Stiles is thirteen years old when he sits in the doctor’s office with his mom. He’s right next to her when they break the news, holding her hand tightly. He’s there to embrace her as she holds back her tears when they tell her she has breast cancer. He wants cry and yell at the doctor, tell him that he’s wrong, that he’s looking at the wrong patient’s files. But he shuts up and stays strong for his mom, gripping her back just as tightly, as she asks about surgery.
Stiles is there in the waiting room with his dad when they put his mom under a few weeks later in their first attempt to remove the mass. It’s the first time in a long time that he doesn’t fidget for a solid five hours.
He’s there in the hospital when they tell his mom more bad news, that they were unsuccessful at removing everything. He holds his mom’s hand tight and doesn’t allow himself to cry. He wants to be strong for her. He’s there when they discuss other treatment options.
Stiles is there to hold back his mom’s hair as she throws up from the radiation. He sits in the car and waits for her to be finished with her appointments when she has treatments, despite her protests for him to stay at home. He knows the test results are negative when she refuses to discuss them.
Stiles starts to get buzz cuts when his mom’s hair falls out.
When his mom gets weaker, he stays in the hospital with her all the time. She tries to make him leave, to hang out with his friends or try to act like a normal kid for a bit, but he’s too afraid to leave. He’s afraid he’ll break down or lose her while he’s gone.
His dad stays with them a lot of the nights, too.
Stiles makes friends with the doctors and nurses and befriends one of the nurse’s kids, Scott. He even gets a cot wheeled in to sleep on a lot of the nights and even on school nights, he goes from the hospital to school and then to back to the hospital. To fill in the time at the hospital, his mom helps him with homework, even the problems that he already knows the answers to. They play a lot of Monopoly and Uno.
His mom is getting weaker and weaker, it’s apparent. Her skin looks transparent and she’s tired all the time now.
He barely goes home. When he does, it’s to shower.
Stiles used to take his mom on walks around the hospital grounds, but she’s too weak to even leave her bed now. He starts to clutch her hand tighter and sleeps less just to make sure she’s still breathing. Stiles isn’t ready to lose her.
On the day after Stiles’s fourteenth birthday, his mom dies. She goes peacefully in her sleep at 2:49 am. Even though he knows she’s not suffering anymore, he’s still full of anger.
He blames the doctors, the nurses, himself and even God for his mother’s death. He’s too young to lose his mother and it hurts even more to think of all the things that he’s going to go through without a mom.
He doesn’t understand why everyone would want to take his mom away from him. Why didn’t the doctors try harder? Why didn’t the nurses do anything else to help make her more comfortable? What could he have done to prevent this? What did his family do to deserve this? Why does a fourteen-year-old boy deserve to lose his mom?
Apart from the gaping hole in his chest, Stiles carries on. He takes care of his mourning father, takes on all of the duties his mom had done around the house, maintains his grades, and successfully hides the fact that he’s getting bullied at school.
They live off of pity lasagna for a good month after her death.
His dad’s barely at home with him, he’s taken on more shifts at the station and hangs out at the bar more. Even when he is home, he’s not really there. He wishes everything was back to normal, that they could just rewind and go back a couple of years. He wishes he could go back to hear his mom laugh and watch her cook and relive the Dodgers games the three of them would go to.
It stings to know that the three of them will never be together again.
He feels completely alone.
The year drags on.
On Stiles’s fifteenth birthday, they don’t celebrate. The Sheriff picks up a double and Stiles stays in bed all day.
It’s that night when he’s in the kitchen that he finds a way to deal with everything. He’s busy cutting an apple for himself when he accidentally slices his finger with the knife. He drops the apple on the counter and watches the blood run down his finger.
It’s purely by accident, but Stiles learns about self-harm.
He forgets his apple and takes the knife with him to the bathroom upstairs. He sits cross-legged on the ground and stars down at the blade, lightly running his finger against it. He looks back down at the cut on his finger, it had made him feel less numb inside.
Stiles takes a deep breath and takes the blade to his wrist. With a shaky hand, he drags the blade lightly across his skin. The blade breaks the skin with a flash of pain. Blood seeps out of the cut and drips off of his forearm and onto the linoleum tile.
Stiles is hypnotized.
He repeats the action a few more times, feeling the burst of pain that calms the anxiety closing around his lungs.
Stiles cleans up his arm, rolling his sleeve back down over his arm. He stands up and looks at the mirror, examining his reflection. His clothes still hang baggy around him, he’s got dark rings under his eyes, his hair is flat, and his mouth is in a straight-line. He doesn’t look any different.
The next day at school, no one notices a difference with Stiles either. It makes the anxiety subside, and it almost feels like that for once Stiles might be able to go on through the day without a threat of a panic attack.
Stiles’s wrists are cut, but no one notices. Scott still laughs and tells him stupid jokes, Lydia still ignores him, Jackson is still a dick, Danny still gives him little pity I’m-sorry-you-lost-your-mom smiles, and everyone else finds him annoying. Stiles is the only one that knows, and it’s kind of intoxicating.
For once in his life, he’s finally found something that he can control.
Two weeks after Stiles’s sixteenth birthday, Scott gets bit by a werewolf.
Three weeks after Stiles’s sixteenth birthday, Scott is a werewolf and it turns out so is Derek Hale, a survivor from the Hale fire that had taken out almost all of the Hale family a few years ago. Derek takes Scott under his wing, making Stiles feel so damn useless. Derek gives Stiles weird looks, like he can’t figure him out. Stiles stays clear of him for a little.
A month after Stiles’s sixteenth birthday, Allison Argent moves into town and Scott forgets who the hell Stiles even is.
Stiles continues to find comfort in his blade; the one that’s hidden in the top left drawer in their bathroom. He locks himself in the bathroom and rolls his sleeves up. He can’t focus on anything except about how much he needs to feel the coolness of the blade against the skin or else he’ll go insane.
He drags the blade, reopening old scars and creating new ones. He feels relieved. He doesn’t feel numb or useless or invisible. He knows it’s a nasty habit, but he can’t quit. He’s addicted to the way the blade dragging across his skin makes him feel something other than numbness.
The funny thing, though, is that everyone continues on with their lives, unaware that Stiles is hiding something underneath his sleeves.
The rest of sophomore year is bullshit – Scott’s too busy with Allison to deal with Stiles anymore, and well, Stiles doesn’t really have many other friends. He starts to drive over to the old Hale mansion more to bug Derek and his new pack of misfits. Stiles annoys them, filling their place with words and he babbles about everything. He doesn’t care that they ignore most of his questions because he doesn’t feel alone there.
But then Derek starts to look at Stiles like his knows something’s wrong, and that scares the hell out of him. And Stiles stops bugging the pack for awhile when he figures out that he has a stupid fucking thirteen-year-old-girl-crush on Derek.
He returns to the only constant he has in his life – he likes the feel of the blade against his skin more than dealing with everything anyways.
Some days, though, Stiles will just sit on the bathroom the floor, running his finger over the blade. He just stays on the ground, sleeves rolled up, and he’ll think of how ugly, how scared, how unloved he really is.
He feels empty. He feels so fucking alone and he is so damn tired. Tired of fighting, tired of running, tired of the feeling that he’s disappointing his mom and dad every single time he does something wrong.
Stiles chokes out a breath, clutching the blade tighter. Anxiety coils around his lungs, making his breaths more labored. Stiles starts gasping in breaths. He can’t get enough oxygen in.
Sometimes, the worst things about panic attacks is the fact that he would so much rather die than have to struggle through another day, another week, another month, another year.
He clutches the razor too tight in his hand; he can feel the blade slice the skin of his palm. Stiles can feel the warm, sticky liquid trickle out of the cut. He can’t help but to think about how disappointed his mom must be in him right now.
In the middle of another struggle to get another gasp of oxygen in his lungs, he appreciates how artistic blood can look as it’s dripping down on the floor.
A few days before his seventeenth birthday, he figures out how completely useless he is to the pack.
He rolls up the Hale driveway and jumps out of his Jeep to see that the pack has already started training in the back.
“I thought we start at six?” Stiles questions as he climbs the steps of the two-week-old deck (Stiles had wanted a patio because it’s less up-keep up, but everyone else in the pack seemed to disagree with him). He plops down on the steps that face the werewolves sparring in the open grass.
“We started earlier,” Isaac’s voice called up from the grass. “Guess they forgot to tell you.”
“I didn’t think you’d want to come early because you don’t even do anything.” Scott’s voice calls out after Isaac’s.
You don’t even do anything.
Stiles can still hear the words ringing through his ears and he never thought words could hurt that much – that they could sting that bad. Stiles knew that he wasn’t a key component to the pack, but he didn’t realize that he was that useless to them.
“I-I guess I’ll just go then,” Stiles croaks out, he knows they can hear him. No one turns to watch him leave.
They don’t even care about him anymore (or have they just never cared about him, the poor, defenseless human, at all?). Why should they? He’s the weak link, the one they always have to save, the one that holds them back. What the hell does he even contribute to the pack other than food at meetings and the occasional research?
No one runs after him with an apology.
On his birthday, he doesn’t leave his bed. Except this year, it’s for a totally different reason than the anniversary of his mom’s death.
Stiles finds himself sitting on the bathroom floor, rolling his sleeves up in order to expose the newer and older scars. His eyes sweep over his forearm, studying the pale skin. He finds a clean spot to drag the blade across his arm. His grip is slow and steady and he finds himself cutting deeper than usual.
He’s addicted to knowing that he can make himself bleed, even though he knows he’s worthless to the pack. Stiles knows that he can’t stop, but he also knows that he doesn’t even want to. Not anytime soon.
Moments like this, he’s glad he didn’t take Peter Hale up on his offer for the bite. By staying a human, it’s so easy to stay destructible.
Stiles skips out on the next few pack meetings. He doesn’t know why – he loves the pack, they’re his family and he can’t lose them – but he just can’t get himself out of his bed.
He’s wrapped in blankets when there’s rustling at the window. When he blinks, Derek appears in the windowsill. Normally, Stiles would love this. Usually his heart rate soars when he sees Derek like this, cheeks pink from the wind and gray Henley under his leather jacket. He’s usually a stuttering, babbling mess since he’s almost positive that Derek can smell his crush on him from like six miles away.
But tonight, Derek isn’t scowling or calling Stiles an idiot or grunting out that he needs something to be researched, which is more surprising than it should be, but he almost looks concerned.
Stiles shouldn’t feel as surprised.
He knew one of them would catch on sooner or later; that they’d realize the smell of blood lingered and twisted in Stiles’s scent.
“Stiles.” Derek says to break the unusual silence between them. “You smell like blood.”
Stiles fidgets under the blankets, but stays silent. He refuses to meet Derek’s eyes.
“What’s been up with you lately?” The alpha questions and Stiles is still looking everywhere but at Derek. “Why do you smell like blood?”
“Nothing’s been up. I’ve been just peachy. Normal and peachy. Everything is the color of peaches. The Crayola color of peach, not the fruit ‘cause they’re more than one color if you count the skin and the inside.”
Derek doesn’t look convinced and Stiles didn’t expect him to be.
“You’re a shitty liar.” He says, eyes studying Stiles’s face. “I’m not going to ask you again. Why. Do. You. Smell. Like. Blood.”
Stiles slides out of the bed, trying to escape out of his room and away from Derek. But before Stiles can get more than three steps, Derek grabs his shoulder. Stiles fidgets, fists clutching the sleeves of his hoodie.
“I, uh, tripped and fell into a bush? And I guess I didn’t clean off all my scrapes.” Stiles lies, he knows it’s pointless to try and lie but he sure as hell isn’t telling Derek the truth.
“Dammit, Stiles!” The alpha growls, eyes flashing red and slamming Stiles against the wall. “Stop fucking lying! What’s wrong?”
Stiles squeezes his eyes shut, counting to ten in his head in order to get rid of the tears surfacing. He clenches his fists around the fabric of his hoodie. He can feel the blood sticking and drying to the fabric on the inside. Stiles sucks in a few deep breaths and peaks out one eye to see if Derek’s eyes are back to normal. They are.
“Stiles.” Derek chokes out, loosening his grip around the younger boy. Usually Stiles would retort with a ‘that’s my name, don’t wear it out’ but holds back and stays silent. “I need to take care of my pack, but I can’t do that when you’re not telling me what’s wrong.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” If he told Derek, if Derek saw the cuts and scars, he would react badly. Stiles can’t lose him. Can’t loose the pack. Then he would be completely alone; he wouldn’t have anybody.
He hears Derek growl and grabs his forearms. Stiles winces, pain flaring through his arms. Stiles squeezes his eyes shut and Derek loosens his grip, noticing the pain and discomfort.
“This is where you’re hurt.” It’s not a question. He knows.
“No,” Stiles hisses out. He knows it worthless. Derek knows that that is a lie. He can feel Derek trying to pry the fabric out of Stiles’s grasp.
“Derek, stop.” Stiles almost doesn’t recognize his voice, it sounds too small and broken, too pleading to be his own. But he isn’t ready for Derek to see. He isn’t ready to lose his friends. He isn’t ready to crush on Derek at any further of a distance. He isn’t ready to stop the only thing he can control.
“Derek seriously – ”
“Let me see,” He growls out and Stiles knows he’s losing, that it’s only a matter of seconds until everything changes. His breathing is now uneven, his chest tightens up and it feels like he’s forcing the air down to his lungs.
“Just let it go, Derek.” He wheezes out, losing the grip of his sleeves.
“No. You’re hurt and smell like blood and you’ve been acting – ” Stiles feels his sleeves being pushed up and an intake of breath from Derek. Stiles squeezes his eyes shut, he doesn’t want to see the disgust on his face while he kicks him out of the pack.
The silence hangs in the air.
Stiles refuses to say anything, refuses to open his eyes. He focuses on his breathing, just keeps trying to make his breaths stay even. He can’t have a panic attack, not here, not in front of Derek. His fingers itch for his blade.
“Stiles,” He hears Derek try and start again. His voice sounds broken. “You’ve smelled like blood for months – I-I just thought it was lacrosse or you being an idiot.”
Stiles slowly opens his eyes, glancing up to see Derek’s eyes are still locked on his forearms. Before he can even react, Derek has his hoodie pulled over his head and his arms are fully exposed – every scar is standing out, from his shoulder to his forearm.
Stiles feels so ugly. He struggles to take his arms out of Derek’s grip and wraps them around himself, attempting to hide everything. To pretend that none of this is happening.
“Stiles,” Derek’s voice breaks. Stiles can feel unwanted tears making their way down his cheeks. “I’ve been trying to protect you for months only to find out that you’ve been hurting yourself.”
He feels so guilty, so stupid for fucking everything up again. That’s all he’s good for anyways. He’s the pack fuckup.
“Don’t you dare fucking say that.” Derek’s voice cut through Stiles’s thoughts and he hadn’t realized he said anything out loud. Derek raised his thumb to wipe away the tears streaming down Stiles’s face.
Stiles feels Derek lead him to his bed, but he can’t process anything anymore. He feels tired and his limbs felt like jelly. He plops down on his bed, burying his head in his pillow. He waits to hear the footsteps leading to the window. He expects Derek to say something about not showing up to the next pack meeting. But Stiles feels his bed dip down next to him, and he turns his head to the side to see Derek.
The next morning, Derek is still sleeping next to him. Stiles doesn’t know what to make of it.
Stiles and Derek don’t talk about it and Stiles doesn’t stop – he can’t stop. He still finds himself locked in the bathroom, focusing on the flash of pain from the cut and the blood tumbling down onto the floor. It’s hypnotic. When he traps himself in his bathroom, everything in the world ceases to exist.
But the thing is, Derek knows Stiles hasn’t stopped. On nights like tonight, when Stiles finds himself on his bathroom floor with his razor, Derek will sneak into his room to stay for the night and Stiles seeks so much comfort in it.
Derek’s wolf can smell the blood and the bleach and sense the pain that radiates from Stiles. Stiles knows that the wolf wants to protect what is apart of his pack – that if Erica or Scott or Boyd or Isaac or even Jackson were hurting like this, Derek would be doing the same thing for them. Stiles isn’t anything special.
But that doesn’t stop the burst of emotion (he doesn’t know what the emotion is though) that works its way through Stiles when he sees Derek standing in front of the open window tonight. He’s got this expression on his face – the same one that he’s been wearing around Stiles since he found out.
Stiles nods at him as a greeting before throwing himself down onto the bed. Derek follows, curling himself around Stiles. Protecting him. They lay in silence for a while, Stiles with his eyes closed and Derek lightly tracing his index finger over an old scar on Stiles’s left wrist.
“Why aren’t you disgusted with me? My scars are so ugly.” Stiles whispers into the darkness.
“Why would I be?” Derek whispers back. He’s quiet for a few minutes; Stiles bites his tongue in order to point out the obvious. Derek fills the silence this time, “When did you start? I have an idea, but I just need to know.”
Stiles squeezes his eyes shut and holds his breath. This was the part he was avoiding; he’d rather have Derek just leave and ignore him and his stupid problems forever. What was he to Derek, anyways? He’s nothing but a stupid, pathetic, ugly, breakable human that unfortunately became part of his pack because of Scott.
“You always seem to enjoy talking, so talk, Stiles.”
Stiles let the silence stay with them for a few more moments before he opened his mouth to speak.
“The day I turned fifteen,” Stiles refused to meet Derek’s eyes. He could still feel Derek subconsciously tracing the scars on his arm and he felt so uncomfortable, so ugly, so exposed. “I found out by accident, really. I was cutting an apple, missed and nicked my finger. It made me feel something through the loss and the numbness.”
Stiles shrugged and freed his arm from Derek’s grasp to wrap around his stomach, shielding the scars. He could feel Derek’s fingers running through his hair, blunt nails scratching at his scalp, and he pushed into the touch. Craved it. It made his heart skip – made him feel at ease; wanted.
“And then I guess it just seemed like I wasn’t needed with Scott or in the pack – don’t give me that look, Derek – I’m just the human, okay? I try so hard; research, try not to let the betas get themselves killed, and try my hardest to keep us all together…and just. No one notices or cares. And, yes, I’m aware I sound like a nine year old girl. I just. I’m tired, okay? I’m tired of fighting.”
“Stiles. Don’t say that.”
“It’s the truth, Derek. You’re sick of me lying, so I’m laying it all out for you.”
They’re both silent for a few moments, Derek still working his hand in Stiles’s hair. He lets his eyes shut, hoping that this is the end of it. This whole episode will blow over and Derek will forget about everything and ignore the stench of blood. Everything can go back to normal.
“Will you please stop, Stiles?” It was odd hearing Derek with this tone of voice; he wasn’t demanding anything with his ‘I’m-the-alpha’ voice. It almost broke Stiles’s heart with guilt. And he could feel Derek’s gaze searching for his eyes, wanting him to meet his eyes and make the promise. He couldn’t do it; he was too dependent.
“I-I can’t.” He whispered into the dark. He felt the guilt constrict his lungs and he choked out a breath. He couldn’t get anymore air, he gasped out another breath. His lungs weren’t cooperating.
“Stiles, shh, you’re okay. It’s gonna be okay. You’re gonna be okay. I’m gonna fix it, okay?” Derek’s tone was calming and his fingers kept working through Stiles’s hair. “Just breathe with me, ‘kay?”
Derek shifted them so they were spooning, Stiles being the little spoon. Derek was taking deep, over dramatic breaths against Stiles’s back, but they helped. Stiles mimicked the action, getting oxygen to circulate through his system again. They stayed silent for awhile, breathing in sync.
“Derek,” he whispered when he finally managed to get everything under control. He wanted to tell him so much; that he wasn’t worth fixing, that he was too broken, for him to walk away now, that he’ll never keep a promise to stop. But he couldn’t force any of his concerns out of his mouth. Instead he went with, “I’m tired.”
On his eighteenth birthday, Stiles is woken up by the sunshine seeping through his blinds. He’s half on top of Derek Hale. It’s odd, how routine falling asleep and waking up with Derek has become.
“Derek.” is all he’s able to croak out.
“Happy birthday, Stiles,” Derek breaths out against his neck and it makes Stiles shiver and want to be engulfed by the warmth of Derek’s body heat. There is still an idle finger tracing at his forearm and it makes Stiles feel so uncomfortable that he can’t shift his focus.
After a few moments of silence, Stiles shifts out of Derek’s arms to sit up, back pressed against his headboard. He can feel Derek’s gaze on him and he can’t help but feel so vulnerable and exposed.
“I just. I can’t fathom how disappointed my mom is with me right now. That she’s watching down on me, unable to do anything as I tear my body apart.” Stiles chokes out, a few stray tears make their way down his cheeks.
“Stiles,” Derek chokes out as he pushes himself up, cradling Stiles to his chest. “She’s probably so proud.”
Stiles snorts at that, “How could she be fucking proud, Derek?”
“Because she sees what a strong boy she has. Do you not see what you do to the pack? You’ve stayed strong for them, me and your father. You’re brave, Stiles.”
“I’m not, Derek.” Stiles sniffs, closing his eyes and burying his face in the crook between Derek’s neck and shoulder. “My scars make me so ugly, so weak. They make me a coward.”
“Stiles. Look at me.” Derek insists. Stiles sits back up, wiping his cheeks with the back of his hands. Derek waits until Stiles meets his eyes to continue.
“You are so beautiful.” Derek’s mouth had formed the words, but Stiles had to be hearing things. He’s too hurt, too scarred, too ugly.
“No I’m not.” Stiles whispers, eyes looking anywhere but in Derek’s. He feels so ashamed, still too exposed. Stiles wraps his arms around his stomach, trying to feel smaller, make himself invisible.
He feels Derek’s fingers grab his chin and tilt it up, making their eyes meet. Derek leans over to capture Stiles’s lips in a dry, chaste kiss. He pulls away a little, only to rest their foreheads together. “Okay?”
Stiles nods and echoes a breathless “Okay.”
On Stiles’s nineteenth birthday, Derek kisses Stiles awake. He brings Stiles breakfast in bed and lets him laze around in bed all day. There are no presents – Stiles’s request – but there is cake and sex. They don’t call the pack, they keep the day to themselves.
The day after Stiles’s birthday, the fifth anniversary of his mom’s death, Derek drives Stiles to the cemetery. Derek holds Stiles’s hand as he talks to his mom and lets him cry on his shoulder. When they get back to his house, Derek throws out Stiles’s razor and Stiles kisses him breathless.
Two weeks after his nineteenth birthday, Derek helps Stiles move into their new house.