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The Pull of the Tide

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"Pretend I'm a mirror," she says, eyes wide and honest, like a Lydia de-clawed.

"Is this like in Yoga?" Stiles asks. "Do I have to be the tree? Because I'm not very good at sitting still. I'd hate for you to be disappointed on our first date."

"This isn't about me," she says. "I don't matter."

"I'm not sure that's a healthy attitude to have," Stiles tells her. "Especially for a psychiatrist."

"Stiles," she says softly, and he wonders how often she's practiced that tone, that perfect pitch between push and pull. "I know you don't want to talk to me. So just talk. If you won't let me help, the least I can do is listen."

"Yeah," Stiles says, glancing away. "Talking's never actually been my problem. It's the one thing I'm good at."

"Maybe too good?" she suggests. "It's definitely a talent. You drive everyone to distraction, to the point they never notice when you really haven't said anything at all. Am I right?"

"Yeah, well," Stiles says. "That's another talent of mine. Going unnoticed."

"I think you're losing the knack for it," she says dryly. "We had to post security at the door just to keep your friends from sneaking in after hours."

Stiles barks out a laugh, and she frowns at him. She doesn't get the joke—but a guard at the door did very little when you had friends that could climb three stories up a wall and the only window had a conveniently broken latch. Stiles hasn't spent a single night in this hospital room alone.

"Stiles, you promised your father you would talk to me," she says, as though that will reach him. It's such a rookie mistake that he wonders if maybe he's her first patient.

Stiles narrows his eyes at her, one hand clenching around the bed rail. No one is allowed to use his father, good intentions or not. He's off limits. "That's the least of the lies I've told him," he snaps. "He has nothing to do with this. My father and I are just fine."

"You're lying to him, but you're fine?" she asks. "How can he help you if he doesn't know what's wrong?"

"Maybe he's the one that needs my help. Maybe I'm the one that needs to protect him," Stiles says, and regrets it the moment he does—not because it isn't true, but because it is. Stiles has been dreading this encounter since he landed himself in the ICU. He's never been very good at censoring himself and the thin tendrils of morphine still running through his system certainly don't help.

"That's not your job," she tells him earnestly, leaning forward to wrap her hand around the bed railing beside his own. She's that rare type of beautiful that downplays their looks instead of playing them up—soft beige eye shadow with no liner, her brown hair pulled up in a loose ponytail. She's too young to be matronly, but the potential is there, and she exploits it.

He remembers his own mother, laughing as they got themselves covered in flour. She always baked everything into the wrong shape, but it had never mattered. Stiles has never tasted anything as brilliant as the things she used to make. They used to keep a photo on the fridge of the leaning three-tiered cake she'd made for his eighth birthday, which she had later tried to claim had been modeled after the Tower at Pisa—but it had gone missing the day that she died. Stiles hasn't seen it since.

"Do you know how to keep a secret?" Stiles asks her suddenly, turning back to face her.

"Of course," she says.

"Really?" Stiles asks. "Because most people don't. They think they do, but they don't."

"Everything between us is confidential," she says. "You're smart, so I know that you know that."

"I'm smart enough to know that if I make any allusions to fantasies of self harm or of harming others that you have every right to have me forcibly committed and put under observation. I know that as a minor you also have certain rights to tell my father what you believe he needs to know for my own good."

She stills, caught momentarily off-guard before settling back in her chair and watching him carefully. "Are you thinking of harming yourself?" she asks.

"That wasn't the point. You're smart. You know that it wasn't," Stiles says, tossing her own words back. "The point is that there's only one way to keep a secret, and that's not to tell it. Not to anyone."

"Not even your friends?" she asks. "They care about you."

"You think I don't care about them?" he asks. "Because I do."

"I think you don't trust them," she says, "and that's not the same thing."

"You're absolutely right," Stiles says. He glances out the window, sucking in air like he's drowning, because it's one of those strange mornings where you can still see half the moon. "It really isn't."