- Death-Minor Character
- Hate Crimes
- Fix It
All stories have to start somewhere. That is to say, when you tell a story, you have to have a starting point.
But the nature of our world and of time is such that there is no true beginning, no one place where we can plant a flag that says “Here is the beginning”. There is always something from before that which has an influence on the events following.
So then, a story about a young man who is plunged headlong into the world of the supernatural while teetering on the cusp of adulthood might have an earlier beginning. Like when a house on the edge of the town burnt down suddenly one winter, or even earlier when the young man made a friend of the new boy in school by offering to share his skittles. It may even, for instance, have started before that, in the story of his parents falling in love and deciding to have a child.
Or it could have started when his mother, as a ten year old girl, had her whole life uprooted by the US Marshal Service when they moved her family. That’s when she discovered that her father had been called as a key witness to a mob style execution he accidentally observed while on a brief business trip to Chicago, and that they’d been in Witness Protection her entire life.
It could even have begun before then, when she was six years old and got to know the rather strange boy next door and his stuffed tiger, Hobbes.
There is always another prologue, enough data for another prequel. If we want to tell a story, we have to start somewhere.
This story starts on a Sunday in April, two weeks after Stiles was kidnapped and beaten by the grandfather of his best friend’s on/off girlfriend. That delightful event had happened the day after his birthday, a day that no one but his father had bothered to commemorate.
Stiles was used to being ignored by the majority of his classmates, but the realisation that Scott had forgotten that he was turning eighteen was particularly galling.
Even his father had to work. Not that Stiles begrudged him that, it was great that he had his job back after all, but still. He tried not to let the whole thing affect him, but was honest enough – if only with himself – to admit that he hadn’t felt so truly alone since just after his mother had died.
It wasn’t like Stiles was unaware of how childish it was to be pouting about it – there had been some big stuff going down, what with murder lizards and psychos and resurrected werewolves. But it had been two weeks now, and Scott still hadn’t said anything.
That whole blow up yesterday had been coming for a while, if he was going to be honest. He’d done his best to rationalise away some of Scott’s choices in the wake of the guilt he’d felt over him being bitten, and having Scott finally cross the line to a place where Stiles refused to follow came as something of a relief.
It was certainly a weight off his shoulders, having his father read in on the whole werewolf thing. Stiles wasn’t a little boy any more, he didn’t think his dad was some kind of god that could fix anything – his mother’s death had sort of solved that one – but it was comforting knowing that he had his father’s support anyway.
It was also good to be able to get Derek some proper adult advice. It’s not like Peter could be trusted to be much help in that department after all. Peter was more likely to advocate total anarchy than be of any proper use to his struggling nephew. His dad would be good for Derek, and maybe now that Gerard had been taken care of (maybe) things would be able to settle down and they could work on getting their lives into some sort of order.
Stiles was in the middle of frying up some celebratory bacon – his dad deserved something after what Stiles had put him through the day before – when there was a knock at the door.
Since he could hear the shower running upstairs, Stiles sighed and removed the bacon from the heat, turning off the hob. It was only a little underdone, left in the hot pan the bacon would continue to cook and would still be delicious, if not as perfectly crispy as he’d planned. Stiles was in a bit of a bad mood about not being able to offer perfect bacon as he opened the door, and his “What?” was perhaps not as gracious as it might have been in different circumstances.
There was a man on the doorstep. Tall, skinny, looked to be somewhere in his thirties, or maybe early forties with a good skin-care regimen. He had white blond hair and striking blue eyes, and he was wearing a full backpack and carrying a stuffed tiger.
“Hi,” the stranger said. “I’m looking for Susie Derkins?” He glanced at his tiger. “She might have a different name though.”
Stiles frowned. “You’re looking for someone who might or might not be called Susie Derkins,” he clarified. At the strangers nod, he shrugged. “Well I can’t be perfectly sure of course, but as far as I’m aware neither my dad nor I have ever been called Susie Derkins.”
The stranger frowned. “Well, it smells like she’s been here,” he insisted. “And like dogs, apparently. Hobbes doesn’t like dogs, you know. I had a dog for a week but I had to give it away because it wouldn’t stop picking fights with him.”
Stiles sighed. “You can smell – are you a werewolf then? Cause we’ve already got enough of them, thanks all the same.”
The stranger perked up. “Werewolves? Really? Can we meet them? Hobbes tried to tell me that werewolves were real, but I didn’t actually believe him!”
Noah came down the stairs dressed in his sweats and rubbing at his damp hair with a towel. He looked inquiringly at the man on the doorstep.
“He’s looking for someone who might be called Susie Derkins,” Stiles relayed to his father. “He thinks she’s been here at some point.”
“We’ll see what we can do to find her,” Noah said kindly. “Come in,- wait, sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
“I’m Calvin,” the man said, before gesturing to his stuffed tiger. “And this is Hobbes.”
Noah’s eyebrows raised. “Right. My name’s Noah, and this is my son Stiles. Come in, Calvin. And Hobbes too, of course. I’ll take down what details you can give me, and a contact number, and I’ll have a look through the data base when I get to work tomorrow.”
“Dad is the Sheriff,” Stiles said proudly.
“Wow,” Calvin seemed really impressed, taking his backpack off and putting it down just inside the door. He kept hold of the stuffed tiger. “That’s amazing. Did he let you play with his lights and sirens and everything?”
“Sometimes,” Stiles admitted. “And I know the police station like the back of my hand. It’s pretty awesome most of the time.”
Calvin had clearly stopped listening though. He’d stopped in front of a photo of Claudia that held pride of place in the hallway. She was in jeans and one of her floaty shirts, and she had an open book in her lap. It had been taken only a few months before she’d got sick, and it was how Stiles liked to remember her. Laughing and happy, and covered in sunlight.
“That’s my Mom,” he said to Calvin, felling his throat tighten up the way it always did when he had to speak about her.
“That’s Susie,” Calvin corrected. “At least, it looks like Susie. What do you think Hobbes, is it Susie?” he held his tiger up, presumably so that it could look at the photo as well. He turned to Stiles. “Well, if Hobbes agrees with me then it’s settled. That’s Susie.”
Stiles blinked, thought about inquiring more deeply into the tiger, and then thought better of it. It didn’t seem to be hurting anything, what harm would it do to just go along with it? “My mom’s name was Claudia,” he answered. “Claudia Stilinksi. That was after her marriage of course, before that she was Claudia Kowalczyk.”
“Oh. Well Susie was in the Witness Protection Program,” Calvin offered. “That’s why she had to move away in the end. Some bad people found out where her dad was living, and they had to move. I’ve got some photos of her here, in case you want to see them,” he paused for a moment to look at his tiger, his eyes dimming and his smile disappearing. “You’re talking like Susie is dead.”
Noah was silent, hands clutching at the towel he was still holding, and Stiles knew it would probably be up to him to find out if this was real or some kind of cruel trick.
“Can I see the photos?” Stiles asked, making grabby hands.
Calvin easily handed them over, and Stiles was instantly sure that the dark haired young girl in them was his mother. Her eyes, her nose, the right shaped face, just younger, more immature. There were several of her with a small blond boy that could very well have grown up into the man in front of him. The stuffed tiger was even there. “Yes, it’s her.” He had to blink tears out of his eyes, and reluctantly handed the photos to his dad to look through.
“She is dead,” Calvin stated, looking at Noah who was staring transfixed at an image of Susie Derkins laughing.
Stiles sighed. “She died nearly eight years ago,” he said. “Frontotemporal dementia. I’m sorry that you came all this way only to get bad news.” He paused. “Actually, where did you come from?”
“Oh, we used to live in Ohio,” Calvin said, some of his earlier cheer restored. “It was pretty boring after Susie moved away, and my parents insisted that I go to school, even though I wanted to be a land pirate or a spaceman. But then I played the game with the squiggly lines for a while, and apparently that can make you rich very quick, so now no one tells me what to do and I don’t have to sit in any boring lectures and hand in any essays.”
“The game with the squiggly lines-” Stiles shook his head. “Never mind. I suppose if she was in Witness Protection then that explains why she never had any extended family. Look, come in and sit down. Do you have a place to stay?”
“Not yet,” Calvin said, following Stiles into the kitchen and sitting down without any appearance of reluctance. He helped himself to a piece of bacon, not that Stiles really minded, it was one more piece that his father wouldn’t be eating. “We’ll get a room at a hotel for the night. It’s what we usually do. Now, Hobbes and I both want to know about werewolves.”
“I don’t suppose you’d care to forget about that?” Stiles asked without much hope.
“It would be amazing to be a werewolf, “Calvin said enthusiastically. “Not as good as a weretiger, of course, but tigers are solitary so I suppose that would be out. But a werewolf would be great! So long as it didn’t make me want to fight with Hobbes! Nothing is worth having a problem with your best friend in all the world.”
“Yeah,” Stiles sighed. “Hey Dad, you are actually allowed some of this bacon you know.”
“Thanks,” Noah said with a forced smile. “It’s nice to meet you Calvin. And Hobbes. Has Hobbes been your friend for very long?”
Calvin smiled. “I caught him in a trap when I was six,” he declared proudly.
“What kind of trap?” Stiles asked, feeling interested despite himself.
“A tuna sandwich trap, of course,” Calvin replied, as if it was obvious. “Tuna is what tigers love best after all.”
“Tuna,” Stiles muttered. “Is that why…” He looked over to his dad who was still holding the photos that Calvin had given them. “My dad and I don’t really like tuna,” he admitted. “But my Mom always insisted on having a tin in the house. She said that it was important, that she always had to be prepared in case an old friend dropped by.”
Calvin beamed. “Did you hear that Hobbes! Susie was expecting us!” His smile dimmed. “We just got here too late.”
“Hey, better late than never,” Stiles said feeling fonder of this strange man by the second. “And at least you can tell us about what she was like as a child, and we can tell you about what she was like as a grown up.”
“And I haven’t forgotten about werewolves,” Calvin put in. “I know that Hobbes thinks that’s what the dog smell from earlier might be about. I can never tell if he’s pulling my leg or trying to be funny. Normally people don’t play along with him though, so I’m inclined to believe that it’s real this time.”
“Yeah, probably,” Stiles agreed, wondering if there was more to the stuffed tiger than met the eye. His mother had obviously known about Calvin’s reliance on it or she wouldn’t have bothered with the tuna. He decided to just go with the flow for the moment, pretend that Hobbes was actually a real thinking being. “Alright, I’ll tell you what I can, but I can’t give away too much because it’s all a big secret and it’s not my secret to tell. Some of the werewolves I know have been hunted just because of what they are, you see.”
“These werewolves are your friends?” Calvin said with a frown.
“Yes,” Stiles said. “Well, some of the werewolves, that is. They’re more my friends than the hunters, since I’m predisposed to be on the side of the group that don’t go abducting and torturing people just because they can.”
Calvin’s frown deepened. “They torture people? Did they torture you?”
“No, me they only beat into unconsciousness,” Stiles said with a bitter sigh. “They keep the torture for the werewolves they catch. Super strength means that they can take more pain, you know, and super healing means that there’s no evidence that can be brought against their attackers.”
Calvin’s eyes were flashing. “They hurt you? And they torture people? Well, Hobbes and I aren’t having any of that. Susie would want us to help you, so that’s what we’re going to do!”
“Oh,” Stiles said, rather taken aback. “Well, I’m not sure that you can actually do anything. Not without starting up a rival vigilante group, which seems like a bad idea on several levels. Not that I haven’t considered it, of course.” He sighed regretfully at the thought of how satisfying it would have been to put a permanent end to Gerard Argent. As it was, the dude was probably still alive somewhere, spewing his poison to anyone who would listen. “So, does this mean that you’ll be staying in town for a while?”
“I think that would be best,” Calvin nodded. “Hobbes and I will check into a hotel later.”
“Nonsense,” Noah said, speaking up finally. “If you’re a friend of Claudia’s, you’re a friend of ours. You’ll stay here with us for as long as you like, in the spare room. Unless you’d prefer a hotel, of course.”
Calvin’s eyes lit up again. Stiles was becoming rather fond of the way he wore what he was thinking all over his face, although his rather quick mood changes were a bit astonishing at first.
“That would be great, thank you, Noah! Hobbes finds Susie’s scent is particularly comforting, and anyway it just occurred to me that it will be much easier to put up protections if we stay here!”
“Protections? What kind of protections?” Stiles asked, leaning forward intently.
“Oh you know, the usual,” Calvin said with a wave of his hand. “Impassable barriers, sound proof thingys, maybe some programmable catapults to get rid of any of the enemy that try to lay siege to us. Alien repelling whatsits, of course. No point in protecting against everything else only to be beamed up into a space ship.”
“Right,” Stiles said, exchanging a look with his father. Something moved in the corner of his eye, but when he turned his head there was nothing there, only Hobbes, sitting there like the stuffed tiger he was. “Right,” Stiles said again, feeling a little less sure that Calvin was as nuts as he first appeared.
“We should probably get started on those right away, Calvin said decisively. “Can’t tell when the enemy are going to turn up you know. And they can be sneaky too, sometimes they can disguise themselves as people you know! We’ll have to set up a protection against that as well, of course.”
“Stiles can show you around the property boundaries while I get the spare room set up,” Noah said, getting up from his chair.
Stiles watched him walk slowly up the stairs, before turning back to their new houseguests.
Calvin was looking at him with a slight frown. “Do you think that we’re hurting him by being here?” he asked perceptively.
“No,” Stiles replied, then thought over the question again. “Yes, a little,” he admitted. “But I don’t think it’s the bad kind of hurt.”
Calvin didn’t look terribly reassured. “I’ll have to take your word for it,” he said doubtfully.