Fandom: Teen Wolf
Summary: When Peter gets sick, Stiles is the only one who cares enough to check on him. That’s where it all begins.
“Do I look like a supernatural version of Encyclopedia Brown to you?” Stiles retorts, patience wearing thin. Isaac is the one on the other end of the line this time, and as much as he wants to, Stiles cannot actually produce answers out of thin air.
“We need to know, Stiles. Seriously, it was freaky; Derek ripped her head off but she just picked it – her head – back up and stuck it back on! I’ve seen a lot of whacky stuff but this definitely makes top ten.”
Well, it definitely sounds like something straight out of a horror film.
“Look, at least give me a few more hours to research this Alpha Arachne or whatever,” Stiles compromises, trying the rub the watery ache out of his eyes. “I’ll get back to you.”
“Just hurry. She’s going around biting people, and we can’t kill her.”
Stiles sighs as he hangs up. Now why does that sound so familiar?
He gets in another ten minutes of perusing largely useless web pages that are almost certainly more fiction than fact when a muted cry of anguish interrupts him.
“Ah shit,” Stiles is already dropping everything, books, notes, not the laptop, though that’s mostly because it’s already sitting on a flat surface – he moved out to the coffee table earlier for more room after Isaac called him the first time.
He’s at Peter’s bedside in a matter of seconds, gently shushing the older man as best he can. Yeah, Stiles was mad earlier but the irritation has already mostly faded, plus being pissed off is no excuse to permanently storm off on a guy with a fever. Besides, Peter can’t seem to stop grappling with his nightmares every time Stiles leaves him alone for more than an hour. The werewolf hasn't woken up all the way since drifting off after his bath but it’s been a fitful slumber, and Stiles has already had to calm him down five times. At least his fever’s gone down several degrees though, still above normal but on the mend, so that’s something. It’s mostly just the nightmares that are plaguing him now.
“It’s alright, Peter, you're safe,” Stiles has to wince when Peter’s immediate death grip on his wrist makes his bones grind together but he doesn't stop clutching at the Beta’s taut shoulders in a one-armed hug until the rigidity in them lessens.
“Do you dream like this when you're not sick?” Stiles wonders out loud, snagging a tissue to wipe away the tear tracks staining the werewolf’s face. It reminds him of himself, back when his mother just died, and his father was a ghost of his former self, either burying himself in work or losing himself in a bottle. Stiles used to wake up crying all the time, with his breath stuck in his lungs, and he still does on occasion, usually around his mom’s death anniversary each year.
Peter’s lost a lot more than Stiles has. His nightmares must be awful.
Stiles knows the exact moment when Peter reaches full consciousness again because the werewolf’s entire frame seizes up, and for a second, Stiles is sure he’s about to be kicked off the bed, which, ow, and really, just rude.
But Peter doesn't do anything, doesn't even move away, though he’s still as tense as a bowstring at Stiles’ side, and the hand clasped around his wrist spasms every few seconds as if Peter’s torn between letting go and hanging on (or just mauling Stiles; with Peter, you never know), and just ends up sending jolts of pain up Stiles’ arm.
Stiles is frozen on the outside. His heart is racing on the inside. Everything descends into the really awkward.
But then, Stiles’ middle name is awkward. He can totally own this.
Lord of the Rings is just out of reach from where Stiles is sitting so he racks his brain for something to say.
What comes out of his mouth isn’t something even Stiles expects.
“My mom,” He blurts out, and almost chokes on the heartache that follows. He swallows hard, not certain why he’s talking about her at all when he hasn't even mentioned her to his dad, much less anyone else, since she passed away. With difficulty, he stomps the worst of his emotions down and just lets the words flow out. Once they start coming, he can’t seem to stop them.
“My mom,” He begins again. “Stayed at home until she absolutely had to be moved back to the hospital. After she was diagnosed, she insisted on it, said that being stuck inside four white walls and surrounded by strangers all day would kill her faster than any disease. And Dad, he couldn't deny her anything so he agreed.”
Peter is silent at his side, even the sound of his breathing seems almost nonexistent. His grip on Stiles’ wrist is still as unyielding as a shackle but at least Stiles isn’t at risk of a broken wrist anymore.
“She seemed fine, at first,” The hand that Stiles has pressed against Peter’s back clenches momentarily into the fabric of the werewolf’s shirt. “She loved gardening, and since she wasn't supposed to exert herself too much, she ended up doing a lot of that. She planted all sorts of flowers but her favourites were these- these beautiful Bird of Paradise flowers, and she planted them everywhere, all around the yard. If you looked out the window from our house, it was as if dozens of tropical birds had decided to roost in our backyard. Mom adored those flowers; she took care of them like- like-” Stiles huffs out a shaky laugh. “She took care of them like they were me.
“They're all dead now,” Stiles tacks on with forced nonchalance. “Our yard doesn't look all that great anymore, lots of weeds even though I try to at least mow the grass every month. I didn't have time to take care of the flowers. I wasn't all that good at it anyway. Usually, I just watched my mom work whenever we went outside. Cooking was more our thing. Dad can’t cook to save his life, which isn’t that big a surprise because before he met Mom, he lived on take-out and cheeseburgers. The one time he tried to cook after Mom- after Mom died, he gave us food poisoning. It was really lucky that we had Melissa on speed-dial. After that, I did all the kitchen work.
“Mom was the one who taught me some of her recipes. Even with things as simple as pasta or curry, she would add her own special touches to them, and she would write them all down in this notebook she kept. I still have it. She started teaching me the moment I learned the No Touching the Stove rule. I think I was three, and I’d sit on the counter while she cooked. When I got a bit older, she started letting me help.
“But... when her- She was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. No cure, of course. She started having problems doing things, using her hands, moving. It got to the point where she would have trouble even swallowing, and obviously, gardening and cooking were eventually off the can-do list. And she started having trouble speaking; it took longer for her to find the right words for whatever she wanted to say. Her memory started going too. The doctors called her subtype logopenic phonological aphasia. And before she couldn't walk anymore, she sometimes wandered off when me or Dad weren’t looking, and she’d get lost because she couldn't find her way back home. She changed, too. Her personality I mean. She became more and more depressed, and there were days where she wouldn't even get out of bed, not just because she was tired but because she just didn't care enough to get up and live.
“And sometimes...” Stiles’ mouth twists into a bitter line. “Sometimes, she’d look at me, and she wouldn't know me. At all. More and more often towards the end. It wasn't her fault of course, but it was... it was hard. Especially for my dad whenever she couldn't recognize him. On the worst days, he’d go to work and bury himself in a case, and he wouldn't come home for days, and that was- that was a bit tough, for me. But she was my mom, so I’d stay even when she didn't know me, and I had to keep reminding her. And I’d cook for her even though the food I made was never as good as hers and she didn't have much of an appetite sometimes, and I’d try to get her everything she needed to feel comfortable, and convince her to take her meds.
“The day before she died,” Stiles tilts his head back to rest against the headboard, staring idly up at the ceiling. “Dad had to work, and she was- it was one of her not so good days, she didn't talk at all, she was in bed twenty-four/seven by then, back in the hospital indefinitely, and even though I spent all day with her, she was really out of it most of the time, and she spent hours staring at nothing. And then she went to sleep that night, and... well, she never woke up again.”
Stiles looks down at his lap, and – quietly – he confesses something that he’s never told anyone, not Scott, not even his dad. “She died, I watched her die, and for just a second, after she stopped breathing, I was glad. Because. Because she wouldn’t have to hurt anymore. Because Mom wasn't Mom anymore. At the end. And... And because I wouldn't have to pretend anymore that- that she didn't hurt me whenever she looked at me and only saw a stranger.”
Stiles probably smells like age-old misery by now but Peter remains entirely motionless beside him. He’s still clutching at Stiles’ wrist, but his grip has gone lax, almost as if he’s forgotten about it if not for the fact that his thumb is brushing soothingly back and forth over the skin of Stiles’ pulse point. Stiles can probably pull out of Peter’s grasp whenever he wants.
He doesn't bother. His fingers tap an erratic rhythm from where they’re resting against Peter’s back. He feels emotionally drained, and there’s a buzzing in his head that probably indicates too much coffee and no sleep.
He thinks, on hindsight, that talking about his mom to Peter Hale of all people was a way to take the werewolf’s mind off of his own memories of fire and ash and broken pack bonds, not to mention a reminder to the Beta that Stiles at least knows what it’s like to lose family, and even an unstated reassurance to Peter that nothing Stiles has seen over the past couple days will ever be used against the werewolf. Not by Stiles.
The hush in the room is more companionable now even though Stiles feels a bit like he wants to lock himself in the bathroom for a minor breakdown, and a part of him is berating himself for giving so much away, for giving Peter – in a way – so much power over him because knowledge is power, and the werewolf knows now, knows a piece of Stiles’ heart, knows what broke him once upon a time, and that it’s still affecting him even now, which means it can be used against him in some way or another.
Yet at the same time... at the same time, Stiles feels more at peace than he has been in years as he pictures his mom’s smiling, open features in his mind’s eye, sitting in the garden or helping her cook or reading him books or singing him to sleep.
The buzz of his phone shatters the silence, and Stiles stiffens in surprise and pulls away the arm that isn’t braced around Peter’s shoulders, slipping it out of the werewolf’s loose grasp as he goes to fish his phone out of his sweats.
He doesn't even get in a hello before Derek is barking out, “Stiles, what do you have on the Alpha spider?”
Stiles rolls his eyes so hard he’s surprised he doesn't strain himself. “Uh, let me see, Derek, since Isaac called me-” He checks the time. “-twenty-four minutes ago and counting, hm, I’d say – nothing.”
“You have to have some-”
“Nothing, zip, zilch, nada!” Stiles cuts him off. “Derek, I know I'm amazing but even I can’t give a lecture on Arachne Hierarchy 101 after just twenty-four minutes of surfing the ’net. Contrary to what you may believe, research does not only consist of typing a word into the Google search engine and hitting Enter. I need more time.”
“Stiles.” Derek growls in his bitchface voice.
“Derek,” Stiles stresses in his be reasonable and listen to Stiles because he’s always right voice, and there’s a long silence in which both of them wait for the other to capitulate first.
Stiles pumps a fist in the air when Derek sighs like it costs him his manhood, and there’s a muted snort of amusement from Stiles’ waist as the Alpha grumps out, “Fine. Text me the information as soon as you find it.”
And then he hangs up without so much as a fare thee well but Stiles is more than used to it so he lets it go.
“Impatient sourwolf,” He mutters instead, tucking his phone away before steeling himself and glancing down at Peter. Blue eyes stare back at him, unreadable and at least surface-calm, and Stiles can feel his face growing hot. It doesn't help that his brain abruptly reminds him of their respective positions, with Peter still half-draped over his lap, and both of them partially twined together in the werewolf’s bed.
Stiles reacts the only way he knows how. He wrenches himself away from Peter, realizes too late that he’s sitting too close to the edge of the bed, and flails his way onto the ground with a yelp like the klutz he is.
All the air in his lungs deserts him in a whoosh, leaving him breathless and stunned on the ground for several seconds because his stomach is suddenly screaming at him for jostling his injury and-
“Stiles, breathe,” A voice from somewhere above him commands, and Stiles obeys, mostly because – suddenly – he can breathe. The pain in his abdomen is dissipating, and it takes him a pitifully long moment to realize why.
“Stop- Stop!” Stiles gasps out, batting Peter’s hand away. The pain gradually seeps back but it’s not as bad so Stiles ignores it. “You're still sick, Peter; you shouldn't do that. I’m fine, really, just-”
He pushes himself upright and takes a gulp of oxygen, briefly splaying a hand against his torso. Thankfully, it doesn't come away bloody, which means Stiles won’t have to waste time soaking the blood out of the shirt. He does enough of that on a regular basis whenever the Pack finishes fighting off yet another monster.
“How bad is it?” Peter asks in about as neutral a tone as possible.
Stiles shrugs and carefully clambers to his feet. “Not bad; don’t worry about it.” He gives Peter a critical inspection for a second, recalling how the werewolf’s body heat didn't feel anywhere near as searing to the touch anymore. “Do you want to try getting up for a bit? You've gotta be hungry by now. I’ll cook something for you. You’ll have to stick to softer foods but is there anything specific that you’d like?”
Peter smiles at him, an odd curve of his lips that Stiles can’t quite decipher. “Surprise me; I'm sure I’ll enjoy anything you make.”
Stiles flushes again, hastily turning for the door, and then turning back again when he remembers that Peter may not be able to walk by himself just yet. “Yeah, well, like I said, not as good as my mom.” He holds out a hand. “Do you need some help?”
Peter hums noncommittally, slowly levering himself off the bed. He wavers for a second before steadying on his own two feet. “I think I’ll manage.” A pause. “Thank you, Stiles.”
Stiles gapes a bit, and then swiftly picks his jaw back up because that’s just not attractive, and he waves a dismissive – if somewhat disconcerted – hand instead. “No worries, dude. Go brush your teeth and change. And shave.” He smirks. “You're starting to look more mangy-mutt than wolf, Scruffy.”
He gets a classic Hale eyeroll for his efforts but it serves to get rid of the lingering tension cloaking the room so Stiles isn’t going to complain.