Two days before his dad disappears, Stiles stops sleeping.
He wonders if maybe he knew this was going to happen, if the nightmare the week before was the warning, and if his inability to sleep is just a big, flashing light that he’s chosen to ignore. The first night, he tries desperately to fall asleep because he’s not in this mindset—he’s okay right now, and if he doesn’t sleep, it’s just an invitation for everything to fall apart.
Stiles watches the sun rise from his bed, still fighting the urge to be awake. He keeps fighting until his alarm goes off, and then he spends the next ten minutes using every swear word he knows in every different language he can remember in every possible form. His dad comes in on him grumbling, “Stupid fucking douchebag lowlife son of a bitch,” and it’s not his best, but he’s running out of ideas, and he’s so fucking tired.
“Good to know you’re so well versed,” his dad says by way of good morning, and Stiles just glares at him before storming into his bathroom to finish getting ready.
His dad sighs and goes over to put his backpack together, and Stiles knows he’s doing it so he has a reason to stay instead of just standing around. When he comes back into his room, he’s done swearing, but he’s still in a fairly foul mood, and his dad notices immediately, folding his arms across his chest and quirking an eyebrow at him.
“I didn’t sleep last night,” Stiles admits, mimicking his dad’s stance.
“Thought so,” Stiles sighs, flopping onto his bed, “I’m fucking exhausted—sorry,” he amends when his dad sighs, “I don’t know why I couldn’t sleep.”
“Maybe you did a little and just didn’t realize it? That happens to me sometimes.”
“No, I was definitely awake. Started making tallies every half hour after the first four hours awake. It’s not like I’ve been staying up late, either. I’ve been so tired, and now I can’t sleep. This blows.”
“Forget it,” he mutters, grabbing his backpack and heading out.
His dad follows him downstairs to where Stiles is yanking on his jacket. “Hey,” he says as Stiles reaches for his keys, backpack slung over one shoulder. Stiles sighs, not turning, and his dad has clearly had enough because he takes his elbow in hand and tugs until Stiles shifts.
“Don’t give me attitude,” his dad says, hand coming up to curl around Stiles’ shoulder, “Let me be here for you.” After a moment of working his jaw, Stiles nods and shrugs out of his grip. “Stiles—”
“Dad, just—forget about it, okay?” he snaps, yanking open the door.
He’s barely halfway to school when he feels bad about it, and this is his mom’s fault, this lightning fast guilt, and he sighs as he dials his dad and turns down the radio. “I’m sorry,” he says the second he picks up, “I was being an ass, and you were just trying to help, and I’m just exhausted right now.”
“I know. It’s okay. Maybe you should play hooky today, see if you can get some shut eye? I can stay home, if you need me to,” his dad offers.
“No, it’s fine, I’ll—I’ll be okay. I promise. I’ll see you after school,” he says before he hangs up, not giving his dad a chance to persuade him.
That night, it’s bad enough that he’s getting restless now, and he tries to just wait it out on the roof, but he feels like he needs to just keep itching, muscles twitching randomly around his body until he can’t stand it anymore, and he goes out for a run.
Stiles is just coming down his street in a cool down jog when the sun starts to peek over the horizon, and, by the time he reaches his house, the sky is light, and he’s feeling a little better. He considers trying to nap until he needs to get ready, but even the idea makes him feel itchy again, so instead he power cleans his room, ends up waking his dad up with the noise, who pads into his room yawning, still in his pajamas.
“Sleep at all, kiddo?” he asks, leaning against the doorway.
“Not a wink,” Stiles responds, tying off a garbage bag, “Tried, didn’t work. Sat on the roof, didn’t work. Went for a run, that was actually fairly effective—still didn’t work, so cleaned.”
“What do you call it?” his dad says, frowning.
“What?” Stiles gives him a funny look, not understanding.
“Sleepless syntax,” his dad says after nearly two full minutes have ticked by, “Right?”
Stiles nods—he’d coined the term after his first string of sleepless nights when his sentences got weird and choppy, and he hates that they’ve started so soon. Usually, he gets about four nights before people start looking at him weirdly when he talks.
“Don’t forget your subjects—pronouns and all that jazz,” his dad reminds, and Stiles smiles as he turns out and pads back down the hallway.
Stiles calls Scott literally one minute after his alarm has probably gone off, and Scott groans so loudly into the phone, Stiles almost—almost—laughs. “The fuck do you want?” Scott grumbles, his words slurring together.
“Dude, I’ve been awake for at least forty-eight hours now, and I’m already well on my way to sleepless syntax—like, I’m trying real fuckin’ hard right now to make sense, but we need to do some serious work, man.”
Scott is quiet for a few moments before, “Okay. I’ll rope Lydia into it, you buy some green tea after school, and we’ll have a slumber party. We got this, Stiles—no nightmares.”
“Hey,” Scott says, and then pauses to yawn, “Anytime, man. You know that. Now fuck off,” and then hangs up.
Stiles grins, probably looking a little wild, before he goes to finish cleaning, takes a long shower, and then gets ready too fast, so he’s left lingering in the kitchen until he just decides to make breakfast, and his dad comes down humming.
That night, he disappears.
Stiles is so wound up that, when Scott shows up, he just turns him right around and directs him to the jeep. They head to the high school and run laps until Scott demands they take a breather for Stiles’ sake, and then they’re practicing different moves until Stiles needs to run again.
And then, Melissa disappears.
They stay up strategizing and researching and planning until they’re both pacing, sometimes talking to each other, sometimes just talking to the empty air.
The night before Chris disappears, Stiles actually falls asleep. Granted, it’s only for two hours, and he wakes screaming, but he knows what this means. It’s just a waiting game after that, and the moment he reads Isaac’s text, he knows it’s going to happen, and he’s helpless to stop it.
He tries to swallow and can’t, can barely hear what Lydia is saying as he blinks, and his vision is blurring in and out of focus. His chest constricts, and he reaches up a hand to rub against it, trying to push the pain away, palm pressing against his sternum until he’s trying to inhale, and he can’t.
“Stiles,” Lydia says, reaching for him, and then he’s shaking his head and turning away. He staggers, and he can’t see, can’t breathe, can’t feel where his feet are going until he’s coming full circle, and he sees Lydia again, only Lydia, his little life raft, and he reaches for her, inhaling raggedly.
“I think—I think I’m having a panic attack,” he chokes out, and Lydia stares at him for a heartbeat before wrapping one hand around his arm, the other coming up to brace against his back, and that alone grounds him a little, reminds him of his surroundings, and he ducks his head, inhaling again. It’s like sucking air through a pinched straw, just this thin line of oxygen slipping through, and it makes him lightheaded until they’re crashing into the locker room, and he hits the wall.
“Stiles,” Lydia says frantically, trying to move him to somewhere they can sit.
Stiles drops his backpack unintentionally, stares at it in confusion as he reels backward, and then Lydia’s steering them over to the benches, and he misjudges the distance and ends up on the floor.
All he can hear is his dad’s voice when Lydia’s mouth moves, and he wants to scream, but there’s no oxygen left in his lungs for him even to attempt. “Lydia,” he says brokenly, hand coming up to claw at his chest, fingers bunching in his shirt. He can’t cry, not in front of her—he needs to be strong for Lydia, always.
Lydia tells him to think happy thoughts, to think of friends, and he tries desperately to will Scott’s face to his mind, but all he sees is Melissa, and then she’s saying to think of family, and he hears his dad’s voice again, and he lets out this little, broken noise without meaning to. “Oh god,” Lydia says, squeezing her eyes shut and shaking her head, “Stiles, just breathe. Breathe.”
Her voice is so calm that, for a moment, he thinks he might be able to, but, when he looks up, right before he blinks, all he can see is blackness and a distorted image of Lydia that makes him choke, and then he shuts his eyes and shakes his head, holding his breath.
“Stiles,” Lydia whispers, hands coming up and landing on his face. Stiles opens his eyes, breath rushing out as her fingers stroke along his cheeks. Lydia tilts his face up until he’s looking at her, at her beautiful eyes, her adorable nose, her flushed cheeks, her loose, out of place hair, her mouth, and he just needs to be closer, needs to be as close as he can get, needs Lydia to pull him close and hide him away.
“Sh, Stiles, look at me,” she says softly, fingers still smoothing over his skin, and it’s not working. Stiles feels like someone is reaching into his chest and prying it open, yanking his ribs apart and taking hold of his lungs, squeezing until they burst, and he starts to back away, starts to curl in on himself when Lydia pushes forward, mouth meeting his. Stiles freezes, swallowing down his breath, and he goes bug-eyed for a second before he’s giving in, eyes fluttering shut as he kisses her back, loses himself in everything that is Lydia.
For nearly a decade, he’s wanted nothing more than to be this close.
When she slowly pulls away, everything is so vibrantly clear that Stiles’ whole body aches, and he just wants to close his eyes and lie down on the cool floor and fall asleep, but he focuses on Lydia’s face, on the way the sun bathes her in golden light. He holds her gaze until his chest flares with a sudden reminder of pain, and he lets his breath out with a soft noise. “How—how did you do that?” he manages to ask her, but he can’t look away from her mouth, and he barely hears her response.
When she sits back, Stiles follows her lead, sinking back against the gate, legs unfolding from underneath him, and he leans his head back against the cool metal. He’s okay, for right now, but he still feels like he could shatter any second, like everything will flood back and pull him under until he’s drowning, pulled so deep he’s back to freezing, limbs locked, unable to fight.
Lydia gives him the perfect distraction, telling him to visit the guidance counselor, and he straightens. “Morrell,” he says, and Lydia looks at him strangely before he’s going off, scrambling to his feet and reaching out a hand to help her to her feet.
Though he sees Lydia fight with herself for half a second on whether or not to address the fact that he’s just had a rather severe panic attack and that there’s every potential it’s not quite over yet, Stiles keeps talking and rambling enough that she lets it go and starts going back and forth with him.
In Morrell’s office, when he’s flicking through Lydia’s notebook, looking at all the varieties of the Nemeton tree, Stiles has difficulty swallowing and feels the sudden urge to get out, but he just reaches for Lydia’s hand, winding their fingers together, and shoves it away to deal with it later.
“You’re okay,” Lydia whispers, squeezing his hand, “I’ve got you.”