Stiles inherited his mother’s eyes, and her smile, and her antidepressants, the same ones she took handfuls of the night that she died.
For as long as he could remember, Stiles’ mother had seemed unhappy. She had good days, yes, but so many more were filled with screaming and crying and throwing things against the wall that shattered sharply during the night when Stiles should have been dreaming but was instead pressed against the door of his bedroom to listen to the echoing sounds of his parents’ arguing voices. In the morning when he was eating his cereal, Stiles would watch as his mother stared out the window, lost in thought, while his father silently placed two pills on her napkin beside her untouched plate of dry toast and fruit.
He still remembers when he was five and his father gave him a pill to help decrease a raging fever and said it would make him feel better. The next week when he was well and saw his mother taking her own pills with her orange juice he asked if she was sick and that was why she took them. He remembers how she stared at him for almost a minute before lunging forward and slapping him across the face. He remembers tears rolling down his cheeks as his father grabbed his wife by her arms, pulling her away even as she struggled and kicked and shrieked I’m not sick, I’m not sick, don’t, don’t you dare, I am not sick! That night Stiles heard his parents scream louder. They screamed his name. They screamed about wanting and not wanting, about unexpected and options not taken and words that Stiles would not understand until years later when he reflects and his eyes widen and he whispers Oh, in the darkness, Oh oh oh, it was all my fault wasn’t it? Oh.
For years his life is a symphony of slamming doors and the rattle of pill bottles and sad, sad sighs. Every night he goes to bed and his dad says I love you and his mom says Goodnight. When he is nine he goes with his mother to the drug store and they go to the register with a candy bar for Stiles and a prescription for his mom. As they walk to the car he can hear the bottle in her purse, like a toddler’s toy that brings no comfort. That night he wakes up to the sound of his father’s scream. But it is not a screech of anger like he is used to, it is a howl of pain and despair and Stiles finds him in the bathroom shaking his mother whose lips look blue and fingers look white. After they get back from the hospital the next day, his dad locks himself in his room and Stiles goes into the bathroom and finds his mother’s pill bottle in the corner under the sink cabinets. He shakes it, but it is silent.
Stiles kept that bottle. His father doesn’t know, but for a long time he kept it between his mattress, until he eventually moved it to the medicine cabinet in his bathroom, because it seemed appropriate.
For almost six months after his mother’s funeral, Stiles learns the new patterns and habits that make up the man who is his father. It is soothing in its simplicity, so easy to learn to live with. His father will not look at him sober. One glass of whiskey and he will sit next to him. Two and he’s stroking his hair. By the third glass he will look at Stiles and tell him how much he looks like his mother, looks just like her, God, it’s like she’s still there, and his voice shakes and cracks. Then he downs a fourth glass and starts crying and holding Stiles to his chest, stroking his hair and sobbing I hated her, I loved who she was and hated who she became, I hated her for not getting better. I hated her for staying and I hate her for dying. Stiles can feel his tears on his scalp, on his clothes. He says I hate her and Stiles looks just like her. He says Where did it all go wrong? and Stiles thinks he knows.
Sometimes Stiles lies awake in the middle of the night and everything is so very quiet that he feels his chest get tight, and his breathing grow shallow, and he feels like he might be dying. One night his choked wheezes wakes his father and he rushes his son to the hospital. He still doesn’t look at him. Stiles is told he was having a panic attack, and walks out with his first pill bottle, small and orange and rattling, with his own horrid name printed across the top of the label in all caps. Maybe he imagined it, but Stiles thinks his father looks disappointed.
For six months, this is their life, with the elder self-medicating with and the younger learning to swallow pills dry. Then Officer Stilinski is promoted to Sheriff Stilinski and the whiskey has time to gather a little dust and he learns to look his son in the eye again, and Stiles stops having attacks and his prescription remains half-full. For awhile, they think things might get better.
But when he is ten, Stiles gets his second orange bottle. His mother has been dead for a little over a year, but for the last two Stiles has been restless and unable to sleep and not eating and maybe when he talks he sometimes forgets to censor the things like wouldn’t it be better if I wasn’t here and I can’t do anything right and maybe sometimes he just can’t smile through the words. His father had hoped that he would get better, but he wasn’t. He still looks just like his mother, in so much more than appearance.
After they get home from the doctor, his father sits him down and for the first time talks to him about his mother, explains her depression and pills and suicide and all the things in Stiles’ blood and Stiles nods as if he hadn’t already googled every word on his mother’s prescription bottle years ago, followed each link down a rabbit hole of facts, right down to the symptoms he knew he had.
And so every morning he walks downstairs, and his father silently places two pills on his napkin next to his plate of eggs that he eats every bite of while stubbornly ignoring the view out the window. He does not want to be a reflection.
In sixth grade, he meets Scott McCall, new to the area after moving in with his mom after what seems to be a messy divorce. Scott has no friends here, and neither does Stiles even though he’s lived in Beacon Hills his whole life. During lunch, Scott sees him sitting alone and sits next to him. Stiles is so excited he talks without thinking, chatters on for what must be the entirety of the lunch period barely breathing, about the town and the people and the places and everything but himself. When the bell rings, Scott looks a little overwhelmed and Stiles wants to cry because obviously he has screwed up another chance at a friend. But the next day, Scott sits next to him again and says You’re right, Jackson is a jerk and they laugh and this time when Stiles talks Scott keeps up and they leave the lunch room smiling. Stiles feels a spark of happiness in a place he didn’t know about, and he thinks this might be better than meds. And yet seven months later he is saddled with more.
Stiles is twelve now, and is given a shiny new diagnosis all his own. ADHD, not from his father or his mother, a disorder he can call his own. He is given more pills to compliment the ones he has, to dilute his blood and make him closer to right. Sheriff Stilinski doesn’t place them on his son’s napkin in the morning anymore. Stiles keeps the orange bottles lined up on the highest shelf of his bathroom cabinet, Antianxiety and Adderall and Antidepressants with his name and Antidepressants with his mother’s. He runs his fingers across them and swallows them one by one every single morning and if maybe sometimes an extra or two or three finds its way into his system, he figures he’s broken enough to warrant it.
Sometimes he just looks at them and thinks maybe these will make everything okay. He stares and thinks that maybe if he can just take enough pills everything will be better but then he remembers that his mom thought the same thing and he thinks maybe he is more like her than he thought and he wants to cry but he doesn’t so he just takes his meds and leaves.
When the whole werewolf thing starts Stiles has to take a moment and just blink because he honestly believes that he finally overdosed and this hallucination is his punishment. But it goes on and on and more and more people are involved and no one comes to burst his little bubble of supernatural so he rolls with it. Scott knows about the Adderall, but that is all. Stiles couldn’t bring himself to tell him the other half of his prescription, too afraid or ashamed or some other unnamable emotion. He mentally adds adrenalin to his list of drugs because when Scott tries to kill him he can feel it pumping through his veins. He can practically taste it. Derek gives him a shot of it every time he shoves him against a wall or threatens him or wolfs out. Stiles had just parked outside the Hale mansion when he thinks to himself Adrenalin drug rush, don’t even need a needle. No pills for this one. Does this make Derek my dealer? and he spends almost three minutes laughing in his car, though he’s not sure why. When he finally schools his features and exits the jeep, Derek is standing on the porch, staring at him with a curious expression on his face. But he doesn’t say anything about it, only asks what Stiles has managed to find about the alpha. By the end, Derek hasn’t even touched Stiles, and the human drives away strangely disappointed.
Because Stiles stumbles through the year fully expecting to die. He is only human, and he is surrounded by things stronger and faster and better, so much better than him trying to kill him. And that might be okay, he thinks, because aren’t the broken supposed to be made whole in Heaven? Or maybe he’s too broken to go somewhere perfect and all his pieces are destined to burn. Either way, he figures he will throw himself into danger and if he dies it will be over and if not he can still have his Adrenalin consolation prize.
However, life continues, and for awhile Stiles is so busy trying to keep everyone else alive that he actually stops thinking about it, focused solely on this strange, bloody mission. He watches Jackson sweat with fear, and sees Lydia fall to the ground half torn apart, and looks into Peter Hale’s glowing red eyes and he doesn’t spare it any thought. It’s not until the alpha is walking away from him that he remembers.
You’re not going to kill me?
Because dammit when was this going to stop? He felt like he has been trapped on a carousel of drugs and despair since the day he was born and he wanted off.
Yet Peter doesn’t kill him. Doesn’t even offer it. He offers the bite. And for a second, Stiles considers it. He had never thought of it before, but it cured Scott of his asthma, didn’t it? Maybe it could cure him. Maybe the venom could eat his disease and he would finally be better.
But Stiles doesn’t believe that, not really. Deep in his bones he fully believes that nothing can fix him, not pills, not the bite, maybe not even death. But that’s all he has left and becoming a werewolf will only make him harder to kill.
So he pulls away.
And then it is all over. Derek kills his uncle and becomes the new alpha, the hunters draw up a peace treaty, Jackson and Lydia join the pack, and Allison and Scott are as happy as ever and all hunters and werewolves seem happy. Meanwhile little human Stiles tags along when he can because people, friends, seem to make him feel better or distract him or something that he doesn’t want to lose. He does his best, researching and trying to help wherever he can in rebuilding the Hale house, but he can’t help but see the stark differences between himself and the pack and feel his own inferiority in comparison.
If Stiles is honest, he is tired. So, so tired. To his bones exhausted. He is running out of energy to talk and smile and fight to catch up, to not be left behind. He is tired of carrying one disease that makes him want to sleep and another that keeps him awake. He’s tired of feeling so wired, so torn, so anxious and restless and so very, very unhappy. He is just tired.
So when his father leaves town for six days to visit an old cousin who got in an accident and needs help watching their kids, Stiles goes into his room and turns off his phone and take out all four pill bottles from his cabinet. Antianxiety, thirteen pills left. Addrall, twenty-two. Antidepressants, twenty-two. His mother’s prescription stays stubbornly silent even when he drops it beside him on his bedspread. He plays with each bottle in turn, twisting and flipping it in his hands, memorizing every sound each one makes. He sits on his bed for thirty-two hours before he hears his window slide open. Stiles is holding all four prescriptions loosely in his hands trying to decide, if he takes one at a time will he pass out before he finishes?
Derek stands before him, looking equal parts worried, surprised, and awkward, all wrapped up beneath his usual scowl in a vain attempt to make Stiles think he’s angry.
“Why haven’t you been answering your phone? The others were getting worried.”
Stiles wonders if Derek was worried too and just doesn’t want to say it, or if he really didn’t care. The alpha steps forward, leaning slightly to look into Stiles’ hands. For a moment, he seems to debate what to say. Finally, he grunts and settles back on his heels, hands deep in his pockets. “I always thought you smelled like medicine.”
Stiles tilts his head up just slightly. ”Do I smell sick?”
Even as the words leave his mouth, Stiles realizes that that is what separates him from his mother, more than anything else. Because while she screamed I’m not sick!, Stiles has always silently accepted his sickness, gone quietly about his way without even attempting to deny it.
He starts a bit when Derek sits next to him. The older man gently takes the bottles from his hands, turning each one to read the labels. He stills when he reaches the only empty one, thumb tracing over the name. Eventually, he sets them all down in a line on Stiles’ bedside table and hesitantly put his arm around Stiles’ shoulders. Derek looks away when he finally speaks. “No.” He says gruffly, honestly. “You’re just fine.”
Stiles nods. He doesn’t believe him, not at all. But he feels a little better. And he feels even better when Derek faces him and, on impulse, kisses Stiles full on the lips. It is short, and Derek immediately turns away, neck slightly pink, as soon as they separate, but it still makes Stiles feel warm in a place he had forgotten about. So they don’t say anything. Derek just stays and lets Stiles lean against him, and Stiles lets Derek be his drug for just a little bit longer.