The first time Stiles sees Derek, he's six and Derek is twelve. Camden Lahey, actual human giant, is lazily dribbling a basketball, showing off; overhand, underhand, am I gonna aim? Ha-ha fooled ya. Camden's a jerk about it; grinning and flexing and basically making an ass of himself, pausing to leer at a pretty blonde girl who rolls her eyes and keeps walking, a ghost of a grin twitching on her lips. He's undeterred; only when a shorter (who isn't, compared to Camden Mammoth Freak Creature Lahey?), dark-haired guy jabs him in a Gigantor arm muscle and moans, "C'mon, man, shoot already!" does he finally stop messing around and take a shot. It sinks perfectly, of course, and Camden swerves around, probably looking for the blonde. His eyes find their target; he pauses, lets a slow grin slink out. His teeth find the light of the sun square by square.
"You like that, Jessica?"
His dark-haired friend rolls his eyes, and yeah, Stiles definitely likes him.
Then Isaac Lahey tugs at his sleeve and says, "We playing, or are you just gonna stare at Cam all day?"
"Not Cam," Stiles says, eyes fixed. "His friend. Who's he?"
Isaac lets out a little relieved huff. "Oh, that's Derek. He's pretty okay, I guess."
"Derek who?" Stiles presses, because he is a stubborn little imp (according to his babysitter, Laura, who hasn't been back since Stiles asked his mom what an imp was).
"Hale," Isaac says impatiently. "From the big house on the hill. We playing?"
The first time Stiles will see Jackson, he'll take in the posture and the walk and the bored drawl and the smirk and think he's Camden all over again, but he'll be wrong.
If you look hard enough, you can find Jackson's heart.
The first time Derek sees Stiles, he's seventeen and Stiles is eleven. Derek is sitting on a folding chair in the sheriff's station, wrapped in a thin blue blanket that does nothing to stop the shivering. Stiles is a frantic, fidgeting ball of energy, swinging his legs and licking his lips and doodling on a stack of papers on his father's desk and playing with his stamp collection. His fingers are stained blue from the ink pads. Every few minutes he looks up at Derek like he's assessing the situation, summing up the story in his head. No cuffs and no guards, so he's not a suspect; wrapped in a blanket, that could be because he's soaking wet, or because he saw something awful and now he's in shock, or because he's naked. Or some combination of the above. Derek wonders how bad the shaking looks to someone who can't feel it, if he's vibrating so hard he's rising into the air or if the kid can't see him moving at all. He's wondering if the slight fuzz around his cheeks and chin is visible from where the kid is sitting. If he looks homeless. He's wondering if his eyes are frozen wide and horrified or if they're sunk low into their sockets. He half-turns, trying to see if the scar between his shoulder blades is showing. He wonders how his hair looks, because she does quick convenient buzzes every time it starts to bother her, but she hasn't in a while. She likes gathering handfuls and pulling.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
His eyes are watering now. Shit. Bring Your Kid To Work Day is about to scar this one for life. He blinks furiously, stares at a random patch of wall, tries to think of something good.
His mom makes—used to make—makes—damnit. He doesn't know if his mom still makes lasagna, warm and spicy and gooey and smothered in cheese that leaves strings stretching from the fork to your mouth. He doesn't know if she makes anything. Maybe she stopped cooking his favorite food because she couldn't stand looking around the dinner table and seeing his empty seat. Maybe she stopped cooking altogether, just couldn't keep a brave face and stiff shoulders and a full kitchen going while her son was gone. Maybe she just took off with all of them because they couldn't stand the memories anymore, the ghost of him. Maybe they all died in a fiery plane crash that dumped their bodies out into the Pacific. Maybe—
And he's definitely crying now, small silent sobs, cheeks going hot and probably red and soaking wet. He wonders if the kid can tell—he was already shaking and soaking wet before the tears, so...
He'd seen his own face on a poster outside. It was pretty worn down, bent corners and most of the little contact tabs ripped off. He wonders what kind of people called the number. Did they hear him screaming? Did they see her buying coconut-scented candles and Marlboros and dog food and Twinkies and think, She doesn't have a dog? Did they just see something in her eyes, something off, and think, maybe...?
But they couldn't have, because she looks normal. Hot, even, if you don't know her. You wouldn't look twice, except to check her out, maybe.
So was it all prank calls, then? All time wasters, stupid kids playing jokes? While he waited, and waited, and waited, and—
He's crying again.
And the kid notices. His already wide eyes widen further, and then he's grabbing his bag and dragging it over to Derek's side.
Derek thinks of the questions probably flying around that kid's mind, of how he'll answer them. How to avoid Scarring For Life, if possible.
"Want a Yoohoo?" Stiles says. "I've got two."
Derek realizes he's never been more thirsty in his life, tongue sticking to his gums, barely enough saliva to croak a hello. He doesn't waste it. He shrugs, and the kid hands over a boxed drink, and then there's the struggle of stabbing that tiny straw into that little silver circle, which doesn't look hard, but his hands are shaking and he's over-aware of the tears still drying on his face and he can't fiddle with the straw and keep the blanket tight enough around him at the same time, and he can't just let it slip, not again, not ever, not even a couple of inches. So he struggles, for a few fruitless minutes, until the kid reaches over and holds out his YooHoo, straw already inserted, and says, "Swap me?" and they switch.
They sit and slurp chocolate milk for a while, Derek clutching his blanket in place and staring straight ahead at nothing in particular, Stiles in constant motion: eyes on the move, taking in everything, constantly flickering back to Derek; legs scraping the floor, sneakers leaving rubber skid marks on the linoleum; two fingers twirling his straw.
Derek wonders if he should offer the kid a seat. A little hysterical bubble of laughter explodes from him at the absurdity. This is the sheriff's station, not Derek's house, and that's the sheriff's kid, who knows full well he can sit wherever he'd like. The kid's head flicks back toward Derek's giggle, and he births a tiny crooked grin at the sound, mouth popped slightly open, and puts his hand to the back of his neck, through his short hair.
The sheriff comes back minutes later with a pretty blonde woman who starts Derek's heart slamming against the walls of his chest; he sinks down, inches away, no, no, nonononono—
"It's okay," she says. Her voice is soft, firm, pleasant, professional. Bile rises in Derek's throat. "You're safe now. My name's Kate, and I'm just gonna ask you a few questions, if that's okay, and take a few DNA samples. It's all very routine, nothing to worry about, and it'll only take a few minutes. If you could just follow me..." She starts walking, then pauses. Derek isn't following her. He's sunk low in his chair, blanket pulled taut around his stress-stiff shoulders, held in place by two frantically trembling fists.
"It's alright, Derek," the sheriff says, drawing a quick conclusion. "Kate's one of ours. You can trust her. And I'll be right here if you need me."
Derek stands up unsteadily, follows Kate like a man to the gallows.
John Stilinski fixes his eyes on his son. "You alright, kiddo?"
"What's going on? Where's she taking him?" Stiles demands, staring at the door still closing behind them.
"It's, uh," John says, regretting ever taking his son to work with him. "Sometimes people get sick," he attempts, "and they go to a doctor to see what's wrong."
"Like Mom," Stiles says, and John truly, truly hates this conversation. "Uh... yes, like your mom. Or like someone going for a check-up. The doctor looks around, in your ears and nose and mouth, to see what's making you sick."
"So Derek's sick?" Stiles asks, forehead wrinkling. He bites down on a thumbnail. "He just looked scared."
Silently, John cursed all the evil in the world for forcing him to explain things like this to his eleven-year-old son. For forcing seventeen-year-old Derek Hale to need no explanation.
"Well," John tries nervously, "Something like that. You know how sometimes, there are bad guys—"
He's talking down to his kid; he's eleven, not six. But he doesn't want to spell it out. He really, really doesn't want to spell it out to his innocent eleven-year-old son.
"Dad, was Derek raped?" Stiles says, and John nearly falls over in shock.
"Where'd—where'd you hear that word, Stiles?"
"Dad," Stiles says, fixing him an are-you-kidding-me face, "I'm eleven. We have a TV. You're the sheriff. I'm not a total dumb-ass."
"No," John says weakly. "No, you're definitely not." Clearing his throat, he answers Stiles' question. "That's what Kate's trying to find out."
"But you think he was," Stiles says.
The sheriff sighs. "I think there's a strong probability, yes."
"Are you okay?" John asks his son. "Tell you what. After work, whatd'ya say we go for ice cream or something? My treat." He's being obvious and he doesn't care. Ice cream soothes the soul.
Stiles shrugs. He's not gonna turn down ice cream, but he has more pressing questions to ask.
"What's gonna happen to him? After..."
"Well, he'll give a statement," John says, "and if he's hurt he'll go to the hospital to get patched up—"
"He's hurt," Stiles says. "He was sitting weird, and then when he was walking—"
"Then what happens?"
"Well, then he'll be discharged. He'll go home."
"And that's it? What about the case?"
So they have a talk about evidence and DNA and where to go from there, how it's more complicated since they don't have a crime scene or a suspect yet, how he'd shown up near the dumpsters three blocks from here (Stiles lets out an angry little hiss at that). How John has some guesses, based on how Derek reacted to Kate and didn't seem to fear him at all.
"He's the one from the posters," Stiles says at one point, like it's all starting to fit together in his head. "He's Derek Hale. But that was like a year ago."
"About eight months," Stiles' father confirms, and Stiles gapes.
"We don't have to talk about this," John says. "In fact, I can't talk about this. Confidential—"
"Dad, is he gonna—could he be okay? Ever?"
The sheriff doesn't know the answer to that. He tries anyway. "It depends," he says, "on the support system around him. Family, friends, structure. Reliability."
"He needs to feel safe," Stiles says.
The sheriff nods.
"I wanna help," Stiles says immediately.
The sheriff sighs. "Stiles—"
"He's not scared of me. I gave him a YooHoo."
"A what?" the sheriff says, momentarily alarmed, and then spots the discarded boxed drink and lets out a bark of relieved laughter. "Oh. Well, that was generous of you."
"I had two," Stiles says.
Kate's back out moments afterwards, Derek trailing slightly behind her. Stiles isn't sure if he looks more terrified or if Stiles' own understanding is changing the way he sees him. Either way, he doesn't like it.
Feeling miserable, Stiles digs through his backpack again, gives up, and walks to where his father is talking with Kate. "Dad, can you give Derek your jacket? Dad, c'mon, he's probably freezing. He could catch pneumonia or something. C'mon, give him your jacket. Not like it's his now or anything. Just till he gets clothes from home, okay? Dad? Daaaaa-aaad..."
Sighing, but with a small look of something like pride that more than cancelled out the sigh in Stiles' eyes, John removes his badge and hands his jacket to the shivering seventeen-year-old.
Persistent little imp strikes again.
A round of awkward maneuvering later, the jacket/blanket combo is working for Derek, but Stiles' mind is whirring on a scar he spotted on the older boy's back. It looked like a burn, almost, but it clearly said, in uneven all caps:
Oh god, Stiles is gonna be sick.