Stiles wakes up and knows that the shapeshifter has him. And he knows that whatever is about to happen will be extremely unpleasant. The shapeshifter has already pretended to be people Stiles cares about, just to get at him. It’s going to be so much worse now that Stiles is at its mercy.
The thing takes Peter’s face first. Stiles still has nightmares about him, about watching him burn, about watching him savage Lydia, about his hands on Stiles’s skin. So watching Peter’s eyes go red as he stares at him is fucking terrifying. Peter — the thing pretending to be Peter — smiles that same creepy little smile and trails his fingers along Stiles’s cheek.
“This is going to be fun,” he — it — purrs, and Stiles closes his eyes.
Peter, Scott, Derek for a long while, Allison, Kate Argent, Chris Argent, Lydia screaming and screaming and screaming, his father—
On and on and on and on.
Stiles is in and out of consciousness, nearly blind with pain and grief and the sour noose of surrender. When Derek busts down the door and charges in, Stiles just thinks, Oh, I guess it’s repeating again.
His father’s face is its favorite, as is Scott’s. Derek is almost its default, and Stiles doesn’t think anything about it until it drops to its knees in front of him and whines. Stiles blinks, thinks, Huh, that’s new, and then watches as the shapeshifter cuts through the ropes holding him in place. He falls limp like a mannequin and just lays there as not-Derek runs his hands everywhere, as if he’s searching for the damage he inflicted.
“Stiles, you’re going to be okay,” not-Derek growls like an order.
I’m really not, Stiles thinks. He snorts weakly to convey his disdain and it turns into a whimper of pain. Not-Derek’s hands tighten into fists until his own claws slice through his skin.
“Hale!” his father’s voice shouts. “Is he here? Did you find—”
Then his father — or something that looks like his father — is there, standing by the broken door and staring. He — it? — looks like his heart has been torn from his body. Stiles moves, just a little. A slight twitch towards his father. He doesn’t know if his dad is actually his dad, or if Derek is Derek, but he also doesn’t want to see his father hurt.
The shapeshifter could hurt his father like he’s hurt Stiles.
“Call an ambulance!” his father shouts back, towards people Stiles can’t see. Not-Derek — Derek? — doesn’t step away when the sheriff approaches the chair; he makes Stiles’s father edge around him, and that vaguely pisses Stiles off. He’d be upset about it if he had the energy. If he wasn’t in pain.
“Stiles, Stiles, you’re gonna be okay,” his father tells him, and Stiles doesn’t have to be a werewolf to know that it’s a lie.
He’s not going to be okay.
Stiles wakes up in the hospital and sees his dad’s face, and it’s like being found and rescued never happened — he screams until the nurses sedate him.
“Who did it look like?” Derek asks him later, after Stiles has successfully not had a panic attack in his presence.
His throat is sore, and the doctor told him that he shouldn’t talk, but Stiles carefully looks at his bandaged and ruined knees and croaks, “Everyone.”
Derek growls, and then the hospital staff makes him leave because Stiles starts hyperventilating again.
Scott comes and goes, Allison in tow. Lydia visits, and Stiles is so relieved that she’s okay that he doesn’t manage to have a panic attack — which is ruined when Jackson looks around the corner and he does anyway.
His dad though — it doesn’t matter how many times he reminds himself that they killed it, the shapeshifter is dead, he can’t hurt him again or pretend to be anyone else — no matter how many times he reminds himself, he still can’t look at his own father’s face without...remembering.
belt in hand angry face uniform disappointment can’t believe you're my son can’t even get on first line nothing like your mother hard hands and harder blows and the moment when he broke and whispered, Please, Dad, don’t hurt me.
After three long weeks in the hospital — and it never lasts this long on TV, but there you go — the doctors finally agree that he’s as patched together as he can get. They release him to go home, but—
Stiles still can’t be in the same room as his father. The pain, the panic, the shame — it’s too much. His panic attacks hit him almost like seizures, it feels like, and after six tries, his dad gave up on sitting in his room. Stiles knows that he visited almost everyday, but he did it when Stiles was unconscious. And that hurts too, knowing that his new and exciting PTSD is causing his father so much pain.
But Stiles can’t live in his father’s house, and Derek doesn’t have a house, so when the hospital releases him, he stays with Lydia, who remains the only person who doesn’t make him breathless from fear. Plus, her mom is willing to give up the master bedroom so that Stiles can stay on the first floor, which is wheelchair accessible.
(There’s a way around the panic attacks, however, and Stiles is ashamed that Scott came up with it first: Everyday, once Lydia has taken him to his PT and he’s come back grumpy and sore and mournful for everything that’s changed about his life, he can log onto his Google account and chat with his father. Via text.
And not seeing his father’s face or hearing his voice makes all the difference.)
He can’t — he won’t — stay like this forever. Even if his knees are a lost cause, he can’t live in Lydia’s house for the rest of his life — or even the rest of high school.
He puts up pictures of his friends, of his family, around the Martin house, but that doesn’t help. Exposure helps; he doesn’t even flinch all that much when Derek comes to visit him. At least, not much more than he used to, anyway. It’s just his father that he has the most trouble with.
It’s the shame, he thinks. It’s mostly the shame. Even when the shapeshifter was hurting him, even when he was torturing him, no matter what face it took, he didn’t forget what it was. It wasn’t Peter, who was dead. It wasn’t Scott, who would never hurt him like that, even if he does lose his temper from time to time. It wasn’t Derek; raw rage is more Derek’s style. It wasn’t Allison or Kate or Argent Senior. It wasn’t Lydia—
But when it took his father’s shape and it hurt him, he forgot.
He explains this to Derek one night, slightly high on some pills from Lydia’s little orange bottles. He hadn’t asked questions when she shoved them at him, even though he knows he should be weary of medicating his problems away. Especially when the medication is prescribed for people named ‘Johnny Holmes’ and ‘Shirley Watson.’
“I—I let him, it, I let it win,” Stiles admits. “I can’t—I can’t look at my dad without remembering how I—I believed it was him, and then I remember what he—what it did, and I can’t breathe.”
“It’s not your fault,” Derek says. He doesn’t say it like he thinks Stiles will believe it. Which he doesn’t.
“If I hadn’t let it make me believe it was my dad, I wouldn’t—I would be—”
He trails off, staring at the picture of his dad’s face he taped to the lamp. It’s his Sheriff Picture, the formal portrait they made after he won that first election. Stiles stares at it, feeling the familiar panic twist in his gut. His dad would never hurt him, hadn’t even spanked him as a child, but all he can remember is his dad hitting him and hitting him and hitting him and—
“Stiles, you’re okay, you’re okay, you’re safe, it’s okay,” Derek says from a long way away. Stiles takes one deep breath, and then another, and then he forces himself to look away from the photograph and look at Derek instead. Derek, whose hands are hovering over him because Stiles no longer likes to be touched.
Especially by his friends.
He thinks it won’t get better, and for a while it doesn’t, but then it does. He has a conversation with his dad on the phone, and he doesn’t freak out. He lets Scott hug him, and he doesn’t recoil. He tries and fails out of a video chat with his dad three times before they get through one whole five minute conversation about his dad’s diet.
By the time Stiles has upgraded to a cane — he’ll never not limp, but with enough surgery, his knees were put almost to rights — he can sit on one side of a door while his dad sits on the other, and they can talk. He’s still at Lydia’s house, but he won’t be forever. His dad is already talking about converting the downstairs office into a bedroom, so he won’t have to attempt the stairs everyday.
He’ll go home.