’t like it.
“Ow! Geez, Derek. That wasn’t a twig you dropped, that was a branch. Careful dude,” Boyd said as he slid out to bask in the sun for a little while.
Oh yeah…and that had also been happening. Since the fight with Stiles, Derek had been shedding leaves and twigs like crazy. First, it had been the brown and brittle ones. But now the leaves that dropped were green and the twigs had turned into branches. And they wouldn’t stop falling, no matter how hard Derek tried to stop them.
“You know he’s found a tree to nest in, don’t you?” Boyd said casually.
Bam! Okay that was definitely a bough.
“A tree. Who? How? Who?” Smooth, Derek.
“Apparently Danny convinced Greenberg who then convinced Finstock to give our bird a spare branch. I guess this break up really is permanent,” Boyd said.
“It’s not a break up. We weren’t…and don’t look at me like that. He’s the one that can move. Stiles could’ve come here anytime he wanted.” Derek heard Boyd snort.
“Yeah, because healthy communication is a strength for both of you,” Boyd sarcastically responded.
“Thanks for proving my point.”
“Hey, Boyd. Ready to go,” Scott said as he arrived. This had become Derek’s daily routine. Bitched at by Boyd, ignored by Scott. How was this his life now?
“Yeah, if I stick around any longer today I’m afraid my shell’s gonna get cracked open by one of Derek’s ‘twigs’.” Scott hmmphed as he picked up Boyd to take him to visit Erica and Stiles.
“Goodbye to you, too!” Derek shouted out to nobody in particular. He guessed it was probably a good day to get some rest and hopefully stop dropping leaves and branches before he was nothing but a trunk.
This was definitely Stiles’ fault.
Derek was woken from his rest by a series of loud squawks.
“We’re bros, Scott! This is a certain violation of the bro code! Your breath stinks and your tongue is definitely in a ‘bad touch’ place. Put me down!”
Derek watched as Scott dropped a tied up Stiles at the base of Derek’s trunk.
“He stays here until you two are you two again. Got it?” Scott didn’t wait for Derek to answer before he ran off.
Derek took in the sight of Stiles as he struggled against the vine that was tied around his middle, keeping his wings pressed at his side. The bird looked a little thinner than he had a week ago, but seeing him made Derek realize how much he’d missed the little annoyance.
“So…hey. I see you’ve made some…changes,” Stiles said as he took in the piles of leaves and branches piled up around the ground.
“Just trying something new.” This was going well.
They sat in silence for a few minutes until Derek thought he would burst. Thank god Stiles was even more impatient than he was.
“I’m sorry,” they both said in unison and then looked at each other steadily.
“I didn’t know…that that was where Laura…I would never do that, Derek. I am so sorry.”
“I never told you. It just hit me hard to see you digging there like she never existed.” There were another few beats of silence while they both thought about the family they had lost. “I think she would’ve liked it,” Derek whispered.
“What?” Stiles asked cautiously.
“What you were doing. I think Laura would’ve liked it. She was always a sucker for true love and she loved blue bells. There used to be a patch of them over there before the dry spell…”
“I should’ve asked before I…”
“No, this is your home too…Well, was your home. I…I guess you’re over at Finstock’s now.” Stiles stopped struggling against the vines as he took in Derek’s words.
“It’s not exactly a home. Finstock has a crazy fitness regime for all the creatures in his boughs…It’s more like a torture chamber,” Stiles said as he jumped to his feet and started to shuffle to the place that had long ago become ‘Stiles’ nook’.
“Oh.” This was awkward. Derek didn’t have much experience in this and he was afraid that he was going to say the wrong thing any second now.
“So, if there was a free branch somewhere…even if that branch was attached to a tree who was as emotionally stunted as this bird…I think I might want to check it out,” Stiles finished as he reached the base of Derek’s trunk and gently leaned his head on the bark. The bird stayed completely still, waiting for Derek to give him a sign.
This was it. Derek could feel himself shaking. This time from nerves, not the horrible anger that had sent Stiles away. “I don’t know if you know this,” Derek started, “but, you see, I have this branch. And it could possibly have room for a bird. A small bird. A small bird with a crooked wing and a big beak.”
Derek heard Stiles give a little sigh and start to nuzzle his head against Derek’s trunk. “I missed you.” Damn, that bird. He always knew what to say to make Derek an emotional mess.
“Yeah, yeah,” Derek tried to say lightly. But as he felt the little bird against his side, Derek knew he was going to make sure Stiles was aware that he was wanted here. Wanted by him. “I missed you too, birdbrain.”
“Hallelujah!” Scott and Boyd shouted as they appeared from behind a tree a few yards away.
“You two are sickening. My ears have been violated,” Scott said as he placed Boyd back down in his usual place and then removed the vine from around Stiles.
“Shut up,” Derek grumbled half-heartedly. He tried to be annoyed, but watching Stiles collect twigs and fly up to his branch to begin building his nest…well, Derek would say he was probably feeling too much happiness and relief to feel anything else.