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A Suitable Gift

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"You are afraid he will leave you," the Queen said, all luminous curiosity and delicate bones.  

Stiles’ breath stuttered, his scattered world folding into the single point of her clarion voice.  

"I will give you a gift," she smiled, sharp, white and gleaming, "suitable to your desire. Something to tie your mortal lives as one."

 

 

***

 

 


You’ve reached the personal phone of Sheriff John Stilinski. If you have an emergency please hang up and call 911. If not, please leave your name, your number and your reason for calling. I will return your call as soon as possible. 

Beeeeep.

"Hi Dad. Uh, this is Stiles. But I guess that was obvious. I mean, who else calls you ‘Dad’? Unless you’ve got a secret family you’re not telling me about. I just - 

"You’ve probably noticed I’m gone by now. You should really listen to your messages on this phone more often. I know things haven’t been good between us, for a long time. And, that’s on me. That’s my fault. But this? This isn’t your fault. I’m not leaving because of anything you’ve done. Or didn’t do. You need to know that. This isn’t because of you.

"Um, this is probably going to sound weird to you right now, but I know you’re going to do some investigating, and when it comes up; this isn’t Derek’s fault either. That’s important. This isn’t Derek’s fault. 

"I just, I have responsibilities now. Responsibilities I can’t just ignore. God, there’s so much I can’t tell you. I want to. You have no idea how much I’ve wanted to just tell you. But they’re not my secrets. They’re not my secrets and I can’t

 

Message limit will be reached in ten seconds.

 

"Shit. Shit, okay. I’m sorry, Dad. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry I’m not a better son, I’m sorry I’m leaving you alone. I’m sorry. I love you. I’m sor-"

Message ended.

 

 

***

 

 

Stiles bought the peppermint oil first.

He went into the one, small new-agey book store in Beacon Hills where, alongside the most truly awful collection of spell books Stiles had ever had the misfortune to flip through, they sold incense and dream-catchers with multi-colored crystals carefully knotted into them, vegan lotions and, more relevant to Stiles’ interests, essential oils. 

He paid the dreadlocked cashier and thanked all the marijuana gods that he didn’t have to answer any awkward questions about why he needed twelve bottles of concentrated peppermint. 

Two days after that, he slipped the one and only credit card from his dad’s wallet and drew five thousand dollars against it. Previous reconnaissance lead Stiles to an ATM two towns over with a broken security camera. He parked six blocks away and walked casually up to it a few minutes after noon. Stiles stowed the cash in the bottom of his backpack and cut the card into the smallest pieces he could manage before tossing them in a dumpster.  

The guilt for that nearly broke him. They weren't wealthy. But they weren't poor, either; a five thousand dollar debt could probably be shouldered without too much difficulty. Stiles needed the money. The plan wouldn’t work without the money. Still, he almost caved; almost called his dad and told him everything. All the secrets he’d been keeping. It was a long drive home.

That evening, while Stiles was biting his tongue and dodging concerned glances, the credit card company alerted his dad to suspicious activity on his account. Mr. Stilinski checked his wallet, confirmed his card was missing, and, through carefully applied use of the Sheriff Voice, convinced the customer service representative to release him from the clearly fraudulent charges. 

Stiles felt some of the guilt fall from his shoulders as his dad hung up and ran a tired hand through his hair. 

Two weeks after the credit card, Stiles did all the laundry, even the backed up piles that hadn’t been touched in years. He cleaned the house from the attic down and stocked the cupboards and the fridge with the healthiest food he thought his dad would actually eat without Stiles there to nag him. He packed the most nondescript clothing he owned into a hiker’s pack that had been sitting, forgotten, at the back of a closet.

Last, Stiles took the picture beside the bed from its frame. His mom smiled up at him, a smaller Stiles held on her lap, as his dad lounged beside them on the grass, bursting with pride as sunlight poured over his family. Stiles folded the photograph carefully and tucked it into his wallet. 

He didn’t leave a note.

 

 

***

 

 

The jeep was the hardest. He washed her, carefully detailed every inch, then left her twenty miles north of Beacon Hills, keys in the glove box. He caught a ride south with a family from Oregon who had thought road-tripping to Disneyland with a toddler was a good idea. Stiles got the vibe that they'd picked him up as a desperate distraction and were a little sad to see him climb out of their mini van on the other side of town at the bus station. He forgot his phone and its GPS locator in their van, shoved under the seat. They would probably make it out of town before he did.

The Beacon Hill bus station didn't see a lot of traffic, definitely not enough to effectively confuse a scent trail. At the door, Stiles twisted the cap from the bottle of peppermint oil in his pocket and poured it out  as discreetly as possible. It wasn't very. But the transient lounging on the bench was too busy having a conversation with the air and the security guard simply didn't seem to care. Hat pulled down low, Stiles bought a ticket to the first bus leaving, paid in cash, and spent the hour he still had to wait further spreading peppermint oil around the station. He wandered outside and marked every bus he could and just before leaving he went into the restroom and doused himself with the stuff. The smell was sharp and astringent, enough to make his eyes water. 

He settled into the only open seat on a bus up from San Francisco, smushed up next to a girl with a septum piercing and an orchid tattooed behind her ear. He recognized the tinny music leaking from her headphones as she offered him a not unfriendly smirk. Stiles slunk lower in his seat and didn't make conversation.

The bus pulled out without the blaring of sirens or snarls. Stiles didn't feel relieved, exactly. He had expected a panic attack, sudden fear and awkward explanations to strangers. Instead, his heart beat steady in his chest, and his breath came slow and even. If he looked at it the right way, this was almost like a vacation. Almost. A heavy weight settled across his back, but he bore up and found himself able to shoulder it.

Stiles shuddered. If this wasn't his breaking point, he was afraid of what was.