“Won’t you tell me what’s wrong, Gizheurann?” Mom asks when she finds you sobbing beneath the apple tree. The sound of your name only makes you cry harder. You hate it, like you hate everything about yourself, right now.
Her eyes plead with you. She's grown pale and wan, since you started school last year and realized you're like the puzzle piece that lives in the bottom of the game cabinet, because Mom and Dad can't figure our which box it goes in, and you can't stand to throw it out. For the last year, you've tried everything to get out of school. Crying. Faking stomach aches. Refusing to get out of bed. None of it worked. Your parents take you to doctors, but you aren't sick. You're wrong . Nobody can fix that.
Sometimes you wonder still if she wore her heart out worrying for you those first few years. If you’d been normal, would it still beat healthy and strong?
She pulls you into her lap, and you can’t fight anymore. The secrets fall from your lips, crashing and breaking against the tear-stained fabric of her blouse. The boys wouldn’t play with you at recess. They laughed when you wanted to be Batman. The girls all thought you were weird. There was a concert coming up, and all the girls were supposed to wear skirts, but you won’t, you won’t! You’d rather die.
When you lift your head, she's crying too. You don't know why it makes you feel better, but it does. Part of you has been afraid she might laugh and shake her head, like she did when you were convinced there was a monster in the toilet. She might say, "Gizheurann, you're being silly! There's nothing wrong." But she doesn't. She dabs her eyes and kisses your hair, smoothing the tangled locks with her fingers.
Maybe her tears give you the courage to ask, in a tiny, wavering voice, “Was I cursed?”
In another family, it might be a silly question. But Mom reads you fairy tales every night, taught you charms to keep away the monsters under the bed, to bring good luck. You both know curses are serious business. She purses her lips, looking up at the sky, at the apples overhead. Her hands never still in your hair.
“ Zaichik ,” she says at last, “I think maybe you were. Or perhaps it was a blessing. Sometimes, they're hard to tell apart.”
The next time Dad drives you to school, it’s a different one. Your new teacher introduces you to the class as Stiles. You smile shyly, run a hand through your freshly-buzzed hair. That afternoon, you make two friends – a girl named Lydia, who you’re going to marry someday, and a boy named Scott.
Scott lets you be Batman, at least until he gets the superpowers, which is ironic, since Batman’s appeal is that he’s just an average guy. But Scott is cursed, too, now, so you’ll give him a little slack.
* * *
You hate summer. Sweat pools in your binder, itchy and rank. You’ve claimed a debilitating fear of water since puberty, so instead of splashing in the pool with your friends, you’re trudging through the woods, trying to keep up with Derek, who doesn’t scare you anymore, but still pisses you off. You’d give anything to be able to whip your shirt off, like he has. You’re reduced to daydreaming about those blissfully cool (if terrifying) hours keeping Derek afloat when he suddenly stops in front of you.
You plow straight into his sweaty back, and open your mouth to complain. Then you see Derek's face. You follow his gaze to where Peter lays in the bushes, eyes glassy, throat a mess of red.
Derek digs the grave, but you spread the wolfsbane for him. An X this time, not a spiral. Derek can’t exactly seek revenge on the Alpha Pack, not when he killed Peter himself less than six months ago. Afterwards, you brush the dirt from your hands, while Derek stands over the grave, jaw suspiciously firm.
“Sometimes I think I’m cursed,” he says, staring down at the fresh dirt.
“I hear you,” you say, with feeling. You reach out, intending to pat him on the shoulder, maybe punch him in the arm. The punch of solidarity. Instead, the lost expression on his face makes you slide your arm around his shoulders, draw him in against your side.
Derek's eyes go from sad to shocked. You tense, waiting for him to shove you away, maybe threaten you. It’s been that kind of day. Then something raw and broken flickers in his expression. Suddenly, his arms are around your waist, and you’re sucking on his lower lip. You've never kissed anyone before. Never guessed you might kiss Derek. But his lips are surprisingly soft, a contrast to the stubble. He smells like dirt and sunshine. He's clinging to you like you're all that's keeping him from washing out into the sea of death and destruction that's flooded his life. And now that you've started kissing Derek, you never, ever want to stop. In thirty seconds, this day has gone from shitty to amazing. You're so buoyant with joy that you'd probably float up into the clouds if he weren't holding you so tightly.
Then he reaches for the hem of your t-shirt, and reality crashes around you. You stumble away from him, weak-kneed and breathless, wanting to laugh, or cry, or maybe run away.
“There’s something you need to know,” you stammer.
Derek rolls his eyes. “Stiles, I already know.”
You suppose it’s not that surprising. Derek creeps around in your room. He has super senses. But . . .
“You don’t think it’s weird?” you ask in a small voice. And now Derek is staring at you like you’re the stupidest boy alive.
“Stiles, I’m a fucking werewolf,” he answers. And . . . fair point.
* * *
You can’t meet Derek’s eyes when you strip off the binder for the first time. You toe off your boxers, toss your packer into the underwear drawer. Then he’s catching your chin, tilting your face up, and his body is solid and warm against your naked skin. When he kisses you, it’s electric.
You’d feared sex with Derek will be like something from the Discovery Channel. As hot as that seems in theory, you’re nobody’s bitch. But he’s hesitant, almost skittish. By now, you know it’s not because of you. It turns out you’re not the only one with secrets. He keeps his hands to neutral places at first. Your belly. Your thighs. Your sides and back.
“Tell me what you want,” he rumbles, nipping at your throat. You’re too shy to say the words, but you catch his head and drag it down. You’ve always been sensitive there, and it’s gotten better since you’ve started T. His stubble feels amazing on your dick.
You’re afraid he’ll want to fuck you afterwards, but when you sit up, still shaky and breathless, he takes your hand, wraps it around himself. He guides it up and down, shows you what feels good.
And maybe your life is a horror novel, not a fairy tale. It’s not like a kiss can break either of your curses. But when you lick into his mouth and taste yourself, it’s pretty damned amazing all the same. Enough that, for awhile at least, you wonder if Mom was right. Because Derek is panting and shuddering against you, staring at you like you're everything wonderful in the world – your life doesn't feel like a curse right now. It feels almost like a blessing.