The sun is too bright, and feeds the sharp ache in his head…
Stiles opens his eyes, barely, closes them again and drifts back to sleep.
He’s rubbing his finger with his thumb, again, only vaguely aware of the skin becoming red and raw…
Stiles turns, burrows deeper under his blanket, curling in on himself.
The sun is dim, barely illuminating the woods around him. A strange shiver courses through his body. He tightens his grip on the steering wheel ‘til his knuckles are white…
Stiles wakes up, his hands aching, and realizes that he was actually clenching his hands. The pale moonlight is just enough to reveal the crescent marks his fingernails have dug into his skin. Weird. He’s never reacted to a dream like this before. Talked, sure. Had entire conversation, in fact, because even sleep will not shut up Stiles Stilinski. But moving along with the story is something new. He shrugs it off and climbs out of bed to use the bathroom.
He’s already had six hours of sleep but he feels exhausted. When he’s back in bed and nuzzling his pillow, he tries to remember his dream but can’t. And there are no more dreams, that night or the next.
- - -
The sun is too bright, and glints off the metal at his side…
Stiles mumbles, frowning slightly, but he doesn’t wake up.
He’s rubbing his finger with his thumb, caressing the black line…
The muscles in Stiles’ neck strain as he clenches his jaw, grinds his teeth, tries to shake his head.
The woods are familiar now, but he feels nothing, thinks nothing. His grip is tight, his body trembles, but all he does is stare at the road ahead and try to focus, focus, focus…
“I-- !” The rest of the sentence is lost, but the panic, and something bitter, is still swirling in his mind and on his tongue. Stiles sits up and takes a moment to take in his surroundings. He reassures himself that this is his room, his home -his eyes twitch- and that he is alone.
He is also unbelievably sore.
“What the hell?” he whines, rubbing his arms absently. He wasn’t tense when he fell asleep, he didn’t have a nightmare. Why did he feel like he had run a marathon?
The blanket is pooled in his lap and his exposed skin reacts to the cool air with shivers that are almost convulsive. And the thought of shivering leads to nausea.
“No,” he says firmly, to absolutely no one. “Nope. Not getting sick, I do not have the freaking time.” Instead of hiding under the warm covers and sleeping for ten hours like he wants, Stiles gets up and walks resolutely to the bathroom, drinks some water and downs a couple of vitamins from the bottle he barely remembers buying, like, a year ago, and walks back to bed, managing to trip twice on assorted books and clothes that litter his floor.
He does not dream.
- - -
Stiles doesn’t dream for a week. Not that he notices. He’s too busy with school, random crappy weather, and a very cranky siren that nearly drowns them all.
There’s a lot to distract him.
When the siren is finally dead, they congregate at the train depot to check wounds. Everyone’s fine, so everyone leaves, mostly for Friday night dates, and soon it’s just Stiles and Derek. And there isn’t even the uncomfortable silence between them anymore, so that’s progress, and Stiles is hoping that maybe…
But Stiles smiles too brightly, practically demented, and opens his mouth to suggest a movie night, and Derek just raises an eyebrow and walks away.
So. That’s a no, then.
He drives home and binges on ice cream and Call of Duty and considers ways to expand his pathetic social life. He tries not to focus on his bad mood, but the thunder outside feels appropriate.
- - -
The sun is too bright…
Stiles is shaking.
He’s rubbing his finger…
His lips are bloody from stressful bites.
The sun is too bright, and his tattoo does not soothe him, and it was always going to end like this, really, this is okay, this is right, there is nothing and no one and soon his drive will end his journey is over thisisn’treal please oh god anything tobringthemback want need sofuckingtired…
Soon…. Rest soon. Will be done.
Enough. It’s enough now.
He wakes with a start, wants to scream, really wants to scream, just get it out, but there’s nothing in him really. Just tired limbs and dry eyes.
“Stiles?” His dad is knocking at the door.
He clears his throat. “Yeah?”
The sheriff opens the door and sticks his head in. “I just got called in. I’ll probably be gone all day. See you at dinner?”
He thinks, Sweet holy god, don’t leave me. He nods and says, “Yeah. Stay safe.”
His dad smiles and closes the door.
Stiles isn’t sure what feels so off. He slept all night and should feel rested. He thought he was getting a cold or something last week but nothing came of it. He considers his weak muscles and clammy skin and wonders if maybe his mystery cold is back.
Sleep, he decides. Plenty of rest and water and probably-expired vitamins once he has the energy to move.
- - -
Monday afternoon he’s at his locker when Scott appears, Allison-free, and really gets a look at him.
“You look awful.”
“Thanks man, love you too.”
Scott frowns and tilts his head, looking particularly puppy-like. “Are you sick?”
“Maybe? I have no idea. It comes and goes. I am freaking exhausted.”
“You look it.”
“Again, thanks.” He manages a ‘no worries’ grin, and calmly considers telling Scott something awful. It’s on the tip of his tongue, terrifying and unfair and nameless, but he has no idea what it is. He blinks, continues grinning, and heads toward Chemistry, basking in the increasingly rare attention of his best friend.
- - -
The siren had sisters. They are all pissed.
Stiles blames himself. Not enough research, not enough proactive thinking. He figures the pack blames him, too, based on their cranky attitude. Everyone is wet and tired and furious, and even though they can heal and he can’t, his friends are too busy with their bruised egos to consider his actual bruises.
Stiles is brilliant. Stiles is resourceful. Stiles has saved their collective ass more than anyone else. Stiles has to remind himself of these facts, over and over, as he stomps out of the train depot and gets into his jeep, slamming the door shut with satisfaction.
As he drives off, he sees Derek in his rearview mirror, standing at the doorway with an unreadable expression.
- - -
Stiles doesn’t dream, because Stiles doesn’t sleep. The police station is short-staffed, so his dad isn’t there to say anything as Stiles eats junk, plays video games, spends hours online, and half-heartedly pokes at the growing mess on his floor.
He ignores texts and phone calls from everyone but his dad. He keeps the doors and windows locked and all the curtains pulled, nearly puts a ‘Fuck Off’ sign in his bedroom window for certain door-impaired werewolves.
Stiles doesn’t sleep, doesn’t want to sleep, sometimes fills with panic at the thought. Keeps thinking aversive thoughts.
Stiles thinks that it’s just school and stress and ungrateful friends, while a small voice reminds him that one day they won’t need him at all, and what the fuck then?
Stiles doesn’t sleep, and he’s beyond exhausted, but he’s also buzzing with nervous energy, wants to run for miles, almost changes into sweats to do so before the idea of leaving the house makes him run to the kitchen sink to vomit. Instead he vacuums the living room, takes a shower and jerks off twice, cleans the kitchen floor, and rearranges his DVD collection.
By Monday morning, he’s curled up on the couch, mentally calculating when he last took his Adderall and constantly losing his way because math is hard and thinking is hard and he has never been this fucking drained in his life.
His dad comes down for breakfast and seems startled and concerned at the sight of Stiles.
Stiles is prepared to list his symptoms, and the boring classes he can afford to miss, and something sharp and hard and very similar to something he once almost told Scott only that was ages ago wasn’t it? All he can manage is, “I’m sick.”
His dad agrees and tells him to stay home, and brings a water bottle and some aspirin before hurrying out the door.
Stiles considers the water, something cool to calm his stomach sounds nice, but it also reminds him of wet and slick and warm and sticking to his fingers and the smell of… So, no, definitely no water. And he refuses to chew an aspirin.
Instead he climbs upstairs with weak muscles, gets into bed and rests his heavy head, and aims evil thoughts at the virus ravaging his system.
Christ, his head. It hadn’t hurt so much before. And the warm morning sunlight feels nice on his skin but it’s bright, it’s seeping through his eyelids and stabbing at his brain, and the sunlight isn’t warm anymore, it’s hot, too hot, burning the back of his neck where the light shouldn’t even reach and his head is splitting and the sun is so bright, it’s too bright…
The sun is too bright. Makes it hard to focus. Makes it too easy to focus. Makes his eyes tighten and his head pound. He hasn’t slept in days and he’s lost too much blood. He knows that this should matter.
Nothing matters, really.
He reaches over for the gun on the passenger seat, touches the sun-baked metal just long enough to reassure himself that it’s still there, then settles his hand back on the steering wheel. The thick black line tattooed around his ring finger catches his eye, he stares for too long. Keeps staring. Has to keep reminding himself to focus on the road. He’s too close to mess it up now. It’s almost done.
His hands clench from sharp, miserable thoughts, and, without thinking, his thumb begins to rub his finger, needing the comfort, needing the reminder, needing to touch something, anything, and this is the only thing that’s real.
In a shallow grave in Oregon is Derek Hale, and on his ring finger is an identical tattoo.
He’s cold, his body is trembling. His neck is hot, burnt from driving in the summer sun, but the torn flesh on his thighs and abdomen is still losing blood, draining his warmth. He just needs a little more time.
The sun is dimming, it’s almost dusk, he’s barely aware of the time that has passed. His finger is red and raw and sore, and honestly it’s the only pain that he’s really aware of. He gazes at his tattoo, hardly notices the road, he knows this part by heart, struggles between memories of blood and guns and screams, and other, older memories, happier times in these woods.
He slumps in his seat, relieved and exhausted, stares out at the burnt ruins of the Hale house and stumbles out of his SUV.
The gun is in his hand, his fingers trembling from the weight, and his feet drag beneath him.
He finds a familiar corner, and lets himself fall, sliding down the crumbling wall. He looks around and only sees what isn’t there, feels his lips tremble for the first time in years, wants to block out the memories but is desperate to keep them close.
He’s so tired.
He stares up at the night sky, tries to focus on stars but can’t. Listens instead to the sounds of the nighttime forest and finds a little comfort in it.
He’s only 36 but his body is done, has used enough energy for a hundred years. And it’s okay.
There’s no one else. There’s nothing else. And he will choose his own ending. And his ending is this.
And it’s okay. It’s enough now. He’s done enough.
Without thought or hesitation, staring at the stars, Stiles aims the gun at his head and pulls the trigger.
- - -
Stiles is still sore. Everywhere. His muscles ache, his temples throb, his throat is weak from screaming. He remembers now, remembers every fragment of dream from the past few weeks. He remembers things he shouldn’t, things he hadn’t even dreamt, he remembers--
He grasps the toilet lid and retches.
- - -
He stares at his phone. Dares himself to call someone. Tell his dad he’s sicker than he thought. Tell Scott what’s really happening. Tell Derek that there is a serious fucking problem. Tell someone, anyone, that he needs help, that he wants help.
And say what, exactly?
Because he’s trying, he truly is. To make sense of everything. To find an explanation. To at least assemble the information in his head into something coherent. Nothing works.
The dreams are… They’re something. There’s a word, on the tip of his tongue, like everything else is lately, one word that explains everything, but he can’t manage it. He doesn’t understand how painfully real the dreams had felt, how he can know details and facts as if they were memories.
- - -
He doesn’t sleep much that night. His dad takes one look at him the next morning and calls the school for another sick day. Mostly Stiles naps, tries not to think about the things he now knows, and feels true gratitude every time he wakes up like a normal person.
Maybe if he ignores it. Catches up on his sleep, one nap at a time, gets back to school and lacrosse and the pack.
His brain is so scrambled at this point, maybe everything he knows will just float away.
There’s a knock on his door and he rouses himself enough to glance at his phone. 6:48pm.
Scott appears, Isaac right behind him, and they’re carrying pillows and pizza boxes. They have matching grins and Stiles tries to ignore the pang of jealousy at the time they’re spending together these days.
“Hey,” he says uncertainly as Scott unceremoniously dumps his stuff on the floor and claims a spot on the bed. Isaac does the same.
“Feeling better?” Scott asks.
“A little. Probably be back at school on Thursday or Friday.” Isaac begins nudging Stiles’ feet around until he’s comfortable. “What-- Did we have plans? I feel like we have plans, and no one told me.” Isaac gives Scott an uncertain look, and Scott in turn looks a little guilty but keeps smiling.
“You’ve been quiet lately.” Stiles raises an eyebrow at that. Probably the first time that sentence has been said to him. “And, well, you ignored our calls so we weren’t sure…”
“Should we go?” Isaac asks quietly. Any closer and he would actually be laying across Stiles’ feet. These guys make the dog jokes too easy, really.
Stiles opens his mouth, isn’t sure what he’ll even say, when he’s interrupted by the arrival of Lydia and ice cream. And judgment. “Your bedroom is a sty,” she announces as she walks in. She flops her pillow on the bed and shoos Scott closer to Stiles. “No way am I sleeping on that floor.”
“You’re staying?” They’re having a mass co-ed sleepover on a school night, complete with junk food, and his dad is downstairs not saying a word. Stiles must look worse than he thought.
An hour later, he’s crammed onto his bed with Scott, Isaac, Lydia, Boyd and Erica, wondering how the hell they’re all going to sleep like this and not really caring because it’s so comfortable and warm and safe. Everyone’s watching some crappy action movie on Netflix and Stiles is blissfully unaware of anything other than the people surrounding him.
Feeling brave, he pulls his phone out and texts Derek. Next time, you can pick the movie.
He isn’t expecting a response, really, because Derek and communication don’t get along, but he gets a reply almost immediately. Just go to sleep. You look like hell. Startled, Stiles eyes the window with suspicion and doesn’t hid his grin.
Late that night, when everyone is indeed crammed onto his bed and most of them are snoring, Scott pokes Stiles to see if he’s awake.
“Well I am now.”
“Sorry.” Scott eyes him uncertainly, and Stiles wants to squirm under the scrutiny. Seriously, he had been sleeping. Minus terrible dreams. He did not need concerned looks right now.
“I’m okay,” he reassures, his eyes already closing.
“Are you?” Stiles realizes the room is a little quieter, and he wonders how many werewolf ears are aimed at them. “You don’t seem sick. You just seem tired. And sad.”
Stiles sighs, awful images reappearing in his mind, and squeezes his eyes shut to block them out. “I really am fine.” It isn’t working, in fact the memories are getting more graphic. Perfect. “I was feeling left out,” he admits, just to say something honest. “But I’m over it.” He forces a grin. “And tonight helped. A lot. Really.”
Scott’s smile is bright and relieved. He squirms a little to get comfortable and starts to fall asleep. “You can talk to me,” he offers sleepily, almost as an afterthought.
I really can’t, Stiles almost says. I can’t seem to say it, and even if I could…
I know things now.
I know about a poison that drives werewolves insane. I know how that madness will spread.
I know what we would do to protect each other, and to protect others from ourselves.
I know what your face is like when you die, and what your last words will be.
I know because I’m the one that kills you all.