Stiles is washing up, his back to the table, when he asks, “Do you really not trust me?” He is uncharacteristically quiet, and the former sheriff of Beacon Hills restrains the urge to make a flip reply.
“You aren’t exactly making the best life choices at the moment, kid,” he says. That’s one hell of an understatement, he thinks, because he’s still getting over the whole restraining order debacle, not to mention the inexplicable changes in Stiles’ behaviour in the last few months.
“Maybe it just seems like that,” says Stiles, still applying himself to the washing up with a frankly suspicious degree of focus. “Maybe it’s like one of those problems where there’s a hidden factor. Factor X. Like they deduce the existence of planets by their orbits. And, y’know, nothing makes sense because you don’t know about Factor X but once you, well, factor in Factor X, the pattern works and everything makes sense. Like in Buffy, y’know, and she acts all crazy but then, hello vampires, and suddenly she’s perfectly normal. Normal-ish. And making good life choices.” He pauses. “Making choices that are less terrible than they might otherwise appear.”
Ex-Apparently-Courtesy-Of-Factor-X Sheriff Stilinksi leans back in his chair and absorbs this. “Okay,” he says eventually, and he swears he can see Stiles’ shoulders slumping in relief.
“Great!” says Stiles brightly, and launches into a stream of inane chatter about the day’s school which is great, but…
“Son, you know simply introducing a mysterious “Factor X” into the situation isn’t actually sufficient,” he says.
Stiles freezes. “Uh…”
“Yeah, you might want to give some thought into explaining to me what I don’t know that can explain you’ve been getting into trouble quite as much as you have.”
Stiles puts down the dish he’s washing, turns round and braces himself against the counter. His jaw is set. His eyes are steady. “Dad,” he says, “this is gonna be hard to hear, but I think the time has come. I can hide the truth no longer. Beacon Hills is infested with vampires. Scott is the one girl of every generation chosen to slay them and I am his faithful minion. And yes, they do sparkle. They sparkle like a thousand suns.”
And, Jesus, how did he end up with this kid? This frustrating, irritating, hilarious, amazing kid? He really wants to let all this slide, wants to trust Stiles, but more than that he wants his son to be safe, and these days, he’s not sure that he is, whether it’s because of whatever craziness he and Scott are getting up to, or the fact that Stiles can’t keep his nose out of other people’s business (if he never has to see his son at the point of someone’s gun it’ll be too soon).
“Yeah, you’re a laugh a minute, kid,” he says instead.
Stiles nods sagely. “It has often been said,” he says.
“That’s not only thing,” Stilinski retorts. “I take it your Factor X is going to remain a mystery?”
“Hey,” says Stiles, offended, clutching the dishcloth to his chest, “if you can’t face the truth about the Living Dead…”
“Don’t give me that,” he says. “As long as you can tell me you’re not dealing, or, shit, I don’t even know, in some cult or…”
“Dad,” objects Stiles. “What after-school specials have you been watching? Of course I’m not dealing drugs!”
“No, of course not, how stupid of me. It’s vampires. Vampires are why my son’s turning into a delinquent.”
Stiles fiddles with the hem of the dishcloth. “It’s not vampires,” he mutters, which, what a shocking surprise. He glances up, though, defiant: “There is a Factor X though,” he says. “I just—Dad, I wish I could tell you, but I can’t, so.” He shrugs.
And what the fuck is he supposed to do with that? He can’t force the kid to talk. He could ground him, or stop his allowance, but that’s not going to make any difference. He sighs, and stands up, and slips a hand round the back of Stiles’ neck, squeezing lightly, rubbing his thumb over the short, short hair at his son's nape.
“You know I’m here, whatever you need to tell me,” he says, and when Stiles nods jerkily, he presses a kiss to his temple. “I just need you to be safe, Stiles.”
He’s not surprised when Stiles throws his arms around him for a quick hug, or when he lets go as quickly and throws a towel at his head.
“I washed,” Stiles says. “And—I said I’d meet up with Scott.” It isn’t a question, but Stiles is waiting for a response nonetheless.
Stilinski looks down at the drying rack, neatly stacked and rinsed dishes waiting for him to dry them. He could ground Stiles, or stop his allowance, or any other of a hundred things he would suggest to other parents, but ultimately he has to decide whether or not he trusts his son.
He picks up a plate, says, “Be careful, kiddo,” and listens as Stiles leaves.