When Stiles' alarm went off an hour earlier than normal the next morning, he was almost willing to let the thing blare, certain he could sleep through it if he had to. He quickly learned however that that was entirely incorrect, and so he resorted to just throwing out his arm and sweeping everything on his bedside table down onto the floor. It was another twenty minutes before he came into enough awareness to realize that he was late and still had to walk into school. Jerking upright with a snort, he mopped the drool off his cheek with the back of his hand and staggered to his feet.

Rushing through his morning routine, he changed into a fresh t-shirt before splashing ice water on his face and finger-combing his hair into an artful sweep, though in reality he didn't care at all what it looked like. After gulping at some mouthwash and stuffing his homework into his book bag he trotted downstairs to the garage, grabbing an apple from the kitchen on his way. His bike was in the back, shoved half-beneath his father's workbench where he had pushed it some summers ago, abandoning it in favor of his jeep, but he had high hopes that the thing would be in working order.

No such luck.

Cursing under his breath, Stiles examined the chain which had rusted solid, kicked at a flat tire.

Frickin' perfect.

Slamming the bike against the wall, he hit the button to raise the bay door and ducked underneath it, giving his jeep a forlorn look before taking off up the sidewalk. The day was cool and overcast, the heavy cloud bank swirling overhead promising rain in the near future. He could only hope it held off until he made it to school – he didn't fancy being soaked all day. Taking one last bite of his breakfast, he tossed his core into the ditch and briefly considered hitching a ride but kept his thumb down. It was only about a mile's walk to the school if he took a few shortcuts, and there was no way it wouldn't get back to his dad if he got picked up on the side of the road.

Of course, scaling the Patterson's fence and running through Jefferson Bailey's yard risked a trespassing charge and getting attacked by a herd of pet ducks…

Decisions, decisions.

As it was, he almost landed in the deep end of an underground swimming pool trying to skirt a mallard that was after his ankles. He managed to keep his balance and avoid a bath but he received a pretty nasty bite through his jeans.

By the time he got to the school he wasn't walking anymore, he was trudging, his textbooks heavy on his back and his attitude dark. He was pissed that he'd had to walk, angry with his father for taking his keys, angry with himself for not toeing the line carefully enough to avoid such a serious consequence, angry at the damned sky. It had started sprinkling when he was still a quarter mile away and he was feeling a little bit damp, a little bit chafed, and it had done nothing to improve his mood. As he headed towards the front doors of Beacon Hills High, he caught sight of Scott chaining his bike to the rack, his head bent over the lock. Wandering in his direction, he had to leap away from the curb as a silver porsche came screaming into the space near his feet, threatening him with a pair of broken legs.

Stiles sneered as Jackson Whittemore exited the car, a smug little grin curling over his face.

"Thumbing it Stilinski?" he jeered, eyes hidden behind an expensive pair of sunglasses. "What's the matter; that baby blue piece of shit finally crap out on you?"

"Fuck off Jack-Ass," Stiles snarled, breaking his personal rule where Jackson was concerned and actually engaging. Usually he just ignored him and the jerk would eventually wander off, but this morning he was in no mood.

And besides, he was the only one allowed to make fun of the jeep.

He did it with love.

"Touchy are we?" the other boy taunted.

"Leave him alone Jackson," Scott's voice sounded from behind him.

Stiles rolled his eyes. He could take care of himself – he didn't need Scott protecting him anymore. It just got the other boy entangled in problems he couldn't handle, and it made Stiles feel stifled, trapped.

Something he was feeling intently today.

Jackson had opened his mouth with no doubt was a scathing response, but a group of jocks near the locker room exit hailed him and he left for bigger and better things, tossing an acidic sneer over his shoulder as a parting gift. Stiles scowled right back, his own expression colored with the dark chill of hatred, but Scott's hand clapping his shoulder pulled his attention away. Punching his hand into the pocket of his leather jacket, he withdrew a pack of cigarettes and lit up, sucking down a quick smoke before crushing out his but on the sidewalk. Scott waited silently the whole time, shifting anxiously from foot to foot, but he didn't say anything, even when Stiles ran his thumb along the edge of his lower lip and started inside.

Together they traipsed down the hallway, stopping at their lockers to stash their bags and grab notebooks and well-chewed pens. Scott seemed to sense Stiles' attitude because he kept shooting him wary looks, the other boy's whole body tense beside him where he rolled along at an easy predator's lope. He was prowling now, projecting the self-centered self-confidence that he'd cultivated carefully after discovering that it kept other people away. At the end of the hall, just before they parted, Stiles for his advanced mathematics and Scott for his remedial Spanish, his friend grabbed on to his wrist and pulled him back, finally working up the courage to open his mouth.

"Are you ok?" he asked, and that was all.

Because they were friends and it was enough, the most basic question addressing all the nuances of what felt wrong between them.

Or at least it should have been.

It was care, and concern, and once again he was made horribly uncomfortable by one of the two people closest to him. He pushed others out for a reason, because if he let them in he started to feel that care and concern himself again, instead of the anger or numbness that he normally clung to. It made him weak, vulnerable to the crushing emotional pain that had once consumed him, and that he couldn't handle.

So he made himself the iceman, cold and hard and unapproachable.

He made himself safe.

"I'm fine," he lied before shrugging his friend off and walking away down the hall, calling back over his shoulder. "I'll see you at lunch."

But that was a lie too.

XXX

The afternoon sucked, especially sixth period chemistry. That was the class Stiles usually skipped, but the rain had finally picked up to a real downpour and he was almost too jittery to want to cut. He knew he would just end up pacing back and forth beneath the bleachers and chain smoking through a whole pack of cigarettes if he did. The nausea rolling round in his stomach since he hidden out in the library during lunch had escalated sharply at the thought of lighting up, so he'd grabbed his homework out of his locker and slouched into class seconds before the bell rang, curling in on himself behind his lab table in the hopes of going unseen.

Of course, that hadn't flown. Whatever problem Harris had with him had only gotten worse in the past few years despite the fact that Stiles managed to maintain a perfect A in his class. The dude was a real prick though, going so far as to pair him with Greenburg for the day's lab, a kid who really should've been in remedial science, not advanced chem. On top of that, Lydia Martin had been sending him flirtatious little looks all throughout their experiment, smiling at him coquettishly from the corner of her mouth. The old Stiles would have melted under the attention – he had been in love with the strawberry blonde goddess since the third grade – but the new Stiles was disgusted. The girl of his dreams hadn't spared him a second glance before his dark turn-around, and even now she was still in a relationship with Jackson. Her attempted infidelity and her obvious attraction to his new bad-boy image made him feel positively sick.

An hour later, he found himself with ink all over his homework, a minor chemical burn on the back of his wrist, one tri-folded note signed with a heart and a curving L that he'd promptly pitched into the trashcan, and the threat of a week's worth detention hovering over his head. None of it had served to make him feel any better; his skin was hot and tight and hyper-sensitive, and his jaw was aching from all the grinding his teeth had done over the course of the lesson. He could feel his heart pounding against the wall of his chest, his pulse racing, and he wanted nothing more than to pummel someone with his three-inch-thick chem book, Greenburg if at all possible. He recognized the symptoms of his Adderall withdrawal coupled with a furious anger that had been brewing in him all day, and as soon as the bell rang he was slamming out the door, striding down the hallway to grab his bag and head towards the locker room, thanking God for the minor outlet he would find in a few hours practice.

Technically it wasn't a school-sanctioned activity yet. Official try-outs weren't for three weeks, but all the players from the previous year practiced for two hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays after school in order to keep in shape. They were allowed to use the field and the equipment, but technically the coach wasn't supposed to be involved. Finstock was a crafty bastard though, and a little nuts to boot, so it wasn't unusual at all for him to do his jogging around the edges of the green during their workouts, a megaphone dangling from his wrist. That he occasionally shouted out criticisms and curses went unremarked upon. Stiles himself was often on the receiving end of the bullhorn - he had never been considered good enough to actually play in a game, instead serving as a safety, a back-up man. If too many players got removed from the game, either through fouls or injury, he was there on the bench to step in.

That had yet to happen.

Still, he continued to show up to every practice, sticking close to Scott since the only other guy on the team that he could stand was Danny. Everybody loved Danny. Unfortunately he was close friends with Jackson, which diminished his appeal in Stiles' mind. Typically he'd wait for his best friend before heading out to the field, but today he was pissed and he knew it. Everything building up all day, anger and irritation being compounded into a hard, hot ball in his chest – he wasn't in the mood to deal with Scott's puppy-like exuberance. Hell, he might not even talk to anyone for the whole of practice. He was unimportant; he could get away with that. Changing quickly into his pads and practice jersey, he grabbed his crosse from his locker and headed out to the pitch.

Practice began with five laps around the field, but since Stiles was the first one out he had the opportunity to cheat. Tossing his stick onto the bleachers he began a steady jog around the white lines of the pitch, completing two before the rest of the team arrived on the field. Scott quickly fell in at his side but Stiles only stuck around for one more lap, finishing with three and flopping onto his butt to stretch out his legs with the other players finished their own run. Reaching for his toes, he leaned down until he was bent double, his face pressed into his knee as he breathed in the smell of fresh-cut grass, relishing in the pain of the pull on his muscles, the pop of decompressing disks in his spine.

He was done by the time the other boys joined him, some swigging from water bottles before starting their own warm-up. Climbing to his feet, he grabbed his crosse and gave it a twirl, found the familiar weight and swing of it. Finstock had just arrived in his black Addidas track suit, starting his awkward half jog that threatened to trip him up as he kept his eyes on the field instead of his feet. Stiles rolled his eyes, scooped up a ball from the five gallon bucket someone had dropped near the sidelines, and headed out onto the pitch, taking his position near the back goal.

Five minutes later, Jackson had tugged on a scrimmage jersey and chosen his team, pushing everyone into position like a damned film director, complete with overly-dramatic bitching. This essentially meant that it was first stringers versus the second lineup and the benchwarmers; it was no surprise which team usually won. Naturally he had chosen Danny to defend his goal, and Stiles tossed him the ball as he passed, heading down to the other end of the field. Normally Jackson took the position as striker, taking the toss-up and coming down the pitch to score on Greenburg, whom he put in the opposite goal more as punishment than to make his own job easier, but today Finstock had different plans for him and barked out a position's switch through his megaphone. Apparently their holier-than-thou captain needed to work on his blocking.

So that was how Stiles ended up at the tail end of a line, bouncing on the balls of his feet with a pent up anger humming through his muscles. He'd needed this practice, was counting on it to burn through some of his frustrations, and instead he'd been relegated to the back of the pack, forced to stand still, to wait. One by one the players filed forward to catch the ball, rush Jackson, and, if they were successful, get around him to score. Only one or two had managed it, and much to Stiles' irritation Jackson was keeping up a running commentary of derogatory remarks and jeers. He tried to tune it out but that only left him to ruminate on everything else that had gone wrong that day, rubbing at the bite on his ankle with the opposite sneaker. Scott was in front of him and kept tossing him glances over his shoulder, no doubt wondering why Sties had ditched him at lunch, but he just stared back stone-faced, watching with a heavier and heavier weight in his chest as Jackson took out one player after another.

By the time Stiles hit the front of the line he felt ready to break, ready to shatter apart unless he got to hit something, and as he watched Scott got hip checked to the ground in front of him, he found his target. Jackson scooped up the ball that had gone rolling away down the pitch where Scott had dropped it, turning on Stiles with a wicked grin and whipping it at his head as hard as he could. Made of solid rubber, had it connected with his face as it was intended to he probably would've wound up with a fractured jaw. Luckily for him, the adrenaline pounding in his veins had his stick flashing up to catch it and saving himself the bruise, but even better it put a lock of shock onto Jackson's face that was positively priceless, even if he quickly covered it. Looking down at his cleats to hide a smirk, he shifted from foot to foot, loosened himself up by juggling his stick between his hands.

"Scared Stilinski?" Jackson taunted, and Stiles lifted his head just enough to glare at him from narrowed eyes. "God, you're such a poser," the other boy hissed through his facemask. "You fake this bad boy shit to get attention but we both know better don't we? You're still just a benchwar…

He didn't get to finish the sentence, because Stiles was smashing into him like a battering ram, ducking low to bring his shoulder up into Jackson's chest and slamming him down onto the earth with a bone-jarring thud. A stunned silence fell over the field, the only sound a choking gasp that rattled from the boy laid out on the pitch, clutching at his ribs with his left arm. His shoulder was screaming at him but Stiles reveled in the pain, let his anger channel through the ache instead of howling his rage at the sky like a wolf. Sneering down at Jackson who was rolling in the grass and hissing about broken ribs, he stepped calmly over him and flung his ball into the net, sailing it easily over Danny's shoulder as the goalie stepped out of the box and hurried to help his friend up.

"Bilinski!"

Stiles made a snarling, feral sort of sound under his breath, turning towards the bark of the bullhorn that had sounded a lot closer to his ear than the edge of the field should allow. Turning round, he found Finstock only yards away and striding towards him, an unreadable look on his face.

Shit.

He'd just taken out his coach's best player.

But damn had it felt good