By: West Wind
Holiday Bingo Prompt: Earth
Holiday: California Arbor Day – March 7
Fandom: Teen Wolf
Word Count: 3120
Summary: Stiles decides to plant a new tree by the Nemeton stump.
Stiles dropped the bag of supplies on the ground with a groan and wiped the perspiration off his face. He looked at the small three-foot oak with its burlap-wrapped root ball.
“Why did I think it was a good idea to plant a tree in a preserve full of trees?” he asked it. He looked at the large stump that was part of the supernatural world of Beacon Hills. “Because it’s Arbor Day, and I thought it would be a good idea to plant a new tree to replace the one that was cut down.” He threw his hands into the air. “I don’t know why? No one will care or know.”
He slowly turned, assessing the ground. He picked up the shovel and walked around trying to decide where the best place to plant his tree was.
“Why am I being so picky?” He looked at the tree laying on the ground. “Are you really picky on where you are planted? As long as you have dirt and water, does it make a difference?”
He knew from his research that soil type did make a difference for some trees, and that was why he picked a tree that was native and grew in the preserve. It should have no problem growing here.
He jabbed the shovel into the ground. Then repeated the process testing out how easy it would be to dig the hole he needed.
“You don’t want hard-packed soil. That would be difficult for your roots to spread out in.”
He circled a spot. He thrust the shovel into the ground and pushed down on it with his foot putting his weight behind it. He pulled back, removing a wedge of ground and tossing it to the side.
“Here will be your new home. Hope you like it.” He removed another shovel full of dirt. “It has a nice view – full of trees. Don’t know if that’s a plus for you. If you are an introvert tree, you might prefer to be the only tree in a yard. But, I hope you aren’t. You are going to be surrounded by a lot of older trees and one large stump.”
The hole grew as he worked. Stiles stopped and assessed the hole. He looked at the root ball then back to the hole.
“Going to have to measure. Don’t want to mess this up. You need to be planted properly for your best opportunity to adapt to your new home.”
He used the shovel to measure the depth and width of the root ball.
“Close, but needs to be deeper.”
Stiles enlarged the hole and made it a few inches deeper before checking the measurements again.
“That should be good.” He nodded then jabbed the shovel into the pile of loose removed dirt. “Time to get you settled in.”
Stiles lifted the tree and set it into the hole. He tossed shovelfuls of dirt around the root ball.
“Time to pack the dirt in. I’m not trying to get all up into your space… but maybe you are into that sort of thing. If you’re not, watch out for the werewolves around here. Some of them don’t have a clue what personal space is.”
He stomped down on the dirt and circled the new tree. He stopped and adjusted the tree.
“You want to stand up straight so your leaves can catch the light properly. If you’re leaning, then you will have to grow wonky.”
He made quick work of packing the rest of the dirt into the hole and around the new tree.
“All tucked in and comfy. I’ll get you some water in a moment.”
He sighed and sat down on the stump. The leaves of the three-foot tree waved in the breeze moving through the clearing. Stiles tipped his head back and looked up into the sky. The weather was good for the beginning of March.
It was quiet, but in a good way… not the oppressive silence before the big bad attacked. Stiles found something centering about it, and it was not something he had noticed before. Granted, there was always something pressing happening or needed his attention when he was out in the preserve. He never just sat still and took it in.
He closed his eyes and listened to nature go about its day around him. He felt a part of it despite being the intruder in their lives. He breathed out, opened his eyes, and sat up. He had a tree to water. He patted the stump before standing.
“Be nice to your new neighbor,” he said to the stump.
He grabbed the nested buckets he brought with him to carry water from the nearby creek. He turned while pulling them apart.
“AHH!!” The buckets flew into the air in opposite directions.
“What are you doing?” Derek asked, standing by the stump.
Peter was propped against it on the other side from Derek.
“Me?” Stiles squeaked. “What are you doing sneaking up on me?”
Derek picked up the plastic bucket closest to him. “We were checking the woods.”
Stiles stood up straighter. “Is there a threat?”
“Other than a teenage boy planting and talking to a tree…” Peter studied his nails, “no.”
Stiles picked up the second bucket.
“Nothing out of the ordinary then.” Stiles took the bucket from Derek and headed to the creek.
“Why did you plant a tree?” Derek followed him. “There’s not a shortage of them around.”
Stiles kept walking. “Seemed the thing to do.”
Peter ghosted up to Stiles left. “Why did you plant it here and not in your yard?”
Stiles side-eyed Peter before bending down to fill the bucket. “I’d have to call 811 before digging to plant a tree in my yard, and Dad probably wouldn’t approve.” He switched buckets.
Derek took the full one from him. “Then why plant one?”
He stood and stretched out his back. He looked at the two Hales. “It’s Arbor Day… it’s the day to plant a tree. Trees are good for us and the environment.” Stiles started to wave his hands around, and Peter took the bucket from his hand before he splashed them all.
“Interesting.” Peter walked back to the clearing.
Stiles oversaw the water being slowly poured into the earth diked circle around the new tree. If poured too fast, it would overflow, and the new tree would not benefit.
“Are you planning on filling this one bucket at a time?” Peter asked, pulling out the packaged tree watering bag.
Stiles exaggerated looking around the area. “I don’t see a hose I can use to fill it, so yes.”
Peter threw it at Derek who caught it against his chest.
“Faster if you fill it at the stream.”
Stiles pointed at himself. “Human, no super strength. There’s no way I’d be able to haul it full of twenty gallons of water back here.” He waved his hand in the direction of the creek. “Partially, maybe but using the buckets will still be needed.”
Derek rolled his eyes and walked away with the bag.
“Thanks, Derek,” Stiles called after him.
He grabbed the bag of mulch and placed it around the tree. He felt Peter watching him. He finished and looked at Peter. “What?”
“Awful amount of work for a tree in the woods,” Peter said.
“It’s the proper way to plant a tree. I researched it.”
Peter nodded his head and appeared amused. Stiles was not sure that was a good thing. That was pushed aside when Derek returned with the full bag, and they placed and secured it around the tree. Stiles stepped back satisfied with a job well done.
“You should be good until I come back to check on you next weekend.”
“You’re going to check on it?” Derek asked.
“I’m not going to abandon it to fend for itself while it gets established. What kind of person do you think I am? I didn’t let you fuzzy ass drown when we weren’t seeing eye to eye. I’m not going to let the tree I bought and planted perish because of lack of water.”
Peter chuckled, and it drew their attention. “Don’t mind me.”
Stiles decided it was not worth figuring out what had Peter amused and started picking up his tools to take back to his car. Maybe they would help him carry things back to his jeep.
Stiles got out of his jeep ready to make the trek to check on the tree he planted last week. Before he could get the buckets out of the jeep, Derek and Peter walked out from the trees.
“What’s up? Are you stalking me?”
“Thought you would like help refilling the bag,” Derek said.
“OK.” He narrowed his eyes. “I appreciate your help, but you would tell me if there was something new and dangerous in town… or the woods… right?”
“Just want to see the tree,” Peter said.
Stiles crossed his arms. “That’s not suspicious.”
Derek huffed. “Do you want help or not?”
“Yes, I would love your help.” He locked the jeep and headed into the woods with the Hales following.
It was not a long walk. Stiles entered the clearing and stopped.
“I’m not seeing things, am I? The small three-foot tree I planted last week doubled in size.” He did not take his eyes off it.
A Hale took up position on either side of him and stopped.
“Definitely bigger,” Derek said.
“Interesting.” Peter walked up to the tree for a closer look.
Stiles blinked several times hoping it would change what he was seeing. It did not. Peter tugged at one of the leaves, and Stiles dashed over to bat his hand away.
“Don’t damage it!”
Peter held his hands in the air in surrender. Stiles huffed and checked on the tree. It was bigger. The bag was empty.
“Does it need more water?” Stiles pondered out loud. “If it’s grown this much, the roots must have as well and are finding what it needs on its own.” Stiles removed the bag from around the tree. “I’ll just have to keep an eye on you. I can always put it back if you need more water.” He patted the tree.
Peter circled the tree looking very thoughtful. Derek appeared to be standing guard.
“Should I be worried? Obviously something of a supernatural nature is going on. Should I expect a dryad to appear or an ent… no, it would probably be something more life-threatening… like…” Stiles flailed his hands about. “I’m coming up blank on tree spirits that want to kill people… I’m sure I’ll find some if I google.”
Derek placed his hand over Stiles’ mouth. “We don’t think it’s bad.”
Stiles pushed Derek’s hand away. “You know what’s going on?”
“A possible theory.” Peter walked around the stump studying it.
“The Nemeton,” Stiles blurted out.
Peter stopped and grinned at Derek. “Told you he would figure it out.”
“I didn’t disagree with you.” Derek turned to Stiles. “I tried to check on the tree early in the week but could not find it.
“Neither of us could,” Peter said.
Stiles ran his fingers through his hair. “Like how none of us could find it when… our parents were taken? I thought that was because of the darach?”
Peter tilted his hand back and forth in the ‘so, so’ gesture. “It could have been her. It could have been the Nemeton. It could have been a combination of both.”
“This isn’t a bad thing?” Stiles stroked the trunk of the tree then froze.
Both Hales watched his actions with amused interest and not murderous concern. He went back to petting the tree… it was a good tree… even if it was growing faster than expected.
“Not a bad thing,” Peter answered. “In fact, I think it will be a good thing.”
Stiles snorted. “I’m to take your word for it?”
“More entertaining for me if you don’t.”
Stiles crossed his arms and turned to Derek. “Your opinion?”
“I think he’s right, but we won’t know the full truth for a while.”
“What do we do until then?”
“Nothing different,” Derek said.
Every weekend, weather permitting, Stiles went to check on the tree. Derek and Peter usually accompanied him. Each time the tree was taller and wider. At the end of April, the tree was massive.
“Wow, it has to be almost as wide across as the stump,” Stiles said. He paused and cocked his head studying the tree. “The stump should be in the way.”
He circled the tree and stopped when there was no stump. There were no signs that it had ever been there.
“What the hell? Where’d it go?”
His two shadows followed.
“Not exactly what I expected,” Peter muttered.
“What did you expect?” Stiles demanded before he freaked out.
“I thought it would show rapid decomposition, not vanish when done.”
Stiles took a slow deep breath and forced himself to think and not react. Out of all the weird things that have happened to him since going into the woods to look for a body, this was not that crazy or threatening.
“Whatever made the old tree a Nemeton has transferred to the new tree, and now they are one… or something.” Stiles ran his fingers through his hair.
Stiles shook his head and ignored Peter. He went to check out his tree. He walked around it trailing his hand on the trunk. “Wow, you must be ten foot across, at least. Two months ago, I could wrap my hand around your trunk.”
Warm happy tingles filled him. He froze.
“Stiles?” Derek stepped up to his side. “Are you alright?”
“I don’t know. Are Nemeta sentient?”
“Knew it,” Peter crowed. Then he laughed.
“Derek, has Peter lost his mind again?”
“No, but he did have a theory about you and the Nemeton.”
Peter pointed at Stiles. “That the Nemeton likes you and asked you for help.”
“It didn’t ask me for help,” Stiles protested.
Peter locked a judgy doubting look on him. “Have you planted trees in the past on Arbor Day?”
“No.” Stiles drew the small word out while pieces clicked together. “You think I did this year because the Nemeton wanted me to. How did it ask me? Did it make me do this?”
Derek stepped closer to Stiles but did not touch. He still felt the support being offered.
“Not from my understanding of Nemeta,” Peter said.
“What do you know about Nemeton?”
“He’s been doing a lot of reading on them since that mess,” Derek said. “I’ve asked around and what he’s found agrees with what others have told me.”
Stiles appreciated Derek’s verification, but he still crossed his arms over his chest waiting for Peter’s explanation.
“I think your ice bath gave the Nemeton an opportunity to connect to all three of you.”
“So any one of us could have been asked to plant a tree.”
“Yes. Did Scott or Allison mention anything about wanting to plant a tree?”
Stiles shook his head. “No… Allison did mention supporting the concept of Arbor day, but since they moved to an apartment, she didn’t have a place to plant a tree.”
Peter nodded but did not seem surprised. “What was the impetus of you planting a tree?”
Stiles leaned against the tree trunk and thought back.
“The local nursery was running a sale on trees for Arbor day. They had a sign out front. That started a research spiral on Arbor day, the reasons, the benefits, and local trees… and it was a small thing I could do to contribute to making the world better.”
“Is that a choice you would have made before the supernatural?” Derek asked.
Stiles caught his lower lip between his teeth and thought about it. It was the exact type of thing he would impulsively do. “So I’m the only one who decided to help. Does that mean anything?”
Peter hemmed and hawed until Derek grunted his dissatisfaction. “There’s a variety of possibilities… it could be nothing or it could be a lifetime connection. I think it is closer to the second because of your magic and your reaction to the Nemeton.”
“What magic?” Stiles asked.
Peter snorted. “Of course, no one told you about the spark you carry.”
“How do you know?” Stiles side-eyed Peter.
“I can smell it on you. Once you were introduced to our world, it has awakened and been growing.”
“Can anyone tell by smell? That’s such a pleasant thought,” Stiles snarked.
“I can smell it, but I thought it was just your reaction to stress or something,” Derek admitted. “Anyone who never had it identified for them would not know.”
Stiles rubbed his head. “That puts a target on me for anyone who does know.”
“Training,” Peter said. “Not Deaton.”
Derek agreed with the restriction. “We’ve books to get you started on magic and on Nemeta.”
Stiles shifted so both Hales were in his sightline. “You are being very accommodating. Why? How does this benefit you?”
Peter grinned at him.
“Not helping,” Stiles told him.
“Peter,” Derek rebuked at the same time. “Nemeta can be a force for stabilizing an area just as much as they can destabilize it.”
“Deaton said it was a beacon calling bad things.”
“Apt description when it and the area are unstable,” Peter said.
“Planting the tree was a step toward stabilizing,” Derek continued over Peter’s comment.
“Somehow I’m tied into the continuing stabilization.”
He waved a finger between the werewolves. “Still don’t know what you get from this.”
Derek shifted, appearing nervous which was characteristic in Stiles’ experience.
“It’s our home. Why wouldn’t we want to encourage actions that would reduce the target on it?” Peter’s words felt inaccurate even if there was truth to them.
Derek rolled his eyes and sighed. “It’s complicated. There’s a small chance my Alph spark isn’t gone, and the Nemeton may be involved.” He shoved his hands in his jacket pockets. “Just come over and find out for yourself. Then you can decide what to do.”
Stiles turned and hit his head gently against the tree a few times before resting against it. “Just when I think things are settling down…”
Warmth and encouragement came from the tree.
“Ok,” Stiles muttered into the bark. “The tree agrees with you.” Stiles stepped away from the tree. “Take me to these books, but I make no promises.”
“Fair.” Derek nodded and led them out of the woods.
Stiles saw several new research spirals in his future and opportunities to annoy Derek and snark with Peter. He hoped it led to a better and safer Beacon Hills.