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Us Struggling Youth

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"You're going to be amazing," John said, a smile firmly planted on his strained face as his eyes darted rapidly around the cruiser, looking as the driveway wound itself through the green woodland.

His hands gripped Stiles' shoulders as if he was trying to use the words to convince himself, holding on too tightly to be considered comforting. Stiles stood silently in front of his dad, words dying in his throat, following the tense car journey from Beacon Hills. The two had barely conversed, the air thick with the resentment and anxiety emanating from Stiles.

They stood next to the battered sheriff's car parked haphazardly at the side of the long gravel drive, in a clearing of the trees, south of Beacon Hills by a few hundred miles. For a second, they both stood quietly, the chirping of a far-off bird louder than their current conversation. The trees swayed, wind dancing through their leaves and rustling the grass beneath their feet.

"Sure," Stiles sighed bitterly, kicking at the ground in an effort to ignore the sprawling grounds laid out ahead. "I'll be just fine in an asylum specifically for mentally ill teenagers, sounds perfect." He muttered sourly, spitting the words out as if he couldn't believe he'd ever need to. He felt a flicker of guilt as his father wilts in front of him. Stepping back, he let John's hand slip off of his shoulder and hefts his bag onto his shoulder. The physical space between them seemed to stretch on, their relationship straining once again.

 

"I want you to be safe." John sighed, taking the bag from his son as he turned to frown at him. Ever since the incident, he'd been treating the teen as if he was made of glass, walking warily around him and never daring to breach the subject after the involuntary painful talks of therapy. The fight had seeped out of Stiles as he saw the lines of worry etched onto John's weathered face. He hated the realisation that he had become an addition to his worry, especially after his Mom, her death having tainted their thoughts for the years since her demise. He wasn't being fair.

 

"I'll come back good as new." Stiles joked, but it came out flat. The Sheriff looked at the floor, gritting his teeth and shouldering the bag. Stiles looked up through the trees, squinting to see where the gravel driveway went, but the trees wound around it tightly, making it impossible to see past them. He supposed that was probably the point, keeping unruly teens in and curious ones out. John nudged him and set off down the track as it widened into a bigger driveway again. They walked in silence, the somewhat regal house and the surrounding smaller buildings slowly coming into view.

 

Squinting, Stiles saw the sign embossed on a plaque on the front door, weathered and tarnished with age.

Rosedale Academy For Struggling Youth.

He grimaced, the words sounding strange and irregular as they rattled around his head. He still couldn't fight down the incredulity that his dad was sending him away, having been unable to put up with his brittle mental health, and to a mental asylum, no less. Wrapping his shirt further around his lean frame, he tried to escape the barely-there breeze twisting around him. He wasn't struggling, at least not enough to need this place. He wasn't crazy. He wasn't.

If only he hadn't done it again, if only he hadn't given in. His mind soured at the thought, as he berated himself for leaving a mark that could be seen so easily, because it was so, so easy for his dad to see and explode, and dump him with the nearest available facility he could find. He felt the twinge of sharp pain against his side as he tensed up the muscles there, disturbing the fabric. It had turned into a nervous tick he couldn't seem to shake.
"It looks alright," He mumbled, the words so opposite to the thoughts churning through his brain. But a pang of apprehension made him at least try to lessen the guilt his dad was sure to be feeling. His stomach began to flutter, and he felt his jaw clench, a tell-tale sign of his nerves.

"Yeah! Yeah..." John said, eager to reply to his previously nonverbal son. "They have a library, and a pool-" Stiles shuddered at even the thought. "-and courts out back, and a gym." He reeled off the words like he'd been relishing them for a while, turning the thoughts over in his mind, and the sick feeling in Stiles' stomach only spread.

"Sounds, fun," Stiles replied lamely, slowing to a halt at the front door that seemed to loom up before him, his eyes drawn to the knots in the wooden surface.

John smiled encouragingly, and after seeing Stiles refused to go first, simply sighed and opened the door, stepping inside, followed slowly by his less enthusiastic son.

Chapter Text

The room was brightly lit and clinical, yet someone had tried to cover the walls with various posters, emblazoned with smiling people and witty slogans, all promising help to the "struggling teens". A woman sat perched against a desk, leafing through a pile of paperwork, furrowing her brow. Her dark hair was scraped into a loose ponytail, wavy strands falling around her face. The Sheriff stood by the entrance, a beat of silence falling before the woman looked up, setting the paperwork aside with an easy smile.

"Oh, hey!" She smiled welcomingly and stood up to shake both their hands. "You must be Mr Stilinski and-" Her eyebrows furrowed, clearly trying to work out how to pronounce the less than usual name.

"Stiles," John and Stiles said in unison, used to the confusion regarding his name. The woman nodded, an amused smile lighting up her weary, yet seemingly happy face. Extending an arm out in greeting, she introduced herself.

"Welcome to Rosedale! I'm Melissa, and I'm in charge around here, I'm kind of a big thing." She joked, a sarcastic jut to her eyebrows. "You'll see me around teaching groups, and you're in a few of my sessions." The teen nodded along but barely processing the words, eyes drawn to every slight motion around him. The ticking of the clock hung up behind the desk, the swaying of a plant perched on the windowsill, it all sent a disjointed pang into his stomach.

Stiles felt a prickle of nerves spike up through his stomach, making his fingers tremble a little. Melissa looked at him, her smile softening. Stiles forced himself to smile, his mouth was frozen shut as he heard his heart hammering in his ribcage. Melissa seemed to understand though, simply inclining her head at him in a simple nod, content to simply introduce herself for now. John gently prodded him to move in front of him, making his son internally curse as he shuffled forward to stand between the two adults.

"Our school's a bit different to others you might have been to-" Stiles stifles a snort, trying hard not to roll his eyes, because yes. Rosedale really was...something else. "-But I really think you'll come to like it here, Stiles!"
"I'll send you through to the changing rooms in a minute, if you could just get dressed into the clothes in there for now so we're sure you're not carrying any weapons or contraband, or anything we don't allow in your person just so we can keep you safe in school grounds. Don't worry, It's nothing too hideous!" She smiles encouragingly, and Stiles' stomach drops. Her smile is deliberately calm, no other emotion than happy neutral showing past her face. She gestured to a door tucked away next to the desk, a homemade sign tacked over it, declaring it to be the "dressing room". Stiles wrinkled his nose, fingers tapping irritably at his sides.

The pencil sharpener blade had been tucked neatly into the seam of his back pocket, a constant reminder as he felt the unmistakable shape whenever he moved, and already his mind was whirring with possibilities of how he could keep it discretely within his reach at all times.
"Okay," He mumbled, wide eyes on John, who shrugged helplessly, his small smile straining as he saw his sons evident distress, he nodded uncomfortably and tightened his grip on Stiles' bag, beckoning him forward.
Melissa stepped aside and nodded at the door as Stiles slowly walked over to it, eyes on the ground as he tried to formulate a plan to hide the blade. Jumping to the side in shock, his eyes widened as a lanky boy with mussed curly blond hair darted out of the door, his gaunt, flushed face harbouring a large yellowing bruise along his jaw, Stiles caught his breath, and stood to the side as the boy passed him with a pile of clothing held tightly in his hands.

He heard the dregs of a conversation drift out from behind him as the door swung shut, leaving him in another smaller room, adorned with rows of shelves filled with neatly folded clothes.

"Isaac! See, the clothes are still pretty good, huh?" He heard Melissa's lightly cajoling voice before the rest of the conversation turned to a dull hum behind the thick door.
Turning to face the rest of the room, Stiles let out a shaky breath, scanning the shelves with different white short-sleeved shirts in piles along with them. Looking at the other side of the room, he saw piles of grey jeans, the sizes going up the further along the shelf he looked. Gingerly opening a box under the shelf, he groaned as he saw balled-up pairs of socks and even fresh pairs of underwear. They really were thorough, making what he wanted to do a lot harder than he'd initially thought it would be.

Gulping, he shakily reached for a t-shirt, fingers tracing the short sleeves in horror. Shit. Pulling up his own longer sleeves, he hissed through his teeth at the scars and fresher cuts peeking out from under the bandage, near impossible to hide without the layers he was currently wearing.

Standing silently in the centre of the dim room, he tried to filter out the hum of the people next door, only a few metres away from him. Thoughts raced through his head as he tried to think of ways to hide the blade and stop the bandage from looking so obvious next to the stark white of the shirt, precious seconds going by as his mind came up blank.

Stepping out of his jeans, he sighed, staring at the scars lining his thigh that usually lay hidden under multiple layers of fabric. Pulling another pair off the shelf, he held them against himself experimentally, before pulling them on. They fit loosely against his hips, and he did them up before nervously turning to the shelf containing the shirts. Why did they have to be short-sleeved? He lamented their design, an internal storm brewing as quickly as the thoughts formulated.

Tugging one out of the pile, he shakily took his own plaid shirt, then stripping off the iron man t-shirt under it, the colder air hitting him in a rush and revealing the bony ribs jutting out under the taut skin. Quickly putting the new shirt on, he squirmed, the itchy fabric an uncomfortable feeling after the soft, worn texture of his own shirt. Tugging it down, as low as it could go, he huffed out a displeased breath and tried in vain to still his nerves, mostly failing.

Turning to the pile of his old discarded clothes, he fished the blade out of the back pocket of his jeans, debating where to hide it on himself. The new pair of jeans had no pockets, most likely to make it harder to do what he was doing. A sudden thought struck him, and he slipped the cool metal into his socks, hoping against hope that Melissa wasn't planning on patting him down.

Taking a few seconds to steady his breath and scoop up the pile of clothes, Stiles opened the door. Stepping back out into the reception, his eyes widened as he watched his dad pass Melissa his Adderall and other meds, but as he appeared around the corner, Melissa smiled warmly.

"Hey! The clothes look good." She said, obviously trying to make him feel less mortified at the invasive start to his visit. She looked sorry but was aware it was a protocol, making sure all the new students weren't bringing in any dangerous objects or substances, as the effects could be disastrous.

"Thanks," He mumbled, handing over the piles of clothes, painfully aware of how both Melissa and his dad had a full view of the bandage on his arm. He pulled his arms behind him as Melissa took his bag and clothes into another room, where she told him they'd be taken to his room.

John pulled him into a hug, and Stiles sagged weakly against him, shuddering as he felt the air hit his arms, entirely aware of how much they were on show. He tried to hide them at all costs, but now the choice had been ripped away from him, he felt stripped down to the bone.

"I love you," John said as he fixed serious eyes on Stiles' wary ones, trying to convey how he felt through the beseeching stare.

"I love you too, pops," Stiles said quietly, squirming in his touch, the moment of gratitude for the hug lost, and now his thoughts looped back to how his dad was entirely prepared to leave him at a mental asylum.

Melissa reappeared, the ever-present smile still on her face."I'm afraid you two will have to say goodbye for now, until visiting time next Saturday." John sighed, the breath gusting over the pinpricks of Stiles' face.

Stiles sighed, his nerves back in full force as the realisation he truly was leaving his dad to stay in a stark, strange house of peculiar children. They exchanged a long hug, John recounting all the things he wanted Stiles to remember, and with one final promise to return on the next Saturday, he left, the door closing softly behind him, the soft, retreating crunch of gravel the only sign he had been more than a hallucination. Stiles turned to Melissa, dread in his eyes as the two were left alone in the reception.

"I'll take you to meet your roommates, and settle in!" She said, guiding him towards another larger set of doors. "Welcome to Rosedale Academy, Stiles."

Chapter Text

“This is the canteen but we also have assembly's here every few weeks to give awards out for good work, it's all very normal-”

Melissa's voice seemed to drone on and on as she led Stiles around the grounds that seemed to stretch on forever. He felt dead on his feet as he looked at the library, then the courts, then the pool, then the canteen. He peeked at the other students milling around in little groups around the hall, lounging on chairs and sitting in circles with their group leaders as they chatted animatedly. He tried not to draw attention to himself, still painfully aware of how his arms were bare for anyone and everyone to see. They stared openly at him, their curious eyes fixed on the latest newcomer.

“How do I get my meds?” Stokes asked suddenly, the thought occurred to him as he ground to a halt. Melissa stopped walking and looked at him, Stiles realised he'd interrupted her. “Sorry,” He mumbled, a light blush on his cheeks.

Melissa chuckled and shook her head dismissively at his apology. “It's alright, I get it can be a little much when you first get here!” Stiles scoffed under his breath, that was an understatement. “I give you your meds every time they need to be prescribed, so you'll be fine. It's only to stop you from taking too many.”

Her voice was light, but Stiles sighed as he heard the underlying serious note to the seemingly careless words. Had it happened at the school before?

"Your dad told me you've had your meds today, so remember to come to the front office tomorrow morning and I can top you up," She said, nodding as they began to walk again, passing by more students and their teachers.

They finally walked out of the hall, and Stiles let out a sigh of relief when they were past the other students, finally able to allow himself to let his arms swing freely by his sides, releasing them from the tight hold he'd had them in for the entirety of the time they were in the canteen.

“I'll take you to your cabin, and let you get settled in. You can meet the other boys you'll be rooming with, and the girls in your group in about an hour, does that sound okay?” Melissa asked, leading Stiles over to a row of cabins curling around the edge of the large clearing, ironically picturesque, Stiles thought, considering the teens that resided inside them.

“Yeah, sure…” Stiles said, unwilling to be left alone, yet also excited to finally have a moment of silence. She fished a pair of keys out of her pocket and handed them to Stiles, making his eyes open wide in surprise. He remembers to clasp his fingers around the keyring just before the fall to the ground, dangling on one limp finger.

“These are yours, don't lose them, don't let anyone you're not rooming with into the cabin, have fun!” She chirped, before giving him a final grin and leaving off up the path towards the main building, her exit abrupt after their meandering stroll across the school grounds. He watched for a second as she smiled and greeted every person she passed. She was too happy for this place, he thought bitterly.

Fiddling with the keys, he pushed the biggest one into the lock, taking a few agonizing minutes to work out how to get it to open, hands shaking as the seconds ticked on.
Finally, the door emitted a low click and swung open under his hold. Stiles stepped inside, the dim light filtering past the closed curtains as he walked over to the bottom bunk of a bed, where his bag sat next to his pile of clothes folded neatly.

There was another door leading off of the room, piquing Stiles' curiosity. He walked tentatively over to it, pushing it open. He walked into the room and saw a small bathroom with a simple shower, toilet and sink. Looking into the mirror, he frowned, surveying his hollow cheeks and gaunt eyes. His collarbone pushed against his skin, making him look sickly and tired, obviously, the past few months had taken more of a toll on him than he'd initially thought. A small voice whispered in his mind, making him wonder if maybe his dad was right to send him here. He'd fit right into the irregulars and misfits.

Heading out of the bathroom, he backed away from the mirror and back to his new bed. Rapidly looking over his shoulder, he picked the pile of clothes back up off of the bed and darted into the bathroom to tug them back on, the brief spout without them enough to shake him up.

Emerging back to the main space of the cabin, he sighed, flopping onto the bed and idly rubbing his arm through the soft fabric of the familiar shirt. The twinge of the cuts underneath it lulled him into a sense of familiarity, however melancholy.

Minutes later, he jumped violently, instinctively wrapping his arms around himself and sitting bolt upright on the bed as the door banged open, a familiar boy jogging lightly through the opening. Stiles recognised him as the boy he had seen in the reception as he had left the changing room. What was his name-

"Isaac." The boy shoved his hand under Stiles' nose, making him jerk out of his thoughts as the teen smiled eagerly down at him. He stared at the boy wondering what he was doing and if all the teens here would be quite as...eager. Slowly leaning back, he tried to discreetly move away from him, unsure if he wanted to greet the over enthusiastic boy. Stiles' eyes wandered up to the bruise on his face without his permission, entranced by the tender skin, the yellow seeming darker now he was so close to him.

Realising he'd alarmed Stiles, Isaac grimaced and retracted his hand. "Sorry, I mean-" He paused, deep in thought. "-Hi I'm Isaac and I'm in your cabin, nice to meet you. I'm here for the third time now,” He rambled, his voice disjointed and dipping up and down in his excitement.

Stiles started, before averting his eyes and slowly sitting up, away from Isaac. "Hey..." He mumbled, casting his eyes down, moving to the side of the bed in alarm as the boy plopped down to sit next to him, but a prickle of guilt at his quick judgment crept up his spine as the boy smiled dopily, eyes innocent and deceivingly young. "Are you in my group, too?" Stiles asked suddenly, trying to make the conversation a little less one-sided.

Isaac nodded, tapping on the bed beneath them. "Yeah, you're always in a group with the people in your cabin." He grinned and looked at Stiles again, before beginning a spiel of outlandish ideas they could embark on together, his eyes tracked Stiles' expression, yet showed no reaction to them. Stiles nodded slowly, a small nervous smile on his face, the boy's gestures were becoming bigger as he seemed to get caught in his own dream world.

Just before the situation could freak Stiles out anymore, he heard a sharp rap on the door. Stiles shot up, grateful for the excuse to leave the situation. He liked Isaac so far, yet his never-ending energy was pretty exhausting after the tense silence of living with just his dad.

Chapter Text

Stiles opened the door, somehow reluctant and happy to see the familiar face of Melissa. She smiled at him, but her eyes soon moved to Isaac, still sitting on his bed, fiddling with the covers as his attention was drawn from Stiles.

"Hey Stiles, I see you've met Isaac." She said softly, watching his expression as he nodded, feeling slightly overwhelmed. "I've come to get you for your first group session," Stiles expression baulked, suddenly the situation seemed a lot more real than it had before. She smiled encouragingly at him, sure to realise how nerve-wracking the experience was, having welcomed hundreds of students before him through the years.

"It's really fun, and not all that you'd expect! We don't just do group therapy within the group, we also like to get to know each other a lot better than perhaps at other schools." Her words were tentative and sugar-coated, but Stiles knew exactly what she meant. Normal schools. Schools where the students weren't mentally unstable, or if they were, then it was a hushed secret for behind closed doors. Rosedale seemed to shout the mental illnesses it promised to help from the rooftops, literal banners and flyers on every wall, sunny faces to help deal with the pain, but who knew if it would work? Only time would tell, Stiles thought bitterly, hearing the sound of his dad's retreating footsteps all over again.

Isaac stood up and strolled over to them, placing an arm around Stiles, who instantly stiffened. "Isaac," Melissa warned, watching Stiles mortified expression. Isaac stepped away, arms held up in surrender, an easy grin on his face as he swerved past them.

"Sorry Mel, Stiles, I'll see you at the pit!" He walked off, hands shoved in his pockets as he began to hum an off-tune song, eyes up at the sky. Melissa tutted, and Stiles' eyebrows rose at the name he'd used. What kind of obscure methods was Rosedale using? He began trying to think of all the laws surrounding healthcare, and just how severe they could go, surely his dad wouldn't take him to some kind of conversion therapy-esque establishment?

"The Pit?" Stiles repeated apprehensively, a jitter beginning to work its way up to his arm, spreading across him in waves of nerves as his thoughts jumped from one scenario to another.

Melissa shook her head dismissively. "A name the group have decided to give the room we hold group sessions in, I think it might be due to the rather unique architecture." She snorts, and Stiles frowns, more confused and worried than before she'd spoken. "It was a theatre." She explains. Stiles' face remains blank. "It was a stage that was in the round, you'll see!" She says, the smile on her face assuring.

Surprises were not Stiles' strong suit.

She led him back up the path, after Stiles shut the door to the cabin firmly, only dropping the key once in his fumblings. They walked further, towards the main building, entering through a large back door, weaving past other students as they talked animatedly to each other. Stiles' face remained stony as he fought the nerves threatening to claw up his throat and spill out, he wasn't sure he could trust himself to hold the panic in.

They walk through corridors with more of the gaudy posters, and Stiles grimaces, annoyed at their unending positivity. He tried to get his mind to wrench itself away from the subject and focused instead on the other students milling around them.

"How many students are here?" He asked Melissa, who turned briefly, before walking on. Stiles watched her weaving around the students who smiled at her sunnily as she passed. She had obviously made an impression on the other students here, and it bewildered Stiles to see how happy they looked, yet to know that the sunny dispositions weren't how they felt at all.

"87, well, 88 now with you." She said, and Stiles eyebrows' rose. "We try to keep numbers low to give everyone as much one on one support as they need."

"Oh," Stiles replied faintly, wondering about the other student's stories, and how eighty-eight of them had ended up behind the doors of Rosedale. It had never occurred to him before where the children went who couldn't survive in normal everyday society, who couldn't experience their lives in the same way. But now he'd joined their ranks, and was beginning to learn their ways, and how, maybe, they weren't so different after all.

They finally reached a door at the end of the corridor, and Stiles stilled behind Melissa as she gestured to them. Pulling it open, she did a grand bow, gesturing inside.

"Welcome to the Pit."

Chapter Text

"Welcome to the Pit," Melissa said dramatically, grinning as Stiles walked past her, ducking through the door and slowing to a stop and gaping in shock. Slowly shutting the door behind them, Melissa watched him staring at the room in awe, a little smile on her face. She took pride in introducing each and every new student to the room, her pride and joy after developing and working Rosedale for over four years now.

The room extended downward, the seats in a hexagonal form as they descended in rows towards a circular stage in the middle of the sunken room. Stiles looked down to it, and let a brief smile flicker onto his face at the sight. Fairy lights were strung up around the beams at the top of the ceiling, and as he let his gaze linger on seats below it, he saw they were engraved with words. Squinting, he tried to read them, but the symbols were too small.

"They're goodbyes," Melissa said behind him, Stiles jumped, forgetting she was still so close to him. He turned to look at her, confusion evident on his face. She smiled softly, and sat on one of the seats, beckoning for him to sit by her. He did so, tentatively perched on the edge of the wooden bench, looking out across the expanse of soft lights and symbols carved into the seats around him, names twisting around them, of students who'd been here before him, and had left the best parts of themselves on the smooth surface of the wood.

"Every time a student leaves, they leave their own mark, their own words behind. Its to show not only do we now have utter trust in them- they engrave the marks themselves-but that everyone can get to a happier place, with time and the right way about it." She smiled again, and Stiles nodded pensively, eyes darting to the seats again, the words and the engraved symbols having a whole new meaning.

"I...like that," He admitted, fiddling with his sleeve as he stared down at the stage below them, looking in any direction other than at Melissa. She nodded, knowing how it must feel to see the marks of other past students all around them. Sometimes, she liked to come and sit in the room after everyone else had gone back to their dorms, letting the patterns and symbols reassure her that, yes, her job was hard, and sometimes even heartbreaking, but she was capable of making even the most off-course teens feel even a fraction better.

She knew that the daunting task of even getting better was thought near impossible to the students in the early stages of their lives at Rosedale so it would take a while before he would believe he could be among them, but she was determined to try her hardest to convince him. She was certain he could accomplish more than he thought he ever could, but he just needed a push in the right direction.

They sat staring down at the patterns dancing across the wooden benches, Melissa explaining some of the more exciting features of Rosedale as Stiles listened raptly, his jitters calming down to only an infrequent tapping against his leg.

Stiles suddenly looked down, a door opening onto the stage, and a gaggle of teens, around Stiles' age, spilling out, talking amongst themselves. Melissa promptly stood up, waving at them and gesturing for Stiles to follow her down to them. He edged past the seats warily, feeling his heart beat faster at the prospect of meeting even more new people in such a short span of time.

They looked up at him, nudging each other knowingly before separating, dragging seats into the centre of the stage and forming a circle, obviously used to the routine by now. As he and Melissa walked over, Stiles recognised Isaac as he sat down next to him, in the only vacant seat in the circle. He waved at Stiles, who smiled back at him, grateful to know at least one person there already, even if it was someone who exhausted his energy supplies in a few minutes of his company. He perched on the edge of his seat, frown on his face as his cheeks heated up, aware of the stares of the other people in the group.

Melissa sat down and rifled through the papers in her lap, before turning to them and beginning to talk. "Hey everyone, thanks for getting here on time-" Melissa started, smiling at the various teens slumped on chairs around her. "This is Stiles, he's a new member of your group. Do any of you have anything you want to say?" Melissa asked, looking persuasively round the circle.

Melissa smiled encouragingly, willing anyone to say anything, but no one spoke up, making an uncomfortable silence began to fall. Taking a deep breath, Melissa consulted the clipboard propped in her lap and cleared her throat, nodding and barreling through the silence with her own sunny disposition.

"Right, well we'll go round the circle-" Everyone groaned. "-and introduce ourselves." Melissa smiled at Stiles and nodded purposefully to the girl sitting on the other side of her.
The girl looked annoyed, barely stopping herself from rolling her eyes. "I'm Erica, hey." She said flatly, sinking further into her seat. Her blonde hair swept into her face as she batted it irritably away, her movements jittery and sudden. Melissa gave her an amiable smile and looked expectantly at the boy next to her.

"Jackson." He said with a bored expression on his face as he looked anywhere but at Stiles, eyes darting around the room as if he was trying to appear at ease, but was betrayed by his tense appearance. The teen sat hunched over in his seat and appeared to be even less welcoming than Erica. Stiles frowned as the panic in his stomach began to tug on his ribs, tickling his throat.

Isaac was sprawled into a chair next to Jackson, fighting a yawn, yet brightened up when he saw Melissa and Stiles' attention had turned to him. "Hey! I'm Isaac, which you already know, and you're Stiles, cool name." He said with a big grin on his face, eyes a little too bright to be comforting. Stiles nodded at him, a small, uncertain smile on his face. Melissa chuckled and nodded again.

Everyone seemed to be avoiding the subject of the bruise decorating the side of Isaac's face, even as it stood in stark contrast against his pale skin. Stiles discreetly looked at him, jumping when he caught his gaze and smiled, obviously oblivious of the concern in his eyes.

A girl sat in the seat next to Isaac, Stiles watched as she fiddled absentmindedly with her long hair, before tucking it behind her ear. She looked up in surprise, to see everyone's eyes on her, an apologetic smile on her face. "I'm Cora Hale, nice to meet you." She seemed confident, and relaxed in her surroundings, making Stiles wonder why she had been admitted to Rosedale. When she finished speaking, she elbowed the boy next to her, who gave her a disgruntled glare and sat straighter in his chair.

Looking up, Stiles froze in shock. He stared at the boy, his eyes fixed on the burn marks deforming the side of his face, trailing under his collar and creeping up from his sleeves over the backs of his hands. The boy saw him looking, and glared at him, making Stiles wince and slump further into his seat, trying to escape his rage.

"Derek." The boy muttered, a frown on his face, but Stiles refused to look up as his cheeks turned red. He gritted his teeth and tried to calm himself down, but couldn't stop feeling ashamed at how he'd stared at the Dereks scars.

People had done the same to him countless times, so why did he do the same to someone else? Just because they were in a place that could barely be hidden, he shouldn't have reacted so badly. God, the guy probably hated him now, and Stiles hadn't said a single word in his defence.

Chapter Text

Melissa let out a soft sigh, and Stiles cringed, aware he'd added to the previously lessening tension in the room. There was a beat of silence while everyone sat awkwardly in the circle, trying to think of ways to avoid or diffuse the situation.

The girl sitting next to Derek, only two seats away from Stiles, suddenly clapped her hands, and gave the room a blinding smile, before daintily crossing her legs. "Hello Stiles, I'm Lydia." She said, a pompous look on her face, which intimidated Stiles greatly. He waved meekly at her, heart hammering as he thought about how he'd already shown himself up, aware of her eyes boring holes into his skull. She nodded decisively at him, and he almost missed her glance at Melissa, who smiled reassuringly.

She sat back in her seat, smoothing out the wrinkles in her skirt and staring expectantly at the boy between her and Stiles. He looked at her and gave a small huff of indignation, before turning and smiling at Stiles. "Hi, I'm Vernon, but everyone calls me Boyd. Nice to meet you." Stiles smiled at him, ducking his head as all the people around the circle once again started to stare at him. Stiles began to tug on his sleeves, twisting the fabric around his fingers in an attempt to distract himself from the people around him.

"You're not going to make us make up two interesting facts about ourselves, are you?" Erica asked dubiously, huffing as Cora laughed, shaking her head in amusement.

"Well, that's an idea I could certainly get behind," Melissa hummed, looking thoughtful whilst trying to stop grinning, picking up her pen to write the idea on her clipboard.

"Oh god, why would you ever suggest that!" Derek sighed, looking pained at even the thought. Stiles regarded him, trying to look past the puckered, red scars and at the annoyed teen beneath them. He was handsome, objectively, and he was well built, dressed in a plain black tee, and jeans.

Stiles wrenched his thoughts away from Derek, turning back to Melissa, a light blush on his cheeks.

"No, I'll save it for another time, don't worry," Melissa laughed and shook her head, amused that the teens were so appalled by the idea of talking about themselves.

"Oh no, don't, it's free entertainment," Lydia sighed, back to inspecting her nails with a smirk on her face. Her posture was perfect, and she sat as though the others were below her. But Stiles couldn't help but think that her bravado must be an act, after all, she was currently in a school for mentally unstable teenagers. She hid her feelings well.

"I second that," Cora chuckled, her and Lydia sharing a smile. The two got on better than the others, and as Stiles looked at them, he wondered if they were all smiles, or if behind closed doors they could confide in each other, unlike him.

"I can do it! I have loads of facts about myself, I'm pretty interesting, I have three-" Isaac began excitedly, ready to list everything he could think of, only to be stopped before he could get out his first point.

"Isaac!" Everyone groaned, making Melissa try in vain to hide her chuckle.

"Point proved, let's leave it for another time," Derek remarked sourly, looking bored out of his mind, and as if he'd rather be anywhere but in the room.

"Or never," Muttered Jackson, sneering at Isaac, who shrugged and smiled, already back to fiddling with his seat, unbothered by the other boys-less-than-sunny dispositions.

"Right, now everyone's acquainted, we can start," Melissa interrupted, shaking her head in amusement. Stiles wasn't sure if he was relieved or annoyed. It had been fun to see a glimpse at the other teen's personalities, even if some of them weren't as welcoming as he'd initially hoped.

"How have lessons been for everyone?" Melissa asked, different answers coming from around the circle, Stiles drowning out the conversation as his eyes rested on the fairy lights again, the lights blinking in and out of, soft, adding to the ambience of the room. She looked towards him, flashing him a small smile before turning back to the others. He returned it, only realising later that she'd already turned away to continue the session before she had seen it.

He was glad she'd chosen not to make him speak up, his nerves only just settling down from their raw state that had been with him since his dad had led him up the gravel track towards Rosedale. The murmuring voices and occasional loud laughter around him brought him a sense of security.

The conversation turned again, drawing Stiles back in, the sudden absence of noise alerting him of a change. Melissa was turned towards Boyd, having just broken out of an animated discussion with the other teens.

"So what helps you calm down if you're feeling wound up?" She asked Boyd, expression calm in an attempt to make the question as lighthearted as possible. He shuffled forward, a brief silence lulling in the conversation before he replied.

"I do gardening." He said simply, expression calm as he nodded. Melissa smiled, making an understanding expression. Jackson snorted, making Cora scowl at him in annoyance.
"That's great, Boyd! It's often a misconception that people with Bipolar just want to keep things neat." She looked exasperated, obviously having heard of these said misconceptions many a time. "It's in the very name that actions can be obsessive, which in no way at all has to focus on cleanliness every time. It's good you've found something that works for you." She looked pleased, and Stiles recalled the greenhouses Melissa had shown him on the earlier tour.

Boyd shrugged, looking unbothered. Erica nudged him, giving him a playful grin. Stiles watched, mortified at even the thought of someone discussing his mental health so brazenly. He'd rather do anything else, but now, he was at Rosedale. Avoiding the subject wasn't really an option.

Chapter Text

The faint sound of chirping sifted into his unconscious as he blinked sleepily, slowly being brought out of the caress of sleep. Idly, he thought that the night had been less fitful than any of his recent sleep.

Squinting into the light, he gradually registered the movements of the other boys around him, Boyd sat on the edge of his bed lacing his shoe, Jackon sprawled across his sheets, and Isaac leaning in the doorway to the bathroom, toothbrush perched haphazardly in his mouth as the foam trickled down over his chin. Stiles lifted a hand up to scrub at his eyes, an enormous yawn wracking his body.

Letting his eyes slip closed again, he enjoyed a few seconds of sleepy, relaxed bliss before they shot open again, this time in indignation as he felt a sharp poke in the tender skin between his ribs. Jackson stood above him, a smug grin on his face as he stared down at Stiles, who gaped up at him.

"Morning, sleeping beauty," He snarked, his affronted face betraying that he thought Stiles was anything but.

"Such a great morning, already" Stiles groaned, shaking his head vehemently, then groaning as the movement made his head spin. Jackson shrugged, flopping back onto his bed.

"It's just going to get better, then," Boyd replied, unfolding his own timetable, a sticky note falling to the ground as he examines it. Stiles looks up, pausing as he detached himself from the duvet around him. "-you've got a session with Deaton in half an hour, I'm supposed to take you," Boyd admitted, looking reproachful, sympathising for the teen in front of him, who was still fighting an epic battle with his sheets.

Stiles blanched, eyes darting to the watch on his skinny wrist as he scrambled out of bed, the sheets finally falling to the ground around him as he knelt down next to his bed, squinting past the abandoned shoes and crumpled clothes.

"Who's Deaton?" He asked distractedly, tugging his duffel bag out and struggling with the zip.

"One of the counsellors, I had him last year," Isaac mused, returning from the bathroom to regard him in amusement, sans the toothbrush and the foam dribbling down his face. "He's okay, a bit too textbook therapist to be comforting, though," He mused as if he was recalling his own sessions with the counsellor.

"Great," Stiles muttered, finally standing in the middle of the room with his clothes piled in his arms, he headed for the bathroom. But as he turned, he eyes the top bunk of his bed, noticing the sheets neatly folded back into place, as if no one had slept there at all. Stiles would believe so if he hadn't stumbled back into the cabin last night and seen Derek's bulky form under the sheets, turned towards him, his eyes glinting in the darkness as he smirked at him, before turning around to face the wall.

"Where's Derek?" He asked quietly, his fingers trailing along the wooden ladder of the bed and the leather jacket hooked haphazardly over it.

"Already gone, he works out in the mornings," Boyd said noncommittally, face airy as he kneeled on the floor, lacing his other shoe, obviously not sensing the tension in Stiles gaze, before tossing the other teen an energy bar. Stiles caught it gracelessly, shoving it in his pocket and nodding in thanks.

"Oh..." Stiles murmured, face wilting. He'd hoped that after last night, the older teen might wait for him so that they could-

He wasn't sure what he wanted them to do, but leaving before he'd even woken up wasn't one of the more favourable options.

Stiles grit his teeth and shook his head slightly as he decided to firmly send the thought to the back of his mind, deciding to dwell on it another time, as if he could force his brain to shift to a lighter topic. He swiftly headed for the bathroom, smoothing out his expression.

"You can change in here, we won't look," Jackson leered, sniggering at Stiles' horrified expression.

"I'll have to decline," Stiles said tightly, shutting the door firmly behind him as he heard Jackson's snort behind him.

"Suit yourself," Jackson drawled, his voice quieter as it sifted through the wood panelling of the door. Stiles laid a shaky hand on the sink, jumping slightly at the cold of the porcelain, he took a few calming breaths, before running the tap to splash the cool water onto his heated face.

"You better hurry, you don't want to be late to your first session, you already missed breakfast!" Boyd calls, making Stiles curse, before remembering the solid weight of the energy bar pressed into the pocket of his pyjamas. Hurriedly, he unwrapped it, using one hand to unbutton his shirt, and another to take a big bite, sputtering as it fell off in chunks, spraying onto the floor.

"Why didn't you wake me?" Stiles called, chewing the last of his energy bar and hastily doing up the zipper on his jeans, running the tap again to brush his teeth.

"You looked so peaceful, we wouldn't dare," Jackson's voice filtered through the door again, another entitled grin no doubt on his face.

"You didn't care about that when you poked me, huh?" Stiles yelled, frantically jamming his toothbrush into his mouth and shrugging on another shirt to cover the outline of the bandages under his tee.

"Whatever," Jackson replied, bordering on a whine as his voice turned petulant.

"See you later, Stiles! I'm seeing Melissa now," Isaac rapped on the door, making Stiles jump, cursing silently as toothpaste fell off his toothbrush and onto his shirt with a small splat. He stared down at it disdainfully, scrubbing at it with his thumb to no avail.

"Bye," Stiles called distractedly, running a hand through his hair, and sighing as he realised it was no help. Reaching the toilet, he took a second to relax, trousers pooled around his ankles as he heard the teens retreating footsteps, which gave him a few seconds of silence to collect his thoughts.

"Me too," Jackson yawned, sounding reluctant. Stiles heard the shift of his mattress and rolled his eyes. "Bye shitheads," He heard the teen call, before he left, banging the door behind him. Stiles huffed, washing his hands once more, before collecting himself to leave the relative quiet of the toilet and reemerge into the central cabin.

"Love you, too," Boyd muttered drily, his eyes on the exit as Stiles opened the door, looking at his wry grin. Stiles snorted, dumping his abandoned pyjamas onto his bed, before tugging on his scuffed sneakers, huffing as he unknotted the laces, his spindly fingers expertly knotting them tight.

"How long have I got?" Stiles asked pitifully, patting his empty stomach with a slight frown on his face.

"Negative three minutes," Boyd, stiles groaned, standing up "-and I need to take you to get your meds, too, so we should probably get going," He added, looking regretful that he hadn't mentioned that earlier when Stiles scrambled up, nodding and heading to the door. He shoved his hands into his hoody, practically vibrating, now, as he waited impatiently to leave.

"I suppose, I guess I'll just embrace my doom," Stiles sighed, looking only mildly put out now he knew he could get his meds. His hands had just started vibrating with tiny tremors, and his leg was twitching erratically, making him more than willing to get the tiny, little, powdery pills of miracles. Boyd frowned, standing up and nodding dubiously.

"It's really not that bad," Boyd chuckled, after a brief pause as he decided to ignore the teen's sudden eagerness. "-You might even find you'll like it, letting loose for a while," The words were an admittance, a reflection of how much his thoughts had changed regarding counselling. The daily sessions had seemed worrisome at first, even terrifying, but he'd found them to help him unravel his thoughts in a neat and organised way that he could understand.

The two exited the cabin, bracing as the chilly morning air hit them like a frosty blanket. Boyd fished in his pocket, producing a key that he fit into the lock, jiggling it experimentally until it clicked shut. Letting his hand rest briefly on the door frame, he turned to Stiles, ready to leave.

Stiles shifted uncomfortably, the thought outlandish to his ears. "I severely doubt it, but I appreciate your faith," He said with a sigh as they turned away from the cabin.

"C' mon, let's go," Boyd murmured, shoving his hands into his pockets and wrapping his jacket further around him as his breath left him in warm vapour clouds.

They traipsed up the path, turning off onto another small track that wound around to the other side of the main house, weaving through lines of vegetables planted in neat rows around them.

"Hey, Stiles! Boyd!"

Stiles looked up, startled to hear his name. Scanning the area, he noticed Isaac jogging leisurely over to them, joined by another boy, who smiled dopily at Stiles and Boyd, who halted in front of them.

"Hey," Stiles smiled, words dying as he scuffed his shoes against the ground.

"Hi, Scott," Boyd said, nudging the other guy, a slight smile on his face.

"Hey, bro!" Scott said, before turning to Stiles, who stared blankly back, before scrambling forward, offering his limp hand to shake, before making a small noise of surprise as Scott pulled him into a hug. "Isaac's told me about you, you seem awesome, I'm Scott!" He smiled dopily again, and Stiles couldn't help but grin back, the happy air the guy exuded sneaking into them all.

Isaac rubbed the back of his neck, looking sheepish. "Only good things, I promise," He said to Stiles, who's cheeks began to heat up. He nodded, shrugging lamely.

Boyd tugged on his sleeve, nodding up at the path again. "We better get going if you want anytime at all with Deaton," He murmured, lightly pushing Stiles up in front of him, away from the others.

Stiles gritted his teeth, nerves coming back in full force. "Debatable," He mumbled but allowed Boyd to push him further away from the pair.

Scott waved, looking hopeful. "See you later, Stiles?" He called at his retreating form, making Stiles twist around to talk to him.

"Yeah, for sure!" Stiles knew he meant it, the teen seemed strangely happy for being in this place, on a chilly morning, at jarring odds with the more subdued atmosphere as they trudged through the corridors.

"So...Scott?" Stiles asked quietly, in the hope Boyd could give him more of an insight as to why Scott was here, his words awkwardly petered off, and he followed the other boy past other students, eyes down on the floor. Scott seemed much too...happy...to truly need to come to Rosedale, but maybe he was just handling it better than the rest of them. Stiles was mindful not to speak too loudly in fear of Scott hearing him.

"He's Melissa's son, he helps out in the gardens sometimes," Boyd supplied, gently guiding Stiles past a hoard of giggling teens and towards the main office where Melissa no doubt sat.

"Oh," Stiles was bewildered, both at the thought that someone had chosen to come to Rosedale, even though they didn't qualify as crazy enough to enrol there, and why Melissa would want her son to mix with such a...temperamental crowd. "-He seems nice," Stiles murmured distractedly, eyes fixed on the big doors in front of them, that they were slowly approaching.

Boyd nodded, shouldering open the door, him and Stiles stepping through it into the considerably quieter foyer. "He is, he only comes on the weekends, though,"

"Yeah..." Stiles mumbled, much distracted by Melissa, who looked up from her pile of papers and gave them an enthusiastic smile, approaching them.

"Hey!" She hurried over, a tiny, styrofoam cup clutched in her hands. Stiles looked down at it and saw two of his pills inside. Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, he realised students here couldn't even be trusted to count out their own pills. But his stomach rolled uncomfortably as he realised that doing more sinister things with his pills had crossed his own mind more than once.

"Hi," He replied meekly, wrenching his eyes up to meet Melissa's. She looked as if she was deliberately schooling her expression to be calm in front of him.

Ducking out of the door, Boyd turned to Stiles and gave him a crooked smile. "I'll just be outside," He mumbled, before shutting the door softly, leaving Stiles and Melissa in silence.

Melissa nodded gratefully in Boyd's direction, then turned back to Stiles. She handed him a bottle of water and watched him uncap the seal nervously.

"Go ahead, just remember next time to bring your water bottle, okay?" She said quietly, making Stiles nod numbly. A silence fell over them as he took the cup, tipping the two pills into his mouth and swallowing around the water. She watched him, and took the cup back, surreptitiously peering into it before setting it onto the side behind her.

Tugging down the sleeves of his shirt, Stiles tapped his fingers along the cuff of his jeans, conscious of Melissa's eyes on him. She leaned against the desk, surveying his fidgeting wordlessly.

"How did you find your first day?" She asked suddenly, before returning to behind the desk, shuffling through the piles of paper teetering dangerously close to the edge.

Stiles grimaced, his nerves still on edge after all the abrupt changes he'd experienced throughout the day. He still wasn't sure just how bad he thought Rosedale was, but he knew for sure it wasn't as awful as he had initially imagined. He wasn't sure how to put this into words, or if he wanted to, so he simply shrugged, face carefully blank. "It was okay," He hesitated, wondering if his words were being analysed, and used against him as she looked up at him.

Melissa smiled, nodding slightly. "I'm glad, you've got a session with Deaton next, right?" Stiles blanched and nodded slightly.

"Yeah," He admitted, looking as if he'd rather be discussing anything else. Melissa made an understanding noise as she slipped the papers into separate folders, then storing them in the confines of the desk.

"It's not as awful as you'd think," She chuckled, "-You can talk to him about how you really feel," She hinted, a knowing look on her face. Stiles did his best not to glower, still extremely opposed to talking about anything regarding his feelings.

Letting out a light sigh, Melissa ushered him out of the door and pointed to the left. "Well I shouldn't make you late, so go with Boyd and he'll show you the way." Stiles nodded but still dragged his feet as he left the office, determined to spend as little time as possible with his new counsellor.

"Bye, then," He mumbled, holding in a groan. Opening the door, he glanced back, seeing Melissa wave, before being consumed once more by the piles of paper in front of her. Boyd stood up off of a chair outside the office as he nodded at Stiles.

"You ready?" Boyd asked, taking Stiles' helpless expression as a reluctant affirmative. They set off down the corridor, the students now thinning out making the noise level lower to a few whispered conversations, and quiet laughs.

A few minutes later, they emerged in front of a door with a brass nameplate on the front, similar to Melissa's own office. Boyd rapped lightly on the door, making Stiles take a step back, pulling a face. Motioning forward, the other teen pushed him lightly in front of the door, ignoring his protest.

"He won't force you to do anything," Boyd promised, voice serious as he turned to Stiles. "I think you should talk about it, though," The mysterious 'it' hanging heavy in his words. Boyd may not have known Stiles true story, but it was easy to tell that something had happened to bring them to Rosedale. Every student had their very own 'it' to sort through and Stiles was no different. "Plus, he's the school's trained doctor, so if anything happens you're doubly protected," Boyd added, a small grin on his face.

Opening his mouth to say something, anything, Stiles stiffened as the door in front of them opened, a man stepping out and giving Stiles a neutral smile Boyd waved goodbye, before setting off down the corridor, soon disappearing down towards his own class.

Slowly turning to Deaton, Stiles froze, staring as Deaton stepped back, letting him into the room. Stepping forward, he let the door close behind them with a quiet click, the silence of the room only broken by the ticking of an old clock.

"Stiles, I presume?" The man said, setting into a chair, nodding to a couch in front of him, a box of tissues sat blatantly on the coffee table between them. Stiles sat down drumming his fingers on his lap and looking around at the counsellor's space inquisitively.

The walls held a cork board with shabby leaflets and old photos, whilst generic pictures hung on the other walls. In the corner stood a small desk, piled high with papers, much like Melissa's. The most striking thing at all, perhaps, was the sheer amount of plants that were perched on every nearby surface. Tall, dark leaves hung off of shelves, joined by jars of succulents and pots of herbs on the window, making the room seem more like an indoor garden than the office and meeting room that it was meant to function as.

Stiles' attention was brought back to the counsellor as he leaned back, a folder clasped in his hands. A few seconds passed, Stiles' eyes flickering back to the numerous plants around him. He found their presence to be almost relaxing, and a relief from the ongoing session, a place his eyes could wander to if the tension was too much.

"So, I know this is only your second day here, how is it going?" Deaton asked, setting the folder behind him, Stiles' eyes tracking the movement.

He sighed, already sick of hearing the question. "Its," He hesitated, remembering Melissa's earlier words. "-a change." He decided on shrugging listlessly. Deaton nodded understandingly, no doubt used to the answer.

"Rosedale is very different from other schools, and your life in your old town in general, I presume, but we do try to make your time here as enjoyable as possible."

Stiles snorted, then felt his cheeks heat up as the counsellor's gaze fell on him. "I don't see how it could be that great," He mumbled, eyes cast down on the floor below them.

"It takes a while to settle in here and to fully reap the benefits of the experience. You might not see it now, but you will as the weeks go on," Deaton persisted, a small smile on his face. Stiles couldn't help but wonder what had brought the counsellor here. After all, he hadn't been forced to come here.

Stiles looked uneasy, the prospect of spending weeks at Rosedale, not something he had thought of. The conversation was beginning to feel very onesided as Deaton grilled him on his mental health, a subject he'd never been comfortable discussing.

"I understand your doctor believed you to have-" Deaton briefly looked down at his stuff "-anxiety. How does that make you feel" Stiles grit his teeth, fingers tapping faster on his lap.

"The doctor prescribing that, or the...anxiety?" Stiles checked lip curling at the word, still unable to say it after all the months he'd been aware of it.

"The anxiety," Deaton said, face blank. Stiles let out a huff and curled up into the leather upholstery of the couch.

There was an uncomfortable silence, where Stiles debated what his next words would be. Deaton watched him patiently, his face was devoid of any anger.

"I didn't think to put a name to it at first, it still feels like too much.." Stiles confessed, feeling the walls built up so highly around him cracking down the middle.

"What's too much?" The counsellor asked quietly, the silence of the room pressing on the teen in front of him like a layer of water.

"Giving it a name, the...anxiety," Stiles grimaced, still unable to utter the word without a sneer. "It makes it feel like a much bigger deal than it should be,"

Deaton nodded, reaching behind him and taking a slow sip of his tea. "Anxiety is a spectrum which means that no one specific person experiences the same thing as another one. Do not think because you are experiencing something different to how anxiety is portrayed in movies and books makes it any less of the issue it is," His answer made Stiles' stiffen, eyes widening a fraction.

"What issue is it?" Stiles said, suddenly on edge.

"I have yet to determine how we're going t go forward with this, but it'll help the more we talk about it each day," Deaton murmured, making Stiles quirk am eyebrow

"Okay," Stiles mumbled, looking displeased.

"It seems like you really dislike the term anxiety, why is that?" Deaton prodded, unable to lose the subject as he regarded Stiles' expression.

"I just..." Struggles to find words "I don't like that it's officially a problem, y' know? Because now it means there's officially something wrong with me, something that I have to live with." Stiles

"Mental Illness is not something wrong with you, Stiles, simply a chemical imbalance, in some cases. Even if you weren't diagnosed, the anxiety would still be there, perhaps you feel like the feelings have been enhanced simply because you're now aware of them," Deaton offered, taking another sip of tea.

Stilling, the teen reluctantly realised that the counsellor's words made sense. It was baffling how Deaton had unravelled and made sense of his conflict, but he supposed that was what he had been trying to do all along. "Yeah, I guess so," He said slowly.

"Your file also says that you have a history of self-harm," Deaton said quietly, eyes turning serious.

Stiles froze, eyes widening. His mouth sealed shut, and he gripped onto his sleeve unconsciously, going rigid as he realised what he was doing.

"Do you think you're up to talking about it today, or do you want to leave it until tomorrow?" Deaton asked, his voice quiet as he broached the subject.

"Tomorrow, definitely tomorrow," Stiles replied hastily, relief evident on his face.

"That's fine, just remember that we will be talking about it at some point, as long as you feel comfortable with it" Deaton murmured, sounding firm, as if making a promise to discuss it again at a later time.

Stiles wasn't sure if he would ever feel comfortable with the subject. He made a humming noise, not sure if it was negative or affirmative.

"Why do you have so many plants in your room?" Stiles asked abruptly, eyes narrowing as they were drawn once more to the trailing leaves surrounding them.

Deaton gave him a long look as if he was entirely aware of what Stiles was trying to do. "I like plants, they make the room look nicer, and some of these plants help me in other ways, too," He finished, making Stiles quirk an eyebrow, somewhat resigned to realising that Deaton was a very vague man, and he would only receive half answers on anything that he did not consider important to their conversation.

"We'll focus on your anxiety today, and how it makes you feel," Deaton said, wrenching Stiles from his thoughts.

"Okay," Stiles said, able to see the subject as the compromise it was.

"I feel like the officiality of the anxiety isn't the only reason you're so opposed to it, do you want to elaborate on that?" Deaton offered, stirring his cup.

"I mean, I think I just hate how so many people joke or laugh about it, or claim to have it because of one tense conversation, and then decide they want to question me about if I'm the one who really deserves to say I have it." He said agitatedly, eyes narrowed. "-online, people broadcast to the world that people should talk about anxiety if they have it. And if they say they do, is it real, or have they made it up?" His tangent had swept him up, and as he finished speaking, he untensed his shoulders and wilted, aware of how much he had let loose.

"So the internet and the way it discusses mental health annoys you?" Deaton guessed, picking up the folder in front of him and flipping it open.

"I think so, or maybe it's the way I think about it. Because now I know for sure I have anxiety, I can't help but question if I really have it, or if it is just me complaining, just like the people they accuse online." He admitted quietly.

"You feel like you're undeserving of the title?" Deaton checked, picking up his pen and slowly writing on the pages, ignoring Stiles' calculating gaze.

"It feels like everyone who speaks out is undeserving of the title. The ones that suffer in silence are on a pedestal with some sort of trophy,. They're so saintly because they don't speak out." Stiles' voice started to tremble, and he took a few deep breaths of air before continuing. "-I don't know, it all just seems to send out such mixed signals..."

The session continued, Stiles' opening up the further into the session they went. Deaton's file had a new page of writing, which Stiles still wasn't sure if he was happy about.

Half an hour later, Stiles jumped as a gentle knocking came from the door. Deaton's eyes flipped to his watch as he stood up, giving Stiles a brief smile Stiles peered around him as he opened the door, spotting Boyd.

"I'm here to pick up Stiles for lunch," The other teen said, smiling as peeked round the counsellor, eyes on Stiles.

"Sure, we ran over a bit, sorry about that," Deaton said, turning back to Stiles, who shrugged.

"It's fine, I don't mind," He said, surprising himself. "See you tomorrow?" He asked quietly, turning back as he walked over to the door.

"Yep, same time same place," Deaton smiled, nodding farewell before sitting back at his desk.

Stiles turned to Boyd, who grinned encouragingly. "So, how was it?" He asked, curious at the other teens seemingly at ease attitude.

Shrugging, Stiles smiled. "Better than I thought it would be,"

"Yeah?" Boyd asked, smiling smugly, making Stiles roll his eyes in amusement.

"Yeah. I can manage that,"

Chapter Text

"What about anyone else?" Melissa asked hopefully, smiling brightly. Stiles shifted uncomfortably, suddenly finding great interest in his hands clasped tightly in his lap.

"Well I know one for sure," Cora said as everyone turned to look at her. She flipped her hair onto her shoulder and playing with the strands, at ease with all the attention on her.
"Go on," Melissa encouraged, pleased that she'd spoken up.

"Girls night!" She said enthusiastically. Lydia nodded sagely, and Erica grinned, her face almost predatory. "Movies, pop-corn, gossip, all the best stuff," Cora continued, listing off the aspects of her perfect night of relaxation. Jackon rolled his eyes, then looked cowed as Lydia narrowed her eyes at him in retribution.

"What about us guys, though?" Isaac said, looking put out, Stiles found a little smile inching its way onto his face at the other boys annoyed expression.

"You can come to girls night!" Erica said, looking positively gleeful.

Melissa sat up straighter, shaking her head. "No, girls and boys stay in their own cabins." She said but had the good taste to look a little regretful on their behalf. Maybe a night of relaxation would be the perfect thing to help the group wind down a little bit. But the threat of someone going over the edge was always looming over every decision she made for her students, it was always possible it could go wrong. Horribly wrong.

"People are gay, Melissa," Lydia said, raising her eyebrow as she made a solid point. Isaac nodded, just happy other people wanted him to come to 'girls night'.

Melissa threw up her arms in surrender, laughing and unable to come up with an argument against Lydia's. "I'll...think about thinking about it," She said finally, making Erica woop and high five Isaac, and a more reluctant Jackson, who looked at her disdainfully.

Cora looked pleased, her idea expanding before her. "Girls night just became-" A beat of consideration fell as she decided on a new term for their hopeful hangout session. "-teens night!" She declared triumphantly, making Melissa huff in amusement, shaking her head and scribbling a note onto the pieces of paper clutched on top of her clipboard.
"I haven't agreed to anything yet, she said sagely, making them all groan.

Derek sat quietly, as did Stiles, only quirking his eyebrows as the others' comments were added to the conversation. Stiles stole glances at him every few minutes, still intrigued by the boy. How did he feel, knowing the entire room could see the marks covering his face? It wasn't too different from how he himself felt, and the similarity made the thoughts even stronger.

"Getting back onto track," Melissa started pointedly, "I have some good news," Melissa said, eyeing the manilla folder on her lap excitedly, choosing to move on before the argument got too heated. Everyone looked at her dubiously, what could the good news possibly be?
"It's group project time!"

Melissa's words made the group of teens around her hush, their expressions ranging from complete horror to gleeful excitement. A beat of silence reigned over the group for a second, before a cacophony of complaints, drowning out the few excited words exchanged, began to fall onto her deaf ears.

Her smile slowly turned to a grim frown as she pressed her lips together, the protests from the various teens sat around her bouncing off of her unhearing ears. She began shuffling through her folder, deciding to give the teens the benefit of the doubt, in the hope they’d stop complaining about the project, and realise that she was tired of the noise.
The teens continued to talk, voices inter-lapping and rising over each other to be best heard, Stiles, watching on, one of the only ones to see Mellisa's stony expression. He chanced a glance over the circle, quickly looking back at his knotted fingers in his lap as he saw Derek reclining in his chair, looking entirely bored of the situation. As his cheeks began to heat up, he couldn't help to look up once more, this time catching Derek's eyes, which were carefully neutral, nothing like the fiery glare he had pinned him with not too long ago.

Stiles caught his breath and tried to steady his breathing, focusing on his fingers as they laid knotted in his lap, trying to stop the shaking from being too apparent to the annoyed people around him.

“Guys! Listen to me,” The loud voices interlacing with each other as they echoed around the room dulled to a lower hubbub, a small whisper or harried comment drifting out every now or again.

“This isn't optional, and you will all be participating.” Her stony glare followed all of them as they shifted uncomfortably in their seats. “In pairs, you will be creating, or re-creating somewhere that's special to you- it could be anywhere-” Stiles looked mystified, and blanched at the thought of doing anything that involved baring his soul to the group in even the smallest ways, especially with another individual.

Melissa smiled eagerly, maybe too eagerly, passing sheets of paper around the circle, before continuing. “-You will be writing what makes this certain place special to you, and how it makes you feel calm and happy.” Melissa finished, smiling gently. Everyone considered the words, and Stiles furrowed his eyebrows, confused.

Melissa waited to see if anyone had any questions, then launched into her explanation again. “You'll showcase your peaceful place in any way you want to in two weeks.” Stiles wilted a frown back on his face. “Have a look at who I've paired you with on the sheets, then get to work!”

Chapter Text

Melissa smiled tightly and picked up her binder again. Stiles sat in a state of shock as the meeting progressed, the sheet of paper wavering in his grip as his fingers failed to work as he wanted them to. The teens around him spoke in low murmurs, looking at their sheets and grouping together in little cliques. Finally mustering up the courage to look at the paper held in his tight grip, slowly loosening his fist as it fluttered to a stop in his lap.

Stiles Stilinski & Derek Hale.

Shit.

Running over the few interactions that he'd had with the other teen, he stifled a groan, mind running a mile a minute as it conjured up all the possible ways that this forsaken project could go. The meeting continued around him, but his thoughts had receded far into his mind. The voices of the other teens around him seemed to bounce off him, failing to go in, the cacophony of words sounding like a foreign language as he fought back his panic.

He was dimly aware of Melissa's voice as she ended the session, and the loud scraping noise of the metal chairs being dragged against the wooden floors, but he sat still, breathing irregular and stunted, standing only to reduce the curious stares he received from the other teens, trying to camouflage into their behaviour by mimicking it.

He stood in the middle of the lowered stage, chair gripped in his slightly trembling hand as he stared unseeing across at the seats all around him.

The room quieted as the rest of the group filed out, but his heartbeat thumped under his ribcage in an incessant beat, thudding louder and louder in his ears. He watched, eyes blurry as Melissa stood quietly in front of him, arms clasped around her folder.

“Stiles?” She asked, and he looked up, startled. His eyes tracked her as she walked slowly over to him, sitting in the one leftover chair that she had claimed through the session. “Are you worried about the group project, or is it the change of pace that's a bit overwhelming?” She asked, a small comforting smile on her face. Her tone was conversational, calming him.

The countless therapists he had been sent to over the years, between his mom's death and his recent...misbehaviours, he was sick of hearing their sympathetic, condescending tones. But Melissa's voice was light, no underlying meaning beneath them other than checking upon him.

Stiles pulled a face, shrugging loosely, fingers pressed against his arm and the bandage underneath it. Feeling the sharp jolts of pain helped centre him again, however morbid he knew it to be. Melissa's eyes tracked the movement and frowned. She stood up, about to breach the subject, but decided to leave it, until a few more days had passed and Stiles had begun to acclimatise to Rosedale, and his surroundings.

“If you need to talk to me about the pairing I've put you in, please come and talk to me, okay? And I’m always free to talk now.” She hinted with a smaller smile back on her face. She spent her time helping teens who’d been through hell, but it never got easier to see them in such pain. A few seconds passed as she looked at him expectantly, Stiles steadfastly ignoring her gaze. Melissa let out a soft sigh and patted his shoulder, and began to make her way up the steps, realizing it would take a while for him to even warm up to the idea of talking to her.

“I don't think I can do it.” Stiles' voice sounded out, quiet and reproachful behind her. She stopped on the stairs, turning round to look at him.

“The group project?” She checked, before walking back towards him. He frowned unhappily and nodded, shrinking into himself as she came closer. She nodded understandingly but was secretly still hoping she could get him to open up, and perhaps work out why he didn't want to do it.

“I don’t think…” Stiles checked his sheet, looking at the names. “-Derek likes me very much.” Melissa frowned, shaking her head slowly. “He glared at me all through the introductions, and I didn't mean to stare, and I feel so bad for doing it. If I could take it back I would-” His movements were jerky, and Melissa shook her head, quick to dismiss the worry.

“Stiles,” Melissa said, a slight smile on her face as she listened to his rambling, trying to find a way to breach the conversation.

He looked at her for the first time in their conversation, his wide eyes full of worry and cheeks flushed red. “Yes?” He asked, voice barely above a whisper, the words that had spilt out of him had tired him.

“It’s okay.” Her words were simple, and Stiles frowned, waiting for her to say more. “Derek is working on dealing with expressing how he's feeling, and you will too," Stiles made a face át the mere thought. "-and I think you two will get along just fine! He's not as...angry as he seems." She concluded, looking amused at her choice of words. Stiles looked put out, expecting her to add onto her point. A small silence reigned over them before Melissa began up the stairs again.

As if having forgotten to make a point, she turned around, fixing Stiles with a look. "Just keep in account that you're both developing as people, and that's one completely okay, people argue or don't get on, and that's just human nature. Keep that in mind and you'll do great." She said, tucking a stray strand of hair back into her ponytail.

Stiles wilted, and let out a long drawn-out sigh. Melissa chuckled and gave him another smile, looking hopeful as she set off for the door above them.

“Thanks for the advice,” Stiles said glumly, the usual sarcasm leaking back through now that it was just them. Melissa chuckled and shrugged, looking unapologetic.

“Your welcome, sometimes you just have to puzzle things out as you go along,” She replied cheerfully, before checking her watch and nodding decisively. “It’s lunch in about five minutes, so how about I take you to the cantine? It’s a bit confusing if you don't know the layout of Rosedale straight away.” She supplied, nodding towards the door.

Stiles nodded fervently, just as his stomach gave an unfortunate rumble, making his cheeks turn redder. He stumbled up and away from the stage after Melissa, eyes on the fairy lights strung around the room and the words carved into the seats around him. The room seemed to show everything that Rosedale stood for, and as they walked away from it, his thoughts strayed to the other countless students who had been here before him, and what their journeys were, and if he could ever hope to do as well as they had.

He hadn't considered being happy here, so how did they do it so well?

Chapter Text

Melissa walks leisurely, Stiles traipsing behind her, his eyes drawn to every gauzy poster and whispering student they pass. They walk through the corridors, winding through the impressive central building, before eventually reaching the huge hall.

Stiles stared in wonder, once more taking in the sight of the room. The beams above them were extended far over the ceiling, and the walls stretched up to meet them, adorned with posters and cork boards filled to the brim with student notices.

The huge space was lit up and echoing with the voices of the hundred or so teens, joined by the clanking of dishes and an aroma of freshly cooked food. Melissa leads him over to a table in the centre of the hall, dodging past students and giving them warm smiles whenever they greet her. As they reach the table, the teens look up, and Stiles recognises them from the group session, holding back a grimace at the prospect of being left with them without Melissa to lead the conversation.

“This is you!” Melissa said jovially, nodding at a table to the left of them, where all the teens he’d met before sat around it, in various states of excitement, some, like Jackson, looked unimpressed at his presence. Cora gave him a small nod, and Erica smirked.

Derek seemed nonplussed.

Stiles nodded nervously, unwilling to move at all. Melissa smiled softly, turning to face him, lowering her voice. “It’s going to seem scary at first, of course, it will, but remember those kids were in the same situation as you not so long ago, they know how you feel.” Stiles nodded again, face pale, before setting his jaw and heading to the only spare seat, right next to Derek. His luck never seemed to end. Looking up to see everyone's eyes on him, he wondered if they’d done it on purpose.

Melissa walked off, giving him a little wave and an encouraging grin, before being swept up into a conversation with another eager student as she steps back, being swallowed by the crowd around her.

“Hey.” He said meekly, fingers fiddling with the plate set in front of him, wishing he could merge into the hubbub of the surrounding students. The peas and mashed potatoes looked greasy and foul to his eyes, swimming around on his plate within a sea of gravy, topped with scratchy, dry pork. Looking up, he saw the others tucking into their meals with gusto. He looked back down, a grimace on his face as he debated how much of the meals pallor was down to the worry churning in his stomach.

“Hi. I guess we can introduce ourselves properly now,” Lydia said, flipping her long hair over her shoulder and staring at him expectantly. Another beat of silence reigned over the group before Stiles realised they meant that he should introduce himself.

“Uh,” A blush began to flare up on his cheeks. “Uh, hi. I’m Stiles.” Erica looked confused, evidently puzzled by the peculiar nature of his name, and Jackson scoffed, making Stiles scowl despite his nerves. He could already tell he didn’t like the boy. “It’s a nickname, my real name is worse.” He mumbled quickly, face closing in on itself.

“Oh, if you say so,” Ericka said, shrugging good-heartedly. Stiles blush returned with full force as she flashed him a dazzling smile, blonde hair bouncing as she flicked it over her shoulder. “Well, hey, I’m Erica, which you know.” She smiled, “and this-” She elbowed Boyd next to her, who grunted and gave her a withering stare. “-is my boyfriend!” Stiles couldn't help but think that she seemed a lot less tense now she wasn't in the counselling session, surer of herself and her surroundings.

Letting the words sink in, Stiles' eyes widened in shock, the two seemed like polar opposites, but the more he looked, it seemed the two really did like each other, eyes returning to their faces as they exchanged small smiles, their hands tangled together in Boyd's lap, away from the prying eyes of Melissa and the other teachers.

Lydia looked at the two in disdain as they held hands, fingers entwining as they eyed each other dopily. Clearing her throat, she successfully draws attention from the couple, their attention now solely back on each other. The others turned to her, and she preened under their glances, obviously used to being in the light of her peers. She balanced her head on her hands, before rewarding the table with a graceful, pious smile.

“I’m Lydia.” She said, delicately smoothing out her long sleeves, making Stiles' attention zoom in on a small, red, swollen line peeking out of the woollen fabric. A moment of understanding goes through his head, and he realises he seemingly has something in common with the girl, as confusing as it was.

Although he realised exactly why he had hurt himself, he was increasingly confused as to why Lydia did it too. She saw him looking, and a scowl crossed her face as she quickly moved her hands under the table, masking them from view, before her mask came back down, the shutters closing as her face became ambiguous once more.

Cora nudged her, a little smile on her face as she gave her a little nod. The two seemed close, making Stiles wonder what the two had in common. Cora was nice and had welcomed Stiles into the group easily enough, but she seemed more down to earth and calm, whilst Lydia was the best at the table and knew it. He wondered if maybe, it was something more than kinship in their gazes.

Chapter Text

Before he could dwell on the thought any longer, Cora turned to him, an easy smile on her face. "Hey, I'm Cora, I'm Derek's brother-" She nodded to Derek, who sat slouched in his seat next to Stiles, not addressing the words. The eyes bugged out of Stiles' head, who gaped at the two, only now seeing the resemblance. "I hope you have a-" She grimaced, thinking over her words. "-decent time at Rosedale," She finished, shrugging aimlessly with a tiny grin on her face, well aware that no one came to Rosedale High for leisure.

Isaac sat on the other side of Stiles, next to Jackson. The two seemed to be in a heated debate, talking animatedly and drawing the attention of the rest of the group, who looked over in curiosity.

“No, you can’t go over the fence, they’ll see you!” Isaac scoffed, a smirk on his face as he dramatically reclined in his seat. After seeing Stiles’ curious eyes. He sat back up, trying to tamper down his smile, and failing, a laugh escaping his mouth. “Hypothetically.”

Jackson huffed and rolled his eyes. “This isn’t a prison, there are no cameras.” He looked sure of himself, commandeering his section of the table, his face arrogant as he argued his point.

Isaac shook his head knowingly. “No, it wouldn't work, trust me. Melissa sees all.” He looked deadly serious, as if recalling a suppressed memory, then promptly burst into laughter as if greatly amused by the conversation.

Everyone else laughed, and Stiles let out a small snort, happy to join in with the antics. He went quiet though as Derek's eyes turned to him. His scowl was gone and was replaced by a curious but blank stare. Stiles turned away, looking at his lap, still conscious of the other teen's eyes boring into the side of his head. What did he want?

Boyd nudged Derek, who turned to stare at him in response. The two were the most silent of the group but somehow seemed to communicate just as well with just the use of their eyebrows. Derek let out a long sigh, before turning to Stiles, his eyes now set just under his face.

“I’m Derek.” Stiles waited for him to say anything else, but that seemed to be the end of the interaction, his expectancy left wanting. Stiles nodded, eyes on the plate of congealing vegetables in front of him.

“Hey, I’m Stiles,” Stiles answered, finally looking at his face, waiting for him to look in his general direction. He tried to ignore the burns marring his skin as he waited for the teen to reply. He was disappointed. Only when he turned away did Derek turn to him, and once again stare at the side of his face.

It made Stiles’ cheeks turn redder than he thought possible. The teen was broody, silent, and sometimes angry. But for some bizarre reason, he felt his gaze like it was burning him, and was hyper aware as his knee brushed against his underneath the table, making him jump into action, spearing a piece of soggy broccoli and shoving it into his mouth just for something to do.

For the rest of lunch, Stiles sat picking at his food, too nervous to stomach anything as he listened to the others conversations, always hyper-aware of Derek sitting next to him, and the glares he frequently threw at him. It made his stomach churn, and he wasn’t sure if the feeling was good, or altogether extremely bad.

Stiles turned back to Cora, who had joined the conversation with Isaac and Jackson. She seemed weirdly intense about the subject, and it made Stiles wonder if maybe the students at Rosedale really weren't as happy about being there as they seemed.

"The woods behind the cabins, there's a fence a few metres in but it's only waist height." Cora looked like she'd been mulling the words over before, and the other listened raptly. Stiles was confused, what were the others planning, and did he really want to find out?
"But there's nothing out there," Jackson replied, dismissing it immediately.

"We don't need anything for what we're planning," Cora replied ominously.

What did she mean?

"I'm not going anywhere without a phone signal!" Jackson protested, crossing his arms defensively.

"We're sleeping rough, not going on a luxury cruise!" Boyd chipped in, looking exasperated. The words clicked into place in Stiles' mind, a newly formed theory in his mind. Oh.

There was a beat of silence as everyone turned to Boyd, then simultaneously turned to stare at Stiles, who was sure his face looked as confused as he felt.

"You're...escaping?" He asked reluctantly, somewhat dumbfounded that the entire group had thought of such a sketchy plan. The others looked horrified, and Isaac shook his head vigorously, looking horrified at the thought.

"God, no," Lydia looked disgusted by the mere thought. "If I'm getting out of here, I'm going by car." She plucks an imaginary piece of lint off of her sweater, looking at it and shuddering. "This is cashmere, Stiles. Cashmere," She looks deadly serious as if it was illegal to practice such nefarious acts as dirty her sweater. Her eyes bored into Stiles' face, who looked even more confused than he had before she had said anything.

"We're not escaping," Erica rebutted as if she wasn't opposed to the idea. "At least, not forever," Stiles looked alarmed, eyes widening as he felt the beginnings of his anxiety sloshing around in the confines of his stomach next to the mushy vegetables and pork.

"We're going camping!" Isaac declared loudly, turning the heads of several students on the tables around them. Jackson elbowed him in the gut, glaring once again, the others shushing the loud teen.

Chapter Text

"But you can't tell anyone," Cora countered in a stealthy murmur, leaning across the table to whisper conspiringly with him. He nodded dumbly, feeling a prickly sense of unease as their plans were laid out before him in hushed conversations.

"It's technically..." She grimaced, shrugging. "-against the rules, but we follow the rules all the rest of the time." Stiles nodded along again, too scared to open his mouth because of what might come out.

He'd have jumped at the idea a year ago, hell, even a few months ago. But now even the mere idea of doing something unexpected made his throat convulse.

"It's only for a night, anyway," Erica said, looking strangely disappointed.

"We need this, just one night free from the confines of this place," Boyd said, looking softly at Erica, oblivious to Jackson's disgusted glance at their affection.

"We've been looking forward to it since the start of the year," Isaac said excitedly, looking like an overzealous puppy as he nodded earnestly at Stiles.

"When are you going?" Stiles asked suspiciously, not wanting to be drawn into the plans, but at the same time, feeling hollow at the thought of being left out.

"Two and a half weeks, on Saturday," Jackson said, reciting the information like a prayer, the others listening raptly. "Melissa has a course, so she'll be in her office all day." Stiles looked alarmed, but a spark of excitement seemed to settle low in his chest, eating away at the worry slowly, a small wick burning steadfastly away.

"And it'll be easy to get around the other guides." Boyd continued, "-we're meeting at sundown at the girl's cabin, then we're going to walk to the creek a few miles out, and set up camp."

"Oh," The sound left Stiles' chest, a tiny exhalation. He gave the others a small smile, "-Good luck, then." He said, before slumping back into his seat and fiddling with his spoon.

The others exchanged glances, confused or more annoyed, in Jackson's case.

"Aren't you coming?" Lydia asked, slightly offended at his somewhat quick rejection, no one ever had the gall to reject her, even if the offer wasn't verbally made, and she wasn't sure she liked it.

Stiles stared at her, mouth hanging open slightly. "I, uh, I didn't realise I was invited." He admitted, a small smile on his face as he replied to her.

Isaac scoffed, making a "duh" sound, Boyd clapping him on the back and Jackson looking only mildly inconvenienced.

"You're in our group now, of course, you're coming!" Cora said with a warm smile on her face, Erica nodding along.

The conversation drifted to other topics, but Stiles replayed the talk over and over again, mind wandering as he imagined what would happen on this so-called "Freedom Camp". It gave him a warm feeling to know they'd accepted him into their group, their family, no matter how dysfunctional it may be, it was more than the cold, empty house he had called home before Rosedale.

A loud, sudden bell ran twenty minutes later, echoing through the hall, making Stiles jump violently, and the others stifle a snigger at his face. He mentally facepalmed, letting his fork clatter onto his plate, cheeks once again on fire as he slowly stood up, tugging down his sleeves and following the others as they left the hall.

Melissa had told him that now they had a free period, so he decided to go back to the cabin, nodding goodbye as the rest of the group filtered off down different corridors and paths.

Meeting all the people in his group had been exhausting, the tremors in his hands only now beginning to slow to a stop. Reaching the door, he took a moment to stare at his surroundings. The path wound around the treeline, heading to the other cabins tucked into the large clearing, and the trees stretched on for as far as he could see.

Far off to the south, the ground began to slope upwards, to the summit of the mountain which was emblazoned on the glossy photos on the Rosedale leaflet. It wasn't any less spectacular in real life. Turning back to the door, he cracked it open and ducked inside, letting out a relieved sigh as he felt the sun dim as it shut behind him. He headed over to his bunk, flopping onto it with a huff, face first. Letting himself wilt into the covers, he sat up slowly as he enjoyed the moment of silence, his eyes still closed.

Minutes later, he opened them, a light relaxed smile on his face, only to flinch back in shock. Derek stood over by the door to the bathroom, eyes fixed intently on him. He didn't move or say anything when he saw the teen had seen him, but moved closer, watching as Stiles shrank back on his bed.

“Uh, hi?” Stiles squeaked, looking up at him as he walked closer. Derek didn’t reply, simply going to the side of the bed and vaulting onto the top bunk. A beat of silence passed, Stiles sat in shock, before Derek leaned over the bed, staring down at Stiles wordlessly, a careless expression on his face.

“I got top bunk.”

Chapter Text

Derek's statement was the only noise in the quiet room, and for a few confused seconds, Stiles watched him cautiously, the only noise being the birds and distant voices from the main buildings.

Stiles stared back at him with uncertainty, a little scared, but mostly confused. “Okay?” He murmured, the statement turning into a bemused question in the light of such a bizarre situation. He started to fidget, cheeks turning hot as Derek continued to stare at him, refusing to move from his position over the side of the bed.

The more he looked at the teen, he tried not to let his eyes wander to the burns peeking out from the fabric of Derek's shirt. They marred his formerly smooth skin, stretched taut over his bulky frame. Looking away quickly, he hoped he hadn't been spotted once again, daring to look up at the other teens face, only to see he was looking thoughtfully out of the window, his cocky attitude a jarring change to the monosyllabic one of the counselling session.

Stiles frowned, pulled back into his thoughts as Derek dragged himself back up onto his bed with a grunt. It must be awful to have everything wrong with you left on your skin for all to see. But as he ran over the thought again, he understood Derek's situation, after all, it was strikingly similar to the one he himself was in.

Coming back to reality, he slowly looked up, hearing the bed creak loudly as it adjusted to Derek above him. Stiles quickly stood up, feeling his heart hammering in his chest at the boxed-in confines of his bed. Derek looked up at him as he crunched on an energy bar, cursing quietly as it fell into his lap. Stiles stood still, looking down at his feet and wondering what to do with his time, unsure of where to go now that Derek had decided to come to the cabin too.

There was a brief lapse of noise as Derek and Stiles stared at each other awkwardly, Stiles was the first to look away, fingers splayed over the fabric of his sleeve absentmindedly as it caught on the bandages underneath. Derek looked down to it, eyes going dark, it was easy enough to understand why Stiles was in there, and it didn't take long for the thought to sink into Derek's brain. He snapped back to his usual state of broodiness though, after a few seconds, and hopped off of the side of the bed, looking unimpressed as Stiles jumped back in surprise.

Letting out a small exasperated huff of air, Stiles turned around to deliberately face in the other direction as Derek, who shrugged and began to eat his energy bar again, this time leaning against the wall and regarding the smaller teen with obvious interest.

“So, how do you want to do our project?” Stiles suddenly asked, whirling around to accusingly stare at Derek, who seemed to have been nothing but irritating since the moment he’d met him, the slight worry from seeing his stony glare having worn off.

Derek paused mid-bite and shrugged. “Whatever you want, I guess.” He said, voice gruff. Stiles raised his eyebrow, confused. He'd assumed he'd have to pull a reply out of him, even have to shoulder most of the project by himself.

“Oh-kay…” Stiles replied, now somewhat unsure on where to go with his plans. “Would you like to meet up in our free period every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, maybe? In the cabin?” His voice petered off as he began to feel more embarrassed as Derek failed to say anything more, re-thinking his plans to accommodate his less than amicable attitude.

“Sure,” Derek replied after a brief pause, nodding slowly as he gazed at Stiles. He looked him up and down, making Stiles sit back on his bed as he tried to think of something to do, fiddling with his cuffs, hyper-aware of Derek's gaze on him.

"...Awesome," Stiles said, eyes firmly on the ground as he set to work rifling through his bag, searching for something, anything, to busy himself with.

His fingers brushed against some paper, and he pulled out a comic triumphantly, crawling back onto his bunk and sitting cross-legged at the top, skimming across the pages in the hope it would distract him from the awkward silence with Derek.

Derek shrugged, tossing his empty wrapper into the bin and stretching languidly, before promptly dropping into a crouch. Stiles looked over his comic, confused by the bizarre behaviour, but quickly returned to the battered pages as Derek began to do sit-ups, grunting slightly with the effort.

The minutes passed slowly as Stiles struggled to keep his attention on the comic in front of him, occasionally rifling back through his bag to pick out a new one, as Derek continued his work out session on the floor, only meters in front of him.

Chapter Text

They both looked up, half an hour later, as the muffled sound of several voices could be heard through the door, approaching the cabin. The door soon opened, and the rabble of teens barged through the door, soon stopping when they saw Derek and Stiles. A beat of heavy silence passed before they resumed their conversation again, past the surprise of seeing the two together.

“Hey, Stiles, hey Derek!” Isaac said, a big grin on his face, which was flushed and warm, presumably from all the talking he had no doubt done in their absence.

Derek gave him a gruff nod, whilst Stiles greeted him back, returning the smile and setting down the comic for later.

“I think it'll be a rom-com,” Erica said decisively, plopping herself down onto Stiles’ bed, ignoring his squeak of protest. Boyd leaned on the bed next to Stiles, effectively boxing him in on both sides. Stiles didn't seem to mind though, and though he'd never tell a soul, he was enjoying the company, even considering forced it was.

Jackson vigorously shook his head, propping his feet up on his bed opposite Stiles. “Why the hell would it be a rom-com?” He asked disgustedly, looking put off. “Anything but that…”
“What's happening tonight?” Stiles asked timidly, shrinking into himself when everyone's eyes turned to him, a brief lull in the conversation.

“Movie night!” They chorused, offended he hadn't been aware of it.

“Only the best part of the week,” Lydia said primly, sitting demurely on the third bunk and smoothing out her skirt, Cora nodding along in agreement.

"Depending on what movie we get," She added, looking thoughtful, no doubt wondering what the film could be.

Stiles nodded, fishing through the pile of glossy leaflets on his bed to get the school timetable, and skimming over the events for the day, understanding dawning as he saw a block in the timetable at the end of the day for a movie.

“But we never know what movie it is until we get there, so we always try to guess.” Isaac supplied, looking smug.

Boys rolled his eyes, looking unimpressed. “So far I'm undefeated on the right amount I've guessed. And you're not catching up.” He directed at Isaac, who shrugged his shoulders cheerfully and reached under his bed to get some potato chips. Stiles looked at them mournfully, cursing his stomach for rumbling at such an inopportune moment after he had abandoned the soggy lunch they'd been given in the cantine. Isaac said nothing, nonchalantly tossing over the bag into Stiles’ lap, who nodded gratefully at him.

He'd almost forgotten about Derek, who'd climbed onto the bunk above him as soon as the conversation had started, but he had obviously decided to weigh in on the situation.

“It'll be an action movie,” Derek said, leaning on his elbows to peer at the people below him. Everyone groaned and shook their heads, Cora grimaced and flicked him on the elbow, reclining dramatically on the little chair next to the door.

“You've never gotten a single one right so far, so I doubt it,” Chuckled Erica, as Boyd elbowed her in the side, making her squeal indignantly.

“I'm certain of it.” Shrugged Derek, refusing to accept their doubt, maybe today would be the day he got it right, no matter how small the chance was.

Stiles said nothing, but deliberated over the movie he thought they'd be watching, his mind coming up blank.

“They never play any good movies because it's bound to make someone go crazy, or crazier than we already are.” He grouched, looking annoyed.

Stiles nodded meekly, regarding how Rosedale seemed to be on tenterhooks at all times, only one bad decision away from a breakdown, much alike to its students.

“Maybe it'll be a comedy?” He said quietly, happy to be included in the conversation. Lydia hummed in agreement, whilst Isaac looked more dubious.

“Nah, I don't think so.” He said, grabbing his chips back off of Stiles, and chomping down the last few. “We should probably get to the hall, it's film time!” He said, finger tapping on his battered watch, making Jackson narrow his eyes at the offending article.

They all traipsed out of the cabin, walking in a huddle along the darkening path, Derek and Stiles trailing along at the back, not quite together but far from being alone.

“So what happens if they guess the movie right?” Stiles quietly asked Derek, who looked over at him.

“Nothing,” Derek replied flatly, a small grin on his face. “It's completely pointless, but what else is there to do?”

Snorting amusedly, Stiles agreed. Though Rosedale did seem like it was trying to be good, how good could a school for the mentally unstable be?

They joined the other students as they filed into the hall, a low hum of chatter filling the high ceilings. The round tables and chairs had been cleared away, leaving a calmer approach. The floor was set out with blankets and pillows, the lanterns illuminated and casting a soft glow on the room. Stiles' eyes widened, and he let a small smile onto his face, the room beckoning to him.

Erica plopped down on a blanket in the middle of the room, beckoning to the rest of the group, who sit down around her, curling into the cushions and pillows. Stiles slowly sat at the back of the group, hyper-aware of Derek as he sat down next to him. Eventually, the murmurs turned to a low hum of noise as the lights were turned off, so only the soft, dim glow of the lanterns lit up the room.

Everyone hyper-aware of their voices, a hush descended over them all, as Melissa stepped out to the front of the hall.

“Hey, guys! It's been a long day,” She cast an eye over to them, making Stiles' cheeks go hot. “-so sit back and relax for tonight's movie...” A drum roll went around the room. “-Finding Nemo!”

Chapter Text

An audible groan comes from the group, and a small whoop from Erica's direction, as she grins and elbows Boyd, who chuckles, rolling his eyes.

“Fine, I guess you were right.” He suggests, giving her a light kiss on the nose.

Stiles turns away, feeling a pang of loneliness, but quickly squashing it down as Melissa walks away, turning on the movie, the huge projector lighting up in front of them.

As the movie progresses, Stiles finds himself wilting into the pillow, jerking awake every few seconds as a loud noise came from the screen. Derek sits next to him, reclined on his nest made out of the blankets he'd collected from around him.

Later, whilst the film was in its last few scenes, everyone in the hall spoke in either hushed whispers or tried to fight off sleep. Only some were successful.

“What did you think?” Derek murmured, making Stiles jump. He turned around to look at him, watching as he slowly sat up from his pile of blankets.

“About what?” Stiles quietly asked, eyes cast down as he fiddled with his sleeve.

“The movie,” Derek said as if it was obvious. Stiles looked confused, his head flicking to the screen, then nodded in understanding, still bewildered why exactly Derek was engaging in conversating with him voluntarily.

“I like it, I guess.” He replied meekly, unsure of why Derek was even speaking to him. Derek nodded but didn't look away from Stiles. Why did Derek even care what Stiles thought about the movie?

Derek hummed, slowly moving forward to sit next to Stiles, who shrank in on himself, heart beating too fast. He tried to concentrate on the movie again but found it impossible.

At any other time, his senses would be sharp, tuning in on every single thing and everyone in the room, but when Derek was so close, he didn't know how to feel, and all he could hear was his breathing as he settled back down next to him.

Stiles jumped, going red when he felt Derek's fingers on his back, ducking his head as Lydia turned round to look at him, the fingers halted as she turned around, and when she turned back to the movie, Derek's fingers moved around, trailing over his skin. Stiles looked over at him, eyes wide.

“Wha-” He started to say but was stopped as Derek shook his head, eyes still trained on the film. A few agonising seconds passed, where Derek's fingers traced the prickling skin on his back. He hooked his arm around Stiles’ side, until he sat next to him, with his arm curled around him, his fingers tracing over the small sliver of back he could reach underneath his shirt.

Finally, he looked at Stiles, his eyes dark, lanterns glinting off of them in the softened room. Stiles gaped, his cheeks flushed, but a small prickle of heat made him wordlessly nod, allowing Derek to continue.

They sat for the rest of the movie with Derek wound around Stiles, his fingers tracing patterns over Stiles' skin as he sat, stunned. He'd never seen it coming, Derek had barely said a word to him for the entirety of the day, and other than a few lingering stares, what made him like him?

When the credits rolled onto the screen, Stiles had wilted into Derek's side, who had moved to slightly behind him. Stiles was keenly aware of the line of his chest against his back. The lights overhead flicked on, making Stiles sit bolt upright. Derek sat up too, letting out a yawn and giving Stiles a grin, stretching the burn marks on his face as they flexed along his neck, as he began moving away minutely. Stiles was still bright red but managed a wobbly smile in return.

Melissa returned to the front of the hall, pausing the movie and turning off the projector. “I hope everyone enjoyed it,” She checked her watch. “You've got an hour and a half before lights out, so you can go back to your cabins or stay here, night everyone!” She said cheerfully, heading away again to begin picking up the abandoned lanterns and blankets scattered across the room.

Stiles stood up slowly, unsure of what to do as Derek clambered to a standing position, stretching languidly next to him. They stood next to each other, Stiles looking at the floor to avoid eye contact.

“You want to go back to the cabin?” Derek asked gruffly, back to his usual self, if a tiny bit less monosyllabic.

“Later?” Stiles said quietly, hands starting to shake at the strange events. “I'm going to, uh, get some air.” He said, struggling to think of an excuse so that he could calm himself down. Derek shrugged, heading over to the door and jogging lightly to catch up with the others, who trailed out of the door in a little huddle.

The realisation hit him hard, it had only been a day. Derek barely knew him, why did he want him? Was Stiles ready to date? He didn't come to Rosedale for romance, but maybe it was an added bonus.

As they ambled over the path away from the hall, Stiles nodded goodbye to Derek and the others who headed along another path, fishing for the map that he had earlier shoved into his pocket.

Slowing to a halt, he traced the dotted line he was on with his finger, minute tremors subsiding as he stopped at the river only a few minutes down the path.

Shoving his hands in his pocket, he let out a long, shaky sigh. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, he craned his neck up to stare at the stars, scattered across the skyline in disjointed groups.

It was so different to him and his dad's tiny apartment in the city, where light pollution had blocked out the stars, but now he could count hundreds and thousands above him. He counted them again and again, feeling his heartbeat calm as he tracked the moons slow descent beside the stars.

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A few minutes later, he reached the edge of the river as the sound of the other students filtered off to almost silence, only the low hum of the nightlife and the rushing of the river greeting his ears.

Stiles slowed down and headed over to a nearby tree, the branches sloping down to lean over the river as the leaves rustled quietly. Stiles flopped onto the ground, leaning against its trunk, and taking a moment to breathe and try to get the thoughts in his head to slow down and relax.

Letting his head thunk back onto the bark, he let out another slow breath, bringing his fingers up to watch them as they stopped shaking.

Closing his eyes, Stiles let the sound of the water wash over him, taking deep breaths and running his fingers through the grass. The noise begins to lull him to sleep, but as a particularly loud bird squawked above him, he jolted awake, letting out a small laugh at his earlier fear.

He began to fiddle with his sleeve, staring at the fabric in deep thought. Slowly, he undid the buttons on his plaid shirt, as if in a trance. Pulling it back, he stared at the stark, white bandage, as if checking if it was still there. A few white and red scars peeked out from the sides of the bandage, and Stiles traced then with shaky fingers.

The sudden sound of footsteps sounded from the path behind him, jerking him out of the trance as he hurriedly pulled the fabric of his shirt back down over the bandage and fiddled with the buttons at the ends, getting more agitated as he failed to do it.

Looking up, he saw Isaac, who smiled at him happily. “Hey, dude,” He said, flopping down beneath the tree next to him.

“Hey,” Stiles replied quietly, heart still hammering from the hasty dressing.

“We've got 15 minutes till lights out,” Isaac said, his arm jerking as he tapped on it. Stiles looked startled, surprised at how long he'd been sat underneath the tree for.

Neither of them moved, content to spend as long as they could in the dim calm of the river.
“This place is pretty good when you get used to it,” Isaac said enthusiastically, nudging Stiles, who stared mournfully into the dark water.

“You think so?” Stiles asked, still trying to button up the sleeves of his shirt.

Isaac nodded, a fond smile on his face. “For sure. When I first got here, I was manic.” Isaac chortled, staring out at the trees on the other side of the river, ignoring Stiles’ gaze.

“For the first few weeks, I was on top of the world. But then I crashed.” He whispered, turning to Stiles. “But I had made it through without hurting me, or anyone else. And I felt slightly less terrible.” He smiled.

Stiles looking at him, nudging him amiably to show his support. “You're bipolar?” He asked.
Isaac huffed, shrugging his shoulders. “If that's what you want to call it, it's what they diagnosed me with.” Stiles nodded, understanding. He continued, eyes glassy as he looked out at the stream trickling by slowly in front of them. "This is the third time I'm here." He murmured quietly, making Stiles' eyes widen in shock. Isaac looked calm, unusually still except for his knee, which was jittering up and down, betraying his hyperactivity.

"My dad..." He swallowed, "-he was a shitty parent after my mom died." Understanding crashed into Stiles, who looked stricken, comparing the similarities between the two. Isaac shook his head, a wistful smile on his face. "He's why I have this," He gestured loosely to the bruise still stretching across his sharp cheekbones and over his swollen eye. "He's in jail now, for the fifth time." Isaac picked up a leaf, shredding it purposefully in his hands. Stiles nodded slowly, inching closer, wanting to show the boy that he could trust him, he could talk to him. "It never sticks, though," Isaac whispered, the remains of the leaf forgotten as they twisted away, picked up by the swirling tendrils of the icy wind.

Silence fell over them, Stiles struggling to think of something, anything that he could say that would make him feel better. Isaac had been a better friend to him throughout the day than any had been before, and he wanted to reciprocate, he was desperate to show he could open up and empathise, but the words froze in his mouth. He stared helplessly at the slumped teen next to him, who finally looked up, shrugging, a sad smile on his face.

“I don't think I should be here,” Stiles said quietly. Isaac stared at him.

“If they admitted you, they sure had a reason.” He said coldly, shutting down, his walls building up again as Stiles abruptly changed the subject. “And that bandage on your arm says differently." He turned away, and Stiles flinched and gritted his teeth, at a loss for words yet again.

Stiles stiffened, remembering Isaac had seen him when that morning when he'd gotten to Rosedale.

“Are you too sane to be with us crazies?” Isaac asked sarcastically, moving away from Stiles.
“No!” Stiles was quick to say, shaking his head vigorously. “I mean, I just think someone deserves my spot here more than I do.” His voice petered off into a whisper.

Isaac snorted, making Stiles look at him in indignation. “If you don't even think you deserve a place at a mental asylum, then Melissa's got more on her hands than I thought.” He laughed, smiling over at him as Stiles joined in with his snickers.

“C’ mon, let’s go back to the cabin,” Stiles said with a smile on his face.

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Suddenly, he remembered the movie, and what had happened with Derek, and he felt the warm, happy feeling in his stomach grow bigger. He’d made a new friend of Isaac, and also possibly, something else, something more, with Derek. He helped Isaac stand up, and they traipsed back up the path, talking amiably as the cabins came into view.

The faint sound of chirping sifted into his unconscious as he blinked sleepily, slowly being brought out of the caress of sleep. Idly, he thought that the night had been less fitful than any of his recent sleep.

Squinting into the light, he gradually registered the movements of the other boys around him, Boyd sat on the edge of his bed lacing his shoe, Jackon sprawled across his sheets, and Isaac leaning in the doorway to the bathroom, toothbrush perched haphazardly in his mouth as the foam trickled down over his chin. Stiles lifted a hand up to scrub at his eyes, an enormous yawn wracking his body.

Letting his eyes slip closed again, he enjoyed a few seconds of sleepy, relaxed bliss before they shot open again, this time in indignation as he felt a sharp poke in the tender skin between his ribs. Jackson stood above him, a smug grin on his face as he stared down at Stiles, who gaped up at him.

"Morning, sleeping beauty," He snarked, his affronted face betraying that he thought Stiles was anything but.

"Such a great morning, already" Stiles groaned, shaking his head vehemently, then groaning as the movement made his head spin. Jackson shrugged, flopping back onto his bed.

"It's just going to get better, then," Boyd replied, unfolding his own timetable, a sticky note falling to the ground as he examines it. Stiles looks up, pausing as he detached himself from the duvet around him. "-you've got a session with Deaton in half an hour, I'm supposed to take you," Boyd admitted, looking reproachful, sympathising for the teen in front of him, who was still fighting an epic battle with his sheets.

Stiles blanched, eyes darting to the watch on his skinny wrist as he scrambled out of bed, the sheets finally falling to the ground around him as he knelt down next to his bed, squinting past the abandoned shoes and crumpled clothes.

"Who's Deaton?" He asked distractedly, tugging his duffel bag out and struggling with the zip.
"One of the counsellors, I had him last year," Isaac mused, returning from the bathroom to regard him in amusement, sans the toothbrush and the foam dribbling down his face. "He's okay, a bit too textbook therapist to be comforting, though," He mused as if he was recalling his own sessions with the counsellor.

"Great," Stiles muttered, finally standing in the middle of the room with his clothes piled in his arms, he headed for the bathroom. But as he turned, he eyes the top bunk of his bed, noticing the sheets neatly folded back into place, as if no one had slept there at all. Stiles would believe so if he hadn't stumbled back into the cabin last night and seen Derek's bulky form under the sheets, turned towards him, his eyes glinting in the darkness as he smirked at him, before turning around to face the wall.

"Where's Derek?" He asked quietly, his fingers trailing along the wooden ladder of the bed and the leather jacket hooked haphazardly over it.

"Already gone, he works out in the mornings," Boyd said noncommittally, face airy as he kneeled on the floor, lacing his other shoe, obviously not sensing the tension in Stiles gaze, before tossing the other teen an energy bar. Stiles caught it gracelessly, shoving it in his pocket and nodding in thanks.

"Oh..." Stiles murmured, face wilting. He'd hoped that after last night, the older teen might wait for him so that they could-

He wasn't sure what he wanted them to do, but leaving before he'd even woken up wasn't one of the more favourable options.

Stiles grit his teeth and shook his head slightly as he decided to firmly send the thought to the back of his mind, deciding to dwell on it another time, as if he could force his brain to shift to a lighter topic. He swiftly headed for the bathroom, smoothing out his expression.
"You can change in here, we won't look," Jackson leered, sniggering at Stiles' horrified expression.

"I'll have to decline," Stiles said tightly, shutting the door firmly behind him as he heard Jackson's snort behind him.

"Suit yourself," Jackson drawled, his voice quieter as it sifted through the wood panelling of the door. Stiles laid a shaky hand on the sink, jumping slightly at the cold of the porcelain, he took a few calming breaths, before running the tap to splash the cool water onto his heated face.

"You better hurry, you don't want to be late to your first session, you already missed breakfast!" Boyd calls, making Stiles curse, before remembering the solid weight of the energy bar pressed into the pocket of his pyjamas. Hurriedly, he unwrapped it, using one hand to unbutton his shirt, and another to take a big bite, sputtering as it fell off in chunks, spraying onto the floor.

"Why didn't you wake me?" Stiles called, chewing the last of his energy bar and hastily doing up the zipper on his jeans, running the tap again to brush his teeth.

"You looked so peaceful, we wouldn't dare," Jackson's voice filtered through the door again, another entitled grin no doubt on his face.

"You didn't care about that when you poked me, huh?" Stiles yelled, frantically jamming his toothbrush into his mouth and shrugging on another shirt to cover the outline of the bandages under his tee.

"Whatever," Jackson replied, bordering on a whine as his voice turned petulant.

"See you later, Stiles! I'm seeing Melissa now," Isaac rapped on the door, making Stiles jump, cursing silently as toothpaste fell off his toothbrush and onto his shirt with a small splat. He stared down at it disdainfully, scrubbing at it with his thumb to no avail.

"Bye," Stiles called distractedly, running a hand through his hair, and sighing as he realised it was no help. Reaching the toilet, he took a second to relax, trousers pooled around his ankles as he heard the teens retreating footsteps, which gave him a few seconds of silence to collect his thoughts.

"Me too," Jackson yawned, sounding reluctant. Stiles heard the shift of his mattress and rolled his eyes. "Bye shitheads," He heard the teen call, before he left, banging the door behind him. Stiles huffed, washing his hands once more, before collecting himself to leave the relative quiet of the toilet and reemerge into the central cabin.

"Love you, too," Boyd muttered drily, his eyes on the exit as Stiles opened the door, looking at his wry grin. Stiles snorted, dumping his abandoned pyjamas onto his bed, before tugging on his scuffed sneakers, huffing as he unknotted the laces, his spindly fingers expertly knotting them tight.

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"How long have I got?" Stiles asked pitifully, patting his empty stomach with a slight frown on his face.

"Negative three minutes," Boyd, stiles groaned, standing up "-and I need to take you to get your meds, too, so we should probably get going," He added, looking regretful that he hadn't mentioned that earlier when Stiles scrambled up, nodding and heading to the door.

He shoved his hands into his hoody, practically vibrating, now, as he waited impatiently to leave.

"I suppose, I guess I'll just embrace my doom," Stiles sighed, looking only mildly put out now he knew he could get his meds. His hands had just started vibrating with tiny tremors, and his leg was twitching erratically, making him more than willing to get the tiny, little, powdery pills of miracles. Boyd frowned, standing up and nodding dubiously.

"It's really not that bad," Boyd chuckled, after a brief pause as he decided to ignore the teen's sudden eagerness. "-You might even find you'll like it, letting loose for a while," The words were an admittance, a reflection of how much his thoughts had changed regarding counselling. The daily sessions had seemed worrisome at first, even terrifying, but he'd found them to help him unravel his thoughts in a neat and organised way that he could understand.

The two exited the cabin, bracing as the chilly morning air hit them like a frosty blanket. Boyd fished in his pocket, producing a key that he fit into the lock, jiggling it experimentally until it clicked shut. Letting his hand rest briefly on the door frame, he turned to Stiles, ready to leave.

Stiles shifted uncomfortably, the thought outlandish to his ears. "I severely doubt it, but I appreciate your faith," He said with a sigh as they turned away from the cabin.

"C' mon, let's go," Boyd murmured, shoving his hands into his pockets and wrapping his jacket further around him as his breath left him in warm vapour clouds.

They traipsed up the path, turning off onto another small track that wound around to the other side of the main house, weaving through lines of vegetables planted in neat rows around them.

"Hey, Stiles! Boyd!"

Stiles looked up, startled to hear his name. Scanning the area, he noticed Isaac jogging leisurely over to them, joined by another boy, who smiled dopily at Stiles and Boyd, who halted in front of them.

"Hey," Stiles smiled, words dying as he scuffed his shoes against the ground.

"Hi, Scott," Boyd said, nudging the other guy, a slight smile on his face.

"Hey, bro!" Scott said, before turning to Stiles, who stared blankly back, before scrambling forward, offering his limp hand to shake, before making a small noise of surprise as Scott pulled him into a hug. "Isaac's told me about you, you seem awesome, I'm Scott!" He smiled dopily again, and Stiles couldn't help but grin back, the happy air the guy exuded sneaking into them all.

Isaac rubbed the back of his neck, looking sheepish. "Only good things, I promise," He said to Stiles, who's cheeks began to heat up. He nodded, shrugging lamely.

Boyd tugged on his sleeve, nodding up at the path again. "We better get going if you want anytime at all with Deaton," He murmured, lightly pushing Stiles up in front of him, away from the others.

Stiles gritted his teeth, nerves coming back in full force. "Debatable," He mumbled but allowed Boyd to push him further away from the pair.

Scott waved, looking hopeful. "See you later, Stiles?" He called at his retreating form, making Stiles twist around to talk to him.

"Yeah, for sure!" Stiles knew he meant it, the teen seemed strangely happy for being in this place, on a chilly morning, at jarring odds with the more subdued atmosphere as they trudged through the corridors.

"So...Scott?" Stiles asked quietly, in the hope Boyd could give him more of an insight as to why Scott was here, his words awkwardly petered off, and he followed the other boy past other students, eyes down on the floor. Scott seemed much too...happy...to truly need to come to Rosedale, but maybe he was just handling it better than the rest of them. Stiles was mindful not to speak too loudly in fear of Scott hearing him.

"He's Melissa's son, he helps out in the gardens sometimes," Boyd supplied, gently guiding Stiles past a hoard of giggling teens and towards the main office where Melissa no doubt sat.

"Oh," Stiles was bewildered, both at the thought that someone had chosen to come to Rosedale, even though they didn't qualify as crazy enough to enrol there, and why Melissa would want her son to mix with such a...temperamental crowd. "-He seems nice," Stiles murmured distractedly, eyes fixed on the big doors in front of them, that they were slowly approaching.

Boyd nodded, shouldering open the door, him and Stiles stepping through it into the considerably quieter foyer. "He is, he only comes on the weekends, though,"

"Yeah..." Stiles mumbled, much distracted by Melissa, who looked up from her pile of papers and gave them an enthusiastic smile, approaching them.

"Hey!" She hurried over, a tiny, styrofoam cup clutched in her hands. Stiles looked down at it and saw two of his pills inside. Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, he realised students here couldn't even be trusted to count out their own pills. But his stomach rolled uncomfortably as he realised that doing more sinister things with his pills had crossed his own mind more than once.

"Hi," He replied meekly, wrenching his eyes up to meet Melissa's. She looked as if she was deliberately schooling her expression to be calm in front of him.

Ducking out of the door, Boyd turned to Stiles and gave him a crooked smile. "I'll just be outside," He mumbled, before shutting the door softly, leaving Stiles and Melissa in silence.
Melissa nodded gratefully in Boyd's direction, then turned back to Stiles. She handed him a bottle of water and watched him uncap the seal nervously.

"Go ahead, just remember next time to bring your water bottle, okay?" She said quietly, making Stiles nod numbly. A silence fell over them as he took the cup, tipping the two pills into his mouth and swallowing around the water. She watched him, and took the cup back, surreptitiously peering into it before setting it onto the side behind her.

Tugging down the sleeves of his shirt, Stiles tapped his fingers along the cuff of his jeans, conscious of Melissa's eyes on him. She leaned against the desk, surveying his fidgeting wordlessly.

Chapter Text

"How did you find your first day?" She asked suddenly, before returning to behind the desk, shuffling through piles of paper teetering dangerously close to the edge.

Stiles grimaced, his nerves still on edge after all the abrupt changes he'd experienced throughout the day. He still wasn't sure just how bad he thought Rosedale was, but he knew for sure it wasn't as awful as he had initially imagined. He wasn't sure how to put this into words, or if he wanted to, so he simply shrugged, face carefully blank.

"It was okay," He hesitated, wondering if his words were being analysed, and used against him as she looked up at him.

Melissa smiled, nodding slightly. "I'm glad, you've got a session with Deaton next, right?" Stiles blanched and nodded slightly.

"Yeah," He admitted, looking as if he'd rather be discussing anything else. Melissa made an understanding noise as she slipped the papers into separate folders, then storing them in the confines of the desk.

"It's not as awful as you'd think," She chuckled, "-You can talk to him about how you really feel," She hinted, a knowing look on her face. Stiles did his best not to glower, still extremely opposed to talking about anything regarding his feelings.

Letting out a light sigh, Melissa ushered him out of the door and pointed to the left. "Well I shouldn't make you late, so go with Boyd and he'll show you the way." Stiles nodded but still dragged his feet as he left the office, determined to spend as little time as possible with his new counsellor.

"Bye, then," He mumbled, holding in a groan. Opening the door, he glanced back, seeing Melissa wave, before being consumed once more by the piles of paper in front of her. Boyd stood up off of a chair outside the office as he nodded at Stiles.

"You ready?" Boyd asked, taking Stiles' helpless expression as a reluctant affirmative. They set off down the corridor, the students now thinning out making the noise level lower to a few whispered conversations, and quiet laughs.

A few minutes later, they emerged in front of a door with a brass nameplate on the front, similar to Melissa's own office. Boyd rapped lightly on the door, making Stiles take a step back, pulling a face. Motioning forward, the other teen pushed him lightly in front of the door, ignoring his protest.

"He won't force you to do anything," Boyd promised, voice serious as he turned to Stiles. "I think you should talk about it, though," The mysterious 'it' hanging heavy in his words. Boyd may not have known Stiles true story, but it was easy to tell that something had happened to bring them to Rosedale. Every student had their very own 'it' to sort through and Stiles was no different. "Plus, he's the school's trained doctor, so if anything happens you're doubly protected," Boyd added, a small grin on his face.

Opening his mouth to say something, anything, Stiles stiffened as the door in front of them opened, a man stepping out and giving Stiles a neutral smile Boyd waved goodbye, before setting off down the corridor, soon disappearing down towards his own class.

Slowly turning to Deaton, Stiles froze, staring as Deaton stepped back, letting him into the room. Stepping forward, he let the door close behind them with a quiet click, the silence of the room only broken by the ticking of an old clock.

"Stiles, I presume?" The man said, setting into a chair, nodding to a couch in front of him, a box of tissues sat blatantly on the coffee table between them. Stiles sat down drumming his fingers on his lap and looking around at the counsellor's space inquisitively.

The walls held a corkboard with shabby leaflets and old photos, whilst generic pictures hung on the other walls. In the corner stood a small desk, piled high with papers, much like Melissa's. The most striking thing at all, perhaps, was the sheer amount of plants that were perched on every nearby surface.

Tall, dark leaves hung off of shelves, joined by jars of succulents and pots of herbs on the window, making the room seem more like an indoor garden than the office and meeting room that it was meant to function as.

Stiles' attention was brought back to the counsellor as he leaned back, a folder clasped in his hands. A few seconds passed, Stiles' eyes flickering back to the numerous plants around him. He found their presence to be almost relaxing, and a relief from the ongoing session, a place his eyes could wander to if the tension was too much.

"So, I know this is only your second day here, how is it going?" Deaton asked, setting the folder behind him, Stiles' eyes tracking the movement.

He sighed, already sick of hearing the question. "Its," He hesitated, remembering Melissa's earlier words. "-a change." He decided on shrugging listlessly. Deaton nodded understandingly, no doubt used to the answer.

"Rosedale is very different from other schools, and your life in your old town in general, I presume, but we do try to make your time here as enjoyable as possible."

Stiles snorted, then felt his cheeks heat up as the counsellor's gaze fell on him. "I don't see how it could be that great," He mumbled, eyes cast down on the floor below them.

"It takes a while to settle in here and to fully reap the benefits of the experience. You might not see it now, but you will as the weeks go on," Deaton persisted, a small smile on his face. Stiles couldn't help but wonder what had brought the counsellor here. After all, he hadn't been forced to come here.

Stiles looked uneasy, the prospect of spending weeks at Rosedale, not something he had thought of. The conversation was beginning to feel very one sided as Deaton grilled him on his mental health, a subject he'd never been comfortable discussing.

"I understand your doctor believed you to have-" Deaton briefly looked down at his stuff "-anxiety. How does that make you feel" Stiles grit his teeth, fingers tapping faster on his lap.

Chapter Text

"The doctor prescribing that, or the...anxiety?" Stiles checked lip curling at the word, still unable to say it after all the months he'd been aware of it.

 

"The anxiety," Deaton said, face blank. Stiles let out a huff and curled up into the leather upholstery of the couch.

There was an uncomfortable silence, where Stiles debated what his next words would be. Deaton watched him patiently, his face was devoid of any anger.

"I didn't think to put a name to it at first, it still feels like too much.." Stiles confessed, feeling the walls built up so highly around him cracking down the middle.

"What's too much?" The counsellor asked quietly, the silence of the room pressing on the teen in front of him like a layer of water.

"Giving it a name, the...anxiety," Stiles grimaced, still unable to utter the word without a sneer. "It makes it feel like a much bigger deal than it should be,"

Deaton nodded, reaching behind him and taking a slow sip of his tea. "Anxiety is a spectrum which means that no one specific person experiences the same thing as another one.

Do not think because you are experiencing something different to how anxiety is portrayed in movies and books makes it any less of the issue it is," His answer made Stiles' stiffen, eyes widening a fraction.

"What issue is it?" Stiles said, suddenly on edge.

"I have yet to determine how we're going to go forward with this, but it'll help the more we talk about it each day," Deaton murmured, making Stiles quirk an eyebrow
"Okay," Stiles mumbled, looking displeased.

"It seems like you really dislike the term anxiety, why is that?" Deaton prodded, unable to lose the subject as he regarded Stiles' expression.
"I just..." Struggles to find words "I don't like that it's officially a problem, y' know? Because now it means there's officially something wrong with me, something that I have to live with." Stiles mumbled.

"Mental Illness is not something wrong with you, Stiles, simply a chemical imbalance, in some cases. Even if you weren't diagnosed, the anxiety would still be there, perhaps you feel like the feelings have been enhanced simply because you're now aware of them," Deaton offered, taking another sip of tea.

Stilling, the teen reluctantly realised that the counsellor's words made sense. It was baffling how Deaton had unravelled and made sense of his conflict, but he supposed that was what he had been trying to do all along. "Yeah, I guess so," He said slowly.

"Your file also says that you have a history of self-harm," Deaton said quietly, eyes turning serious.

Stiles froze, eyes widening. His mouth sealed shut, and he gripped onto his sleeve unconsciously, going rigid as he realised what he was doing.

"Do you think you're up to talking about it today, or do you want to leave it until tomorrow?" Deaton asked, his voice quiet as he broached the subject.

"Tomorrow, definitely tomorrow," Stiles replied hastily, relief evident on his face.

"That's fine, just remember that we will be talking about it at some point, as long as you feel comfortable with it" Deaton murmured, sounding firm, as if making a promise to discuss it again at a later time.

Stiles wasn't sure if he would ever feel comfortable with the subject. He made a humming noise, not sure if it was negative or affirmative.

"Why do you have so many plants in your room?" Stiles asked abruptly, eyes narrowing as they were drawn once more to the trailing leaves surrounding them.

Deaton gave him a long look as if he was entirely aware of what Stiles was trying to do. "I like plants, they make the room look nicer, and some of these plants help me in other ways, too," He finished, making Stiles quirk an eyebrow, somewhat resigned to realising that Deaton was a very vague man, and he would only receive half-answers on anything that he did not consider important to their conversation.

"We'll focus on your anxiety today, and how it makes you feel," Deaton said, wrenching Stiles from his thoughts.

"Okay," Stiles said, able to see the subject as the compromise it was.

"I feel like the officiality of the anxiety isn't the only reason you're so opposed to it, do you want to elaborate on that?" Deaton offered, stirring his cup.

"I mean, I think I just hate how so many people joke or laugh about it, or claim to have it because of one tense conversation, and then decide they want to question me about if I'm the one who really deserves to say I have it." He said agitatedly, eyes narrowed. "-online, people broadcast to the world that people should talk about anxiety if they have it. And if they say they do, is it real, or have they made it up?" His tangent had swept him up, and as he finished speaking, he untensed his shoulders and wilted, aware of how much he had let loose.

"So the internet and the way it discusses mental health annoys you?" Deaton guessed, picking up the folder in front of him and flipping it open.

"I think so, or maybe it's the way I think about it. Because now I know for sure I have anxiety, I can't help but question if I really have it, or if it is just me complaining, just like the people they accuse online." He admitted quietly.

"You feel like you're undeserving of the title?" Deaton checked, picking up his pen and slowly writing on the pages, ignoring Stiles' calculating gaze.

"It feels like everyone who speaks out is undeserving of the title. The ones that suffer in silence are on a pedestal with some sort of trophy. They're so saintly because they don't speak out." Stiles' voice started to tremble, and he took a few deep breaths of air before continuing. "-I don't know, it all just seems to send out such mixed signals..."

The session continued, Stiles' opening up the further into the session they went. Deaton's file had a new page of writing, which Stiles still wasn't sure if he was happy about.
Half an hour later, Stiles jumped as a gentle knocking came from the door. Deaton's eyes flipped to his watch as he stood up, giving Stiles a brief smile Stiles peered around him as he opened the door, spotting Boyd.

"I'm here to pick up Stiles for lunch," The other teen said, smiling as peeked round the counsellor, eyes on Stiles.

"Sure, we ran over a bit, sorry about that," Deaton said, turning back to Stiles, who shrugged.

"It's fine, I don't mind," He said, surprising himself. "See you tomorrow?" He asked quietly, turning back as he walked over to the door.

"Yep, same time same place," Deaton smiled, nodding farewell before sitting back at his desk.

Stiles turned to Boyd, who grinned encouragingly. "So, how was it?" He asked, curious at the other teens seemingly at ease attitude.

Shrugging, Stiles smiled. "Better than I thought it would be,"

"Yeah?" Boyd asked, smiling smugly, making Stiles roll his eyes in amusement.

"Yeah. I can manage that,"

Chapter Text

Stiles trailed after the other teen as Boyd led him down the corridor towards the hall for lunch. Someone slipped past Boyd, making Stiles refocus his attention on them as he recognised the voice.

Lydia flipped the hair over her shoulder as she passed, giving Stiles a tight-lipped smile as she continued away from them, Stiles' eyes tracking her as she knocked at the door he had just exited, Deaton ushering her inside.

Boyd turned to watch him, quirking his lips in a small smile. "Lydia goes to Deaton, too," He murmured, before focusing on walking through the corridor again, his eyes trained forward.

"Oh," Stiles said quietly, frowning slightly, confused as to why he was so shocked. Lydia did attend Rosedale, after all, so what made it so surprising that she went to the counsellor, too? "Cool," He tacked on hurriedly, aware of how judgemental his voice had sounded.

Boyd chuckled, nodding absentmindedly. "If you want, I can drop you off every morning to Deaton's," He phrased it like a question, and Stiles hummed as he debated it silently. A heavy feeling curdled in the bottom of his stomach as he thought of being here for every single morning in the foreseeable future.

"If you don't mind," He said, stumbling next to the other teen as he hurried to match his long steps. "-it makes it seem less..."

"Awkward?" Boyd suggested, nudging him slightly.

"Yeah," Stiles laughed, shrugging as he shouldered past the door before making a beeline for their table. Boyd snorted and followed him towards the others. The other students grouped around the room didn't watch him as he hunched between the tables, which helped lift a weight off of his chest, the feeling that had settled under his ribs lessening slightly.

As they sat down, the others looked up, before going back to their food dispiritedly. "Hey," Cora smiles, giving him a small wave before plunging her spoon into the sloppy contents of her dinner. She huffed, looking disgusted as it slowly dripped off of her spoon with a small plop, landing back in her bowl and sinking into the rest of the mush.

Pulling up a chair, Boyd sits down next to Stiles and pulls his own bowl towards him, looking less than enthusiastic. "Growth Day?" He asked the table, Stiles look of confusion evident as he looked around at them all.

"Growth Day," Erica confirmed glumly, head thunking onto the table.

"What's Growth day?" Stiles asked, stirring a spoon through the mixture in his bowl doubtfully. It was worryingly green and lumps of unknown objects stuck to his spoon as he stirred it through the mixture.

"It's an atrocity," Lydia said primly, sitting down next to him, making Stiles jump, obviously she hadn't spoken to Deaton for long. Jackson grunted, banging his spoon on the table as the green goop dripped slowly onto the surface.

"The cooking students cook the food for the day and attempt to make it as horrendous as possible, apparently." Isaac cut in, a small grin on his face as he shrugged and pushed his bowl into the middle of the table away from him, shaking his head vehemently. "It happens every month, luckily for us," He added.

Stiles looked perplexed but nodded along. Sinking his spoon into the mixture, he took a tentative sniff and wrinkled his nose. "Gross," He mumbled, letting it drop back down as he decided to skip out on lunch for the day.

Feeling his cheeks heat up, Stiles felt a gaze on him and looked up to see Derek eyeing him, the trace of a smirk on his lips. They stared at each other for a few seconds, painfully aware of the others around them, yet ignoring them completely as Derek attempted to bore into his soul.

"-with Isaac and Scott later, Stiles?" Cora's voice filtered into Stiles' ears, making him turn his eyes to her, eyes crinkled in confusion.

"Sorry?" He mumbled, coughing, and leaning on one hand, surreptitiously feeling the warmth of his cheek, shaking off all thoughts of Derek as he focused on Cora, who gave him a slightly perplexed look.

"Do you want to help out in the garden later, with Isaac and Scott?" She repeated, giving him an encouraging smile. Isaac nodded excitedly and pulled a pack of seeds out of his pocket.

"It's the most exciting thing around here, and they actually let you use actual spades." Isaacs's eyes lit up as he spoke, making Stiles quirk an eyebrow at him.

"What are you planning on doing with the spade?" He asked tentatively. Cora let out a laugh and mimed cutting her throat, grinning as Lydia rolled her eyes at her.

Isaac shrugged, looking nonplussed. "Gardening, it's just fun to be trusted, you know?" Stiles shrugged, not having considered how severely people were limited in Rosedale, perhaps for their own safety. His thoughts strayed back to the razor blade tucked into his bed frame, and shook his head before the storm cloud of emotions that came with that took hold.

"I'll garden, sure, but I've not exactly done it before," He looked uncomfortable, but would take the dirt and Scott and Isaac's company over Derek's intense looks any day. What did Derek want? What did Stiles want?

Letting out a whoop, Isaac claps Stiles' on the back before scrambling up with his bowl of green goo sloshing worriedly close to the sides. "I'm gonna dispose of this-" He looked distastefully at the bowl and shuddered. "-then I'm gonna change, you probably should too, see you later!" With that, he weaved through the tables, plopping the green goo, and the bowl, into the bin, before leaving the canteen with a cheerful expression lighting up his face.

Stiles looked overwhelmed before a small incredulous laugh fell out of his mouth. Cora sniggered, and soon the whole table was laughing, albeit a bit manically. Looking beside him, Stiles caught Derek's eye, a small grin on his twisted face.

Maybe things would be alright after all.

Chapter Text

Picking up the bowl set in front of him, Stiles gave a mumbled goodbye to the teens around him and headed out of the cantine, stopping only to set the green goo on a table with a look of distaste on his face.

Leaving the building was a relief.

The air had started to feel suffocating, and the voices of the other students around him wrapped around him like chains, tightening their grip. Stiles shook his head minutely and took a long, deep breath of air before heading down the path towards his cabin. The dirt trail was well-trodden, making him wonder about the many feet before him that had crossed the exact same path, all with their own complex stories.

The sky had been clouded over for the majority of the day, but only now did a stray streak of sunlight make it through the grey. Stiles looked up and stumbled, his cheeks flaming as he steadied himself, glaring at the stone he'd missed as he daydreamed.

A few minutes later he reached the wooden building, and tentatively knocked on the door, finally fishing his keys out of his pocket when he heard no response. Cracking open the door, he stepped inside and took a moment to relish the absolute calm of the space inside.

 

Closing the door behind him, he leant against the wood, letting his forehead thunk against it and let out a light chuckle.

The quiet groan of the aged cabin settling around him was peaceful, as if the house too wasn't quite settled, just like the many inhabitants it had had over the years. As he stood there, Stiles could just make out the sound of birds filtering in through the open window, resounding how far into the woods Rosedale was. It was a far cry from his dad's apartment in the city.

Before the threat of lulling himself to sleep became a reality, he straightened up and began to rifle through his clothes, searching for something old he could wear in the garden. Hauling out his clothes from under the bunkbed, he cursed his former self for not making more effort to unpack into a more effective layout as he rooted through the twisted clothes inside.

Stiles tugged out a ratty pair of jeans, poking at a hole in them with a frown, before shrugging and throwing them onto the bed. Delving further into the suitcase, he once cursed his past self for not unpacking his clothes as the others had suggested, and set himself to do it later that night. A niggling thought at the back of his mind told him he wouldn't be there very long, but he pushed it aside and continued his quest to find a shirt.

At the very bottom of his case, he found a worn, old shirt, making a nostalgic smile linger on his face as he read the words "Stud Muffin" on the front. He'd loved that shirt when he was younger and had never had the heart to get rid of it. When he'd bought it, when it hung off of his skinny frame, often falling off of his shoulder as he raced around excitedly. Now, he could wear it comfortably, but he was in no way filling it out.

Tugging off his shirt, he hurriedly tugged on the old one and hopped around for a few seconds, quietly cursing as he nearly fell over trying to put his pants on. Huffing out a breath, he rolled an eye at his uncoordinated steps and sprawled onto the bed, content to lie still for a few minutes before joining Scott and Isaac in the gardens.

Suddenly, the door cracked open, a gust of cool air hitting Stiles' face as he stiffened and looked up.

Derek.

Hastily sitting upright, Stiles stared as Derek shut the door behind him, taking his time to toe-off his boots and carefully wipe them on the mat that lay in front of the door. Bending over, he pulled his sweater over his head, and Stiles caught himself before the other teen saw him looking at the thin strip of skin that was revealed.

Eventually, Derek turned to look at the other teen, gracing him with a lazy smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.

"Hey," Stiles murmured, feeling his cheeks heat as he fumbled with his hands under Derek's gaze.

"Hey," Derek replied, his voice low as he walked closer, reaching out his hand, a wry grin on his lips as he watched Stiles' bewildered expression. Reaching his hand, Derek tugged Stiles, just righting him before he stumbled over, his hand resting on his forearm.

The teen was painfully aware of how close they were, and the moment of silence was enough for him to catalogue the green flecks in Derek's eyes, currently narrowed as they gazed at him, a predator gaze.

Stiles coughed awkwardly, looking down and wondering whether to pull away. Before he could make a decision, he looked up at Derek, who stood only a few inches above him but tower over him with his stony gaze. Derek reached down and pressed his lips to Stiles', who let out a small squeak before Derek surged forward and kissed him roughly.

A small lull came over the room as Stiles' mouth went slack before he returned the kiss with full force. Derek groaned as Stiles eagerly surged forward, their teeth clicking together in his haste.

Moving back slightly, Derek backed away a little, Stiles freezing as he felt the curl of Derek's wry grin against his own mouth. "You're eager, huh?" Derek murmured, his calculating eyes tracking Stiles as he pursed his tingling lips.

Stiles lifted a self-conscious hand up to rub at his neck, his eyes straying to the floor. "Maybe I just like kissing you," He mumbled, slowly looking up to see the other teens reaction.

The words seemed to make Derek freeze, who's face shut down whilst he pulled minutely away from Stiles. A second of heavy silence passed between them, only making the sounds of the near-empty cabin around them intensify.

Derek opened his mouth to speak, before stopping to think of what to say, and then spoke again.

"It's only a kiss, we're not a thing though, you get that, right?"

Chapter Text

"It's only a kiss, we're not a thing though, you get that, right?" Derek said intently, not letting his eyes off of the teen before him.

The words took a second to sink in, as Stiles stood slackjawed, eyes wide and unblinking as his head reeled. So all the affections of the past few days had absolutely no romantic intention. Slowly, he felt the butterflies that had been roaming through his ribs dim, the light going out of his eyes and his mouth tapering down to a small frown.

Stumbling over his words, Stiles nodded profusely and averted his eyes. "Yeah, uh- I mean, obviously. I don't- I never thought it was anything else, it's only a kiss, just like- practice, for fun, right?" He babbled, looking in any direction other than at the teen in front of him.

Nodding in evident relief, Derek stepped closer again. "Yeah, for practice..." He cleared his throat, obviously uncomfortable talking about the situation. "It's not a relationship, okay?" He reiterated the statement, his eyes intent.

He trailed off, his stance relaxed even as Stiles thoughts began whirling to and fro quicker than he could process them. "I don't want to date," Derek murmured awkwardly, shoving his hands into his back pockets and staring intensely at Stiles.

Stiles' pride was left only slightly intact, yet he was sure that the unspoken you on the end of his statement had been pretty clear.

It was a miracle Stiles had held his composure for this long, and he offered a weak smile to Derek, who looked unconvinced. "Yeah, sounds good, great, even!" His words were hurried, though, and he felt his breaths begin to quicken.

Moving closer, Derek watched him with a scrutinous expression. "You're sure?" He double-checked as if the whole matter meant little to him, the only burgeoning problem was making sure that Stiles wasn't in any way attached to him romantically.

Nodding profusely, Stiles turned to him with a small, forced smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Yeah, dude, it sounds fun!" He babbled. Seeing it as confirmation, Derek nodded and placed a hand across the thin fabric of his shirt, making the other teen stiffen as he felt the heat of the hand on his waist.

Pulling him closer, Derek sealed their lips together, making Stiles let out a very manly squeak, before craning his head to deepen the kiss. The two stand in the silent room, entwined together, before the door suddenly crashes open, slamming against the wall as the impact makes the pair leap apart.

Isaac stands in the doorway, a bewildered stare on his face as his eyes swivel rapidly between both Derek and Stiles.

"Um..." He said eloquently, a beat of silence passing as the three teens stand frozen. Suddenly, Derek breaks the spell, storming out of the room, his face grim. Isaac follows him with concerned eyes, then shrugs. He seemed used to the other boy's random fits of rage.

Stiles stood, stock-still in the centre of the cabin, his eyes tracking Isaac confusedly as he closed the door and flopped into a chair. The other teen finally turned to him.

"I'm not gonna tell anyone," Isaac said.

Slumping onto his bunk, Stiles let out a sigh of relief. "Thanks," He replied, his voice wooden. The prior exchange was still replaying in his brain, the words refusing to leave.

It's only a kiss.

A pointed cough drew him out of his thoughts, the sound making him look up at Isaac. "Are you guys-"

"We're nothing," Stiles quickly cut him off, before he could begin to verbalise the thoughts he'd just had dashed to the ground, shredded, taunting him.

Isaac looked unconvinced, and Stiles let out an internal groan as he came to sit next to him. "Derek is-" Isaac stopped, his face indecisive. "-He's been through a lot, like all of us right?" Stiles nodded, thoughts going back to the rough burns marring Derek's skin.

"Just, Derek's not in a good place for a relationship, and I don't think you are, either." Isaac was uncharacteristically serious, his eyes boring into Stiles'.

Feeling a heat flush across his cheeks, Stiles glared at the hardwood floor, shaking his head. "Nothing's happened. But even if it did, that's not your call to make," He shook his head, looking anywhere but at Isaac as he stood up, tugging his shoes on and heading for the door. "I'm going to the gardens,"

Isaac hurried after him, catching the door as Stiles threw it open. Closing it gingerly, he caught up with Stiles and bumped his shoulder, trying to rouse Stiles from his stony silence.

"Sorry,"

Stiles stared ahead, gritting his teeth before he turned to fix Isaac with an unreadable look. "It's fine." They walked on in silence, as what Isaac had said joined the confusing miasma of thoughts tugging at his brain.

"What happened to him?"

Isaac turned to look at him, his face uneasy. "It's not my place to say. He doesn't talk about it- ever. I don't even know that much." He shrugged, turning away.

The words left an uneasy feeling in Stiles' stomach, but he tried to block them from his memory as the gardens came into view. Scott was pulling at a hefty tree root, his face scrunched up at the effort. Before Stiles could speak, Scott turned and saw them, giving them a sunny smile.

"Hey Isaac," Scott nodded at him, "-Stiles! I'm glad you came,"

"Me too," Stiles said, surprised to find that the statement was true.

The three got into an easy rhythm, Stiles fetching the saplings to be planted, and the other two teens planting them.

Hours later, they sat, fatigued, at the trunk of a weathered tree as the sun dipped below the mountains in the distance, its light dimming.

"What did you think?"

Scott's voice was quiet as he spoke to Stiles, who turned to look at him. Stiles tipped his head, debating over the past few hours, before finding his answer.

"Good," His voice was stilted, but the words were the truth.

Isaac punched him on the shoulder softly, giving him a grin. "Good."