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Stigmata

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They don’t sell “possessed by a chaos demon” morning after pills.

Stiles thinks there’s an untapped market there. Maybe not a large one, but a desperate one. He knows he would pay anything to get rid of the emptiness Void left to incubate inside him.

Instead he tries to fill the emptiness with other things. His first impulse is to throw himself into the pack. Researching and fighting every new monster that shows up, or learning more about how pack bonds work, or-

But no one will look him in the eye. No one talks directly to him. No one comes within touching distance.

The emptiness feeds on the absence of Allison, growing larger instead of filling.

Stiles slowly withdraws.

He feels so hollow that he almost wonders if he's been turned inside out. This emptiness he feels; is it the vastness of the entire world? 

How do you fill a world? With people, he supposes. But his people no longer want him. 

He needs people. 

He puts himself in the middle of the dance floor at The Jungle, and for a moment the crush of bodies is soothing. A congregation that's warm and loud and everything that Void wasn’t. But that’s only from the outside. Inside, there’s still a gaping, vacuous mouth, demanding something.

He needs to be even closer.

He goes home with a girl and worships her. He goes back an hour later, only to leave with a guy and find himself the on the altar. The press of skin, the sharpness of nails, the humidity of breath-

It helps a little.

He keeps going back again and again, always making himself available to anyone who’s willing to let him in close. He drinks and he watches until he knows what they want. Usually, what they want is a boy who's been drinking. He’ll do anything, doesn’t care what it is, just as long as he can feel better for a minute. 

For a moment.

For a breath.

It doesn’t last.

Maybe his tolerance builds, or maybe he was just fooling himself in the first place, or maybe nothing is real at all- and then someone at the club tells him they can help. If Stiles has a fifty, then she has a solution. He takes it. The temptation of forgetting about the yawning chasm is like setting a peach in front of a starving man, and he’s in no place to resist.

It’s not until twenty minutes past the point it should have kicked in that he realizes what a cliché he’s become. 

The hole remains.

He leaves The Jungle.

Somewhat incoherently, he starts thinking that if demons are real, then maybe angels are too. Maybe God is. Maybe he should spend some time on his knees in lieu of all the time he’s been spending on his knees.

He stumbles into a church, the only one with its doors unlocked this late, and sits in the last pew. Images of violence and grace in equal measure stare back at him from the dimly lit walls. Statues cast misshapen shadows, beautiful works of art revealing monstrous silhouettes. He wonders if this is the kind of church that does confession. What would Stiles confess to? He’s never confessed before, so he must have a hefty backlog.

Sins against chastity, obviously. Lying. Constant lying. Envy too, he’s always so envious of everyone else. Envious of anyone who doesn’t feel like the center of them has been eaten away by a ravenous cavity. Blasphemy. Theft.

Murder.

“Your father is worried.”

Stiles startles, neck cracking as his head whips to the left to see who’s sitting next to him in the pew.

“Peter?” he says, confused.

Peter ignores him.

“Worried enough to call me and ask me to find you. And given how much of his trust I’m sure I don’t have, I would say that’s quite a force of worry.”

Stiles looks back toward the front of the church and fixes his eyes on the crucifix hanging there.

“I’m fine,” he says, voice monotone. “You can tell him to stop worrying. I’ll be back by the morning like always.”

Peter hums consideringly.

“Yes, you definitely seem fine. People who smell like cheap drugs always are. Tell me, did they even work?”

Stiles says nothing.

“Well, regardless, I’m sure you’re fine. Nothing says ‘I’m thriving’ like slutty club gear and staring at the symbol of a violent martyr.”

“The martyr wasn’t violent,” Stiles counters automatically. “Only his death was.”

Peter snorts.

“The bit with the money changers in the temple might say otherwise.”

“You would focus on that part,” Stiles says, still staring forward. “The part with righteous anger. Where the ends justify the means.”

“The temple was a kind of home for him,” Peter replies, contemplative. “The Son of God. What is a temple but a place where God dwells? They defiled his home. So yes, you could say I feel a kinship with someone who took revenge on those who had violated his home.”

Stiles huffs a wry laugh.

“It’s so completely in character for you to compare yourself to Jesus that I kind of can’t believe you haven’t done it before.”

“Maybe. I don’t think I’m the only one making a comparison here, though.”

Stiles finally looks away from the cross and stares at Peter.

“What?”

“Tell me what you see when you look at the crucifix, Stiles.” Peter fixes a piercing look on him. “Do you see a symbol of salvation? A method of state execution? Do you see a man paying for the sins of all mankind? Or perhaps a way that you might pay for your own?”

“... Are you asking if I’m gonna crucify myself?” Stiles asks flatly.

“No. I’m asking if you feel like you need to pay for the murder of Allison.”

Stiles looks back to the front.

“No.”

His heart trips.

“You aren’t responsible for her death, Stiles.”

“Well, you would know what responsibility for murder looks like,” Stiles snaps back.

“Yes, I would,” Peter says, bitingly honest. “So you can trust me when I say that you hold no burden of responsibility.”

“That’s not-” Stiles’ mouth clicks shut, and he manages to bite his tongue for another moment. Then he bursts.

“It’s not about responsibility. Allison was the last one to die. She meant the most to me, but she was only the last. Only one. How many other deaths did the nogitsune cause? How can all of those deaths be paid for? That’s a huge debt of life, Peter. A fucking mountain of pain. Don’t the other lives deserve justice? We didn’t even- you can’t kill a nogitsune. We just trapped it. It’s not- there’s no- it’s so fucking heavy. There’s no way to balance it. There's no balance for demons, Peter. There's no way to fill the hole.” 

Stiles stops for a moment, eyes red with how overwhelmed he is. Just one more sentence breaks from him, cracking his voice on its way out. 

“Where are the angels, Peter?”

Peter looks at Stiles for a long moment. The unique, unreal silence of a church settles over them like a veil. A separation from the rest of the world, isolating them together, their breath and thoughts mixing closely.

“There is no balance,” Peter eventually says, not breaking the silence, but sending a ripple through it. Waves to gently lap in their shared shriving pew. “Not like that. If I could have killed Kate over and over again for every single member of my dead pack, I would have. But she only had one life to pay for the dozens that she took away. Once she was gone, that was all there was, and it wasn’t enough for me.”

Peter pauses and glances back at the cross before continuing.

“I didn’t kill Derek when I came back. It would be very sweet to say that it was out of some lingering molecule of pack or familial love, but it would also be a lie." Peter pauses again, looking at Stiles this time. "Milton wrote an interesting idea in Paradise Lost-"

Stiles cuts in with a tired snort. 

"Paradise Lost. God, you're so fucking pretentious." 

"Yes I am, now shut up and listen. Milton wrote about the war in heaven that led to a third of the host of angels being thrust from heaven. The birth of demons. Before the war, none of them had ever experienced pain. Pain, as a concept, didn't exist in heaven. It wasn't until Lucifer was cut with Michael's sword that pain was known. The ones who caused it were the ones who never felt it."

"You're saying... what? That even if angels were real, they would only add to the misery?" 

"I'm saying that you can't expect an absolute to know balance. Grief is an absolute. Death is an absolute. The balance you're looking for isn't going to come from an angel, or from sacrificing yourself. It's going to be internal, Stiles. It's going to come when you realize that the only balance for pain is healing. You know what pain is. Stop cutting at your own demons." 

Stiles' face spasms from vulnerable to furious to exhausted within milliseconds of each other. His expression makes Peter ache. 

"I don't know how to heal from something like this. I don't know if I can," he says, voice nearly a whisper. Slowly, he leans over until his head is resting on Peter's shoulder. "I don't know if any part of me survived, Peter." 

Hesitantly, Peter brings an arm around Stiles' shoulders. 

"Well, you're currently in a room with two experts in resurrection." Peter nods in the direction of the crucifix. "Mine took a little longer than his, but I was working with more extensive damages."

Stiles huffs a heavy breath that almost could be a laugh. 

"Let me take you home, Stiles," Peter says more seriously. 

A moment of silence stretches through the church, and then Stiles nods.