It took years for the pack to find themselves in a place where they could look back at their lives and think about how those years have been. When Beacon Hills descended into chaos, turned into an ongoing battleground, none of them bothered to be that introspective. Once everything settled, it still wasn’t time, because adjusting to peace was somehow harder than getting used to the constant danger before.
Stiles doesn’t know how he has become the common link, the person to go to, the one who somehow seemed the most trustworthy. He wonders sometimes if it’s because part of his own facade always was talking too much to avoid saying anything important. The reasons aren’t all that important though, in the end.
He knows all about Derek’s time in New York, after the fire. About how he’d go out, be flirty and charming -- it does explain the time when he managed to distract an officer with just a smile -- and how he’d go home with people he’d never see again. Stiles knows how Laura never found out about Derek’s involvement with Kate, how much it took out of Derek to keep pretending that he was recovering and how it all came crashing down when she died.
Then there’s Lydia, who spent the majority of her school years playing the superficial spoiled princess, because that was what her Mom seemed to value. Stiles heard all about her attempts to appease her family’s focus on image, on looking pretty and right, on being the perfect doll of a daughter who was everything they expected her to be.
Isaac was the one who built walls higher than most anyone else, ones that helped him get through the worst of times with his father. Walls that kept others away, because otherwise they’d keep asking questions that he didn’t want to answer.
Stiles even heard from the parents -- Melissa’s struggles to keep being a good mother after she threw out Scott’s Dad, her trained smile from the hospital that she brought home all too often just so Scott wouldn’t know how hard it all was on her. And Stiles knows about his own Dad, about the times when they both only kept waking up in the morning because of the masks of strength they got used to putting on, for each other’s sake and for the rest of the world.
There’s Jackson, with his need to be perfect, the urge to be better than anyone else he knew, because somehow that meant that -- if he ever got to meet them -- his biological parents would see how they were wrong for leaving him.
It was Stiles again who heard of Erica’s eagerness to become a werewolf so she should hide her insecurities, and how she reveled in the change and being noticed. How Boyd was the one who saw right through that pretense, because he had his own mask, one that was more carefully constructed way before Derek offered him the bite. Stiles heard all about the stoicism and how it came to be the perfect defense against prying questions and unwanted sympathy. How for both of them, any offer of friendship seemed suspicious, so neither of them opened up to it.
Even Allison, despite the innocence of her life until she got to Beacon Hills, isn’t a stranger to pretending, to wearing a disguise. She did so with her Dad later, and Stiles takes a while to get over the shock that it was his father who got to see her vulnerability in a moment when she couldn’t keep up the facade anymore.
There’s only Scott. Heart on his sleeve, emotions all over his face, a little too honest on occasion. Stiles knows that Scott knows how to pretend, how to deceive, but out of everyone in the pack, he’s the only one who doesn’t have it ingrained in him.
In the past, Stiles couldn’t understand that, didn’t know how to function without his mask, his defences. Later, when the walls he built to protect himself weren’t as necessary anymore, when they stopped him from getting close to people the way he’d want to, Stiles was envious of his best friend.
They’ve all learned with time, though. When they are together, Stiles can see the changes -- small, barely noticeable sometimes, but there nonetheless. He sees how Allison lets others step in to help, admits easier that she can’t always know what to do. Boyd smiles more, makes his voice heard and himself seen, adds personal memories to conversations when they fit.
Stiles sees Erica trust the very same people who barely saw her before she was a werewolf, people who’d mock her and laugh. It shows most with Jackson, who stopped trying to prove himself to the pack at least, stopped trying to be better and became less arrogant.
There’s no denying Lydia’s change: she’s done pretending to not know anything and not care about things beyond the surface. Instead, she’s leaving everyone else in the dust academically, has become the brains behind plans, and proved herself more than capable of defending herself. It was her who slowly brought Isaac out of his shell, away from the cockiness he used to hide behind. He learned to be vulnerable without being defenseless, found out how to make mistakes and try again instead of cringing in fear.
None of them took quite as long to shed their facades as Stiles did himself, nor as long as Derek did. Maybe it was because they both started to lose themselves in the masks, maybe because they forgot how it was to not put up a front.
It took some time, and the pack might still use those masks when needed. But when Stiles watches them all, when they’re together and safe, he knows that all disguises stay at the door.