The box says, pretty clearly despite the worn out crayon – STUFF. STAY OUT, STILES.
Which is surprising, because Stiles is fairly sure he’s never seen it before in his life. But then again, it does seem pretty old. Years old, even. It wasn’t that much of a stretch to think back when he was a toddler and getting into all sorts of trouble. Specifically, the kind of trouble that had sharp edges and a tendency to fall onto small, fragile humans. Hell, Stiles’ dad probably had such a trim figure when he was younger because he spent so much time running in circles making sure his five-year-old son didn’t accidentally kill himself with the dishwasher.
The point is, Stiles is touched by a sudden feeling of sentiment, which is only amplified when he rests the box in his lap and a faint remnant of his mum’s perfume wafts up to him, as if it had only been sprayed recently. There are other objects scattered around him in the Stilinski’s darkened attic. It was a gloomy Sunday evening, with rain pouring down in sheets and all the little wolfie boys and girls cuddled up in bed or otherwise out on dates whilst Stiles was rolling around in his own boredom alone at home –
The point is. Stiles was lying halfway off his bed trying to untangle an old yo-yo he had found tucked behind his bedhead in one of his more desperate searches for entertainment, when he heard a noise.
Specifically, a noise on the roof. Or in the roof? After a cursory check to see if Scott had slipped off the drainpipe again and into the neighbor’s yard – nope, Miss Truman’s posies were definitely un-squashed – Stiles had reasoned that it had come from the attic.
Which led him here, picking his way through ages-old memorabilia, old 70s saucy magazines and a tricycle so conquered by spider webs that Stiles decided to leave it in piece rather than risk the wrath of the spider kingdom that had clearly annexed half of his house.
And this box.
It had been pretty well hidden under a pile of other boxes filled with baby clothes and children’s books with some of Stiles’ more amateur attempts at art scribbled across the pages. And yet Stiles still found it.
The box he is still holding.
“Huh,” he mutters, very slowly, and then realizes his fingers are tensed in a claw-like grip, tearing soft holes into the cardboard edges. “What do we have here?”
The box, predictably, does not respond. It only urges him in crayon-y, no uncertain terms, to STAY OUT.
Which, come on, mum and-or dad. Try harder.
Stiles is already tearing open the taped – and stapled, Jesus – edges, and then throwing what seems like a boatload of bubble-wrap and tissue paper over his shoulders, when he hears his dad’s cruiser roll up in the drive below. It’s barely audible under the thundering downpour, but Stiles had spent years home alone waiting to hear the distinctive click-clack of the electronic car key, so –
There is a chest in the box. A very small chest, which looks like it is straight out of Deaton’s backroom or Lydia’s jewelry drawer – which Stiles has definitely not seen, ever, no way – all dark reds and golds and a smattering of blue stones, and a massive gold latch on the cover that glitters even in the overcast light from the open trapdoor behind Stiles.
Stiles hears the front door slam, and his dad cursing, and the sounds of an umbrella being shaken out.
“Huh…” Stiles says, more slowly than before, lifting out the chest and pushing the box aside. It kind of makes sense. Maybe Stiles kept getting into his mum’s necklace box? She used to let him play with her strings of pearls all the time, maybe her more expensive ones were hidden away to dissuade Stiles from getting to them too, or maybe, maybe, his dad just couldn’t keep the chest around, the familiarity of it too strong to –
Stiles flicks open the latch and opened the lid.
“Huh.” He says, with feeling.
“Stiles?” His dad calls through the house, but now it seems muffled, as if far away.
The chest was filled with bright, golden coins. This was definitely not his mum’s jewelry box. Hell, maybe this was Stiles’ long-fabled college fund? Except made up of… doubloons?
“What the hell, dad,” he calls down the trapdoor, grinning, “did you think I was gonna swallow these, or something?”
“What?” His dad’s footsteps on the stairs, a pause as he sees the attic ladder unfolded in the hallway, “Stiles, what the hell are you – wait, Stiles!”
“Weird,” Stiles grins, and grabs a coin at random from the chest.
And because it’s his life, and his life sucks –
He blacks out.
“Aw, hell, son,” his dad groans, some intermittent time later when Stiles regains consciousness on his bed, his fist clenched so hard around the coin he can feel a heat burning its way through his palm, “why’d you have to go and do that, huh?”
“Whoa,” Stiles says, and then, “dad, are you a pirate?”
“Christ,” his dad says, and then picks up a tumbler full of scotch off Stiles’ dresser and gulps it down.
“I’m allowed this,” he adds menacingly, when Stiles glowers from the bed. “Shit.”
“No seriously,” Stiles repeats, a bit frantically, “are you a pirate? Is this cursed gold – was mum a pirate? –“
“Stiles. No one is a pirate!”
“Except actual pirates?”
“Except actual pirates.” His dad concedes, now looking wary rather than angry. “Are you--?”
“I definitely don’t feel well.” Stiles agrees, and then proceeds to black out again.
Derek wakes on a Tuesday to crashing noises coming from his kitchenette. Rolling over onto his stomach, he glares into his elbow and considers his options. The smell is familiar – Stiles, okay – and the alarm clock on his bedside table – okay, it’s a stack of cookbooks Erica gave him as a joke, so sue him – tells him it’s well past midday. Sighing quietly, Derek concedes it’s as good a time as any to do the hulk and glare until the teenager leaves him the hell alone and lets him get back to his nesting. Sleeping. His sleeping.
It’s the rainy weather. Gets him every time.
He finds Stiles crouched in the kitchenette, swearing as he tries to gather up an armful of Derek’s cooking pans and baking trays.
Right. The noise.
“Crap!” Stiles flings around, and Derek goes from annoyance to concern so fast his head hurts. Stiles looks… off. Something about the eyes.
“Shit, crap, I’m sorry,” it’s the desperation in Stiles’ voice that tips Derek off, too. He genuinely is sorry.
“Man, crap, don’t tell my dad about this, will you? He’s already given me the self-control spiel like, three times – and that was only over a cheese grater! – he’s going to be so mad—”
“Stiles.” Derek repeats, wide-eyed and lost. Stiles has a death-grip on an egg-pan. Derek is a little worried he might hurt himself with it.
“What. Are you doing?”
Stiles looks down at himself with some surprise, as if his appearance in Derek’s kitchen laden with every cooking utensil he could carry was not an uncommon scene.
“Um.” He says, and then stops, goes a bit pale, then a bit red, and then clams up completely.
Definitely something wrong with the eyes, Derek decides, and then makes a show of reaching for his phone.
“What’s the Sheriff department’s number?” He asks innocently, and then, “Oh, no wait, I remember.”
“Don’t!” Stiles yells, and holds his arms up like Derek’s phone is a deadly weapon.
Of course, this means he drops every pan, grater, and strainer in the process, causing a crescendo of metallic noise that makes Derek flinch and his ears ring. They both freeze, Stiles with his arms outstretched, Derek – still in his pajamas, for the love of – clutching the phone to his bare chest like a lifeline.
“I’m going.” Stiles says, sudden awareness coming over his features again. “I. Am going. Right now. Leaving. Zip. Do not concern yourself.” He walks, a bit robotically, backwards towards the loft door, never letting Derek out of his sight.
Derek is, he hates to admit, completely baffled.
Especially when he notices the silver ladle, stuffed up the back of Stiles’ shirt as he makes a final dashing leap out the door into the hallway for freedom.
Derek goes back to bed.
He wakes up sometime later in the evening, has a shower, flicks listlessly through a book, and then makes a halfhearted effort to put all the kitchen utensils back in their proper places. Wherever those places were. Erica, again.
He’s holding a tea-strainer in one hand while his phone dials. A tea strainer. He doesn’t even buy loose-leaf tea. He doesn’t buy tea.
“Derek?” Scott answers his phone, to Derek’s never-ending surprise.
“Uh,” Derek starts.
“I’m… fine.” Derek replies awkwardly, still unused to Scott’s natural concern, now amplified to Alpha-levels of overprotectiveness. “I don’t think Stiles is?”
“Stiles?” Scott is on red-alert. “What do you mean? What’s happened?”
“Um. I don’t know.”
Derek puts the strainer down, weighs his options, and goes for it.
“Is he cooking something?”
Later the next day, Derek is halfheartedly staring at the selection of loose-leaf tea in Beacon Hill’s organic grocery store when he smells Stiles-but-not-Stiles, and looks down the aisle in time to see the Sheriff notice him and make a beeline in his direction. Derek is ashamed that his palms go sweaty. He quickly looks back at the boxes in front of him. Cranberry? Sure, cranberry. He grabs a box and tries to turn away, but is intercepted by an awkward tap on his shoulder.
Derek knows the Sheriff knows. The Sheriff knows Derek knows he knows. Including Stiles’ dad into the packs business was a necessary evil, but that didn’t mean Derek was comfortable having the leading authority in the region coming up to him in a grocery store in uniform, with his service revolver at his belt and hidden wolfsbane bullets in a pocket in his coat.
“You getting some tea?” Derek asks, and immediately wants to brain himself on his basket.
If anything, the Sheriff looks more awkward than he feels. He glances around them – Derek knows there is no-one suspicious in the store, he would have noticed, but he suddenly feels a little hunted too – before grabbing something from inside his coat and thrusting it against Derek’s chest.
“Here.” He mutters. “I think this is yours?”
It’s Derek’s ladle. He takes it from the Sheriff a bit gingerly.
“I’m uh, I’m sorry about Stiles,” the Sheriff is shifting from foot to foot, looking around himself nervously like the world’s worst drug dealer, “he’s going through a – uh – stage. Right now. You know,” he chuckles weakly, “teenagers.”
“…Yes?” Derek asks, completely bemused.
“I’m trying to get him to learn more self-control.” The Sheriff promises. “This won’t happen again.”
The Sheriff nods and smiles approvingly. He even claps Derek on the shoulder. Derek thinks he might be staring a bit stupidly at the man, but then again – ladle.
“Did he finish cooking?” He asks stupidly, and the smile slides off the Sheriff’s face.
“Have a good night, Hale.” He mutters, and trudges away, snatching a Kit-Kat off the shelf like a snake and hiding it under a box of coffee beans.
This time, Scott rings Derek.
“Okay, so, I talked to everyone, and at first we thought you were just going crazy from social isolation,” he begins, and Derek closes his book with a hurt scowl, “but okay, Stiles hasn’t shown up to school in a few days, right? And I went to visit him, and his dad wouldn’t let me in his room! Stiles had to come downstairs and we had to talk while his dad was watching us from the kitchen!”
“The Sheriff told me it was teenager stuff.” Derek offers.
“What? Dude, that’s stupid. What’s Stiles being a teenager got to do with his room being off limits – I mean – I know he’s a dude, and I know he does the do, but he’s never quarantined the place off like this before.”
“Word of the day,” Scott snaps impatiently, “listen to me, Derek, something’s wrong.”
And with a sinking feeling, Derek realizes Scott is right. It was too much to hope that Beacon Hill’s streak of peacefulness would last. On the upside, it had been at least two months since those harpies in the camping grounds. New record.
“The whole time we were sitting there, he was holding onto his dad’s watch,” Scott muttered off-handedly, “it was getting really weird.”
“Yeah.” Derek agrees, remembering the possessive way Stiles’ had been holding onto Derek’s saucepan until awareness had returned to him in like a lightning bolt. “Like the saucepan.”
“Saucepan? Derek, are you even listening to me?”
“I’m listening. I’m just weirded out. I can be both.”
“You sure can, buddy,” Scott says slowly. “Hey… have you seen Stiles recently?”
“Not since he came to visit and tried to stuff a cheese grater down his pants.”
“But not since then… right?”
“No.” Derek pauses, suddenly uncomfortable. “I don’t… think so?”
His loft had smelt off today, but he wasn’t sure in which way. Now he was getting suspicious.
“Ri-i-ight,” Scott says. “Listen, I’m going to talk to Deaton. Can you... I don’t know. Can you check it out?”
“Stiles’ room,” Derek agreed. “He’s hiding something.”
“And the Sheriff. Just, be careful, okay?”
“Scott, come on. They won’t even know I’m there.”
“Derek!” Stiles yelps, and Derek almost slips off his perch outside the teenager’s window. There’s no way Stiles could have noticed him. It was the middle of the night, he wasn’t anywhere in view of the window – what the hell?
Derek slings himself up and into the bedroom, and stares.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Stiles hisses. “Not that it’s a new thing for you to go all Ghost on innocent high schooler’s in the middle of the night – but what are you doing here now. Come on, I thought we were past the creepster stage – Scott! Scott put you up to this, didn’t he! Because of the other day? I’m going to kill him, I can’t believe of all people he thought sending you would be the most logical course of action.”
“Stiles,” Derek snaps, and then pauses, and in a less sure tone, asks, “is that… a nest?”
Stiles is perched in the middle of an enormous pile of clothes, blankets, towels and books – and silver. So much silver. Pots, pans, strainers, spoons, forks, ladles, wristwatches, a lamp, what looked like the bathroom mirror – all fitted and twisted together in one big lumpy scone throne in the middle of Stiles’ room.
“No?” Stiles tries.
There’s something else wrong with the room too – other than the fact that all the furniture has been shoved against the wall and – yep, it looks like Derek interrupted Stiles just when he was playing with an enormous, duty-sized bag of blue and gold marbles.
Heat, Derek realizes suddenly. It’s so warm.
“Okay,” he says, and then inhales, slowly and carefully. Metal, sharp and tangy. Stiles, of course. But something else. Something spicy and warm. “I’m going to give you a chance to explain first of all a) how you knew I was out there, and b) this.”
Stiles eyes him up carefully. He seems more composed upon his throne of… stuff. Not the harried, scatterbrained mess that had invaded Derek’s loft and tried to make off with his spoons.
“And if I don’t?” He eyes slowly. The lamp in his nest makes his eyes look more golden than usual – almost like an Omega’s, but not quite.
Derek smiles with teeth. “Then I drag your ass over to Deaton’s, strap you to a chair, and we sit down and have a nice. Long. Talk.”
“Straps?” Stiles parrots, and Derek ignores the way his ears flush.
“Is that seriously the only thing you heard from that?”
“I’m going to be really honest right now,” Stiles swears, “I’m not really listening to you.”
“I can’t help it!” The boy snaps. “You’re not meant to be here! This is my place, my--” he cuts himself off, eyes clearing, pale cheeks rising red with colour.
“Room.” He finishes, lamely.
Derek inhales deeply, exhales through his nose.
“Okay,” he says, very, very calmly, “this stupidity has gone on long enough. Let’s go.”
“I’m not going anywhere!” Stiles almost-snarls. It catches Derek off-guard for all of a second, before he puts on his Business Face (‘sourwolf’, Stiles’ fond voice curls in his memory, and he brushes it away), and storms up and over the protective walls of Stiles nest.
“Don’t!” Stiles yells, and Derek ignores him, grabbing him by the arm and the shoulder, and then flinging him up and out of the blankets.
A lot of things happen all at once.
Firstly: The Sheriff kicks Stiles’ bedroom door down, holding a shotgun at the ready.
Secondly: the bedroom window slams closed, and locks.
Thirdly: The room jumps from unsettlingly warm to Derek’s skin is on actual fire.
Derek, shamefacedly, blacks out.
Derek wakes up in his own bed, surrounded by the pack. Well, the pack minus Stiles. Scott is somewhere else in the loft, talking rapidly into his phone. Erica is sitting beside Derek, and she flicks him in the forehead as he blinks muzzily up at them. He suddenly realizes that he is soaked in sweat. Boyd, helpfully, throws a towel at his face.
Scott finishes his call, and storms back to the bed.
“There’s something wrong with Stiles,” Derek tells him.
Scott throws up his hands.
The pack have all gone their separate, researching/spying ways. Scott and Lydia to Deaton, Boyd and Erica and Isaac to skulking around Stiles’ house like alley cats. Derek takes the night off, slips into a troubled sleep filled with warmth and Stiles' eyes and… kitchen pieces.
He wakes to a noise. It sounds like metal crashing together. This time, he doesn’t linger and ponder Stiles’ reason for being there. He’s up like a shot, storming out of his bed’s enclave and across to where a shadowy figure is crouched and mumbling, gathering silver pans and dishes into his arms with careful, practiced movements.
Derek grabs Stiles by the arm and flings him around. This time, Stiles doesn’t squawk or shriek, or ramble endlessly. Instead, he turns to face Derek and freezes, body pulled taut. His eyes are a brilliant, fiery gold, and Derek knows instinctively the rays of moonlight from his kitchen window has nothing to do with it. He steps back, holds placating hands up, tries to project calm and reassurance.
“Stiles, you need help. Let me help you.”
Stiles tilts his head slowly, calculating, and then looks down at his armful of items.
“I… need these.” He says, stilting.
“Okay.” Derek nods slowly. “You can have them.”
Stiles suddenly brightens. “I can? Oh man,” he sounds more like himself now, “oh man, okay. Okay.”
“Are they… for your nest?” Derek wonders if he can reach his phone, distract Stiles, and speed-dial Scott without the teenager noticing. Somehow, he doubts it.
Suddenly, Stiles’ eyes are on him. They are unblinking, and very serious.
“Yes,” he says, “they are.”
He seems to be searching for an appropriate response.
“Okay?” Derek tries, floundering. “That’s… good?”
A smile breaks free over Stiles’ face, broad and free. “It is?”
Derek struggles to answer in a way that will keep Stiles talking, that will lead to some actual answers coming from this bizarre-world conversation. He wonders if he’s still dreaming. His struggle is abandoned when Stiles is once more enraptured with his prizes.
“They’re so shiny,” he murmurs, “they’re good.”
From the open doorway of the loft, Derek suddenly hears the Sheriff approach. Out of the corner of his eye, he watches the older man cut through the shadows until he’s standing in the kitchenette with them. He looks tired, and worried, and a little sad. He’s wearing his uniform coat over his pajamas.
“Aw, hell,” he sighs, looking from Stiles, to Derek, to the pans, “Stiles, are you trying to kill me?”
“Dad?” Stiles is surfacing now, looking from the pans to his father to his surroundings. “Crap. Did I do it again?”
“Yeah, kiddo, come on.” He beckons for his son, and Stiles slinks over to him, pans in arm, head bowed like a cowed dog. “It’s not your fault, come on,” he rubs Stiles’ back, and the tension slides out of him, “I’m just not good at this. Your mum would have been. She would have been – she just, she would have just been better.”
“Sheriff,” Derek interrupts sharply, “what’s going on?”
The Sheriff winces, as if he would much rather prefer ignoring Derek altogether. Well, too bad. Derek was not one to be ignored when Stiles – when a pack mate – was in trouble.
“It’s complicated,” The Sheriff hedges, “well, it’s even more complicated now, thanks a lot, Hale.”
“What did I do?”
“He’s not stealing silver from anyone else!” The Sheriff snaps accusingly, and Derek feels both insulted and oddly flattered at once.
He doesn’t want to think about what that means.
“I’m tired,” Stiles interjects suddenly, and yawns widely into his dads shoulder, revealing a fine row of white, slightly sharp teeth.
“Okay,” the Sheriff says, inhaling stressfully and scrubbing a hand over his weathered face, “okay.”
“So Stiles isn’t human,” he blurts, and Derek has never been so emotionally wrecked by a frying pan in his life.
“Wow,” Erica drawls. “Dragons.”
“We almost made it two months,” Boyd complains, from his spot on in the Stilinski’s living room, “two months.”
Isaac is passing around hot chocolate. Derek thinks it’s a stress mechanism, so he doesn’t complain. Meanwhile, Scott and the Sheriff are having an angry, hushed conversation in the kitchen with Mrs. McCall, who had spent the past thirty minutes saying: “Oh my god,” and “Oh my god,” repeatedly, and has now settled on occasionally mumbling “Shit.”
Stiles is in his room. In his nest.
Derek sips hot chocolate and watches Lydia flick violently through the eight-or-so tomes she had brought with him as soon as Derek had made the call for everyone to assemble. If Stiles were in his right mind, he probably would have made some sort of Avengers quip. But he isn’t and he didn’t, and Derek is unreasonably annoyed by the fact. And also worried. He’s pretty worried.
“Where are you going?” Isaac asks accusingly, and Derek realizes in his daze he’d made his way to the staircase.
“I’m. Going up. To see if Stiles is okay.”
In the kitchen, the conversation falters. Scott looks unsure. The Sheriff looks perpetually put-upon. Mrs. McCall is drinking sherry.
“Are you sure?” Scott asks.
“He’ll be fine,” Lydia interjects smoothly, and turns to smirk at him, “won’t you, Derek?”
“Will I, now,” he asks suspiciously, and glares back at her.
Lydia flicks a page, shrugging carelessly. A painted portrait of a dragon breathing fire spreads across the glossed pages of her book, and it makes Derek uncomfortable as he slowly pads up the staircase. The voices downstairs drown out. The hallway is dark and muggy, and the only light comes from Stiles’ room, where the door is slightly ajar. Derek pushes it open with his fingertips, and is not surprised to see the nest has grown. Almost conquered the whole room, in fact. And hey, look – there’s his tea strainer.
Stiles is huddled in the middle of the mound, his arms around his knees and his back to the door.
Derek gently shuts the door behind him.
For a moment neither of them speak, and then Derek awkwardly tries to traverse around the edge of the nest. His feet get tangled in t-shirts and sheets, and he almost knocks over the lamp – the source of the light – from its precarious perch on an old shoe box. When he finally comes to face Stiles, he sees the teenager is holding a small decorated chest on his lap. It’s closed. Stiles is rubbing his thumbs gently across the hinges.
“It was my mum’s,” he says, “her treasure. She, uh, had more restraint than me.” He gestures to the veritable mountain of stuff surrounding him, a self-deprecating smile on his mouth. “More self-control.”
Derek nods. Looking around, he shuffles some comic books out of the way and sits on the nest in front of Stiles. Something inhuman flares in Stiles’ eyes at the action, but it dies away just as quickly, and then it’s normal, every-day Stiles in front of Derek.
“Dad said he was hoping I wouldn’t manifest if I didn’t reconnect with this side of her, or something,” Stiles shrugs, and Derek realizes his eyes are a little red, “’cos of the magic linked to this, he thought if I was isolated from it, it would just… go away. But then, he realized he couldn’t get rid of it. Not when it was so important to her.”
Derek continued to nod. He felt drowsy, in Stiles’ nest. Everything smelt like him. No – smelt like Derek, too. He could see his pots and pans jutting out from their carefully selected places in the mound. Stiles’ mother may have had more restraint and style with her choice of treasure, but Stiles’ eclectic mountain of shiny goods seemed to suit him.
Christ. Derek was going to get shot.
“I’m sorry I stole your stuff,” Stiles continued, as if reading his thoughts, “I couldn’t help myself, it was just… an urge. I had to get them, you know? Man, I must look so stupid.”
“You don’t look stupid,” Derek protested, holding himself stiffly, “you’re just confused. Stiles, you’re…”
A dragon. Skinny, pale, Stiles Stilinski, the Sheriff’s kid and all around bench warmer, is going to be able to turn into a magic beast of unknown size and power once he matures. A teenager thing, the Sheriff said. Derek wonders what he did to deserve this.
Derek zones in. Stiles is watching him carefully. Not the instinctive, animal-eyed gaze of the night before, but all Stiles – curious, rude, shockingly open.
“You know, dad told me mum used to steal his ties. He’d be trying to get ready for work and open the drawer, and there’d be nothing there. He’d have to climb up into the attic and get them from her nest while she was sleeping, and in the afternoon she’d iron them and put them back in his drawer.”
Derek blinks rapidly. “I, uh--”
Stiles slowly stretches out from his perch, and Derek feels suddenly cornered. First rule of survival: don’t walk willingly into an animal’s den. Then again, Derek seems to break all sorts of rules when Stiles is concerned.
Stiles grips a silver handle protruding from the knot of blankets and pulls the object free.
“I scrubbed your saucepans for you,” he intones seriously.
Derek feels his stomach drop out.
Stiles tastes like heat and spices and Red Vines. When Derek tries to shift into a position more comfortable, his knee knocks painfully against the corner of an XBOX.
“Don’t do that,” Stiles mumbles, breaking free of their kiss to speak drowsily into Derek’s chin, “that’s special.”
“Oh, so sorry,” Derek retorted sarcastically, but silences when sharp teeth cheerfully grab onto his lower lip.
“I was talking to the machine,” Stiles grins.
Downstairs, Lydia smirks down at her book (section: hoarding, section: wooing potential mates), and Mrs. McCall pours the Sheriff a drink.
“Come on, Stiles,” Derek complains, six weeks later, “Erica bought loose leaf tea specifically for this.”
“I can’t find it,” Stiles replies innocently.
If his foot scoots the gleaming tea strainer a little more under the edge of the blanket nest, neither of them mention it.