Shelter—Hurt/Comfort—Trope Bingo 2020–2021

Title: Shelter
Fandom: Teen Wolf
Pairing: pre Stiles/Derek
Word Count: 2,751
Warnings: None
Summary: Scott cancelled again, but Stiles had a better day than he’d expected to.
Authors Note: Set in the summer between S2 & S3. Erica and Boyd are back with Derek. Stiles has broken his right arm.

 

Stiles didn’t want to be a werewolf.

There were certain aspects of werewolfdom that he envied, of course. The strength and speed would have been useful on several occasions, to say nothing of the advantage that heightened senses could provide.

As the only fully human member of the pack, Stiles often felt left out. The more comfortable the betas got with their new existence, the more they wanted to push themselves. Stiles quite literally couldn’t keep up.

The thing that Stiles envied most, though, was the healing.

Not that accelerated healing was restricted only to the werewolf population, as they discovered when Lydia accidentally got the fingers of her left hand crushed by a closing door. A werewolf would have healed in a matter of minutes; Lydia was mostly recovered by the time she’d arrived at the late-night emergency centre.

Healing seemed to be part and parcel of the supernatural package, to some degree. Werewolves just had the most dramatic presentation of it.

Stiles most often wanted to be a werewolf during times like now, when a broken arm was benching him even more than usual.

Scott tried to be supportive and sympathetic. When he remembered. Unfortunately, his memory for things that didn’t directly affect him had never been good, and Stiles’ absence wasn’t felt at all when Isaac, who had all the same werewolf perks as Scott, was always ready to spend time with him.

Stiles tried not to be bitter. He wasn’t succeeding. Scott had just sent a text, explaining that he and Isaac were going to run to Bucks Lake. They intended to swim there and run back. Almost as an afterthought, Stiles was invited to drive over and meet them there. Scott had apparently forgotten that with a broken arm, Stiles couldn’t drive his jeep.

Stiles made a disgusted sound and dropped his phone on the table.

“I take it Scott cancelled again?” Noah asked, lingering over his morning coffee.

“Going swimming with Isaac,” Stiles confirmed, slouching back in his chair.

“You want to come in with me? There’s always filing to be done, and we’re still not finished getting the older records onto the computer system.”

Stiles considered that for a moment, before shaking his head reluctantly. “Thanks, but I wouldn’t be very productive with just my left hand.”

Noah shrugged. “If you say so. The offer’s open if you change your mind. You want me to drop you anywhere on my way in?”

“The library?” Stiles suggested. “I’ve got a couple of books that need to be returned, and when I’ve finished checking out what’s new, I can wander around and do some window shopping.” He brightened. “There were some things I wanted to talk to the woman at Bascles Motors about.”

Noah sighed. “I know you love that car, kid, but you’re going to have to say goodbye to it someday.”

“That’s what you think,” Stiles returned. “There’s absolutely no reason why she shouldn’t be around for another twenty years, at least.”

“Not the way you’ve been driving it,” Noah pointed out with a shake of his head. “If you want a ride, you’ll need to be ready to go in fifteen minutes.”

v^v^v^v

Stiles enjoyed his day wandering town alone more than he’d expected to.

He’d dropped his books off at the library, checking in with Mr DiSanto to see if any of the rarer texts he’d asked for were ready for him yet. They weren’t, but Mr DiSanto promised that they’d be there in the next week or two.

Shaquana, the mechanic who’d done the latest work on the jeep, was busy but was happy to chat while she worked. Stiles spent most of his visit talking to legs in stained blue overalls and came away with a better understanding of how the jeep’s axle worked.

Then there were several small shops to poke around in, and several cafés that he hadn’t had the chance to check out yet. He picked the one closest to the park, getting there just before the lunch rush and scoring a table with a good view.

Eventually, he found his way to the animal shelter. There was no one at the counter, so he rang the bell.

“Stiles!” Ms Vázquez exclaimed as she bustled out of the tiny office. “Petal! Why, look at you! You’re all grown up. It’s been so long I barely recognised you.”

“It hasn’t been that long,” Stiles objected, submitting to her effusive hug. Ms Vázquez had been working at the shelter for as long as he could remember. “Less than a year. I distinctly remember talking to you last summer.”

“Less than a year!” Ms Vázquez echoed. “There was a time when you were stopping by every month. We’ve missed your enthusiasm with a hose. Although,” she poked at his fibreglass cast, “you don’t seem to be in shape for your usual activities.”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “That thing with the hose happened when I was seven, Ms Vasquez. And yeah, I’m not up to frolicking with the larger dogs, but I thought I could help by handling some of the smaller breeds? Or maybe the puppies?”

Ms Vázquez beamed at him. “Of course you can. Don’t worry about the big dogs, petal, there’s a young man who’s been volunteering with us for the last few months who has done wonders with them. He works with the puppies too, but a bit of extra socialisation can’t hurt them.”

“Yeah?” Stiles followed as she led him out the back. “That’s awesome.”

“I think he must be one of those dog trainers on TV,” Ms Vázquez confided as she ushered him into the socialisation lounge.

It wasn’t much of a lounge, but there were a couple of mismatched chairs and a sofa that people could sit on while they spent time with the dogs, making sure that they were used to being handled and giving them a chance for some cuddles.

“He’s been a blessing from God,” Ms Vázquez continued. “The dogs all do so well after he’s worked with them. He’s wonderful at placement too, not one of the adoptions he’s overseen have been returned! Our dogs are getting snapped up! We’re all so grateful, but he insists that it’s nothing.”

That was great news. Older dogs and cats were the hardest to re-home, and Stiles had spent many an afternoon debating over his desire to bring one home and the need to make his house safe for Scott. Scott’s asthma made having a dog or cat problematic, and Stiles had regretfully chosen not to keep a pet.

Then Scott had been turned into a werewolf, and his asthma was mostly a thing of the past. Of course, now Stiles was only a couple of years away from going away to college, so a pet was still off the cards.

Never mind. There was always the shelter. There were always puppies that wanted cuddling, and dogs that would be delighted to spend time with him.

“This guy sounds amazing,” Stiles said sincerely.

“Would you like to meet him?” Ms Vázquez offered. “He took the adult dogs out for a run this morning, but he’s probably still here. I think he was going to be working with a young boxer cross that arrived the other day.”

“Sure,” Stiles agreed.

“Don’t mind him if he comes across a bit grumpy,” she said, leading the way to the exercise area. “He’s not much of a talker, but his heart’s in the right place, bless him.”

Stiles felt he should have been less surprised to see Derek, sans ubiquitous leather jacket, patiently training an eager young dog.

Derek certainly should have been less surprised to see him. After all, Derek had those superior senses. Shouldn’t he have heard, or maybe smelled, Stiles coming?

“Stiles,” Derek greeted with all of his usual enthusiasm. “What are you doing here?”

Ms Vázquez looked delighted. “You boys already know each other! No need for introductions then. Derek, dear, Stiles is going to handle the puppies for a while.” Her eyes brightened. “You could socialise them together! Gussie here could use the interaction, and it would be beneficial for the puppies too!”

“Sure,” Stiles agreed, unwilling to make Ms Vázquez look sad. Besides, he had questions for Derek.

Derek nodded grudgingly. “I’ll finish up with Gussie and then join you in the lounge.”

“Splendid!” Ms Vázquez clapped her hands together. “I’ll bring in some afternoon tea.” She turned her beaming smile onto Derek. “I made those oatmeal butterscotch cookies you love so much.”

Derek’s face softened into a smile. “Thanks, Lucia.”

“Come now, Stiles! I will get you set up with the puppies.”

Stiles followed Ms Vázquez back to the lounge, wondering how it was that he’d known Derek for months now and, until today, had never seen him smile properly.

Playing with the puppies restored his equilibrium. He had an armful of wriggling, licking, puppy goodness when Derek and Gussie arrived to join in.

As desperate as he was to question Derek, Stiles managed to hold off until after Ms Vázquez had stopped by with the cookie jar. He distracted himself by playing close attention to the adorable sight that was Derek Hale, covered in puppies. If he’d had ovaries, they would have exploded.

“What—” Stiles broke off as Derek visibly tensed, face shuttering.

Typically Stiles ignored it when Derek signalled that he didn’t want to talk, bulldozing over him, poking at him until he got what he wanted. But this wasn’t a supernatural crisis. This was Stiles making Derek uncomfortable just to satisfy his own curiosity.

Stiles readjusted his plans. “What breed do you think these puppies are? It’s a bit of a cliché, but all puppies look alike to me.” He gave himself a pat on the back when Derek relaxed slightly.

“They’re a lab/collie mix,” Derek said. “Except for the brindle. She’s part bull terrier.”

Stiles blinked. He could see the bull terrier part, that blunt nose was somewhat distinctive, but the others… “How can you tell?”

Derek smirked. “I was here when they were dropped off.” He rubbed the ears of the brindle with one hand while scratching along Gussies back with the other, to the ecstatic delight of both dogs.

“Why were they left?” Stiles asked.

Derek scowled. “The lab’s owner was horrified that his ‘prize bitch whelped a litter of mongrels.’ Turns out his neighbour has an unfixed collie. The owner wasn’t paying attention when she went into heat, and the result is this lot.”

Stiles frowned too. “Purebred lab, lives next to a collie…was the guy really short? Skinny? Probably smelled like raspberry tea?”

Derek blinked. “Yes. That’s him.”

“Mr Davis.” Stiles cuddled the puppy he was holding closer to his chest. “His dog is called Dorothea Ophelia Genevieve.”

The corner of Derek’s mouth twitched. “That’s horrible.”

“It gets worse,” Stiles informed him. “Pretty sure that these little darlings’ mom was Dorothea Ophelia Genevieve the fifth. Or maybe sixth? Not sure. But he only keeps his breeding bitches for five years at a time, and they all have the same name.”

To Stiles’ delight, Derek picked up one of the puppies in question and held it up to his face. “You had a lucky escape,” he told it seriously, ignoring the way it lunged to lick his mouth.

Stiles decided to just sit back and enjoy the puppies and this stress-free chance to get to know Derek better.

Before too long the puppies started yawning, and Stiles regretfully handed them over to Derek to settle back into their cage.

It was only early afternoon, but Stiles’ arm had started to ache a bit. He was considering how best to get home when Derek surprised him by offering him a ride.

“That would be awesome, dude,” he said, wondering how he’d never seen just what a softie Derek was. He’d thought that with the puppies gone, things would go back to how they’d always been.

Rather than responding with his customary “Don’t call me dude,” Derek just sighed and shook his head.

They said goodbye to Ms Vázquez and made their way out to the Camaro.

“Sorry about the ‘dude’ thing,” Stiles said as he got in, actually meaning it. “It just comes out. I’ll try to stop.”

Derek shook his head again, this time with a faint smile. “I’d think you were a pod person.”

“Would you come save me?” Stiles joked.

“Always,” Derek’s response was slightly more serious than Stiles had expected. He started the car.

“I’ll come and save you too,” Stiles assured him.

“I know.”

When Derek pulled up outside Stiles’ house, it seemed natural to offer a cup of coffee. Derek’s acceptance didn’t even seem strange. They kept talking about puppies and dog training until Stiles forgot that he wasn’t going to ask any personal questions and wondered aloud how long Derek been into dog training for.

Derek finished his drink, rose to his feet, and strode over to put his cup in the sink.

“Something interesting out there?” Stiles asked, trying to backpedal the conversation back out of the verbal minefield.

“Laura and I used to volunteer at the Humane Society of New York,” Derek said abruptly still facing mostly away and staring out the window. “We’d exercise the dogs, give them one on one training. Dogs that can respond to voice and hand signals have a better rate of adoption, and they’re less likely to be returned. She was planning to open a no-kill shelter here, or maybe in Chico, or Yuba City.”

Stiles didn’t know what to say. “It sounds ideal for you.”

Derek dropped his chin, hiding what Stiles could see of his face in shadow. “Dogs are easy. They can sense the predator in us; so long as we’re calm and in control, they respond favourably.” He sighed. “There’s sometimes an exception, but most dogs are glad of our strength. Cats…aren’t quite so enthused.”

“Yeah, I can imagine.”

“That was the main hold up,” Derek went on. “Finding someone we trusted to work with the cats. Someone we trusted, who would be interested in moving to the west coast.”

“You didn’t consider opening a place that catered solely to dogs?”

Derek shrugged. “Laura suggested it, but I wanted to do it properly.” He shook his head. “If we’d come back earlier, things might have been different.”

“Not necessarily better, though.”

Derek turned glowing red eyes towards him. “Laura wouldn’t have been alone when Peter attacked. I would have been with her! She wouldn’t have died!”

“You don’t know that,” Stiles said gently. He sighed. “Looking back, wishing you could change things, that’s the kind of thinking that drives people mad. The people in our past who died…they wouldn’t want that for us. Laura wouldn’t want that for you.”

The red bled out of Derek’s eyes, and he hunched in on himself. “You don’t know that.”

“No fair, throwing my own words back in my face,” Stiles said with a half-hearted attempt at levity. “And yes, I do know that, Derek. If she loved you, she’d want you to look forward. Remember the good times, the things that made you happy.”

“It’s not as easy as that.”

“I know,” Stiles agreed. “My mother spent weeks in the hospital. Day by day, she slowly changed from the mother who loved me into a stranger who didn’t even know who I was. Learning to remember her as she was before her illness…it was hard. I still don’t manage it, some days. But I try. Because I know that she would want me to.”

Derek turned away again, staring silently out the window.

Stiles watched him while he tried to come up with a way to help. “If you ever want to talk about her to someone,” he said eventually, “I’m willing to listen.”

Derek nodded. “Thanks.” He took a deep breath, his posture regaining the confidence that Stiles was used to. When he turned around, he was wearing the same level one scowl that had been his default expression since Stiles had met him.

Stiles offered his best cheeky grin. “I know, I know. Don’t tell anyone about today. Or you’ll rip my throat out.”

The corner of Derek’s mouth twitched. “With my teeth,” he agreed. He hesitated, before reaching out and touching Stiles’ shoulder briefly. “Thank you, Stiles.”

Before Stiles could reply, Derek had turned on his heel and left. The roar of the Camaro corresponded with Stiles’ realisation that his arm didn’t hurt anymore.

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