It’s in one of his fits of grief that Stiles finds it. He’s uneasy and more restless than usual, on the verge of panic for no reason, but he knows better. He knows this feeling, the hole inside of him that will never get filled, the missing piece, but still, trying to calm his nerves, he goes rummaging, looking.
He’s at the back of his closet, the rest of his room a complete mess of boxes and papers and clothes and things Stiles had forgotten he owned. He’ll clean it in another of his manic moods, he knows, so he’s not worried. Stiles digs through the bags piled at the back, the ones he’s forgotten all about, but maybe – maybe in one of these, there’s something he hasn’t found before, a piece of his mother, a memory he hasn’t cherished in a long time, something to stop the itching under his skin that makes him wish he could crawl out of himself, or do something to forget. Oh, and wouldn’t being a werewolf be handy now, he thinks resentfully and stops himself immediately because it isn’t their fault. This is regular old human pain that can’t be fixed with the supernatural.
But he lets himself pretend for a spinning moment as he tears at the black garbage bag and plushies of all things come spilling out. Unstoppable laughter bubbles out of him and he tosses them all up, like a rain of soft fluffy toys. He falls back, some of the energy expended, but still not gone. But he can rest as he reaches for the soft toy that landed in the crook of his elbow. It’s a little black wolf. Stiles looks at it for a long time, trying to discern why his uneasiness hasn’t left but shifted instead (hah!) until it clicks.
The memory is clear as day in that moment, all that pain, also, too fresh and reopening wounds that had since become scabs, but Stiles doesn’t focus on the pain, tries to focus around it. He sees himself at the bowling alley, miserable, heartbroken; his father with tired lines on his face pretending like everything’s ok when they both know it isn’t, smiling for his benefit. Stiles’ first birthday without his mother.
Scott and his mother are there, too, as are a few of the other kids their age, but they’re a constant, or a blur and they’re not what Stiles focuses on. It’s the other boy, the one Stiles definitely doesn’t know, and definitely doesn’t want there. He knows the boy’s mother, though, had seen her with his when she was still there, and this boy, older, too, still has his mother, and Stiles doesn’t have his, and he wants him gone. He tells him as much when he walks up to Stiles, and unlike everyone else, who’d been so gentle with him (which was not okay, they couldn’t be gentle with him, not when his mother couldn’t any more, not when she wouldn’t ever again and he didn’t want it), the boy practically growls that he doesn’t want to be there either and unceremoniously thrusts the black wolf at him before walking back to his mom, then proceeding to glare at Stiles while Stiles’ dad looks at him with broken eyes. Stiles tosses the wolf into the pile of unopened presents and uses the newfound rage to clear the pins the next time he throws a ball down the lane as hard as he can.
Stiles is holding the wolf now, staring at it as some of the manic laughter from before threatens to come out again, only to be turned into painful, stinging tears that he can’t stop from falling. But the itch under his skin begins to dissolve and Stiles is thankful for small mercies as he clings the little black wolf to his chest, curling in on himself. He cries for himself (self-pity, his other best friend), for his mother, for his father, and for Derek, who did lose his mother one day, but also his father, his sister, and his entire family. Stiles’ heart breaks for him because Stiles his has his dad, but Derek has no one. And maybe if they were still young, Stiles could give Derek the wolf back, and he wouldn’t feel the need to natter on and on, or goad him, and maybe they could get along and Stiles could stop taking Adderall, and wolves could stop howling and Derek could stop wearing black and leather. Fat chance.
He lets the tears fall until they don’t anymore, and he can get himself back up to take in the state of his room with a clear mind, only to scoop everything up and shove it into the closet. He’ll clean it up later. He looks at the wolf, which is not in the closet and picks it up, hugging it one more time, then he goes to put it on his bed (under his pillow, where no one will ever find it, ever, obviously), he realizes he never named it. Stiles loves naming things, used to do it all the time, then stopped when his mother died, because she had a name and it hurt more that way, but somehow, with this wolf, it seems necessary.
“And I shall call you Sourwolf and you shall be mine and you shall be my squishy,” Stiles says to the wolf then shakes his head at how stupid he sounds even to himself, but it’s done.
He puts Sourwolf under his pillow, and although it can’t fill the empty hole in his chest, it did a good job of shielding Stiles from the worst of it this time, and that’s more than Stiles could ask for, really. And maybe next time Derek sneaks in through his window Stiles won’t snark at him as much. Maybe.