Deputy Stilinski arrives—his young son, Stiles, in tow because it’s a school holiday, and the deputy is too nice to inflict his son upon an unsuspecting babysitter.
Stiles keeps touching e v e r y t h i n g because he thinks he’s looking at a real-life haunted mansion and not the barbecued remains of a family and their home. When he starts jumping in the puddles of water that have collected around the ruins, his dad yells at him to behave, or risk losing his Batman comics for a week.
So Stiles hunches his shoulders and stomps away from the house. He takes a seat under a looming green sycamore that looks alien against the ashes and embers in the backdrop. That’s when he realizes someone’s seated on the other side of the tree, sobbing uncontrollably.
Stiles scoots over, and places a gentle hand on Derek Hale’s arm. “Hey. You okay?” he whispers.
Derek looks down to see a small boy with wide, concerned eyes staring up at him. “Get lost, kid,” he says in a hoarse, tired voice.
Naturally, Stiles moves closer to him, their knees touching now. “Was that your house?” he asks, pointing behind the tree. Gingerly, he adds, “Did you know the people who lived in it?”
And Derek can’t deal with this ankle-biter right now. He starts crying all over again, shoulders shaking violently, desperate gasps escaping his lips as his heart attempts to rip its way out of his chest.
Stiles’ mouth falls open, and he looks around to see if he can find Derek’s parents or a grown-up or someone. But no one notices that Derek Hale is falling apart. No one but Stiles. So he wraps his arms around Derek, holds him tightly as another wave of tears washes over him; Stiles even cries a little with him as the sobs die down.
"Okay, okay," Derek finally says in a raspy voice. "Unclench, kid. You can let go of me now."
Stiles’ arms fall away from Derek’s body, and he shrinks back from him. “Whenever Dad and I visit Mom at the hospital, I always see the nurses hugging people who cry. Hugging so hard, like it’s the only thing keeping a person from crumbling.” He uses a hand to rub the tears from his face. “Sorry if it didn’t work. That was only my first time.”
Derek’s head tilts slightly as he takes another look at the boy, whose face suddenly holds an expression that makes him appear years older than he actually is. “It helped,” he says. For the moment, anyway.