It starts with blurred vision.
But that's normal, right? Hours spent in front of a computer working on his master's in addition to staying up all night researching the supernatural can do that to a guy’s eyeballs. After Scott complains that Stiles is giving him dirty looks again—they're not dirty looks, I'm just squinting. I swear!— he makes a trip to the eye doctor and gets a pair of glasses to use when his eyes get tired. He'll even admit that the retro Ray-Ban frames look awesome, even if every hipster he knows owns the same pair. Unlike them, he actually needs them.
Derek laughs at him at first, calling him a nerd, but Stiles knows that Derek secretly likes it when he keeps them on while sucking his cock. The guy is harboring a major librarian fetish; Stiles is sure of it, and plans to exploit it as much as possible with his new accessory.
It still amazes Stiles that over the past several years, their relationship status has evolved from necessary evil, to tentative friendship, to dating, to finally—finally!— living together. He will never forget the shock he felt over spring break during his junior year of college when he walked into his bedroom to find Derek in his bed, under the covers asleep. Stiles yelped in surprise, waking a very grumpy Derek, which quickly turned into an embarrassed Derek when he admitted—quite painfully— that he liked sleeping there because it smelled like Stiles.
He was mortifyingly aware that Derek had been able to smell the teenage lust directed toward him from Stiles for years and assumed he was just politely ignoring it. It turned out though, that Derek was actually going to therapy and trying to work out his intimacy issues before asking him out. What followed was probably the worst date Stiles had ever experienced, later redeemed by the greatest kiss at the end of the night.
Yeah, that was a shocker.
Anyway, things are fine for a while, but then he starts feeling occasional numbness in his feet. Derek tells him he should go to the doctor, that something smells off, but Stiles waves him away, citing poor circulation.
That's a thing, right?
The last straw is a torn groin muscle. It isn't something that happens in a manly fashion, like running from a Jackson-kanima or fighting an alpha pack. No, it happens after a few beers at a barbeque celebrating the beginning of summer. Stiles is proving to Lydia that of course he can totally still do a cartwheel, even if the last time he attempted one was in elementary school. He feels Derek's eyes on him, exasperated, yet fond, which is pretty much his standard look when it comes to Stiles. It doesn't really look all that different from his default glare, but Stiles is sure that the eyebrows are less glowery.
Taking a running start, he plants his hands on the ground and kicks his feet into the air, all bent knees and awkward angles. He feels a strange popping sensation, quickly followed with sharp pain radiating down the left side of his groin. Stiles collapses halfway through the move, falling hard on the ground with a thump and rolling around the grass in pain. With a long-suffering sigh, Derek picks him up and carries him to the car, scheduling an appointment with the doctor for the following day.
Stiles R.I.C.E.s the hell out of that injury for the next few weeks. Sure, he bitches and complains while Derek makes sure he follows the doctor's orders—no one wants ice that close to their junk, okay?— but the doctor said that he should be fine after four weeks if he sticks to the schedule, and Stiles is determined to get over this injury ASAP. Summer break is his time to relax and enjoy himself, not be stuck indoors while the rest of his friends run around the woods playing tag. Derek hates it when Stiles calls it that—”It's training, Stiles”— but there's a brief flash of guilt on his face every time he has to leave Stiles hobbling around their apartment alone. So, if he milks the injury a little more than necessary—and who doesn't want their peanut butter and jelly sandwich cut into dinosaur shapes using a toast stencil?— well, it's only to make Derek feel better.
Six weeks later though, the injury is still lingering painfully, and Stiles is frustrated as hell. He should've been fully healed by now, and it's times like these that he hates his human body, frail and delicate compared to the wolves. “You could always take the bite,” Derek says when he complains. “Fix you right up.”
“Thanks, but no thanks,” Stiles replies. He might be jealous of their healing abilities, but there's always a chance that he wouldn't survive the change, and he doesn't even want to the think about that. As a born werewolf, it's not Derek's fault that he always forgets that possible side effect. “Besides,” he continues, “this relationship can only handle one person with a monthly curse.”
That earns him a cuff on the back of the head.
“Hey! I can't even defend myself. That's patient abuse, buddy, and I'm totally reporting you.” Stiles looks around for his cell and spots it on the far end of the coffee table. “Uh, can you hand me my phone?”
Derek just looks at him smugly before walking out the door.
Stiles limps along for another two weeks before giving in and scheduling another doctor's appointment. He’s surprised when he's led directly into the doctor's office rather than an exam room.
“The doctor will be with you in just a few minutes,” the nurse says, leaving him alone with a stack of Health & Fitness magazines. He starts flipping through and snickers at the detailed ab workout they're promoting on the cover. They think that dude has abs? Pft, they've clearly never seen anything like his sexy werewolf boyfriend's bod.
Stiles tosses the magazine down; the silent, empty room starting to make him nervous. He hates doctor's offices and hospitals, after spending too much time there as a kid. Thinking back, he can't recall a single instance where he received good news in an office like this. It's disconcerting.
He jumps when the doctor opens the door behind him. “Mr. Stilinski,” the doctor says, holding out his hand. Stiles grabs it and shakes, hoping that the doctor doesn't notice the light dampness on his palms.
“Please, have a seat.” Dr. Thompson opens a manila file folder in front of him, squinting at the lettering briefly before removing his glasses and setting them down gently. He takes a deep breath before continuing. “I've been reviewing your medical chart, Stiles, and did a little research as to how the different symptoms you've mentioned could be related.”
“Symptoms?” Stiles asks. “What do you mean? It's just a torn muscle.”
Dr. Thompson starts reading from his notes. “Last year you visited the eye doctor for issues with blurred vision. When you came in for the groin injury, you also mentioned that you've been feeling occasional numbness in your feet?” Stiles nods, and the doctor lets out a heavy sigh. “There's no easy way to say this, son.”
Definitely not good news then. Doctors never call you “son” if it's good news.
“Those symptoms, coupled with the difficulty your body has had healing from this injury, could be the early manifestation of Multiple Sclerosis. Are you familiar at all with it?”
Stiles' whole body tenses, an immediate reaction to impeding bodily harm, even though there's nothing to brace himself against. “I'm sorry, what?” he asks, face paling rapidly.
The doctor reaches across the desk and settles his palm over Stiles' hand. “I know this is difficult news to hear. I'm sorry.”
His heart begins thundering in his chest. It's a good thing Derek isn't here, or he'd be freaking out at the unhealthy beat.
Oh God, Derek.
A lump in his throat causes his voice to crack when he answers. “No. I don't know anything about it.”
If the doctor is correct, an MRI will detect the damaged areas in his brain or spinal cord, and Stiles schedules an appointment for one before he leaves and tries to sort through all the information that he's been given. Apparently, it isn't uncommon for a guy in his early twenties with MS to start showing symptoms, and the doctor tried to give him a brief overview on the disease and what Stiles can expect in the coming years.
It's a progressive disease and all Stiles can do is learn to manage the symptoms. His chest clenches painfully. Hasn't he spent enough time in hospitals in his life, listening to doctors talk about managing pain? How the hell is he going to tell Derek about this? The pack? His fucking dad, who has already gone down this road of sickness once, with his mom, and ended up losing her anyway.
Tears prick at the corners of his eyes as he imagines his dad taking care of him while the nerves in his body slowly deteriorate, leaving him in pain and, eventually, barely able to even walk. Shaking his head, he tries to clear out the bleak future he’s already created for himself.
Stiles can't honestly expect Derek to stick around through this, can he? They've both already had so much pain in their relatively short lives, and now that he and Derek finally have their shit together, and Beacon Hills is safe for everyone again...
They were supposed to be at the happily ever after part of their story, not this fucking nightmare of an ending.
When he reaches their apartment, Stiles sits in his parking spot, unable to move from his seat. He has no idea how long he sits there, a chorus of How could this happen to me? running through his brain.
It isn't fucking fair.
Stiles smacks the steering wheel as hard as he can, the pain blossoming in his hand bringing him back to the present. He lets out a scream of frustration, forgetting that it will probably bring Derek running and a moment later he hears a light tap on the window of his Jeep. He rolls it down and Derek leans in. “You okay?” he asks.
Slowly, Stiles shakes his head. “It’s bad, Der.”
The corners of Derek's mouth turn down into a slight frown, but he remains silent, waiting for Stiles to explain.
Stiles leans his head back against the headrest, a humorless laugh punching from his chest. “MS. The doctor thinks it's fucking MS.”
Stiles see Derek's jaw flex, and he speaks through gritted teeth. “You’ll take the bite.”
Stiles blinks owlishly. Of course that's the first solution Derek comes up with. Not that it's a bad one, but if the bite doesn’t take, it will kill him. His dad will have lost everyone, and Stiles isn’t sure he can…
He doesn't want to make any rash decisions.
Stiles closes his eyes. “I need some time,” he says. The diagnosis isn't confirmed, although the doctor said it's the most likely cause of his recent health issues. A moment later he continues. “I'm not saying no, just not yet.” Stiles opens his eyes, about to tell Derek how important it is to him to have it as an option, and how much he loves him for offering it.
It doesn't matter, though. Derek's already gone.
And Stiles knows— he knows, alright?— that sometimes Derek needs to remove himself from a situation he can’t control before he loses it, that he needs to run off the alpha energy before he lashes out, but Stiles can't help but feel abandoned.
Still, he doesn't fault Derek for running. Hell, if Stiles could run, he might do the same thing.
With a deep ache in his chest, Stiles gets out of the car and trudges upstairs. He’s exhausted, feels weary down to his bones, and all he wants to do is collapse in bed. Instead, he finds himself drifting toward the computer and settling on the worn seat cushion in front of the softly glowing monitor. Stiles cracks his knuckles and flexes his fingers before settling them on the keyboard.
It’s time to start doing research.