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That Creeper, the Zoo Keeper

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Derek’s feet led him to the car park that evening. His head was a faraway mess, thoughts of Kate, Fire, Peter melding and splitting off into one and other.Somewhere from the back of his mind, push through it could be heard.

As soon as he ducked into his car, and the engine came to life, the heavens above seemed to take this as a sign to open. A torrent of rain began to pound down from the blackened clouds, catching a figure in the far end of car park by surprise. Derek watched the person sprint for their car, soon realising it was a very sodden, very downtrodden looking Stiles.

A brief fork of lightening licked across the sky and a rumble sounded soon after. It happened a second time. And a third. A forth. A fifth. Derek watched in quiet awe, hands still gripping the steering wheel.

He could see Stiles wrench open the door to his Jeep and clamber in, only to just sit there for a few seconds and … punch the dashboard? That was it. Stiles was officially and inarguable an oddity living merrily on a planet of weirdness.

A streak of lightening ignited the sky, chased by thunder and layered with torrential rain. The storm was getting louder and closer – he should get home.

Derek casted a quick glance back in Stiles’ direction, engine idling impatiently. Stiles was out of the car and into the rain, glaring into the open bonnet and back facing Derek. In a fit of unmitigated pity. Derek found himself swinging out of his warm car and slushing across the car park to the swearing trainee.

 “Oh COME ON!”

“Problem?”

Stiles whipped his head up from the engine, shrieking as his skull made sudden contact with the Jeep hood.

 “Only you could make one word sound the unholy combination of pitying, smug and amused.” Stiles muttered, rubbing his head. Derek rolled his eyes.

 “Problem?” He asked again.

“Jeep’s not starting.”

“I can see.”

“Then why did you ask?” Stiles snapped. Uncharacteristic, but seeing as there seemed to be a monsoon starting up, Derek decided Stiles was entitled a hissy fit. so he inhaled a levelled breath and flipped the bonnet back open. “Any idea what the problem is?”

Tone laced with what may be surprise at Derek’s sudden helpfulness, Stiles slowly shook his head. “Nope.”

“You know anything about Jeeps?”

The keys jiggled as Stiles see-sawed his hand. “Kinda, I’ve messed with this one when it wasn't working. Do you?”

“They used to have Jeeps to get around zoo. I helped my dad fix a couple.”

Stiles blinked, curiosity piqued. “Your Dad works here?”

Derek clenched a fist.

“No.”

“Oh.”

With a gruff cough, Derek shoved back his sleeves and returned to impromptu mechanic status - rummaging and muttering to himself. After a few minutes of being completely soaked by the downpour and becoming increasingly frustrated by the state of the tortured Jeep, Derek slammed the bonnet shut. “It’s fucked.” He said plainly, the raindrops plinking on the metal. Siles groaned.

“I’m not going to get a tow in this weather, am I? They’ll be swamped.”

“Your dad?”

“Is out on a date.”

“ … Cab?”

“Probably won’t come out here in a storm.”

“Saddle up a zebra?”

Stiles’ mouth twitched with the beginning of a smile.

“Wouldn’t carry my weight.”

“Oh,” Derek shrugged. “Try the wolves with a sled.”

 Stiles smiled again, but when a crack of lightening spurred on the already furious rain, he whined.

“I ... uh … I really don’t know how I’m gonna get home.”

Derek wasn’t totally clueless – he could tell a when someone was obviously hinting, at least. But he decided to be the one winding up Stiles for once. After all, Stiles was always telling him to ‘use his words’ – it was entirely hypocritical to do something as shameless as hint.

“Neither do I. Night, Stiles.”

“Uh …”

“See you tomorrow. Don’t forget we have a ‘surprise’ inspection coming up.”

“Well …”

Derek strode off to the safety of his car, offering a small wave as he drove past Stiles, Derek felt both a spasm of guilt and the overwhelming urge to laugh at the pale, exasperated face of his collegue – that pale face suddenly came a lot clearer as Stiles flung himself in front of the car, shrieking ‘STOP!’

Derek obligingly braked and open the passenger door to the tiniest of margins.

“Problem?”

“Can I have a ride, please?”

“Sure.” Derek cocked his head pityingly. “You really should have used your words.”

Stiles gasped out a surprised laugh and slid into the car, dripping water onto the seat. “God you’re a bastard.” He said happily.

“No need to thank me.”

“A huge bastard.”

“I know.”

Stiles huffed another laugh. “I’m joking dude, you’re now officially a ‘nice guy’ for this.” He indicated the car and path they would follow “– though I seriously thought you were going to leave me there.”

“Tempting, but Hypothermia makes filling out medical forms a real bitch. This charity is entirely totally logistical,” Derek pulled out into the main road, “Which way?”

“Half an hour down the road and I’ll direct you from there, but you can always turn right and drop me off at Scott’s – it’s only ten minutes that way.“

Derek turned left, “I think you live near me.”

“I do? Awesome.” Stiles flushed and flailed. “Like, that you can drop me home so my Dad doesn’t worry – but – no – I don’t think it’s awesome that you leave near me – though I don’t mind – uh – what I’m trying to say, is that – like – I’m not going to turn up at your window at three am or – that’s weird – uh - ”

“Stiles.”

“Shut up?”

“Stop rambling.”

Stiles ‘oh’d and Derek could detect a trace of surprise. He decided to ignore it – after all, he only snapped at Stiles to Shut Up twice daily. If that. Stiles hummed.

“So … Did your Dad work with the pack too?”

“Yeah, he and my Mom started the conservation of the Zoo’s pack ... The Argents bought the land a different pack’s territory was established on to create the Zoo – so then most of the Wolves moved on once construction began, I mean, wolves aren't even meant to be in this part of California … but one pregnant female got separated. My parents pulled a couple of strings, got permits and used their land to make sure the Wolf had somewhere to stay and have her cubs. Two stray male omega’s joined her, the cubs were born and then it became apparent another pack was being started … only they couldn’t hunt, because most wildlife had fled whilst the Zoo was being built. Ironic right?” Derek shook his head. “So Mom and Dad ended up caring for the pack by hand, trading meat with the Zoo for – like I said – My Dad fixing up Jeeps. Eventually we built fences to stop rival packs coming back and harming the Settlers whilst they were still weak,” he shrugged, “and that’s how the pack started.”  

“That was the most I ever heard you say,” The amusement in Stiles’ voice really shouldn’t have made Derek smile, “So why did they become part of the Zoo?”

The smile fell away immediately. Stiles didn’t seem to notice, eyes fixed on the rain washed road ahead. “The Argents and your parents collaborate or something?”

“Something,” He hesitated. “My parents died. I was too inexperienced to look after the remainder of the pack myself.”

Stiles choked. “Oh – oh shit. I - I didn’t know, I wouldn’t - ”

“It’s fine.”

“Right. Sorry to … drag it up.”

“It’s fine.”

The curiosity radiating off Stiles burnt.

“10 years ago,” Derek supplied quietly to the unasked question, “house fire.”

A sharp gasp and a muttered ‘fuck’ was his reply. Derek drummed the steering wheel, blinking rapidly as another flash of lightening scorched through.

“10 … ” Stiles repeated after a long, painful silence. “10.” He repeated again in slight wonderment. “In … May time?”

Derek frowned, but nodded. “Yeah, do you remember seeing it on the news?”

“Vaguely, but …” Stiles swiped at the water trickling from his fringe. “But something …” He gesticulated, “do you remember sitting in the hospital waiting room after … after the fire?”

Of course he did. Nurses kept coming back and forth, offering him candy, tea and ‘sugar for shock’. There was an annoyingly chirpy care worker. There were police officers. Talk of legal guardians.

And there was a boy …

Derek stared at Stiles, who grinned back.

“You were sitting alone, waiting for a care worker or something, and some kid in mismatched converse and a Batman t-shirt comes up to you and says - ”

“ … The nurse in the blue scrubs has the best candy.” Derek finished, lips twitching.

“And you said - ”

“Piss off.”

Stiles nodded, giggling with newly glassy eyes.

“But he didn’t move. Just asked you for a hug.”

“And I told him to piss off again.”

“’Piss off before I hurt you’ actually … but he still didn’t move. Just sat on the seat next to you took your hand.”

“And …”

“And you didn’t let go.”

They drove in silence for the rest of the journey. It wasn’t an awkward silence, but wasn’t a comfortable one either.

It was just peaceful.