I promised myself that I wouldn't get drawn into Teen Wolf. After marathoning the first 8 episodes in one sitting, I still believed I wouldn't get that fannish about it.

…I was wrong.

And it only took me another week to figure it out. I haven't had a character wallop me this hard for fic since Claude and Berger. Stiles… *tips hat* …my hat is off to you. Nicely played. Nicely played.

Title: If You Keep On Believing
Fandom: Teen Wolf
Pairing: gen
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3,461
Warnings: Uh… none I can think of other than spoilers? This is episode specific for the season 2 finale, so if you haven't gotten that far, assume there will be spoilers.

Disclaimer: Teen Wolf does not belong to me. It belongs to the brilliant Jeff Davis and all the other writers, producers, etc., who work with him. No harm was meant. I'm just playing with these guys, I'll put them back where I found them when I'm done… more or less intact. ^_~

Summary: "Stiles wasn't like them - wasn't a hero. He wasn't. No. Stiles wasn't a hero… but he was just stupid enough to act like one now and again."

December 3, 2012: I love a good angst fest, for certain - but I love even more when someone finishes with his or her angsting and picks themselves up, dusts themselves off, puts a smile on their face… and then heads off to save the day. Stiles… you had me at "^_^".

If You Keep On Believing
by Renee-chan

The walk home was difficult, longer than any two mile walk should ever be. More than once Stiles just wanted to stop, to sit down in the middle of the road and hope someone would show up to carry him the rest of the way. Only that strategy hadn't worked so well, tonight - had never really worked very well, at all. Besides, Stiles wasn't the type of person who tolerated being carried - not in school, not in lacrosse, not in the supernatural mess he'd found himself in this year and sure as hell not on a freaking two mile walk to his own damned house. After all, what kind of wimp couldn't walk two miles? Stiles rolled his eyes as he answered his own question - the kind of wimp who'd just been beaten up by a 90 year old grandfather, that's who. Talk about pathetic. Stiles sighed, but picked up his right foot and put it down in front of his left, then his left down in front of his right, and on and on, slowly pushing himself to get home.

The really funny thing - or really the thing that wasn't funny at all - was that Stiles really hadn't pulled his own weight at all, tonight, not where it counted. It wasn't that he'd expected himself to be able to fight off the three goons who'd kidnapped him - he wasn't strong like Derek. He hadn't expected to be able to escape from that well-fortified - fuck, what would you even call it? A dungeon? In spite of the nice carpet and the pleasantly colored walls, it had been too horrific to call it a basement. - he wasn't a fighter like Allison. He hadn't expected to be able to rescue Erica and Boyd, either, though he'd tried his hardest at that, at least - he wasn't a hero like Scott, either. Those weren't his strengths, had never been his strengths. No, Stiles' strength was in his humanity, in his ability to believe… and what wasn't funny, at all, was that he'd failed in that - the one thing at which he was supposed to be good.

Before Gerard started beating the ever-living crap out of him, Stiles had blustered and bragged and flaunted that no matter where they hid him, Scott would find him… and he'd believed it then. He'd believed that not only could Scott find him… but that he would. He'd believed that, even as he and Gerard spoke, Scott was out on the roads, tracking him down - that the cavalry was on the way, that Scott would rescue him. He'd believed it even when Gerard had thrown that first punch and pain had exploded along his cheekbone and down his neck. He'd believed it when Gerard pinned him to the ground and started using him as his own personal punching bag. He'd believed even when Gerard tired of the punching and started kicking him - legs, arms, back, chest, belly. Stiles still believed, even when he heard something crack in his chest and dazedly thought that Gerard must have broken his ribs. He'd believed even when Gerard started taunting him about it, asking him where Scott was, asking him what kind of friend could abandon him to this fate to, no doubt, help a bully who hadn't cared one whit for Scott before then. He'd believed… right up until the beating stopped.

When Gerard delivered that last kick, the one that had Stiles doubling over to protect his stomach from the next one - the one he thought for sure would make him vomit - and then just stopped… that was when Stiles' ability to believe finally failed him. It was when Gerard smirked down at him, bent over and ruffled his damned hair, patted him on his uninjured cheek and waltzed back up the stairs to indicate that the beating was over. The worst was over… and Scott never came. It was only then that Stiles realized how desperately he'd held onto the belief that Scott would and the crushing of that belief was more damaging to him than the beating could ever have been.

Damn Deaton for putting the idea into his head in the first place - that a human's strength was in their ability to believe in the impossible. Stiles knew better. He'd always known better. He'd believed that his mother would recover… and she hadn't. He'd believed that his father would step up and take over the day-to-day running of their family… and he hadn't. He'd believed that one day Lydia would wake up and fall in love with him… and she hadn't. He'd believed that he and Scott were inseperable… and they weren't. Damn Deaton for tempting him to try it again. Damn himself for thinking it was a good idea. Stiles knew better. Believing in someone only ever left you disappointed. And in this case, especially, Stiles ought to have known better. No one looked out for Stiles - Stiles looked out for everyone else.

So, when Gerard had come back downstairs, given him back his phone and his keys and offered him a ride, Stiles had refused, insisted that he would prefer to walk. And so, he had. Two miles of excruciating step after excruciating step, his ears still ringing and his bruises throbbing with each jar of his footfalls against the cement. And, damn his inability to let go of a belief, as he walked he realized that he was still looking for Scott to be running up the road on his way to rescue him… only there was no sign of Scott. Hell, there had only been one text asking if he was OK and to let them know where he was - from Scott, anyway.

There were about a million from his father.

Stiles couldn't answer a single one of them. What could he even say? Sorry, dad, got caught up in the crossfire of a nasty little battle between the werewolves and hunters of this town - no need to worry, it happens a few times a week and I'll be home in two shakes? Damn it. No. There was nothing Stiles could say via text, or even over the phone, that would reassure his father. Hell, if the tone of Scott's text had been anything to go by, his father probably didn't even think he was in trouble. He probably just thought he'd run off to get away from the unexpected attention of the game and was ignoring him out a mischievous sense of spite. And the fact that his father might think something like that of him, that it was possible that he could believe Stiles would be so unthinkingly cruel… that hurt more than anything. That was one of Stiles' deepest fears - that his father might actually think him to be the person that his superficial actions painted him as without ever looking for a deeper truth. And Stiles no longer knew how to show his father that he wasn't that person, had never been that person.

When Stiles reached his house, he hung back for a moment before going in. His father was probably chewing on the furniture in there in worry and all that Stiles would be able to offer him was another lie, another partial truth… another piece of evidence to stack up with the others of how irresponsible and uncaring his son could be. Stiles didn't want that, didn't want to heap anymore dirt on top of himself in his father's eyes… but a lie was the only thing that would keep his father safe. Sheriff he might be… but Stiles' father was not equipped to handle the day-to-day insanity of Stiles' new life, much less the utter batshit crazy it had become with Gerard Argent in the picture. Unfortunately, he had no choice and the thought of lying to his father added another layer of weight to his feet as Stiles finally opened his front door and climbed the stairs up to his bedroom.

Truly the most ridiculous thing, though, was that Stiles wanted nothing more than for his father to pull him close and tell him that it was all going to be all right - that he was going to take care of it. That there would be no more moon-crazed best friends dropping him to go chase bunnies - or chase crossbow-wielding Allisons, more likely - no more emotionally repressed yet nosy alphas invading his personal space like it belonged to them, no more girls turning their noses up at him, no more teachers trying to mold him to be someone he wasn't… no more psychopathic grandpas kidnapping him and beating the shit out of him like he was a puppy that didn't know better than to get the hell out of the way. Only… his father wouldn't. His father couldn't. He didn't even know about most of the crap Stiles was dealing with right now and what little he did know about he couldn't help with anyway. But that didn't stop Stiles from wishing, more than ever, that he could. For once, he wanted to lay down this mantle of responsibility and be able to believe again that someone would pick it up and carry it for him for a little while, would maybe even carry him for a little while.

And if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

Still… he couldn't help it when that small spark of belief started glowing inside him, telling him that when he got to his bedroom, his father would take him in his arms and hold him close, would tell him he understood and that he would fix everything. It was a dangerous belief, and Stiles well knew it… but he was so damned tired, he couldn't help himself. He needed it to be true. He needed to believe enough to make it real - like he had the night he'd run out of mountain ash, because now, he'd run out of strength and he needed more from somewhere, from someone.

But when Stiles reached his bedroom it was to see his father standing forlornly in the center of it, defeated exhaustion written into every muscle of his body. There was no strength there. Stiles' heart ached for him. He hadn't deserved this. He'd been under so much strain lately and he really hadn't needed this on top of it. Looking at his father like this, Stiles couldn't help the thought that rose unbidden - like it always did in moments like this - his father looked old. He looked tired. He looked like he was the one who needed someone to give him a little more strength. Well, they might not look it, but Stiles had a strong set of shoulders - more than strong enough to carry them both… like he had since his mother had died.

So when his father's shoulders slumped and he whispered into the room, "Aw, come on, Stiles. Where the hell are you?" Stiles did the only thing he could. He stepped up to the doorway and said, "Right here."

When his father looked up, Stiles could only meet his gaze for a moment before he was forced to look away. He didn't want to see his father's hopeful surprise turn to anger or disappointment, or worse, to disgust. Seeing it when he'd drunk that damned spiked punch at Lydia's party had been more than enough. He never wanted to see it, again. He wanted to look up and see love and support in those eyes… to reach out and know that his father's strength would be there to catch him, if only this once, to not feel like he needed to be the one doing the protecting… but it was beyond clear that his father wasn't up for it. So, it was going to be up to Stiles, instead. When he sensed his father starting to move towards him, he risked looking up, to see which direction his father would need him to jump. There was love in his father's eyes, certainly… but there was no strength. The look in those eyes was that of a man pushed past his endurance, a man for whom one more blow might be the one to knock him over. Stiles knew what he had to do. He stepped forward, shaking his head, "It's OK, Dad. It's OK-"

Stiles didn't get any further than that before his father reached out and grabbed him - not to hold him close, but to examine his face, turning it to better see the bruising. Only this was worse than what Stiles had been ready for. He'd been ready to comfort his father, to reassure him that this had been just one more of Stiles' stupid little scrapes and was nothing to worry about. He'd counted on the fact that he would be dealing with his father… but from the hard, calculating look in the older Stilinkski's eyes, Stiles knew he wasn't dealing with his father - he was dealing with the Sherriff. He'd seen his father do this before - when Stiles' mother had died, when the grief became too much for him to bear… he'd just shut down. He became nothing more than "Sheriff Stilinski," even to his own son. And Stiles wasn't prepared for that. He could lie to his father, he could protect his father, he could support his father… but the Sherriff wouldn't let him do any of those things. Stiles needed his father.

He hadn't even decided what lie he was going to tell his father tonight, but it didn't matter. Even off the cuff Stiles was a better liar than most people could ever hope to be. He hated it… but he was good at it. Maybe it was because he always talked far more than was prudent. Maybe it was because people had gotten used to tuning him out, to not listening to what he said. He'd gotten good at it over the years - sneaking in truths in the midst of the babble to which no one listened and wrapping it in such convincing lies that even those simple truths would be missed.

Only Sheriff Stilinski would not be deterred. It was easier for him pursue the case than deal with how he felt about having lost his son - if only briefly. And Stiles' father might not be able to sift through Stiles' half-truths and untruths and whole truths, but Sheriff Stilinski had an ear for a lie. He might not know exactly which of Stiles' words were lies, but he knew that Stiles was being evasive, wasn't giving him the whole truth. Normally, Stiles would have played into it, would have spun the story further to hide the truth, but with every further question, every ratcheted up gesture and emotion, Stiles found, for once, that he couldn't keep up. He was too tired, too hurt… too a lot of things.

Finally, Stiles interrupted his father's words with a last, desperate, "Dad! I j-!" At Stiles' hesitation, his father finally paused in his ranting and really looked at him for the first time that night. Whatever he saw stopped him dead in his tracks and Stiles finished with, "I said it was OK." On that last word, his voice cracked. This was it. This was the moment when he hit his limit. He didn't have one more lie in him, not one more explanation, not one more glib answer. He just wanted it to stop. He needed it to stop. He needed his father to believe in him.

To Stiles' everlasting shock, whatever god had been ignoring him up until then chose that moment to actually listen… and so did his father - not just to what Stiles was saying, but to how he was saying it. And in that moment, Stiles saw his father put his Sheriff face aside, saw his eyes crumble as he reached out for Stiles, pulled him into a tight embrace. Stiles held on as tightly as he could, as though somehow that could prevent something like this from happening, again, as though it could prevent him from causing his father any more pain if he just held on tightly enough… if he just believed it enough.

In the end, Stiles wasn't sure who was truly comforting who and wasn't entirely sure that he cared. Just as he'd let himself be a fool to believe that Scott would come and save him, he let himself be a fool once more - this time to believe that his father really could keep him safe, that as long as those strong, sheltering arms were around him, no one and nothing could touch him… and it was the biggest lie of all because he knew better and still he told it to himself. He told it to himself like he'd told it to himself a hundred times in the last ten years, only this time, for the first time in years… he let himself believe it. When his father led him into the bathroom and sat him down on the toilet, helped him out of his lacrosse uniform - oh look, it hadn't been his ribs that cracked under that kick, just a pad and damn it he'd have to pay to get it replaced - and shook his head over each bruise he found, each cut he dabbed betadine on, each scrape he slathered with antibiotic ointment… Stiles let himself believe it a little more. And when his father left him to change his clothes and came back upstairs with a mug of hot chocolate stuffed to the brim with little marshmellows just how he'd like it since he was a child - and how his father had never let him have it so close to bedtime - Stiles smiled in spite of himself, and let himself believe it a little more.

When Lydia had come and gone, his father came back in to talk to him. He came to remind him of the one thing he'd forgotten in all of the other messed up shit that had gone down tonight - the one thing that he shouldn't have forgotten at all - that he'd won the game for them. He, Stiles, had won a lacrosse game for Beacon Hills… a championship game. Stiles realized something important. It hadn't been a lie. His father would protect him, would keep him safe as well as he could… even if it meant giving up his own life.

That was something that Stiles would never allow. He couldn't lose his father - his loving, overprotective, idiot of a father. Only… his father couldn't lose him, either. If tonight was any indication, it would destroy him. So, when Stiles' father dropped his last surprising words on him that night, Stiles told himself another, bigger lie, one that he tried to believe with all his heart… he wasn't a hero. He wasn't a hero, because heroes put themselves at risk, constantly. Heroes were like Scott (as intellectually stifled as he might be, he had the biggest, most giving damned heart… when said heart wasn't stuck like an electromagnet to Allison)… for that matter, like Allison (even if she was currently crazier than a nuthouse full of squirrels and fighting on the wrong damned side for a grandfather even nuttier than she was), hell, even like Derek Hale (though that sourpuss would deny it to his dying breath, then rise from the grave to deny it some more)… like his father who fought for this town every day of his life… and like his mother who'd fought for her very life. Stiles wasn't like them - wasn't a hero. He wasn't.

Damn it. Stiles stared down at the screen of his phone, at the email that had prompted his argument with Lydia just minutes before - from Peter "Unkillable Zombie Werewolf" Hale of all people - the one that had detailed what they'd discovered about how to save Jackson, and cursed. No. Stiles wasn't a hero… but he was just stupid enough to act like one now and again - like now. You couldn't keep a Stilinski down for long, especially not this one, especially not when - unlike certain intellectually challenged, batshit crazy, emotionally stunted werewolves and hunters - this weak wimp of a human had seen up close and personal what was at stake should Gerard win. So, it was simple enough. This not-hero would make sure they didn't lose. Stiles would carry them all if he had to and that was all there was to that.

So… to the Batmobile. The cavalry's coming… and its name is Stiles.

Questions, comments, rutabagas?