"Come on, man."
"Stiles, no." Scott frowns for, like, the millionth time. "I would love to, really, but Derek might literally kill me. Like, for real. With teeth and everything. Things are strained enough between us as it is, and I really want this to work out."
Stiles falls back onto Scott's bed with a pout. It's great that Scott has finally decided to join forces with Derek's pack and becoming one whole pack of smushy goodness but right now it really sucks. It's like Scott fell in with the cool kids and Stiles isn't invited to play along. "Please?"
Scott sighs. "You know I can't. It's too dangerous. We're still getting to know each other and Derek's pack doesn't have the best control yet. Plus, I've never really done the whole run with a pack thing so I don't know how it'll affect me. We might hurt you." Scott turns his irresistible puppy eyes on Stiles. "I don't want you to get hurt, man. Please, just for this one night, promise me you'll stay away from the Preserve and stay safe."
Stiles huffs and looks away. He's not quite ready to give in yet, but he can't come up with a valid argument against Scott's plea that doesn't make him sound like a jerk. Stiles stretches his arms over his head and flaps them ineffectually. "You guys never worry about Allison or Lydia getting hurt."
Scott frowns. "I worry about Allison getting hurt all the time. And they're not going to be there either. They're doing a girls' night in slumber party thing at Lydia's."
Stiles sighs wistfully. "I would grow a pair of tits to be invited to that."
The look that crosses Scott's face is some indescribable mix of curiosity and disgust. "Dude."
"What? It's the first weekend of summer vacation and I'm going to be all alone. This sucks."
"We're going to be running around the woods all night. You don't really want to be there, I promise." Scott doesn't even have the grace to look sorry as he stuffs a pair of pajamas and a change of clothes in his duffle. "Go hang out with your dad. You've been saying how you haven't had a chance to see him much with the station being short staffed."
Stiles snorts. "Thanks, Jackson." He rolls over so his face is pressed into the covers. Maybe if he presses hard enough he could suffocate and end his misery. Instead, he just tastes cotton. "Ugh." He flops back over. "He's working. Full moon brings out the crazies. Literally."
Scott straightens. "Come on, man. It's just one night. Surely you can find someone to hang out with?"
"But it's Friday night. The night of doing things and being awesome, and all my friends are busy being supernatural or supernatural adjacent. I have no one."
"What about the people from that gay club? The ones you brought to Lydia's birthday party?"
Stiles sits up and arches an eyebrow. It's nowhere near as cool-looking as when Derek does it, but it gets the point across. "The drag queens?"
"Yeah. Go out. Have a night on the town. Find a guy that makes you stop lusting after Derek."
"Dude! You promised!"
Scott raises his hands, palms out in defense. "I'm just saying, you could do way better than..." Stiles's eyes narrow. "...that person I'm not supposed to know you have a ginormous crush on."
"Ugh!" Stiles falls back on the bed. "You are the worst. Literally, the worst."
"Yeah, yeah." Scott smacks him lightly on the leg. "Now get up, we need to get going."
Stiles stands, grumbling the entire way. "I should make you walk."
Scott shrugs. "I've done it before."
"The worst," Stiles repeats, but he drives Scott out to the Preserve anyways. Stiles doesn't even get as much as a hello from the rest of the gathered werewolves and he tells himself it doesn't bother him as he drives away. Stupid werewolves and their stupid full moons.
Stiles is drunk and it's awesome. Stiles doesn't recognize any of the queens that are here tonight but there's a really hot guy who's into him enough to keep buying him different drinks to try and that's just what he needs on a night when no one wants him around. Stiles has no clue what the drinks are but they taste good and they're strong and that's all he really cares about. One's bright purple. He thinks that one's his favorite.
He's not even sure of the guy's name – Jason, James, Jack, something with a J, and his dad would literally kill Stiles if he found out Stiles was taking drinks from a stranger with no name – but he doesn't need to know the guy's name to kiss him next to the bar, to share a dance or two, to let the guy's hands wander over his body to places no one's ever touched before, especially not in public. It doesn't hurt that the guy's got black hair and just the right amount of stubble and may look a bit like Der- like a certain werewolf if Stiles squints. Stiles may be letting the guy touch him way more than he normally would be comfortable with because of that likeness, because it makes him forget about where he really wants to be right now. About who he wants to be with.
The music is loud and pounding. It feels like it's in his veins, making his heart thump in time with the throbbing rhythm. Hot guy hands him another drink and he downs it in one go, making hot guy grin wide and laugh. He says something Stiles doesn't quite catch, but Stiles thinks it's complimentary. The guy's hand plays along the waistband of the jeans Stiles is wearing and hot guy leans in real close.
"How about we take this somewhere more private?"
"Sure," Stiles shouts back. It's hard to hear anything over the music, but he could definitely get down with a little more making out, especially with a few less prying eyes.
Hot guy takes his hand, his touch gentle and guides Stiles past the bathrooms and out a side door. The air outside feels chilly even though it's June, but the relative chill doesn't last long as hot guy pushes Stiles against the brick wall. He can feel the beat of the music through the brick, still pounding along with his heartbeat. The pressure of hot guy pushing against him goes straight to Stiles's dick, making it stir with interest. So maybe Stiles has a thing for being pushed around. He has no idea who he got that from.
Being outside is a great idea, at first. Their kisses turn hot and wet. The guy's tongue invades Stiles's mouth and the guy's hands are firm and tight on Stiles's hips. Hot guy grinds against him and Stiles can feel the guy's erection through both of their jeans. He's pretty sure he could get off on just this, but hot guy wants more. The guy's hands start wandering south, slipping teasingly over Stiles's ass and crotch, and Stiles is okay with it until the guy tries to slip a hand down the front of Stiles's pants. He doesn't want his first time to be in an alley. Stiles tugs at the guy's hand, trying to pull it up and – he's going to hate himself for this later – away from Stiles's dick, but the guy doesn't budge.
"Hey," Stiles tries to say, but the word turns into a gasp as the guy fondles him. His head drops forward and he has to breathe deep to keep from coming. "Hey," he tries again. "Not here."
"It's okay," hot guy says as he mouths against Stiles's neck. "It'll be good."
"Wait." Stiles tries to shift away but the guy's body keeps him pinned. "Come on."
"Shh." Hot guy presses a finger against Stiles's lips. Stiles blinks and it feels like he's looking at the guy for the first time. There's still a haze of alcohol fogging over his brain but that haze is rapidly clearing.
"I don't want to." Stiles shoves at the guy's chest, which at least succeeds in getting the guy's hand out of Stiles's pants even if the guy doesn't budge.
"You will," the guy slurs his words. "You're going to like it. I promise." The guy's breath smells of alcohol, and not in a pleasant way. His hands grip Stiles by the front of his pants, unbuttoning the fly on Stiles's jeans.
"No." Stiles shoves at the guy again, not hard, but enough to get across the point. "Stop it."
"Shh, shh, shh." The guy leans in for a kiss but Stiles dodges. Wet lips land near his ear and slobber all over his neck.
"Seriously, cut it out. I'm gonna start screaming if you don't."
The punch comes out of nowhere. Stiles slams into the wall, hitting the back of his head against the brick. The whole world spins and he's falling into the guy's arms. Instead of helping him up, the guy is pushing Stiles down. All the while the guy keeps making slurred shushing sounds at him.
Everything after that comes in pieces. He tries to get up, moving almost reflexively, but every time he does, there are hands pushing him back down. The guy pushes too hard, smacking Stiles's face against the asphalt and scraping his cheek against the ground. He doesn't even realize what's happening until he feels wet flesh pressing against his bare ass. That's when the fear sets in. The air is cold, the body above him warm. It hurts when the guy shoves his way inside, like he's being torn open. He screams. The sound echoes off the walls of the alley only to be cut off as a hand closes over his mouth. He's dizzy from the alcohol and maybe something more. He's never felt like this after any of Lydia's parties. His hands grasp against the asphalt but there's nothing to hold onto, nowhere to go. It hurts. It hurts worse than being beaten by Gerard, worse than being smacked in the face with parts from his own car.
All he can smell is piss and rotten garbage and he has to choke back bile as he screams and screams.
The hand moves away to grip his hip hard and he begs. Despite his pleas, his attacker keeps pushing in, grunting on every thrust. He begs the guy to stop. He begs for the pain to end. He begs for someone, anyone to help him.
There's no one to help him.
He cries. The smell of salt and blood mix with the stench of the alley. The full moon hangs overhead and it feels like it's watching him – watching him and judging him. It feels like a warning.
He blacks out at some point and when he wakes up he's alone and hurting. He picks himself off the ground slowly. Moving hurts, but it's a distant sort of pain, the kind of pain that he doesn't feel but he knows is there. An academic sort of pain.
Nothing feels real. He puts his clothes back to rights and stumbles to his Jeep. The streets are empty, but it feels like the glaring streetlights are judging him. He feels like the empty store windows are judging him. He jumps at nothing – nonsense sounds in the distance, someone laughing, a car starting. He has to try five times to unlock his Jeep. He drops the keys twice.
He drives. He's not aware of where he's heading, doesn't have a destination in mind. His body feels disconnected. It hurts to sit, a strange sort of ache that goes all the way up his spine. He has to pull over twice to retch into gutters and once because he's blinded by sudden tears. He's not even sure how there's anything left inside of him – he feels like he's been hollowed out – and yet his body still finds something to expel onto the dirty streets.
He ends up outside of Lydia's house. He's not sure why he's here. They're not friends, not really, but he has nowhere else to go. She's the only one who's home tonight. She won't care. She doesn't care about him, never has, never will.
Somehow he makes it to the front door. He's not sure how long he stands there, hand outstretched like a plea. He blinks and forces himself to push the doorbell.
Lydia's wearing pink pajamas when she answers the door. Her eyebrow arches in disdain as she says "You're a mess" and Stiles just loses it. His breath hitches on a sob. He cries ugly, fat tears and he's not sure what he expects to happen next, but it isn't for her arms to wrap around him as she pulls him into the house. The door shuts behind him, blocking out the rest of the world. He can't face it anymore. Just the thought of anyone looking at him right now makes him sick. Despite the fact that he's technically taller, Lydia feels like the larger of the two of them as she holds him while he cries.
Unfortunately, Lydia isn't alone. There are footsteps on the stairs and they both look up as Allison freezes on the landing. "Stiles? Shit, are those bruises?"
She has her phone out but Stiles yells "Stop" before she can do anything. Lydia winces but doesn't let him go. Stiles is trembling and he has no idea how long that's been a thing. Probably the entire drive over. He doesn't think he's ever going to stop. "Please," he says, then winces because his voice is hoarse from screaming and the word reminds him too much of begging in the alley. "Don't tell Scott. You can't tell Scott. Please." He glances at Lydia. "Or Jackson." Lydia nods swiftly. "I don't want... I don't want any of them to know."
Allison takes two more steps down the stairs, tentatively, like she's not sure she should get too close. Stiles feels like a skittish deer so he thinks maybe she's on to something there. "Why...? What happened? Are you okay?"
"No." His voice sounds broken even to his own ears.
Lydia hugs him and murmurs soothing noises in his ears before pulling away slowly. She takes him by the hand. It's a simple gesture, one that would have meant the world to him ages ago but now all he gets from it is comfort. Stiles follows her up to her room where Lydia pulls a blanket from the closet and wraps him in it before helping him sit down on the bed.
He winces. Sitting hurts and Lydia obviously notices. She settles with her back against the headboard and pulls Stiles down so that his head is in her lap. It's much more comfortable that way. Even more so after Lydia starts combing her fingers through his hair.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Lydia asks.
He sniffles. He does and doesn't at the same time. He has no idea where to begin, so he just blurts the one thought that's been rising above the others in the maelstrom that is his mind. "I don't even know his name."
Lydia says nothing, leaving it up to Allison to ask "Whose name?"
"The guy... he... I thought he liked me. We were having a good time and he didn't seem like a bad guy. We went outside and we were kissing. I liked it, but then..." He can't get the last few words out. He knows what happened to him. He knows the word for it – rape – but he can't say it. Saying it makes it real. He feels like he's telling the story of another man, like he's talking about someone else. Not him. These kinds of things don't happen to him. Werewolves and kanimas and creepy hunter grandpas but not this. It seems too mundane in the face of everything they've fought.
"He hurt you?" Allison asks.
He nods. His hands clutch at the edges of the blanket. Now that he's cried himself out his emotions are gone. There's nothing left inside of him but a hollow shell. He wants to stay that way forever, but he knows he can't. He's going to feel horrible when he can feel anything again. He's going to feel horrible for a long, long time.
The bed dips as Allison sits behind him. Her hand settles on his shoulder. "Stiles, did he..." She shares a look with Lydia. Neither of them want to say that word either.
He nods, because he needs someone to know. He needs to not be alone with this. Even if Allison and Lydia aren't his first choice in confidants, they're the ones he has. "I was a virgin."
Allison gasps. Lydia's fingers still, a faint stutter in their movement before she resumes motion.
"Stiles..." Allison says, and just the sound of her voice, the way she says his name makes the tears start all over again. Allison shifts, moving closer on the bed until she's hugging him tightly from behind. It feels like safety.
He turns his face into Lydia's lap. He can't look at them right now, can't let anyone look at him. "He was so nice. He bought me drinks... then he wanted... and I didn't... he punched me... It all happened so fast."
Allison's hug only gets tighter. "You should go to the police. You should report it."
Stiles trembles violently. He feels like he would fly apart, crack into a million pieces, if it weren't for Allison's hold on him. "No." The sound of that one word comes out so wretched that both the girls reach out to soothe him. "I... I can't... My dad... He'll know. Everyone will know. They'll know how weak I am. How pathetic."
"Stiles, you're not pathetic. This wasn't your fault." He hears Allison's words but he doesn't believe them, not when he knows the opposite to be true. He's useless. He can't even defend himself against a drunk human. What's he supposed to do against a supernatural threat?
"Please don't tell anyone. Please." He's begging again. It makes him feel so low, so worthless.
"We won't," Lydia promises.
"We won't," Allison agrees.
They fall asleep like that, twined together on Lydia's bed. It's the last time he has a decent night's sleep for weeks.
Lydia is the first to wake. Her neck is stiff from sleeping propped up but it's nothing a few Advil won't fix. She extricates herself slowly, taking her time to peel away from Stiles and Allison. After a quick stop in the bathroom to freshen up, she detours to her mom's bedroom. In the closet there's a box of her dad's old clothes that he hasn't picked up yet. She digs around until she finds a t-shirt and a pair of drawstring sweatpants, leaves them folded on the bed next to Stiles in case he wants them.
Then, she sets to making the one thing she excels at – blueberry pancakes. Lydia is not a master of the kitchen. They have a housekeeper that leaves them readymade meals during the week. Lydia's mom is a disaster in the kitchen. Lydia knows enough to get by but nothing she ever makes will pass for quality home-cooking. Except for her pancakes.
She makes a tall stack of them. She's almost finished when Allison wanders down, still sleep-rumpled and knuckling at her eyes. Stiles follows a few minutes later in her dad's old clothes, his hair still wet from the shower. She eyes him as subtly as she can. He seems almost worse in the morning light, the bruises on his face vivid against his pale skin.
He won't look at her. He won't look at anyone.
They take the stack of pancakes out into the living room along with a bottle of pure maple syrup and three glasses of milk. Allison and Lydia maneuver Stiles between them on the couch, sitting closer than is purely necessary on the long couch. Stiles doesn't comment. Lydia flips through channels until she finds cartoons. They sit in silence, eat, and watch.
Allison gathers their empty dishes as the clock hits eleven. "I need to go," she says almost regretfully. "Scott's going to be back soon. I-"
Stiles shakes his head. He doesn't quite smile. It looks like he attempts it but the effort falls flat. "It's okay. Tell him hi for me."
Lydia squeezes Stiles's leg as she stands. "We're going for a drive."
Stiles turns wide eyes on her. It would almost be cute, if Lydia wasn't deeply in love with someone else. "But Jackson-"
Lydia waves a hand and follows Allison into the kitchen to help put the dishes in the dishwasher. She leaves the pan and spatula in the sink for Constance to get on Monday. "Jackson can wait. I have an errand I want to run and you're coming with me."
Stiles hovers near the kitchen island and looks pointedly down at his borrowed clothes.
Lydia shrugs. "We can swing by your house if you want but this isn't anything that requires dressing up." She brushes a kiss against his cheek as she heads for the stairs. "I'll just be a moment."
She can hear Allison and Stiles exchanging hushed goodbyes while she changes. She doesn't bother with her hair beyond pulling it into a messy ponytail. She foregoes makeup for now, not really wanting to delay their trip with the amount of time it takes to put her face on. It's a casual trip so she goes with fitted jeans, a loose halter, and a pair of platform sandals. She shoots Jackson a text telling him not to come over until later and then dumps her phone in her purse and heads back downstairs.
Allison is gone but Stiles is still standing right where she left him. Lydia smiles and leads the way to the garage. "Come on." Stiles obediently follows.
"Where are we going?" Stiles asks as he buckles himself into the passenger seat of Lydia's car.
She makes a thoughtful hum but doesn't answer, instead switching the radio over to a pop station and sliding on a pair of sunglasses. It's a bright, beautiful day and she wishes she had a convertible so she could drive with the top down, let the wind blow all their cares away.
They don't speak, though Stiles shoots increasingly curious glances at her as they head out of the city limits and onto the highway going south. It takes about an hour to get where they're going but Stiles doesn't complain until they park in front of the non-descript building at the corner of the plaza.
His wide eyes are a mix of betrayal and fear. "Lydia..."
He looks up at the Planned Parenthood sign like it's a guillotine blade. "I can't."
Her voice is firm. "You will."
His hands grip the seatbelt strap across his chest and he looks down at his lap. "I told you I didn't want to report it."
"And I'm not making you. But you had unprotected sex with a stranger so you're going to go in there and get checked out, and I'm going to be with you every step of the way."
Stiles is silent for a long moment, his gaze unwavering. Finally, he nods, just the slightest tilt of his head but it's enough. She gets out of the car. Stiles follows. Lydia checks them in, prodding Stiles when he needs to provide information but otherwise handling the whole thing for him. She's been here before. She knows the drill.
She holds Stiles's hand tight while they sit in the plastic chairs and wait. When the nurse calls his name she gives Stiles a steady look. "Do you want me to come with you?"
He shakes his head. His hands are trembling as he follows the nurse through the privacy door. Lydia pulls out her phone and settles in to wait.
When Stiles finally makes it home, his dad is there, hovering around the kitchen. He's making a sandwich for a late lunch and turns with a smile as he hears Stiles come in. "You want one?" John gestures with a slice of bread.
Then the smile falls off his dad's face and Stiles goes still.
He knows what he looks like. The clinic had given him some salve for his scrapes but the bruise on his face is massive. There's no way John would miss it. Stiles feels trapped, his breath coming in shorter and shorter bursts as his dad draws near.
The question throws Stiles. He expects his dad to know. He expects his dad to see the evidence all over him and just know. But he doesn't. John's fingers are light as he turns Stiles's face towards the kitchen light so he can get a better look at the bruise. John frowns but it's his normal dad frown of what-did-my-kid-get-into-now not his I-need-to-murder-somebody-for-touching-my-kid frown.
"It wasn't those guys from the lacrosse championship again?" John asks.
Stiles shakes his head. He licks his lips. He should tell his dad the truth. He should give his dad the clothes that are stuffed into Stiles's backpack and tell Joe, the closest thing the station has to a sketch artist, everything he can remember about the guy from the club.
He shouldn't have showered. He knows how rape cases go but he also knows the aftereffects of it. They would have to swab him, photograph him, take notes and sketches. It would be invasive and it would be public. He'd had enough poking and prodding at the clinic. Worst of all, people would know.
He doesn't want anyone to know, not even his dad. He can live with Allison and Lydia knowing. It's probably better that they know. He has a feeling that he would do something incredibly stupid if it weren't for Allison and Lydia.
"No," Stiles says. His voice is steady though he feels anything but. He has no idea what words are going to come out of his mouth but apparently "I tripped while playing tag with Scott and Isaac in the woods" is what he goes with. His dad is still frowning so he adds "Melissa already looked me over. I'm fine."
John makes a disgruntled noise in the back of his throat – he never likes seeing Stiles hurt, even when Stiles is the cause of it – and heads back to the kitchen. "Sandwich?"
Stiles feels like a weight is lifted off his shoulders. He's gotten too good at lying to his dad. He hates it, but just this once it comes in handy.
The thought of food turns his stomach so he says "No, thanks. I ate already," and heads up to his room.
As if summoned by his thoughts, his phone chimes with a text message from Lydia. All it says is 'hugs' but it's enough to keep him from crawling into bed and never coming out.
He sits and stares at his computer. He should tell Scott. They don't keep secrets between the two of them. He opens an IM window and hesitates. This isn't the kind of thing that gets told over an IM. He thinks about calling Scott but his finger hesitates over the phone app. He can't tell Scott. He was supposed to be safe last night and yet he'd managed to fuck that up royally. He doesn't want Scott to look at him with pity, like Stiles is some glass thing that needs wrapped in plastic to keep it from chipping. He doesn't want any of the pack to know.
Will they smell it on him? How will he explain away the bruises? He definitely smells like clinic and Lydia, two things he's not supposed to. He gets up, grabs some clean clothes, and showers twice more, scrubbing his skin until it's red and raw.
No one can know. No one but him, Lydia, and Allison.
He tries to sleep. It's early in the evening still, but nothing else appeals to him and he just wants to forget all about last night.
He can't. As soon as he closes his eyes, the smell of the alley floods his senses, like he's back there, still being held down and fucked raw. He's up and out of bed in seconds, barely making it to the bathroom in time to retch until his stomach is empty and then some.
There's a soft knock on the door. "Stiles? Are you alright?"
He coughs, clears bile from his throat. His voice comes out creaky and strained. "Something I ate."
There's a brief pause. "Do you need anything? I think there's some Tums downstairs."
He loves his dad. He loves his dad more than anything and he knows his dad would do anything for him, would pay for therapy or hunt the guy down or move them to a different state if that's what it took for Stiles to feel better. Still, he can't bring himself to tell his dad.
"No." It's just one more in a series of lies he's told his dad, but something in that word breaks him. Hot tears roll from his eyes and he presses his hands tight over his mouth, squeezes his eyes shut, and tries to hold back the sobs.
His dad, oblivious to everything happening on the other side of the closed door, says "Just let me know if you need anything" and walks away.
Stiles flushes and washes his face. He can't bring himself to look at his reflection in the mirror. His dad is long gone by the time he finally opens the door and slinks to his bedroom, shutting the door tight.
He crawls back in bed and stares at the wall. His blankets are tucked tight around him, more than he really needs during the summer – enough that he'll regret it later when he overheats – but for now he's comforted by the weight of them. It's nothing like Allison's hugs or Lydia's calming touch. He wishes he had someone that he could call to come hold him, someone that wouldn't ask questions, just sit with him until he feels better. Usually that person's his dad but he can't ask that without raising suspicions. He's asked too much of Allison and Lydia already.
After several long minutes in the dark, he gets up and goes to the hall closet. He drags out every spare pillow they have and makes a wall of pillows around him. It's not the same, but it's close enough.
A while later his dad comes up the stairs. Stiles hears John pause outside of Stiles's room. There's a tense moment when he thinks his dad is going to knock and ask to come in. Stiles can't pretend he's sleeping – not when he can't close his eyes without reliving last night. He breathes a sigh of relief as his dad's phone goes off. There's a muffled curse from the other side of the door, a pause, and then "I'm on my way" in the tone that means something bad has happened.
Stiles should feel upset. It could be another murder. Right now it's just a convenient excuse to get his dad away from him. John shouts a goodbye before heading out the front door, leaving Stiles alone in a dark and empty house.
Stiles pulls the blankets tighter around himself and pretends he isn't freaking out.
All Stiles wants to do is sleep. His night had been awful, and his morning isn't shaping up much better. His dad sends him a text saying that he'll be working a double, so Stiles can sleep the day away, or at least he plans to.
He makes it until two before his phone starts buzzing insistently, forcing him to crawl out of his nest to answer it. The blinds are shut tight, shrouding his room in darkness. The glow of the phone's screen seems harsh in comparison and he shies away from looking at it as he answers the call. "Yeah?"
"I want to go to the mall," Lydia says without prelude. "Stiles, you're coming to the mall with us."
Stiles has to pull the phone away from his ear for a moment. He stares at it and then moves it back so he can say "What?"
"You. Mall. Us." Lydia enunciates each word clearly, like he's a small child.
He desperately wants to ask why, but he knows that whatever answer he gets out of Lydia – if she deigns to give him an answer at all – will not be an answer he likes. He sighs and settles himself vaguely upright in his bed. "Who's us?" There's a very short list of people he's willing to leave his room for. It's an even shorter list that will get him out of his house.
"You, me, and Allison."
Stiles hesitates. The thought of facing the outside world, of letting people see him in all of his bruised and broken glory, frightens him. He wants to hide away in the dark forever. He wants to die in his bed.
"You realize you have no choice in this, right?" Lydia says after a long pause. He could argue with her, but arguing with Lydia is an exercise in futility. In a way, it's kind of comforting that she's taking the decision to reintroduce himself to the world out of his hands. Left to his own devices, he would never leave his room and he knows, objectively, that that isn't the right thing to do. He needs to get back out there.
He closes his eyes and tells himself that it's like getting back on his bicycle after the first time he'd fallen off. The damage has already been done.
"Alright," he says and pretends that his voice doesn't shake.
"Good. We'll be there in an hour. You'd better be ready." She hangs up before he can respond.
He belatedly realizes he's smiling. He's not sure why. He turns the overhead light on and pulls out some clean clothes before hoping in the shower. He dresses in layers even though it's summer. There's nothing he can do about his face but at least the bruises on the rest of his body are easy to hide.
A horn honks outside exactly an hour later and Stiles steps out of the house to find Lydia's car in the driveway. The sun is far too bright, and he's glad he thought to wear shades and a cap, though that choice had more to do with hiding his face than dimming the light.
Allison's in the front seat, so he climbs in the back. He doesn't even have his seatbelt on before Lydia is peeling out onto the road like there's a fire she has to get to. Maybe there's a sale? His inner dad voice makes him want to say something about speeding but he can't force his mouth open.
Something hard lands in his lap and he jumps, biting back a shriek. Allison is turned around facing him with a bright smile and he understands why as soon as he looks down. The book she'd thrown at him has an absolutely hideous cover with a woman in an old-style ballgown swooning next to a man with wild hair and a shaved, glistening chest. The title proclaims it 'Howling for You' by Jenna Hale. He wonders if the author is a relative of Derek's.
He turns the book over in his hand. "What the hell?"
Allison's grin widens. "Lydia and I started a book club for trashy supernatural romance. Her mom buys them and hands them off to Lydia when she's done. I think Lydia's mom honestly enjoys them but they are complete trash. Well, most of them. Some are good, but it's just so ridiculous what they put in these things. The women are always swooning and the guys on the cover are built like pro-wrestlers with Fabio hair."
Stiles raises an eyebrow as he sets the book aside. "At least it's not Twilight?"
Lydia snorts. "My mom has that. If we ever meet a real vampire he better not sparkle... or go to high school. Can you imagine being, like, three-hundred years old and still going to high school to pick up chicks?"
Stiles snorts. "I would think by three-hundred he'd have some game." Stiles shudders as he remembers the 'game' he'd thought he'd had at Jungle. Would it be the same with a woman? Would she be like some Kate Argent clone just using him for sex so she could murder his family? Yeah, he's pretty much scared off of dating for a long time. "But seriously, after eighteen I'm done with high school. You couldn't pay me to go back."
Allison laughs. "So I'm guessing you're not planning on an Education degree?"
"Nope. Done, done, done. So very done."
Allison leans back against the passenger door. "I considered it once, in between my ballerina and dolphin trainer phases."
Stiles barks a short laugh without meaning to. He can picture Allison kicking ass in a pink tutu and it's a scary picture. "I would pay to have you chase Isaac around the Preserve in a pink tutu."
Allison grins. "I'll think about it."
He grins back. It's not a no.
Allison reaches around the passenger seat to poke his shoulder. "Join our book club. It'll be fun."
Stiles arches an eyebrow and picks up the book again, waving it between them. "Seriously? You want me to read this?"
"You have to!" Allison bounces slightly in her seat. "It's so bad."
"Wow, those are some encouraging words right there."
"Get this," Allison says. "It's set in Victorian London where the nobles are all werewolves and this woman travels from America and it turns out she's soulmates with Lord Woolsey. But the lord of Cambridge also falls for her and there's this whole big fight under the full moon and so much pining. It's hilarious."
Stiles flips through the first couple pages. He's never read a romance novel before and he's not sure this is the best place to start.
"Join our bad book club," Lydia says without taking her eyes off the road.
Stiles sighs, but he's smiling. "Okay, okay."
Allison turns back around with a happy mini-bounce. Stiles flips through the title and copyright pages to get to the start of the novel. The heroine's name is apparently Emily. She's a lawyer looking for her missing brother, who was somehow tangled up with Lord Woolsey's sister. He's twenty pages in by the time they pull into the mall parking lot.
Stiles puts the book down with reluctance, not because it's that good, but because he has to go out and face people now. He edges out of the car. He's glad for his sunglasses and hat because the sunlight feels glaring, like it's trying to burn away his skin. Maybe if it did he'd lose the memory of that guy touching him.
Gentle fingers wrap around his own and he looks up from their entwined hands to Allison's face.
"It's going to be okay," she says.
"Come on, losers." Lydia is already four cars ahead of them. Allison smiles at him as they hurry to catch up.
There are people moving through the parking lot around him. Stiles eyes them warily, first the woman in a sundress with her young daughter, then the old man with a potbelly, then the gray-haired couple bickering quietly at each other. The closer to the entrance they get, the more people catch Stiles's attention. He can't watch them all. There's a whole crowd moving about inside.
Allison squeezes his hand tight. "We're right here. It's going to be okay."
Her words aren't enough to make him relax, but it does take away a little of the tension between his shoulders. He closes his eyes as they cross the threshold and when he opens them again, he doesn't look at the people around them. He looks at Lydia – gorgeous, stunning goddess Lydia – and keeps his eyes on her. It helps.
Lydia leads them from store to store. She buys a pair of shoes that cost more than Stiles's entire outfit, then a handbag that matches the shoes, and then three different outfits to mix and match to go with the shoes. Each bag is handed off to Stiles to carry, but he doesn't mind. It gives him an excuse to be here with two pretty girls who are way out of his league – and taken, though he doubts any of the mall patrons know that.
Lydia detours off a few times to talk to people she knows – not from school because Stiles doesn't recognize any of them, and half the school still thinks Lydia's off the deep end. Allison pulls him off to the side to help her shop for clothes.
Shopping with Allison is much less of an ordeal than with Lydia. Allison knows generally what she wants so there's less of a parade of this versus that where he's expected to give opinions, and more just nodding along as Allison makes her choices and pays for them without trying them on.
When they return to Lydia, she has a dangerous gleam in her eye that leads to Stiles playing dress-up for her at Macy's. He comes out of the ordeal with two new dress shirts, a pair of jeans that are verging on uncomfortably tight, and a set of henleys in an array of colors. He'd be lying if he said it wasn't a little bit of an ego boost having the girls faun over him – plus the fitting room assistant and he was pretty sure the guy waiting for his girlfriend on the bench outside the dressing room was checking Stiles out.
It doesn't make Stiles feel as bad as he thought it would, knowing that someone has expressed interest in him, but that's mostly because they're doing it from a distance. There's nothing more than a fleeting look between him and any semi-interested parties. No one says anything, not with Allison and Lydia as his safety net. Anyone trying to get to him would have to go through them and Stiles does not want to see how poorly that would end for anyone who tries.
At least he doesn't have to pay for any of the new clothes. Lydia calls it a belated birthday present, though Stiles is surprised she even knew he had a birthday – two months ago. He's pretty sure the only people who know and care when his birthday is are his dad, Scott, and maybe Allison.
"Why didn't you tell us you're gay?" Lydia asks when they break for dinner. Lydia's picking at the salad in front of her while Stiles and Allison both have cheeseburgers. Stiles pauses with the cheeseburger halfway to his mouth.
Allison frowns. "Lydia..." She turns to Stiles. "You don't have to answer that."
Stiles shakes his head. It's not that he doesn't want to answer, it's that he's not sure how to. "I'm not... I don't know."
He still likes girls, but as far as he's concerned Lydia Martin is the only girl for him. At least for now. He knows Lydia will never love him back, and that's not really his priority anymore. He just hasn't run into any other girls that capture his attention like she has, but boys... His mind flashes to the guy from Jungle and he shakes his head. He thinks of Derek instead and something inside of him feels lighter.
"It's fine," Allison says. "You don't have to explain yourself."
Stiles leans back slightly. "It's not like I'm ashamed or closeted or anything, it's just... it's something new. I hadn't... And now I just... I don't know..." His throat clenches up. They're in the middle of the mall food court. He can't lose it, not here.
"Oh, Stiles," Allison says, her hand covering his and squeezing.
"What about that guy?" Lydia interrupts, pointing.
Stiles follows her finger to a fairly attractive man with curly black hair and a crisp blue dress shirt. "What about him?"
"Do you find him attractive?"
Stiles thinks about it. Objectively he can see how the guy might be appealing, but something inside of him twists with unknown terror. He looks at the guy and all he can think about is pain. "Yeah, I guess, but I... I don't think I could ever... Not with a stranger. Not again."
Allison looks at him like he's a hurt puppy but Lydia just nods and moves on. "What about Danny?"
Danny makes him think of comfort, of easy friendship and no pressure. Stiles shrugs. "Maybe. I've never thought about him as anything other than a friend."
"What about Isaac?"
Stiles shudders. He still hasn't quite forgiven Isaac for trying to kill him. "Too scary."
"What about Derek?"
He blushes. He can't help himself and he knows his feelings are written plain across his face for both of the girls to see. He wonders if Scott had ever mentioned anything to Allison about his crush – Scott is the worst at keeping secrets, unless of course, it's about psychopathic geriatric werewolf hunters, apparently.
"Mmmhmm." A sly smirk dawns across Lydia's face and Stiles has the feeling that she's hatching some evil plan in that gorgeous head of hers.
Stiles isn't sure if he should be afraid or excited.
Stiles is making macaroni and cheese. Not the good homemade kind, but the kind from a box that uses powdered cheese and is probably horrible for him but he still feels horrible and his food choices have been reflecting that. At least he's eating again, not that anyone knew he'd stopped. He couldn't not eat with Lydia and Allison at the mall. His appetite had been spotty after that but he's slowly easing himself back into semi-regular meals. He's not eating much, but he's trying and he hasn't thrown up in two days so that's progress. He's also got tea steeping, because if there's one thing he learned from his mother, it's that tea is one of the best things for calming his nerves.
He turns around with a steaming mug in his hand and immediately jumps backward with a shout. It takes a second for his panicked brain to realize the figure in the doorway is his father and not a threat, but his heart races regardless. Hot water sloshes onto his hand and he drops the mug. He watches in mute horror as it shatters on the tiled floor.
His knees give out and he falls to the floor. Hot water soaks his pajama pants but he barely notices, just like he barely notices the burn on his hand. His fingers tremble as he reaches toward the shattered pieces of ceramic.
"Hey, hey, son. It's alright. It's just a mug." John grips Stiles's shoulder tight while his other hand catches Stiles's before he can touch the sharp shards. "It's nothing to cry about. It's no big deal."
Stiles isn't even aware that he's crying until his dad points it out, but now he can feel tears streaming down his face. It hurts to breathe. He feels just as broken as the mug, like it's a reflection of his inner self.
John rubs circles in Stiles's shoulder. "What's wrong? This isn't like you."
His mouth opens and he wants to just spill everything, put the whole truth out there in front of his dad. No more lies. What comes out instead is "It was mom's favorite mug."
John looks down at the shattered mug with a smile that's part fond and part sad. "I know." He squeezes Stiles's shoulder again. "But your mom wouldn't want you crying over it. We've got plenty more mugs. Just because this one is gone, it doesn't mean you can't still hold on to the good memories attached to it. No one can take those away from you."
Stiles's hand twitches towards the wreckage, but John just tugs him back. He puts a hand under Stiles's armpit and helps lift him off the floor and into a chair. Stiles lets himself be moved without helping or hindering the motion. He can't stop staring at the mug.
John turns away to run a dishtowel under the faucet. He squeezes some of the water out and then wraps the cold cloth around Stiles's burnt hand. "How about I get this cleaned up, okay? Do you want a fresh cup of tea?"
Stiles nods dumbly. He can only sit and watch as his dad sweeps up the shards and dumps them in the trash. He can't seem to stop crying. John places a fresh mug of tea and a bowl of the mac and cheese Stiles had forgotten about on the table next to Stiles, and then takes a seat opposite.
John stares at him for a long moment. "Do you want to tell me what's going on?"
Stiles stares down at his wrapped hand. Words press against his closed lips, begging to spill out. He closes his eyes to concentrate on holding them all in. He can't do this to his dad. He can't bring him in. He knows what it will mean for his dad's career, for his dad's wellbeing. Once his dad knows, he'll want to be fully involved. Any supernatural danger that comes into town will be just another thing for Stiles to worry about his dad getting hurt by – as if common murderers and thieves weren't enough.
"Look, Stiles," John says in his most patient voice. "I know something's going on. You got hurt pretty bad, and I know it wasn't just from falling in the woods." Stiles flinches. He should have known better than to try and hide the truth from an experienced cop. "And it's not just this time. There was the time after the championship game and before that when you called me from the high school or when you found Laura Hale's body." The nausea that had been building in Stiles's gut dissipates slightly. "You can tell me. I promise – whatever it is, I'll help you. We can get through this together."
He can't help himself. Not with the way his dad is looking at him, so earnest and pleading. He wants to tell. He wants to not have to hide this huge thing from his dad, to ease some of the burden on his shoulders and let his dad carry part of it. So he blurts "werewolves" before he can even think about it.
He regrets it as soon as the word leaves his lips. His father sighs and shakes his head. He looks so disappointed. It makes Stiles's insides twist into knots and he almost starts crying again.
"I... dad... they really... I can call Scott. He can show you."
John raises an eyebrow. "Scott? Really?"
Stiles flinches. John's expression softens. Maybe Scott wasn't the best choice of ally, given their past history of shared shenanigans... like locking Jackson in a police van and getting his dad fired. "Maybe..." He twists the dishrag in his hands. He shouldn't. He really shouldn't. "If... I mean... You could... maybe... um... talk to Derek?"
Both of John's eyebrows shoot up. "Derek? As in Derek Hale, the same Derek Hale that you accused of being a mass murderer?"
Stiles slouches lower in his chair. "Yeah. And that was Scott's idea... mostly..."
John drops his face into his hands. "Really?"
Stiles can't even look at his father. "I know you don't trust me right now. I've lied too much, but I promise you, if you go talk to Derek, he can prove I'm not lying. I don't want to lie to you anymore. I... I can't." His throat starts to close up and he can feel tears welling up again. "I just... I can't do it anymore. I can't deal with it, not on top of everything that's happened, and I... I want you to know. I need you to know, but you won't believe me, so please... will you please go talk to Derek?"
John sighs again. His chair scrapes against the floor as he sits back. "Yeah, kid. If it means that much to you, I'll go see him tomorrow."
Stiles nods and sets the dishtowel on the table. He flees the kitchen without even looking at his father. John calls after him but Stiles goes straight to his room and shuts the door. It's dark. He hadn't bothered to turn on the light earlier and he doesn't want to now. He slumps against the door and curls into himself, head on his knees and arms wrapped around his legs.
He needs a hug. He needs comfort, and strangely, the first person that comes to mind isn't Scott or his dad but Derek. He wants Derek here because then Derek could talk to his dad and fix things. He wants Derek here because despite all the times they've been at odds, he trusts Derek to help him, to keep him safe. Derek is the strongest person he knows and even though Stiles isn't pack, he knows Derek would help him.
But Derek isn't here and Derek doesn't know what Stiles just signed him up for.
Stiles slowly forces himself to uncurl and crawl towards the bed. His phone is still where he left it, plugged in on top of his nightstand. He pulls it toward him without unplugging it and flicks the screen to life. He's got missed messages from Scott and Allison – nothing important, just continuations of inane conversations they've had running for most of the day.
I told my dad, he sends to Derek. I know it's a lot to ask, but he won't believe me, so can you please talk to him? Show him I'm not crazy. You don't have to go into the whole epic story, just what you're comfortable with. I know he'll have questions.
He sends the series of texts off into the void of the cellular network. He waits, staring at the screen until it goes dark and then even longer after that. There is no reply. He's not even sure Derek got it. He turns his phone back on and types out quick replies to Allison and Scott before crawling into bed.
He hopes things will be better in the morning, but he knows they won't be.
Stiles wakes up in the middle of the night and has to shove his face into the pillow to muffle his screaming. He hugs his pillow tight against his chest until his sobbing dies down. He wants to go crawl in bed with his dad and let his dad hold him until the terror subsides but that will only bring up questions Stiles doesn't want to answer and he's already put enough on his dad's plate.
There's a soft tapping on his window. Stiles stills and pulls his head up slightly to stare at the window. The blinds are down and the curtains drawn so he knows no one can see him but he still feels exposed. He doesn't want anyone to see him like this, weak and pathetic and disgusting. It's bad enough that they likely heard him, that they can still hear his pounding heartbeat.
The tapping comes again. He's not sure who it is. It could be any of the wolves – Isaac or Scott most likely, maybe even Derek himself. He should get up and let whoever it is in. They know he's awake. He can't even pretend that he didn't hear them, yet he can't bring himself to move.
The tapping doesn't come again, so he assumes whoever it was left. He feels a little bad. The werewolves only come to his window this late at night when they need something. It might have been important, but it would also remind him of the world outside his bedroom – a world full of pain and misery and suffering. He doesn't like that world. He's been exposed to too much of it.
He's just about to fall back asleep when his phone pings. He smiles at the thought of Derek texting like a normal person instead of coming through his window. It makes him happy for no inexplicable reason and he falls asleep smiling.
Derek wants to know about unicorns of all things. He doesn't mention Stiles's dad or the late night visit that went unanswered. Stiles doesn't question it. It's the weekend – not that that matters much without school to break up the week. Scott had wanted to go see a movie but Stiles had bowed out and suggested Scott turn it into a date with Allison instead. He does bits of research in between sleeping too much and reading the horrible book Allison lent him two weeks ago. He can't stop picturing Derek as Lord Woolsey and Peter as Lord Cambridge. Somehow he ends up as the one in the dress, and that's not as disturbing of a thought as it should be.
He should know by now that the outside world can't be avoided forever. Scott shows up in his room Sunday afternoon with a box of pizza and a rental of the latest Marvel film. He stares too long at Stiles's face – the bruises are an ugly greenish black covering half of his face – but doesn't immediately comment. Instead, he crawls onto the bed next to Stiles, tossing aside all of Stiles's extra pillows, and sets Stiles's laptop at the foot of the bed. Stiles shifts himself into a more upright position while Scott gets the movie started.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Scott asks as he settles back against the headboard, his shoulder brushing against Stiles's.
"Talk about what?" Stiles pulls his knees up, curling in on himself.
Scott says nothing. They both know Stiles is avoiding the topic, though Scott doesn't know what the topic is. He just knows that Stiles was hurt and that he won't talk about it. They talk about everything, but Stiles can't bring himself to tell Scott about what happened. It's bad enough that Scott can see the leftover bruises. He tucks his arms back under the blanket even though it's already too late. Scott had to have seen the marks on Stiles's arms. Even though they're fading, Stiles knows the marks will never truly be gone. He'll always feel them.
He should talk about it. He should tell Scott, and he tries to. He honestly does. He opens his mouth but the words stick. Tears prickle as he tries to speak and he shakes his head.
Scott reaches over and squeezes Stiles's arm. "When you're ready..."
He nods. "Yeah."
He's never been more grateful to have Scott as a friend as he is now.
"Derek needs you to research something," Isaac says as he slides into to the giant corner booth currently holding Stiles, Lydia, Jackson, Scott, and Allison. Erica and Boyd follow Isaac in. The waitress eyes the group of werewolves for a moment before heading over with menus. Stiles is very glad for Lydia, Allison, and Scott's presence. It had taken all three of them to get Stiles out of the house this morning, especially since Jackson was joining them. It's getting easier, at least, to go out and face the world without trying to hide himself. Or, at least it had been. Dealing with Jackson's snide comments about his face had been bad enough. The appearance of Derek's pack makes him shrink away slightly, leaning back into the booth and away from the werewolves. As much as he loves being able to take over the big booth at Martha's Diner, there's no barriers between him and the rest of the crowd, no corners to cower in.
Scott gives him a strange look and Stiles forces himself to straighten and look at Isaac. He can't quite meet the werewolf's eyes.
"I know. Jesus, it's only been two days and these things take time. Plus it was the weekend. I was busy. No need to sick his puppies on me." He's trying very hard not to shrink away from them. He's still a little scared of Derek's wolves. He hasn't forgotten that they've hurt him before and part of him takes that too much to heart lately, like they'll suddenly know what's wrong with him because of their freaky werewolf senses and use that knowledge against him. He knows logically that's not what would happen. They're friends now, sort of. Well, except Jackson. But it doesn't stop his fear.
Isaac frowns. His eyes narrow slightly and his forehead creases like he's trying to puzzle something out. "Stiles..." Isaac stares at the bruise on Stiles's face.
Fear spikes in Stiles and he leans back in the booth. Lydia's hand finds his under the table and squeezes hard. "I know, I know. Can't keep Derek waiting," Stiles says, forcing his voice into some semblance of normalcy. "It's at home. I could email it to him." Stiles pauses. "Does Derek even have email?"
Isaac shrugs. Erica snorts and that's likely the best he'll get for an answer. He's pretty sure Derek doesn't even own a computer. Hell, electricity is a new thing for Derek's choice of residences. Stiles supposes it's too much to hope for WIFI or cable to go with it.
"Whatever." Stiles pokes at his pancakes with a fork. "Tell him to text me. He can either come pick it up or I'll drop it off."
"Right." Isaac stares at him a little too long. "Thanks." He eyes Stiles until the waitress comes to take their orders.
"So there's this new smoothie place in the mall I've just been dying to go to," Lydia says, continuing the conversation she'd been having with Allison as if there hadn't been any interruption. "You're going to take us." She pokes Stiles in the side.
Jackson mouths a silent prayer to the heavens that he doesn't have to go.
"I want to go," Erica says with a pout that would be adorable if she didn't scare the crap out of him.
Lydia's eyes tighten and she stares at Erica a long moment before nodding. He's not sure what calculations are going on in Lydia's head, but somehow Erica passes muster. "You may come. Meet us at Stiles's house tomorrow at noon."
"So much for sleeping in," Scott says with a wry smile.
"He sleeps enough," Lydia says before turning back to Allison. "What do you think about another Macy's run?"
Stiles groans theatrically. That means they're going to have him trying on things again. He pretends to hate it but he doesn't and they know it. It's nice because they complement him and make him feel like he has worth, even though he knows he doesn't.
"I like Macy's," Erica says.
Lydia gives her a look of approval and Stiles knows his fate is sealed then.
"Stiles," his father calls from downstairs. Stiles blinks sleepily and slowly crawls out of bed. He'd fallen asleep reading after getting home from breakfast and it feels like he's time travelled, like it's not supposed to be night yet. When he wanders downstairs, his father has Chinese take-out set out on the kitchen table. "Have a seat."
Stiles does, flopping bonelessly into his usual chair. He absently scoops some sweet and sour chicken onto a paper plate along with some fried rice. His father knows him well because all of Stiles's favorites are on Stiles's half of the table. He glances at what's on his father's plate – kung pow chicken and lo mein, not the healthiest of choices but he doesn't have it in him to complain.
"I talked to Derek," John says.
Stiles freezes with his chopsticks halfway raised. He slowly lowers them to his plate and looks across the table at his father. There are many different ways the conversation could go from here. Most of them don't end well for Stiles, but he's not too worried. He sees the food for what it really is – a peace offering.
"I'm sorry I didn't believe you," John says, and the tension that had been building in Stiles releases. "I know it must have been hard for you, holding on to such a big secret for so long. I can't say I'm not displeased that you didn't come to me sooner, but I understand why you didn't. It's... it's a lot to take in."
Stiles looks down at his plate and pokes at his rice. "Ah, yeah, I guess. What did Derek tell you?"
"A lot." John pauses to take a bite of his lo mein and Stiles figures that's as good a cue as any to start in on his own food. "He told me why Kate Argent killed his family and what happened to his sister. Then with Peter..."
Stiles nods. "He told you Peter's alive again, right? Our very own zombie wolf."
John shakes his head. "I don't think I'm ever going to get used to how weird that is."
"Yeah. I think my brain just doesn't process weird anymore. Like apparently unicorns are a thing now, or at least Derek seems to think they are."
John coughs. "Yeah. About that... I didn't want to say anything, because we both know how you can be," Stiles smiles slightly as his father gives him a fond yet pointed look, "but there have been a few... incidents... in town lately."
Stiles straightens instantly. "Incidents? Are we talking dead bodies incidents or people getting kidnapped incidents?"
John shakes his head. "It disturbs me how excited you are about the possibility of a murderer running around."
Stiles shrugs. He's always loved a mystery and he could really use one right now to take his mind off of his own problems. Avoidance has always been his go-to tactic when there's something he doesn't want to deal with.
"Before you go poking around – because I know you will, whether I want you to or not – it's the dead bodies type of incident. We're not at the town-wide curfew level yet, but if there are more incidents, we may be looking at that."
Stiles shifts in his seat and leans forward, food forgotten. "Who died? Is there any pattern? What do we know?"
John levels a stern look at him. "There is no 'we' in this. Derek thinks there's some sort of supernatural connection to the attacks, but it still boils down to someone or something is out there killing people. I want you to stay as far away from it as you can."
Stiles holds up his hands in surrender. "I'm cool with that. I like being alive, thanks." Despite his reassurances to his dad, he knows he's going to get involved. Derek still needs to pick up the research from him and Stiles knows that isn't going to be the end of it. There will be meetings and strategies and there's no way Stiles is going to stand around on the sidelines if there's a fucking unicorn running around. He wants to give it hugs. "So this is connected to unicorns how?"
"All the victims have been impaled."
Stiles suddenly rethinks his plan of hugging the unicorn. Staying far away from the unicorn seems so much better. "A unicorn is killing people?"
John shrugs. "I'm not too convinced on that. There's a number of real weapons it could be and there hasn't been anything strange at the crime scenes."
"What about the victims?"
"No connection I can see. None of them knew each other as far as we can tell. They didn't even move in the same circles. A schoolteacher in her late 50s, a 43-year-old male psychiatrist, and a college frat boy."
"Huh." Stiles leans back and tries to puzzle together what little he's found out about unicorns. All the standard lore paints unicorns as beneficial creatures, useful for healing and generally benign. None of the three victims sound like virgins, which is what unicorns usually approach. Stiles has to stifle a shudder. That could have – should have – been him. He should still be a virgin and the fact that that was taken away from him...
His eyes dart up to his father and he forces a smile. "Nothing. Just thinking."
John points a chopstick at him. "Keep it that way. No getting involved, you hear me?"
"Yeah." If it is something violent, Derek's going to insist Stiles and Lydia stay away from it. Wouldn't want the pitiful humans to get hurt.
He forces down a few more bites of Chinese. He can't stop thinking about how much of a failure he is. How disappointed his dad would be in him if he knew the full truth. He nearly chokes on his chicken. He stands and drops his plate in the trash. He'd only eaten half of what he'd dished out but that's been fairly normal for him lately.
"I'm fine." He waves off his dad's concern. "Still full from breakfast, I guess."
He's not convincing enough to fully erase the look of concern from his dad's face. "Okay. I'll box up the leftovers if you're feeling hungry later. I'm going to be working late tonight so don't stay up too late." John points a stern finger at him. "And don't go snooping around police reports."
"Okay, okay. I got it." Stiles beats a hasty retreat back to his room. He plays some quiet music on his laptop and lays down on his bed, letting the low sounds soothe him. He tries not to think – that's the point of this, to clear his mind – but the thoughts flood in regardless of his intentions.
Stiles closes his eyes as he remembers Jackson's taunts from this morning. He'd taken one look at Stiles's face and asked what Stiles had tripped over. Stiles hadn't even had to make up a lie, Jackson had just assumed it was something Stiles had done to himself. Stupid, clumsy Stiles strikes again. He's a danger to himself, so why would they even think about letting him help in a real battle?
It doesn't matter that he helped take down crazed Alpha Peter or kept Derek from drowning when they were trapped in the school's pool by kanima Jackson. No one's said anything about it yet, but Erica and Boyd watched him get beaten down by an old man. The rest of the pack has to know about it by now. They know how pathetic he is.
Stiles rolls onto his side and curls around his pillow. He wonders what Derek thinks of him after everything that's happened. He knows Derek doesn't trust him – Derek outright said that. But somehow, Derek trusts Scott enough to join packs, even after the stunt Scott pulled in double-crossing Gerard. Maybe he just needs to take out a rogue hunter and then he can be one of the cool kids too. He'd probably just get killed in the process, given his track record with hunters.
Tapping at his window pulls his attention away from his morose thoughts. He stands, even though he doesn't want to, and pulls the blinds and curtains away so he can open the window. Derek slides in like it's normal to be crawling through bedroom windows. He's got his leather jacket on even though it's summer.
Derek's eyes skim over his face without even the slightest change in expression. "What did you find?"
Straight to the point, then. Stiles drops into his computer chair and spins around to face his desk. He has a pile of papers already laid out, gathered together with a paperclip and highlighted at the more relevant sections.
"Not much," Stiles says as he hands over the papers. "Dad told me about the murders but I don't think you're looking for a unicorn. They're only supposed to let virgins near them and their horns were used for healing, not killing. I mean, it's possible one's gone rabid, but are we even sure they exist? There's nothing in the Argent bestiary about them."
Derek flips through the papers. "We found cloven hoof prints in the forest near where the first body was found."
"Maybe someone's goat got loose? Live-action Goat Simulator?"
Derek's brows furrow. "What?"
Stiles waves a hand. "Never mind." Scott would have gotten the joke. "Anyway, the Greek tales were likely just misrepresentations of rhinoceroses and the European version stems from an allegory about Christ. People used to sell fake unicorn horns as cures or cups that couldn't be poisoned, but those were usually narwhal horns or ivory. Then there's the kirin of Asian mythology, which were symbols of wealth and prosperity, but those were likely giraffes."
Derek raises an eyebrow. "So you're saying they likely never existed?"
Stiles shrugs. "Seems like. I mean, who knows what's really out there, but I wouldn't put much stock in the unicorn theory."
Derek grunts and turns to leave. He pauses next to the window. "You should take better care of yourself. You've lost weight." Stiles blinks. Before he can respond, Derek's disappeared out the window.
"What the hell did that mean?"
No one answers him.
"I want to go out," Lydia says when Stiles opens the front door on Thursday. Usually that means the mall, and Stiles would never in a million years have imagined that he would be the kind of guy that likes going to the mall but he does. He likes the bond he's been developing with Lydia and Allison – and now Erica as well, even if her addition has only increased the number of times Jackson has joked about Stiles being one of the girls. He doesn't care. It means he doesn't get left out as much.
Lydia isn't dressed for the mall. Neither is Allison. Stiles raises an eyebrow dubiously, but he lets himself be dragged upstairs so that Lydia can go through his wardrobe. She sorts through it with a practiced eye – this isn't the first time she's been in his room and a good quarter of the clothes in his closet are things she's bought for him.
"This," she tosses a shirt at him, "and this." A pair of skinny jeans. He looks rocking in that outfit, but he's never worn it outside of the Macy's dressing room.
Lydia gives him a pointed look. "You have to get back out there sometime."
He sighs. He knows better than to argue with Lydia. He takes his clothes into the bathroom to change while the girls flop down on his bed. If his dad were here, he'd make some joke about Stiles being a ladies' man, even though he knows full well that both Lydia and Allison are taken, but his dad got called away on a homicide. That makes the fifth one this month. His dad's seriously considering a curfew but they've yet to figure out a pattern between the victims and the coroner reports – that Stiles totally didn't access using the login that he totally doesn't have to the Beacon County Sheriff's Department's computer system – show that the murders took place at different hours of the day.
Stiles still thinks the unicorn idea is bullshit, but Derek keeps texting him with possible leads to look up. At least Derek is texting him, even if it means he's been spending an unreasonable amount of time at the public library. Who knew they had a rare books section with so many books on mythology?
"Stiles!" Lydia shouts from his bedroom.
"Just a second," he calls back.
When he steps out of the bathroom, Lydia smiles at him and he actually smiles back. He's starting to feel less broken.
All of that changes when they get to Cinema. It's not Jungle, but it might as well be. The smell of alcohol hits him like a punch to the gut and the packed crowd of men – and some women – gyrating on the dance floor reminds him too much of the night he was raped. It's a good thing he drove because he's definitely not drinking tonight. Lydia squeezes his hand and he offers a forced smile back.
They grab a table near the back of the club. Allison gets them drinks and they stare at the crowd for a while until Lydia sees someone she knows from school and darts off with a backwards wave. Allison watches the crowd, a look of longing on her face until Stiles shakes his head and tells her to go.
"Are you sure?" Allison asks.
"I'm sure." He doesn't even have to force a smile this time. "Go dance. I know you want to."
Allison stands but she doesn't move far. "Come with me?"
He shakes his head. He's not ready for the press of bodies. He'd rather sit alone.
He's not alone for long. A tall guy with blond hair wanders over a few minutes later. He's got a beer in his hand and Stiles has to fight to keep a grimace off his face. "Your girlfriend abandon you?"
"I don't have a girlfriend."
The guy smiles. "How about a boyfriend?"
The guy's pretty handsome. He's the kind of guy Stiles could get into – built, stubbled, with an amazing smile – but there's something off. He's not sure if it's something with the guy or something with him. "Don't have one of those either."
"You're too pretty to be all alone," the guy says. He puts his hand on Stiles and Stiles flinches back so hard he almost falls off of his chair. Some of the guy's beer spills on the table as he grabs Stiles's arm to keep him from falling. Stiles flinches and curls in on himself.
The guy's eyes widen. His mouth opens but Stiles doesn't stick around to hear what he's going to say. He blurts out a quick "sorry" and pulls out of the guy's slack grip. He doesn't realize he's having trouble breathing until the cool air outside the club slaps him in the face.
He's having a panic attack, all over a simple touch.
He has no idea how he makes it to his Jeep. One second he's outside the club, the next someone's tapping on the window. Stiles jerks back in surprise. He gasps, sucking in a huge breath of air. He expects to see the guy from the club but instead it's Derek.
"Stiles." The word is a command and Stiles reacts automatically. He unlocks the door. Derek pulls the driver side door open and looks at him with a frown. "Stiles, breathe."
Derek's touching him, squeezing Stiles's hand and holding Stiles's face so that Stiles has no choice but to meet Derek's eyes. His touch is uncharacteristically gentle and it calms him. The feeling of Derek's hands on him makes the panic go away, fading like a hazy memory. He wants to stay like this forever. He wants to analyze what it means that Derek's touching him like this, that he's okay with Derek touching him like this.
He does neither.
Stiles slowly pulls away. "I'm alright," Stiles say before Derek can ask. Derek's eyebrows are practically telegraphing all of the questions Derek wants to ask but doesn't.
"What are you doing here?" Derek says instead.
Stiles waves at the club. "Lydia and Allison."
"You shouldn't be out. It's dangerous."
Stiles raises an eyebrow. He can't help himself. "Because of the unicorn?"
Derek does not look amused. "Pack meeting tomorrow. We'll talk about it then. Go home."
Stiles swallows and looks away. "I can't leave without Lydia and Allison." The mere thought of going back into the club makes him want to vomit.
Derek huffs and rolls his eyes. "Stay here." He shuts the door firmly before Stiles can argue. Minutes later Derek emerges from the club with Lydia and Allison following behind him. The girls smile at him as they walk towards the Jeep with Derek trailing behind like a grumpy parent. At least Stiles can say that it wasn't entirely his fault that the night got caught short. The girls don't mention his freak-out at the club. It's possible they don't even know about it, unless Derek told them about it but he doesn't think Derek would have done that.
When he's back home, safe in the four walls of his bedroom, he types up a thank you text to Derek. He doesn't hit send. He stares at it, debates deleting it, and in the end decides to let it sit in his drafts. He'll send it later.
He never does.
Stiles has a sense of dread when he shows up at Derek's for the pack meeting. He's still reeling from his panic attack last night and he's not sure he wants to be around so many people right now. He feels skittish. He startles when Jackson laughs too loud and sits on the edge of the couch furthest away from everyone. Scott plops down next to him with a wide grin and for a second, Stiles thinks he's going to be okay. Even though Scott doesn't know the details, he knows something's up and he's been supportive of Stiles's new idiosyncrasies.
Derek crosses his arms and stares down the group until they settle. "We have a unicorn problem."
Stiles groans and drops his face into his hands. "Really? This again?" Derek glares at him.
Jackson snorts and Stiles winces in anticipation of the horrible jokes that are going to come from Jackson's mouth. "What? Are they prancing with too many virgins?"
Derek frowns as the rest of the room snickers. "No, it's goring people to death."
Derek pulls some papers from one of the books scattered around the room – the books remind Stiles of the ones he's been reading at the library. The papers are tossed on the coffee table in front of them all. They're photographs. Of a unicorn. Impaling someone on its horn. Stiles is both disturbed and impressed.
Derek glances pointedly at Stiles. "The Sheriff sent these to me. He's erased the footage but at this pace it won't be long until someone sees it. It's killed five people already. We have to stop it."
"You mean kill it," Lydia says, her voice pushing that 'bored now' tone she gets when she doesn't want people to know she cares about something.
"That is the general idea," Derek says. "We have to find it first."
Scott raises his hand. "But, isn't killing a unicorn supposed to curse you or something? That's what it said in Harry Potter."
Derek sighs and at least half the room rolls their eyes. Allison pats Scott's hand from where she's sitting on Scott's other side. "Life isn't like Harry Potter, honey."
"It feels like it sometimes," Scott grumbles and Stiles gives him a playful nudge followed by a stealth thumbs up. It was a valid point, for all that they're grasping at straws as far as their knowledge is concerned.
"How do you catch a unicorn?" Isaac asks.
Stiles freezes. His eyes bore into Derek, silently pleading him not to say what Stiles knows he's going to say.
Derek ignores him, or maybe he's just completely oblivious to Stiles's attempts at telepathy. "Old lore says they can be caught by virgins. It doesn't say how."
Stiles's heartbeat ratchets up, beating hard enough that Derek finally looks at him. Derek's a little too late. Stiles hears the jokes in his head seconds before they're given voice.
"Stilinski finally has a use," Jackson quips. Stiles nearly vomits. Derek's hand twitches towards him and he knows he has Derek's full attention now.
He doesn't want it. He doesn't want anyone to look at him right now, maybe ever again.
"Stiles always has a use," Scott says. If Stiles were feeling better, he'd offer a fist bump. At the moment, it's all he can do not to hug himself and start rocking like a crazy person.
"Jackson!" Lydia smacks Jackson and Stiles smiles briefly. He likes this new version of Lydia that actually gives a shit about him, even if it's not the way he'd ever hoped for.
"Jackson's right," Derek says, though he seems reluctant to agree with Jackson of all people. Stiles's hands start to tremble and he has to grip his knees tight before anyone notices. Derek's eyes narrow. He noticed, but he keeps talking. "Not about having a use, but about using Stiles as bait. We're going to need you to lure the unicorn in."
Scott, Allison, and Lydia object while Stiles sinks into the couch. He wants the plush fabric to swallow him up, to take him away from this world where everything is pain or a reminder of pain. He can hear people arguing around him, but the sounds are fading. Erica's laughing. She loves watching strife between pack members. Boyd and Isaac wisely chose to distance themselves away from the fray.
He's having another panic attack. He needs to leave. He can't leave without saying something. He can't move at all.
"I can't be bait," Stiles mumbles. They have to know. The words tear at him, like he's ripping out part of his soul.
No one listens to him. That's almost worse than the admission itself.
He's going to throw up. He can feel bile rising in his throat. He needs to get out, now.
"I can't be bait." He speaks a little louder. Allison stops arguing and gives him a pitying look. It's like her eyes are stabbing him. "Guys!" He has to shout to be heard. Scott turns to look at him. The arguing dies down long enough to repeat himself. "I can't be bait."
Derek's frown lessens. He takes a step towards Stiles. "You won't be in danger. Everything I've read said that unicorns favor virgins and we'll all be there if something goes wrong."
Stiles's hands won't stop shaking. He's pretty sure his whole body is about to start shaking. It's hard to breathe. "I. Can't." He has to force out each word like an explosion of breath.
Silence falls for a second and Stiles thinks maybe now, maybe he could make a break for it but then Erica whistles and a whole new cacophony breaks out. He cringes, shrinking away from the sound.
Scott turns to him with wide eyes. He looks at Stiles like Stiles has somehow betrayed him. It's like a knife twisting in his gut when Scott demands "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Way to go Stilinski!" Jackson actually sounds impressed. He would be. Jackass.
"What? No way!" Isaac finally speaks up. "Before me?"
"Who's the lucky girl?" Erica waggles her eyebrows at him. Stiles shivers and shies away. He doesn't want anyone looking at him like that. Just the thought... the thought of sex...
"It's not..." Bile rises in Stiles's throat, choking out the rest of his words. He doesn't know what to say, how to explain. He doesn't want to explain.
"How could you not tell me?" Scott says and the hurt in his voice makes Stiles feel like everything's his fault – the unicorn, the rape, everything that's wrong with the world is all on him.
Tears threaten and it takes an effort of will to hold them back. Even so, his voice comes out choked. "I..."
Allison cuts him off, mercifully directing Scott's attention away from him. "Scott, don't."
Why can't Stiles just die right now? If spontaneous combustion were a thing, he would choose to implode right here.
"Seriously, who was the girl dumb enough to sleep with you, Stiles?" Jackson asks.
He has to close his eyes before he loses it. Everything's unravelling around him and he can't stop it. He can't fix it. It's all broken and he doesn't think he even has the pieces anymore to make it fit back together.
Scott starts yelling at Jackson again and it sets the whole group off. There's so many raised voices. He feels like they're all yelling at him, blaming him. Look what he started. Can't even get this one thing right. Lydia and Allison shout, their voices rising over the fray as they try in vain to quell it, but it's no use. Even Derek gets involved, trying to get them to stop.
Stiles can't take it. He shoots to his feet, his hands curled so tightly into fists that he's pretty sure his nails are drawing blood. He shouts "I was raped."
The whole room goes silent. He doesn't have to open his eyes to know that they're all staring at him. He can only imagine their expressions. He can picture their pity, but even worse is the thought of their disgust. It's so quiet and his breath is too loud. It's a struggle to even pull in air.
Then Allison sighs in the way that says her heart is breaking and Stiles cracks. He can't do this anymore. He can't be here anymore. A tear rolls down his cheek and he flees.
Lydia smacks Jackson hard enough that he shouts in pain, breaking the silence that's fallen over the loft. "Good job, all of you," she says as she stands. She grabs her purse and glances once at Allison – silent communication passing between them – before she stomps out of the room.
She doesn't have to go far. Stiles is collapsed against his Jeep, hands covering his face as he struggles to breath. Lydia gives no mind to the dirt on the pavement as she kneels next to Stiles. She puts a hand on the back of his neck and squeezes. "Hey. Look at me." Stiles's breath hitches on a half-formed sob. "Listen, it's going to be okay. I know it doesn't feel like that, but it's going to be okay. You just need to breathe. Can you do that? Breathe with me now."
Stiles shakes his head. His face is blotchy with tears and she feels her heart break a little in sympathy. She wraps her other arm around him and pulls him close, guiding his head toward her shoulder.
"Breathe, Stiles. Just breathe." She squeezes his neck in time with her own breathing, exaggerating each inhale and exhale. She can feel Stiles relaxing against her as his panic subsides, but that only seems to make the tears fall harder. She holds him through all of it, until he slowly pulls away from her grasp to lean back against the Jeep's tires.
"They heard all of that, didn't they?"
She shakes her head, wishing with all her might that her words are as true as she wants them to be. "No. No, they wouldn't. Allison is up there reading them the riot act. You're okay. It's just us."
Stiles coughs a sort of half-laugh. "I kinda wish I could see that."
She smiles at him and brushes the remnants of his tears away with her thumb. "We can get her to do a highlight reel later." That earns her an actual laugh. "You wanna get out of here? I'll drive."
Stiles frowns. "Your car..."
"Allison can bring me back for it later. Let's get you home." She stands and brushes off her knees. "Keys." She holds out her hand expectantly.
Stiles passes his keyring over as he wobbles to his feet. It's weird watching him stumble over to the passenger side, and even weirder when she climbs behind the driver's seat. She's glad she made her dad teach her how to drive standard, though she prefers automatic for her own cars.
As they pull out of the parking lot, Lydia silently hopes that Allison is giving everyone in the loft hell, otherwise she's going to have to have a lot harsher words with each of them.
Stiles has been home for an hour when Scott arrives with Allison in tow.
"Hey," Scott says, kicking his socked feet against the carpet of Stiles's bedroom doorway. He's hesitating on coming in – something he's never done before. It's like he's waiting for permission or some sign that Stiles is alright with his presence.
"Hey," Stiles says back. "You can come in. I won't bite." His voice is raw from crying and his eyes are puffy and red, but at least he can still make jokes. Lydia is pressed against his side and her mere presence gives him the strength to face what he knows is going to be a very awkward conversation.
"Soooo," Scott takes a hesitant step into the bedroom. His face is a mix of emotions too complicated to sort out. Scott probably doesn't even know everything he's feeling, so how could Stiles? "Allison told us what happened."
Stiles winces. He knew it had to happen. It should have happened sooner, but he's very glad he wasn't the one who had to do it. He doesn't think he could have gotten through that conversation.
"Sorry," Allison says. She looks honestly contrite. She'd promised not to tell, but Stiles doesn't blame her in this situation.
He shakes his head. "It's okay." He pulls the pillow out from behind him and hugs it to his chest. The headboard is a comforting weight behind his back. "I should have told everyone myself."
"No." Scott shakes his head so fast Stiles is afraid it might fall off. "No, I totally get it. I understand. I wouldn't have wanted to talk about it either if... if it was me." He crosses the room and takes a seat at the edge of the bed, on the side not already occupied by Lydia. He sits by Stiles's knees and puts a hand on Stiles's legs. There's no magic in Scott's touch, no black pain-drain lines, but relief still floods through him at the touch. He'd been afraid, not just about how he'd react to people touching him since he's been a bit hit or miss with that, but with how people would feel about touching him. He still feels like he's ruined, like it should show on the outside and make people keep away. "I'm here for you," Scott says, his voice full of earnestness. "For whatever you need. Anything. Just name it. I'll do anything for you."
Hearing Scott say that... it loosens something inside of Stiles, like a piece of glass being pulled from his heart. He crumbles, slumping forward until his head lands on Scott's shoulder, and the tears he'd thought he'd been done with come pouring out again. Scott's arms come around him and it feels like safety and comfort and all the things Stiles had thought he'd lost along with his virginity.
He never should have doubted Scott. He never should have been afraid of what Scott would think. Scott is his best friend, and he should have known Scott would stand by him through this. He only wishes he'd realized it sooner.
"Just tell me who did it," Scott whispers, his voice full of promise. If Stiles gave Scott a name right now, he's pretty sure whoever it was would have a world of hurt coming to them. Scott wouldn't kill them – that's not Scott's way – but he would definitely give that person something to fear.
Too bad Stiles doesn't have a name to give him. He shakes his head against Scott's shoulder. "I don't know his name."
Scott squeezes him tighter, like he's trying to pull Stiles into himself. Stiles thinks he would like that – to not have to be himself anymore, to get a taste of what it's like to be strong. "I would do anything for you," Scott repeats. "Anything that would help. Tell me how I can help."
"You're doing good," Stiles says. "This, right here, this helps. I just... I just need time and your patience and I think... I don't know... maybe someday it will get better."
A hand squeezes Stiles's shoulder and Lydia says "It will get better. I promise, it'll get better."
He smiles slightly. He doesn't deserve friends like this. He thinks about how close he's gotten to Lydia and Allison. That wouldn't have happened without... without that night. Maybe that's the silver lining to the whole situation. It's brought him in from the edges of their friend group. Not far in, but enough that he doesn't feel like a complete outsider any more.
His smile fades as a thought occurs to him. He licks his lips and pulls away from Scott's hug slowly. He needs to see their faces when he asks "What... what did the rest of the pack say? When you told them about... about what happened..."
Allison steps around Scott to kneel by the bed. She takes Stiles's hand in hers and squeezes. "They understand. They won't... there won't be any more joke about... about that. They don't blame you. No one blames you."
Stiles nods. It's the best he could have hoped for, given the circumstances. He'll still have to deal with their pity but maybe, maybe they won't look at him like he's worthless. He thinks Derek at least would keep that from happening. He closes his eyes for a moment as dread fills him. Derek. Derek knows now. He's going to have to deal with that at some point.
Stiles shakes his head and opens his eyes. Later. He can think about that later. "I need a distraction. And maybe some ice cream."
Allison smiles wide and gives his hand one last squeeze before moving out of the way. "We can do that."
Lydia stands and straightens her shirt. "Let's move this party downstairs. We can put a movie in. Maybe order pizza?"
"Yeah," Stiles says. He waits for Scott to move before he stands up. "I think that would be nice."
Right now he just wants to be with his friends. Everything else can wait until later.
It's late by the time Scott and the girls leave. He's yawning as he climbs the stairs. At least he's already in his pajamas so he just has to throw himself in his bed. He's just about to climb under the covers when there's a rapping at his window. His blinds are open for a change and he can see the faint glow of red eyes through the glass.
He should have expected this.
Stiles turns and slides the window open, letting Derek in. He steps back before Derek even has his foot through, putting some space between them. Derek shuts the window once he's through and lingers there. He looks uncertain. Stiles doesn't blame him. Stiles sits by his desk and spins his chair in half circles, back and forth, back and forth.
They're silent for a long time, just looking at each other. Stiles wants to think that the fact that Derek sought him out at all is a good sign, even if Derek looks uneasy in his presence. Stiles isn't sure he'd know how to handle himself either, if their situations were reversed. Derek's mouth twitches, like he's stopping himself from saying anything just yet. Stiles is okay with that. He dreads the conversation he knows is coming. He dreads having to speak to any of Derek's pack and having to listen to their condolences, their offers of sympathy. He wants none of it. Not from them, and least of all from Derek. He wants to go back to the time when Derek didn't know, when Derek just thought Stiles had regular blushing virgin hang-ups. Not this.
Derek shifts on his feet and his gaze takes on an edge of determination. He finally speaks. "If I asked who did it, would you tell me?"
Stiles tilts his head. It's the same thing Scott asked him, but there's deeper meaning here, between them. He has to know. "Why?"
Derek doesn't even hesitate in answering. "He hurt you." The way Derek says it makes it sound like a capital offense. Stiles wants to remind him that there was a time when Derek hurt him, when Derek's pack hurt him. There was a time when Derek didn't care about Stiles at all. He's not entirely sure when that changed.
"And you'd do what?" Stiles asks. "Kill him? Tear him apart?" His lips quirk in an almost smile as he says "Rip his throat out?"
Derek finishes the joke just like Stiles expects. "With my teeth." There's a fierce savageness to the way Derek smiles, and it makes a real smile spread across Stiles's face. The thought that Derek wants to seek vengeance for him is comforting. It adds back a layer of the safety he's lost since the incident.
Stiles leans back in his chair and looks at his ceiling. "Unfortunately, you can't. It was a guy at Jungle. I was too drunk to remember his name, assuming he even gave me his real one. And it was only a first name. Not much to go on."
Derek shifts on his feet. His hands flex at his side like he wants to claw something. "Can you describe him?"
Stiles has been trying to put all the details of that night behind him, to lock them away in the back of his mind where he never has to think of them again. He remembers at the time thinking that the guy looked a little bit like Derek. What would Derek say to that? Stiles doesn't want to find out. He deflects. "Why? So you can hunt him down? Terrorize every similar looking guy until you find the right one to punish?"
Derek nods. He's deadly serious. Stiles thinks about it for half a second. He shakes his head. "Don't do that. I'm not worth it."
"You're worth everything," Derek says instantly.
Stiles starts. His eyes widen and he shakes his head. "What? No! I... I'm not..."
"You are." Derek takes a step closer. He presses a hand to the side of Stiles's face. It doesn't make Stiles flinch away like with other guys. "No one should get away with treating you like that. Ever."
Derek's fingers run across his face in a gentle caress before he draws away. "I should go."
Stiles grabs his hand before he can move away. "Stay. Tell me what you found out about unicorns."
Derek raises an eyebrow, but he stills, relaxing into Stiles's grasp. He doesn't pull away. "You did most of the research."
"Tell me what you know."
Derek runs a hand through his hair and steps away, pulling their hands apart. Instead of heading out the window, he sits on Stiles's bed. "They're fierce. Some of the Greek accounts – the ones that might be of rhinoceroses, say that they're tough, that you need a group to take one down. Their horns can pierce anything, even a steel shield. They're as good as wolves at tracking their prey, and very little can put them off a target. No one's seen one in a long time, or at least no one that's lived to tell about it. They're impossible to capture alive."
Stiles arches an eyebrow. "And yet you want to try?"
"I don't plan on taking it alive," Derek says, his voice flat and even.
"Oh." Stiles looks up at the ceiling. "Why's it here? Why now?"
"I don't know."
Stiles nods. "I'll ask my dad what else he's found out. He doesn't want me getting involved in the case, but if I'm just passing information on to you he might not mind." Stiles looks down at his hands as they ball into fists. "At least I'm not lying when I tell him I won't be involved."
"Stiles..." Derek lets the word hang there. He doesn't seem to know what to follow it with.
Derek stands and opens the window. Stiles doesn't want Derek to leave, not yet. He's still not sure what this new revelation means for them. How will it affect the way Derek treats him? At least Derek's still willing to touch him, but will they ever get further than that?
Derek hesitates, half out of the window before saying in a low voice. "I would never hurt you like that."
Before Stiles can respond, Derek is gone.
Erica's the first one through the front door on Saturday. She's wearing a skimpy outfit, but that's indicative of nothing since her werewolf bite. She likes showing off no matter where she is. "So," she says with a snap of her bubblegum. "Are you one hundred percent gay?"
Stiles is still in his pajamas. He feels underdressed as Lydia follows Erica in. At least Allison is dressed casually, which means they're likely not going out. "No...? I don't think so."
"So you like girls?" This feels like a rehash of the conversation with Lydia weeks ago. He supposes the pack's bound to have questions. Aside from Scott, no one else knew guys were even an option for Stiles. He's never said anything, probably never would have said anything to Scott either except for a slip-up while drunk.
He shrugs and flops back down on the couch. Futurama is paused on the TV but it's an episode he's seen before. He's in no rush to get back to it. "Yeah. Girls are nice."
Erica drops into the chair usually reserved for his dad and crosses her legs. Her skirt is way too short but he's not at all interested in trying to catch a peek at what's underneath. "But you like guys?"
He thinks back to his visit to Cinema with Lydia and Allison. That won't be happening again any time soon. "I did. Before..." His mind turns to Derek and his soft touch. "I like some guys."
"He likes Derek," Lydia says. She doesn't even look up from her phone as she settles next to Stiles.
Stiles glares at her. "Hey! Private information!"
Lydia shoots a pointed look back at him. "Please. Anyone with two eyes can see you have a thing for him, and him you."
Erica drops both feet to the floor and leans forward, elbows on her knees. It does amazing things for her cleavage. "Oh, really?"
Stiles drops his head back onto the couch with a sigh. Allison pats his leg in commiseration. "Yeah. It's... there's a thing, but it's not... I mean I can't..." He swallows around the lump in his throat. "How could I ever..."
"Hey." Allison bumps his shoulder. "You'll get there. If you want to, I mean. If you never wanted... No one would blame you."
Stiles sighs deeply. "I don't know what I want."
Lydia drops her head next to his. "Then wait. No one says you have to make any decisions right now. If Derek's really worth your time, he'll wait for you."
"I just feel bad. I don't want anyone waiting on me to get my shit together. I shouldn't need to get my shit together."
"Why do you say that?" Erica asks. Stiles rolls his head to face her. She looks honestly curious.
He shrugs. "I shouldn't be so messed up. It was... It's been weeks and I just... I don't feel like I'm getting better."
Lydia snorts. "It's not like you have a cold and you're just waiting for your body's immune system to fight it off. Things that are in your head..." Lydia pauses and Stiles realizes she's talking from experience. "When you're not sure what's going on in your head, it takes time. It's something you work at, slowly. You can't rush it."
"I just want to be normal again."
It's Erica's turn to laugh. "Honey, you were never normal. None of us were. Whether you like it or not, you're part of our freakish family."
Stiles can't help smiling at that. He can live with not being normal if this is the family he gets.
His father is sitting at the kitchen table with files spread across the table. It's not rare for his dad to bring work home with him, especially when there's a case as big as this. His dad has been very clear about Stiles staying out of it, but Stiles can't help but try to sneak a peek. He'd told Derek he'd ask his dad but his dad has either been at work or asleep for the last few days. The case is really pushing the limited staff of the sheriff's department.
Stiles brushes close to the table on his way to get a cup of tea and freezes as one of the pictures catches his eye. He falls unsteadily into the chair next to his dad and picks up the picture with shaking hands.
"You know him?" John asks, his attention focusing on Stiles.
"He raped me." The words are out before Stiles even realizes it. He's staring at a picture of his rapist, a man he'd hoped never to see again. He never will. It's an autopsy photograph. The unicorn had gored him, just like the other victims.
"What!?" John's chair falls to the floor as he moves to kneel next to Stiles. "Are you alright? When did this happen?"
Stiles lowers the photograph. Staring at it won't change anything, won't make the churning of his stomach any easier. There are tears in his eyes. He hasn't cried this much since his mom died.
"It was a while ago. Just before they found that body in the woods. I was at Jungle, and I know you said... you said I wasn't gay, but I... I'm... He was... But then he..." Stiles's breath catches. He can't bring himself to go any further. "I'm not alright but I'm... I'm dealing with it. I'll be okay."
John's hands covers Stiles's and he squeezes. "If you need anything, anything at all..."
Stiles laughs. It's a bitter sound. "Therapy, maybe." Stiles hates therapists, but he's not getting better. He's holding on just barely and he's smart enough to know that maybe he needs help.
"We can do that. I can call Dr. Alphonse. You remember him from after your mother... You liked him well enough." There's a hushed tone to John's voice that says he gets how serious it is if Stiles is volunteering to go to therapy. John straightens after squeezing Stiles's hands one more time and rights his own chair. The files are shoved aside as John focuses on Stiles. "I get why you didn't tell me. I'm not mad. I'm... I'm glad you're telling me now, and I want you to know that no matter what, you can tell me anything and I'll believe you. I won't... It won't be like when you told me about the werewolves. I'm here for you. I always will be."
His dad looks so earnest. Stiles believes him. He feels like the holes in their relationship from all of Stiles's lies are finally getting patched up. He opens his mouth and words just flow from his mouth, like he's telling the story of another person. He lets go of all of his secrets – about being the one to lead Scott out into the wolves, being responsible for turning his best friend into a werewolf. He tells his dad about digging up Laura's body and being trapped in the high school and homecoming and leaving Lydia behind and setting Peter on fire.
He tells his dad about the hunt for the kanima and holding Derek up in the pool and being paralyzed while people die around him. He tells his dad the truth about the night of the championship game and leaving Erica and Boyd in the Argent basement because he didn't know what else to do. He talks about feeling left out while Scott tried to bridge the gap between the two packs.
He talks about his rape in a way he never has before, glossing over the gory details, but it's more than he's told anyone else. He talks about the way he feels about Derek and how afraid he feels and how he has no idea what to do anymore. He's crying by the end of it. He can't help it. It feels good to get it all out, to have no more secrets.
John pulls Stiles into a tight hug and doesn't let him go until they're bordering on awkward. "I'm sorry you had to go through all that."
Stiles shrugs. He's finally run out of words. There's nothing more to say.
John still has his arm around Stiles and he squeezes Stiles's shoulder. "You shouldn't have had to go through all of that alone."
"I wasn't alone." It's true. He's always had Scott and Allison and Derek and Lydia and his dad. Derek's pack has been there for him too. Even Jackson in his own selfish way. His dad hadn't known what was going on, but he'd still been there for Stiles in all the ways that really mattered.
John pulls away and glances at the files. "You know..." He starts digging through the files. "There's something that you said that makes me wonder..." John pulls three folders out of the pile and lays them out in a line. There's his rapist and then two other boys around college age. "The body the found in the woods... We found him later but the time of death makes him the first victim." He taps the photo of Stiles's rapist. "This boy was accused of rape but never convicted." He points to the third photo. "The other kid was part of the same fraternity and they had a bit of a reputation... well, let's just say I wouldn't be surprised if he'd committed a similar crime." John pulls another folder out of the pile. This one is the old schoolteacher. "I had her when I was going through high school. There were rumors... People joked that she'd had sex with one of her students, but it was just a rumor. Or at least that's what we thought." There's only one file left but Stiles can see where his dad is going. Two would be coincidence, but three is a pattern.
"The unicorn's killing rapists." The unicorn killed his rapist. He pulls the first folder over and flips through the papers. It had happened not long after... While he'd been at Lydia's this guy had been bleeding out in the woods. It had taken five days until someone stumbled on the body.
Stiles pulls the other confirmed rapist's file over and starts reading. The girl he'd raped had been a virgin too. He glances at the schoolteacher's photo. Stiles would bet good money that her victim had been a virgin too. He can only imagine what the last person, the psychiatrist, had done to one of his patients, most likely.
"They were virgins," Stiles says. "The mythology... it always talks about unicorns being attracted to virgins but what if..."
John blinks and stares at Stiles. "You were... I mean, I assumed but... I'm sorry that that was your first."
Stiles flushes and looks away. "Yeah. Nothing I can do about that now."
John licks his lips. "I can... I can talk to Derek, if you want... if you don't want him..."
Stiles's whole face feels like it's on fire. He drops his head onto the table. Is it possible to die of embarrassment? He feels like he could right now. "God, dad, no. We're not even... He doesn't... I mean, he might know. Freaky werewolf senses. And I think he... but we've got an understanding. Derek's good. He won't... Nothing's going to happen there for a long while."
"Okay," John says. "Okay. You just let me know if... I won't let you get hurt again."
Stiles slowly lifts his head and sits back. "Derek won't. He... he said pretty much the same thing." He shakes his head. "But that's not the point. I think... I think this is all connected." No, he's sure it is. The full moon was the start of it and Deaton had said before that Stiles was a spark, and though he hasn't done much besides the thing with the mountain ash he wonders. The full moon is supposed to be powerful for magic. What if...
Stiles shoots to his feet. "I have to go. I..." He glances at his dad and he feels bad about it, but he lies. "I have to go talk to Derek. This could be important."
John nods. "You think the werewolves are going to be able to take this thing down?"
"Yeah," he lies. "They'll take care of it."
He detours up to his room to change out of his pajamas and grab his keys, wallet, phone, and a flashlight. He backs slowly out of the driveway instead of racing like he wants to. That would just make his dad suspicious. He drives down the road but instead of turning towards the industrial district where Derek lives, he heads west to the Preserve. He drives down Access Road Delta – the road near where his rapist's body was found – until he comes to the little turnabout at the end and parks in the grass.
It's a longshot coming back here. He has no idea if the unicorn is even in the woods still, but it's the only place he knows to look. The dark woods seem foreboding in a way they haven't since Peter was roaming around as a crazed Alpha. He flicks his flashlight on and starts out heading North. It's as good a direction as any when he has no idea where he's going.
He wanders the woods for what feels like hours. Each rustle and snap makes him jump, even though he knows it's just normal forest sounds. It's the lack of sound that should worry him, and it does when the forest suddenly goes quiet around him. He freezes and turns slowly in a circle, flashlight shining off into the woods.
A glint of white catches his eye and he stares as the unicorn moves towards him through the trees. Its horn is almost two feet long and stained with blood. Other than that it looks like a horse, though not a normal one. Its coat is too pristine, almost like it's shining as the light from the flashlight hits it. It makes no sound as it steps towards him.
Now that he's here, he's not sure what to do.
"Stiles!" The unicorn pauses and they both turn to look at Derek. He's shifted into his Alpha form, eyes blazing red and claws out. Derek stares at the unicorn but his words are directed at Stiles. "Move slowly. This way."
He knows what Derek wants, but he can't. He shakes his head. A crash sounds nearby and he knows the rest of the pack are coming. He doesn't have much time.
Stiles turns away from Derek and takes a hesitant step towards the unicorn. Their eyes meet and he feels like there's a connection between him and the beast. There's an intelligence in its eyes.
A hand closes around Stiles's arm and shoves him backward as Derek puts himself between Stiles and the unicorn. "What do you think you're doing?"
"It's okay, Derek," Stiles says. He lays a hand on Derek's back, right over where his tattoo is. Shadows move in the woods around them as the rest of the wolves arrive. Stiles steps away from Derek and looks at each of the sets of glowing eyes around them. "It's okay. I know what I'm doing." He doesn't, really, but he's got an idea.
Derek moves to stop him as Stiles starts towards the unicorn. Stiles holds up a hand. Derek frowns but he doesn't get in Stiles's way.
It's terrifying approaching the unicorn. He knows it could easily kill him. Evidence of that is plain on its horn but Stiles has to do this. It's his fault that the unicorn is here, his fault that people have been murdered. He has to take responsibility for his actions.
His hand trembles as he reaches forward. The unicorn doesn't move, hasn't moved since the wolves showed up. He can feel their eyes on him as his hand lands on the unicorn's side. Its coat is soft and warm, like a microfleece blanket fresh from the dryer. He feels a jolt of something spark between them. He was right. They are connected.
Stiles takes another step forward and wraps his arms around the unicorn's neck in a loose hug. For a second, he's afraid he's going to be gored as the unicorn shifts, but it simply sets its head on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry," Stiles says. His voice is pitched low, just for the two of them, though he knows the wolves can hear every word he says. "I'm sorry I called you here. I didn't mean... I didn't want anyone to get hurt. But..." He swallows. He doesn't want to admit it with everyone here but part of him is grateful to the unicorn. "Thank you. Thank you for avenging me and all the others. I can't speak for them, but I'm glad that no one else will get hurt. Not from the ones you killed anyway. There... there could have been a better way. A way where no one died, but I... I was too scared."
Scott starts to say Stiles's name but Stiles shakes his head, cutting Scott off. "No. It was my fault that they're dead. I could have gone to the police and maybe, maybe then all those other people would still be alive."
The unicorn snorts and stamps its foot. Stiles gets the sense that the unicorn sees it as justice served. Stiles has spent too much time around Scott and his dad to view it that way. They're his conscious when his own fails him.
Stiles coughs and slowly pulls away. His hands linger on the sides of the unicorn's neck and he looks it straight in the eyes. "Anyways, what I wanted to say was thank you, but you can go now. I'll be alright." He glances back at Derek and the pack. "I'm not alone."
The unicorn dips its head as it backs away. The point of its horn taps his shoulder and then drags down his chest to stop directly over his heart. Stiles closes his eyes. He isn't afraid.
A hand lands on his shoulder and he opens his eyes. The unicorn is gone. He looks over his shoulder at Derek. Now that the danger's gone, Derek's shifted back to human form. Stiles looks around for the others, but they've drifted away into the woods. It's just him and Derek now, at least as far as he can tell.
"How did you know I was out here?" Stiles asks. He has no clue where he is, let alone how to get back to his Jeep.
"Your dad called. There'd been a sixth victim. He thought you were with me. It wasn't hard to figure out where you'd go."
Stiles nods. "It came here because of me. That night..." Derek's hand squeezes his shoulder. "The night of the full moon, I summoned it. I'm not sure how, but I did. My... the guy who... he was the first one killed. After that, the rest of them were rapists too. People who preyed on virgins."
Derek doesn't look surprised. Stiles's dad must have filled him in. He wonders how mad his dad is going to be with him. Maybe he'll understand.
Derek's hand slides from Stiles's shoulder to rest on the small of Stiles's back. He turns Stiles with faint pressure, guiding him out into the woods. "Whether you summoned the unicorn or not, it's not your fault that they died."
Derek pulls Stiles close, bumping their bodies together before drawing away again. His hand never leaves Stiles's back. "Did you kill them?"
It's hard to see with only the dim light of Stiles's flashlight lighting the way in front of him, but Stiles is pretty sure Derek just rolled his eyes at Stiles. "Physically. Did you physically murder them?"
Stiles frowns. "No, but..."
"Did you want them to die? Did you wish specifically for that?"
It's hard to remember everything that was going through his head that night. He remembers feeling helpless and alone but he doesn't think he wished anyone dead. "I don't think so."
"Then it's not your fault. You may have brought the unicorn to Beacon Hills but you didn't make it kill anyone. Their deaths aren't your fault."
Stiles hunches slightly and looks away for a second. "Can we agree to disagree?"
Derek growls low in his throat. It's not a sound that inspires fear in Stiles anymore. Instead it invokes a sense of fondness. "No," Derek says, "we can't."
Stiles sighs and leans into Derek. "I think it's going to take me a while until I believe that."
Derek's arm tightens around him. "I'm willing to argue with you until you do."
Stiles kind of likes the idea of arguing with Derek. It's practically their version of flirting. "That might take a while."
"I've got time." Stiles turns his head to hide his smile. "Besides," Derek says, "Lydia will back me up."
Stiles groans. He doesn't stand a chance. He thinks he'll be okay with that.