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After the Night (the Morning comes)

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PART I: Nightfall

“The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.
-Ernest Hemingway, Men Without Women

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define it yourself.”
-Robert Frost

“Remember: the time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. Life's cruelest irony.”
-Douglas Coupland, Shampoo Planet

 

***

Life can be pretty confusing. Even more so when you’re a teenager, still trying to get to know yourself and trying to find your place in this world.

However, confusing reaches a whole new level if you have to deal, on top of your hormones, with supernatural creatures that are out to skin you alive or worse. Stiles figures that it can be argued that it gives life a spark of excitement and thrill, which he at first enjoyed a great deal when his life reached that level of confusing after his best friend got turned into a freaking werewolf. It seemed to him that all his dreams about superheroes and villains that he had as a small child were suddenly real and also now part of his life and he thought it was awesome. And it was awesome. Until it was not. Until he was confronted with the consequences.

What Peter Parker’s uncle said about responsibility was unfortunately very much true and he would have quoted it if he hadn’t felt the despair overthrowing his amusement at the situation. So he just sat and waited while his best friend was chained to the wall, mercilessly rattling against the cuffs, albeit in vain. He thought about breathing because his body seemed to need the reminder that oxygen was still something it very much required to function. He tried not to think about the guilt that started to swell in his stomach like a tumor, still growing.

It never really got better from then on. They just learned to deal with it. They dealt with Derek Hale and his new pack consisting of once insecure teenagers which the bite turned into arrogant, self-absorbed betas with no clue to handle their new abilities without being a total douchebag about it. They dealt with Jackson becoming a mindless puppet used for killing and, after that mess was sorted out, with him being a were-lizard with serious discipline problems and, well, his usual charming self. Stiles forced himself to accept that his long time crush Lydia would never reciprocate his feelings and was now mated to a guy, who hated Stiles' guts and would probably be delighted to see him gone.

After Gerard Argent wasn’t a problem anymore, they tried their best at becoming a real pack, one that’s stable, and a home for the members in it. But ‘they’ only actively consisted of Derek and Stiles. Which was really ridiculous, considering Stiles was human and not bound to the pack at all. But he had his best friend’s wellbeing in mind, which, he was sure, would be ensured if he wasn’t so stubborn and just joined Derek’s pack already. Scott, however, was determined not to see reason because he decided to think with his cock instead of his brain. Maybe it was unfair of Stiles to assume that Scott was only controlled by his hormones and not real affection for Allison Argent, but he was still too bitter about losing his first love to Jackson Whittemore to consider love to be the motivation. Love, in his eyes, didn’t exist anymore.

But it did. Because it saved Jackson from being controlled. It had to exist because his best friend was risking his life and the loyalty of the pack just to be with Allison, even though she was a werewolf-hunter and he was a werewolf. They were like the supernatural edition of Romeo and Juliette and sometimes that thought made Stiles want to puke. Because "Romeo and Juliette" was a tragedy. Even though their love was epic, in the end, it couldn’t save them from death.

They carried on with the weirdness their lives had become and there were even moments when Stiles felt whole again like everything was okay. Like just being was okay. Pretending to be fine was hard, pretending to be happy even harder. But he managed that just fine. Over the time, Stiles became a great pretender. Allison’s grandfather beat the shit out of him? No big deal. He’d crack a joke about it, about how lame that was and no one would call him out on the insecurity the incident had brought on. They’d just roll their eyes at him because he couldn’t be serious for one second if his life depended on it. Lydia almost died in front of him and he was willing to give his life in exchange for hers? Well, nobody needed to know that he still had nightmares about that time. He found his father drinking more often like he used to after his mom had died? He tried hiding the bottles of alcohol and flushed the contents of his glass down the drain when his father wasn’t looking, but otherwise continued lying to him and keeping him in the dark about everything. Even if that meant losing his only parent’s trust, it would keep him safe.

Fortunately, some of his efforts actually paid off, seeing as the pack grew closer with every passing day, every incident, every scarring experience. Even Scott was now participating in the training Derek had forced upon the wolves (and lizard). Sometimes he even brought Allison along and she slowly seemed to make her peace with the pack. Erica still wasn’t very fond of her and kept on bitching about her presence but Lydia was good at distracting her and because she was a goddess who could accomplish anything she set her mind on she forced the two girls to go on a shopping trip together. It was a trip that magically managed to set all the differences aside since compliments on each other’s style and good looks was a peace offering that couldn’t be put down lightly.

Peter was still creepy as hell and no one could forget how cruel he could be but after they managed to find his long lost daughter Malia (which was a surprise for all of them, Peter included) he seemed to find balance in his life and was now much easier to tolerate than before. Malia was a whole different story. They had to teach her to be a human again since she spent too much time in her coyote form. Her learning progress was slow but it was there and that was what really mattered after all.

Their pack was now much more stable so it was no surprise that they decided to let Jackson’s best friend Danny in the know. Danny was a real asset to their pack because not only was he the personification of calm and nice he was also able to hack into every system he so much as wanted a quick look at. Derek had told them time again and again that humans were very valuable to a pack because they kept the wolves grounded to humanity. And Stiles believed that. He just didn’t see himself as such a valuable asset.

In the end, the pack had become a family, but one without a place for Stiles. It was clear as day to the gangly teenager that he wasn’t as much wanted as he was needed. Peter once said that he was the brains of them. But now they had Lydia and Danny so his input was absolutely not necessary anymore. At best, he was an annoying spastic idiot to them, who could sometimes be amusing. At worst, he was a liability the pack couldn’t really afford but were unable to cut loose. Stiles really tried to accept that but it still freaking hurt. It hurt to know that Derek all but ignored him when he wasn’t forced to interact with him. It stung that Scott and Isaac became really good friends without including him. It nearly killed him to know that everyone just tolerated him because he was Scott’s best friend and knew about them being werewolves. But this was Stiles' life now and it were his choices that had led him to this point so he could hardly complain about it. He just put on a silly smile, made jokes and hid his shaking limbs with clumsiness. He really became good at pretending.

Of course, since Beacon Hills seemed to be cursed, their life couldn’t just stay calm. A pack of werewolves seemed to be a magnet for other supernatural creatures with the intention to mess everything up.

It began with people disappearing. Stiles knew something was up because his father was constantly exhausted and stayed longer at the station. The first missing person was a guy who made a camping trip. He never came back. The second was a local older woman who was last seen going into the woods to look for some flowers.

Derek, as their alpha, wasn’t willing to take any risks and so he sent his betas to scent the area and mark their territory. They found a strange smell but nothing that pointed to something unusual happening. Nevertheless, they took turns in running the perimeter to make sure that no threat managed to escape their notice.

Stiles, who was getting fed up with being utterly useless, began at this point to argue that the culprit might be human.

“This could be your average kidnapping chain-saw murderer who dismembers his victims and then eats them. Not everything is about the supernatural, you know?” he tried to make a point. Sometimes he was just being controversial to aggravate Derek because that was the only
time he got a reaction from him. If fighting was the only way to converse with the alpha, then he was more than willing to look for arguments.

Derek pinched the bridge of his nose as if it physically pained him to deal with Stiles. “Even if we’re dealing with a human, this could still escalate to becoming a threat to the pack. Murders draw attention. We don’t need attention.”

Stiles put up his index finger as if to reprimand a little child. “Ah-ah! There are no bodies so the police can’t be sure if the missing people were killed. But thanks for sharing your optimistic view, oh alpha mine.”

Now Derek looked positively annoyed with the conversation. “What’s your point, Stiles? What exactly are you trying to accomplish here?”

The teenager grinned slyly. “Well, in case we are dealing with a kidnapping chain-saw murderer, I am all too happy to remind you that my father works in law enforcement. If you still can’t connect the dots, let me spell it out for you. My dad is a cop, therefore he has all the information regarding this case. And I, as his curious irredeemable son, have a habit of sticking my nose where it doesn’t necessarily belong which would be coincidently this case. Capisce?” He even winked at the older man. It didn’t, however, evoke the reaction he had hoped for. It just seemed to make Derek even angrier.

“What could you possibly do that trained policemen can’t? You’re in way over your head, Stiles. Stop being ridiculous. This is none of your business, anyway,” he huffed and folded his arms to appear even sterner to get his point across.

Stiles would never admit it, but the last statement really got to him. Since when was the pack being in danger none of his business? Was this their subtle way to tell him he was no longer considered part of the pack? He knew that many of them wanted to get rid of him, but he was sure that Scott would defend him. Even if they were trying to get rid of him, couldn’t they at least throw him a goodbye party to thank him for everything he had done for them? The feeling of betrayal made him feel nauseous.

“None of my business,” he repeated hollowly. “That’s nice. Really, the skinny, defenseless human was always a joke, why not keep him out of pack business? Makes sense. It’s fucking heartless, considering I worked my ass off for this pack but, hey, it’s not like it’s unexpected. I’m actually surprised it didn’t happen sooner, what with all the barely concealed indifference towards me. No, wait, screw that! And screw you! I was the one who helped build this pack from scratch! I was the one who actually got your furry ass into gear because otherwise you would have just drowned in guilt and sorrow for yourself instead of getting your shit together and start becoming a passable alpha! Notice how I said passable and not good? Well, Mr. McBroodypants, you’re still far away from being a good alpha because you’re too scared to let anybody in! I get it, trust issues and all that because of your tragic past! But you now have a pack that you’re responsible for so it’s time to take Uncle Ben’s words to heart and act like the damn grown-up you constantly try to portray! And-“

Before he could say anything more and he was really just getting started, he was abruptly interrupted by a pair of lips that slammed against his own. His eyes were wide open and his senses were trying really hard to get it across to him that Derek Hale was indeed kissing him. His brain, however, refused to keep up and instead pressed the panic button, which caused the shutdown of every thought that before had whirled around in his head. He was all too much aware of Derek’s hands that had found their way to his neck and now moved to cup his jaw, thumbs rubbing circles on the sensitive spot behind his ears. Surprisingly Derek’s lips were a lot softer than he had always assumed. And he had spent a lot of time thinking about them lately. They were at least just as demanding as he had imagined them to be. Good to know that his fantasies weren’t completely unrealistic. Well, except for the fact that Derek Hale was kissing him for real and holy shit, what even was his life? Since when was being kissed even a possibility for Stiles?

They had to break apart for breathing which Stiles never in his life found such an annoying bodily requirement before.

“Shut up,” the werewolf growled as if his actions didn’t already indicate that he had no intention of letting Stiles continue talking. And Stiles didn’t mind in the least if he spent the time kissing instead of arguing. This was a development that the teenager hadn’t foreseen, but he wasn’t one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Who knew when Derek’s emotionally constipated side resurfaced again? Well, Stiles considered himself to be a man that lived for the moment and maybe worried later about the consequences.

“I said shut up.” A rough bite to his bottom lip emphasized the order and it was then that Stiles realized that he had lost his brain to mouth filter and had just blurted everything he thought out loud. If he wasn’t already red as a tomato he would be now.

Since the last thing he wanted was for Derek to stop he forced his body to hold still and concentrated on being quite. Everyone who had met him at least once knew what a difficult task that was for him, but he somehow managed. His force of will could be pretty impressive.

His efforts were in vain, though, because Derek just sighed against his lips and leaned back. Stiles wanted to follow his lips, but a hand on his shoulder held him back. He should have known it was too good to last.

“You are part of the pack, Stiles. Stop doubting it.”

If his brain had functioned correctly he would have responded with “How can I not doubt my place in the pack? No one really wants me in it!” As it was, he was still too dumbstruck by the sudden kiss to be able to fathom words into a sentence.

“Go home. Wouldn’t want you to miss your curfew.” Derek even had the guts to smirk at him. It was not meant to be demeaning, but there was also no amusement in his tone. The lack of humor was really not all that unexpected from their alpha, even if he seemed happier these past few months than they had ever seen him. As small as the progress was, Stiles was proud of it.

“Sure,” Stiles replied. “But we should talk about the kissing business first? I mean, lip to lip interaction wasn’t on our daily schedule before, as far as I know. But there is definitely room for it, I guess, I could fit it in somewhere. Should I make appointments with your secretary?”

Sometimes Stiles would really prefer to be mute so his thoughts couldn’t leak out of him like water from a broken faucet.

Derek, since he was his usual expressive self, just flicked him on the temple and shook his head in exasperation.

“It was a good way to shut you up. You were spouting nonsense again.”

And, to Stiles’ disappointment, that was all he had to say about that. Never mind that it was Stiles’ first kiss (the first that counted, anyway).

“But-,” Stiles wanted to argue.

“It won’t be a recurring thing, Stiles”, Derek interrupted him sharply. “I just wanted to see if Erica’s method worked on others as well as it did on me. And it did. You really shouldn’t be that easily distracted.”

Stiles wanted to slap himself. Why was he expecting something different? The fact that he was seventeen and had just gotten his first kiss was telling enough. He really needed to learn to stay realistic. After all, what would a twenty-four-year-old with features chiseled by the gods want with a lanky kid with ADHD and the inability to stay still?

{}

After that massive letdown, his fear that the pack would decide to cut him loose had increased so much that he couldn’t sleep that night. Sleepless nights were not a strange concept to Stiles who mostly spent those researching random facts on the internet. Yes, the internet was the best friend to man, as far as he was concerned.

On that night, however, something different caught his attention. Normally he stayed off the social network because in no way was he ready to handle cyberbullying and seeing how unpopular in real life he was he didn’t want to take his chances. But it was just conventional to be on facebook and not even Stiles could escape the peer pressure to make an account. He had no idea what devil made him sign in that night, but it didn’t really matter, anyway. As soon as he saw the ad he knew what he was gonna do in his spare time. The pack shouldn’t be his life and the first step to becoming an independent human being again was to find a hobby. Without thinking twice about it, he wrote a message to the girl who had posted the ad on her wall. Surprisingly, he got an immediate response. Full of excitement he flailed in his seat, looking for a pen and a sheet of paper to scribble down the address.

That was how he found himself standing in a cellar on a Tuesday afternoon while a group of strangers scrutinized him from head to toe. He took in the group in front of him. It consisted of two very pretty girls, maybe a bit older than Stiles, one blonde the other with dark hair and of three guys, closer to Derek’s age than his own. One of the guys had a ponytail and a beard and looked impressively impassive.

“So,” Stiles began nervously, with his hands stuffed into his pockets to conceal that they were shaking. “Your band is seriously called ‘Ray of Light’?”

Maybe that was not the best opening, seeing as one of the guys' faces hardened immediately.

The blonde girl laughed, but her blue eyes were kind. “Do you have a better name?”

Stiles openly gaped then he ran his fingers through his hair. Thank god for his decision to outgrow the buzz cut. “It’s your band and I’m assuming you have a reason for the name?”

“We have,” the girl answered and offered him her hand which he shook a bit too enthusiastically. “I’m Lindsay, one of the vocalists. This is Zoey, guitar, and vocals,” she motioned to the girl with the dark hair.”Chandler, our drummer,” the guy with the ponytail nodded, “Zack, bass and vocals” the guy who looked the least welcoming, “and lastly Brad, piano and percussions and also my boyfriend.”

Brad, the boyfriend, looked like a jock that Stiles would hate on principal, were he in school right now. He was blonde, attractive and smug. He looked like the guy who got the girl in every rom-com movie known to man.

“So, Stiles, right?” Lindsay was still smiling at him and he kind of started to adore the way her blue eyes lit up when she did. “You want to write songs for us? Don’t get us wrong, but we’ve been looking for a songwriter since forever and it is really difficult to find someone who gets our music. We’ve just done covers before, but one does not get far without their own songs and none of us has really come up with something worthy.”

Brad scoffed at that and glared at Stiles as if he was the one who had just offended him with that statement.

“We could play something for you, just so you get a feeling of what kind of music we’re into,” Zoey suggested, already reaching for her guitar.

Stiles nodded and watched as the band members took their positions. Zoey tried a few chords while humming; Lindsay took the microphone in hand; Brad pressed a few keys on the piano and Chandler just swung his sticks. Zack just waited till the others were ready.

What Stiles then listened to was the most emotional and innovative rendition of Coldplay’s song “The Scientist” that he had ever heard. Lindsay’s voice was breathy but also very powerful and sweet. It was not an understatement to say that he was wondering if he had just met stars of tomorrow. They were good, really good. And he was determined to be part of their greatness.

“So, what do you think?” Lindsay asked shyly. How she wasn’t an arrogant diva was beyond Stiles because if he had the vocal range of this girl he would parade it around until everyone got sick of him.

“Well, I think I’m the right person.”

“Prove it,” Zack challenged him. “Surely, you didn’t come here unprepared, did you?”

Stiles never came unprepared for anything. He had a bag of mountain ash and wolfsbane in the trunk of his Jeep, just in case he ever needed it. He even had a wooden stake and vial of holy water in there, because he wouldn’t be surprised if vampires existed as well.

Lindsay nodded encouragingly as he gestured to the piano, asking for permission to use it. So he sat down on the bench and stretched his fingers. He was nervous, but the feeling of the keys under his fingertips calmed him down. It was familiar and reminded him of his mother who was the one who had encouraged him to learn to play the piano when he was little because she had thought it to be a good way to channel his energy. She used to sit with him and listen to him playing, sometimes singing along.

Without even thinking about it, he began to play the melody that had been ghosting around in his head for a while. The melody appeared to be stuck in his head so he could play it without sheets, but he was unable to find lyrics that went along with it. It was easy to lose himself in the music. He had always loved to play but had never been brave enough to join a band. Lately, he had been so consumed with the pack that he hadn’t even considered it anymore.

As soon as the last chord faded away he heard clapping and loud cheers. He looked up to see Lindsay and Zoey high-five each other, which he took as a good sign.

“Oh, you’re in. You are so in,” Zoey said and clapped him on the shoulder. “We meet every Tuesday evening at eight. Be punctual, newbie.”

“Wait! We can’t just accept him because he played one mediocre song!” Brad protested.

“Mediocre? That word is in your vocabulary? What, was it the word of the day on your calendar?”

“Boys!” interrupted Lindsay and held out her hands as if she could hold them apart that way. “Don’t be childish. He was great, Brad! Even though it wouldn’t hurt him to drop that attitude of his.”

She sent a pleading look in Stiles’ direction which he conceived as an apology for her boyfriend’s behavior but also a plea to overlook it.

Because he didn’t want to blow his chances with the band he nodded curtly. Brad was an ass, but he had learned to tolerate assholes years ago so he could deal with it.

“Guys? Are you down there?” A voice called out to them.

“Just my girlfriend,” explained Zoey, a smug smile on her lips. Then she called out, “Yes, sweetie!”

They heard her take the stairs and then saw her sprint over to Zoey. Stiles almost dropped open his mouth as he took in the dark-haired beauty before him. It’s been a while since he last saw such perfection of the human physique and he could tell you the exact amount of time since then because he was a nerd that counted the hours after having gotten his first kiss. If he wouldn’t know better he would say that she was Derek Hale’s female counterpart.

Zoey wasted no time to greet her with a kiss to the cheek. It was cute because Zoey was at least a head smaller than her girlfriend and had to stand on her tiptoes to reach her cheek.

“You’ve come just at the right time,” Zoey said, smiling broadly. She took her girlfriend’s hand and led her to where Stiles was still sitting on the piano bench. “Let me introduce you to our newest member. Laura, this is Stiles. Stiles, this is my gorgeous girlfriend Laura.”

They shook hands while Stiles pondered over the coincidence that Derek’s sister was named Laura as well. It was odd with the way they looked alike. Almost like siblings…

“Oh, fuck,” he sighed heavily.”Please tell me your last name is not Hale.”

And because this was his life where mere coincidences no longer existed, her eyes widened and she asked suspiciously “How did you know that?” Stiles just put his head in his hands and groaned. So much for doing something separately from the pack. Pack business seemed to follow him wherever he went.