Stiles is not okay.
He hasn’t been okay for a while, but this…this is no existential crisis. This is a knife in his gut. A literal knife.
Stiles staggers back. The pain is something so terrible that it’s almost transcendent. He knows it hurts more than anything he’s ever felt, but he almost can’t feel it. He’s numb. He’s blank.
It’s blood loss. He’s going into shock because of blood loss.
He can feel his blood, hot and slippery on the fingers he’s got pressed up against the knife. All his warmth draining out of him, leaving nothing but the cold behind.
How long does it take to die from a stomach wound like this?
He stumbles again, and then his legs don’t hold him anymore, and he’s lying on the rain-slick road, staring up at the stars. They blink in and out of existence. He can’t focus. Everything is slipping away.
He’s going to die now.
He’s going to die.
You, he always wanted to tell Derek Hale, you alone.
Except he never did tell Derek that, not even when death was so close around them that Stiles could taste it. Those moments should have been fearless, shouldn’t they? When it came to the truth. But Stiles had always stopped himself. Always backed down, because what if they lived? What if there really was a dawn after the darkness, and Stiles had painted it with awkwardness and embarrassment?
But what if he feels the same? a voice inside him always asked.
The very idea of it was more ridiculous than werewolves and kanimas and banshees and darachs. More ridiculous than a goddamn magic tree in the middle of the woods that ruled their fucking lives.
His fear always held him back.
He was fifteen when he met Derek Hale. Eighteen when Derek left, and almost four years wasn’t enough to grow into the courage he needed to say what he’d wanted to say:
You, Derek Hale. You alone and no one else.
They loom over him, obscuring the fuzzy stars.
And then they walk away, and that’s when Stiles knows for sure he’s dead.
They wouldn’t have left him if they’d thought he’d live.
He’s so far gone they don’t even bother finish him off.
When he was sixteen, Stiles read poetry obsessively. Old, new, translated from every language known to humanity. Thousands of years of words, pulled from the ether by poets and their muses, hot bursts of emotion twisted into words that would last an eternity.
Love, captured and corralled into lines on a page.
He could feel it, as electric as any spell he’d ever read in one of Deaton’s books. He could feel it, could almost taste it. Could almost reach out and grasp it.
But it wasn’t his to keep.
Somewhere, in boxes under his bed, he still has books of that poetry. Dog-eared and dusty, rescued from second-hand bookstores and yard sales, or stolen from the library.
He never found exactly the right poem.
The one that spoke to him.
The one with all the answers.
It never occurred to him that maybe he was supposed to write his own.
Stiles slides his trembling, bloody thumb across the cracked home screen of his phone.
He can’t even tell if anyone’s answered.
He blinks, and the world goes dark. He forces his eyes open again.
“Dad. M’sorry. M’sorry, Dad.”
He drops his phone.
“Want to talk about it?” his dad asks when he gets back from Mexico.
Stiles shakes his head.
It’s too much, right now. Too much to talk about. Because Derek’s gone. And so is Scott, in a way. Scott knocked him down, winded him, and Stiles hasn’t been able to catch his breath since. It was Liam who brought Scott back, not Stiles. And then Derek—
And he was beautiful. A fully shifted fucking wolf. Powerful again. Majestic. The wolf he deserved to be.
And then he left, turning his back on Beacon Hill and everything he’d suffered there. Turning his back on Stiles as well.
“Nobody died,” Stiles says. “That a win, right?”
That’s how they calculate it, right?
“Sure, kid,” his dad says. “That’s a win.”
His sad smile says that maybe he doesn’t believe it either.
When he was a kid, Stiles could never see the Big Dipper. Or at least he couldn’t see what made one crooked line of stars any different from any others. Because there were stars everywhere so how was he supposed to know which ones were the ones he was supposed to be looking at?
And he dad would laugh and point, but even when Stiles tried to follow the line of his finger, all he saw was a million stars.
He stares up at them now, blinking his tears away.
The brightest star in the sky, he remembers, is Sirius. The dog star.
He wonders if it’s a wolf star too. Or maybe, if he can spot it, he’ll pretend that it is. It seems fitting, and in more ways than one. Because Stiles is always pretending something.
Everything goes wrong when Derek leaves.
He tries so fucking hard to make it right, but every step he takes is a misstep. Everything he does, everything he says, makes it worse with Scott and the others, and he wants to fix it, he wants to make it better. He wants to break down in tears and beg them to help him. Beg them to be his friends again.
Except it’s like that thing with Derek all over again.
Something holds him back.
Walls are safer.
Walls are good.
Right up until he’s bleeding to death on an empty road outside of town, alone, walls are good.
Stiles understood that poetry he read. Understood the exhilaration of love, the breathlessness. Understood the fear. Understood how impossible it was to distil all of that into sparse, imperfect language.
You alone, he wanted to tell Derek, and it wasn’t just rejection he was scared of. He was maybe scared that Derek wouldn’t understand that it was true, that it was written on his bones now. That it was carved into every cell in his body, that it was twisted into the strands of his DNA. That it was—that it is—eternal.
That even when he’s done bleeding to death, that even when he’s in the ground somewhere, it will still be true.
And maybe it doesn’t count for much, but it will always be true.
Sirius sits low on the horizon. Stiles can’t see it, because of the trees. But he remembers that it flickers red and blue and white. It flickers, and there’s something flickering. Red and blue and red and blue.
Don’t cry, Dad. Don’t cry.
His dad is here, and how did that even happen? The stars are gone, but Dad is here, and he doesn’t have to be alone in the dark. That’s good. He’s scared to be alone.
“Dad,” he whispers. His tears leave cold tracks down his face. “Daddy.”
He hasn’t called his dad that in years. Not since he was a little kid. Not since his dad picked him up when he fell down, and kissed his skinned knees to make them better.
“Don’t you dare,” his dad says, and he sounds angry. “Don’t you give up on me, Stiles!”
Stiles tries to answer, but the sound that comes out of him isn’t a word.
He’s scared. He’s so scared, and everything is turning dark.
He doesn’t want to go. Not if it’s dark. Not alone.
He wants to stay.
It’s not enough though, is it, to want things? It’s never been enough to stop people from leaving, and it’s not enough to stop the dark from swallowing him whole.
Afterwards, he doesn’t remember.
If the darkness resolved itself into something different, twisted and bent itself into a tunnel of light, Stiles doesn’t remember. He blinked out, and then he was back.
Three days have passed, and Stiles was just…absent.
That scares him more, maybe, than any fevered dream of an afterlife.
There is a thick, jagged wound on his abdomen, because there was no time for a neat, precise surgery. His skin is puckered with stitches and surgical tape, yellow with antiseptic. Drainage tubes pierce his abdomen, the fluid dripping out of them red and milky.
His dad, sitting in the chair beside the bed, is wearing a wrinkled uniform and three day’s worth of stubble.
“Jesus, kid,” he says. “Don’t ever do that to me again!”
He hugs Stiles, gently, and Stiles buries his face in his dad’s neck and inhales deeply. Everything hurts, but not as much as not hugging his dad would hurt. He’s alive, and living hurts. Feels good too.
Stiles misses three weeks of school. He’s living on protein shakes and yogurt because apparently he’s missing part of his stomach now. He’s pretty fucking sick of protein shakes and yogurt. He tries a curly fry one night, and immediately vomits it back up again. Everything burns when it comes back up, and his dad yells at him for doing something so stupid, then feels bad for it and feeds him as much ice cream as he can handle. Which isn’t as much as Stiles would like.
But he’s alive.
He might not ever get to eat curly fries again, but he’s alive.
The walking fucking wounded, but alive.
That counts as a win, right?
Stiles gets an app on his phone that tells him where all the constellations are. When he holds his phone up to the sky, he can read on the screen exactly what he’s looking at. He’s usually looking at Sirius.
The stars are brighter in winter. Stiles spends a lot of time in the backyard, lying on a rug with a hot water bottle over his stomach so his scar doesn’t hurt as much. He thinks the stars would be brighter from somewhere out in the Preserve, but a part of him is scared to go too far from home.
He dozes for a while on his rug, listening to the sounds of his dad firing up the blender in the kitchen. His dad thinks it’s a terrible idea, but he’s still putting the curly fries through the blender like Stiles begged. It might be the most disgusting thing ever, but Stiles is wiling to try it on the slim chance it’s delicious. And that he can keep it down.
A familiar deceptively soft tone.
Stiles’s heart skips a beat, and he twists his neck.
Derek sits down next to him on the rug and then, after a moment, lies down. “How are you feeling?”
“Peachy,” Stiles says, even though he wants to be sick. “What the hell are you doing back here?”
Derek gives him the side eye. “You’re still my pack."
“We are?” Stiles asks, eyes widening.
“You are,” Derek says, and Stiles isn’t sure if he imagined the slight emphasis on you or not.
It’s a moment.
Stiles could let it pass, like he’s let every other moment pass. He's still afraid. But this time he's not afraid enough to stop. “All of us, or me?”
“You, Stiles,” Derek says. He reaches out and curls his fingers through Stiles’s. “You alone.”
You alone and no one else.
Above them, the stars wheel.