Stiles knows he isn’t a bad person. He knows from observation that the way he generally treats the people around him is considered “kind”, that on a good day, he would like to be treated by someone else the way he takes time to care about others, even if it’s just a bit.
Stiles knows that people, naturally, respond to kindness with something akin to happiness or gratefulness. At least that’s what psychology 101 says. Or common sense. You know. Logic. Kindness equals appreciation equals mutual fondness.
He also knows that when he uses that extra bit of energy, he doesn’t really have, making someone grin (sometimes because he’s being an idiot on purpose), it’s worth it. Because he made someone smile. He likes making people smile.
Stiles is coming to the conclusion that he’ll do most things for the people he loves. Including chewing slugs and, as of recently relevantly, beat someone to a pulp with whatever means necessary. Stiles is surprisingly okay with not being sure about which option is the most gross.
Stiles Stilinski, seventeen, is coming to terms with the realisation that someday soon, he might die protecting someone he loves. He’s simply and irrevocably fine with that, even though the thought is scary as hell, because of course it is.
Stiles considers himself a good person. He could be bad, but he chooses not to be, and that’s his strength – that’s what makes him good.
This is also why he finds himself at least a bit confused when he starts noticing that, well, people don’t really like him that much. It sounds a little self-glorifying, but he’s always figured there had to be someone who’d like him-like him, however first grade it sounds, because he’s actually quite likable, once you get to know him. Sure, Stiles was never popular, always brushed off the rolling eyes of classmates when he tried to flirt, tried to be funny. Stiles is funny as hell, he doesn’t need other people to confirm that.
It isn’t until Derek, Alpha Bitch Extraordinaire, brushes off a daring attempt at clumsy flirting, almost nonchalantly, like Stiles had offered a piece of gum, that something dawns on Stiles that seemed to elude him before, for reasons unknown.
Nobody wants him.
Stiles goes home, in a daze, tries to tell himself that well, it’s Derek, he probably thinks Stiles is screwing around, joking. He hasn’t noticed the looks Stiles finds himself sneaking across dens and rooms more and more often, and that’s fine, that’s totally fine. It’s just a crush. That Derek huffed, flicked Stiles a little too hard in the shoulder and left, is fine. It’s totally, totally fine. Stiles is the king of rejections, he crushed on Lydia freaking Martin for a millennia and a half, no harm done. And Stiles is nice. His mom taught him to be nice, his dad always told him to be a good kid. That he tends to also snark his way through most things is just part of what makes him quirky (a nice word an aunt on his mother’s side used to label him with. They don’t talk anymore).
But maybe he’s doing something wrong that negates his efforts.
Stiles looks himself in the mirror and sees something different than what he’s used to. It’s a surprise, really, because when he’d brushed his teeth that morning, Stiles could swear he wasn’t as flat. As boring. As drawn. His reflection is talking to him like, what, you expect people to like you? Nice doesn’t cut it, man, you have to bring something else, and Stiles can’t reply because he doesn’t know what else to bring. He offers his loyalty and his affection and whatever else he can contribute with, he does, but he’s not sure what else he has when he’s already bared himself for the people he cares about. Stiles opens up, not always on purpose, a completely bared nerve ending, and while it isn’t always willingly, he makes the best of it, and as he tries to take care of other people, he expects them to protect that openly pulsing nerve. You don’t even have to bother hoping for that, though, says his reflection, laughs at him, points to his nose, to his hairline, his arms, because you’re not really that handsome, Stiles, and the world doesn’t like losers, it doesn’t like people with no edge, and you have zero edge to speak of, you’re blunt, you’re round, you’re sandpapered corners and no points.
Stiles likes knowing that he’s nice. He likes the thought that he, with a good conscience, can say that yes, he’s treated someone well today. He lies through his teeth sometimes, to his dad, to teachers, sometimes even to Scott or to Derek, but it’s always with the best intentions. Best intentions aren’t going to get you anywhere though, says the Other Guy, the guy making Stiles self-aware in a new way that isn’t like in the locker rooms where he isn’t the most built.
And the world doesn’t go easy on ugly people. Nobody wants that, and it’s a gesture, Stiles’ form its subject, and it’s like a profanity, something that’s best when spit out like a bad aftertaste. Nobody cares about nice.
Nobody wants you.
Stiles goes to sleep. He gets up, goes to school, goes home, eats a silent dinner with his dad, and goes to bed again. It takes time, re-evaluating your own value, it does.
The next month is categorised by notable events. He does homework with Scott, orders pizza with his dad, much to the Sheriff’s surprise (and slight concern, but Stiles’ brushes it off with a Doctor Who reference and a shit-eating grin), Derek touches his back twice, there’s a pop-quiz in History, he gets a detention and bashes a siren’s head in with an iron bar when she tries luring Derek and Isaac into the lake on the Hale territory one night.
He retches while Erica holds him in a vice grip, saying you did good, damn it, Stiles, you did good, and Stiles considers his priorities when the second thing he can think of besides the dead body lying limply and half-submerged in the water, blood melting into the mud, is if Erica would ever kiss him, if maybe Isaac would, now that Stiles has saved his life and all.
The Other Guy tells him no.
Stiles shakes and cries with horror at what he did, and his mouth tastes like bile and metal and he just wants to go home, he just wants to go home and be alone. He shakes Derek’s hand off because it’s too much and hopes he can blame it on the shock if Derek confronts him about it later.
Nobody wants you.
It becomes a thing. A constant reminder in the back of his head, and while Stiles had previously been pretty okay, actually, with not having a girlfriend, or a boyfriend, or someone who wanted him, the dawning fact that nobody does makes it hard for him to sleep. His dad asks him if he’s okay over veggie lasagne one evening and Stiles says he’s fine, he’s totally fine, he’s just stressed with school is all.
Stiles goes to bed alone and wants to throw up his food because he’s sure that’s what makes him feel so unbelievably heavy, like the mattress is sucking him down, gobbling him up. He sleeps through his alarm the next morning and has to rush to school to make it in time, forgetting all about his Adderall. He gets detention for snapping at a teacher and sits by himself for two hours, shaking. He dodges a call from Derek and a call from Scott and tries not to feel bad about it.
Nobody wants you, says the Other Guy, and Stiles nods to himself, stops smiling at Danny, at the new girl in his English class, because why would they, he doesn’t need them to remind him.
The week after that, the siren’s sister turns up out of the blue, and Stiles almost drowns.
It’s dark and he almost slips when he follows her voice until the water is up to his neck because she wants him, she wants him and he’s lonely, and her calling is like a relief, and this might just be worth drowning for. He punches Boyd in the face when he pulls him out of the water, sputtering and coughing and yelling because he wants to go back, because nobody else wants him, don’t they fucking understand that?
The siren cries and begs while she’s drowning under the weight of an alpha werewolf holding her down to keep her from crooning them all to death, and who knew sirens could drown, oh the irony of it. She was alone without her sister, that’s what she gurgles out between mouthfuls of water, and Stiles’ heart bleeds for her, and he throws up because he killed someone’s sister.
It’s no wonder nobody wants you, whispers the Other Guy when Derek is driving him home, curled up in the backseat of his Jeep, wet and exhausted with Scott’s hand on the back of his head. It’s no wonder, because you’re not doing it right, you’re not doing things right.
Nobody wants you. Derek looks at him through the rear view mirror and Stiles can’t meet his eyes.
Stiles is starting to have trouble considering himself a good person.
It’s not that he doesn’t try. He used to think he did alright. Danny smiles at him sometimes, like he’s a friend, and the girl in his English class asked to pair up with him for a partner-assignment. But Boyd’s been looking at him funny since the second siren and Stiles can’t remember how much he said out loud, hopes that the gentle giant is just uncomfortable about having had to save Stiles from drowning himself. He hopes that no one with a super sensitive nose smelt the total terror humming through him at the thought, that the only one who would ever want him was a mythical creature with a lovely reputation for drowning sailors. He hopes.
Derek doesn’t say anything. That probably gets to Stiles the most. It shouldn’t; it’s not like it’s ever going to matter.
It’s not that he’s a teenager desperate for a first boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s that he’s 99,9% sure that even when he’s fifty, he’s still going to be alone. Nobody wants him. And nobody is going to want him.
Stiles doesn’t stop being nice to people. He still breathes for making someone laugh, longs for the small rush he can still get when he knows someone feels safe around him when shit hits the fan (which is does, continuously, with the pack). The Other Guy is there to remind him that he’s alone, but He can’t take away the evidence when Stiles makes Scott grin like a doofus because of something he said, or Erica’s smile when he gives her a compliment at prom, which he goes to alone. He has that.
He still feels ill, though, when Scott tells him that he’s back with Allison, which everyone saw coming, and Stiles is happy for them, he really honestly is, but it reminds him that he’s probably going to be alone for the rest of his life. And when Scott starts spending time with Allison to catch up what they’ve missed, it’s fine, Stiles says, it’s fine, go, be with your girl, it’s about time, and then he goes home, alone, and passes out after playing video games for five hours.
He wakes up when someone lifts him into bed, not very elegantly, and Stiles groans because his back is sore from being curled up on the floor on a controller, and Isaac pulls the covers up to his chin and crawls back out his window.
At first it’s Isaac. Two nights in a row, he drops by, late, and Stiles is still up both times. Then it’s Erica; she’s a bit less gentle about it, but she does make him go to bed, makes sure he’s, well, Stiles isn’t sure why she’s there, exactly.
The next few weeks are a blur of people crawling in through his window at night and in the mornings, ushering him to bed, maybe playing co-ops with him for a while first, asking how he’s slept, if he’s taken his Adderall, if they can drive to school with him, what’s for breakfast, Isaac, Erica, Isaac, Isaac, Erica, Erica, Boyd, Erica, Isaac and Erica, Boyd, maybe, because Stiles was already mostly asleep by then and whoever it was stayed outside, Isaac three nights in a row, actually spending the night twice, and when Derek finally crawls through his window and sits down in the windowpane at 2 am on a Wednesday, Stiles doesn’t know what to do anymore. Derek’s gaze is leaden and Stiles feels incredibly tired.
Nobody wants you, says the Other Guy, least of all him. He doesn’t care about nice, it’s not good enough, and you still don’t have edge, if anything you’ve gotten rounder, you could fucking roll on a tilted surface by now, so stop hoping.
Stiles lets Derek usher him to bed, thinks about sirens and detentions and Danny’s smile and Harris’ nasty smirk and his last high score in Call Of Duty and the way Derek looks at him like he doesn’t understand Stiles. He rolls onto his side with his back to Derek, who’s reading in one of his books like he doesn’t intend to leave, and thinks about why it’s unfair that people like Derek Hale exist when people like Stiles can’t ever have them.
Nobody wants me, thinks Stiles, and the Other Guy isn’t even the one telling him anymore.
He wants Derek so much he suddenly can’t breathe, and Stiles closes his eyes when he hears the chair creak as Derek gets up and steps closer. He can’t breathe, he can’t fucking breathe, it’s no good, the bed is swallowing him, and then it dips under Derek’s knee behind him and a hand touches Stiles’ back.
It’s like everything in him just stops when Derek quietly lies down and presses the length of his body against Stiles'. Nobody wants me, nobody wants me – did you miss the memo? Derek rests an arm lazily over Stiles’ hip like it’s a totally normal thing to do.
“Calm down,” Derek grumbles, and his stubble rasps against the top of the covers behind Stiles’ head. Stiles bites down hard on his lip and breathes; his panicking body reacts to Derek’s advice like it’s the truth of life. Which is might be. Calm down. Nobody wants you. Calm down.
“It’s not true, you know,” Derek says, and he doesn’t know he’s interrupting because Stiles didn’t actually say anything. His arm is heavy.
“What?” asks Stiles. The Other Guy is surprisingly quiet and it’s making Stiles uneasy.
“That nobody wants you.”
“You don’t know that,” Stiles whispers and breathes, because Derek told him to. It becomes very, very hard for a second when Derek’s arm tightens around him and his mouth presses against the back of Stiles’ head.
“I kind of do, yeah. I’m sorry it took so long.”
Stiles presses back against Derek and hopes the werewolf can’t smell how scared he is. He curls his fingers around Derek’s wrist and waits for him to discover he’s wrong, and pull away.