His memory of his mother wasn’t perfect. There were days when he couldn’t remember her face, or the sound of her voice, or the way her lips curled into a perfect smile. It was the moments he remembered. When he was a kid, she would paint the solar systems on the backs of his hands.
“You’ll have to learn the entire universe before you can say ‘oh, I know that like the back of my hand’,” she would say.
He remembered the first time he got into a fist fight. It was third grade and Tommy Gordon was picking on the little girl who had seizures, so Stiles punched him in the face. But Tommy was bigger and stronger and faster, and punched back harder, waited for him to get back up and kicked him in the stomach.
“Getting the wind knocked out of you,” his mom said later, as she held and ice pack to the bruise forming over his left eye. “Is the only way to remind your lungs, how much they like the taste of air.”
There was hurt, he learned when he fell in love with Lydia, that can’t be fixed by band aids or poetry. It just hurts. And Wonder Woman wasn’t ever going to come save him, or help him save the world, because Wonder Woman wasn’t real.
But that didn’t stop his mom from dawning a purple cape, while he wore red, and the two of them flew around the house, rescuing spiders from the sole of his dad’s shoe.
“No matter how wide you can stretch your fingers,” she said. “Your hands will never be big enough to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I’ve tried.” And he really, really didn’t understand this until Scott’s dad was gone, with no hint of where he might be, and Stiles wanted more than anything to make everything okay for his best friend, but what was there to do? How could he make it better? Stiles didn’t know what it felt like to lose a parent, never wanted to know.
She always kept an extra supply of chocolate and rain boots on hand, because “There’s no heartbreak that chocolate can’t fix… okay, there’s some heartbreak that chocolate can’t fix, but that’s what the rain boots are for.”
It was raining, the day she told him she was sick. Not just a cough and a stuffy nose, but really, really sick. Didn’t have much time left, sick. She brushed the tears from his eyes, but they just kept falling, so she took him by the hands, grabbed the rain boots, and ran around in the rain for hours.
The day she died, he pulled the rain boots on again and ran through the rain because “rain will wash away everything, if you let it.”
The problem was, he didn’t know how to let it.
The funny thing about this life was, he was slowly finding more and more things that reminded him of things his mom had said. It was sometimes scary how relevant his words were to his life with werewolves. Really, how could she have predicted that?
“There’ll be days like this,” her voice sung in his head when Derek showed up in his window because Isaac and Erica and Boyd had gone and got themselves taken by hunters, and Scott wasn’t answering his phone, and he had no one else to turn to. And of course Stiles would help, because he didn’t know how not to.
But the pack was never so willing to take his help. “There’ll be days like this, when you open your hands to catch, and only end up with blisters and bruises. When you’ll step out of the phonebooth, and the very people you’re trying to save are the ones standing on your cape.”
And the rain didn’t wash away anything, it just filled his boots with water, and he was up to his knees in disappointment, but “these are the very days to have all the more reason to say thank you, because there is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s pushed away,” and, okay, maybe he hadn’t quite figured that one out yet, but sometimes he found Derek staring off into the distance, lost in thought, maybe lost in the past, and Stiles’ mom’s voice filters through again. “Don’t keep your nose in the air like that. I know that trick, I’ve done it a million times. You’re just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail back to the burning building and find the boy who lost everything in the fire, to see if you can fix him.” And yeah, he perfectly got that one now, and it really was scary just how accurate that was, coming from a woman who died long before he’d even met Derek. But she was right, because now that he’d found him, he was never going to stop trying to fix him, never stop trying to make their makeshift pack into a family, for him.
“Your papa is a warrior, but he’s also a worrier, and you’re the boy who with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more.” His dad did worry, just like she’d said, he was constantly terrified that something terrible was going to happen to him, because when you run with wolves…
But he didn’t know how not to. He didn’t know how to stop taking care of the pack, how to stop saving their asses when they were in danger. He always apologized when he knew he’d done something wrong, but he’d never apologize for doing what was right, no matter how angry it made his dad, no matter how terrified it made him when Stiles got hurt helping one of the others.
“And when they finally hand you heartache, when they slip war and hatred under your door and offer you handouts on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them…”
The hunters often told him how idiotic it was, he was, for running with wolves. They tried to bring him to their side, tried to threaten him, and when they tried to poison his mind against his pack, all he did was grin and say:
“You really ought to meet my mother.”