Lying in a white room in the long-term ward of the hospital was a young teenage boy. His skin was unnaturally pale, dazed whiskey eyes rimmed with dark red bags, and dull brown hair thin and limp.
His name is Stiles Stilinski, and he was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia just a handful of months ago. The same dementia that took the life of his mother, and the only form of dementia that can affect teenagers.
Some days he lay unmoving on his cot, unaware of his surroundings, of the nurses and doctors bustling in and out of his room, of his exhausted and stretched-thin father when he manages to visit in between long shifts at the station, of his broken friends who could barely find the courage to visit him anymore, unable to bear the sight of his suffering. Occasionally he would notice the strangers in his room, but would never pay them much attention. As far as his comcern goes, they're simply strangers.
Most days, he would be asleep. Unlike his deceased mother, who was able to remain conscious and self-aware for nearly a whole year before ending up in the same state her son is currently in, Stiles would sleep for days without waking up. Doctors could not do anything about his sleeping habits. They could not even wake Stiles most times in order to determine the state of his condition, and monitor him closely so that when he is awake, they can run their tests.
What they are unaware of, though they do have their suspicions, is that Stiles dreams during his long intervals of sleep. He dreams of his memories, and alternate versions of his life. As his brain shrinks bit by bit each day, his mind scrambles to organize his thoughts and memories, and conjures up images to fill in any gaps that appear.
But on the rare days, Stiles would explode with activity. He would be conscious and self-aware, but with his messed up memories, he would freak and wear out all the nurses in trying to answer his interrogations, and would only calm down when in the presence of someone he recognizes, who would more often than not be his father or his best friend Scott.
This day is one such rare day. But unlike all other rare days, this day is a special one.
Stiles blinks his drowsy eyes open before shutting them at the blaring light searing into his retinas. When he opens them again, his eyes adjust to the lighting and Stiles scrutinizes the room in confusion.
This is not my bedroom, he thinks, dissociated. Hospital? What happened? Where's everyone?
He can feel the panic rising in him. Why can't he remember the last thing that happened? Why is he alone? Where is the pack? What if the others are in danger?
He sits up and quickly pushes the white sheets back. He ignores his bare, unsteady feet and stumbles his way to the door. He opens the door ajar and pokes his head out to glance at the empty hallway before finally walking out of the safety of his room. Stiles walks down the hallway and subconsciously makes a right.
He needs to find the exit. He needs to find his pack. Something's wrong, and it makes Stiles' stomach churn at the thought.
It's an unfamiliar voice and when he looks over his shoulder, he sees an unfamiliar face.
Panic overtaking his instincts, Stiles starts to run. He hears shouts from behind him, calls of his name, and the sound of running feet chasing after him, doing nothing but fueling his fear even further, pumping his heart even harder, pushing his trembling feet to run even faster. He finally finds the entrance of the hospital and triumph floods him. He can make it. He can get out of here!
Someone tackles him to the ground before he can reach the entrance, and pins him to the floor. He struggles and kicks out at the person when he hears "Stiles?"
He stops struggling and looks up at the person.
"Melissa?" he whispers. The energy rushes out of him and he slumps to the floor, exhausted.
He knows Melissa. He trusts Melissa.
Melissa's eyes widen slightly in surprise but a soft smile forms on her warm face.
"Yes Stiles. It's me, Melissa."
She slowly pulls him to sit up. Nurses, doctors, and security guards are surrounding them, all wary of their wayward patient's next actions.
"Where is everyone? Where's Scott? Are they okay? Why am I in the hospital? What's going on?" Stiles bombards the nurse.
"Hush now, Stiles. Let's get back to your room first. I'll call your father, and then I'll answer whatever questions you have, okay?"
She helps him up off the lobby floor and leads him away from the entrance. Stiles hesitates, glancing back at his only escape before bracing himself and follows after the only familiar face in the hospital.
The boy pauses his glaring at the hospital food sitting on the tray in front of him and looks up in the direction the voice came from.
"Dad?" he asks hopefully. His father smiles at him with relief. He sits down beside his son on the bed and hugs the sick boy tightly, blinking away tears to hide them from him.
"Hey son. How are you holding up?" the Sheriff asks gently. At the reminder of Stiles' earlier predicament, the boy scrunches his nose and points his glare at the abomination called food that the hospital cafeteria provided him.
"I'm hungry. The food here sucks," Stiles complains. The Sheriff smiles sadly at the very Stiles-like behavior he's missed seeing in so long.
"Well son, I won't be able to stay for very long. I'm still on my shift, and no one can cover for me. How about I call Scott and the rest of your friends, and they can bring you take out?" he suggests, and Stiles beams.
"Scott? I want to see Scotty!" he exclaims excitedly.
The Sheriff sighs in relief at the thought of his son not being alone. "Sounds like a plan."
Stiles can hear sounds coming from outside his room. He's been waiting impatiently for half an hour now, though he doesn't quite remember what he was waiting for in the first place. His father chatted with him while they waited, but now the Sheriff was making his way toward the door, and Stiles couldn't help feeling restless. The sounds were getting louder, and Stiles figured whoever they were, they must be fighting. Annoyed, Stiles couldn't help but grumble under his breath about how they should take their business somewhere else.
The Sheriff left the room, and after a few hesitant moments, a boy with a crooked jaw walks in with an unsure grin. Stiles thinks he looks rather like a puppy. It took only a few more seconds before realization dawned him on who the boy was.
"Scotty!" he gasps. "You've changed so much!"
(Scott didn't actually. He looks the same as he did whenever he visited Stiles each week, but Stiles doesn't remember any of that, so it didn't really matter in the end.)
"Hey Stiles," Scott greets happily.
(He hadn't heard Stiles' voice in weeks, and even less heard his own name from his childhood best friend.)
Scott presents a plastic bag held in his hand. "I brought you curly fries from your favorite diner. And a cheeseburger. And your favorite milkshake."
Stiles frowns and tilts his head. He scratches the back of his neck as he tries to remember the diner, or eating curly fries, or whatever else Scott mentioned, but it just didn't click. Eventually he shrugs and smiles apologetically at Scott.
"I can't remember, but I trust you, Scotty." Scott nods, his smile turning a little sad, eyes tearing up a little. Stiles couldn't help but feel guilty. The boy looked like someone kicked his puppy.
(Stiles forgot about curly fries. If someone told Stiles months ago that he would forget the existence of curly fries, Stiles would have rambled in the guy's face about the impossibility of that, and preach the delicious goodness that is curly fries.)
Scott sets up the cheeseburgers and curly fries on the nightstand beside Stiles' bed, and the two boys began downing the food like they used to all those years together.
Scott pauses mid-chew at the question and gulps down his food before staring up at Stiles' face. Stiles has always been the type to project his emotions, and no disease can change that fact. Stiles' face reveals his anxiety and worry, his confusion and slight hurt at their absence. Scott didn't need to be a werewolf to read any of that.
"They're... they're okay. They're just, really worried about you. They miss you a lot."
(Scott lied. Well, sort of. The cowards that they were, were right outside the door, eavesdropping on them. The door was left slightly ajar for the human members of the pack to listen in. Under normal circumstances, this observation would not have escaped Stiles. But circumstances have not been normal for months now. It's been too long.)
Stiles takes in the answer and sighs dejectedly. He avoids meeting Scott's eyes as he looks to side where the window is. There isn't really a view. He literally sees nothing but the wall of the building next door. The monotony of his room annoys him a bit, but what can he do?
"I've been having really weird dreams lately."
Scott blinks at the abrupt change of topic but decides to go along with it.
This time Stiles giggles and his personality turns 180 degrees. He grabs Scott's wrist and pulls him off the chair and onto his bed. Scott lets himself be pulled.
(He also just wants to be close to Stiles again. It's been too long. He misses his best friend, his brother in all but blood.)
"So weird. Like weirder than supernatural weird. Weirder than Peter being nice, though not weirder than Jackson being nice."
Scott smiles indulgently. "Tell me about it."
And so Stiles did. He tells Scott about how he dreamed of a world where Scott wasn't the one who got bitten that night, but Stiles was instead, except he didn't turn into a big bad wolf. He turned into a bunny rabbit. With the floppy ears and fluffy tail and everything.
"Hunters were so confused when I beta shifted that they actually stopped shooting and I kicked them all in the nuts. Apparently werebunnies have really strong legs!"
Scott listened with astonishment. He wasn't expecting a dream like that.
"What about the full moon? How did that affect you?"
Stiles shrugs and smirks. "I didn't want to eat anybody, if that's what you're asking. More like I trashed all the meat in the house 'cause it stunk so bad and filled the kitchen with so many veggies, Dad practically cried at every pantry he opened. He thought I was punishing him for all the fast food he would eat behind my back. It wasn't hard hiding it from him at all."
Scott guffaws at that. He can totally imagine that. He can hear the others snickering from behind the door.
"Oh but what's even weirder, I dreamed about being a single dad, and an FBI agent at the same time. Guess who my son was?"
Scott grins cheekily and says, "Greenburg?"
All he got in response was "who?" before Stiles shaking his head at the distraction and deadpans, "Jackson."
Scotts eyes widened in shock at that before he explodes into laughter, and he can hear the others do the same, while Jackson choked on his own spit at that admission.
"It was so crazy. Like, Jackson was still his regular douchebag self, but he was also like six, so he was actually pretty adorable at the same time."
"How does that work?" Scott wonders to himself, and Stiles shrugs before grimacing.
"The worst part was that Jackson, despite being a goddamned cute-ass six-year-old, he still called me a bastard. God, he was honestly a little terrifying."
They laugh even more at the image Stiles painted for Scott, while Jackson just huffs and crosses his arms stubbornly.
(In truth, Jackson was maybe a little too happy at the knowledge of appearing in Stilinski's dreams. After all, Stilinski managed to remember him. Not that he would ever admit it to anyone.)
After calming down, Stiles scrunches his nose a bit as he recalls another dream.
"Actually, that's not the only dream I had where I was a dad. I was married to, get this, to Derek Hale, who, by the way, was a hot firefighter. And our son was Isaac. Or well, Isaac was the lovechild of Derek and Kate, who for some reason I could care less about wasn't in the picture. I married Derek and adopted Isaac while I was at it. And oh sweet Jesus, we were such a fucking happy family. And Derek was such a cheesy lover. And Isaac was shy, adorable, bratty, and a crybaby all at the same time."
By the end of Stiles' ramble, Scott was torn between laughing his heart out or being horrified at the image of Isaac being a lovechild of--
(He can hear the pack struggling as well, with Isaac mumbling under his breath that he was not adorable, damn it, and even Derek going as far as to let out a strange noise that Scott absolutely could not interpret.
But mostly, Scott didn't want to think about the chemistry between Derek and Stiles, and what could have been if Stiles wasn't terminally ill.)
Scott couldn't let that thought go. "Hey Stiles?"
Stiles raises an eyebrow. "Yeah Scott?"
"Do you have any feelings for Derek?"
(Everyone was still. No one wanted to hear the answer to that question, especially Derek if the way he tenses and growls a little in warning to Scott is anything to go by, but it's also a question everyone has been wondering for so long.)
Despite the tension in the room, Stiles shrugs at the question, unaffected.
"I don't know Scotty. I'd have to remember Derek and everything that's Derek to answer that, so I honestly can't answer that question. Maybe I did, maybe I didn't. He's not the only one I dreamed about being together with, though."
Scott's eyebrows shot up at that. "You didn't?"
Stiles shakes his head. "I dreamed about you too," he admits, catching Scott even further off guard.
The two boys were sitting across each other on the hospital bed, food having finished long ago, food wrappers scattered about the floor.
"The dream was more sad than it was weird. We got together out of loneliness. Derek had left Beacon Hills with some girl named Cora, whoever that is, for good. Peter was never resurrected. Lydia went to live with her dad, while Jackson's parents decided to move the whole family to London. Erica and Boyd were dead, though don't ask how they died. I don't remember. Allison had moved to France with no plans of returning, and Isaac... I can't remember what happened to him either. I think he was still alive though. Anyways, we were the only ones left of the pack, so we got together."
Silence. Scott struggles with how to respond to that. Stiles, however, wasn't expecting a response. The drop in mood brought on a yawn, and Stiles ignores Scott in favor of laying down. When Scott made to move, Stiles took his wrist and pulled Scott down to lay down with him. Stiles cuddles up to his alpha best friend, sighing in content at the warmth radiating from Scott. The boy was practically a furnace.
The two lay in silence for a few moments when Stiles whispers, "Hey Scotty?"
"I'm sick Scott. Not just literally, but also figuratively. As in I'm sick of being sick, I'm sick of waking up and not knowing where the hell I am, I'm sick of being awake but not even being aware of it -- if what Melissa said is true -- and I'm just utterly sick."
(Silence. For how could one possibly respond to that when the words spilled from the mouth of a dying patient?)
Stiles sighs, suddenly weary of everything. His eyes began to droop, but Stiles didn't let that stop him from continuing. Not when he knew, when he suddenly had a gut feeling that he may never get a chance to finish his thoughts ever again.
"I'm too sick, Scotty. So sick that I can't be left alone. Even with my brain shrinking I can put two and two together. I know I'm dying. I know I'm forgetting. I know I can't trust my own thoughts anymore because of this fucking dementia-"
"Stiles-" Scott choked, hastily trying to stop the sick boy's word vomit.
(If he were talking about anything else, Scott wouldn't have dared tried to shut Stiles up. But these words might as well have been norwegian blue monkshood bullets shot straight into his heart.)
"No, Scott, let me finish. I may not be able to trust my own thoughts anymore, but I've always been able to trust you. I can't remember half the shit we got into, but I know we saved each other enough from precarious situations, even life-threatening ones. I can't trust myself anymore, but I know I can trust you."
"Stiles-" Scott tries again, eyes brimming with tears.
(Scott may have a thick head sometimes, but even he could tell where this conversation was leading to. The cowards behind the door should be fucking relieved they're not in his shoes right now.)
"Shut up, Scott," Stiles snaps, his own tears already spilling onto his cheeks and staining the fabric of the pillow cradling his head.
"I trust you Scott, so you're going to have to make the choice for me. I don't care if you consult with the others or make a group decision or even simply ask my dad what he wants. I really don't care how you go about it, just that you make the final decision. No matter what you choose, I will always love you, Scotty," Stiles finishes, voice hoarse from crying. He sniffs and rubs at his stuffy nose with a hand before hiding his face in the crook between Scott's nape and shoulder.
(Silence stretched across the room. Some of the pack silently cried from behind the door, trying to refrain from making too much noise. A few had to walk down the hall. The rest were grim-faced and quiet.)
Stiles eventually fell into a restless sleep. Scott remained holding his best friend tightly with his eyes clenched shut as his tears pooled relentlessly. Melissa eventually came in and reluctantly ushered Scott out. Visiting hours were over.
Scott kept his head down as he walked out of the hospital with his pack. He couldn't bring himself to look up into anyone's eyes, for fear of what he might see or breaking down again.
It wasn't until they all -- Scott, Derek, Isaac, Erica, Boyd, Jackson, Danny, Lydia, Allison, Ethan, Aiden, Cora, Malia, Kira, Liam, and Mason -- arrived at the currently-refurbishing Hale house that any of them spoke.
And when one did, the rest followed. Because even if Stiles left the final choice up to Scott, the whole pack will help carry some of the weight for their True Alpha.
If Scott bites him, will Stiles recover? Or will he die in horrifying pain months before his body gives up?
If they wait too long, would it be too late for the bite to save him, or is it already too late?