“So, about tomorrow…” Stiles started slowly.
Scott grinned delightedly. “Yeah, me and Allison are going to talk tomorrow. She’s headed to France after school’s out, and we really need to talk before that happens. Then I’m going to help Isaac out with some stuff.”
Stiles felt his heart shrink, Scott had forgotten. “Do you think you could spare your good old buddy Stiles an hour?”
Scott laughed and nudged him, “Dude, we’ve got plans for Saturday don’t we?”
Stiles shrugged, “Yeah, I was just really hoping you’d be there Thursday, you know, tomorrow.” He tried to emphasize Thursday, tried to make it clear that this was serious, that this was more than just a bro-day.
“Saturday, man. We’ll party it up.”
Stiles hesitated. He knew if he pressed it, if he laid it all out there, he knew Scott would cancel with Allison and Isaac, he’d ditch school with Stiles, he’d be there. All Stiles had to do was remind him. Scott would be there.
But what if he wasn’t. What if Stiles reminded him, what if Stiles asked for him and Scott still chose Allison or Isaac. His unshakeable certainty that Scott would be there for him? It had slipped away with cancelled plans, with a hung up phone call while Stiles was stuck in a pool, with being beat up in a basement with no one looking for him, with secret plans that he no longer had a part in.
So it had been a rough few months… that didn’t erase the years of friendship, the years of Scott being the steady support that kept Stiles from crashing to the ground. If Stiles needed him, if Stiles told Scott he needed him…
“You okay, man?” Scott asked him, his smile fading a little, the beginning of concern showing on his face.
Stiles felt a surge of guilt. He should never be the reason Scott’s smile faded. He shouldn’t need Scott to sacrifice for him. It was just a day. Just another day.
“Yeah, man, I’m fine.”
He could tell him, he could remind him. “Yeah man, just tired. I haven’t been sleeping well.” He paused, then resolved himself, “What are you and Isaac up to?”
Scott’s smile came back brightly and he started chatting about how Isaac really wasn’t as bad as they’d thought, about their super fun plans. Stiles smiled, he was happy for Scott, he was.
It was three in the morning when he left the house. It hadn’t necessarily been his plan, he normally went after breakfast. Spent a few hours at the cemetery and then went and hid in Scott’s bed for a few hours.
But it was three in the morning and he felt like he was going to throw up. It hurt so much.
He felt as though his soul was going to shred itself into tiny pieces.
He knew he shouldn’t be driving. His grip on the steering wheel was too tight, he was jerky, he could barely see through the tears that were already welling in his eyes.
It hurt every year. But this year… this year it hurt so much worse.
He parked the jeep, and stumbled out the door, yellow roses and white daisies that he’d bought yesterday clutched tightly in his hands. He remembered being nine and clutching the flowers so tightly he’d ripped the stems. He tried to loosen his grip but he couldn’t tell if he was successful or not.
He made it to her grave and put the flowers down as carefully as he could. They still looked fresh. Which was funny, he thought, because they were already in the process of dying. He’d never understood why you put dying flowers on graves, weren’t cemeteries already full of enough death?
But his mom had loved flowers, had always had flowers in the kitchen, sometimes there were roses and daisies, and other times she’d have dandelions from the yard that she’d ‘saved’ before dad would mow the lawn. “Flowers remind us that even tragic stories can be beautiful, little Mischief, and that beautiful things can end in tragedy. But we love things while we can.” He hadn’t understood what she meant, he still didn’t understand why she had always smiled when she said it. She had been beautiful, the most beautiful woman to ever live, and the way she’d died, slowly, withering away from the inside, losing her mind one piece at a time, it was the single greatest tragedy of Stiles’ life. He didn’t understand how that was something to smile about.
His legs felt like they were going to give out on him so he let himself fall to his knees. “I miss you, Mom. I miss you so much.” The words came out choked. “I miss you. I miss you. God, I miss you.”
The first tear of the day escaped past his eyelashes and ran down his cheek. “I’ve cried real tears three times in my life, Mieczyslaw, once when my mother died, once when my father died, and once the day I woke up and realized I’d forgotten you. A mother should never forget her son.”
He hadn’t understood the first time she’d forgotten him, his Mom would sometimes play silly jokes on him, and while forgetting to pick him up from school had been a little extreme he hadn’t thought much of it, Mrs. Whittemore had given him a ride home and his mom had wandered in from the living room and given him such a strange look. She hadn’t said anything, just stood there and listened to him talk. Dad had gotten home a little after and she’d turned to him and asked, “Who’s the boy in the kitchen?” He’d heard Mom and Dad talking about sickness before, but it was the first time that he really understood.
After that Mrs. McCall and Mrs. Whittemore had taken turns bringing him home from school. It was back when he and Jackson hadn’t hated each other, when they’d been friends. Jackson and Scott had asked why his mom never picked him up anymore. Stiles never told either of them. Instead pretended he didn’t hear them and he’d clutch his Batman backpack as tightly as he could and until they’d stopped asking.
“Your grandfather didn’t approve of comics. So of course I had to read as many of them as I could. I always did love Batman. All girls love a little dark and brooding. Especially when their father disapproves.”
She’d read comics with him, had taught him to love comics because she had loved comics. He’d loved hearing her stories about how she would sneak the comics from the neighborhood boys, how she’d try and hide them from her own father, how it never worked because he could spot a lie a mile off.
“It’s inherited you know, Papa always knew when I lied, but it meant that he always believed me when I told the truth. I never had to prove anything, my word was enough. Your father might be the cop, but I’m the one who’ll always know the truth.”
After the first few times of testing her Stiles had never bothered lying to his mom. Not even when he had gotten into a fight at school and made another kid cry. She would know the truth anyways, and he couldn’t bear to see that look in her eyes when she knew he was lying to her. He wondered sometimes what she would have said now, he’d never have been able to hide werewolves from her. He wasn’t sure he would have even tried. It made him feel guilty, that he was lying to his Dad when he wouldn’t have lied to Mom.
“Your father loves you so much, Stiles, so much. But he’s going to be so lost. You have to give him time. Give him time to heal, you’ll have to take care of him until he’s better.”
It had been one of the last things his mom had said to him. During one of her moments of lucidity when she knew who he was, when she wasn’t afraid of him hurting her and when she wasn’t trying to hurt him. He did his best. It was the last thing Mom had asked of him, so he monitored his Dad’s diet, he kept tabs on all the police radios, he didn’t tell him about Werewolves because if his Dad knew his Dad wouldn’t stay out of it, he’d throw himself in the middle because that was what his dad did. His Dad would always put himself between innocents and danger.
“He should have put me in the hospital earlier, I don’t care what I was saying Melissa, he should have put me in the hospital the moment I put a bruise on Stiles. The moment I started screaming at him. He should never have left me alone with my son when I wasn’t capable of protecting him from myself. Oh Mieczyslaw, I’m so sorry.”
He tried to forget about those months, the months where she didn’t remember who he was, where she thought he was dangerous, where she thought she had to protect herself from him. She had lashed out, but Stiles had never blamed her. Not when he fell down the stairs, not when he hit his head, not when the kitchen had nearly been burned down. He didn’t blame her, because his Mom loved him. It wasn’t her fault her mind had tricked her into thinking he wasn’t him. His Mom loved him.
“The seas could dry and the sky could fall and the world could end and I’d still love you.”
“Scott got turned into a werewolf. It was my fault, I was the one who wanted to go into the woods looking for a dead body. It doesn’t seem fair, that he has to pay the price for my mistake. But let’s be honest, it would have been a disaster if I had turned into a werewolf, I already have a hard enough time controlling myself now, add werewolf-crazy and I’d be a disaster. More of a disaster. You used to call me that, do you remember? I was your little disaster. Except for when I was your little tornado, or your little monster, or your little gremlin. You had a lot of names for me like that, but you had this magic power where once something was yours it was beautiful, perfect. And I was always yours.” He fell quiet. The sun had risen now. And there were actually cars on the streets now. He should probably go to school now, or he could use his key and go hide in Scott’s house, Scott wasn’t home, but when he got home he probably wouldn’t mind the fact that Stiles had used his room to hide.
“Scott’s making new friends. He got a girlfriend, except she went kind of crazy and tried to kill us. But that’s only because her Mom died. I still feel a little crazy because you died. Even Dad went a little crazy when you died. What she did was still wrong, but I kind of understand why it happened.”
The two years after Mom had died had been particularly awful. Dad had hardly ever been home, and when he was home he’d drink too much. It was a little bit like when Mom had forgotten him, he’d done things that sober Dad would never have done. Stiles couldn’t blame him any more than he could blame Mom.
“I miss you Mom. So much. I’ve been so scared lately. Scared of the werewolves, and the kanima, and the hunters. Scared that I’m losing Scott and Dad. I don’t know if I can handle that Mom. I know you’ve noticed that Scott’s not with me. It’s the first time he hasn’t come with me since you died. He’d have come if I’d asked… but I didn’t know how to ask when he’d forgotten. I mean, I understand why, things have been crazy, it was only a few weeks ago that the power of love saved Jackson from being stuck as a lizard slave to an evil rotten old man, and school still has a few weeks left. I understand why he forgot… It’s just… he forgot.”
He felt as though he was about to choke. “Mom. Mom. He forgot. Everybody forgets. You forgot. You forgot me. And then Dad did… and now Scott is. You forgot and then you left. Dad is always leaving, what if one day he just doesn’t come back… What if Scott’s next. What am I supposed to do?” He could feel his heart starting to race, and his breathing was growing unsteady. Oh God, what if Scott really did forget him. With everything that had happened it would make sense if Stiles just became a blip on his radar, if he slowly disappeared. Scott would never forget him on purpose, but his Mom hadn’t meant to forget him either.
He couldn’t get enough air in his lungs. His vision was growing hazy, there was a buzzing in his ears. But all he could think about was how his Mom had forgotten him. His Mom who had loved him more than anyone else, if she could forget him than so could anyone.
He dug his fingernails into his arms, tried to pull himself back. Mom. Mom. I need you. I need you. Why did you forget me? Why did you leave me? Mom! He wanted to scream, wanted to scream for her to come back, but the words were stuck in his throat.
It hurt. It hurt. His whole body hurt. He took his nails and scratched as hard as he could. If it hurt enough on the outside maybe it wouldn’t hurt as much inside. It didn’t work so he tried again and again. He couldn’t breathe. Mom. Mom. Come back. Please… Come back.
Please, I need you.
He managed to pull in a real breath and then another. Then he curled into the smallest ball he could manage, hugging his legs to himself in an attempt to hold himself together.
But it was too late he was already falling apart.
Danny snorted as Lydia and Jackson got into another argument about what they’d be watching that night. He didn’t know why Jackson kept bothering, there was no universe in which Jackson won this argument.
“Wasn’t I invited to join the two of you? Shouldn’t I get a say?”
Lydia gave him one of her most condescending looks, “If your say is to agree with me, than of course you do. Otherwise just sit back there and keep looking pretty.”
Danny laughed, and settled back into his seat. There was no way he was going to agree with Lydia, he had no desire to watch The Notebook, but he also knew when to save his breath.
Jackson looked away from the road to give him a betrayed look and Danny just shrugged at him with a grin. Jackson rolled his eyes.
It made Danny feel warm inside. The past month or so had been such a mess, with Lydia and Jackson breaking up and Jackson being so weird. And then with Jackson dying. He felt his throat close up at the memory. No. He was grateful that things had seemingly gotten back to normal. Even if it did mean he was back to being a constant third-wheel. He needed a boyfriend, preferably one that Jackson could stand this time, unlike his ex. The one time they had tried to do a double date had been a disaster of epic proportions.
Danny jerked forward as the porsche came screeching to a halt in the middle of the road. Danny glanced at Jackson to see him frowning at the wheel. Lydia looked just as confused as Danny felt, there was also something Danny would almost classify as fear. “Jackson?” Lydia reached out hesitantly.
“It’s fine.” Jackson threw the car into park. “Danny, you can drive, I’ll be there in a little bit.”
“Wait, what, Jackson?”
“Jackson?” Lydia’s voice definitely had an edge of fear.
“It’s fine, Lydia. I promise. I’ll meet the two of you at my house in a bit.” Jackson jumped out of the car and started off. Danny stared at Jackson’s retreating back and glanced at Lydia who had an anxious look on her face.
Finally she sighed, and turned to Danny, “Seriously, he better not make a habit of that.”
“We’re gonna just leave him?”
Lydia scowled, “Yeah. If he’s going to be an idiot we’ll let him.” She paused, “For now.”
Danny laughed and moved to the front seat, “Bright side, I love driving this car.”
They were both pretty quiet the rest of the way to Jackson’s house. Despite what Lydia had said Danny could tell she was anxious and her anxiety was making Danny anxious.
They grabbed soda from Jackson’s fridge and trailed to his room, Danny tried to pretend that he and Lydia weren’t trading shifts to keep watch out the window. The longer Jackson was gone the more Danny remembered how strange he’d been behaving recently, how that had resulted in Jackson dead on the Lacrosse field.
Damn it, Jackson. Now wasn’t the time to be acting weird.
A blue jeep pulled into Jackson’s driveway and Danny frowned, “What’s Stiles doing here?”
Lydia’s head jerked up, “Stiles? Wasn’t he absent today?”
Danny raised an eyebrow in surprise, he hadn’t thought that Lydia would really notice something like that. “Yeah, he was, but his jeep just pulled up.”
Lydia frowned and joined him in looking out the window. He wasn’t sure which of them was more surprised when the driver’s door opened and Jackson stepped out. They watched in silence as Jackson moved to the passenger’s door and practically man-handled Stiles out of the car.
There was a minute when they stood there by the Jeep, Stiles had his arms crossed over his chest protectively and Danny could tell they were arguing. Apparently Jackson won because Stiles slumped into himself and followed Jackson as he made his way to the house.
“Didn’t Jackson get a restraining order against Stiles?”
“Yeah. He did.”
“Do you have any idea what’s going on?”
Lydia shook her head. “Not a clue.” She frowned, “I hate not knowing what’s going on.”
They fell silent as the front door opened and closed. “Just let me go home, Jackson.”
“Your home smells like alcohol and depression, forgive me if I remember what happened to you the first time your dad started drinking. I’m not an idiot.”
Danny raised a silent eyebrow, he hadn’t realized that depression had a smell, and what had happened the last time the Sheriff started drinking? And how did Jackson know about it?
“It’s not like that anymore.”
“You’ve already been beat to hell once recently, no need to tempt fate.” Danny jerked, because he wasn't an idiot and he could read the implications there, but... that didn't... that didn't make sense. Didn't compute.
“Just shut up, Jackson, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Whatever you need to believe, Stilinski. Now come on, you’re disgusting, you need to take a shower and change.”
“I can do that…”
“Do you really want to be in your house right now? While your dad is drinking away his sorrows? Because if you honestly do, I'll take you home, just tell me, just don’t bother lying because we both know I’ll know.”
It was silent for a long moment before there were footsteps on the stairs. Danny and Lydia exchanged looks, before they both pulled their phones out and pretended to be busy, so that when Jackson came in, Stiles trailing behind him they could pretend they hadn’t been listening in.
Stiles was a mess. He was dressed in what looked like pajamas, but they were wet and dirty as though he’d been rolling around in the grass. His face was pale, and his eyes were red as though he’d been crying for an extended period of time. He was hunched in on himself as though he thought he could disappear. And his arms had red welts and dried blood that Danny finally placed as scratch marks, self-inflicted scratch marks.
Jackson shoved him towards the bathroom, “Go shower, I’ll find you some clean clothes, not those… whatever those are.”
Stiles shrugged, trying and failing to look as though he didn’t feel completely lost, “It was three in the morning, I wasn’t thinking clearly when I left the house.” But he let Jackson shove him into the bathroom.
Danny did his best to keep his face impassive at that. What in the world was going on?
They were quiet for a long moment as they waited for the shower to turn on and then both he and Lydia turned to Jackson with raised eyebrows.
Jackson avoided eye contact with both of them. “You guys want to get the movie ready? Stiles is going to join us.”
Lydia raised an eyebrow but sighed when Jackson’s face made it clear he wasn’t going to say anything else. “Well, since you made us wait, we’re definitely watching my movie choice.”
“We’re not watching the Notebook tonight.”
Lydia frowned, “Yes we are.”
“Lydia…” Jackson trailed off, glanced back at the bathroom contemplatively, looked to Danny for help, but it wasn’t like Danny had a clue what was going on, so it was all on Jackson. “His mom died of Frontotemporal Dementia. It’s the anniversary. We aren’t watching the Notebook.”
About half of the night suddenly made so much more sense. The way Stiles looked like he was about to fall apart, why he hadn’t been at school, why the Sheriff would be drinking.
What didn’t make sense was why Jackson had gotten involved.
Lydia pursed her lips, her eyes softened, “I suppose we could watch something else. Danny can choose. I’ll go get the popcorn and snacks ready.”
She flounced out of the room and Danny turned to Jackson who was going through his dresser, pulling out a pair of sweats and a t-shirt.
“Not that I want to discourage your strange moment of kindness, but… it’s sort of unlike you.” That wasn’t completely true, Jackson was actually startlingly and insanely protective of certain people, but it was unlike Jackson where Stiles was involved, because Stiles wasn’t one of those people.
Jackson was quiet for a moment, “Me and Stiles didn’t always dislike each other you know, his mom and my mom were friends.” He ran a hand through his hair. “It’s not like the two of us are suddenly going to be friends again. He’s still an idiot.”
Danny gave Jackson a long look. “Why’d you stop being friends.”
Jackson shrugged. Turned away. Danny took a step closer and nudged him, just hard enough to show he wanted to know more, but also light enough that Jackson could choose to ignore his question. “She was forgetting things. The Sheriff was one of the few things she didn’t forget.” It went unsaid that Stiles was one of the things she forgot, “Sometimes she knew she had a son, but didn't remember it was Stiles, and Stiles doesn’t actually look all that much like the Sheriff.” Jackson paused, but didn’t elaborate and it only took a few seconds for Danny to make the connection. Stiles didn’t look like the Sheriff, but Jackson sort of kind of did. Danny wasn’t sure exactly what had happened, but he could imagine. “We stopped hanging out, and she died about the same time I discovered I was adopted, he and McCall got closer, you moved to Beacon Hills. Things changed.”
Danny nodded, took a second to incorporate that information into his worldview and then let it go for the moment, “Iron Man an okay movie choice?”
Jackson looked relieved, “You get to be the one who informs Lydia.”
“Gets to inform Lydia of what?”
Danny turned and grinned at her, as she entered with a bowl of popcorn and a bag of twizzlers, “Oh, just that we’re going to be watching Iron Man tonight.”
Lydia scowled. “You have got to be kidding me.”
Jackson smirked at Danny, sending him a wink before disappearing into the bathroom where Stiles was still in the shower, leaving Danny to convince Lydia that Iron Man was a good choice.
Lydia did not seem impressed. But she also didn’t argue as much as she normally would. So either she secretly liked Iron Man or she was thinking the same as Danny, that their unexpected guest probably liked that movie. Honestly, with Lydia it could go either way.
The two of them set up the movie. There was a moment when they hesitated, normally when it was the three of them they would sprawl on the bed, Lydia and Jackson cuddling, Danny pointedly ignoring the fact that he was third-wheeling on yet another date, even if both Jackson and Lydia denied it was a date.
Lydia was the one who moved first, laying herself down on her stomach, a little closer to the edge than normal. Danny hesitated but then took the opposite edge and got himself comfortable.
Soon enough Jackson was once again pushing Stiles out of the bathroom. Danny couldn’t be certain because Stiles eyes had already been red, but it looked as though Stiles had been crying even more. Jackson was complaining about how Stiles was trying to steal all the hot water and threatening to throw out the clothes Stiles had come in because they were too hideous to even be in his room. Stiles mostly ignored him, occasionally muttering something that sounded a lot like ‘ass’.
Stiles joined them on the bed with a thump when Jackson gave him a good shove before Jackson slid in next to Lydia and immediately started cuddling. It was awkward for a few minutes before the movie got started. But they all did their best to ignore it.
Danny allowed himself to fall into the movie. He liked Tony Stark, the guy was such a jerk, but seriously a genius, and JARVIS? Tony got all the passes for creating JARVIS. The AI was a thing of beauty.
When Iron Man ended Danny glanced to the side to see that Stiles had fallen asleep, curled into himself as though he was trying to make himself smaller. One hand had stretched out and was gripping Jackson’s ankle as though his sleeping self was trying to anchor himself.
Lydia moved and switched the movie, it was another Nicholas Spark movie, but at least it wasn’t The Notebook. Small mercies.
Danny fell asleep halfway through the second movie while some girl was crying about her broken heart.
For a second he wasn’t sure what had woken him up, but then he heard it again. “Mom, please, mom. Stop.” Silence. “Please, I’m your son, it’s me, Stiles. Mom, stop, please, stop.” Stiles sounded so much younger than 16, Danny had never heard Stiles sound that young, had never heard Stiles sound that scared.
Danny closed his eyes trying to ignore the increasingly desperate pleas.
He didn’t want to hear this. He didn’t want to have everything he knew about Stiles thrown into doubt. Stiles was happy, hyper-active, crazy, he wasn’t someone whose Mom had… whose Mom…
There was movement and then he heard a, “Stiles.” Jackson’s voice was quiet.
It went quiet for a long moment and then Danny heard a muffled sob. “Sorry. Sorry.”
“It’s fine.” There were sniffles, small hiccups that told Danny that Stiles was trying to bring himself back under control.
“The three of you sleepover a lot?”
“Probably about as often as you and Scott. Although Lydia and I…”
“I do not need to know about your sex-life, dude.”
Jackson snorted and it fell quiet for a long moment. “Want to talk about it?”
Jackson just hummed, “Have you talked to anyone about it?”
“I don’t need advice on how to deal with my demons from you of all people, Jackson.” There was something bitter and ironic about how Stiles said that. It was quiet for a second, “Sorry, that was kind of asshole-ish.”
“Well, you aren’t wrong. But then, I think that out of everyone I can tell you how stupid it is to leave your issues unresolved.”
“You’re being way too nice. Who are you and what have you done with Jackson?”
“Not even I would kick you down today of all days. Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to make you feel inferior tomorrow.”
“Thanks.” Stiles voice was laced heavily with sarcasm and for the first time tonight actually sounded like Stiles, Danny grinned into the blankets.
It was quiet for a long time and Danny was nearly asleep when Stiles spoke again. “She really did love me. She didn’t mean to do all those things. She was sick. It wasn’t her fault.”
“Sometimes I’m afraid I’ll forget the her that loved me and all I’ll have left will be the memory of the her that thought I was a monster, that thought that I was trying to kill her. Of the her that hated me.”
There was another shuddering sob and Danny wished he could close his ears, Stiles didn’t mean for his fears and secrets to be heard by any more than Jackson. He cracked his eyes open, Stiles had been lying the opposite way of the rest of them, and Jackson had shifted so that he could better talk to him. But he and Lydia still had their heads near the foot of the bed. He could see Lydia, her head was turned and he could see the light of the moon reflecting in her eyes. Her eyes met his and her mouth twisted into something pained.
Slowly the sobs quieted again.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this… Like, I’m going to have to research alternate universes, but thank you Jackson.” There was a depth of sincerity in Stiles voice. “I don’t… I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t dragged me from the cemetery.” Danny felt a chill down his spine.
It was quiet for a long moment, “Yeah, well, don’t expect anything to change.”
Stiles snorted. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Go to sleep, Stilinski.”
Stiles muttered something under his breath, but the room became quiet again. Danny wasn’t sure if Stiles really fell asleep or if he was just laying there, but if there were any more nightmares they didn’t manage to wake Danny up again.
When he got up the next morning to get ready for school Jackson had forced Stiles into some of his clothes (and hadn’t that been strange, seeing Stiles in Jackson’s clothes, so completely different from what Stiles would normally wear) and had bullied him into eating breakfast before finally letting him get into his Jeep. By the time Stiles was allowed to leave there was just barely enough time for Stiles to go home and get his things before school started.
Yet somehow by the time he, Lydia and Jackson got to school, Stiles had managed to get home and grab his things and get to the school. He sat hunched in his seat, still far paler than normal and determinedly avoiding eye-contact with any of them.
He was still in Jackson’s clothes though.