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Just Like Dust We Settle In This Town

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The sun hadn’t yet begun to rise when the blaring beeping of the alarm broke Stiles from his sleep. He opened his eyes and groaned as he shut off his alarm. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes again. He heard the quick footsteps before the door opened. Stiles had to push down the urge to smile as he listened to the small footsteps approaching his bed.

He felt the slight dip in the mattress and steadied his breathing. The oof he let out as he felt the heavy weight plop onto his back was quiet. “Daddy wake up!” His son raised his voice as he spread himself on Stiles’ back.

“I can’t… I’m dead,” Stiles said, keeping his eyes closed.

Ben whined, drawing out the word ‘daaaaaaad’ as he rolled off of Stiles. The familiar sensation of a small finger poking Stiles’ cheek made him shift. He opened his eyes and grimaced, flinching as he saw just how close Ben’s finger was to poking his face again. “I gotta go to school,” Ben pouted.

Stiles lifted himself up, grabbing Ben. This elicited a shriek as he stood. “Yeah, yeah. You’re a nerd,” he smiled as Ben attempted to wrestle himself out of Stiles’ grasp. They both froze when they heard the familiar agitated shout of shut up from the room just down the hall. Ben laughed as Stiles placed him on the bed. “Guess we woke auntie Malia up,” Stiles shrugged. “Go get ready, I’ll make breakfast.”

Ben perked up and jumped off the bed. He darted out of the room while Stiles walked over to his dresser. Stiles was quick to change into a t-shirt and jeans before heading into the kitchen. On his way, he knocked on Malia’s door and told her that the day was officially starting. She let out a frustrated groan, but by the time the oven was finished preheating she had managed to stumble into the kitchen.

Stiles smiled as he put the hashbrowns in the oven. “Good mornin,” he greeted. She wordlessly poured herself a cup of coffee as Stiles cracked a few eggs. “Do you want meat in your omelet?” He decided to ask.

Malia gave him an agitated look as she sat at the table. “Of fucking course I do,” she replied as she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes.

Every time they had omelets, which wasn’t often, Stiles made sure to include square chunks of meat in Malia’s. Ever since his father adopted her, she always asked to have the prepackaged chunks of ham in the eggs. The Stilinski’s always had a tendency of piling their omelets with cheese. A good tasty breakfast was the only time Stiles would let his father eat extremely unhealthy. That was mainly because he himself anticipated the breakfasts even though he was the one making them. Breakfast was basically a treat.

Over the years, Stiles had gotten used to the lack of a kosher diet. Heather had tried to continue both their family traditions of raising children as Jewish, even though neither of them practiced anymore. Eventually, Ben decided he wasn’t religious. Heather hadn’t given up her diet for her own ethical reasons, but Stiles had given that up when his mother died. Stiles had given up everything about their religion after the funeral. The only reason people even knew he was Jewish is because of the necklace he refuses to take off aside from childhood memories.

Malia had never been Jewish, so she was shocked at the age of 13 that Stiles never put ham in his omelets. He had tried it with her, but wasn’t a fan of it. Truly, the only time Stiles liked ham was hamburgers. But, he would do anything to make sure his family had the food they enjoyed. Well, he made sure his dad had a healthy meal first and foremost.

Stiles placed Malia’s omelet on a plate before he began making Benjamin’s. He quickly handed it to her. “Hashbrowns should be done soon. Maybe after mine’s done,” he informed with a smile.

“Thank God,” Malia replied with her mouth full.

A smile was on Stiles’ face as he shook his head fondly. Ben took his seat at the table as Stiles put his omelet on a plate. “Did you get all your homework done last night?” He asked as he placed the plate in front of his son.

“Yeah,” Ben answered as he adjusted the buttons of his uniform polo shirt. “Can I have some orange juice?” He asked before Stiles could ask any more questions about the responsibilities Ben had before going to bed the night before.

Malia got up from the table as Stiles continued making himself an omelet. Since they lost Heather, Malia had been really helpful with Ben. She babysat and helped around the house, living rent free while working from the house. When Stiles was working, she was really helpful. She poured the glass of juice and gave it to Ben. He took it with a smile before digging into his omelet.

Stiles plated his own omelet and turned off the stove. Once he placed his plate on the table, he quickly turned to the oven and opened it. He smiled as he took in the sight of the hash brown patties. They looked well enough done that he put on an oven mitt and took them out. He turned off the oven and grabbed at one of the hashbrowns. He winced as he dropped it, the heat being too much. Without thinking he grabbed it again and quickly dropped it on an individual plate. “Let them cool down,” he informed both of them.

One thing Stiles would never deny is his stubbornness. He wanted the hashbrowns, so he was gonna get his goddamn hashbrowns. It didn’t matter that he was going to be burning his fingers by grabbing the too hot potatoes; he was going to get them on the plates as quickly as possible. He stacked them all on the plate before turning to the table. He wiggled his brows as he took his seat, placing the plate in the center of the table. It didn’t take long for the plate to be emptied. Malia and Stiles had two hash browns while Ben had one.

Stiles let them all get comfortable before he continued his earlier line of questioning. “Did you clean your room?” Ben nodded as he stuffed his face. “So, if I check it and it’s not clean, I can take away your TV privileges for a few days?” Stiles laughed when Ben’s expression fell. “Kid, how many times do I have to tell you that you can’t lie to a liar.”

"That dog just don’t hunt,” Malia added as she nodded her head.

Ben sighed. “I forgot to do it,” he stated, looking down at his food.

Stiles nodded, pursing his lips. “You don’t have to lie, just say you didn’t do it and own up to it.”

“I already know I’m still getting in trouble!” Ben retorted.

“Because you didn’t do what I told you to and you lied about it,” Stiles asserted. He never wanted to shout at Ben, so he made sure not to raise his voice. “Monday you get your TV privileges back. Okay?”

Ben nodded. “Okay.”

They ate in silence for the rest of breakfast. The only sounds were the clicks and scrapes of the forks and the loud slurps of the juice and coffee. Deep breaths and sighs were heard between bites. Malia had the tendency to eat loudly, she chewed with her mouth open and would react vocally to taste. She would hum when she got to a particularly good bite. Today, it wasn’t any different. The noise was ignored, even though it made Stiles feel better that he could at least make a decent meal.

When they finished eating, Ben stood and grabbed his backpack from the chair. He pushed the chair under the table with a forceful shove. Stiles sighed as he got up and put the dishes in the sink. He was quick to follow Ben out of the room. They left the house, and Ben slammed the door as he climbed into the old Jeep. “What did I say about slamming doors, Benjamin?” Stiles raised his eyebrows as he gave him a pointed look.

“Sorry,” Ben muttered as he waited for Stiles to leave the driveway.

Stiles inhaled sharply through his nose as he backed out of the gravel driveway. Days like this Stiles wished he never stopped smoking. It would be so poignant and calming to take a drag from a cigarette and flick the ash out the window. Instead, he just tightened his grip on the steering wheel. “I’m not pissed at you, I just don’t want you to end up like me. You know that right?” He glanced at Ben, noting that he didn’t receive the same courtesy. He bit the insides of his cheeks. “I don’t want you to end up stuck in this shitty town with a failed marriage, raising a kid that you had in high school.”

Ben took a deep breath and Stiles looked at him again. He was looking at his hands, picking at the dead skin on his fingers. “Okay,” he whispered. When he looked at Stiles, he was taking deep breaths as his eyes watered up.

Stiles licked his lips as he felt the dread well up inside him. “Did I just make you cry? God, I’m sorry. I just… I love you so much and I want you to be successful and my life went downhill and I started acting the same way as you are now when I was your age. It scares me, I guess.”

He had to turn his attention back to the road but he heard when Ben let out a choked cry. “I’m sorry dad,” he wheezed and Stiles could just picture it as he furiously wiped away his tears.

For once, Stiles was glad that he had a tendency to show up at the bus stop way earlier than necessary. He parked the Jeep and fully turned to Ben. Ben stayed where he was, taking harsh breaths as he wiped his tears away. “Don’t apologize for crying,” Stiles reminded, softening his voice. “I love you.”

Ben nodded, taking a slow breath before looking at Stiles. “Does mom?” His voice was small and breakable, it reminded him or how small he was when he was born. So precious and beautiful.

“Of course she does,” Stiles stated. He felt his own face tremble as he blinked away the urge to cry alongside him. “What made you ask that?”

More tears were furiously wiped away. Ben took a ragged breath. “Where is she? Why haven’t we heard from her if she does? Daddy-”

Stiles grabbed one of his hands and leaned closer to him. He looked Ben directly in his eyes. “I don’t know why she’s doing what she is, but I promise you that she loves you. She wanted me to make sure you had a good life. She trusted me, and by Hashem I will follow through.”

Ben froze at the old habitual statement. Hashem, none of them had said that name since Ben had decided for himself he didn’t believe. He took a deep breath and nodded. “I love you,” he decided to say.

Stiles smiled as he noticed that there were no fresh tears. “Have a good day, okay? Don’t be causin’ Ms. Martin any trouble or I’ll have to tan your hide.”

Ben let out a small laugh as he leaned over to give Stiles a hug. He knew he’d never act on traditional punishment, not after the stories he heard from Malia and Scott, so it was the smallest joke he could do to cheer Ben up. Stiles wrapped his arms around him and took a deep breath, making sure to plant a kiss on his head. “Bye dad,” Ben whispered.

“Bye Ben,” Stiles rubbed his back before letting go. He watched as Ben climbed out of the Jeep, only to run back to grab his backpack. He laughed before running back to the bus stop. Stiles waved before starting the Jeep up again and driving away.

Stiles took a deep breath, realizing he shouldn’t have said what he said. Especially not to Ben. He remembered his dad having been drunk and saying that Stiles was never part of the plan he and Claudia had. They never wanted kids, and they never expected Claudia to get sick. Stiles have been eleven, and that night he stoles one of his dads bottles of whiskey and snuck out the window. He drank enough that he started stumbling as he walked back to the window, falling onto the hardwood floor as he crawled in through the window. Somethings you just don’t say to a kid.

He rubbed his forehead and gripped the wheel with his other hand. The sun had already started rising during breakfast, so there was a comfortable amount of light, but there was still a gray atmosphere to the air. It felt like there was a film in front of Stiles’ eyes, keeping him from seeing all the light around him. Driving down the vacant road allowed his mind to wander down that dark path once again. Was he repeating the mistakes of his father that he thought he’d avoid by staying sober?

Stiles bit the dried skin off his lip as he turned the radio on, immediately changing the station from the local country station to the rock station. The sounds of Linkin Park was overwhelmed with static. He groaned as he switched back to the country station. No matter how often he tried to switch the station from the overplayed country radio station, nothing had good enough reception in this town. He’d have to go on the freeway to hear anything different. It was too early to use the aux cord, especially when he was just heading home from the bus stop.

With each twangy word about long tan legs, beer, and pickup trucks, Stiles fumed. He took a deep breath, rolling the window down. Resting his arm on the door while the breeze cooled his face was supposed to be calming. He gripped the steering wheel even tighter, his knuckles turning white. Instead of shouting, he let out a harsh breath and shut off the radio.

Maybe sitting in silence was better than getting angry at shitty music. Pulling into his driveway, he was glad to be home finally. He got out of the Jeep and headed inside. “I’m the worst father ever,” he declared as he plopped on the couch beside Malia.

“And the worst brother,” she added as she took a drag of her cigarette. “I’m sure it’s fine. It’s not like you’re doing meth or anything.”

Stiles nodded and took in the sight of Malia. After everything she had been through, wanting to leave this town for Paris, she still came back to help him. “I hear shit like that breaks up families,” he said causing her to laugh as she rolled her eyes. “It’s just hard sometimes. You know how I am, and you knew how I was. He’s too much like me.”

“He’s your kid, of course he’s like you. He’s also gotta worry about whatever brand of crazy Heather is. You’re the least of his worries,” Malia was trying to be supportive. She just never knew what to say. One thing Stiles noticed over time was that no one knew what to say. “I mean, c’mon, he’s just bein’ a kid. Everyone lies.”

That was true. Everyone lied about something at least. Scott and Allison pretended to enjoy church every Sunday. Malia hid a bottle of vodka in her room and Stiles pretended he didn’t know about it. “I just don’t want him to grow up and get into a good college out of the fucking state. Something I never got to do.”

Malia sat up, taking her feet off the coffee table. She lowered her cigarette, resting her hand on the armrest of the couch. “He’s not you. You’re not your dad, and Heather isn’t your mother,” she stated matter of factly. “History might repeat itself, but I swear to God he’s not gonna end up like you. He might look like you, but he sure as Hell doesn’t act like you. Sure he lies, but like I said everyone does.”

Stiles sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “You weren’t there until the worst of it started. When I was his age, my mom died. Then the bad started. He’s too much like me. So much potential for good, but something terrible can lead him down the wrong path. My path.”

“Bless your heart, you really think you can control everythin’, huh?” Malia took another drag from her cigarette.

Stiles stood. “Shut up. Don’t you fucking dare-”

Malia blew out the smoke. She sighed as she leaned back in her spot on the couch, putting her feet back on the table. “You know damn well just how fucking controlling you can be, ain’t no sense getting madder than a wet hen.”

“I got plans with Scott, I gotta get ready,” Stiles didn’t wait for a response. He walked down the hall, making sure to close his door as loudly as he could without slamming it. Hearing his heart pounding in his ears, he dug through his closet. He put on a flannel and made sure to send Scott a text, asking to meet at the diner just in town. It was closer to Stiles’ house, but Scott could manage to get there soon enough.

He didn’t bother saying goodbye to Malia as he left the house. The drive to the diner was a lot farther than the bus stop. Stiles couldn’t sit in silence for the whole half hour. So, he plugged his phone into the aux cord. He had downloaded music onto his phone, already knowing he’d never have enough bars to listen to Spotify in the car. As he drove down the road, the familiar and comforting sounds of his personal playlist made the drive easier.

He shouted along to the lyrics instead of stewing in his thoughts. The accents many rock singers had was so Hollywood, it was a nice switch. Listening to people who talked like him was irritating. His mother had more of a Louisville accent than she did anyone from Appalachia. Stiles got his speech patterns from his dad. As much as he loved his father, there was a need to get away from the familiarity. He couldn’t listen to music that reminded him of his father saying just do whatever you goddamn want Stiles. It was too much, especially when it was music his father had listened to.

When he pulled into his usual parking space in the diner, he shut off the Jeep. He connected to the diner wifi and scrolled through the days headlines. The usual bullshit from the government, another mass shooting. Stiles turned off his phone and got out of the Jeep. As he adjusted his shirt, Scott pulled into the spot next to him on his motorcycle.

“You gonna buy me breakfast?” Scott asked as he got off his bike.

Stiles nodded as he locked the Jeep. He smiled fondly as he tossed his keys in the air, catching them before they could fall. “It’s not like you have a doctors salary or anything.”

Scott licked his lips and exhaled as he smiled. “Vets don’t get paid as much as doctors.”

“And waiters don’t get paid as much as vets,” Stiles shrugged.

Scott let out a laugh. “I’ll buy breakfast then.”

With that, they went inside. “Howdy darlins,” Talia greeted as she moved from her spot behind the counter. Talia Hale was the owner of Hale Family Diner. It was a small diner that was a bit upscale in design; looking like it jumped out of the 50s. The only difference about it was that while it was homey, it was more like the Addams family than it was the Brady bunch.  

“Mornin’ Ms. Hale,” Scott smiled.

Stiles lowered his head a bit as he hugged her. “Hey momma Hale,” he said as she rubbed his back.

After waiting tables at the diner for the past decade, Stiles had grown close to his boss. One thing he had to admit was that working at the diner definitely felt like having another family. “Cora’ll be by your table in no time,” Talia informed. “Can I get you some coffee before she brings you the usual?”

Scott and Stiles nodded in the affirmative. Talia walked back behind the counter and grabbed two mugs in the shape of wolves . She poured the fresh coffee and handed them their mugs. She reminded them that there was creamer and sugar packets at the booths. As they took their seats at their usual booth, they were careful not to spill their coffee. The only downfall of the mugs that Talia used was that the wolves were upside down.

Stiles took a sip of his coffee before placing the mug on the table. “Do you think I’m a bad dad?” He asked, resting his elbows on the table.

Scott choked on his coffee, placing the mug on the table as he coughed. Stiles watched with his eyebrows raised as his friend tried to calm down. Scott cleared his throat. “What?”

Stiles sighed as he leaned back in the booth. He looked at the small jukebox on the table by the window. “It’s nothing, I guess,” he said as he pulled a quarter out of his pocket. Leaning over, he inserted the quarter and picked track 5. “I made Ben cry on the way to the bus stop,” he admitted as he avoided looking at Scott. “Then, Malia had the audacity to call me controlling. I think the three years she spent touring with that band made her get too big for her britches.”

“Why did you make Ben cry?” Scott asked, his brows furrowed when Stiles finally found himself looking at him.

The sound of Don’t Fear The Reaper flooded over the diner as Stiles took a deep breath. “Y’know how I sometimes just say things that shouldn’t be said?” Scott nodded. “I did that and then he started crying and he asked me if Heather loves him.”

Scott let out a low whistle as he looked out the window. He scratched at his chin and licked his lips. “That’s giving me flashbacks to after my dad left,” he admitted as he looked down at the table. There was a moment of silence as Stiles noticed the sudden sad look in Scotts eyes. He was searching for something and he looked lost. Scott brought his eyes back up to meet Stiles’. “I promise you’re not a bad dad. You’re just learning, and there’s no books on how to raise a kid.”

“There is, actually,” Cora’s voice brought them both out of their thoughts. She was wearing her uniform black dress with white detailing with a small apron. Her long brown hair was teased and curled, a small black paper hat was on her head. “You can order ‘em on Amazon,” she stated as she took one of their plates off the round tray she carried with her right hand. She placed it in front of Scott before carefully taking Stiles’ plate and placing it in front of him.

Stiles gave her a sarcastic smile. “Thanks I didn’t know that you’re a mom.”

Cora rolled her eyes. “Why would I ruin the best years of my life with a kid I don’t want?”

That statement made all the air leave Stiles’ lungs as his face fell. “Leave the poor kid alone,” Talia teased from her place behind the counter. Stiles turned his attention to her. “His food is gonna get cold if you don’t stop hounding him with your crap.”

Scott failed to hold back a laugh as Cora smiled at Stiles and walked away from the table. He rubbed his face before grabbing his fork. “You didn’t ruin your life,” he stated when Stiles gave him a shocked look. “Sure, Ben was a shock and he definitely came at a bad time, but you didn’t ruin your life.”

Stiles nodded as he grabbed a piece of bacon from his plate. “I made my kid cry. I’m fucking terrible.”

“Kids cry, Stiles. It doesn’t make you terrible. Maybe he’s just been overwhelmed? Did you ask him if anything happened at school?” One thing Stiles would never deny was that Scott was smarter. A whole hell of a lot smarter than him, sometimes.

Stiles looked down at his food. “Uh, no. Should I?”

Scott nodded. “What happened before you took him to the bus stop?”

Stiles took a deep breath before explaining that morning. The unfilling breakfast, finding out Ben lied, the tension in the air when they left. “I was just so frustrated. I’m starting to get why Heather left. She didn’t wanna have to deal with the responsibility of how her emotions affected him.”

Scott frowned. “Stiles…”

“I’m not abandoning him if that’s where you think I was gonna take that. I’m nothing like her,” Stiles snapped. “I’m just saying I now understand. It took four years for it to fully set in, but I get it.”

There was a sharp intake of breath from Scott. He nodded. “You can’t be too hard on yourself,” he said, softening his voice.

Stiles rolled his eyes. “I’ve got no idea what I’m doing, and I never have,” he stated as he stared at the wolf mug.

They sat in silence as they continued eating. The bell from the door rang as one of the other regulars left. Talia said goodbye to the man on his way out, her voice sounding closer to the booth than it was earlier. There was the smooth clack of her heels before she arrived at their table. “Mind if I sit with y’all for a quick chat?” She asked with a comforting smile on her face.

Scott gave her some room beside him, and she thanked him. When she took her seat, she looked Stiles in the eyes as she stole a piece of his bacon. “Sweetie, I’ve got three kids. Two girls and a boy. I promise you, you’re not doin’ a bad job. Scott’s right. Kids cry, and sometimes that’s because you said somethin’ dumber than a doorknob. All you gotta do is make sure the kid turns out okay. Don’t matter what missteps you took, just as long as you made sure the bigger picture of you is good.”

Stiles nodded. “How do I know if that’s what’s happening?”

“Give it about 7 years, if you haven’t left him to fend completely for himself it should be good. Just try your damnedest to stay in his life and talk to him, and things should be good,” she smiled. “You’re doing a pretty damn good job.”

Stiles scoffed. “Thanks, you make it sound so easy.”

Talia shook her head as she leaned closer to him. “It’s not easy. No one has any idea what they’re doin’ and many give up. You haven’t given up. That’s all that matters as long as you ain’t abusin’ him or nothin’.”

Another patron called out, asking for a refill on her cup of coffee. Talia gave Scott and Stiles a smile before getting up. Scott scooted back to where he sat before. “Got any plans today besides loading up on food and moping until you have to get Ben?” He asked.

Stiles shrugged. “Really planned on cashing in on the single young father depression. Wanna knock some sense into me?” He asked, a smile on his face.

“You’re a lucky bastard, I’ve got the day off. We could piddle around at that strip mall. Hear they got a record store,” Scott smiled.

“A man after my own heart.”

After they finished their food, Scott paid for the meal while Stiles sent Cora and Derek a wink from where they were in the kitchen. Both of them rolled their eyes and continued their work. “Y’all stay safe now,okay?” Talia said as she gave them both a hug, making sure to place wet kisses on their cheeks.

Scott nodded. “Of course,” before heading for the door.

When they got to the strip mall, Scott parked his bike in front of the Argent Armories while Stiles parked in front of the GoodWill next to it. The strip mall wasn’t necessarily a strip mall, it was just a line of stores next to each other. The record store was a new addition, Stiles had heard that Erica Reyes and Vernon Boyd had bought that section of the building after it had been vacant for 6 years. Allison had told him and Scott about the purchase, saying she helped them move in.

When Scott and Stiles met in front of the GoodWill, Scott glanced back at the Argent Armories. He looked back at Stiles with a smile on his face. Stiles narrowed his eyes. “You wanna say hi to Allison?” He decided to ask. Scott nodded and grabbed Stiles’ hand, pulling him toward the store.

When the door opened, it caused a bell to ring. “Be with you in a sec,” a deep and familiar voice called out from the back of the store. Stiles followed Scott behind the counter, making sure to take in the sight of all the beautiful knives they had laying under a certain section of glass. Scott pulled back a curtain. “Scott,” Chris spoke again, turning away from his wife, “Stiles. It’s good to see y’all again.”

“You too, Mr. Argent,” Stiles nodded.

There was the sound of rushed footsteps before a door opened and Allison rushed into the room. “Scott!” Allison cheerifully shouted as she rushed over to him. When they met in a hug, he lifted her feet off the ground. Stiles rolled his eyes when they kissed.

He looked at Chris and Victoria, with his brows raised. “Am I invisible?” He asked and they shrugged.

Scott placed Allisons feet on the ground and she turned to Stiles. “I have priorities,” she stated firmly before pulling Stiles into a hug.

Stiles patted her back and shook his head, looking at Scott. “You see him every day yet you say hi to him before your own flesh and blood,” he scoffed as she pulled away. “If I didn’t know any better I’d say you’re a traitor.”

“As if you don’t put him above me all the damn time,” she smiled as she turned to Scott. “So what brings y’all in?” She asked as Victoria made her way to the storefront, probably moving to it behind the counter in preparation for a customer.

Scott blushed and shrugged. “Thought I’d stop by since we were stoppin’ by that record store a few doors down.”

Allison seemed to remember something at that admission. “Oh my god, I invited Lydia to dinner tonight. That’s okay right? She’s been such a busy body with her work lately and I just thought it’d be good for her to have a homemade meal.” She gave Scott a pleading smile, and Scott said that it was fine. Of course Scott was fine with spur of the moment plans on his night off, especially coming from Allison. Allison bounced on the heels of her cowboy boots and clapped excitedly. “She’s planning on a meeting with a parent today, and she should be over after that,” she glanced at Stiles. “Have you checked your email?”

“Son of a bitch,” Stiles sighed and shook his head. “What’d he do this time?” Stiles has yet to have a meeting with Ms. Lydia Martin about Ben, but he had several meetings with Isaac Lahey when Ben was in fourth grade, and meetings with every teacher Ben has had since the second grade. Behavioral issues that didn’t match up with ADHD; he focused well and had excellent grades but he would act out.

Allison shrugged. “All she told me was that she needed to have a meeting with you.”


Stiles was thankful that Malia picked Ben up from school using her truck. He showed up at the school when it was mainly empty aside from staff members. As he walked down the hall, he waved at Isaac as he left with his bag on his shoulder. Isaac gave a smile and a nod before turning to head down the stairs. When he arrived in front of the door, he looked through the rectangular window and froze for a moment.

There she was, Lydia Martin. The girl he had a crush on up until his life became a complete and total mess. She was still beautiful, sitting at her desk with a pen in her hand as she glanced from her laptop to a stack of papers in front of her. Her strawberry blonde hair was styled in a pair of twin pigtail braids, and she was dressed in a casual formal way. She looked like she was happy to be an elementary school teacher.

Stiles took a deep breath and knocked on the door before opening it. She looked up and gave him a small smile. She sat up straight and said “Mr. Stilinski, come on in.”

Stiles walked past the threshold of the door, letting it close as he entered the class room. “Good afternoon, Ms. Martin,” he greeted as she stood.

When he made it to her desk she reached over and shook his hand. She was a lot shorter than he remembered, but that was probably because she had always worn high heels. Stiles remembered that she was 5’3 and probably hadn’t grown since then. Her handshake was firm and professional, it reminded him of all the other times he shook a teachers hand in a meeting about Bens behavior. Only her hands were warmer and a lot smoother. She let go of his hand, and they took their seats.

“When did you get back to Beacon Hills?” Stiles decided to ask, trying to make polite conversation in order to not have a breakdown in front of her.

She looked slightly caught off guard by the question. “During the summer. I secured my position while living in Louisville and came back once the school year ended.”

Stiles nodded as Lydia cracked her neck. She took a deep breath and Stiles scratched the back of his neck. Stiles and Lydia had never been close. They ran in two different social circles, especially because Stiles would spend more time getting drunk and high than he spent interacting with people outside of his small friend group. Lydia was always popular, even though her best friend was his sister. Allison was popular too, and Scott became known. Stiles and Heather on the other hand were the kids people had rumors about and ultimately, they lived up to their peers’ expectations.

“We should talk about your son,” she stated.

Stiles looked down at his hands as his leg began to bounce. “Of course,” he nodded.

When Stiles forced himself to look at Lydia again, she was pulling more papers out of her desk. “First, I would like to assure you that Ben is one of my favorite students,” she stated with a warm smile on her face. Stiles furrowed his brows as she placed the papers in front of him. “These are some of his assignments, he has the highest grade in my class.”

Stiles took a look at the papers. The answers were filled in with Ben’s rushed and messy handwriting. He even had small doodles on the pages. Lydia made nice notes for Ben in red ink. She even put stickers on some of them, others she’d draw something to go along with his doodle. She had always been a talented artist. He smiled down at the papers. “Why hasn’t he shown me any of these?” He asked, glancing at her.

“We keep assignments in folders in the classroom to make sure no one loses anything,” she stated.

Stiles nodded as she took the papers back. She put them in a green folder. Stiles took a deep breath. “I’m sure you didn’t call a meeting with me just to praise his academic achievement,” Stiles stated, sitting up in his seat.

Lydia took a deep breath and nodded as her face fell. “You’re right,” she turned her body and tapped her mouse and then turned her laptop screen. “Ben has a tendency of distracting other students. He’ll finish his work early and talk to other students about something unrelated to what we’re learning. Just today, he finished his work and began reading a novel written by Stephen King,” Stiles inhaled sharply. He gave him that book. “He then proceeded to point out the bad words to his friends while they were supposed to be doing their own work.”

“God, I’m so sorry,” Stiles leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk. “I shouldn’t have let him take that book to school. I gave it to him this weekend because he was complaining that the books in the library were too easy.”

“Stiles, I assure you his reading level isn’t the problem. He can read whatever book you deem appropriate for him, so long as he doesn’t distract the other students.” She looked as though she contemplated giving his hand a squeeze. Instead she interlocked her fingers and sat up straighter. “I’m sure you’re already aware that I’m a child from divorced parents,” Stiles nodded. He remembered all the rumors about the Martin divorce. He had been too overwhelmed with his relationship with Heather to care. “Ben told me today that he hasn’t heard from his mother in four years. After my parents divorced when I was 16, I didn’t hear anything from my father until he paid for my college tuition.”

Stiles raised his eyebrows. “Why.. why did Ben tell you about Heather?” He knew his voice was quieter, he felt the heaviness in his heart.

Lydia licked her lips. “He arrived in my classroom before the bell rang, and he was crying. We talked about what was wrong,” she took a deep breath, her eyes flooded with emotion. “I needed to talk to you because I think it’s important that Ben has someone to talk to about things he’s not comfortable talking to his family about. An outside perspective, if you will.”

“Do you think I’m not capable of talking to my son?”

Lydia furrowed her brows and frowned. “No, I’m just suggesting something along the lines of sessions with the guidance counselor. The only thing is, I think he’d prefer to have these talks with me.”

Stiles took a deep breath. “How would this work?”

“He could have lunch with me in my classroom once a week. Mondays, maybe. We’d have normal conversations and he’d just have someone to talk to who understands how he feels. I just think he needs someone who listens to him and understands him.” She had a sadder smile on her face now.

Stiles scratched his chin. “Does he not have friends? He brings kids over to play video games during the weekend. Why isn’t he talking to them?”

Lydia met his eyes. “He doesn’t trust them. Their interactions are surface level at best. Sure, they play together and they enjoy doing kid things together, but ultimately Ben doesn’t have an emotional connection with them the way you have with Scott or the way I have with Allison.”

That made something deep inside of Stiles ache. He could never imagine a life without Scott. He didn’t even remember life before Scott. The fact that Ben didn’t have a best friend made Stiles want to cry. “Okay,” his voice was a lot firmer than he thought he’d be able to manage. “Is there a way I could get updates on how he’s doing? He doesn’t talk to me until he’s hit this breaking point and I think he gets it from me. I just need to know if something is wrong that I can fix.”

Lydia nodded. “If it’s alright with you, we could meet after school every couple of weeks to discuss Ben’s progress. I’ll let you know if anything comes up that I think you should know, and we can discuss his behavior in class as time goes on.”

“That’d be amazing. Thank you so much,” Stiles gave her a genuine smile that time.

She smiled back at him. “It’s certainly not a problem,” she assured. Something about that sounded sincere. She sounded glad that he accepted the arrangement. Stiles just hoped it would actually do some benefit.

Chapter Text

“We need a number 3 for table 8,” Stiles called back into the kitchen. Derek gave him a thumbs up as he began making the meal. Stiles took a seat beside Cora and leaned his head on his hand.

Cora took a sip of her coke and swirled the soda around with the straw. “How’s the little gremlin today?” She asked after Stiles got comfortable in his seat.

Stiles took a deep breath and watched her take her phone out of the pocket of her apron. “He’s okay. Been begging me to get him an mp3 player,” he glanced at his watch before biting his nails. That was a habit he picked up when he quit smoking. His hands trembled as he bounced his leg.

Cora sent a text and watched as it sent. “How much would that cost?” She asked without looking up at him.

Money was never much of a problem for the Hale family. Stiles wasn’t entirely sure how they got the money they had until he learned that the diner may have just started as a family diner in a rural town in Kentucky, but it became a chain across the states. This one had the best reviews since it was the only one to have authentic Hales running it and making the food. “Too much for me to afford it,” Stiles sighed.

Cora shrugged, finally looking at him. “Momma could get it for him for Christmas. You know she loves spoilin’ him rotten. She’d even load it with legal music.”

“Momma doesn’t have to do that,” Stiles shook his head. “I wouldn’t have a way to repay her.”

With that, Cora shook her head. “You ain’t gotta repay her. She loves you.”

“Number 3,” Derek’s voice came ringing from the kitchen and Stiles stood.

Stiles pointed at Cora. “Break’s in a few minutes right?” He asked as he walked to the serving hatch. Cora nodded before taking a sip of her coke. Stiles forced a smile on his face as he grabbed the tray Derek placed the order on. He walked around the counter and carefully but quickly made his way to table 8.

Table 8 was a two seater, it was round and in front of several of the empty booths. Today, it only had one patron. Danielle, she was friends with him and Heather before the divorce. Stiles hadn’t really had the time nor the desire to keep in contact with his ex-wifes best friend. Danielle wasn’t a bad person, it just hurt too much to know that she would always be on Heather’s side.

He smiled as he placed her order in front of her. “Thank you,” she smiled and nodded. She gestured to the seat in front of her. “Have a seat.”

Stiles raised his eyebrows as he sat. “Everything okay?” He decided to ask her as she began eating.

She nodded. “Heard anything from Heather?” She countered.

Stiles sighed. “Not since the last time you asked me,” he informed. Danielle had the habit of coming into the diner and asking the same question. Stiles wondered if she had the same issue. Maybe Heather cut contact with everyone except her mother after she as released from the hospital.

“Let me know if you do, okay?”

Stiles gave her a small smile. “Of course. I mean it’s been four years. If she hasn’t called yet I don’t think she’s ever going to.”

Danielle frowned at that. “She really hasn’t talked to you in that long?” She raised her eyebrows as she gave him a pointed look.

Stiles narrowed his eyes. Why did she sound so shocked by this? Did she think he was lying about not hearing from her? “Has she talked to you?”

Danielle took a deep breath. “She told me she’d be talking to you and Ben soon.”

Stiles sat up straight. “When? Like when is she going to talk to us?”

“If I knew I’d tell you,” she raised her hands defensively. “For now all you have to do is wait.”

Stiles sighed and leaned back in his seat. “Okay, well… thanks I guess.”

Danielle gave him a small smile as she continued eating. He stood up and pushed the chair under the table. Cora was already getting up from behind the counter and heading toward the back of the diner. Stiles followed her, and they went out the backdoor. Cora sat in one of the plastic chairs near the wall and Stiles plopped down beside her. “What’s up?” She asked as she dug a pack of menthols from her pocket.

“Give me one of them,” Stiles reached his hand out. Cora raised her brows but did as asked. She lit her own before handing the lighter to him. He placed the cigarette between his lips and inhaled as he lit the tip. Cora’s hand was ready to accept the lighter when he gave it back to her. He took the cigarette out of his mouth and exhaled. “What am I supposed to say to Heather when she gets the balls to talk to me?” Stiles looked to Cora, taking another drag of the cigarette.

Cora shrugged, exhaling her own smoke. “How the fuck am I supposed to know?” She asked, her brows furrowed. She pointed to the cigarette. “I thought you quit for good.”

Stiles shrugged, mirroring her. “I’m a grown man so there’s no use being the pot that called the kettle black.”

Cora sighed and rolled her eyes. “I never quit, so that doesn’t make a lick of sense. You quit a decade ago. Does this have to do with Heather?” Her voice was laced with concern, and it made Stiles’ throat burn in a way that wasn’t like the burn of the tobacco smoke.

“What gave you that idea?” Stiles looked to the woods behind the diner. He took another drag and they sat in silence until he blew out the smoke. “And it’s been four years since I quit for good. Had a relapse during the divorce and then another one a month later when I heard Heather tried to kill herself.”

Cora nodded. “So it is about Heather,” this time it wasn’t a question.

The cloud of smoke they both sat in was nice. Stiles wasn’t used to contributing the the cloud, but as he held the cigarette between his pointer and middle fingers the habit came back to him as if he was 17 again. There was something heavier weighing on him as he thought about the future. When he was 17, before Heather got pregnant, it was fun to smoke. Now he felt like he was doing something terrible, betraying his loved ones. Cora didn’t react aside from understanding how he felt.


 

Stiles licked his thumb as he stirred the pasta, mixing it with the marinara sauce and meatballs. Ben was sitting at the kitchen reading Christine as Malia watched TV in the living room. They could hear the sounds of reruns of That 70s Show all the way in the kitchen. “Daddy,” Ben broke the near silence.

Stiles turned his head to glance at him. “Yeah?” He didn’t look long, just enough to make sure Ben knew he was paying attention. Then, he continued mixing the pasta.

“Why is Dennis thinking about his parents having sex?” Ben asked, causing Stiles to freeze in his movements.

Stiles took a deep breath and bit the insides of his cheeks, trying to keep from laughing. “What?” He turned to look at Ben, fully this time. Ben repeated the question, setting his book on the table. He was careful to keep it open to the page he was on. “Honey I don’t know the answer to that question. I sure as hell never thought about my parents having sex.”

Ben nodded. “So why is Dennis?”

Stiles shrugged and abandoned the pasta, crossing his arms over his chest. “Maybe it’s because he has no outlet and his brain just does that,” he suggested. “Or,” he paused causing Ben to raise his eyebrows, “Stephen King could just be a freak.”

Ben laughed and shook his head. He glanced down at the pages and then looked at Stiles again, his face falling again. “Do you think his dad told him he couldn’t say the n word?”

“I sure hope so,” Stiles furrowed his brows. “You do know that the characters in his books aren’t him, right?”

Ben nodded. “Yeah, but why does he write the word?”

“I don’t know. Maybe to say that racism is bad but was more in your face back then,” Stiles liked that Ben was curious, but he definitely didn’t have all the answers. “I gotta get back to dinner before it gets cold.”

“Okie dokie,” Ben smiled before picking his book back up.

Stiles couldn’t help but smile back as he turned to the pasta. He finished mixing the pasta just as there was a knock on the first door. Malia called into the kitchen, saying she was getting the door. Stiles took three bowls out of the cabinet and left them stacked next to the pot of spaghetti. He put some spaghetti in one of the bowls and gave it to Ben, stabbing a fork into a meatball.

There were two pairs of footsteps heading toward the kitchen as Stiles made himself a bowl of spaghetti. “Mind if I have supper with y’all?” Stiles whipped around. Malia had a wide smile on her face as his father stood next to her.

“Grandpa!” Ben shouted, hopping off his seat.

Stiles had a wide grin on his face as Noah picked Ben up off the ground and hugged him. “Help yourself,” Stiles replied.

Noah put Ben’s feet back on the floor and approached him. Stiles placed his bowl on the counter and accepted the warm and comforting hug from his father. The tension held in his shoulders was released as he felt the sturdy hand on his back. Noah gave him a pat on the back before they separated. “How’ve ya been?” He asked before taking another bowl from the cabinet.

Stiles shrugged. “I’ve been fine, I guess,” he grabbed his bowl and headed to the table.

Noah made his own bowl and sat in the last seat at the table. “Just fine?” He asked, sounding like he didn’t believe him.

“Do you know why Stephen King uses racial slurs in his writing?” Stiles countered.

Noah furrowed his brows and frowned. “What in God’s name are you talking about?”

Stiles shrugged and looked at Ben. Ben lit up and began explaining their earlier conversation. Stiles looked to Malia where she sat on the counter, eating her spaghetti. He sent her a wink and she shook her head. “So I asked daddy what he thought about it and he asked you,” Ben finished his long ramble and Noah nodded even though he didn’t look like he completely understood the conversation.

“I don’t know why he writes what he writes,” he informed. He took a deep breath and turned to Malia. “Sweetheart if you wanna sit here,, all you have to do is ask.”

Malia shook her head as she licked her lips. “I’m fine right here,” she stated. Her words were muffled by the food in her mouth. “Makes me feel taller,” she added.

Noah didn’t eat dinner with them every night. It was usually once a week, but it was on a random day. He never announced when exactly he would be there. There was always enough food for him when he did come. The Stilinski’s had an open door policy for family, whether they were blood or not. Still, Stiles couldn’t afford to get a bigger table and another wooden chair so all four of them could eat together.

“I had lunch with Ms. Martin today,” Ben informed. He had a wide smile on his face as he bounced in his seat. “She told me that at the end of the school year there’s gonna be a field trip to Kentucky Kingdom.”

Noah nodded and looked at Stiles. “How much is that gonna cost?” He asked.

Stiles raised his eyebrows and turned to Ben. “She didn’t tell me yet,” Ben informed. “I’ll tell you when she does.”

“I’ll try to save up the money for it,” Stiles stated.

He hated having to say that. Admitting to Ben that he didn’t have much money to spend hurt him. It felt like a failure; not having enough money. Sure, Stiles grew up knowing that if he had had to be admitted into the hospital for any reason, his father would have went into debt. When Noah adopted Malia, she already had the tendency to refuse hospital visits or stays anyways. The Argents had paid for Stiles and Malia’s field trips as well as Allison’s.

After dinner, Ben went into the living room to continue reading while the adults stayed in the kitchen. “I can help you pay for the field trip,” Noah said as Malia took Bens seat.

Stiles rolled his eyes. “No. You’ve gotta keep your money so you can go to Hawaii when you retire.”

“He’s my grandson, I’m allowed to help you pay for somethin’ you can’t afford,” Noah’s voice was firmer as he furrowed his brows.

Malia leaned back in the seat. “Dad you know damn well he’s too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash.”

Noah nodded an agreement, giving Stiles a pointed look. “Life’s a bitch but you gotta accept what good you’re offered.” He opened his jacket and pulled a pack of cigarettes from the inside pocket. He lit a cigarette between his lips and Stiles watched the flame. “Pride is a sin, y’know?” He teased before taking a drag.

Stiles rolled his eyes. “My whole life is a sin.”

Noah laughed as the smoke came out of his nose. “You got that right.”


 

Stiles sat up in his bed, rubbing his forehead as his eyelids grew heavy. His mouth was watering, yet somehow still dry. He had been trying to sleep for several hours at this point. It wasn’t working. Ben had fallen asleep before Stiles even went to bed, and the TV had been turned off a few hours ago which meant that Malia was also asleep.

Stiles looked at the time on his alarm clock, noting that it was 2 AM. He got out of bed carefully, making sure he didn’t make much noise. Taking slow steps, he made his way out of his bedroom. His eyes landed on Malia’s bedroom door. There was a wave of shame as he approached it.

He inhaled sharply as he turned the doorknob. As he slowly opened the door, he held his breath. There was no flood of light as the door opened and there was no shriek, signifying that Malia was in fact asleep. When the door was finally open, Malia’s light and quiet snores were heard. She was laying on her stomach, her short hair was a wild mess as her arms were askew in a position that Stiles wasn’t sure could possibly be comfortable.

Stiles took more slow steps, walking deeper into the bedroom. His eyes landed on what he wanted, no, needed . The headache he had caused his head to pound as his eyes adjusted to just how dark Malia’s room was. He was standing next to her bed now, right in front of her night stand. Her pack of cigarettes was right in front of him now. He didn’t think before grabbing it, taking out two cigarettes. He placed the pack back on the nightstand, then turned and left the room. Closing the door, he made sure to be just as quiet as he was when he opened it.

He went into his bedroom, opening the drawer of his own nightstand. It was within reach of his bed, which was beneficial in multiple contexts. He dropped one of the cigarettes into the drawer, and it landed next to a bottle of lube. His hand held the other cigarette like it was his life force. Closing the drawer, he took a deep breath. Slipping his feet into his cheap flip flops, he turned to leave his bedroom again.

He stopped in the kitchen and opened one of the drawers. Acting like this gave him flashbacks to when he would steal his father’s cigarettes when he was 12. The familiarity of grabbing a matchbook and sneaking out the front door made him feel like he was betraying everyone around him. It felt like he was falling back into old habits. But that couldn’t be all that was happening. There was no way that smoking was as bad as drinking. Especially not for him. He wasn’t intoxicating himself, he was numbing himself with the burn in his throat.

As he sat on the porch, crossing his legs like an elementary school student, he stared at the moon. It was his only source of light at that moment. The porch light was off, and none of their house lights were on. His neighbors houses were far enough away that he doubted they would be able to fully see him, let alone what he was doing. They just saw a man sitting on the porch in the darkness.

He lit his match and used the small flame to light his cigarette. There was something deep inside his soul that felt whole and complete as he inhaled the smoke. He exhaled, leaning his head back as the smoke rose in the air. He wasn’t sure how long he was out there, just listening to nature and staring at the sky as he smoked his stolen cigarette.

His mind slipped back to the night Heather’s mom told him that she was in a hospital in San Francisco. Heather had tried to kill herself while in a depressive state. The hospital called her and said that she had overdosed on pain pills that she washed down with hard liquor. She nearly died, and admitted that the goal was for her to die. Stiles had chainsmoked an entire pack that night alone.

Quitting after that news was difficult. It took him two months to fully quit again. Now, he was going back. Well, it wasn’t as bad. It was just one cigarette every once in a while. It couldn’t be that bad. Stiles knew how to control himself.


 

It was Saturday, and Stiles was bouncing his leg and biting his nails as he sat next to Scott on the couch. Allison was practically in Scott’s lap as the three of them watched some show that Stiles didn’t care to actually watch. His vision was blurred as he stared at nothing. The only thing in focus at that moment was his hearing. The voices coming from the TV we saying words Stiles knew, but they weren’t processing.

He had a cigarette and the book of matches in his pocket. All he wanted to do in that moment was to take them out and close his eyes as the smoke flooded his lungs. But he wouldn’t. He couldn’t. Scott was asthmatic, and there was a dog laying in front of the TV. Scott had told Stiles all about how dangerous it is to smoke near animals, so Stiles would be respectful.

There was a knock on the front door and Allison got up after giving Scott a quick peck on the lips. Stiles turned his head to see Scott smiling at him. His vision had went back into focus and he smiled back. “Are you in the mood to watch a horror movie?” He decided to ask.

Scott shrugged. “Depends.”

“Scott invited Stiles, I hope you don’t mind,” Allison said to whoever was at the door. She sounded wary, as though the guest would probably be uncomfortable with him. That suggested it was someone from high school.

There wasn’t much of a pause between the response. “Why would I have a problem with that?” The voice made Stiles’ head turn to the front door. It was Lydia Martin for sure. She was wearing a pair of heels that was for sure.

Allison shrugged and laughed. “I’m just used to having to warn you when he’s around.”

That made Stiles turn back to the TV. His face fell and his leg started bouncing more furiously. He took a deep breath and would feel Scott pat his knee. Allison and Lydia kept talking as they walked into the living room. Lydia took a seat in the lazyboy recliner and Allison went back to her seat, this time fully sitting in Scott’s lap. She put her feet in Stiles’ lap and ignored the bouncing.

“Stiles wants to watch a scary movie,” Scott said, looking over at Lydia. “You okay with that?”

Lydia narrowed her eyes and furrowed her brows. “You dare to question my ability to handle a movie, Scott McCall?”

Allison laughed. “Lydia and I watched Texas Chainsaw when I was 7 and she was 6 and I had to hide under the covers while she called me a pussy.”

Stiles pursed his lips and turned his attention to Lydia, taking in that knowledge. Lydia certainly didn’t look the type to react like that to a horror movie at such a young age. Taking a look at both Allison and Lydia, one would think it was the other way around. Allison went on regular hunting trips, and Lydia was a fashionable elementary school teacher. Even then, she sat there in a polka dotted dress, a full face of makeup, her hair was done nice, and she was wearing heels. She was a girly girl, and Allison was a tomboy.

“Stiles made me watch Candyman when we were 8, and I cried,” Scott admitted, poking Allison’s shoulder. Allison smiled at him and flipped her hair a bit.

Lydia smiled at Stiles. “What movie do you wanna watch?” She asked.

Stiles tilted his head and leaned back, having just realized that his leg had stopped bouncing. “Christine,” he said in a knowing tone.

“Oh my gosh, did Ben ask you that question about Dennis?” She seemed to light up at the suggestion. She sat up straight as she asked.

Stiles couldn’t help but sit up as well. “The one about his parents?” He asked. When she nodded he laughed. “How the hell am I supposed to answer that one? God, I can’t believe he asked you that.”

They were broken from their moment when Allison said “what are we missing?”

“Ben has been reading the novel Christine, and there’s a character called Dennis and he’s the narrator. There are several moments where he thinks about his parents uh… having sex to use the words that Ben used,” Lydia replied.

Scott laughed. “Oh fuck.”

Stiles sat up and inched forward. He looked at Lydia and smiled. “Did he ask you why King uses the n word in his writing?” He bit his lower lip.

Lydia moved her strawberry blonde hair over her shoulder and nodded. “He raised his hand in the middle of the language arts lesson and asked me.”

Stiles’ jaw dropped and his eyes widened. “Holy shit,” he couldn’t help but gasp. “That must have been one whole hell of a mess.”

“It was but we talked about it during recess,” Lydia informed. “He told me what you said and I have to say I agree that is what Stephen King had in mind. However I would like to remind you that in IT, the character most liked by audiences is Richie Tozier-”

Stiles nodded and finished her thought. “And he regularly used a racist caricature and used the slur frequently.”

Lydia nodded in response. “While I do adore Richie, I think that his racism gets brushed aside frequently.”

“And the new movie made Stan become defined by the fact that he’s Jewish,” Stiles added. “So there’s a lot of issues when it comes to IT, but Stephen King wrote it over four years while addicted to coke.”

“Are we gonna watch the movie or are you two gonna just talk books the whole time?” Allison teased.

Lydia rolled her eyes and looked at Allison. “It’s rude to interrupt people, you know that right?” She raised her eyebrows and smiled.

Scott tilted his head. “He interrupted you,” he said, pointing at Stiles.

“And it was rude of him to do that,” Lydia countered.

“Jesus, you’re gettin’ all teacher-y on us,” Allison got up. “Anyone want somethin’ to drink?” She asked as she was heading toward the kitchen.

Everyone responded positively, so she gave them a thumbs up before fully leaving the room. Stiles watched as Scott and Lydia started talking about serious things. “So you’ve been a vet for a year, right?” Lydia asked.

Scott nodded. “Yeah, Deaton’s already talking about getting me an intern the same way I interned for him.”

Stiles raised his eyebrows. “Already? Damn.”

Scott smiled. One thing that could always get Scott excited was talking about his career. He’d been working with Deaton for years, and even invited the man over for holidays. “There are some promising college students.”

“That’s so good for you,” Lydia had a wide smile on her face. “I’m proud of you.”

Scott beamed and Stiles remembered something Lydia had said. He tilted his head and looked at her. “You’ve been teaching for five years, but Isaac is only on his second year of teaching and you both started college at the same time.” Stiles was aiming a question, one that wasn’t vocalized.

Lydia nodded. “I had enough credits to start college as a junior. Less time before I got my degree.”

“That’s awesome,” Stiles knew he was in awe with her. “I mean I barely graduated high school.”

Before anyone could respond to that, Allison made her way back into the living room. She gave Scott and Lydia cans of beer and placed her own on the coffee table before giving Stiles a can of Mountain Dew. “You still haven’t started the movie?” She asked as she sat on the middle cushion, between Scott and Stiles.

Stiles noticed that Lydia was watching his hands as they both opened their beverages. There was a question in her eyes when they met his. He smiled and raised his can in a cheer before taking a sip of his soda. Lydia smiled and mimicked the cheer before drinking her beer. There was an understanding there. He knew that she knew exactly why he was drinking soda, and it had nothing to do with the fact that he was driving.

Surely, Lydia knew what it was like when they were in high school. That was probably why she avoided him during the short times Allison would spend the night at his house and Lydia would come over as well. Normally, Stiles would just avoid them either way. He had a girlfriend at that time, and he knew it was a bad idea to be buzzed near the girl he had a crush on. But it still wasn’t nice to find out that she had avoided him too.

The smile on her face and the look of recognition in her eyes was nice though.


 

Stiles still had the cigarette and book of matches in his pocket several days later. He would switch them between the pockets in his pants when he changed. Now, he was back at work and he wanted nothing more than to light it. He just had to wait for the smoke break he had with Derek. Cora had an earlier shift, she had plans with her friends.

It was a slightly busy day. There were five separate tables filled. Stiles had to get help from Talia to serve them. There was a group of either teens or young adults in a booth and they were being kind of loud. Stiles had seen them frequently, but he didn’t know them. They weren’t regulars, but they lived in town.

“Liam! Oh my god I’m gonna kill you!” The girl shouted as she stood. She was covered in chocolate milkshake.

A boy with dirty blonde hair quickly got up and began covering the table with napkins. “I’m so sorry!” He replied.

Stiles took a deep breath and checked his watch. He could either help the poor kid out with clean up or sneak out a minute before the smoke break. He clicked his teeth and walked into the kitchen. “The only kids mess that I should have to clean up after is my own,” he sighed before rubbing his face.

Laura rubbed her face with her arm in order to wipe sweat away without dirtying her hands. “You been workin’ here for how many fuckin’ years and you’re just now sayin’ that?” She smiled before cutting a sub in half. “This is for table 5,” Derek handed her a plate that already had the order of fries on it. She placed the sub carefully on it and put the plate on the tray.

Stiles grabbed the tray. “Punch me in the throat right now,” he said before heading out the kitchen door.

As he walked to table three, he had to walk around the kids trying to clean up the mess. He plastered on a smile as he gave the young woman at table three her order. She came in at the same time every day and ordered the same thing, sitting alone in a booth near the window. She had had the same routine the entire time Stiles had been working there. He didn’t know anything about her aside from her name being Braeden, and she hung out with Derek when he wasn’t at work.

“Enjoy your lunch,” Stiles said as she shoved a fry into her mouth.

Stiles walked from her table and put the tray back in the kitchen. When he made his way back to the dining area, he had a mop and some rags. Napkins were obviously not doing the trick. He began wiping at the booth seat with one of the rags, handing the other rags to the other kids. Liam, the blonde kid, took the mop and began cleaning at the floor. “We’re so sorry that you have to do this,” one of the other kids said.

Stiles sighed. “It’s part of the job.”

When Stiles finally was able to go to the back, he collapsed in the seat next to Derek. Derek had a cigarette between his lips and fingers, smoke coming out of his mouth and nose. Stiles took his cigarette and match book out of his pocket. After he lit the cigarette, he noticed the pointed look that Derek was giving him. One of his brows was raised exaggeratedly.

Stiles inhaled the smoke and blew it in Derek’s face. “Stole it from Malia,” he said, crossing his free arm over his chest as he leaned back in the chair.

Derek nodded and took another drag of his own cigarette. There was silence until he exhaled. “Why don’t you just buy a pack?”

“I’m limiting myself. I know what I’m doing,” Stiles rolled his eyes.

“Are you sure about that?”