The silence at the small kitchen table felt like it was going to swallow him whole. Like any minute it was going to just engulf him entirely and he was going to disappear. Which he supposed wasn't too far from what was actually going to happen, eventually. How soon was anyone’s guess. The doctor had given him three years if things went well. He let out a breath as he stared down at his now soggy cereal, grimacing a little at how it clumped together.
He looked over to where his dad sat, looking like he’d aged ten years overnight, and Stiles’ chest tightened. He’d known for a long time that life was terribly unfair, because he’d watched his mom get sicker and sicker, to the point she didn’t know who he was, and he’d watched her die when he was eight, held her hand even as her skin got colder. And now his dad was going to relive that entire nightmare.
“You uh -- you working today?” he asked quietly, trying to grasp onto any kind of normalcy that he could for the time being. And a conversation with his dad about work was about as normal as it got for the Stilinski’s, really.
The Sheriff glanced up from his cup of coffee at his son’s voice. He contemplated the question for a moment. “I’m thinking I might take the day...get some of that stuff done in the house that I always say I’m going to do, but never do.” He responded his voice gruff. His hand tightened on his mug, knuckles going white at the pressure of his grip. He still couldn’t quite grasp onto the reality of the doctor’s results.
His 16-year-old son was dying. Dying. How did something like that happen? How could this be happening? His chest tightened and he swallowed hard. Things had to be different this time, they would be. He wasn’t going to bury himself in work. He was going to spend as much time with Stiles as he could, do everything that they’d ever said they would do together. He was going to be by his side, for as long as they had. “What about you? Feel like playing hooky with your old man?”
“Like go through all those boxes of photographs and put them into photo albums?” he asked, hint of teasing in his voice as he thought about the boxes in the attic. They were all wrapped in plastic just in case the roof leaked. His dad had always worried about the pictures being damaged if that happened. He shifted in his chair, flickering to his dad’s pale knuckles as he clutched tightly onto his cup of coffee, like it was his life support at the moment. His chest tightened painfully and he looked down.
“I have a history exam fifth period,” he answered vaguely, moving his spoon around his cereal bowl. He remembered when he was younger how he’d pretend that his spoon was a shark and he’d scoop up the cereal like it was tiny fish the shark was going to eat for lunch. He was now the tiny fish, waiting for the sharp-toothed shark to devour him the same way it had devoured his mother. He drew in a breath and let it out slowly.
“Maybe we could catch a movie or something after school?” He chewed his thumbnail.
Michael swallowed hard and nodded, “We can do that.” He said lifting his mug to his lips and taking a long sip. He didn’t know what to say. Should they talk about it? Probably. He could see Stiles didn’t want to though and if he was being honest, it wasn’t exactly his idea of a good conversation either.
He reached up with his free hand and scratched the back of his neck. “If you’d rather stay home today, you can.” He offered.
“As tempting as it is to blow off a history test with parental permission, I kind of...I want to keep things as normal as possible for now. You know?” For now, while normal was still somewhat of an option. With the rate that he’d been declining already he had a feeling that his ‘normal’ time was going to be more limited than he wanted it to be. And Scott didn’t even know yet.
He’d left the hospital the previous night before the doctor had come in to tell his dad the results. And while he was fairly certain that Melissa McCall knew, his dad had asked her not to say anything to Scott just yet. He’d known Stiles needed to be the one to break the news. He thought then, about what Scott had said. That if he was sick, they’d do something. That he’d do something.
Stiles already knew what Scott was thinking about. He was thinking about the one thing that he could do that might save Stiles’ life. The one thing that an alpha werewolf could do to save someone’s life.
The Sheriff pursed his lips, but nodded, “Of course, yeah.” He cleared his throat. “Eat your breakfast,” he commented, “Don’t play with it.” He pointed to the spoon Stiles was moving around before pushing his chair back and getting up. “I think I’m going to grab a shower...but I’ll see you when you get home. I’ll be here.” he reassured his son, his hand pressed down against the table.
His lips tugged upwards involuntarily at his dad’s voice, wondering how many times over the years he’d had to say those same phrases to him. He wondered how many times he’d still be able to say it in the future. He nodded when his dad spoke again, more an automatic reaction than anything. “I’ll see you then,” he said quietly, watching as his dad headed out of the kitchen. He exhaled and looked down at his cereal bowl, making a face before carrying it across the room and dumping it down the garbage disposal.
He really wasn’t at all hungry anyway.
Scott sighed as he slipped his book into his locker, the sound of Isaac’s voice irritating him. The thought immediately made him feel guilty, but his friend would not stop asking him questions, all of which he couldn’t answer because he just didn’t know.
Isaac leaned against the locker beside Scott’s. “Have you heard from Stiles today? What about Lydia, they’re close do you think she’s heard from him?” He asked turning his head straight forward and watching as students walked around heading to their classes. “Maybe--”
“Isaac!” Scott said his name with force and slammed his locker door shut, the stress of the last day or so finally catching up with him. “Look I know you’ve got questions, but I just don’t have the answers right now. So just...cool it. As soon as I know anything I’ll tell you.”
Isaac stiffened and straightened up. He gave Scott a sharp nod, “Yeah, okay sorry. I was just...I mean after what we saw last night...I figured we’d want to see where his head is at and stuff. But you’re right it can wait.” He said with a wave.
Scott sighed yet again, his irritation deflating when he saw how tense Isaac got. He clamped a hand over his shoulder. “Just relax, let’s try to get through this day.” It was something he’d repeated all through yesterday and last night. But it was hard. Stiles had been by his side constantly since they were younger and being in school without him yesterday had probably been one of the worst experiences of his life. Plus he hadn’t heard from his best friend after his tests at the hospital and oh yeah, he and Derek were pretty sure Stiles might be possessed by the Nogitsune. Life was just great.
Stiles made his way down the crowded hallway slowly, feeling worn out, which made sense considering his severe lack of sleeping lately. At least there was a reason behind it, even if the reason was pretty shitty. At least it was an answer. He was going crazy, but it wasn’t related to the ritual, to the Nemeton, like he’d thought. In a way that was a relief because the path he was walking was definitely dark and it wasn’t something he wanted for Scott or Allison.
He heard hushed whispers all around him as he walked, but he didn’t care enough to stop and try to make out what they were saying. He wasn’t even sure if he should have been driving at this point. What if he wound up blacking out while he was behind the wheel? He had so many thoughts and questions about everything that he was having a hard time thinking straight.
He rubbed the back of his neck wearily as he made his way toward his locker, his book bag feeling extra heavy today even though it held less books than it usually did. He spun the lock on his locker, blinking a few times and leaning his head against his locker as he realized he couldn’t read the numbers again. Awesome. Wonderful way to start the day. He supposed he didn’t necessarily need anything from his locker that couldn’t wait until after second period. He had his books for first period and second period was gym.
Stiles pushed himself away from the metallic box, turning and spotting Scott and Isaac talking quietly at Scott’s locker. Scott doesn’t know. It was the only thought that was ringing in his mind. Scott doesn’t know. He and Scott had always told each other everything. They were more brothers than friends, and had been since they’d become friends in kindergarten. It was probably why the thought of telling him what he needed to tell him already felt so bad.
Scott was in the middle of saying something to Isaac when he paused a frown pulling at his lips. He tilted his head, the sound of a frantically beating heart sounding from his left. He turned his head and spotted Stiles. He dropped his hand from Isaac and turned closing the distance between him and his best friend fast. “Hey,” he said quietly. “I tried calling you last night, what happened? You disappeared.”
He stared involuntarily even though he’d seen Scott approaching, nodding when his best friend spoke. “Sorry. I uh -- kinda blacked out and when I woke up, I was at home,” he admitted, not quite meeting Scott’s eyes. “I didn’t check my phone til this morning and then I just kinda figured I’d see you here.”
Scott nodded even though his friends words made his heart clench, “Yeah, no it’s cool. I just wanted to check in.” He swallowed hard and rubbed the back of his neck. “So, last night...did you,” he paused, “Did the doctor’s say anything?” He asked quietly not sure he actually wanted the answer.
Stiles exhaled, looking down at the floor for a long moment. “Yeah,” he said just as quietly. “Yeah, they did.” He looked back up at his friend again, falling silent and knowing Scott was going to get it without him actually having to say it. It was just how they were. They’d known each other that long and so well, that in some situations, words just weren’t really needed.
Scott swallowed heavily trying to keep the utter look of devastation off his face. His chest felt tight and his stomach clenched. Scott felt like his oxygen was being cut off. He could feel a lump form in his throat and he wondered if this was what it felt like when Stiles was having a panic attack. But he focused on using his other senses and controlling his response. The last thing his friend needed was for him to freak out.
That wasn’t helpful. He reached out and gripped Stiles shoulder. “We’ll fix this,” he said his voice hoarse not caring that there were students milling about the hallways probably glancing over at them. He knew Isaac was close too, but all Scott cared about at the moment was Stiles.
Stiles’ chest tightened painfully and he tried to smile but didn’t quite manage it. He knew how badly Scott was going to take this and he hated that his best friend was going to hurt because of him. That was the last thing that he wanted. His gaze shifted to where Isaac stood, looking stoic as he looked back at Stiles and Scott. He was going to have to get to the point where he accepted Isaac. For Scott’s sake. Because when Stiles was gone, Scott was going to need him.
“Why uh -- why don’t we all blow off English and grab some donuts and coffee?” he suggested voice stronger than how he felt.
Scott was about to protest, but decided against it. At least if they were out and away from prying eyes they could talk. “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.” He glanced back at Isaac briefly, “We’ll be back soon okay?” He asked not wanting Isaac to think he was leaving him behind, but also needing some time with just him and Stiles.
Isaac just nodded, his gaze drifting to Stiles. He sent him a tight smile and turned around heading to the other end of the school to see if he could find Allison.
Scott turned back to Stiles and smiled, though it didn’t come anywhere near reaching his eyes. “Ready?”
“You don’t want Isaac to come with us?” he asked, almost confused when Scott told Isaac they were leaving. He watched the other man head down the hallway and away from them, and then caught the look on Scott’s face and all the air left his lungs.
He could see the despair all over his best friend’s face and it killed him. “Scott…”
The smile left Scott’s face at the sound of Stiles’ voice, but he ignored it for the moment. “I thought we could go just us,” he paused, “Unless you want me to invite Isaac. I can go get him.” He was trying to keep his voice calm, but it was hard. Just thinking there might be a day where Stiles wasn’t around was unacceptable.
He tried to read his friend’s expression, but couldn’t. “Nah, it’s fine,” he said, forcing a smile onto his face and clapping his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Let’s just get out of here for awhile.” He was worried about Scott, worried that he wasn’t going to be okay when all was said and done.
Scott returned the smile. “Yeah, hey after we grab some donuts why don’t we head up to the woods?” He sent his friend a sideways glance, “You know the place we used to build forts? I don’t know about you, but I could use a break.” Scott said keeping his voice light.
“Sounds like a day well spent to me,” he agreed, feeling a moment of guilt that his dad had asked him to play hookie and he’d turned him down in favor of a history test, and now he was going off with Scott to skip school. He was a terrible son. He swallowed hard, following Scott down the hall and digging his keys out of his pocket and holding them out to his best friend. “Why don’t you drive?”
Scott hesitated before reaching out to take the keys from his friend, “You never let me drive the jeep.” He said trying his best not to wince. Why did he care if Stiles wanted him to drive? He didn’t it was just different, which was apparently the theme of the day. “Which donut shop do you want to go to?” He asked as they walked in the direction of Stiles’ jeep.
He didn’t, usually, let anyone drive his jeep. It was maybe the only thing Stiles felt a strange possessiveness over. But it was going to be Scott’s one day, provided he was able to keep it running. “Whichever. No preference. I’ll accept donuts from any place that sells ‘em,” he said lightly, not wanting his friend to be weighed down as much as he knew he was going to be.
Scott arched an eyebrow, “Then I vote for the place that has those weird bacon donuts.” He said as he tried to pull open Stiles’ car door and frowned when it wouldn’t open. It took him a minute to realize he had to unlock the door. Scott sent his friend a sheepish look, “This is why I drive a bike,” he joked before pulling the door open and getting in.
Stiles chuckled, then reached out, grabbing onto the door for support to help him hoist himself into the passenger seat. “Bacon donuts. Sounds like a heart attack on a plate if you ask me.” He made a face. He liked his bacon plain, and his donuts dunked in milk, usually. But if that was what Scott wanted, well. Werewolves probably had a higher tolerance for high cholesterol than humans.
Scott situated himself in the seat and pushed the keys into the ignition. He started the car, but didn’t pull out of the spot. Instead he turned in his seat so he was facing Stiles. “Are we going to talk about this?” He asked quietly. Scott couldn’t ignore it, he wanted to, but that just wasn’t going to happen.
He pursed his lips and shifted so he was facing Scott, too. “Yeah. We can, if you want to. I mean, I’m not trying to avoid it.” There was no sense in that. There were a lot of things that they needed to talk about, and he was on a time clock.
Scott ran a hand through his hair, “What did the doctor say? Did they...I mean...how far along are things?” He asked his voice quiet. Scott hated that question. He hated this conversation, but he would keep it together because Stiles needed him to be strong.
“I didn’t actually...my dad filled me in on what he said.” He chewed his thumbnail for a moment, looking troubled. “It’s not great. Estimated that if everything went well...about three years.” He looked down for a moment. In one way it seemed like an eternity. The reality was that it was barely a drop in the bucket of eternity. “At least I’ll probably graduate high school.”
Scott’s eyes burned. He swallowed heavily and glanced forward, his hands curling around the wheel. “That’s not enough time. How can you be okay with this?” He asked, but the second the words left his mouth he felt bad. “Sorry,” he said quietly.
Stiles reached out and put his hand on Scott’s shoulder. “I’m not. I’m scared, Scott. I’m scared for what’s gonna happen to you and what’s gonna happen to my dad.” His voice was thick and he turned his head to look out the windshield. “You don’t...don’t be sorry. Not enough time for that, okay? Better things to do than be sorry.”
Scott felt a tear slid down his cheek and he brushed it away angrily. “No,” he replied trying to keep the utter devastation out of his voice. “We can fix this…I can fix this.” He told his friend finally meeting his gaze again. “Please don’t just give up.” He said looking away, needing a second to calm the emotions that were threatening to overflow out of him.
“Hey.” He tightened his grip on Scott’s shoulder. “I’m not giving up.” He just knew the odds weren’t in his favor by any means. He was quiet for a moment. “And I know what you’re thinking and that’s a lot of weight on your shoulders that you really don’t need, man.”
Scott pursed his lips. “It’s one bite,” he said quietly. “We wouldn’t have to worry about all of this. You’d get better.” And he’d be around for as long as Scott. A part of him wondered if he was being selfish, but he couldn’t help it. Stiles was his best friend, they’d grown up together. It couldn’t end this way, he wouldn’t let it.
Assuming the bite took, he knew Scott was right. But something within him still wanted to resist and he wasn’t sure he could ever really explain that to his best friend. His best friend, who happened to be a werewolf because Stiles had dragged him out into the woods one night because he’d been an idiot. Maybe this was all some kind of karma for him. His penance. “I’ll think about it, okay?” His voice was soft.
Scott wanted to ask what there was to think about, but he fought the urge and nodded instead. “Yeah, okay.” he cleared his throat and put the car into gear, “Have you talked to Lydia?” Scott asked looking at the review mirror as he pulled out, slow, incredibly slow not wanting to hit anything out the way out of the spot.
He watched out the rearview mirror, noting how cautious Scott was being with his jeep and smiling a little. They’d spent a lot of time in this jeep together, driving all over Beacon Hills and rescuing people and getting into insane amounts of trouble. But at the mention of Lydia, he looked out the window, leaning his arm against it as he stared out. “No, I haven’t.”
Scott finally had the car backed out and so he put it in drive and started away from the school. “Are you going to?” He asked quietly.
Stiles rubbed a hand over his head tiredly. “Not really much of a choice, is there? She’s gonna figure it out sooner or later if I don’t tell her, and I’d kinda rather not have her hate me or be pissed off at me.” Especially now.
“She was worried.” He told his friend, eyes on the road as he pulled out of the school lot. “She thought she found you in the industrial basement. But uh, we got there and you weren’t there...Now that I think about it she seemed pretty freaked that she was wrong.” Scott said. Come to think of it he hadn’t seen Lydia since he asked if she wanted to visit Stiles in the hospital.
Stiles' eyebrows furrowed at the mention of an industrial basement. Why did that sound familiar to him? Something about it clicked in the back of his mind but he couldn’t quite figure out what it was. “Lydia was looking for me?” That part was confusing, too. Why would she have been looking for him in a basement?
Scott winced, “Uh, it’s not really important,” he said with a shrug. “Banshee stuff or whatever. I don’t really know how that all works and Lydia didn’t seem up to talking about it.” He explained as he took a turn leading them to the road the donut shop was on.
“No, wait. It might be important,” he murmured. “She did her banshee screaming thing?”
Scott made a face, “I don’t know if she screamed. She heard things, but she was wrong.” Something that had worried Scott at the time, but since Stiles was back he guessed it all turned out alright.
“Scott, she’s never wrong,” he whispered, raking a hand through his hair. “What industrial basement?”
Scott frowned, he never should have brought it up. The Sheriff said everything was like a dream to Stiles and it was fading he should have left it there. “Well she was this time, I was there okay and she was wrong.” He said pointedly not meaning to be so harsh. He sighed. “She was looking for something and she was positive you were there, but you weren’t. Okay? Let’s just let it go.” He told his friend calmly.
Stiles turned his head to look at it. “Something feels wrong about this, Scott. Like really...off.” He didn’t know how to explain, but the words industrial basement kept ringing in his head.
“What do you mean?” Scott asked, “What feels wrong?” he steered the car into one of the spots not sure if he was supposed to mention what actually happened the other day.
“I don’t know. Just something about the whole industrial basement. Like it’s familiar.” He tried to ignore the anxiety that was starting to build up within him. “Somehow.”
Scott put the car in park and then shut it off before considering his friends words. He’d already told him a lot accidentally. He might as well put what really happened out there. Scott turned in his seat so he was facing Stiles. “Look, if I tell you something can you maybe not mention that I told you?” He asked with an arched eyebrow.
“Uh, who am I not supposed to tell that you told?” he asked uncertainly, confused by Scott’s question. He wasn’t sure if he meant from his dad or from Lydia, or both.
“Your dad...my mom,” Scott added, “It’s just if they didn’t mention it maybe they didn’t want you to know since you didn’t remember,” he said quickly, “But I don’t feel right about keeping it from you plus I already kind of you know...messed up.” He told him sheepishly while running a hand through his hair.
“I don’t think you’ve messed anything up.” Stiles took his seatbelt off and turned to face him on the seat. “But if it’ll make you feel better, I promise I won’t say anything to my dad or ou -- your mom.” He inhaled sharply, rubbing a hand over his face. Your mom, he reminded himself. “So spill.”
Scott’s chest tightened at Stiles slip and he reached out and squeezed his friends shoulder. “I think you were right the first time.” He said quietly before clearing his throat. Scott pulled his hand back and rubbed the back of his neck. “The other night you called me, freaking out telling me you didn’t know where you were and you thought you’d been sleep walking.” He explained.
“You said it looked like you were in some kind of industrial basement. So Isaac and I were going to look for you. When we got to your house Lydia and Aiden were there. Apparently she was at the school and she heard you really upset saying something about coming to find you.” He explained.
“She was the one that made me tell your dad...you asked me not to when you called. Then Lydia said she figured out where you were and we went there, but you weren’t there. She was wrong.” He explained hesitating, “You were asleep the whole time man. My Mom and the gene donor found you in Malia’s cave freezing.” Scott had been incredibly relieved when they called him to let him know they found Stiles.
“I brought Lydia to the hospital, we couldn’t see you but they told us you were okay and resting it off. She seemed...off when we left the hospital. I asked her what was wrong and if she was still hearing things, but she seemed kind of closed off and she wouldn’t talk to me.” He hadn’t seen much of her since.
Stiles managed a tense smile when Scott squeezed his shoulder. “Yeah, Dad told me I’d gone sleepwalking, but he didn’t really give me many details.” His eyebrows furrowed as he listened. He’d called Scott in a panic while he’d been sleepwalking. That definitely was a detail his dad had left out. All he remembered about the night was waking up in Scott’s mom’s arms as she rocked him, telling him it was okay, that it was just a dream and he was okay.
Except he wasn’t okay. He wasn’t okay in epic ways, but he didn’t mention that. “Wait. Lydia actually heard me?” Like the day that she’d heard electricity when they’d ran into the warehouse to save Kira from Barrow. His head was starting to pound a little and he grimaced, rubbing one hand over his right temple.
Something wasn’t right. What was it? It was like it was just out of his grasp, just outside of his mind’s eye where he couldn’t see it. “Scott, wait, back up. Lydia thought she found me somewhere. You didn’t say where. Where did she think I was?” he asked, trying to focus his attention as much as he could. This was the detail that felt like it was the most important.
Scott frowned not liking the way Stiles rubbed his head. What if he was making things worse by telling him all of this? Scott knew if he was in Stiles’ situation he’d want to know though. “The institution that Barrow was in. She brought us there, your dad too. She led us right to the basement and when you weren’t there...” Scott let his voice trail off. He and the Sheriff had pretty much jumped down Lydia’s throat, but he knew she didn’t take it personally and the Sheriff had apologized right away feeling guilty.
The institution that Barrow was in. That was the missing piece. He leaned back in his seat for a moment, silent, as his brain began trying to fit it with the rest of the pieces. “What if...I was there?” he whispered. “What if I was there first? It would make sense. Why she thought that’s where I was. And -- it can’t be a coincidence that Barrow was there not that long ago.”
Scott opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He honestly hadn’t even thought about that. “I guess it’s possible, but how would you have gotten there? Your jeep was at the hospital and it’s not like it’s so close you can walk back and forth...I don’t know. But what I do know is that you were in the woods, that’s where you were found.”
“I don’t know, Scott. But it’s too weird of a…” He shook his head, trying to think of the word that he wanted to use, and feeling frustration build up when he couldn’t. “I wrote that message on the board in the chemistry lab. I had that key,” he whispered.
Scott didn’t want to point out that he hadn’t seen the message or the key, because he knew Stiles already knew that. His chest was tight, “Stiles, I’m not saying that this stuff didn’t happen, you know I will always believe what you’re telling me and I’ll look into anything you want me to...But maybe we should take into consideration that this might be...something else.” He whispered.
Stiles' stomach twisted into a knot at that. Scott thought that he’d hallucinated the key. That it was because he was sick. But Lydia had seen the message. It was real. It had been there. And she’d thought he was in the basement of that institution. He chewed his thumbnail. “I know you have a point and maybe you’re right, but...it doesn’t explain Lydia’s role in what happened. I mean, if that was -- if none of that was real, Scottie, why would she think I was there?” The way his nickname for Scott slipped out so easily spoke volumes about how worried he truly was. He hadn’t called him Scottie on any kind of regular basis since they were nine. Occasionally it happened, but it was rare.
Scott didn’t miss the nickname and he closed his eyes for a minute. “I don’t know, Stiles. And we don’t know how Lydia’s feelings work. She was wrong about Barrow being at the school, I mean sure he was there, but he wasn’t there when she said he was. Maybe she doesn’t know how to control it yet and that’s okay, we’re all still learning,” Scott said.
“But I don’t know,” he said again. “If this is something you want to look into I’ll look into it with you, I’m not, I trust you Stiles. If you feel that strongly about it then we can look into it.” He told his friend.
“Maybe I should just try talking to Lydia first,” Stiles murmured. There was something he was still missing but he didn’t know what it was. “Maybe we’re missing something here, you know?” He held his breath for a minute, then exhaled slowly.
“And Scott...she’s trying. And you may have to...I don’t know, like, assure her that you trust her. That she can do it. She’s gonna need that. I know she’s confident about basically everything else, but this is new, you know?” And Stiles wasn’t going to be around forever to be the one to tell her he believed in her.
Scott pursed his lips. He didn’t like the way Stiles was talking. “Lydia has you and she knows I’m there if she needs something. I tried to talk to her, but she just pushed me away. She doesn’t respond to me the same way she does to you Stiles.” Scott’s words were quiet, but true.
Stiles looked at him for a moment, and he couldn’t help the incredibly selfish thought that he was glad their situations weren’t reversed. The very thought of Scott dying was enough to send him into a panic attack on a good day. “I’ll talk to her,” he said quietly.
Scott nodded. “Okay,” He sat there silently for a minute his body tense. He had the overwhelming urge to roar, but obviously the middle of the day on the side of a street probably wasn’t a great place for that. So, he clenched his hands on the wheel for a minute before releasing it and pulling the keys from the ignition. “Ready for that donut?” He asked trying to salvage their trip.
Stiles felt like he should say something, address the fact that Scott was already in stage one of the grieving process. But then Scott was asking about donuts and he figured maybe that was a conversation they could have another day. They’d already been serious for too long today.
“Definitely ready for sugary goodness,” he said instead, reaching for the door handle.
Lydia sat on her bed, different size papers spread out in front of her. She was pretty sure it was early afternoon, but honestly Lydia wasn’t sure. She hadn’t gone to school that day, really she hadn’t left her room much of the day, so time wasn’t relevant at the moment. Not until she figured this out. Lydia touched the print out of the institution Barrow was at, the same print out Stiles had in his room. Her hand glossed over the picture and she worried her lip between her teeth.
Stiles was supposed to be there...he had somehow reached out to her and she’d failed him. She hadn’t been able to find him and she needed to know why. She needed to know what the noises in her head were. The sound of machines were finally gone, but every once in a while she heard voices, whispering that she couldn’t quite make out.
But one thing that came through clear whether she was awake or sleeping was the riddle. The damn riddle just kept repeating itself in her head. She didn’t understand, but it had to be important didn’t it or why would she keep hearing it? Everyone has it, but no one can lose it, the voice reverberated through Lydia’s head and she closed her eyes. “Stop,” she whispered. “Stop,” this time her voice was louder.
Lydia pushed herself up from the bed knocking the papers out of order, some of them crumpling to the floor as she gripped both sides of her head begging the sounds to go away again. It sounded like dozens of people whispering, but she couldn’t understand it. It was just noise...everything but the riddle.
She walked over to the stereo in her bedroom and flicked it on. The music began softly, but Lydia quickly turned it up trying to drown out the sounds in her head. It wasn’t working. She cranked it up until the she could feel the base in her bedroom, the song carrying through her the room.
Lydia shut her eyes again, a tear sliding down her cheek as she gripped the sides of her head again. It didn’t happen all the time and it usually only lasted for a few unbearable minutes, but it kept coming back and that had to mean something didn’t it? No...it couldn’t or she would have been right about Stiles. Lydia kneeled down near her bed, her bare legs biting into the carpet of her floor as the whispered voices overwhelmed her. She could feel it building in her throat again, the scream was coming, but she didn’t want to let it out. She couldn’t. Why is this happening to me, the thought disappeared inside her head as more tears slipped from her eyes.
He and Scott had spent the morning together and he was relieved when the rest of it had been relaxed and laid back. Like everything was normal even though things were far from normal. It was nice to pretend for awhile, though. He took his history test and considered skipping out on the rest of the day, but hadn’t. He’d told his dad he wanted to keep things as normal as possible, and he’d meant that. So he’d finished out the school day, served his detention for skipping the first four hours of the day, and then headed out to his jeep.
Lydia hadn’t been in school. That worried him because she rarely missed school. He knew how much getting her education meant to her, knew how damn smart she was. And she wouldn’t miss unless she was either very sick, very traumatized, or if something had happened.
He supposed that his vanishing act counted as something happening. When he knocked on the front door, Lydia’s mother greeted him with a small smile, apparently getting used to seeing him show up at the door to see Lydia by now. Don’t get too used to it, he thought gloomily, then forced the thought out of his head. He had to be calm and logical about everything because that was what Lydia was going to need.
He thanked her mom and made his way down the hall to her bedroom, grimacing at the loud music blaring from her room. He knocked loudly on her door, not even sure she was going to hear him over the music. He was going to have to remind her that listening to music that loud was really bad for her eardrums.
Lydia didn’t hear the door. All she heard was music and the incessant whispering of voices that made no sense in her head. She wanted them gone. Her hands slid around to the front of her face covering her eyes as she focused on breathing. Maybe if she calmed herself down they would go away.
Lydia squeezed her eyes shut, wincing every time something sounded too loud around her. A bang in the song, the thump of her textbook that had apparently just fallen beside her. The urge was back again. She didn’t want to do it, she didn’t want to scream...something wasn’t right, but her mouth opened as her hands went to her ears, a loud cry sounding from her throat.
When she didn’t answer, Stiles hesitantly turned the door handle in time to see her covering her ears, her eyes closed tightly. Tears were rolling down her cheeks even as she cried out and for a moment, he felt like his heart had stopped. This was definitely not good. He quickly closed the door behind him and moved to her side, kneeling down in front of her and grasping her shoulders.
“Lydia. Hey, hey, look at me,” he urged, not even sure she could hear him over whatever else she was hearing and the loud music that was still blaring from the stereo. His eyes were wide as he tried to get her attention focused on him.
Lydia sucked in a sharp breath. It took her a minute to realize there were hands on her shoulders. Her eyes fluttered open and confusion settled onto her features when she spotted Stiles kneeling in front of her. Was she dreaming? No...that wasn’t right. Lydia reached out hesitating before resting her hand on his arm. He was definitely there and it was then she realized the voices were gone, for the moment anyway.
Relief crossed her face and she let her body relax as she pulled Stiles into a hug wrapping her arms around him. She didn’t say anything or bother to turn down the music just yet. Stiles was okay, he was out of the hospital, the voices were gone and she was okay. Everything was okay.
Stiles was a little caught off guard by the hug, but he didn’t resist or try to pull away. He wound his arms around her, too, closing his eyes and burying his face against her hair. He didn’t know what was going on right then, but she definitely seemed like she was relieved to see him. Though if she had been looking for him the night before, the relief made sense.
Stiles pulled away after a long moment, looking at her with worried eyes. She was more upset than he’d seen her in a long time and it bothered him to think it was because of him. He gave her shoulders a gentle squeeze before moving to her stereo and turning it down low enough that they could hear each other talk, but still hear the music, too. He moved back to sit beside her on the floor. “What’s going on?” he asked quietly.
Lydia opened her mouth, but shook her head, “Nothing.” She said her voice hoarse most likely from a mixture of crying and screaming. That was the second one in two days and Lydia wasn’t sure what that meant. She sent Stiles a sideways glance, her red-rimmed eyes taking him in. “Scott said the doctors were keeping you for some tests. I’m glad everything’s okay though,” Lydia responded quietly.
Stiles felt his stomach twist at her words and he looked down at his hands for a moment, and then looked back at her. “I talked to Scott. He told me about what happened. At least, some of it. Can you fill me in on the rest? I feel like I’m missing pieces of the puzzle.” And right now she was his best shot at figuring things out.
Lydia frowned, “What did Scott tell you?” She asked as she pushed herself up off the floor, grabbing some of the papers that had fallen and wiping off her skirt.
He watched her gather some things and climb to her feet. “He told me that you heard me asking to come find me. That you and Aiden showed up at my room to look for clues.” Which of course meant that not only had Aiden -- whom he loathed -- been in his house, but he’d gotten an up close and personal look at Stiles’ walls of weird and unsolved mysteries. It made him uneasy but he wasn’t going to say anything about it. “And that you thought I was in the basement of the asylum where they were keeping Barrow.”
Lydia pursed her lips and nodded. “I was...there were voices talking and when I touched the string that lead to the picture of the asylum on your wall...I knew you were there.” She paused, “Or I thought you were. I was so sure, but then you weren’t and-” her throat closed up and she turned away from him focusing on putting all the papers together in a pile. “But Scott’s mom and dad found you thank god.” She said quietly still not sure how she’d gone so wrong in trying to find him.
The whole ride back to Stiles house after the asylum Aiden was telling her it was fine and it wasn’t a big deal, but it was to her. Stiles had needed her, the one person who always believed in her had needed her help and she completely let him down. He could have died. Lydia finally finished piling the papers together and she turned back to face Stiles who was still on the floor. “Scott called not long after to let me know they found you and I had Aiden drop me off at the hospital...but we couldn’t see you, they wouldn’t let us.” She explained.
“I don’t think you were wrong, Lydia,” Stiles murmured. “I think somehow I was in that basement. Not when you guys got there, but I think I’d been there.” He had no clue how he’d managed to sneak into a heavily guarded asylum without getting caught or noticed, but it wouldn’t have been the first time he’d done something of that caliber. Really that was an old habit at this point.
He rubbed a hand over his head, wincing as it began to throb again, the way it had when he’d been talking to Scott about the same subject. He drew in a breath and exhaled slowly, looking up at her. “You can’t give up on yourself like that.”
Lydia arched an eyebrow at him, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said quickly as she watched him. “Is your head hurting?” She asked changing the subject noticing how he winced. The frown was back on her face. “You don’t look alright.” She commented as she sat on her bed.
Truthfully, he felt ready for a nap. Stiles looked up at her. “It’s fine. Just a headache.” He shrugged, wincing at her words. You don’t look alright. No, he guessed he probably didn’t. “I’m still kind of worn out.” But he wasn’t going to let her get by with her 'I don’t know what you’re talking about' comment. He hoisted himself off the floor and sat down beside her.
“You do know what I’m talking about. Scott said you avoided him after everything and then you didn’t come to school today.”
Lydia studied Stiles for a minute before looking away from him. “He didn’t believe me.” She said finally. “He might not have said it, but after,” she hesitated, “after you weren’t in the basement, I guess I can’t blame him.” Lydia played with a string on her comforter. “And Aiden wasn’t much help.” She admitted. He hadn’t wanted to go back to Stiles’ house, but she insisted. If it had been her Stiles wouldn’t have given up until he found her. She was quiet for a minute, “I’m sorry,” she said softly.
Stiles let out a breath, looking down at the floor, thinking for a long moment. “Lydia, I can’t put my finger on it yet, but I’m working on figuring it out. I don’t think you were wrong,” he said again, turning his head to look at her. “There’s something…” He shut his eyes. “You remember the message on the chalkboard, right? In the chemistry room?”
“Yeah, the numbers, we figured out it spelled Kira by using the abbreviations from the periodic table.” Lydia said matter-of-factly, “You think that has something to do with the sleepwalking?” She asked trying to follow his train of thought.
“Something like that,” he murmured. “Because I’m pretty sure that I was the one who wrote it in the first place. It was my handwriting.” He swallowed hard, waiting for her reaction. “And I don’t remember a damn thing about it.”
“You think you wrote the message that sent Barrow after Kira?” Lydia asked making sure she’d heard him right and when he inclined his head she took that in and sent him a thoughtful look. “Why? What would be your motivation to write that even if you did it while sleepwalking?” She asked still not understanding why Stiles thought he’d do something like that, but not saying it didn’t happen because if anyone knew about doing things without remembering or without being in control it was Lydia.
“I’m almost 100 percent sure that I wrote it,” he whispered. “And I don’t know why. But I had a key to the chemistry lab, Lydia.” He looked at her, eyes troubled. “I have no idea why I sent Barrow after Kira, but it was me. I feel it all the way down to my bones.” He rubbed his hands over his face tiredly. “And that’s why I think I was in the basement of that asylum like you believed I was. Because it fits. I mean, I’m still not seeing the whole puzzle, but it’s another piece to it.”
Lydia could see the struggle on his face and she reached over to the pile of papers. “I’ve been doing some research into Barrow,” she admitted. “I heard you ask me to find you that night,” Lydia said softly, “And the voices haven’t stopped,” she admitted, “It’s weird. I think it’s connected to Barrow and you I guess.” Honestly Lydia wasn’t sure.
“It’s hard to explain and then when you were in the hospital there was this loud clanging noise and it wouldn’t go away. It lasted for about forty-five minutes and I couldn’t figure out what it meant or why it was happening and I don’t know,” she said in a rush of words. “If you think you’re doing this...I believe you. We can look into Barrow, maybe retrace your steps from what you told Scott on the phone,” she suggested. “There has to be a reason the voices haven’t stopped...right?”
Clanging noise. That sounded an awful lot like… “Lydia, the clanging noise that lasted for forty five minutes. Did it sound -- like metallic plates shifting around?” He swallowed hard, a new thought dawning on him, and frankly he didn’t like it any more than he liked the other one. “And the voices. You’re still hearing them? Can you hear what they’re saying?”
Surprise crossed her face, “Yeah, sort of.” She tilted her head not sure she liked the look on his face. “I was hearing them right before you got here. I tried drowning the voices out with music, but nothing. I can only hear one of them.” Her brows drew together and she took a deep breath. “It’s a riddle...the voice says ‘everyone has one, but no one can lose it.’ It just keeps getting repeated like I’m supposed to know what to do with that.” She said with a roll of her eyes.
“It’s ridiculous, but I feel like it’s connected somehow, but how am I supposed to trust what I’m hearing when every time I have a feeling I’m wrong?” She asked throwing her hands up in the air.
Stiles rose to his feet and drew in a breath, letting it out slowly. “The metallic clanging that you heard. Was it at like, 6:30 last night?” he asked, turning to look at her with arched eyebrows. He knew he was asking a lot of questions, but that was just how Stiles worked when he started putting things together.
“I-I don’t know. Maybe...yes, I think so. I wasn’t looking at the clock. I was in my car and,” Lydia hesitated, “I screamed.” She whispered.
Well, that definitely wasn’t good. He shut his eyes, leaning against her desk. He thought about the other part that she’d said. The riddle. Everyone has one, but no one can lose it. Why did that feel so familiar? What was the answer? What did everyone have that no one could lose? His eyebrows furrowed as he wracked his brain. For some reason he had a feeling that the answer was more important than the fact that Lydia had apparently been hearing the MRI machine in her head last night.
“Stiles, what’s going on?” Lydia demanded though her voice was more shaky than angry. He was asking a ton of questions, which typically meant he had some kind of idea or thought about what was going on and he needed to share it with her. They were a team lately and they worked better that way.
“The uh -- the metallic part. I had an MRI last night,” he said quietly, not looking at her. “Right about the time you were hearing the metallic sounds. I don’t know if you’ve ever had one done, but uh, they’re really loud. And these metallic plates apparently slide against each other inside of it.” He rubbed a hand over his face, trying to smile but not quite managing it. It was strained, at best.
Lydia arched an eyebrow, “But why would I be hearing your MRI? That doesn’t make any sense. That’s-” Lydia stopped talking, “Why were they doing an MRI? I thought, I mean is it because of the sleepwalking?” She asked, but as she said the words she felt the familiar feeling of anxiety creeping up inside of her.
Stiles swallowed hard, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. “That factors in, yeah,” he said softly. “Also the insomnia, the hallucinations, the blackouts, and the irritability and impulsiveness.” He was quiet for a moment. “My dad thought it might be a good idea because of uh...family history.” He folded his arms across his chest, staring down at the floor.
Lydia was silent. It took her a minute to categorize the symptoms in her head. Individually she supposed they weren’t so bad, but together...together it could be a lot of things and none of them were really good. “What family history?” She asked her voice soft, one of her hands curling into a fist at her side. She shifted her hand behind her body as she waited for his response suddenly feeling sick.
Stiles looked down at his hands for a long time. “Frontotemporal dementia,” he said softly. “My mother had it. It’s uh -- it’s the only kind of dementia teenagers can get.” He looked up at her once more, his chest tight as he watched her digest that information.
It took everything in Lydia to keep her expression neutral. Her chest was tightening more and more by the second and she felt unsteady. Just because teenagers could get it that didn’t mean Stiles had it. But one look at his face confirmed exactly that. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. When she tried again her words were useless, “Did you get the results back?” She asked not able to hide the slight quiver of her voice. This was not happening. It couldn’t be happening.
Lydia pressed a hand to the mattress behind her and sat down. Her legs felt weak, like they couldn’t support her. She couldn’t lose Stiles.
Stiles shut his eyes for a moment, nodding. “Yeah, we got the results,” he said quietly. When he opened his eyes again, they were full of guilt. Regret. He knew it wouldn’t take her long to realize why she’d screamed at the same time. To draw the same conclusion he already had. He chewed his lower lip and pushed away from the desk, moving to perch beside her on the edge of her bed.
Lydia felt the bed dip with Stiles’ weight and before she could even say anything a soft sob broke from her throat. She lifted her hand to cover her mouth and turned quickly keeping her back to Stiles. She had screamed for him. Stiles was sick. He was…dying and it wasn’t something she could change or fix with extra time. Then why had screamed to begin with? Why warn her about something she can’t change? To give you time, a voice in the back of her head said.
Silent tears streamed down her cheeks, shoulders shaking as she cried quietly. Her expression was pained as her heart clenched inside her chest. This isn’t happening. Lydia repeated the words over and over again in her head as she squeezed her eyes shut, though that didn’t stop the tears.
Stiles swallowed hard, not having anticipated that kind of reaction from Lydia Martin of all people. “Hey,” he whispered, reaching out and resting a hesitant hand on her back. “Lydia, hey." When she didn’t respond and her shoulders shook, he felt sick. He shifted on the bed, wrapping his arms around her from behind and pulling her against him, resting his forehead against the back of her neck.
“Listen,” he whispered. “It’s gonna be okay. Everything’s gonna be alright.” He rocked her gently. “I know it might not seem like it right now, but it will be. You’re gonna have to trust me on that.”
Stiles words just made Lydia cry harder. She couldn’t help it. The past few days had been hard and now this...She never said it, but Stiles was her rock. He had been ever since Jackson left. He’d somehow managed to worm his way into her world and her heart and a small part of her hated him for it. Lydia hated him for making her care, for making her rely on him and need him. A lump formed in her throat.
And even though that small part of her hated him...it wasn’t really hate. It was something more complicated. Something she didn’t know how to admit. Something she wasn’t ready to admit. Not now...maybe not ever. Lydia felt Stiles’ arm tighten around her and her tears continued flowing down her cheeks. “It’s not,” she said between tears, “It won’t be, stop lying.” She demanded though the only thing in her tone was sadness.
Stiles shut his eyes tightly. Yeah, he really hadn’t been prepared for this kind of response from her at all. He figured she’d be kind of sad, maybe inquire about possible treatment options, and express her sympathies. He didn’t know what to say to this kind of reaction. Didn’t know what to do. So he fell silent, just holding her close. He knew what it was like to lose people that he loved, people that he cared about. It always hurt. He still missed his mother as much as he’d been missing her since he was eight.
He still felt guilty and grieved for Erica and Boyd and Heather, even though the first two hadn’t really counted him among their list of friends. He and Lydia had gotten closer the last several months, and maybe he should have figured she’d take the news a little harder than he normally would have anticipated. “Lydia,” he whispered. “We’ll get things figured out. We have time.” Granted, not a lot of it. But time nonetheless.
A new emotion blossomed in Lydia’s chest. Guilt. Here he was attempting to comfort her when he was the one who was...she couldn’t bring herself to finish the thought. “How much time?” She asked her voice barely a whisper as she sniffled, her tears slowing, but not stopping.
“Probably three years at least,” he said, forcing his voice to sound more positive about that then he actually felt. “So don’t worry. I’m gonna be around to bug you for awhile still,” he teased.
Lydia didn’t laugh. She was silent for several minutes, still not facing him. She moistened her lips, “Do you remember the night I came to your house before I knew what was going on with everything. I was upset about Jackson and I wanted you to take me to him...Do you remember that?”
Stiles blinked a couple of times, thrown by her question. He tried to figure out where she was going with that question, because of course he remembered that night. How could he forget that night? “Yeah. I remember,” he said softly.
Lydia covered one of his hands with hers. “Do you remember what you told me?” She asked the tears back in her eyes, “Why you didn’t want to get me involved?” She asked her voice just as quiet as his.
Oh. His heart sank a little and he shut his eyes for a moment. “Yeah. Because you didn’t care if you got hurt or not. That death doesn’t happen to you, it happens to the people around you.” His shoulders slumped.
Lydia swallowed hard, “Not that,” she whispered. “You told me...you said ‘if you...die, I will literally go out of my freaking mind.’” Lydia closed her eyes. “I get it now. I didn’t then, I do now.” Lydia swallowed heavily, “Stiles...we’re going to find a way to fix this. I don’t care what doctors say. We’ll talk to Scott...or Derek. They can fix this,” she said quietly as possible solutions ran through her head. Lydia didn’t need to ask about medical procedures. She knew what Frontotemporal dementia was. There were no cures, that was evident by his Mother’s death.
Stiles was surprised that she remembered his words considering how crazy that entire night had been. First with the lacrosse game and Jackson appearing to drop dead, and then Gerard had kidnapped him and Erica and Boyd, and then Gerard had released him so he could be a message to Scott. Then Jackson had miraculously come back to life and...the whole thing made his own brain spin, really.
He drew in a breath and nodded slightly, exhaling slowly. “I’m not giving up,” he assured her softly.
Lydia nodded. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She did it two more times and then broke the silence in the room. “So we’re looking into Barrow then?” She asked her voice strained, but steady.
“We’re looking into Barrow,” he agreed, reluctantly letting go of her.
Lydia finally shifted back around so she was facing him, her eyes red and watery, lingering tear stains on her cheeks as she met Stiles’ gaze. “Okay, I can show you the information I’ve got so far,” Lydia suggested.
Stiles felt his insides twist at the sight of her tears. He still wasn’t sure that Scott wasn’t right -- that the whole Barrow thing wasn’t part of his illness rather than something else. But he wanted to know for sure. They had to get to the bottom of the truth one way or another. He just hoped they could figure it out quickly.