Stiles learns to compartmentalize and prioritize about two weeks after his mom dies.
He’s only a kid, and he’s hurting too, so much oh God; but his dad has it so much worse than he does that he can't even stand it. With Mom gone, Dad just breaks, stops eating, sleeping, functioning—
--it’s like looking at a zombie from one of those movies that he’s not really supposed to be watching but does anyway, except his dad has a set routine.
It’s not healthy, not in the least, but Stiles isn’t really interested in losing the only other person he has left in the world. So he gathers himself up, dries his tears, neatly boxes himself away, and focuses on picking up after what's left of his family.
He ignores the hurt and concentrates on researching everything instead. He learns how to cook and clean, and he teaches himself to take care of someone else, to be a support system just like his mother had been.
He learns to hide away the alcohol --not that that ever stops anything; the man just goes out and buys twice the amount that Stiles destroys-- and he learns to notice when his dad starts to stare at his gun too long, and as soon as his dad doesn't need it for work, he hides that away too.
At the ripe old age of eleven, he learns to be a mature, responsible adult.
He meticulously rebuilds his world, one little piece at a time, until a picture starts to form from the broken shards of his life. He transforms everything from, 'Dad and Mom and me' to just, 'Dad and me,' and it's slow going, but Stiles works at it until finally-- months and months later-- everything is starting to move forward again.
Really, all that's left is for Dad to catch on and fall into place and the picture will be complete; but Stiles understands that it will take a while. He’s almost glad for it because he really isn’t ready to move on, but on the other hand, he can’t focus so much on it either.
He knows that the Mom shaped hole will always, always be there, tearing him up from the inside out and making him want to scream until it all goes away, but Stiles is choosing to ignore that until it blows up in his face. He chooses to lock it away until everything settles and he can have his turn, because someone has to and it's got to be him.
As it is, he's having a difficult enough time getting his Dad to cooperate. It wouldn't do to have both members of their family down for the count.
Stiles will deal, like he’s always done.
As it happens, it isn’t until almost a year later that he actually manages to start a grieving period.
Or rather, it starts itself, completely and totally against Stiles’ will.
He wakes up on her birthday and starts to prepare a breakfast of all her favorite things to take up to her like tradition, grumbling because dad should be up and helping him, and he isn’t getting any of the credit for this--
--only to realize that she’s not there.
His dad isn’t up and helping with their yearly ritual because the person whom it revolves--revolved--around, whom they’d revolved around--
That’s when the finality of it all occurs to him. His brain finally figures out that she’s never coming back and he’ll never have her warmth, or her laughter, or her screaming out his freakishly unpronounceable full name when he’s done something bad…
He ends up in the hospital that day, blank eyes staring at white washed walls as the nurses treat the cuts littering his body, fragments of ceramic cups and plates falling out of his hair and clothes with every breath.
And here’s the thing, it doesn’t change much, but it changes enough.
His father-- frantic and infuriated by turns-- finally snaps out of it a little, like watching his son go crazy and destroy every piece of dinnerware they had in a fit of grief fuelled rage was the slap that he’d always needed to kick-start his own healing. That isn’t to say that his dad stops drowning his sorrows in alcohol or that he actually starts to be productive at home, but he stops being dead on the inside and that’s enough of a start so that it’s only a matter of time before things start getting better.
It’s enough so that by the time they get back home, Stiles has mostly put himself back together, and he’s able to walk into the kitchen and start cleaning up.
If he’s still hurting on the inside, if all he wants to do is to close his eyes until he’s with his Mom, well, that’s okay. It’ll go away eventually, he’s sure, because that’s what the the books he’d borrowed from the library and the internet say and they haven’t led him wrong yet.
So he bucks up and soldiers on; and if his Dad barely asks about his episode, well, that’s okay too.
His dad is still worse off than he is and Stiles has always been better able to handle the things life throws at him, anyway.
It’s totally weird because Stiles is actually mostly okay. Like, don’t get him wrong, he misses his mom to the point where he can’t even breathe sometimes, but he’s got enough on his plate so that he can’t dwell on it like he probably should.
So, it’s completely odd that random strangers keep looking at him wherever he goes, eyes sad, and whispering about ‘the poor dear with the blank, broken eyes’ when they think he’s not listening.
What is that even supposed to mean, anyway?
Stiles can’t help but snort a little whenever he hears it because his eyes work just fine, thank you; it’s his heart that hurts.
The hysterical thing is that despite everything, despite turning into a less than stellar father, Stiles’ dad had always, always been a good cop, and he stays that way even after the tragedy.
(To this day, Stiles isn’t really sure whether he’s bitter or proud about that fact, although he usually tends to lean more towards the latter.)
As a result, Stiles takes to sometimes following his Dad-- covertly-- when the man goes out for investigations. Because if his being there saves the man’s life at some point, then Stiles is willing to lose sleep and whatever else it takes; because Dad is all he has left.
(He will do it years later too, when everything settles and things hurt a little less, because he’s an adrenaline junkie and it’s fun.)
No one knows this, not even Scott, but Stiles had started calling himself, well, Stiles because back when his dad had pretty much either worked or lived at the bottom of the bottle, he'd had a hard time pronouncing his own son’s name.
Then, every once in awhile, he’d realize that he wasn’t being what his son needed him to be (because what kind of a father can't say his son's name?) and try to change, just for a minute, before he’d remember that Stiles had been named by his mother and the cycle would just start all over again.
So Stiles, just 12 years old and still more understanding than he had any right to be, had decided to change his name because he’d figured that if he could make something hurt just a little less for his dad, he’d do it with a smile on his face.
His dad had never questioned him.
His dad had never corrected him.
The name had stuck.
Stiles had become Stiles and even after his father had started slowly backing away from his eleven month stint as a depressed alcoholic and had actually bothered to ask about it, Stiles had stayed Stiles.
He’s sort of ambivalent on the whole subject and on the rare occasion that someone actually asks about it, he’ll deflect with an over-dramatic but well placed, “What's in a name? That which we call a Stiles by any other name would be as awesome.” He’ll grin through the groans and the grumbles, and eventually, he’ll just walk away because he has better things to be doing.
Still though, sometimes, on those night when all he’s got are insomnia, research, and Adderall, he’ll step back and wonder--how would his mom feel about what he’d done?
The thing about Stiles is that he's used to hovering on the outer edge,used to being the social outcast because really, that's where he's always kept himself, first by choice, then by necessity. Although, his therapist and he had always disagreed about exactly what constituted as necessity versus choice.
(But that’s neither here nor there because in the end, it’s Stiles’ opinions that matter and the bastard can just go and jump off a freaking cliff...)
At first, he'd purposely stayed away because he may or may not have spent the first year or so after his mom’s death blaming himself for it, seeing himself as a sort of harbinger of death and despair. This had mostly been because every time his dad had looked at him, really looked at him, he’d always get so sad, eyes going liquidy and bright before he’d turn away.
(Stiles knows now, after being sat down by his dad and given a concise explanation, that that had been because he’d reminded his dad of his mom. But back then, he hadn’t really understood. He’d just stayed in everyone’s periphery so no one else would ever look at him like that again.)
Then, after things had settled into somewhat of a routine, he’d done it because being on the edge had made it easier to be there for his father whenever he needed it, and really, he hadn’t had the time between all the things he’d taken on around the house.
See? Necessity, followed by choice.
Either which way, though, when all other kids had been slotting themselves into a sort of social hierarchy, had been making friends and enemies and making a place for themselves, Stiles had been taking care of his dad, had been learning to manage cooking, cleaning, homework, studying, and running the house in general.
So when someone, anyone, would make a gesture of inclusion --invite him to the movies, invite him to a birthday party, invite him over to just hang out and play video games-- he’d always decline, and with the stupidest reasons at that because he’d seen what happens when he lets it slip that he’s basically trained himself into adulthood.
He’d never wanted to see his dad not defending himself as some irate outsider flips out all over him for being a bad parent--even though they don’t know what they’re talking about, goddamn them--ever again, never wanted to see that sort of desperate guilt on his dad’s face again if he could avoid it.
So he wouldn’t say things like, “Oh, I’m sorry, I have to go home and run a weeks worth of laundry and get dinner ready before Dad gets home,” or, “I’m sorry...my dad is in particularly bad shape this week. I’m afraid that if I leave him alone for too long, he’ll do something bad.” Instead, because he’s a horrible, terrible liar and hadn’t learned to come up with a plausible excuse ahead of time yet, he’d say something like, “Ah. Naw. I have to go home and watch Animal Planet; they’re running a special on the healing properties of bat guano.”
Eventually, much sooner than he’d thought possible, people had just stopped asking. He’d become Stiles, that guy nobody wants to hang out with because he is weird, and a loser, and also, nobody knows who the hell he is.
Stiles isn’t so immature that he'd blame everyone for giving up on him too soon, for doing something that he'd not only condoned, but had also actively encouraged. But still, some days, he can't help but sit back and wonder what would've happened if someone had actually paid attention without being too quick to judge, someone other than Scott, anyway.
But on most other days, Stiles is okay just where he is, okay with where he had been; because he'd had his responsibilities, and again, he'd had Scott, who'd stubbornly stuck with him through thick, thin, and everything in between, who'd held him through the worst of his emotional explosions and had remained with him even though he'd seen the worst Stiles had to offer.
(And that right there is the main reason why, other than his good nature, that Stiles will always be on Scott’s side, because his best friend may be a slightly brain-dead puppy most of the time, but he’s got his heart in the right place. Also, he’s Stiles’ only friend, not that that means anything.)
Still though, more recently and at the cusp of highschool, Stiles has been wondering. What would it be like to be a part of something, a group? Would it make his life--
--a little less lonely?
The sad thing, and really, Stiles doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry, is that when his Dad finally pulls his head out of his ass, it’s not because of anything strange or life-altering.
It’s a normal Saturday morning, the day after Stiles turns 14, and all he’s trying to do is to make some sort of quasi-healthy breakfast before he has to run off to summer practice for lacrosse because he’d seen his dad’s reports from the doctor’s office and holy shit.
He’s just trying to finish making pancakes so that his dad can eat those instead of those stupid donuts (like hello, cop stereotype much?) and then drive his sorry butt up to the high school, when his dad says, “You’re a good kid, you know that?”
Stiles is busy panicking because he’s going to be late; he’s got flour smeared all over his face, and he’s really sort of confused, so it’s not his fault when all he can do in response is lift his head up from the stove and just go, “Huh?”
In return, Dad just looks sad, for reasons that Stiles doesn’t really understand but cause him to have a well contained panic attack anyway because it’s like, a Pavlovian reaction for him by now.
(Dad looks sad? Something bad is about to go down; prevent, prevent, prevent!)
“What?” he says, his voice squeaking slightly even as he surreptitiously looks around for things his dad could hurt really himself with before Stiles can stop him, and asks himself --for the millionth time-- why he’d agreed to join the stupid team when his dad had asked him to a month ago.
Dad’s speech hadn’t even been that impressive, to be honest. It had been mostly blah blah can’t just be at home all the time, blah blah blah, high school in the fall blah blah the time of your life (wait, had his dad really quoted a David Cook song there?) blah blah blah I want you to.
Actually, it’s probably that last bit that had done him in;because Stiles is a freaking sucker, damn his overly sentimental heart to hell, anyway. So of course, he'd agreed, thinking that everything will be fine, and of course, now he regrets it more than he's regretted a lot of things in his young life.
"Dad," he says shakily, feeling his blood pressure skyrocket as he immediately starts to expect the worst. “Is everything alright? I mean, are you feeling okay?"
Maybe it's because of those over-dramatic, frilly soap operas that he's addicted to against his will, but his mind is coming up with some really strange scenarios that are a strange mixture of One Life to Live, and every major fear that Stiles has ever had in his young life.
His mind's eye is conjuring pictures of his dad, hand curled around his gun, a hole through his head, a satisfied smile on his face now that he's told his precious son just how amazing he is. Or maybe, he’s just downed like, a bottle full of that sleep stuff (Zolpidem Tartrate, 10 mg. Brand Name: Ambien. Class: Anxiolytics, Sedatives, and Hypnotics. Maximum Dosage:10mg, taken 1 hour before bedtime. Potential for Abuse or Overdose: High.) that his therapist has been forcing down his throat and is about an hour away from literally sleeping to death.
Normally, Stiles would scoff at his overactive imagination, except--
--hasn't he been worried about something like this happening since his therapist had oh so helpfully informed him of the existence of suicide? How many all-nighters has he pulled in the past couple of years, running back and forth between his room and his dad's, taking comfort in the rise and fall of his father's chest?
It's the sound of his Dad's voice, sharp with worry, that snaps him out of his morbid reverie.
"What?" he manages to choke out through his freak out. "Is everything okay?"
He waits with bated breath, waiting for everything to explode around him, waiting for his world to fall apart all over again.
--it turns out that he didn't have to have freaked because for the first time in three years, his dad looks determined, like he isn't just a husk formerly known as Stiles' dad.
"Yeah kid," he says, voice gruff as he gets up and starts to slowly walk around the counter. "It's about time, but everything is okay."
Ok....everything is ok. Those are the words Stiles has been waiting to hear since he was eleven and scared, eleven and lost--
--and now that he's heard it, well, he doesn't really know what to do with it. His mouth runs, blabbering despite his complete lack of attention to, well, anything because his Dad is okay.
The sheer relief is, is staggering; like legit, Stiles feels like he’s going to just keel over.
"I should just stay at home," he finds himself saying, his mind going at a thousand miles an hour as he stares at his dad in what can only be described as awe, "I didn't really wanna do lacrosse anyway. We should have a family movie day...it's been forever since we just hung out, ya know? We should do that. Yeah. Like a family, because that's what we are. Maybe Monty Python; that's supposed to be hysterical, right?"
He doesn't even realize he's crying, tears pouring down his face, until he's suddenly gathered up in Dad's arms, in the classic, Stilinski hug that he hasn't had in three years. And he bawls, like a baby, finally relaxes just the littlest bit.
It's honestly the most cathartic sob-fest he's had in years, even including the first of his freak outs over his mom.
Because those? Those were tears spent in mourning over a person gone, to never come back, tears spent in an effort to fill a hole that never would be.
But now, now, Stiles is crying because someone came back, because his dad wants to try again, and it's the greatest feeling on the planet.
The problem is, after that, Stiles expects everything to be smooth sailing; he expects that it’s a new start for everything because his dad is back, he’s a part of the jv lacrosse team, and he’s starting high school in the fall. It’s an auspicious start to a new era in his life, he thinks; things are going to be great.
He’s disillusioned very, very quickly.
His first day at practice, a blond boy (Jackson, as Stiles finds out later) takes to tackling him to the ground, hard and painful, and basically laughs at him at every opportunity that he gets. Considering that Stiles spends more than half the day flat on the floor, the boy gets a hell of a lot of chances to bust a gut at Stiles’ expense.
It’s actually a bit confusing because seriously, what had he ever done to this boy to warrant this kind of reaction? Stiles isn’t sure, given that he hasn’t really been in any truly social situations and therefore doesn’t understand the concept of a grudgeless grudge match.
Still though, reason or not, he spends a lot of time curled up on the ground, every bruise aching with a vengeance, to the point where even the Coach is starting to get a little concerned.
Not, of course, that he does anything to stop the ‘Pulverize Stiles’ game, the jerk.
It isn’t until the end of practice, when Stiles is limping off the field and wincing at every ache, that he figures it out. And it’s only because the boy corners him, an unpleasant, saccharine smile on his face.
“It’s alright, Stilinski,” he says, and Stiles wonders if this boy even knows him, before he remembers that the coach had checked attendance. “You’ll be fine.”
“After all, you’ve seen that special on Animal Planet, right?,” the blond continues innocently. “The one with the, what was it, the healing properties of bat guano?”
Stiles won’t lie, he freezes; because, because that had been...
Oh dear God, he thinks.
And then, because he’s a natural smart-ass and can’t keep his mouth shut for the life of him, he retaliates, like an idiot.
Because the crux of it is that yeah, he knows he sort of deserves that because he remembers a younger version of the blond, eyes wide with shock, as Stiles had said the same thing to him. On the other hand though, it’s like dude, that was for-freaking-ever ago. Stiles admits that he hadn’t been the brightest of children back then and had used some excuses that he’s not proud of, but that is no reason to remember it like, three years later and hold it against him. Jesus.
So of course, instead of playing possum and removing himself from the situation altogether, he finds himself opening his big goddamned mouth and saying, “No need to be jealous dude.One day they’ll do a special on you, and I’ll catch that too; don’t you worry. I can see it now-- Neanderthals of High School: Lacrosse Edition. You’d be the star.”
Even as he talks, he thinks about three years back, remembers a boy who had looked equal parts crushed and angry at the rejection--
--and he still can’t bring himself to regret his words, even as the other boy’s fist makes for his face.
His main excuse when people bitch about his tendency to babble is that he sleeps like, maybe two hours a day and hello, Adderall; he has ADHD hurdurr.
They're lucky that all he does is babble and flail about, okay? They're lucky that there is no semi-intentional property damage, most of the time.
But what really pisses him off is that while those do play a large part in his corner of the verbal diarrhea market, they're not the only things that do and people never seem to see that.
What he doesn’t tell people is that it’s another thing he does as a force of habit, that he’s been doing it since he was a lonely eleven year old who’d basically lost everything overnight.
Sure, as he’d grown older, his diatribes had taken a more sarcastic edge, more like the edge of a blunt sword rather than a flowing river, but the basics of it have stayed the same. When it gets too quiet, when Stiles feels alone or scared, when his world is thrown even the littlest bit off center, he talks and talks and talks, jumping from topic to topic like quicksilver, until everything makes sense again.
It’s how he’d coped back then, when he’d come to an empty home and a list of things to get done before Dad got home from work, and it’s how he copes now, when all that is somewhat over (and only somewhat, because he still does the lion's share of the housework); because he still can’t move up in life because of things he'd done and said years ago, and also because he’d never learned the skills for proper social interaction.
So yeah, during his first year of highschool, Stiles quickly goes from ‘that weird kid who never goes out with people,’ to ‘that awkward kid who tries a little too hard but still never goes out with people, and who also won’t stop talking when you get him started.’
Things haven’t changed as much as he’d hoped they would, and he’s still on the outside edge, still the outcast that people don't like; and yeah, again, he knows he'd brought that down on himself, that he's the only one he can place any blame on. But that knowledge doesn't make the hurt lessen any.
The only people he has are Dad and Scott, and that should be enough. Except--
--it isn’t, and he hates himself for thinking that way, for wanting something else for himself.
He hates himself even more, even as he blows out his birthday candles and hopes to gain just that.
He ends up getting his wish not even a few months later, for better or for worse.
His second year into high school, Stiles loses his best friend to werewolf-dom,which he still blames himself for in ways he can’t even describe because if he hadn’t dragged Scott out the way he had… but he’s also selfishly glad, because if Scott hadn’t been turned, they wouldn’t have anything that they have now and then where would they be? Yeah, he hates himself.
He also loses said best friend to a girl named Allison, who is sort of awesome once you get to know her and whom he loves despite his raging, seething jealousy.
But on the flip side, he also meets new people in the form of Derek Hale, and re-meets Jackson and Lydia, and he's really happy about that because damn his heart to hell, he loves them too once he gets to know them better, even if he wouldn’t admit it under the worst kinds of torture.
Well, maybe he’s had a monstrous and epic crush on Lydia since the beginning of time. But fact of the matter is, while he’d known of her before this re-meet, he hadn’t known her. Now that he does, he can honestly say that he loves her more than he ever has, in a completely different way than he would’ve thought, and he’s more than happy with the new status quo. Also, he is even more terrified of her than he’d ever been before, which is both healthy and sane as far as he's concerned because she's been scary enough before being turned into a half-were.
Yeah, he still has that occasional relapse, where he finds Lydia desperately desirable and he would like nothing more than to do things with her, but those moments are few and far inbetween now that he knows that she can and will kick his ass, and then make him go shopping with her in pseudo-apology even though he hates it.
As for Jackson, well, he’s still King Douche and he still hasn’t forgiven Stiles for spurning him back then, which whatever. It’s just...Stiles wants to hug him more often nowadays, in between large periods of anger and frustration. The boy obviously has issues out the wazoo and just needs someone to tell him they love him and to occasionally cuddle him.
Not that Stiles actually intends to do any of that; it’s just what he thinks Jackson needs. Besides, even if Stiles tried anything, Jackson would go were-lizard on his ass and kill him dead.
And Derek, well, that’s a can of worms that he isn’t poking with a ten-foot pole. Just, he doesn’t know what to think of the man half the time, or more importantly, what said man thinks of him. Although, judging from the fact that Derek won’t stop shoving him into painful walls, won’t stop growling at him, and the fact that Stiles had actually managed to get him wrongfully arrested within days of meeting him...well...
He gets a crash course in all things supernatural, gets shoved through the proverbial meat grinder, gets himself shot at, and gets himself nearly killed about a million times over.
He lies (badly) to Dad more than ever before and he lies (a little less badly but still pretty damned awful) to everyone else too, to keep things on an even keel.
He becomes an accessory to the murder of a man whom he’d originally helped, who may or may not have had pedophilic tendencies and who was, without a doubt, one of the creepiest assholes on the planet.
He does things below the belt, loses even more than he ever has before (not counting his mother, never counting his mother), and is generally in a constant state of stress and pseudo-terror.
But, for the first time in forever, he also sort of loves his life.
For the first time, he has more than three people, including himself, to rely on. And yeah, okay, so most of these people don't actually like him -- actually he's pretty sure Jackson and Derek hate him -- but he's a part of something for once and he's pretty sure that none of them actually want him dead.
Atleast, not anymore anyway.
So what if he's on the periphery of the group again? So what if he's technically the most useless out of them all? He'll do what he can to keep everyone safe because whether they wanted to or not, they'd given him something, something that he holds close to his heart at night when he gets his requisite 2 to 3 hours of sleep.
Pack, Derek says, eyes shining red as he utters the word, looking around at their motley crew of supernatural teenagers, and Stiles can't help the smile that spreads across his face at the thought. Because he may not really be a part of it (seeing as he's human), but they let him hang around even when they're not battling the forces of applied evil; they don't chase him off as, 'that weirdo kid,' and that--
--that's more than Stiles has ever had before.
He won't ever tell anyone this, and he certainly doesn’t act like it, but he's almost pathetically thankful.
It’s not something he’ll admit to, but more than anything else, it bothers him when people bug him about his penchant for research which, yes he knows, sounds stupid. Compared to all the other things people make fun of him for, this should be like, the lowest on the totem pole of Things That Make Him Actually Angry.
Except, it isn’t.
Research is his true best friend,Scott be damned, and it suits him to a T because he’s naturally curious and information makes him happy. Case in point, the way he chases after his dad whenever he’s out doing his job and has something interesting to look into, the way he does only partially out of concern.
It’s also the only thing in his life that's been there through literally everything.
Research had given him a purpose when his mother died, when his father had fallen apart, when learning how to cook, and clean, and do the laundry had been the only things keeping him from going down the same road.
It had kept the loneliness somewhat at bay even, had kept his head filled with knowledge to the point where other thoughts, the bad ones, hadn't had the room to fit.
It had given him a grasp on how to deal with his dad, how to deal with his life, how to deal with everything...
It'd been his safety blanket for a long, long time and it still is, even now.
So, of course, when people mock him for it, he actually gets annoyed because seriously, it may have resulted in an unspeakable amount of what could be considered, 'useless knowledge,' but that’s not a bad thing, okay?
Add to that the fact that he hasn't had the need to actually look anything up in a good while, and Stiles is actually pissed because something like a year’s worth of random searches would drive anyone crazy, even someone with ADD.
But all that changes when Scott gets turned, when Stiles meets Derek for the first time; his neurotic researching gets an actual focus and somehow, suddenly, it's like he can be somewhat useful and keep himself grounded.
He’s sort of incredibly grateful.
He actually isn’t sure if he hates himself for feeling that way because let’s face it, his best friend’s life had been destroyed for all intents and purposes, or not because hey, Scott had gotten an upgrade, technically.
So of course, he throws himself into it, finds out everything he possibly can and comes up with solution after solution because Derek may be Alpha but he’s also a bit of a clueless puppy about the whole thing, albeit a rabid one that can and will bite off appendages.
Stiles is more than okay with that because a) he’s the brains of this outfit even though he’s not really pack, Lydia notwithstanding, and b) well, he won’t admit it--mostly because if he ever did and Derek heard him, he’d probably die in the most painful way possible-- but Stiles’ heart goes out to the man. It can’t be easy, looking things up and knowing that if his family were still alive, he wouldn’t have to; it can’t be easy sifting through years and years of his family’s history just to find that one crucial clue, and deal with the fact that everything ends with him in the meantime.
And Stiles, well, he knows a little about loss, about hurting so much that you don’t even know what to do with yourself; he knows a little about having to move forward despite it all because there’s nothing else to do and he knows about going it alone because there’s no one else.
He doesn’t want that for Derek, or anyone else really.
So if him taking over most of the research, or even some of it, will make things even the littlest bit better for Derek, well, he’ll do it. Because hey, the guy may hate him, may mock him and regularly toss him up against painful, stone walls just to intimidate him; but he’s still got a heart of gold and Stiles can’t help but love him too, just like he somehow loves Jackson and Lydia and Allison.
See, here’s the thing, Stiles’ need to take care of people isn’t so much a need as much as it’s a compulsion, possibly an instinct.
Even way back when, he'd always been that kid who'd being home hurt animals and then cry when they inevitably got better and left. Adding to that several years of taking care of Dad, picking up after him, nagging at him to eat healthier, and Stiles is actually a little surprised that no one's been mother-henned to death.
Let’s face it, he runs with a group of teenagers and one man who isn’t all that much older, and every single one of them have issues, left, right and center. Jackson’s got issues with being adopted, Lydia’s got issues with her parents being d-bags and not really giving a shit about her, Scott’s got issues in general involving dating a girl from the family that’s trying to kill them all, and Derek, well, he’s on a whole separate plane of issues, okay?
(And really, one could argue that Stiles’ compulsive tendencies stem from issues of his own, from the need to prevent, in any way he can, the deterioration or death of loved ones. But he figures that that’s neither here nor there because at least he isn’t self-destructive about it.)
So of course, it’s actually, truly inescapable that Stiles starts trying to take care of them too.
It’s just little things at first, like starting a first aid kit and bringing actual food to pack meetings (which he’s technically allowed to cut out of because he’s technically not pack. But if he doesn’t go, Scott makes sad, puppy faces at him in all their shared classes the next day and Jackson takes to being even more brutal during lacrosse practice; so he goes anyway). He starts to take sandwiches and juice with him, and then actual meals, swapping the healthier things in place of the usual fare of chips and soda because they’re there all the time and who knows what these idiots eat when they go home?
Lord knows that none of them can cook worth a damn, not even the stuff that’s microwaveable most of the time, and Stiles can’t just let them fend for themselves.
He also figures that if he at least manages to feed them once every two days or so, to browbeat them into eating something with actual nutrients, at least they won’t get scurvy. Also, for the record, their argument that they have accelerated healing as a result of their respective supernatural physiques is invalid. So is Derek’s argument that they should hunt for food because, just no.
From that point on, Stiles tries to stock stuff at Derek’s place, so that he doesn’t have to go to his house and prepare things on the dl before going to the meetings, which is how he finds out about Derek’s lack of well, everything. Incidentally, this is about when he starts to nag about getting the place fixed up a bit because hey, if Derek insists on living in the decrepit, burned out shell of his former home, he should at least try not to die while doing so.
Obviously, this is met with some resistance, in the form of red eyes and Stiles thrown into walls which--now that he thinks about it--is mostly probably because of the way he phrases his demands. But when Stiles gets there the next day, there’s a mini-fridge that looks like it’s seen some better days hooked to a generator that actually looks relatively new.
Stiles counts it as a win, even if said fridge is completely empty when he opens it, or maybe even because it’s empty. Actually, he takes it as an invitation to stock it, with fruits and vegetables, and milk and things that actually belong on the food pyramid. So yeah, a definite win.
Of course, after that, it’s only logical that he get some pans, pots, bowls and other cooking/eating utensils to keep on hand, and of course, he can’t just put the things people eat off of in a kitchen that’s probably housing a colony of sentient bacteria trying to take over the world, so he cleans a little too.
Beyond that, it’s only logical to try and spruce up the living room a bit because well, that’s where they all spend time together and he doesn’t want any of them to die from disease
the way his mom had.
And so it goes on.
He starts to nag when Scott or Jackson think that it’s ok to walk out of the house without their jackets, starts to stockpile some blankets and pillows in the house and tells them all to use them dammit. He starts to bitch at Lydia about her tendency to party too much and not sleep enough because half the makeup she wears is used for the sole purpose of hiding those bags under her eyes and that’s worrying, and he starts in on Derek about, well, everything because the man doesn’t seem to understand that he can’t subsist on rage and angst.
He starts to arrange for homework sessions because at this rate, they’re all going to fail, and in general, he acts like the most annoying parent on the planet like, ever. And, try as he might, he can’t seem to make himself stop.
What else is new?
Seriously though, what’s surprising is how receptive they all seem to be to this.
They bitch and they moan about being forced to do things that they don’t really want to do, about getting their homework done, and eating green things and sleeping, but they do it. Really, Derek is the only one who puts up any sort of actual resistance, but even he gives in once Stiles starts pulling out his patent-pending disappointed look and on occasion, stops talking to him altogether for a bit.
Yes he’s aware that that punishes him too. Shut up.
Eventually, it all leads to the pack being so comfortable with him that they do things like confiding in him and occasionally using him as a pillow, which, if they weren’t out of their minds for most those times, Stiles is pretty sure that they would never.
This particular pattern is started by, of all people, Jackson who, during one of those times where everyone just falls asleep on Derek’s living room floor, thinks it’s acceptable to just sort of crawl into Stiles’ personal space and curl up.
Stiles, who’d been listening to the boy having nightmare after nightmare is actually a bit thankful because now, he doesn’t have to waste so much energy on stopping himself from going over and offering comfort. So he keeps his mouth shut, cards his fingers through Jackson’s hair until the boy falls into a mostly peaceful slumber, and doesn’t mention it when they all wake up the next morning.
Jackson still acts like a douchebag, even after that, and he still makes fun of him a lot, but Stiles can’t help but notice that his barbs aren’t as sharp as they used to be.
Next in line is Scott, who crawls into bed with him the morning after a full moon. This actually isn’t all that weird because they’ve shared beds during sleepovers since the beginning of their long, illustrious friendship.
What is weird, though, is the softish look in Derek’s eyes when he wakes Stiles up a couple of hours later, carefully making sure not to wake up Scott because the boy obviously had a rough night.
Weirder still and also sort of terrifying, is how he buries his face in the crook of Stiles’ neck and just sort breathes. And Stiles, well, he’s still mostly asleep and his brain hasn’t started firing on all cylinders yet, so he only panics for a few minutes before passing it off as a wolf thing; he just stands there, wraps his arms around Derek so he can maintain his balance, and lets the man do his thing.
Sleepy or not though, he can’t help but notice how Derek softens even more though, like the rough edges of the wolf are being smoothed over a little bit more with every second that passes. He also can’t help but tug Derek just a little closer, running his fingers through thick hair as he hugs the man and allows drowsy but soothing sounds to fall out of his lips like he’s been wanting to do since he’d first found out how broken Derek really is.
Apparently, he falls asleep like that because when he wakes up again, it’s almost noon; also he’s being held in Derek’s vice grip, in what has to be Derek’s bed, and being snuffled into like said man is a puppy.
It’s probably more odd that it doesn’t bother Stiles.
By the time it finally comes to be Lydia’s turn, he doesn’t even say anything because it’s not even weird to have one of them in his bed anymore, although it’s usually Jackson or Scott or, more recently, Derek.
He just holds his arms open and lets her bury her face in his chest, wincing as she cries her heart out over something some boy had said about her scarring (fucking Peter) and reassures her that she’s still the most gorgeous person on the planet, never think otherwise.
Then, when she finally falls asleep, he gives all the information to Jackson and Scott who proceed to dole out retribution like wrathful Gods. Because Lydia may be the baddest of them all, but she’s also their only girl and she gets to be overprotected on whether she wants it or not. End of discussion, finito.
Later on, Derek tells them all off over the whole mess, tells them that it was stupid to get revenge like that, but they all notice how he doesn’t tell them that they shouldn’t have done it.
Just for that, Stiles makes his favorite meal for his dinner that night, before finally leaving to go home.
Weirdly enough, Derek starts to just be around a lot more after that. Stiles goes grocery shopping? There Derek is, growling rabidly at whichever poor store-clerk happens to be helping Stiles out.
He goes to get his car tuned up? There Derek is, breathing down the poor mechanic’s neck while said mechanic sweats his way through the most frightening job of his life and then proceeds to make it ‘on the house’ just to get them out.
He goes to school? There Derek is, sitting in a tree and staring like a complete fucking creeper while Stiles tries his best to split his attention between taking notes and not panicking.
It’s a fucking nightmare, albeit one that, strangely enough, makes Stiles happy.
Still though, he ends up having to draw the line when, one day, he goes to sleep in his own bed and there Derek is. Unfortunately for him, the other man mostly does exactly what he wants, which is how Stiles finds himself with a brand new bedmate-- one who growls at him when he doesn’t sleep close enough and looks like a sulking puppy if Stiles doesn’t use him as a giant, muscular blankie.
It’s all very confusing.
But, because Stiles secretly loves it, he chalks the whole thing up to werewolf shenanigans and doesn’t worry about it. After all, why would he want to screw himself over by making a big deal out of it?
Derek might just claw his eyes out if he does or worse, stop doing it, whatever it may be.
For the record, Derek doesn’t stop, even though it’s been weeks and weeks and weeks; and Stiles is really, really glad that he hasn’t.
Werewolves make for the best goddamned pillows, okay? Stiles hasn’t slept this well since ever.
The first person to find out about what happened to Stiles’ mom--who finds out about his life for the three years after--is, against most odds, Danny Mahealani.
Stiles says against most odds because first of all, while he’d tried not to broadcast his family life in any way, shape, or form back then, the entirety of it had still been one of those ‘open-secrets’. As in, anyone who’d wanted to know what was going on simply had to find someone in town over the age of 50 and they’d had access to all the pertinent information. Oh and the speculation that had risen around it, they’d had access to that too.
Now, Stiles can’t confirm it, but he’s pretty sure that the same gossip-mongers still happily divulge his personal life to anyone who asks, even today. Which is why he wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how Danny found out.
But that’s not really the point.
The thing is, while Danny’s completely awesome, he’s not anywhere near Stiles’ nonexistent social group. In other words, if someone were to make him decide, Stiles would rate Danny right above Jackson who, for the record, is dead last in the list of people who would care to look into that kinda shit.
And yeah, that’s not really fair because Danny is a very (ridiculously) nice person and hasn’t once actively tried to hurt him, even when Stiles had cornered him to grill him about the ‘Gay Lifestyle’ that one time. But still, the fact remains that Danny remains on top of the food chain while Stiles is so far down that he’s not even on there. So seriously, what the hell?
It definitely doesn’t help with Stiles’ confusion that the other boy doesn’t make a big deal out of it, doesn’t come after him with questions, and condolences, and boo hoo hoo’s. Like legit, Stiles would have never known that Danny knows.
Well, he would’ve never known if it weren’t for what happens on the fourth anniversary of Mom’s death.
After practice, some of the assholes from lacrosse decide that it’s ‘Mock-Stiles-within-an-inch-of-his-life Day,’ a bullying mantle that a couple of the other players had taken over once Jackson had started backing off.
Normally, Stiles doesn’t pay attention to them at all because they’re idiots and in the long run they don’t matter. Except--
--he’s already weakened, hurting because of what day it is and because his dad hadn’t been able to get the day off like usual, and every little thing the dumbasses say feels worse than they actually are, rip open wounds that are still new even after all these years even though their words have nothing to do with anything.
So of course Stiles goes to his old fallback, which is to tell self-preservation to screw off, mouth off like he has tourettes, and flail around like an angry chimpanzee.
Long story short, things devolve into a fist-fight, which is about the point Danny makes an appearance. Well, more accurately, Danny ends up starting said fight by throwing the first punch, which whoa, what in the actual hell.
“That’s enough,” Danny snarls in the meantime while Stiles is off in his own personal twilight zone. He stares at the kid he’d just taken down with one hit, a disgusted look on his face, “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size for once, you giant asshole. What the fuck is wrong with you?”
And again, Danny is an awesome person. He is. But he doesn’t normally punch people out just for going after Stiles; he tells them to back off occasionally, yes, but he never resorts to outright violence because that’s sort of against his nature. So why the sudden change in personality...?
It clicks about the same time that Dann turns around, his eyes burning with sadness as he stares at Stiles, looking torn between playing it off and hugging him--
--and suddenly Stiles knows.
“Oh my God,” he says, body numb with shock because this is not something he wants or needs right now. “How the...how...just how?”
Danny has the grace to look a little ashamed, but he also looks a teensy bit defiant.
“I overheard my mom talking to my grandma a couple of weeks ago,” he says, giving him doe eyes, seemingly begging him to not be too upset about it or to make a scene like he’s prone to do. “They wanted to see if they could do something to, you know, help out.”
He starts to look a bit terrified when Stiles doesn’t react or, you know, speak, which is slightly unfair because Stiles is so capable of maintaining silence, dammit.
But apparently Danny isn’t aware of this fact because he continues to talk, a tinge of desperation in his voice, “They didn’t mean anything by it, and hey! There’s pie involved for you. My mom’s pecan pie, which is really, really good.”
Stiles, well, he’s still mostly shocked and also reeling.
So all he says is, his voice a little weak, “Oh, I guess that would make sense and hey, pie. Pie is always good! Yum.” He pauses, licking his lips before continuing, “Just, can you not... I dunno, tell anyone? Or talk about it? Or think about it? In fact, what’re the odds that you’ll wake up tomorrow and this never happened?”
Danny gives him an unimpressed look, sort of like, ‘What the hell do you think I’ve been doing, moron, and also no, I am not giving myself an amnesia inducing brain injury over this so forget it,’ and then promises not to bring it up anyway.
Stiles breaths a premature sigh of relief like the total idiot that he is, because he thinks that’s that.
What he doesn’t take into account is that Scott, Jackson, and Lydia, who’d come to cheer them on and to stare at the hot lacrosse boys, have heard their exchange and are not happy to be out of the loop.
Actually that’s a bit of an understatement.
The pack is actually somewhat outraged that Danny knows something that they don’t, what the hell, Stiles? There’s a lot of gesticulating (from all three of them, although really, Scott knows a lot of it. Stiles isn’t going to be the one to remind him of this fact), pouting (Lydia and Jackson), hurt puppy looks (Scott and Lydia, but only one of them pulls it off. It’s not Lydia.) and at one point, outright demands for information (Lydia and Jackson).
But in the end, with the aid of a look from Danny, one that questions their moral fiber and their worthiness as people, they all miraculously back off.
Knowing them, it’s probably temporary, sort of like the calm before an interrogative storm. But for now, Stiles is happy to have some breathing room because if they’d really plied him for answers, he might’ve done something like cry.
And that just wouldn’t have been awesome.
A day or so after that debacle, Stiles finds out that Danny is a) the most comfortable pillow in the entirety of the universe, bar none, not even Derek b) he’s the best listener ever, period--
--and c) Stiles isn’t over it all, not like he’d thought, not even close; apparently, he’s still an open wound on the inside, one that’s just waiting for the right moment to fester and turn him into an angry, bitter, sobbing mess.
But it helps, having someone like Danny to talk to. It helps to pour his heart out (to a certain extent) to someone who’s willing to just be there, and who’s genuinely kind, and who never pushes for anything that Stiles isn’t willing to give.
If he didn’t know better, Stiles would say that it was love.
Thankfully, he does know better, mostly because of reasons.
Well, it’s actually because about a week into their friendship, Stiles figures out about Danny’s massive and unrequited crush on Jackson and a week after that, Danny clues him in on his own crush on Derek of all people, why God why.
(Stiles mostly stares, mouth opening and closing like a goldfish for the first few minutes because how did he not know about his own feelings, and also, Jackson? Really?
Danny just cuffs him across the back of the head, cheeks tinting slightly even as he tells him to shut up about it already.)
After that, their chats start to be more even keel. They spend a lot of the time commiserating over their mutual attraction to total douchebags who won’t look at them twice in any romantic capacity, much less ever reciprocate.
It’s another secret for them to share, another secret for them bond over, because Lord knows that if Derek or Jackson ever found out...
Well, there’s a thought that doesn’t bear thinking.
(They think about it a lot anyway.
Danny meekly talks about how Jackson is his best friend and how he really, really doesn’t want to ruin that no matter what.
Stiles feels a bit petty because he usually just tries, really, really hard, not to think of his entrails hanging out of his body.)
In other news, the fact that Stiles and Danny have something else to bond over that the pack does not know about has said pack acting even more annoying, has them even more prone to --and there’s really no other word for it-- epic temper tantrums.
Stiles can’t even bring himself to really care because really, what else is new? And also, he’s got worse things to deal with.
In retrospect, Stiles should’ve known better than to think that any secret will remain a secret when Lydia Martin and Jackson Whittemore are on the hunt.
But he lets his guard down anyway, because he makes the unfortunate mistake of thinking that they don’t care enough to really dig.
He’s proven wrong very shortly.
His first clue that something is horrifically wrong is that Derek, who creeps at all times of day and night and doesn’t give a crap about any heart-attacks that he might cause, calls him at something like one o’clock in the morning instead of just showing up at his window, and tells Stiles to be at his house in twenty minutes, or else.
His second clue is that when he actually gets there, walks in with a heart full of worry and a sharp, irritated retort at the tip of his tongue, everyone is there-- Scott, Jackson, Lydia, and Derek, all lined up with scowls on their faces.
If Stiles didn’t know better, he’d say that they all actually look hurt, like wounded puppies putting up a hard front so that they look stronger than they actually are. In a weird way, it’s sort of heartbreaking and it makes a part of Stiles want to coo at them a bit, sit them down, and make them all hot chocolate.
Unfortunately the larger part of him is less about cuddling and more about confusion, which is sort of throwing Stiles off and making him feel like he’s walking into the Inquisition.
It’s making him nervous.
Guess what that means?
“What’s going on, guys?” he starts, before launching into a truly epic diatribe if he does say so himself. “Because I have to tell you, whatever it is? It better be important. Like, life-changing. Because it’s one in the morning, okay. One. In. The. Morning. And guess what people need in order to survive? Sleep. And don’t argue with me Scott, you guys do count as people and why, yes, I am more than aware of what you guys get like when you don’t sleep enough, from experience. So I ask again. What. Gives?”
So that ends up sounding a lot more chastising than he thought it would because Scott is wilting like a kicked puppy, Jackson’s doing that thing where he hides all the hurt behind his uppity-sneer, and Lydia looks torn between rage and tears.
He’s just about to give in to his instincts and gather them up when Derek steps forward.
“Why. Didn’t. You. Tell. Us,” he grits out, his voice a hoarse growl (literally) and looking so, so furious that Stiles backs up despite himself, despite coming to trust this man with his life on multiple occasions.
Somehow, this only serves to make Derek even more defensive and growly.
Stiles, well, he’s confused. “O-kay,” he says, mouthy despite his fear. “You, my friends, are being weird. Let me reiterate. What. Is. Going. On?”
It’s Lydia who answers this time, eyes narrowed into one of her more vicious glares. “Oh,” she says, all sweetness and poison. “So now we’re friends.”
Obviously things are getting out of hand here, if friendship is being brought into question like that. “Okay?” Stiles says, going through the options in his mind before landing on the most likely one.
“Well,” he breathes out, rolling his eyes even as his stomach plummets and his heart stops because he’d been thinking that things were going pretty well between all of them, but apparently not, “if this is about not wanting me to stick around so much, two things: One, bringing me here, at one in the morning might I add, to tell me is counter-productive. Look it up, it’s in every major dictionary. Two, you could’ve just called me, or texted me, and the results would’ve been the same, so.”
He shrugs nonchalantly,even though he feels anything but, “Seriously, a texted ‘fuck off’ would’ve been just as effective, if not more, because you’d have never seen me again after that. It’s not like I want to be in a place where I’m not wanted anyway.”
Apparently that’s the wrong thing to say.
The next thing Stiles knows, Derek is wolfing out and slamming him back against the nearest wall, fingers around his throat as he growls loudly, in warning.
Unfortunately, Stiles doesn’t get to register any of that because his head smashes back just a little too hard and he blacks out.
When he finally wakes up again, it’s to Lydia’s fingers combing through his hair and to a pinched, worried look in her eyes.
Stiles is immediately concerned.
“Hey,” he croaks out, voice sounding like he’d just swallowed a metric fuck-ton of gravel and not caring because he just wants to get that look off her face. “What happened? Did I trip and fall in front of a speeding truck?”
Sadly, Lydia doesn’t look all that much happier. In fact, if anything, she looks more agitated than ever. Stiles really doesn’t like to see her like this in part because she tends to get self-destructive when she’s in one of these moods, but also because she tends to make other people miserable.
(Really, there is no bigger believer than Lydia Martin when it comes to the saying, ‘Misery loves company.’)
So Stiles sighs, wincing when he tries to move and finds out that his head is freaking killing him, before biting the bullet like a man.
“Alright,” he says, his eyes serious and zoomed in on her for maximum effect. “You have my full attention. What gives?”
Seriously, this whole thing is just bothering him now. If they want him off the team, group, whatever, then they should be sending him on his merry way, not getting his hopes up by basically bundling him up and having someone take care of him while he’s out. Because that, that’s just cruel and Stiles knows that they aren’t like that. So again, what gives?
Lydia just sighs, rolling her eyes and settling back a little more comfortably now that she figures out that he’s fine, completely opposite to how she’d been acting when he’d just woken up.
“You tried to leave the pack,” she says, crossing her arms and still doing that thing where she acts extra bitchy when she’s hurt. “Derek freaked out and slammed you into a wall. You blacked out and he ran off to angst about it. The end.”
Wait. Who was trying to do what now? Whoa, whoa.
“Whoa, whoa,” Stiles says huffily and a little angrily. “You don’t get to turn this around on me. You guys are the ones who don’t want me around anymore. I’m just saving some dignity by not begging you guys to let me stay. Capische? So don’t even.”
Lydia just gives him this look, an odd mix between, ‘Oh you poor, poor thing,’ and, ‘What in the actual hell are you on?’
“What are you even talking about? Why would we kick you out of the pack?” she asks, teeth grit as she glares down at him, which is so totally unfair because he’s taller dammit; she wouldn’t have this sort of advantage if he weren’t bed-ridden. Incidentally, that is also a total untruth but that’s fine, Stiles doesn’t mind lying to himself on occasion.
He can’t stop the slightly bitter tone that slips into his voice when he answers though.
“Oh I don’t know,” he snarks out grumpily and sarcastically. “Maybe it has something to do with the United Werewolf Front Against Stiles thing you had going on there? Or you know, maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m not pack to begin with? Which, why am I even trying to justify myself to you? You don’t want me around anymore, remember? Which, just so we’re clear, your loss, babe.”
Lydia, instead of retorting back or maybe breaking his arm for calling her babe, just gapes at him. Then she practically vaults over her chair and through the wall in her haste to run out, barely remembering to use the door instead.
“GUYS!” he hears her holler as he allows his head to thump back. “WE HAVE A HUGE FREAKING PROBLEM. GET YOUR ASSES IN HERE, NOW!”
He sort of feels like he’s brought the wrath of Satan himself down on his own poor, hapless self, but he’s honestly a bit too tired to bring himself to care.
The first thing Lydia says once she’s gotten them all settled down with Stiles bundled up between Scott and Jackson and what has to be the biggest bundle of blankets that he’s ever seen (even though he probably brought most of them in himself) is, “So, there’s been a huge misunderstanding somewhere, not the least because our broody alpha here hasn’t been quite as forthcoming on the information as we’d thought.”
Derek, who’s sort of hovering by the door as though he he could totally leave if he wanted to dammit, just grunts and glares, as though daring anyone to question him about it.
Apparently he’s forgotten that Stiles is right there and has the self-preservation of a lemming because he actually looks a little surprised when Stiles perks up and eyes him before asking anyway.
“What do you mean he’s withholding information?” he asks, probably sounding a little too whiny but not really caring enough to try and tone it down. “And Lydia, stop talking like a lawyer; use normal people words. No one actually says things like ‘not the least’ or, ‘forthcoming’ in person to person chattage. Which brings me to my next point. Sort of. Not really. But seriously guys, and boy do I feel like I’ve been asking this on repeat, but what the hell is going on?”
All three of the werewolves plus one were-lizard just look at him as though wondering about his intelligence because, isn’t it obvious?
“Okay,” Stiles says, immediately back on the defensive. “Can we not do this? This is just getting annoying. I mean, really, I just want some answers. Apparently Mr. Sourwolf over there has been holding out on me and I want to know what I’ve been missing. So here’s how it’s going to go. Talk, or I’m out of here. Legit. And I will take this mound of blankets with me, so help me God.” He doesn’t care what they say; they’d all miss these blankets, probably more than they’d miss him. The patheticness of that aside, they better believe that they’ll never see em again if they don’t talk.
It’s Jackson who sighs this time, through his teeth, although Stiles can’t help notice that he seems to also try and move even closer, as though that’ll be enough to keep Stiles in place.
(Admittedly, it would be, but that’s not important enough for Stiles to dwell on it.)
“Alright.” the blond says, rolling his eyes, “What do we start off with? With the fact that Stilinski is wrong, or with the fact that Stilinski doesn’t know anything?”
Stiles and Scott, bless his soul, glare at him for that, but in the spirit of being informed, Stiles decides to be magnanimous.
“I’ll take the first one, then,” he says, still glaring despite wanting to let it go. “What was I wrong about? Keeping in mind, of course, that I rarely am so this better be good. With proof.”
Lydia gives him an unimpressed look, “Pack. You were wrong about the pack.” And Stiles, well, he’s just really puzzled now.
“I was wrong about....the pack?” He rolls his eyes, “Are we talking something definite? Or the definition? Are we being general? What? Specifics, Lydia, they are your friend.” He wouldn’t normally talk to her like that, mainly because he’d be deathly afraid of all the ways she’d get him back; but right now he’s so beyond giving a damn that it’s not even funny. Seriously.
It’s Derek that ends up snarling at him, eyes narrowed and frustration written on every inch of his face, probably because he can’t actually rip Stiles’ throat out without Scott running to the cops and getting him arrested again.
Stiles is not above using that little tidbit of information for his gain.
“Hey,” he snaps out, feeling irrationally hurt by the fact that the pack-leader was defending pack and not willing to acknowledge it. He’s also sort of surprised because Derek actually backs off. “You don’t get to do that. You get to tell me what it is that I’m wrong about so that I can go home and sleep.”
Lydia snorts. “And I quote,” she says, looking the sort of smug where if she weren’t a girl and Stiles wasn’t full of morals, he would happily punch her in the face. “I’m not pack to begin with. That right there, that’s what you’re wrong about.” Scott and Derek have the gall to look at him askance, as though he’s the weird one, because apparently that’s news to them. Stiles, at the risk of sounding repetitious, is confused again.
“Uh,” he says, slightly uncertain. “Judging by the fact that I don’t have the tendency to sprout animal-like body parts and that I don’t become ragey and were-hormonal once a month, it’s safe to say that I’m not, you know, a were.” He raises an eyebrow. “This means I’m human and therefore not pack. How am I wrong?”
Scott is the one to answer this time (be still Stiles’ beating heart!), managing to sound stumped and intelligent at the same time, “Because you’re assuming that in order to be pack, that you need to be wolf?” He glances at Jackson with a small frown. “Lizard. Snake. Both. I don’t know.”
Lydia and Derek sigh through their respective noses, no doubt at their pack-mate’s less than eloquent delivery, but it’s Derek who answers.
“What Scott means,” he grits out, looking as though he hates that he has to do this, “Is that there is such a thing as human pack members. It’s not even all that uncommon, actually.”
And Stiles has never been stupid, and he’s always made connections quickly. He looks at them suspiciously and says, “Okay. So you’re saying that...I was actually pack until you guys decided to kick me out? Thanks for the heads-up, guys. Really. I appreciate it.” He doesn’t know why, but his heart hurts a little bit more knowing that he’d had that, albeit without ever knowing, and that he’d lost it somehow, that he’d done something so bad that they’d boot him.
Because that is just the story of his life and he still hasn’t managed to get rid of that small, teensy part of him that’s convinced that he’s the harbinger of death and despair, even on so small a scale as this.
This time, Jackson growls before actually reaching back and smacking him lightly across the head, which ow, ow, ow, holy head-injury Batman. “No, idiot,” he says, looking a little guilty and cuddling a little closer afterwards as though in apology (although Stiles has to note that he doesn’t actually apologize, and that his voice is still as obnoxiously douchey as ever). “You’re still pack.”
What is he even supposed to say?
Also, Stiles shouldn’t feel as happy about that as he does. Like seriously, he’s pretty sure he’s beaming right now and he really can’t help but curl in a little, looking down at his blanket mound to hide his smile like the pathetic S.O.B that he is. “Oh,” he says after a few minutes of taking that information in, “Oh. That’s...that’s really good, I guess?”
It totally, totally is. Because he’s pack. Which is awesome. Stiles sort of wants to get up and dance around, and he would too, if it weren’t for his head injury and the sudden pile of people falling on top of him and just sort of curling in, making contented noises which just make Stiles want to cuddle them all--
--wait, is this a pack thing? Because that would totally be cool. Really.
But when he looks up to ask, Derek looks part amused and part anxious, as he says, “Which brings us to part two of this conversation.”
Stiles is actually a little too busy reeling from Derek being nervous to notice when said man kicks the rest of their (their, as in his too. How cool is that?) pack out.
He does notice though, when Derek sits down next to him, a content look on his face. His solid presence is just shy of actually curling up around Stiles and so warm that Stiles just sort of wants to burrow himself in and never come out again.
It’s sort of really hard not to, actually, and not for the first time, Stiles finds himself cursing Danny Mahealani’s perceptive nature even if he can’t quite bring himself to curse him. Because the bottom line is that Stiles Stilinski is a shit liar to the people he actually cares about, and an even worse at not showing his feelings.
It may not be entirely logical, but the way Stiles sees it, if Danny hadn’t tipped him off, then he would probably have never figured it out, his feelings that is. Then, he wouldn’t have to deal with this proximity with ohgodohgodohgod running through his head like a preteen with a crush had decided to take over his brain, and he most certainly wouldn’t be freaking out right now.
At least, not in the way he is now; it’d be more of a ‘please don’t kill me’ type of freaking rather than the ‘please let me bury face in your strong, muscled chest and just breathe you without you killing me’ type.
Has he mentioned that he wears his fucking heart on his sleeve and that there is no chance for this to end well?
Still though, Stiles is Stiles and that’s never going to change, not even with revelations like these.
Five whole minutes, that’s exactly how long he manages to last before he’s turning to face Derek and asking, “So, what’s part two then?”
It’s fascinating how quickly Derek goes from content to sit and emanate heat at Stiles to shut down.
“I’m sorry,” is the first thing Derek blurts out (well, grits out angstily), looking torn between actually looking it and maintaining his badass face.
Stiles, well, he doesn’t care one way or another because Derek I-Don’t-Care-What-I-Did-I-Will-Never-Surrender-or-Worse-Apologize Hale had just told him he’s sorry. It’s a miracle. It’s, it’s unimaginable, impossible even. Unless...
“Oh my God, are you dying?” he blurts out before he can stop himself, surreptitiously eyeing the other man to see if there are open, bleeding holes anywhere because Stiles is sort of out of it thanks to certain head injuries and really, he should make sure to check the entirety of the pack for shit like this on a regular basis.
It should be a thing.
Because he is a rude jerk who doesn’t care about other people’s worries, Derek gives him a look of pure, concentrated irritation. “Yes,” he says, his voice flat. “I just swallowed an entire sprig of wolfbane. Goodbye cruel world.”
If anything, that only makes Stiles feel even more alarmed, even though he’s about 80 percent sure that it’s just a joke. “You think about things like that, normally?” he finds himself asking, eyeing Derek as though he were a suicide case waiting to happen, “Have you talked to anyone about this? Because that’s not healthy. Oh my God, Derek, dying is never the answer, okay?”
Derek looks like he’s about two steps away from bashing his head into a wall. “Look,” he says, “We are not here to discuss my supposed latent suicidal tendencies right now.” And at Stiles’ imminently alarmed look, he tacks on a hasty, “Not that I have any. But that’s not the point. We are here to discuss your role in the pack and also, the original problem. Which involves you sharing information with outsiders but not trusting your own pack enough to--”
“Whoa, whoa! Again!” Stiles interrupts, in the meantime, “Slow down there, tiger. Wolf. Whatever. First of all, in case you hadn’t noticed, I didn’t realize I was a part of Werewolves United until oh, five minutes ago. Second of all, I haven’t shared anything with any outsiders, mainly because I don’t talk to people I don’t know. Third of all, what is my ‘role’ in the pack, then? Because I did some research on that end too, and if you think for one second that I’m going to be the groups little Omega punching bag, you’ve got another thing coming.”
The look Derek levels him with is positively lethal.
Also, Stiles is not turned on by this. If he were, that would be fucked up, and it would say things about his psyche that he really does not want to think about.
“You are not an Omega,” Derek growls out, drawing Stiles out of his own mind. “For your information, our pack doesn’t even have one. You are also not a Beta, before you ask. Also, for the record, you’re a dumbass.”
Stiles would freak out about that last bit, let loose his own batch of verbal abuse, but it looks like Derek is looking a bit nervous again and Stiles can’t really bring himself to mind enough to yell about it.
“Okay,” he says instead, calm for the first time in a bit. “Explain it to me then because I’ll be honest here, I feel like I’m flying blind.”
Derek looks at him, really looks, realizes that Stiles actually means that, and then proceeds to start cursing-- loudly, spectacularly, and like he’s about two seconds away from wolfing out. Unfortunately, Stiles is in no shape to deal with that, so he gives Derek a sharp look, and says, “Yo. Calm the heck down. Deep breathing, it is your friend. Utilize it.”
The look he gets for that one is pure acid, oh and more wolfing.
Stiles can’t help the long-suffering sigh.
Softening his tone a good bit as he starts to breathe in and out, “Come on, do what I’m doing. Seriously. I am not equipped to deal with you in a rage right now. TBI and all that.”
Which, apparently, is enough to knock the other man out of rage mode and into--well--
For some reason Derek whines, fucking whines like a puppy, his eyes going sort of huge and liquid and what the hell. To make things worse, that look is the exact kind that appeals to Stiles’ inner mother hen, which then makes him do things like coo at obviously dangerous pseudo animals like they’re fluffy babies.
“Oh come on, come here,” he finds himself saying, reaching for Derek in a way that he wouldn’t have thought to do even a couple of months ago (damn Danny’s fucking perceptiveness to hell), somehow managing to tug at Derek until the man has his face buried in Stiles’ neck.
“That’s it,” he says, breathing deeply, in and out, and slowly calming down when Derek started to instinctively do the same. “There we go. Feeling better?”
It takes a second for Derek to answer, but when he does, it’s with more insults. Stiles would take offense, but well, he’s feeling too languid to really give a damn.
A few more minutes pass, the only thing that can be heard being the sound of their synchronized breathing, before Stiles feels the need to talk take over him again. Because God help him, he is curious, and woe betide Derek if he doesn’t answer this time.
“So,” he says casually. “What does that make me in the pack?”
Derek actually gets up and off, a look of such incredulity on his face that Stiles almost wants to laugh. “Really?” he asks, “You still don’t get it?” And what the hell is Stiles supposed to say to that? Yeah I get it, but I need you to tell me so I know that you get it? Something else that makes him sound absolutely retarded? Yeah, no.
But before he can actually speak, Derek is cursing again, and then he’s swooping down and kissing him, oh my God, what the hell. Stiles isn’t talking a regular old peck on the cheek either; he’s talking full blown, tongue in his mouth, teeth on his lips, groan inducing making out.
If he weren’t so sure that he’s still unconscious after being thrown against a wall, if he weren’t so sure that this is all a weird brain injury induced dream, Stiles wouldn’t have reciprocated.
As it stands, though, he does; and he finds out that he’s actually conscious after the fact.
It takes a full five minutes before they pull apart, and another five after that for either of them to be able to talk, and of course, Derek has to be the first one to actually get anything coherent out, because he’s Derek Always-In-Control-So-Fuck-You-All Hale.
“So,” he pants out, his voice low and rough and toe-curling. “Do you get it now?”
And it takes a second or four, but Stiles does, because he had researched the hell out of this subject ages ago. He just hadn’t associated himself with the position because of...of reasons.
“Alpha mate? What? Are you serious?” he squeaks out in a rush once it hits him, suddenly feeling way out of his depth, because holy shit. “Wait, wait. Doesn’t Alpha mate have to be like, the perfect pack member? And also capable of producing children? Oh God, are we werewolf married? When did that even happen? And what? No one thought it was important enough to tell me?”
Derek, for his part, is starting to look defensive again. “Well, it’s not I could’ve made it any clearer! And anyway, we haven’t actually bonded yet,” he says, almost huffily, as if that’s something Stiles should just know, the bastard. “I can’t initiate a full bond like that til you’re ready.
“Also,” he grinds out, looking almost pained, as though talking about this is making his soul ooze out of his ear and into the ether. “Children aren’t a part of the equation, mainly because we have other options to expand our numbers.” Cue eyebrow raise.“It’s more about being able to run and take care of the pack with me, and being there for us and about trusting us enough to tell us things instead of only sharing life-altering information with outsiders like Danny.”
And then, like he can’t help himself, he lets out a wounded, “Traitor.”
“So what? I’m like, pack Mom now? I’m not good at things like that!!” Stiles returns, a hint of panic in his voice and not saying the ‘because I don’t really remember what it’s like to have one so how the hell am I supposed to be one,’ even though it’s pretty heavily implied. “Also, I’m allowed to talk to Danny whenever I want, about whatever I want, so fuck you!”
It isn't fair that Derek (well, the pack in general, really, but mostly Derek) is acting like this, because he hadn't cared before, hadn't bothered to dig, and as far as Stiles is concerned, people like that don't get to be bitchy about the one person who not only figures it out, but also tries to help. But when he says as much, Derek growls, his chest rumbling, which is about when Stiles realizes that he’s still mostly draped over his, oh God, his mate or something. How is this even his life?
Still though, apparently some part of him is clamoring to offer comfort, because he finds himself nosing at Derek's face and dropping kisses intermittently, the same way he would if one of his younger cousins were crying. And really, there are no words for how fucking weird this whole thing is because apparently, this is his arguably insane, strong sort of werewolf-husband whom he’s comforting like a small child. But all craziness aside, Derek is calming the fuck down so, whatever. Stiles'll take his wins where he can, even if he’ll need therapy afterward.
It take another minute for Derek to be able to talk without biting his own tongue off, but when he does though, his question does something that Stiles doesn’t expect.
What he asks is enough to break Stiles' heart.
"Would you believe me if I said that I didn't ask because I didn't want to hurt you?" he asks, his voice quiet and suddenly Stiles remembers, remembers that this man has lost more than Stiles ever has. Because while Stiles' life had fallen apart when his mom had died, at least he'd had Dad, who'd done his best despite being in such bad condition. Just knowing that he was still alive had been Stiles’ main reason to not give up on most days, the knowledge that things will get better even if they’ll never be fixed.
Derek on the other hand--
He hadn't even had that little bit.
So of course he isn’t going to ask, because he knows--more than anyone, even Stiles--about how every time someone does, it’s like having the wound reopened, like someone is ripping into you with claws and teeth and ripping your heart out in the most painful way imaginable. And Stiles, well, he’d just thrown Derek’s kindness back in his face, used it as a reprimand where it had been intended as a gift.
Stiles feels like the world’s shittiest person since like, ever.
It’s just, it’s so hard to reconcile his world view with Derek actually being sweet in his own way, actually being understanding because he’s used to the growly, angry version. But on the other hand, when he actually tries, it’s like everything seems to make more sense; it’s--
--a start to something huge.
And this conversation will either make or break the whole thing.
And Stiles, well, he wants this--whatever it may be--to work out; so he does the only thing he can.
With a sigh, he leans back, pulling Derek down with him so that the other man’s head is resting on his chest, and he runs his fingers through thick, unruly hair as he starts to talk.
He talks and talks, until he doesn’t where the story starts and where it ends. He talks until all the hurt comes pouring out, until his mom is a real, tangible person again instead of the angel his dad and he had taken to putting on a pedestal. He cries where he needs to, like he had to Danny and to his therapist. But for the first time ever, he also finds himself laughing, finds himself recounting some of the absolutely stupid things that he and his mom had gotten up to way back then.
And Derek, well, he just stays and he listens.
Stiles talks well into the morning, until his voice grows hoarse, and his throat gets so scratchy that he’s pretty sure that it’ll be sore tomorrow. But, when he falls asleep that night, with his arms around Derek and even though it’s on the lumpiest couch the world will ever see, he feels free.
“My mom’s name was Sharon, Sharon Angela Stilinski, and she was literally the coolest person on the planet. She was that mom that everyone wanted to have because she knew how to kiss your boo boos and ground your sorry butt if she felt that you needed to be punished. But she also knew how to have fun, how to make things good, and most importantly, she knew how to live. Dad and I loved her--revolved around her--until one day, she got sick....”
Three Months Later
But, overall, things have been going really (surprisingly) well.
Granted, it’s a little weird because he’s practically pseudo-married now and three of his friends/classmates/packmates think of him as a parental-figure, but it’s sort of pleasant as well because he has people depending on him full time, has people to take care of that care about him too.
(Seriously though, people would never know that these idiots are as old as he is if it weren’t for the fact that they have the bodies to match; because seriously, it’s like they can’t do anything for themselves.
Stiles suspects that it has less to do with laziness and more to do with them never having had anyone to really give a shit before, which makes him be a bit nicer about the whole thing. Except to Scott sometimes, because Stiles knows how cool Scott’s mom is and how lazy Scott himself is.)
Really, the only odd thing is that, beyond some small things, nothing has actually changed much.
Derek is still as obnoxious as ever, still broody, angsty, and generally annoying. But nowadays, he’s also clingy, which makes it a bit easier for Stiles to distract him when he goes into that deep dark place he calls his mind.
(Also, there is a lot of kissing and touching, which Stiles really, really likes and considers to be one of the few perks of being pseudo-married to a sourwolf. Even if said sourwolf is refusing to go any farther than like, first base because apparently he has morals when it comes to his sort-of-mate being underaged. Bah.)
Scott, Jackson, and Lydia are still stubborn jerks who are hellbent on making Stiles have a coronary, which is nothing new because they are all assholes and they’d always done that.
Danny is still Danny, which is awesome, but Stiles is starting to push Jackson towards him behind his back because otherwise he’ll never make a move. And really, that’d just be sad. Jackson wants it just as badly if his poorly executed games of gay chicken and his all-night mope-fests are anything to go by.
And as for Stiles, well, he thinks back on the young boy who’d made a selfish birthday wish, on the boy who’d hated himself for wanting something more, and wishes he could go back in time and tell the boy to hold on.
Because, that wish? It's come true, in more ways than Stiles had ever imagined.
For the first time in something like seven years, he isn't just content; he's happy.