When Stiles’ mother dies, he makes his father shave his head and he tells Scott that he has lice. Scott makes a face and Stiles’ dad looks really confused when Ms. McCall doesn’t let Scott hug Stiles at the funeral.
He tells his teacher that he doesn’t have his homework because his father had accidentally thrown it out, when actually Stiles just doesn’t feel like copying out words five times over when he already knows them. His teacher lets him off “just this once”.
He tells the playground monitor that he’d tripped and smacked into the jungle gym, even though Jackson had pushed him and then laughed. The playground monitor sends him to the school nurse and goes to yell at Lydia and Ben, who have tied several jump ropes together with apparent nefarious intent.
He tells his father that he’ll be late today because there’s an assembly after school.
“No, there isn’t,” his father says. “Nice try, Stiles.”
And Stiles feels something inside of him soften. Still.
It doesn’t stop. He can’t stop.
He manages to stop lying to everyone else, but only because it’s so goddamn frustrating when they don’t realize that he’s lying his ass off with almost every word he speaks, and he gets tired of being angry all the time, but he can’t stop lying to his father.
Little lies. Stupid lies. Obvious lies. Any lie-opportunity that presents itself and Stiles is all over it like he’d be all over Lydia if she wouldn’t mace his ass into the ground a second later.
Because his father always knows, always calls him out on it, and Stiles latches on to this when all other signs of affection dry up after his mother’s death.
(Stiles doesn’t blame his father. He wouldn’t want to hug the kid who’d killed the love of his life, either.)
Stiles pounds down the stairs, jamming his arms into the sleeves of his hoodie as he goes. He's humming I'm on a Boat under his breath, and has imminent plans to pull the song up on his iPod as soon as he's down the street on his bike—because everyone knows that there is nothing more dangerous than wearing headphones while biking. Never mind the fact that Stiles hasn't worn a helmet in years.
"Headed out?" his father asks, as Stiles hits the first floor.
"Yep," Stiles replies. "Going to hang with Scott. I'll be home for dinner."
Stiles strides across the living room and is almost to the front door when his father says, "Stiles," in that tone of voice.
"I thought you and Scott weren't speaking?" his father asks, raising an eyebrow.
"Oh," says Stiles. "Uh. Right. We're getting together to, you know, try to make up. And have manly bro hugs and fist-bumps afterwards! Always with the hugs and fist-bumps."
"You're admitting you were wrong?"
"I'm not wrong!" Stiles insists automatically, the rant spilling from his lips exactly as it has the last three times he's delivered it to his father. "Just because his doctor won't give him permission to try out for JV this year doesn't mean that I—"
"Yeah, I can see you're really ready to make up," his father says dryly. "Where are you really off to?"
"Downtown," Stiles answers.
Stiles shrugs, and doesn't answer.
His father's gaze does not let up in the slightest.
"Gas station burritos," Stiles finally mumbles.
His father sighs, somewhere between disappointed and exasperated. “And you couldn’t just tell me that?”
Stiles shrugs again, ignoring the guilt that reflexively rises up in him.
“No more than two,” his father says heavily, after an extended pause. “We've still got leftovers from the station cookout, and I'm not letting them go to waste."
Instantly, Stiles grins, brightening. "Thanks, Dad!"
He slips on his shoes and heads out to the garage for his bike with a warm, secure feeling in his chest that battles against the cold misery that has come from his fight with Scott.
Somewhere, in a dark and unpleasant corner of his brain, Stiles knows that it’s not that his father won’t hug him. It’s that Stiles won’t let himself be hugged, and the lies serve to distance and tether his father in a balanced manner that keeps him exactly far away enough.
Then Stiles is sixteen, and suddenly, the lies aren’t so little. Suddenly, there’s another endgame and it’s more important than Stiles’ relationship with his father.
Stiles tells himself that the first time it happens will be the worst.
"Where were you really?" his father asks, raising an eyebrow at Stiles' initial lie.
"Scott's house," Stiles repeats.
Scott who's a werewolf. A werewolf.
Stiles bites his lip and forces himself to look his father in the eye. His heart is picking up and he fights to keep his breathing even. He can't give in. His father is the sheriff, and before that he was a police officer. His father knows how to interrogate. Stiles cannot panic.
"I was at Scott's house," Stiles says, carefully calm. "You can call Scott and ask."
"And if I called Melissa instead?"
"She was working last night," Stiles says quickly, and he lights on the idea. "Scott's not really supposed to have people over past eleven on a school night, but—his father called, and he didn't want to be alone. He didn't want to tell his mom and make her feel guilty."
His father studies him for a moment, but then he shakes his head. "Stiles, you're still lying."
"I'm not!" Stiles insists, trying to pass his anxiety off as anger but not quite managing it.
He hates this. He hates this so much.
His father looks taken aback by Stiles' tone, clearly confused as to why Stiles isn’t telling him where he really was. Stiles always does. It’s the way they do things.
"I have to go," Stiles says, turning abruptly and heading for the door. He feels sick. "I'll see you later."
"Stiles! Stiles, this discussion isn't over!"
Stiles is halfway down the street before his hands stop shaking.
The first time is worst.
That's what Stiles tells himself, until he has to do it again and he discovers that no, the second time is actually the worst.
Then it's the third, then the fourth, then the fifth. (Though the actual worst was the time immediately after his father was no longer the sheriff and it was all Stiles’ fault. He doesn’t know what time that was. He’d stopped counting by then.)
But none of it compares to what it's like, months later, when Stiles says, "Going out to the movies with Scott," when he really means that he's going to track down Derek and give him a piece of his mind.
He's almost to the door when he realizes what's missing.
"Dad?" Stiles asks, turning around to check on his father.
"Go," his father says, not looking up from his newspaper. "I'll see you when you get home."
Stiles' mouth opens, but he holds in the protest at the last second. His world has spun to a screeching halt, and it's wrong, it's wrong.
His father looks up from his paper now, raising his eyebrows at Stiles as if to say This is all your fault, and you know it.
"Thanks," Stiles chokes out, and he stumbles out to his car with a sharp throbbing in his chest.
Because yes, it is his fault. It's always been his fault.
He lies more. He lies obviously, terribly, unnecessarily.
Scott’s a werewolf and Allison’s family are a bunch of batshit murderers with a supernatural agenda and Derek Hale made a pack of dysfunctional teenage werewolves and I think I’ve sort of become Giles except less badass and minus a dark, homosexual past.
But his father isn’t asking anymore.
Stiles wakes to the sound of a scream, and the feeling of utter terror racing through his veins.
It’s his own scream.
He scrambles, claws, contorts, trying to get free of his bindings without even knowing where he is—he knows it’s bad, and he’s terrified, and he needs to escape. Something is pawing at him, trying to hold him down, and he lets out another scream without even thinking as his body snaps against the unseen enemy, but he’s weak, his body won’t move right, he’s trapped, he can’t—he can’t—
“Stiles, it’s okay, you’re okay,” the voice is saying, calming and firm, and—
He knows that voice.
Heart pounding, Stiles tries to vocalize but it only comes out as a long, low cry without syllables or inflection.
“It’s okay,” the voice says again, and Stiles feels a hand running up and down his back soothingly.
“Dad,” Stiles breathes, the concept—the solid, warm entity of his father—slamming into his mind like the world righting, and latches on to his father furiously, gripping at the front of his shirt with both hands. Frantically, Stiles tries to see, but it’s so dark and he just can’t. “Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad…”
“Stiles?” his father says, after a slight pause. “Are—are you awake?”
Stiles unleashes a sob and before he can even think about it, he’s blubbering into his father’s chest. He feels his father stiffen in surprise, but there are arms encircling him almost immediately, and a soft, soothing voice, shushing him and murmuring comforting words in his ear soon after.
It ends almost as quickly as it came on, leaving Stiles light-headed and drained, and also a little confused.
“Stiles?” his father asks again.
“W-what happened?” Stiles rasps unevenly, pushing himself away. “I—I don’t—”
“Night terrors,” his father says gently, rubbing Stiles’ arm. “You had one last week, and this is the second this week.”
Fuck. He hasn’t had night terrors since… since a few weeks before his last panic attack.
“I’m not supposed to get night terrors at age sixteen,” Stiles says, suddenly desperate. “I’m, like, solidly in the bracket of should-not-have-night-terrors, otherwise known as ages eight to nineteen, I—fuck—fuck, sorry, language—you can go back to bed, I’m sorry, I’m really sorry.”
“You were in the should-not-have-night-terrors bracket last time you had them, too,” his father reminds him patiently.
“But I shouldn’t—”
—be so weak, wake you up at night, make you worry, feel relieved that you’re here to comfort me because it means that you still love me somehow
His father draws him in for a hug, strong and tight.
“I’m sorry,” Stiles says hoarsely.
His throat burns.
“It might help to talk about it,” his father suggests, voice oh-so-quiet.
“No,” Stiles says reflexively, immediately, like blinking only fatal, and he feels his father tense against him.
All Stiles can feel is disappointment and guilt and the remnants of his terror, and he feels like crying, but this time not into his father’s chest. He doesn’t deserve that.
He pulls back from the hug.
“I’ll be fine,” Stiles says, without looking at his father. “Thanks. Night.”
He only dares to look up when his father is halfway across the room, and as the light from the hallway catches his father’s face, Stiles thinks he sees dried tear tracks. But, no, that was obviously a trick of the light. Obviously.
The next morning, Scott begs to copy his homework.
Stiles feels a rush of fury and exhaustion like a wave of fire, and before he even knows it, he’s saying, “Sorry, I turned it in early, man. Maybe Allison’s still got it?”
“Oh,” says Scott, looking disappointed. “Crap. Maybe. I’ll text her—thanks anyway, man.”
“Yeah,” Stiles says as he struggles to stay calm in the face of the burning in his chest. “I’ve gotta go. See you later.”
He takes off down the hallway, seething, because Scott is not only his best friend but also a werewolf. He’s got super-senses. He should know when Stiles is lying.
Stiles lies to Lydia, who’s supposed to be a fucking genius. He lies to the school counselor, who’s supposed to be trained for this sort of shit. He lies to Isaac and Erica—
“I don’t know, I don’t know!” he shrieks, high and broken for the forearm crushing his throat.
They’re looking for lies. They’re fucking werewolves and they’re looking for him to be lying, and they just—
They drop Stiles down to the ground and turn away, leaving him to gasp for air in a pile of shaking limbs, alone.
He lies and lies and lies, until he feels sick with it, until he wants every word spilling out of his mouth to be a lie because maybe then it’ll be obvious enough for someone to finally say something. He thinks he’s still having night terrors, judging by the mornings when he comes down and his father looks positively haggard, but his father doesn’t say anything and Stiles doesn’t ask.
He thinks maybe everyone knows he’s lying all the time, and the reason they don’t call him out on it is because they just don’t care anymore.
Then, he tries to lie to Derek.
“Seriously, dude, you think I wanted to hang around with Scott and Allison making moon eyes at each other? Ugh. It’s like when you walk past a dog stuck in a parked car, and it gives you the eyes of sadness. Or when you go to Deaton’s and all the dogs in the kennels start howling when you walk pa—”
“You’re lying,” Derek says flatly.
Stiles stutters to a halt, as it takes a second for Derek’s words to register.
“You’re lying,” Derek all but growls, advancing forward threateningly, but Stiles doesn’t even register it. He’s forgotten all about the alpha pack and what he and Scott did last night and the fact that Derek might actually rip his throat out if he doesn’t get what he wants.
“I’m lying,” Stiles repeats breathlessly, staring at Derek as the rest of the world patches in and out.
Derek had known he was lying. He’d called him out on it.
“Yes, idiot,” Derek snaps. “Did you forget that you’re talking to a werewolf?”
Not happy laughter. Joker-style laughter. It starts off under control but within a matter of seconds it’s like Stiles has been hit with an entire canister of Joker Gas and he can’t stop. He can’t breathe. The world is still coming to him in patches. He feels dizzy, disconnected, and somewhere in his brain the words panic attack are pinging an alarm.
If only Derek knew. Stiles is the master at lying to werewolves.
Choking, he fights down his next bark of laughter and presses his hands into his face, fighting to win the battle for his lungs. He will not have a panic attack, not now, not in front of Derek, not over something as stupid as Derek catching him in a lie, but—
He fights down the next laugh and nearly falls over at the wave of dizziness that sweeps over him. He hiccoughs, sucks in a huge breath, and then he has to fight down a sob. His lungs ache. He’s trembling, his heart is racing, and he’s breathing quick and shallow through his mouth, but he is holding this at bay.
Slowly, he lowers his hands from his face and stares at the ground for a few seconds, until he finally looks up.
“I’m lying,” he breathes again, and this time a smile breaks out across his face. “You know when I’m lying.”
Derek is frozen, looking confused and alarmed and annoyed all at once.
Stiles can’t help it. Also, he isn’t exactly in his right frame of mind at the moment, considering he’s just staved off a panic attack or something like it.
He hugs Derek.
Derek goes rigid and it’s like hugging a statue, but Stiles doesn’t care. You’re lying has always meant I notice and I care and I love you, and right now Stiles is light-headed and happy. He wants to hug.
When he finally draws back, Derek has lost ‘confused’ and ‘annoyed’, and now just looks alarmed.
“You rock,” Stiles tells him emphatically, and then he turns around and walks to his Jeep on shaky legs.
The following day, Stiles is coming out of school when Derek pulls up in his stupid badass Camaro, window rolled down.
“Get in,” he says.
“Loser, we’re going shopping?” Stiles asks.
Derek stares, either not getting the reference or blatantly ignoring it.
“Dude, I’ve got my own car.”
“You won’t for much longer, if you don’t get in here,” Derek says with his asshole grin, the one that means he’s really happy because he’s envisioning the pain on your face when he executes whatever threat he’s made in the next twenty seconds.
Stiles gets in the car.
Derek peels out, speeding past just before the start of the daily traffic jam of students all trying to leaving the parking lot at once. They leave the city and start down a winding road through the woods in the space of five minutes.
“Dude,” Stiles says, “if you’re gonna kill me and bury my body, you’ll want to do it in a low-lying area. Higher elevation has drier soil and more rocks, and it’ll be harder to dig. Also, I’ll decompose less quickly.”
“I watched you today,” Derek says.
“Not helping your case!” Stiles yelps, his heart rate speeding up as he thinks of why Derek would have been watching.
“You lied all day long,” Derek says. “I counted at least twenty lies, and that was only when I was close enough to hear your heartbeat.”
“So, as far as I know, you’re not a compulsive liar,” Derek says irritably. He takes a curve rather sharply, and Stiles grips the oh-shit handle silently. “This is a recent thing. Why?”
“Maybe the better question is, why are all of your little wolf-cubs failing to notice that I’m lying all the time?” Stiles shoots back.
“That’s not your concern.”
“Okay, let’s try another question, then: why do you care if I’m lying? It doesn’t affect you, your Werewolf Lie Sensors are obviously all online. What does it matter if I tell Lydia that the cafeteria just put out a fresh batch of peanut butter cookies when they’ve actually just run out?”
Derek’s face twitches. “You almost had a breakdown yesterday.”
Stiles scowls. “Okay, first of all, that was not almost a breakdown, it was almost a panic attack, and they’re two very different things. Second of all, that still doesn’t answer the question of why you even care.”
“Because you—shouldn’t do that,” Derek says stiltedly.
“Excuse me?” Stiles demands, twisting in his seat to fully glare at Derek. “I know you were freaked out yesterday, but I’m not going to fucking apologize. Not all of us go into anaphylactic shock when faced with the prospect of feeling things, you know.”
“That wasn’t—” Derek interrupts, and then he stops himself and shakes his head angrily, his fingers working on the steering wheel. “I didn’t mean that.”
“What did you mean?”
“You didn’t used to lie before,” Derek says, practically through gritted teeth. “And you’re upset. You reek of misery and stress. I want to help.”
“Try to look less like you’re having a root canal as you’re saying that, and I might believe you,” Stiles replies, even as his heart starts to pound.
Because Derek can apparently smell his emotions, that’s apparently a werewolf thing, so why the hell hasn’t Scott—
“I want to help,” Derek repeats, in the same way that one might say I want you to kick me in the nuts.
“It’s just a thing that I do, okay?” Stiles says. He’s trying for casual but he ends up with edgy. “Sometimes I lie when I get stressed out, ever since my mom died. It’s not a big deal.”
“You’re lying,” Derek says.
“No, I’m really not.”
“Not outright,” Derek concedes. “But you’re twisting truths and avoiding the real answer. I can tell.”
“Yeah, well, the real answer isn’t any of your business,” Stiles mutters.
“…You like it.”
Stiles’ heart just about stops.
“What?” he practically squeaks. His heart is going rabbit-fast. “Like what?”
“You like it when I call you out on lying,” Derek says slowly. He’s easing off the gas as he speaks, and he turns his head to stare at Stiles with critical eyes.
“What? No I don’t,” Stiles says immediately. “That’s insane. Seriously, how fucked up would I have to be for that to be true?”
“You’re lying,” Derek tells him, with a pleased little grin.
Stiles buries his head in his hands. “Whatever.”
“Look, it’s—” Stiles jerks his head up, inhaling and staring at the dash in front of him. “My dad usually calls me out on it.”
Stiles doesn’t respond, exes fixed on the dash.
Derek makes a small humming noise, and then without any warning at all he slams on the breaks and does a one-eighty right in the middle of the road, while Stiles is silently strangled by his seatbelt. They come to a halt as Stiles is slammed back into his seat, and within seconds, Derek is zooming down the road in the opposite direction.
Derek doesn’t say anything for the rest of the drive back to the high school.
Stiles wonders what happens next.
It turns out that what happens next is that when Stiles tells his father that he’s home late because he’d dropped off Scott and ended up talking to Ms. McCall for a while, his phone buzzes.
Dude, way to be creepy. Also grammar. Seriously.
He doesn’t get a response.
Stiles gets the same text halfway through school the next day, in the middle of lying Scott for the third time in the last hour.
Something in him softens. Stills.
He puts his phone away and says, “Actually, no, I… just remembered, the test is on Tuesday. You’re good, man.”
Scott grins. “Thanks.”
Stiles lies less, now. He feels less angry all the time, less like he wants to scream until his throat rips in two. He makes sure that Derek texts him once a day, and as soon as he has that text the storm inside of him calms and his skin no longer feels too tight. It’s better. It’s not the same, but it’s better.
Until it all goes to shit.
Stiles is unsuccessful at sneaking past his father. His neck, he knows, is a study in werewolf strangulation, between the finger-shaped bruises and the claw-shaped gouges. He's managed to avoid any comments on it by keeping his head down at school and hiding out at the library as much as possible, but now his father is home, and his father wasn't elected sheriff because he was unobservant.
"Not hungry?" his father asks, from where he's seated at the table with a bowl of the (secretly vegetarian) chili that Stiles had made yesterday.
In spite of himself, Stiles feels a tiny rise of hope in his chest even as he thinks, Dammit, Dad, not tonight.
"I'll eat later," Stiles says quickly. "I totally pigged out at lunch today, I'm still not really hungry."
"Stiles. Let me see your neck."
Slowly, Stiles turns around and does his best to subtly cast his head to the left, hiding the worst of the damage.
His father's eyes widen. "What the—"
"Hickies!” Stiles blurts out.
His father visibly pauses. "Hickies."
"Yeah, you remember being young, right?" Stiles asks, painfully awkward. "There's a party, things get a little cray-cray, there’s hot—people—you know?”
“Stiles…” His father sighs and shakes his head. “Never mind.”
Stiles feels the little threads of hope inside his chest snap painfully. “Dad—”
“Good night, son,” his father says tiredly. “Please make sure you eat something for dinner.”
Stiles opens his mouth to protest when the vibration of his phone in his pocket makes him stop and pull it out.
And—no. No, this is not going to be a thing.
Turning to head up the stairs, heart choking his throat, Stiles clenches his hands into fists and refrains from saying anything until he pounds up the stairs and is safely across the threshold of his room.
“Get up here,” Stiles hisses. “I know you’re out there, you asshole, get up here.”
He waits for approximately three seconds before he hears a quiet thump, and shortly afterwards Derek appears in his window and lifts it up (the screen has long been discarded; Stiles is waiting for the day when his father notices the screen lying on the roof) to come inside.
Stiles glares back.
“You don’t get to do that,” he says furiously, advancing on Derek. “You can call me out on my lies all you want when it’s stupid shit, like homework and weekend plans and what movies I’ve seen, but not when I’m lying about werewolves to my father. Do you see how maybe one is a little more important than the other?”
Derek frowns. “You don’t have to.”
“Are you serious? I can’t tell my father! I mean, first of all, how do you even start that conversation? Like, ‘Oh, hey Dad, B-T-dubs werewolves are real and there’s a pretty rockin’ infestation here in Beacon Hills’? Second of all, my father doesn’t need to know. Him knowing that I’m all Dances with Wolves is only going to put him in more danger, and frankly, he’s in enough danger already with his job as, you know, the sheriff. Maybe you weren’t aware, but the last sheriff? Died in the line of duty. Eight BHPD officers died in the line of duty last year. So—fuck you. I want my father alive, thanks.”
“Seven out of eight of those deaths were supernatural-related,” Derek argues, lifting an eyebrow. “You don’t think it would be better to give your father the chance to actually defend himself?”
It’s logical—Stiles knows it, he’s thought about it at length—but he can’t tell his father. This lie is too big, too far-reaching and deeply entrenched in the last eighteen months of his life for him to come clean.
“I’m not telling him,” Stiles says flatly.
“Do you want your father to die?” Derek demands.
"Dude, what? Where the hell is this even coming from?”
Derek glares at him.
“Use your words, Derek.”
“It makes sense,” Derek finally says, giving him a filthy look. “It can take years for a pack to establish itself and gain strength, and in the meantime we need all the allies we can get. Having—having,” Derek repeats, over Stiles’ noise of outrage,“your father in the know would be a great help.”
“Oh, yeah, so he can lose his job again?” Stiles asks, ignoring the fact that it had actually been his fault last time.
He lets the guilt burn into more anger.
Derek forges on with his verbal masterpiece-ing. “And you’re not—you’re… useful. Too.”
“Gee, thanks,” Stiles says.
“Tell him,” Derek insists, eyes glinting dangerously.
“No! I’m not going to let him become one of your little soldiers.”
“I can tell when you’re lying.”
Stiles’ eyes practically bug out of his head. “I’m not lying!”
“You are,” Derek says, taking a step forward that makes Stiles step backward. “You’re not lying to your father to protect him. Why the hell are you lying to him?”
“Get out,” Stiles says, heart rate nearly doubled, possibly tripled. He feels sick. “Get the fuck out of here, right now.”
“If he dies because you didn’t tell him, you realize that his blood will be on your hands?” Derek presses. “It’ll be your fault.”
Stiles is shaking. Actually shaking with rage.
“Whatever the hell your reasons are, you—”
“Did you not hear me? I said—”
“Stiles, your father,” Derek says, his voice no longer angry but—alarmed. “His heart rate—I can hear him—”
Stiles doesn’t think he’s ever had his emotions do a one-eighty so rapidly.
“What’s wrong with my dad?” he demands, taking off as Derek bolts for the door.
Derek doesn’t answer. He doesn’t bother taking the steps, either, just somersaults through the air and lands with a quiet thud on the first floor, and disappears into the kitchen.
“What’s wrong with my Dad?” Stiles shrieks, tearing down the stairs. “Dad! Dad!”
He skids into the kitchen and almost trips over Derek crouched on the floor over his father’s prone body.
“Poisoned,” Derek snarls. “Wolfsbane. I can smell it.”
Oh, fuck. Fuck, shit, fuck, shit, fuck.
“He’s not dead,” Stiles says, staring at his father’s slack face, his shallowly-rising chest. “He—he’s not dead. Okay. We need to call for an ambulance. Um. Poison control? Should we call—no, that’s for like kids and Drano. We need to make him throw up. Oh, fuck, this is probably the alpha pack, isn’t it? Fuck, my phone’s upstairs!”
“I’ll call 911,” Derek says, pulling his phone out of his pocket. “You need to—make him vomit.”
“Right,” Stiles says, getting down his knees immediately. “We did this in middle school. Once. I can totally do this.”
Derek doesn’t answer. He’s already dialing.
Stiles holds his panic at bay and rolls his father onto his side, very pointedly not noticing the fact that his father is still semi-conscious and gasping for air, not thinking about the research he’d done on human ingestion of wolfsbane (creeping paralysis, ending in death as soon as it reached the lungs or the heart). He sticks two fingers down his father’s throat, and doesn’t think of Derek’s earlier words.
If he dies because you didn’t tell him, you realize that his blood will be on your hands.
Treatment for wolfsbane poisoning is ‘supportive’.
It means they don’t actually have a treatment. It means that all they can do is jumpstart his father’s heart when it stops and give him oxygen for his failing lungs, and hope that they can keep him alive long enough for the chemicals to… burn out or go away or whatever it is that they’re doing.
Derek meets him at the hospital, growling into his phone about various alpha-pack related things, until he’s apparently finished, and then he sits next to Stiles in silence in the waiting room.
They’re the only people there.
Stiles is watching the clock. It’s been twenty minutes since someone last came to update him about his father’s status. He did some research on his phone, but he was only able to bring up four case reports of wolfsbane poisoning from Nepal, and the only one who had lived was ten years younger than his father, and had just licked a root. He regrets the internet.
And he can’t stop fidgeting. He feels like if he’s still he’ll petrify and the world will go dark around him.
“I. Uh,” says Derek.
Stiles turns, waits for Derek to excuse himself to go deal with alpha-pack things. Worries a pen between his fingers.
Honestly, while he appreciates the support or whatever this is, he’d rather be alone right now.
“I didn’t mean what I said,” Derek says—mutters, really—and he turns to meet Stiles’ eyes. “This isn’t your fault. Even if he’d known—”
“Okay, you can just stop there,” Stiles interrupts. “Thanks, I appreciate it, but no. You can go now. If you’re actually concerned and not just here because you feel obligated, I can text you when they come out with another update. Okay?”
Derek frowns. “You—”
“And don’t,” Stiles adds, leveling a finger at Derek and ignoring the way that it shakes, “come out with that ‘you’re lying’ bullshit.”
Now Derek just looks annoyed. “It wasn’t your fault.”
“Dude, I made that chili last night. I was going to have a bowl when I got home from school today. That wolfsbane was clearly meant for me and not my father, but he ate it and I didn’t, so in what way is this not my—”
Stiles stops, because his throat is closing and he’d almost been yelling.
He presses a balled-up hand against his forehead, trying to get a handle on his breathing.
“Stiles, this is nobody’s fault but the alpha pack’s,” Derek says reasonably.
“I know you think you’re helping, but you’re not,” Stiles snaps, gritting his teeth together and pressing his fist harder against his forehead. “Just—shut up, okay?”
Derek shuts up.
Two minutes later, Stiles says, “You can go now, you know.”
“I’m good,” Derek replies.
“Great!” Stiles practically explodes, throwing his hands up in the air. “I’m glad that you’re good. I’m glad that my dad is like forty feet away and dying, and you’re good. That’s great. I hope you go home and blog about what a great time you had tonight on your fucking MySpace.”
“Why the fuck are you even here?” Stiles demands, voice cracking horribly.
Derek’s face blanks, like he’s just realized that he doesn’t even know and he’s been caught.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Stiles says. “Get out of here.”
Derek scowls again. “Look, you idiot, I’m not going to leave you here alone. Call Scott and tell him to get up here.”
“I’m not calling Scott,” Stiles says furiously. “I’m seventeen years old, I can hang around a fucking waiting room by myself!”
“Stiles, you don’t need to punish yourself for—”
“I’m not punishing myself—”
“You reek of guilt.”
“Of course I reek of guilt!” Stiles yells, springing from his chair and whirling on Derek. “That’s what it feels like when you kill your own parent! I mean it’s kind of fitting, right? Like bookends. I killed my mom and now I’ve killed my dad, and maybe I deser—”
And he stops because—
No. No, he did not just say that. No, no, no, no…
But Derek is staring at him wide-eyed, and there’s no way that Stiles didn’t actually just say that out loud. He did. He said that. He said it out loud, and he said it to Derek, of all people.
Stiles feels like he might throw up.
Or possibly have another almost panic attack. Yeah. Maybe one of those, that sounds like fun.
Yeah, apparently a panic attack is the way to go.
It’s like the entire world is fighting to stuff itself down Stiles’ throat, and he cannot breathe. There’s a ringing in his ears and his eyes have for whatever reason decided to fixate on the Better Homes & Gardens magazine that’s in the rack nailed to the wall, and all his brain can think about is how stupid this is. This shouldn’t be happening. He needs to focus on his father, not have stupid little freak-outs on the floor of the waiting room. This isn’t helping anyone. This is just Stiles, losing his shit like he always does, and—
“Stiles! Stiles, breathe.”
Stiles wants to laugh. Ha ha, he wants to say. Not these lungs, not now, no sir.
“Stiles, I want you to take in a breath, okay? Just try. One, two, three—in.”
Stiles tries. And fails.
“Again,” Derek’s voice insists.
If Stiles weren’t panicking, he’d be saying, Oh, so you’ve gotten over that allergy to emotions?
“One, two, three—in.”
Stiles tries again, and this time he actually gets his lungs to unfreeze a little and suck in a bit of air.
“Good. Again. One, two, three—in.”
A little more, this time.
Stiles is beginning to feel light-headed and dizzy, but he knows this is good. This means he’s coming down from the attack. It’ll be over soon.
“Again. One. Two. Three. In.”
Stiles sucks in a real breath of air this time.
“I’m okay,” he manages to gasp out.
“Shut up and breathe, you idiot.”
Stiles breathes in again, and this time it’s ragged because of the sob that’s threatening to come into his lungs. Stiles fights against it, gulps in more air, and does not let himself sob like he wants to. He breathes, and breathes, and breathes, until he remembers what started all of this, and then he just wants to shrivel up and die.
“Okay, seriously,” Stiles says from behind his hands, “can you just go now?”
“Do you know why women get post-partum depression?” Stiles asks, finally looking up to meet Derek’s eyes. He knows that his face is a teary, snotty mess, and that he’s still shaking, and that his voice is raspy, but he doesn’t care anymore.
Derek frowns. Eventually, he shakes his head.
“There’s a lot of theories out there, but mostly, they think it happens when the mother feels that either she doesn’t have the resources to properly raise her baby, or that the baby requires more than normal resources to survive. It’s a survival mechanism, so the mother won’t get attached to the baby and try to raise it, when it’s more beneficial to her to leave it for dead and try again some other time,” Stiles tells him.
He feels dead inside. He’s never told anyone this, and it feels like giving up. It feels like he’s already lost.
“I was born premature,” Stiles tells him. “It was… bad. And then I was colicky. And I barfed a lot. You know how everyone always wants to hold the baby because it’s so cute and drooly? Not baby!Stiles. Nobody wanted to hold baby!Stiles. And then I learned to walk and talk and—well, you know me. Imagine that like times a thousand.”
“That doesn’t mean—”
“She took all of my Adderall,” Stiles interrupts. “Two bottles of it. Instead of picking me up from school.”
Derek blinks, which for him is as good as looking stunned.
“Know what it says on her death certificate, under ‘other significant conditions contributing to death’? Post-partum depression. Know what causes post-partum depression? Having a baby.”
Derek stares at him. Not in a stunned way, not anymore, but like he’s looking for something.
“Okay? So, you know. You can go away now,” Stiles says desperately, because seriously, his soul hurts now.
He’s not even going to go into the lying thing right now, or how he thinks that if his dad dies today, he might actually feel get a reprieve from a near-decade of guilt because Stiles deserves to be responsible for his father’s death. He deserves to be an orphan.
But he doesn’t want his dad to die.
“Hug me and die, you asshole,” Stiles says in a wretched, wretched voice, and he pushes himself up and back into his chair while he forces down the sobs again. He pushes his fists into his eye sockets and trembles and breathes.
“Like I’d ever hug you,” Derek replies with a soft snort, as he settles down in the chair next to Stiles.
“You probably don’t even know how,” Stiles says, voice choked with tears that make him hate everything.
“The whole anaphylactic shock thing does make it difficult,” Derek agrees.
Stiles sniffles and reaches over to swat him.
Stiles has never wished more that he’d found a way to punish himself that hadn’t involved hurting other people.
If his father lives through this, Stiles is going to find one if it kills him. He’s done with this lying shit.