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When his father was killed by a rogue omega a brief year after his mother’s death, Stiles thought his life was actually over. He didn't have any other family. No one left to take care of him. He was going to be put in the system. And he would make great use of it. No one would want to try to raise a kid whose ADHD was layered on top of both of his parents being ripped from his life at such a young age. He could barely contain his energy on good days. There was no hope for him now. He would be shuffled from home to home, over and over until he was eighteen and left to fend for himself.

Ms. McCall tried to take him in, but as a single mother with a son whose asthma was as bad as Scott’s, she didn’t have enough income to plausibly support two boys with medical issues and her request to adopt him was rejected. It didn’t help that his father hadn’t gotten around to changing his will yet—the only person responsible for Stiles in the event of his father’s death was his mother. And she was gone too. He had no hope for his future and that was a very scary thought indeed.

He was eight years old now. He knew he had to be brave. His mother would have wanted him to be brave. She would have kissed his tears away and told him she loved him and believed in him. She had always believed in him. He would be okay. He would be brave for his mother.

The social worker collected him from Scott’s house at precisely 9 o’clock the very next morning. He quietly got into the car and looked out the window toward Scott and Ms. McCall. He felt tears beginning to fall as he watched Scott’s face grow smaller and more terrified. But he would be brave. He would be brave for his parents. He almost believed it— until they turned the corner and the McCall’s were no longer in sight. Then came his first panic attack since his father’s death. His worst panic attack to date.

He spent the night two towns over with a family called the Argent’s. Mrs. Argent scared him, but Mr. Argent was nice and they had a daughter named Allison who was really pretty and very kind to Stiles. She looked like sunshine and she let him cry in her arms. She didn’t understand why he was so sad, but that made him happy. He didn’t want her to know what it felt like not to have anyone anymore.

“Stiles, huh? That’s a pretty weird name.”

“It’s not my real name. But I don’t know how to say it anymore. Momma was gonna teach me when I turned ten because I’d be old enough to say it then. But she’s dead. So dad was supposed to do it. He promised he’d teach me. Now he’s dead too and I don’t even know how to say my own name.” This confession brought about a new wave of tears and Allison calmly shushed him through it.

“That’s okay, Stiles. We can learn it together. Daddy told me that we were going to keep you around. He said when Grandma died, he and Aunt Kate had to live in foster homes for a while and they were separated because no one wanted the two of them together. Grandpa couldn’t take care of them anymore. Daddy said he was lucky but Aunt Kate wasn’t so he doesn’t want you getting stuck with a bad family. So you’re going to be my brother!”

“Allison, I told you that was supposed to be a secret until tomorrow at breakfast. You need to listen better.” Mr. Argent gently reprimanded his daughter from his position in the doorway.

“Sorry, Daddy. I got excited. I always wanted a brother!”

“Yes, but this is sad for Stiles. He wants his old family, not a new one.” Mrs. Argent had joined her husband in Allison’s doorway. They had stashed the children in Allison’s bedroom while they spoke with the social worker. “You’re being very quiet, honey. Do you need anything? Are you hungry?”

“A little. Can I have curly fries?” Stiles was embarrassed by his request, but his dad had always said that curly fries could fix the hardest times and this felt like the hardest time.

“Of course, dear. I’ll go pick some up right now. Would you like anything else? Ice cream, maybe?” Mrs. Argent wasn’t that scary, he supposed.

“Gummy bears?”

“Why not. Come on, Chris. Let’s leave them be. We have a few more papers to sign and Ms. Morell needs to have a few words with Stiles.”

“Alright, Victoria. Come on, Allison. Let’s let Stiles talk to Ms. Morell.”

“But I don’t want to be alone! Please, stay with me! Please?” Stiles could feel another panic attack coming on fast. “Please, don’t leave me. Please.”

“Shh, Stiles, I’ll stay with you. It’s okay. You don’t ever have to be alone again. That’s what sisters are for.”

Stiles woke with a start, sweaty and disoriented. It’d been a long time since he’d had a dream about the day he came into the care of the Argent’s.

“What’s up?” Allison questions from her bed across the room.

“Just had a dream is all. Ally, do you remember the night you told me we’d be siblings? My first night with you guys?” She moved to get out of her bed and cross the room. Stiles waved her off with a careless flick of the wrist, but she ignored him, as per usual.

“Of course I do, Stiles. I’ll never forget it.” She climbed in beside him. They’ve shared space for as long as Stiles cares to remember. She’d hear him cry at night when they were little and come in to comfort him. Victoria would come to wake them in the morning and find them both asleep in one bed. She was always livid about it and would constantly try to separate them. After her death two years ago, Chris gave up the pretense of either of them sleeping alone and moved all of Stiles’s stuff into Allison’s larger room one day while they were at school. “That was the beginning of our codependency.”

“Ha ha, very funny.” Stiles rolled over to get dressed and ready to train for the day.

“You know it.” Allison responded before climbing out of his bed herself. “You know, I still can’t believe Dad has no idea about that giant tattoo. I can’t believe you did that. He’s gonna be so angry when he finds out.”

“Mind your own business, Ally.” Worst comeback ever. It’s too early for this shit.

“Nice comeback, bro. Pathetic.” They got dressed, as they did every day, back to back. He had no desire to see any more of Allison than he had unwittingly walked in on that time. They had a system that worked for them. “You better hurry and cover that up, Stiles. He’ll be in here to wake us up in like five seconds.”

He pulled the wife beater down over his tattoo right as their door opened.

“Oh good. You’re up. Breakfast. Now.” Chris seemed to be in a unusually tense mood today. He was normally pretty pleasant when he came in to find them not wrapped around eachother.

“What’s up with Chris?”

“I don’t… Oh! Aunt Kate is coming over today. That must be why he’s in such a weird mood.”