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That Creeper, the Zoo Keeper

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Derek didn’t check his phone that evening.

He didn’t even spare it a second glance as it chirruped for a charge. He made dinner, ignoring its bleats and as he crawled into bed, his phone let out one last feeble request for charging and the screen went black, taking the message with it.

He slept easy that night.


 Derek had a routine for when got into work every morning. It was a simple, get from A-B in the shortest amount of time possible routine.

 Whilst visitors would obligingly trek through the wide, sprawling pathways that split and curved around enclosures, staff could dodge into narrow alleyways which cut any journey in half. That morning, he flashed his Staff Card to guard at the entrance same as always, checked in, same as always.

And then he collided with Stiles.

Yeah, that was less of a regular occurrence.

And maybe if Derek hadn’t been staring at the birds as they swooped low over the entrance arch, it wouldn’t even have been a happening. But the past is the past and Stiles was pretty clumsy, so there was a 75% chance it was somehow his fault anyway.

“Je - ”

Hot! Hot! So freaking Hot!”

Stiles shrieked and flapped his arms, coffee dripping in steamy slithers off his coat and onto his pants. Steam curled up from the damp fabric, staining it with a muddy darkness. Derek winced and grabbed a handful of napkins from the coffee stand, muttering a gruff apaology.

Stiles dabbed meekly at the damp fabric, “lucky I take it extra milky, huh?” he asked with a small hiss of pain.

“What were you having?”

Stiles plucked up the cup and tossed it into the trash can, “Latte.” 

Derek nodded to the man, who was already preparing Stiles’ order, “and a Mocha, thanks.” Derek dug out his wallet. Stiles ‘huh-ed’ as their drinks were handed over.

“Mocha? Really?”

“Why are you so surprised?”

“I just guessed you’d be the sort who orders an extra extra extra extra concentrated espresso with a half-pump of Manliness.”

“What.”

It wasn’t even a question. Derek just couldn’t fathom a reply.

“Yeah, like,” Stiles strode up the visitors pathway – ignoring the tiny gate into the shortcut – and waved for Derek to catch up. “I don’t know. You don’t seem like the Mocha type.”

“There’s a type? Did I have to register with a society before I started drinking them?”

Stiles chuckled, “don’t be an ass.”

“I’m serious. I’ve been drinking mochas for years and I’ve never paid a membership fee.”

With a small shake of his head, Stiles flipped Derek off, “you’re in a very good mood.” He added, finger still proudly showing at Derek.

“Just making a point.”

The brisk air chilled his fingers. Derek coiled them around his cup whilst Stiles nuzzled down into his scarf and shivered.

“Can’t believe it’s nearly Christmas.”

“It’s only the first of the month.”

“I opened my calendar, therefore it’s nearly Christmas.”

“Interesting philosophy.”

Stiles stuck his nose up primly at the obvious sarcasm, “duh, practically the next Descartes." he slurped his coffee noisily, a thin drip trailing down his chin. He swiped at it, "I love the run-up to Christmas. There used to be these little numbered bags hanging all around my house, some hidden, some not – you know, like an advent scavenger hunt, with candies and stuff hidden inside. And Because my parents liked to see me suffer, when I was 10, they hung number 25 right above my bed, and I wasn’t allowed to eat it until Christmas day. It tortured me every morning and every night.”

Derek couldn’t quite process this information. Was it personal? It just seemed like a sweet anecdote, but there was a wistful tone to Stiles’ voice that made Derek think those times were long gone. Gone with his mother, maybe.

“Didn’t do stuff like that.”

They reached the first exhibit in silence, Stiles waved to the Baboons cheerily, “morning guys!” He nudged Derek with his elbow. “Go on. Say hello.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“You decided to take the scenic route with me. Therefore you must participate in all scenic route related activities which includes greeting the animals, starting with monkeys.”

“I’ve already said good morning to the monkey,” Derek tried to ignore the fact it sounded like a filthy innuendo and nudged to Stiles to indicate that he was indeed, the aforementioned monkey. Stiles pouted.

“Funny. You’re real funny.”


 

Patching up broken fence links was hardly the epitome of exciting, but it had to be done. Boyd was drafted in to help, and both men were growing increasingly weary of the cold metallic press that etched into their palms as they worked their way along a small section of the Wolf Enclosure, mud caking into their boots and wolves peering curiously from a segregated pen to watch them work.

Boyd yawned, his ‘African Mammals – Head Keeper’ emblem stretching as he pulled out a cramp in his shoulder.

“Do you remember that kid doing a Frat pledge?”

“Yeah. The one who broke into the zoo over night to steal a bone from an exhibit.”

“And he got tangled up in the Lion’s den,” Boyd smirked. “I thought he was going to have a heart attack when we found him.”

“Or piss himself. Which I’m pretty sure he did,” Derek tugged at a length of mesh. “How’s Pogo?”

It was a simple fact that every keeper had a favourite animal. For Boyd, it was a sweet tempered elephant named Pogo, who could be seem happily ambling around his exhibit, sneaking tidbits of food from overgenerous visitors.

Yet elephants aren’t really meant for a diet of Candy Floss and ice cream and Pogo’s extreme eating habits had caught up with him. Boyd frowned.

“Better. I think. That trainee vet, Scott, reckons there’s no lasting damage.”

“Good.”

Silence swept over them. That’s what Derek liked about Boyd; silences weren’t awkward and there was no forced chit-chat, it was just a steady ebb and flow of conversation and quiet, an easiness which Derek appreciated.

After a while of this familiar pitter-patter, Derek’s radio let out a sharp burst of static.

“Derek, visitor for you in my office.”

He unclipped the radio from his belt, “who?”

“Says she’s called Kate.”


 

Derek paused outside Danny’s office. It didn’t seem like reality. Knowing Kate was the other side was … sickening. And strange. He’d spent so long thinking about what he’d do if he ever saw her again, he’d never actually decided. He wanted to hurt her. A part of him wanted to kill her. Sometimes he just wanted to know why she did it.

He straightened his back and entered.

“Derek!”

She looked far older than the last time he'd seen her. Eyes lined with wrinkles, a greyness set in under her carefully applied make-up. Her voice was positively giddy with eerie childlike glee, but there was a strange rasp to it, like a smokers voice. 

Danny stood from his chair and offered a warm goodbye to Kate – they must’ve got friendly – and excused himself. Just before he left, Danny paused short of the door, tugged at Derek’s shirtsleeve and pulled in close.

“If this an ex-girlfriend or something and you plan to have make-up sex in my office, I will make your life a living hell from this day onwards. Okay? Okay.”

Derek didn’t move his gaze from Kate as Danny left, willing the surge of adrenaline that had suddenly shot through him to go away. It wasn’t fear he felt, no, he wasn’t afraid of Kate.

But looking at her, smirk still proudly in place, he felt like the sixteen year old who would’ve given her the moon if she’d only asked.

And he hated it.

“Sorry to drop by so unexpectedly. Don’t know if you’d heard, but my family – though very understanding behind closed doors, are less keen to make their allegiance to a convicted criminal known publically,” she tapped her nails on the desk thoughtfully. “It’s odd. I remember them being furious when you tried to testify against me. Then again, they tried to keep the case under wraps and away from the press.” 

“Get out.”

Kate appeared supremely unconcerned. In fact, at the venomous glare from Derek, she merely hummed and began rifling through Danny’s desk draw.

“What sort of crap does this man keep in here? – aha!” She withdrew a KitKat with a grin. “I’m starved. Want half?”

“Get out,” He snarled again.

“I’ll take that as a no,” she waved the finger of chocolate as if dictating an orchestra, eyes closed blissfully. “So what’s new with you? Still blaming me for your parents - ” She sighed, clutching a hand to her chest “Accident?”

Something snapped.

Derek lunged at her, shoving her into the filing cabinet with all his might. It was with a grim feeling of satisfaction he heard the loud clang on body colliding with metal and her small shriek of shock. She gasped out a laugh.

“Oh, up against the wall. This does bring back happy memories.”

“What are you doing here?”

Wrenching herself from his grip and settling down on the desk, Kate dropped her voice to little more than a poisonous, saccharine coo.

“To see you, of course.”

“Why?”

She fluttered her eyelashes “I missed you.”

He hated it. Hated her. Hated how powerless he felt. How she seemed to crawl under his skin. He wasn’t out of his depth. He was drowning and she was holding his head under the water.

“Fuck off.”

She rolled her eyes, “eloquent.”

“I mean it.”

“Or what? You’ll scream?” Kate crossed her legs, raking her gaze up and down Derek. “I have to say, time has treated you so very well - I mean, you were always a gorgeous specimen, but mmm, I could lick you," she poked her tongue out in a pink point. “Sometimes I wish we'd seperated on better terms but, I had to do it ... bad people deserve what’s coming to them, after all.”

Bad people? His parents weren't bad people, they were the kind of people who invited lost hikers in for dinner, who adopted orphaned cubs, who'd sit up late into the night whenever he had a nightmare. They didn't deserve the twisted result of Kate's maniacal, deluded thoughts. 

“My Parents - ”

“ – wanted to protect their kid',” Kate cut in with a dismissive wave of her hand. “You don't know the full story, do you? If you did, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be so sour - or maybe you would. But you'd understand why they deserved it." 

Derek couldn't hear it any longer. He'd spent so longer trying to scour every thought of her from his mind and just being there was like dousing a wound in stinging alcohol. He wrenched the door oper, breathing hard through his nose. 

"Get out," he hissed for the final time. Kate flicked her hair and slinked across the room, "just remember what I've said - and you've been very bad, haven't you?" She purred. As she passed him, her hand trailed across his chest and her perfume coiled up in a spicy waft which stung his eyes and caught in his throat. Blowing a kiss, Kate finally left.

Derek stayed in the office, almost panting through the waves of revulsion and fury that shuddered through his entire being. He refused to let her in again. Refused to let her toy with him. They didn't deserve it. They didn't.


With a staff member who resided in a slightly illegal manner at the Zoo, there was a definite surplus of Random Crap lying about. Derek had unearthed socks, pages of half finished essays, a watch, books, a few crusty tissues (the history of which he wanted to know nothing about) and an iPod dock in his office.

The latter was sent flying to the floor when Derek erupted into his office and swept his arm across the desk. Everything came crashing down as he tore his way through, ripping notices from walls, hurling books and files, rage exuding from him as he desperately tried to release the fury boiling under his skin. It came to a screaming crescendo as he seized the the noticeboard and sent it streaming across the room, landing with a clatter.

He needed to unwind. He had a lot on his mind, a lot of paperwork and he was going to take advantage of his trainees habit of cluttering up his space.

So he took a steady breath, slipped his iPod into the dock and began to tidy. Methodical, precise. Some stuff had been destroyed beyond repair and he ended up chucking a load of crumpled files in the trash, but it was strangely soothing to throw so much out and cram it down into the trash can, pressing  everything into firm melded lump. Derek cleaned and scrubbed down the room until it was tidier than ever and then finally reclined into his desk chair. There was still paperwork to finish, after all.


 

Stiles wandered in as Derek was filling out one of the many new safety assessment forms. He paused mid-way through the room, clicking his fingers slightly out of time to the music.

“Is this … Jazz?”

“I like jazz.”

Clicking in an almost sarcastic manner (can clicking be sarcastic? If anyone could manage a feat, it would be Stiles) Stiles scrolled through Derek's music collection, adding comments and thinly veiled insults about his taste.

“Oh, Frank Sinatra!”

“I like Frank Sinatra.”

"Dead Man's Bones, cool."

"I like Dead Man's Bones."

“Young The Giant? Huh.”

“I like - ”

Stiles shot him a mildly exasperated look, “if I see it on your iPod, I’m gonna assume you like it, ‘kay buddy?” He turned back to his nosing around, every so often switching the song, smirking at the aggravated noises Derek would make whenever the music changed.

“Just pick one,” Derek groused. 

"Fine, Nina Simone it is."

The first few chords of Sinnerman bubbled through as Derek flicked to the newest form. He frowned a blank box at the the top of it, “is Stiles your real first name?”

Stiles tensed, “why do you want to know?”

“I need it for this form.”

Stiles ducked his head, turning back to the docking station, “Check the system.” He muttered.

“Can’t you just tell me?”

There was a pause so painfully awkward that Derek began to wonder how hideously embarrasing the name could be. Could it be a feminine name? Yet Stiles wasn't really the type to care about something like that - in fact, Derek had been faced with a fifteen minute lecture on gender roles and stereotypes when he'd told Stiles to 'stop being a little girl'. Derek was so caught up in his musings that he nearly missed Stiles' defeated sigh and his mutter of 'Rupert'.

"Rupert?" Derek repeated.

“Yeah, named after my Grandfather.”

“Oh,” Derek scrawled it on the paper, “me too.”

Stiles held up his hand. Derek stared at it blankly.

“Namesake high five?”

“No.”

Stiles clenched his hand and brought it to his chest, “I thought we were bonding.”

“ … we’re talking.”

“And let’s face it, for you, this is bonding. This is practically a social breakthrough.”

“Despite your beliefs, I’m not a hermit,” Derek said, a little defensively. “I just can’t be bothered to deal with idiots.”

Stiles laughed, “That’s another one for - ”

“If you say ‘The Poetry Book’ I will hurt you.”

Miming a zipped mouth, Stiles plucked the iPod up pocketed it. Derek looked up at the sudden absence of music. 

“What’re you doing?”

Stiles waggled it cheerfully, “just thought of a few songs you’d like. I’ll give it back to you tomorrow morning.”

"But - "

Stiles sauntered out of the room, tunelessly whistling Sinnerman. Ignoring the total destruction of a beloved classic song, Derek went back to his paperwork, a weary smile tugging at him and strange feeling of fondess welling up inside.

Stiles was alright, really.


Every month would be a Head of Section meeting.

Every month, Derek seriously reconsidered his position at the zoo.

An hour into the meeting, Derek was vainly trying to keep awake whilst the senior members of the Zoo were briefed on new Health and Safety regulations by a man who didn’t appear friendly with showering or soap.  

Erica and Boyd were discretely playing Hangman as Michelle, the Petting Zoo manager, dozed in her chair. Two other staff members were subtly texting whilst the rest were staring at the suited Health and Safety man, eyes glazed over with disinterest. Every so often, Health-And-Safety would stare deeply at someone, as if directing his speech on the importance of wet floor signs entirely onto them. The fact that someone could look that intense when talking about the friction of a puddle was pretty beyond Derek.

“Ha! I win!”

“There’s an O there, not an A. I win.”

“Somebody’s a sore loser.”

“No, I’m just a good speller!”

The hissing match that had sparked up between Boyd and Erica provided momentary entertainment for Derek and any other staff member who’d been jolted from their stupor. He turned back to the man, who was passing handouts entitled ‘Fire Protocol’.

The itch under his skin returned. Derek pocketed the handout.


When Derek returned to his desk, his inbox was going crazy, pinging wildly to itself. Derek scanned through the emails, wondering what sort of war had started up that inspired such a frenetic burst of activity.

--

To: [Group] J.Whittemore@Beaconzoo.com; A.Argent@Beaconzoo.com; S.Mccall@Beaconzoo.com; D.Hale@Beaconzoo.com; R.Stilinski@Beaconzoo.com; E.Reyes@Beaconzoo.com; V.Boyd@Beaconzoo.com; I.Lahey@Beaconzoo.com
From: L.Martin@Beaconzoo.com
Subject: Surprise Beach Party

As some of you may know, it’s Danny’s birthday soon, so Jackson and I are throwing him a surprise party at the Whittemore beach house on Monday.

Cocktails and refreshments will be served, arrive 6pm sharp.

RSVP xx

Lydia Martin,
Assistant, Reptile House

--

To: [Group]
From: R.Stilinski@Beaconzoo.com
Subject: RE: Surprise Beach Party

a beach party? in December?
I’ll come as long as you don’t make us swim in freezing water. I value my testicles!!

Stiles Stilinski, 
Menial trainee and Poop Scooper, Wolf Enclosure

--

To: [Group]
From: L.Martin@Beaconzoo.com
Subject: RE: RE: Surprise Beach Party

1) Sharing does not always equal caring

2) If you value your testicles so much, then you’ll be coming to the party.

Lydia Martin,
Assistant, Reptile House

--

To: [Group]
From: R.Stilinski@Beaconzoo.com
Subject: RE: RE: RE: Surprise Beach Party

WHY IS EVERYONE AT THIS ZOO SO TERRIFYINGLY PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE

Stiles Stilinski, 
Menial trainee and Poop Scooper, Wolf Enclosure

--

To: [Group]
From: V.Boyd@Beaconzoo.com 
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: Surprise Beach Party

It’s only the good looking ones.

Vernon Boyd,
Head Keeper, African Mammals

--

To: [Group]
From: R.Stilinski@Beaconzoo.com 
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Surprise Beach Party

nu-uh, Jackson is the most passive-aggressive of them all, yet he kinda reminds me of those two toed sloths

Stiles Stilinski, 
Menial trainee and Poop Scooper, Wolf Enclosure

--

To: [Group]
From: J.Whittemore@Beaconzoo.com 
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Surprise Beach Party

Bite me

Jackson Whittemore,
Assistant, Reptile House

--

To: [Group]
From: R.Stilinski@Beaconzoo.com 
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Surprise Beach Party

:D

Stiles Stilinski, 
Menial trainee and Poop Scooper, Wolf Enclosure

--

To: [Group]
From: J.Whittemore@Beaconzoo.com 
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Surprise Beach Party

FUCK YOU

Jackson Whittemore,
~*~ SlOtHiNg Is FuN ~*~

--

Well, Derek thought with a wry smile, at least Stiles has changed his target.


 Rain drizzled down the next morning, beating the ground into a dark grey and filling the zoo with the sultry smell of a million different, dampened terrains. Derek passed through the entrance and spared a glance at the coffee vendor setting up for the day. He thought of Stiles.

Stiles still infuriated him on occasion, but there was that strange side of him, that Derek saw more of every day, or maybe he just hadn’t seen it under the layer of pure annoying, which kind of made him smile at thought of the guy. Somewhere along the line, Derek had deemed it appropriate for Stiles to temporarily borrow his stuff and mess with it.

And somewhere along the line, Derek had begun to enjoy Stiles’ company.

So he stopped by the coffee stand, ordered a Mocha and a Latte, and waited.