Stiles' eyes opened to a dark bedroom, the sound of gaspy inhales catching his attention before he could allow the weight of his eyelids to lull him back to sleep. At first he thought that the heavy breathing was coming from himself, a typical mid-night panic attack that had become common since his mother had passed away, but when he rolled over and realized that there was a warm body beside him, he jolted upwards, sitting in a mess of comforter and sheets that was too tight around his legs.
"Scott," Stiles murmured, voice groggy from sleep. "Scott, wake up. You're wheezing in your sleep." His fingers felt for the touch lamp on his nightstand, bulb blinding him as it lit.
"S'okay," Scott said breathlessly, easing himself into a sitting position against the headboard as he cringed at the sudden brightness. "Been up…for a while…like this."
"Where's your inhaler?"
"I don't know…haven't needed it…since the wolf thing." Stiles let his eyes adjust to the light before they focused on Scott hunched forward with his hands gripping his ankles, shoulders lifting quickly with every rapid intake of air, his half-failed attempts to get oxygen through his inflamed airways filling the quiet room.
"How bad is it?" Stiles licked his lips and let them part as he waited for Scott to get enough air to form a response.
"Remember lacrosse camp…during the scrimmage…in the rain?" Scott managed, Stiles immediately remembering the pressure of Scott's weight and arm around his shoulder as he lugged him off of the soggy field and helped him to the health office. Scott had breathed in medicine from a mask for twenty minutes, the familiar sound of the buzzing nebulizer unable to ease Stiles' anxiety as he twiddled his thumbs. Please let it work he thought as his muddy feet tapped worriedly on the clean, white tile.
"I'll be right back," he assured Scott as his feet hit the carpet, heart beating fast within his chest.
"Don't wake your dad," Scott begged, and Stiles paused for a moment before opening the door, lips separated once again as he took in the sight of Scott crumpled over himself, white lacrosse t-shirt and gym shorts making him look small against the dark blue of the queen-sized comforter.
Stiles ripped the medicine cabinet door open when he reached the bathroom and nearly cracked the mirror as it flung backwards and hit the wall. He searched behind bottles of Tylenol and Nyquil for the blue inhaler Scott's mother had given them, an old toothbrush and pack of dental floss falling into the sink with a clatter. Drawers were opened and rummaged through, Stiles' disappointment showing as they slammed loudly against the cabinet frame.
"It's four in the morning. What are you doing?" Stiles' robed father appeared in the doorway, rubbing his face in exhaustion and annoyance. Stiles debated keeping the information about Scott from his father, but his stomach flip-flopped as he remembered Scott's labored breathing and the way his eyes had been wide as he sucked greedily at the mist from the nebulizer mask that day at lacrosse camp.
"Scott's having an attack," he rushed. "I thought maybe there was a spare inhaler in the bathroom, but it's gone and he's getting pretty bad. Mom knew how to-" Stiles stopped himself and looked away from his father for a second before tucking his lips inward and crossing his arms.
"Where's Scott?" his father asked, and even though Stiles wished that Scott wasn't asthmatic, he was glad that there was a pressing issue that needed to be dealt with to downplay the fact that he had brought up the subject of his mother. The two hurried for the bedroom where Scott had moved his way down onto the floor so that he could sit against the mattress and bed frame.
"Hey, buddy," Mr. Stilinski squatted beside Scott to assess his condition, eyebrows forming a V when he realized that this was the worst attack he'd ever seen the kid have. "I don't have any medicine so I'm going to call your mother, okay? Just sit tight." Scott nodded as he continued to fight for air, gasps growing long and deep as his hand rose and fall as it lay against his chest. For a moment, the sound reminded Mr. Stilinski of the fast, forced inhales and exhales that hallmarked the panic attacks his son had started suffering about year and a half ago. He knew that Scott's asthma was something entirely different, but the desire to calm the attack down was overwhelming, almost as if the kid was his own son. As he dialed the McCall house, he couldn't help but dread the nervous voice that would soon be on the other end; no parent, he knew, wanted to receive a phone call so early in the morning.
"Melissa, it's…look, I'm sorry to call so early, but Scott's having trouble breathing and I can't find the spare inhaler you gave us a while back."
Stiles felt his fingers begin to fidget, anxiety rising as he watched his friend struggle to get air into his lungs, entire body tightening with every gasp. He knew that Scott was in trouble, needed that medicine to reach his airways yesterday if he was going to avoid a trip to the emergency room. To keep himself from adding to the situation, he sat next to Scott so that their shoulders were touching and whispered Keep breathing, man. I need you to keep breathing for me.
"Do you want me to take him to the emergency room? I mean, he's really working to breathe here." Stiles watched as his father rose and walked a few feet to the left, then the right, a barely noticeable kind of pacing that made Stiles wonder if his father was also nervous, something he wasn't used to seeing. "Okay, I'll see you in a few."
"What did she say? Do we need to go to the ER?"
"She's meeting us there. Help me get Scott down the stairs and into the car." Mr. Stilinski put the phone in its dock on Stile's desk before squatting back down in front of the two boys. "Hang in there, Scott. Just try to breathe as best you can." His voice was low and even, the slight unease he'd shown while on the phone suddenly absent. "That's it, in and out."
"S-she doesn't make him go to the ER unless she's afraid he's-" Stiles felt the hair on his arms raise as he thought about the last time Scott was in the hospital barely a year ago and how Stiles wasn't allowed to see him. And then he remembered the whole lycanthropy deal and thought about how everyone would react if Scott suddenly started changing, which would surely make a giant mess of things. Things like the murders and Derek, and both boys' lives.
"Stiles, look at me," Mr. Stilinski's voice grew serious as he motioned for his son to make eye contact with him. "Relax before I have to ask you to stay behind."
"I'm not leaving Scott!" They can pry my hands off of the rail on his bed. I'm not letting them take me out of the room this time, Stiles thought.
"Then I suggest you calm yourself down so that we can get Scott to a doctor." Mr. Stilinski's tone grew serious, even though he knew his son was too far into his panic to back away.
"He's going to be all alone! They're going to make his mother sign paperwork while he goes through it all alone," Stiles whispered as he put his head down on his curled up knees, feeling the rush of adrenaline and the tightening of his muscles that he had come to know quite well.
"Stiles, look at me again. Look at me," Mr. Stilinski ordered, knowing that his son was slipping into the confines of a panic attack, but all Stiles could do was close his eyes and try his best to keep his breathing from matching Scott's. "I need you to help me get Scott to the hospital. We're wasting time here."
"The last time you had an attack," Stiles said nervously as he ignored his father, body beginning to shake, "you were laying on the lacrosse field during that game against Mansville gasping like a fish out of water. I thought…I thought I was going to lose you like I lost… And they wouldn't let me in. They wouldn't let me stay with you. What if…what if I'm not there and-" Stiles couldn't keep his breathing from quickening, his throat suddenly feeling like it was closing.
"Rupert Stilinski!" his father boomed, making Stiles crouch inward. "Snap out of it!"
"Stop yelling at me!" He hated that he couldn't control it, could only think about how much he was letting Scott down as the panic attack began to take over completely, making him look like a five year old in the middle of a temper tantrum.
"Stiles," Scott tried, swallowing between sentences. "You're here now." Though Stiles' heartbeat was rushing in his ears, he had heard the faint voice of his best friend and willed himself as best as possible to focus on the breathy words. He wanted to tell him to stop talking, that it would only make the asthma worse, but part of him wanted Scott to keep reassuring him. "S'okay," Scott gasped, "I'll be okay…because of you." Stiles felt Scott's fingers wrap his on the carpet, a sense of calm radiating from that very spot and filling his body, allowing Stiles to slowly move from the ball he'd rolled into.
"Promise me you won't stop breathing like you did that time in seventh grade, when your dad finally moved out and you were in the hospital for two weeks because they had to put you on a ventilator." Stiles could feel hot tears sliding down his dry cheeks, but he didn't care; the panic attack was subsiding, almost as if the tears were the anxiety being released. "Promise me that you'll buy like, five inhalers and keep two of them on you all the time. And that you'll wake me up the next time you feel like your chest is getting tight in the middle of the night. And-"
"Okay," Stiles' father interrupted quietly, his best shot at taking control of the situation again. "Enough promises. Let's get Scott into the car before he turns blue."
"Okay," Stiles sniffed, panic just a small pit in the middle of his stomach as he squeezed Scott's hand.
"Okay," Mr. Stilinski said before him and his son helped raise Scott to his feet and assisted him down the narrow staircase. They guided him into the backseat where he leaned his head against the windowpane and sucked in as much air as he could from the open window once the car started rolling.
"I shouldn't have let myself panic," Stiles apologized as he sat beside Scott, wanting to place a hand on his friend's back, but knowing that the added pressure would make it harder for him to breathe. So he just looked down at his still-shaking hands and continued. "You needed me and I let myself go there. You've never really seen me panic like…anyway…I'm sorry, Scott. I'm so fucking sorry, you don't even know."
"S'okay," Scott managed, breaths shallow as let the cool night air breeze against his face. "Everything's okay."
"No, it's not!" Stiles protested. "I should have had that spare inhaler. I should have woken up earlier." But Scott just shushed him and grabbed Stiles' hand again, Stiles' heartbeat falling into time with that of Scott's. He knew that once the medicine was delivered to his aching chest, he'd be golden, so he closed his eyes and pictured Allison rushing to class just as the bell was ringing, dark curls airborne as she turned to smile and wave. Allison, who didn't even know he was asthmatic. Allison, who would rub the small of his hand with her thumb in the middle of a movie or while the two were holding hands under the table in the lunchroom. He wondered how he could feel so strongly about a girl, wondered if his father ever felt this for his mother, then decided it wasn't worth thinking about. Because Scott was starting to see spots in the distance, despite the fact that his eyes were closed, and even though he was breathing, he didn't feel like he was. No, his lungs were screaming for air, and no matter how hard he tried to grasp at the image of Allison smiling and confused as he handed her a pen the day they met, his asthma just wouldn't let him.