Have you ever heard the story of the frog and boiling water? If you boiled a pan of water and tried to drop a frog into it, the frog, like any normal creature, would jump out. But, if you placed the frog in a pan of cold water and then slowly heated it up, the frog would stay until it boiled alive.
When Stiles had been told that story, he had quickly corrected whoever it was that had repeated the fake fable and moved on. He kind of wished he had taken more time to understand it back then, to get the metaphor rather than take it so literally. Maybe it could have prevented the unfurling of events that lead to him here, in a pale beige room of Beacon Hills Hospital.
Two Days Ago
“How kind of you to join us Mr Stilinski,” Mr Harris said in his usual sarcastic tone as Stiles shuffled into the Chemistry Lab, every students’ eyes on him. He ignored them in favour of mumbling an apology to his teacher before collapsing into his usual seat. He was only ten minutes late, but Mr Harris wasn’t likely to cut him any slack. Without looking at the next bench, he knew Scott was trying catch his eye, probably to ask why he hadn’t picked him up that morning. Because of the bad weather, Stiles had offered to take him to school in the morning so he wouldn’t have to get soaked, but he had overslept and was running late. “As you seem so unconcerned with your tardiness Mr Stilinski, perhaps you will sum up last nights reading was for us?” Thankfully, Stiles had skimmed over that part of the book weeks ago, simply as a distraction from a reoccurring nightmare that had coincidentally made him late that morning. After summarising for the class, he slouched back in his seat and let his leg bounce distractedly.
Half way through the lesson Stiles’ phone beeped signalling a new message. He didn’t look at it though, choosing to ignore what he assumed was probably just another angst ridden text from Scott about how Mr Argent was still keeping Allison to a curfew because he disliked the boy so much. Sometimes, he felt as though the only time Scott would talk to him was so he could complain about Allison. And when it wasn’t that it was almost always a question about werewolf business that Stiles might be able to help with because he seemed to be the only one who ever did any form of research in the whole of the Beacon Hills pack. Not that he was bitter or anything, because what else could he do? He wasn’t exactly up for the fighting side of the pack’s activities. The only way he could help was to do what he was already doing, what he was already spending hours and hours doing - research. But now the latest threat to the pack was dealt with, his skills were not needed. And without them he had no place in the pack anymore. That wasn’t what anyone had said, but it didn’t need to be. Whenever he hung out with them these days it was all about play fighting and showing off their werewolf talents or training. Stiles was starting to feel like freaking Rudolf when all the other reindeer wouldn’t let him join in all their reindeer games. Except they were werewolves, and the games were all slightly more teeth and claws orientated.
“Hey Stiles wait up!” Sighing at the sound of Scott’s voice, Stiles halted in the corridor full of people on his way to Economics, yet another class he would probably be singled out in and made a fool of. “Where were you this morning man? I waited but then my mum just dropped me in on the way to work.”
Stiles rubbed his face as his head prickled uncomfortably. “Sorry, the jeep wouldn’t start.” It was a lie, but Scott didn’t say anything if he had heard his heartbeat give it away. Instead, he simply launched into another rant about Allison and Stiles tuned out. Just as they reached the classroom door, a wave of dizziness came over him and Stiles had to grab the frame to stop himself falling. Scott, who obviously hadn’t been watching where he was going or paying attention at all, stumbled over his friend.
“Are you okay Stiles?” It was Isaac who had asked the question. Stiles held a hand over his eyes, the light becoming patches of black and his head spinning. He felt woozy, like he was about to empty his stomach any second, only there was nothing there. He couldn’t remember what his last meal had been, but it certainly wasn’t breakfast that morning. He hadn’t felt up to eating anything when he woke up, nor before he went to bed last night.
“I’m fine, don’t worry.” He stood straight, gave Isaac a forced smile and lead the way into the classroom.
In hindsight, Stiles probably should have cared more about that incident. Sure, he had been having headaches for weeks, and dizzy spells weren’t that uncommon, but he sat through the rest of his classes and lunch without thinking about it again. He watched as the pack interacted at their usual table in the cafeteria while picking at his food. Opposite him sat Scott, who was between Boyd and Erica. Isaac sat on Stiles’ left while Lydia was on his right, chatting away to Jackson and Allison. Their very unusual group was happy and relaxed, arguing lightly about something relatively unimportant, probably who was the strongest or fastest, those were their usual favourite arguments. Before, the group hadn’t acted much like a pack. The arguments hadn’t been lighthearted but real fights, and the dynamics hadn’t worked with Scott being so strong willed and reluctant to join. But now he had accepted Derek as the Alpha, and after going through a bunch of different supernatural threats, they were all bonding. Even Jackson was fitting in in his own way. He stuck with Lydia most of the time, but he did get involved in pack days and he did make the effort to spend time with them. The whole kanima thing was long forgotten, everyone seemed to have forgiven Jackson for trying to kill them all. Stiles had forgiven him too, but he still found it odd at times when Jackson would be hanging out with them in Derek’s loft he was renting while he had the old Hale house completely rebuilt. Turns out, Derek was completely loaded, and now there was a lull in activity, it was a good time to create a real home for the pack.
The nightmare returned that night. Stiles had come home to an empty house after school, his father still at work, just like every other night. He hated how much his dad worked. He knew why he did it, knew that instinct to protect was a genetic thing, but he sometimes wondered, only briefly before he would shut the idea down, if it was partly his fault. His dad loved him of course, Stiles knew that, but he also knew how hard his dad found it to raise a son on his own, especially one like Stiles - difficult, hyperactive, attention seeking. So maybe work was a nice break from a kid who needed so much time and attention. Sometimes, when Stiles was feeling really down about it, he would wonder if his dad was in some way disappointed with the son he got. Would he have been different if his mother had been around to help? Maybe. She would have been good for his ADHD, that was for sure. She always knew what to do about it. It made his bad mood worse when he thought about it in that way, and Stiles would have to try and distract himself when he felt those thoughts threaten to overwhelm him. Research helped with that, but when that dried up, there weren’t many places to turn.
After changing out of his lacrosse gear, Stiles spent hours on his computer and flicking through school books, getting ahead on work for the rest of the year. His brain soaked it all in like a sponge until he felt like his head might explode if he read anymore. It was the early hours of the morning when he finally picked himself up from his desk chair and collapsed onto his bed, face first.
The nightmare was the same as it had been for the past week. Stiles could feel the water like it was really there. He could feel it splash around his face, soak into his clothes and drag him down. He clutched desperately at the body he was trying to keep afloat, but Derek kept slipping out of his fingers. Everything kept slipping out his fingers, out of his control. He gasped and water entered his mouth. It was so hard to stay up. Stiles knew it would be easier to just let go completely, let his body sink to the bottom of the pool. He wouldn’t have to fight anymore, but he wanted to, he had to keep fighting. His life mattered to people, didn’t it?
Stiles was jerked awake by the sound of his father tripping over something as he made his way down the corridor, heading out to work. Glancing at his alarm clock, Stiles groaned. Only three hours. Knowing he wouldn’t get back to sleep, and dreading that the nightmare would come back if he did, Stiles sat up and stretched. His bleary eyes took a while to clear enough for him to get up and make his way over to the bathroom. His shower was short and he was soon standing in front of the mirror, critically assessing the bruises which were dotted over the skin of his torso. He hissed quietly as he pressed a finger into a new one on his shoulder, another lacrosse incident. The marks were a constant reminder just how human he was. The dizziness hit him again as he stood there, prodding his body gently. It was worse this time, his vision blacking out for a few seconds. It felt almost like he had stood up too quickly and all the blood was rushing from his head. Stiles gripped onto the sink with one hand and opened the medicine part in a cabinet beside the mirror. Blindly he reached for some pain pills as well as his usual Adderall. Hoping they would help, Stiles made his way back to his room to get ready for the day.
Everything had been relatively normal up until the class after lunch. He had picked up Scott, resisted the urge to feint on the drive to school, handed in the right homework for his classes and listened to the pack’s conversation in the cafeteria, occasionally adding his own commentary in. If anyone thought he was being oddly quiet, they didn’t mention anything. It wasn’t until half way through English that another wave of dizziness hit him. This time though, he felt his hands start to shake and then all of a sudden he blacked out.
And that was how he had ended up at the hospital. Stiles had woken up with needles attached to him, a heart monitor bleeping away in the background. He blinked his eyes open slowly, trying to adjust to the light. Carefully, he lifted a hand to his forehead, just above his left eye, where he could feel a slight sting. He groaned silently when he felt a stitched up cut running horizontally above his eyebrow. He tried to remember what had happened. How had he got that cut? Before he could though Stiles heard the door open and he shifted so he could see who had entered. Melissa McCall smiled when she saw he was awake. “How are you feeling Stiles?”
He smiled back and tried to shrug. “Fine I guess. I can’t really remember much.”
She nodded and picked up the clipboard from the end of his bed. Flicking through, she quizzed him about his pain and the events leading up to his blacking out. Supposedly he had passed out in English and as he fell from his seat he had smashed his head on the edge of the desk, which would explain the cut. “The stitches are dissolvable, so you won’t need to come back to have them removed,” Melissa told him as she put the clipboard back. Instead of leaving though she moved round the bed so she could sit down in the seat beside him.
Stiles eyes her cautiously. “Something up Ms McCall?”
She sighed. “Stiles, the reason you blacked out was a mixture of exhaustion and malnutrition.” She placed a comforting hand on his arm. “You have pushed your body so much that it’s trying to fight back. Stiles, is there something wrong that caused this? How is everything at school?”
Stiles gulped. “I- I’m fine, I guess I’ve just been stressed lately so I’ve sort of forgotten a couple of meals and sleeping has been hard, it’s nothing really.” Stiles tried to wave it off, unwilling to tell her what was really wrong.
She sighed. “I don’t think missing a few meals would cause your body weight to drop this massively Stiles.” She squeezed his hand. “If you feel like you can’t talk to me, then that’s fine. Just please find someone you can tell. Talking about whatever is troubling you so much will help, I promise.”
Stiles just gave a her a smile and nod. He would like to talk to someone, he was just rather limited in who he could actually tell. And he wasn’t about to bother the pack with something as minuscule as him feeling slightly irrelevant at times.
Knowing that was all she was going to get, Melissa stood up. “You have some visitors outside that are keen to come see how you are. Want me to say they can come in?”
Stiles nodded and shuffled up on the bed so his back was against the headboard.
One by one, members of the pack entered the room and were told they could only stay for a few minutes before someone came back to drug Stiles up again so he could get more rest. Even Jackson had turned up. Scott was first, and he rushed to Stiles’ bedside as soon as he saw his best friend. “Stiles! I can’t believe that happened. Why didn’t you say anything dude?”
Stiles shrugged, surprised but happy that Scott seemed so concerned. “It’s not that bad guys, no need to plan my funeral just yet,” he said with a humorous tone. They didn’t look convinced however.
“Scott’s mum told us they have you on special nutrients in your IV drip,” Isaac said from the other side of the bed. He sounded as worried as Scott, even more perhaps. At the mention of the drip, Stiles glanced down at his hand. He hadn’t paid attention to it before, but now he was staring at the taped over needle it was making him feel squeamish. Isaac placed a hand near his arm, his fingers brushing his skin gently. Scott had done the same. It was just another werewolf thing Stiles had had to get used to. Physical contact was big within the pack. It was their way of getting closer, feeling more like a unit. Pack dynamics were weird, Stiles mused, watching the five teen wolves interacting. There were certain things they did that Stiles took a while to grasp, since he wasn’t running on the same instincts as them. Meal times for a while had been confusing, since he had no idea why everyone would always wait around before starting, and then glare at him when he went to go first. Turns out, there are ranks within the pack which didn’t stop at just Derek. A pecking order of sorts. The higher ups get first picks. They weren’t strict about it, especially when Derek wasn’t with them, but it was still noticeable in the wolves’ every day interactions.
The pack tried to refuse to leave when Melissa came back, but she managed to kick them out with Stiles’ help at reassuring them he’d be fine. “Your dad has been here, but he had to get to work just before you woke up. I’ve said that the doctor should come speak to you while he’s here, is that okay?” Stiles nodded drowsily as the drugs inserted through is IV started taking affect.
When he finally woke up again, it wasn’t his dad sitting in the chair in the corner of the room like he had expected. Derek Hale watched closely as Stiles blinked his eyes open. As soon as the teenager caught sight of the man in the room, he jumped, his heart monitor bleeping excessively.
“Breathe Stiles,” Derek said calmly, standing up and walking over.
“You shouldn’t do that to me. What if you gave me a heart attack? I could actually die in this hospital. Now that would be ironic,” Stiles started to ramble. Derek merely rolled his eyes at the teen. “What are you doing here anyway? Don’t you have wolfy business to attend to or something?”
“This is my business right now. You’ve got the pack on edge. They’re agitated and they won’t leave here until they know you’re okay.”
Stiles wasn’t sure he completely believed the Alpha. “Sure they are Sourwolf, but what brings you here to my humble abode? Worried about me?”
Derek gave Stiles his perfected Alpha wolf glare. “Don’t call me that,” he growled but Stiles simply smiled, not as perturbed by the tone of voice as he used to be. “You’re pack Stiles, and that makes you my responsibility.”
Being Derek’s whatever suddenly got Stiles slightly flushed and the heart monitor bleeped out of sync. He would have cursed had he not known Derek would already be able to hear the sudden fluttering. “Well, that’s all very heartfelt and stuff but you didn’t really answer my question.”
Shooting Stiles another one of his glares, Derek folded his arms across his chest. He stared at Stiles for another minute or so before just turning and leaving. Stiles couldn’t even be bothered to kick up a fuss about his lack of answers. “Taciturn as ever Derek,” he muttered as he slid back down on his bed and closed his eyes.
Stiles was discharged after he had listened to what the doctor had to say to himself and his dad. “So you’ll need to stick to these meal suggestions, and take one of these every night, it’ll help your body with nutrients absorbing. We’ll need you to come back in two weeks so we can make sure everything is normal, and I would suggest you come back in three months for a check up, but it’s not mandatory.” The Doctor handed over a pile of documents to his dad. John Stilinski nodded along to what the doctor was saying while Stiles sat with his legs crossed on the bed, anxiously picking at his nails and pulling at loose threads on his long sleeved T-shirt he had changed into.
Obviously noticing his actions, his father turned to the doctor again. “Will anything react badly to his Adderall?” Stiles hadn’t thought about that, he just guessed the doctors would know not to give him anything that could affect it.
“You shouldn’t have a problem with the stuff we’ve given you Stiles, but if you do have any more dizzy spells or prolonged headaches come back and we’ll see what we can do.”
Nodding again, his dad stood up and shook the doctor’s hand. Stiles did the same, and followed after his dad, antsy to get out of the boring room. He wasn’t surprised to see Scott and Isaac outside by the Sheriff’s car. They jumped on him as soon as they saw him, both acting like overgrown puppies. Stiles grinned. It was a contrast to how the pack had been acting before, but it wasn’t unwelcome. Stiles would take smothering over indifference any day.