The day that Stiles was born was one of the happiest moments of his life. Though it didn't seem like it would be one at first. While his wife, Claudia, had looked upon the upcoming birth of their first child with unabashed enthusiasm, John was, quite frankly, scared out of his mind. Who was he to be put in charge of a little life unable to even fend for itself? Who was he to think that he could raise a little human into a responsible member of society when he saw so many failures daily in his job? He was beyond terrified at the prospect of being a dad and had somehow managed, in those uncertain days before the birth, to convince himself that he was going to be terrible at it.
And then Stiles was born.
Claudia had some difficulties. There were some very real moments of concern, but then the doctor placed this little, crinkled bundle of life in his arms, and it was over. Life as he knew it was utterly over because it didn't matter that he hadn't a clue what to do. It didn't matter that he was terrified beyond measure. All that mattered was that little life in his arms, looking up at him with eyes the color sunlight through whiskey. It was love at first sight and there are times when John still has to pinch himself just to prove that this life of his is not merely a dream but that Stiles is really and truly his.
After Claudia passed and John was left to raise their son on his own he knew it wouldn't always be sunshine and roses. He and Stiles had their share of screaming matches and knockdown, drag-out fights, but they always came back to one another in the end. There was always a tender moment afterwards when they would tearfully apologize to one another for the terrible things they had said and John prays that if this moment turns into one of those god awful fights, that they'll find there way back to each other in the end. Because Stiles is always going to be that tiny little life placed in his arms and John is always going to be completely and utterly enamored with him.
"Dad?" Stiles chokes a little on a dry throat. That damn oxygen mask is back and he fingers it idly when it muffles his words as he tries to remerge from sleep. "What happened?"
"You had a panic attack," John answers quietly, helping Stiles to lift the mask from off his face. He should really keep it on until the doc comes back to check on him, but John needs to talk to his son and the mask will only get in the way.
"Here," he offers, holding up that pink cup from before when Stiles tries to wet his mouth but can't. It's filled with ice water and he takes a few deep, greedy pulls.
"Better?" John asks when he's finished and his son nods before settling back against his pillows.
"Stiles…" he begins but he's not really sure how to phrase what it is he needs to say. His son looks up at him warily, as if he can guess what's about to happen, and John struggles to find the right words. "Stiles, I need… I need you to tell me about Donovan."
He knows that Stiles is fragile and that anything he says could send his son into another panic attack, but John can't put this off any longer. People are dying and John is being manipulated and lied to by every single person around him it seems. He can't keep living like this; they can't keep living like this so he doesn't back down when Stiles looks visibly shaken at the request.
"Dad…" he starts thickly, exhaustion, stress and pain misting his eyes over as he fights to contain mutinous emotions. "I… I c-can't tell you about that."
"Because… I just can't." He darts his eyes away and swipes at them with a sleeve.
"Oh come on, Stiles. Don't give me that crap! Just tell me what the hell's going on!"
"I can't!" Stiles actually yells, turning angry eyes back on John.
"But why not!?" He pushes, leaning forward, desperation coloring his voice high and fast. "You used to come to me for everything, Stiles! When did that change? Why don't you trust me anymore?!"
"God, Dad, it isn't that!" A single frustrated tear crests one of Stiles' eyelids and rolls, cutting a glistening path of moisture down one pale cheek. "I do trust you. It's just… you could never understand."
"Then help me understand, Stiles! Just talk to me, kid!" He tries to capture one of Stiles' hands in his own but the kid pulls it away before he can and it's like a sucker punch straight to the gut. Stiles' looks away again and his entire frame begins to shake.
"I can't," he whispers hoarsely and something ignites in John's gut.
"Oh for the love of god, Stiles!" He bellows and pushes out of his chair so hard it tips over and walks the length of the room on the force of his frustration alone. It's taking everything he's got not to put a fist through the wall and he rests his head against the cool of the closed hospital door when he reaches the other side of the room.
"I can't do this anymore, kid," he breathes out on a sigh so heavy it nearly pulls John down with it when he lets it go. "I can't take the lies and the secrecy and getting pulled into the middle of all this again. I can't take worrying that I'll get another call like the one last week. I just can't do it anymore, Stiles."
"Don't you think I haven't spent every day wishing I could tell you what's going on?" Stiles replies from the bed behind him, voice so rough and raw with emotion that John has no choice but to turn back around.
Stiles is quaking quietly under the weight of the burden he carries and John wants nothing more than to go to his son, wrap him in his arms like they did yesterday and comfort his boy. But anger and frustration keeps him rooted in place as Stiles goes on.
"Every day, Dad. I get up and I go to school and I see my friends and every goddamn day I wish I could tell you what I did. But I can't. I can't and I wont, Dad. Because I can't lose you, too."
The words seem to break some kind of barrier holding them in their own separate hells. Stiles descends down into the sobs that have been threatening him for a while now and John forgets his anger completely as he re-crosses the room in three large, looping strides. He brings down the bedrails the nurses put up after stabilizing Stiles earlier and wraps his disintegrating son up into his arms.
"You're not going to loose me," he croons, pulling Stiles in closer. "You'll never, ever loose me kid, because there's nothing in this world you could ever do that would ever make me stop loving you!"
"But you wouldn't be saying that if you knew," Stiles weeps into his shirt, unable to control the force of his tears. His sobs reverberate up into John's arms until he's quaking right along with his son.
He holds on for dear life. "You're my son, Stiles. My boy. My own flesh and blood. Nothing you could ever do will ever change that. I swear to God, kid."
"Even if I t-told you he's dead because of me?" Stiles stammers out and all the air is punched out of John's gut in an instant. "Even if I told you I killed him?"
Time does that thing where it shudders to a halt around him and for one mind numbing moment, John can scarcely breathe.
It's all falling into place now and with agonizing clarity. The secrets, the lies, the unexplained changes in his son, all of it fits now and it drags John down into a pit of darkness he hasn't been in since Claudia died. Stiles must feel John freeze because he starts trying to push away from the circle of his arms.
"I told you. I told you!" He cries, struggling weakly in John's arms, but he doesn't let go. "I told you if you new I'd lose you!"
John finally does let go of his son at that and lifts himself off the bed, trying to process what's he's just heard.
…Donovan's dead and Stiles had something to do with it.
It seems so surreal, the thought so preposterous that he's having a hard time even wrapping his head around the idea of it. If it's true then he's got to protect his boy… but at the same time he's the Sheriff of Beacon Hills for christ's sake; he can't just sweep this under the rug.
"Dad… please," Stiles calls for him from the bed, sounding younger than his 18 years, but John can't turn back around. Not yet.
"Tell me what happened." He says instead, careful to keep his voice devoid of emotion and Stiles goes silent.
"Turn around and look at me first." He finally replies a little hysterically but John ignores him and stays where he is.
"No more lies, Stiles. Just tell me what happened from the beginning and tell me the truth this time."
Stiles is quiet for a long moment behind him, breath hitching in his chest every so often from all the crying, but he eventually does do what John asks.
He goes through it all, every horrible detail with perfect clarity, and John can tell by the emotions making his words thick and the defeated way in which Stiles' speaks that he's getting the whole, messy truth of it all. He fights hard to maintain his composure through the entire thing, to not let his shoulders shake or to give in to the urge to turn back around and go to his son, but it's difficult. Quite possibly the most difficult thing he's ever done in his life.
When Stiles finally finishes a few minutes later and goes quiet behind him John does turn around then, slowly, and walks back over to the bed to settles himself down onto the mattress beside his son's legs. Stiles' weary eyes never stop tracking him like he's trying to read in John's body language or on his face what kind of a reaction he should prepare himself for. He also looks about ready to pass out again so John doesn't waste any time. He's reached a few conclusions of his own and it's time to share them with his exhausted, burned, scared shitless boy.
John's no fool. He knows what's been done is serious and something he can't ignore, but he somehow manages to smile softly. He leans forward, startling Stiles a little in the process when he captures his son's face gently between his hands, making those red rimmed, bloodshot eyes meet his own. Stiles' face is a mess of tears and snot and he's looking up at John with something so wounded hiding behind his eyes John almost can't go on, but he pulls some of that patented Stilinski strength from somewhere deep inside and somehow manages to go on.
"You and I need to get something straight," he begins, thumbing away a bit of the moisture still dampening Stiles' cheek. "You're my son, Stiles. And I will always fight to the death to protect you." More tears begin to work their way out of the corners of Stiles' eyes but John catches them. "Especially," he emphasizes when Stiles tries to look away again, "over something you had no control over."
Stiles' eyes go wide.
"It was self defense," John soothes, sweeping the sweat damned bangs off of Stiles' forehead as he releases his face. "That boy would've come after you and me if you hadn't done what you did."
"But… But I killed him," Stiles stammers. "He's dead because of me." His boy looks so broken, shattered into a million pieces, and John will be damned if he stays that way.
"Kid, I've been a cop for a long time. There isn't a jury in the world that would ever convict you."
"There's not going to be one of those, is there?" Stiles asks, looking worried all of a sudden and John sighs.
"Any prosecutor in their right mind would be a fool to press charges against you based on what I just heard," John reassures but stays serious.
"But do you remember what I told you before? About how these things have a way of coming out in the end?" He thinks back on the conversation he had with Deputy Clark about library key cards while his son was asleep earlier.
"Well it's going to come out eventually, Stiles, but if you trust me, I'll do everything in my power to protect you."
"And what do I do about Scott? God, Dad, did you see the way he looked at me? Theo must have told him what happened."
"Wait," John interrupts, "Theo knows, too?"
Stiles nods again. "He was there with me that night in the library, or at least he said he was."
Well that could complicate things. "You saw him there? Theo?"
"No, but he saw me. He confronted me about it when we were up on the hospital roof."
"What were you doing on the roof? No, wait!" He stops Stiles with a hand when the kid actually starts to answer. "Don't tell me. I probably don't want to know, anyways." Stiles stays mum so John gets them back on track.
"Any reason to think Theo might have a different version of the events at the library?" Stiles narrows his eyes sharply at that and John realizes his mistake. "That's not what I meant, Stiles. I believe you, 100%, but you were the one who came to me wondering if Theo Raeken is who he says he is. I just want to make sure he doesn't have any reason to lie about what he saw."
"I don't think so," Stiles replies with a shake of the head after some thought. "We were talking about what happened in the jeep that night before we were attacked. He was telling me how he thought it was self defense."
"Dad, I'm glad you're on my side about what happened with Donovan and all, but he died and you're the friggin' Sheriff. Don't you have to report me for this or something?"
John pats his son's knee and tries to smile in a way that doesn't look completely forced. "Stiles, three days ago you were on a respirator and they weren't even sure you'd ever walk again. Let's just worry about getting you better and then we can decide what to do."
"Stiles, please," he sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Seriously kid, let me worry about this. Just concentrate on getting your strength back." His son looks like he wants to argue the matter further, but apparently gives up in the end. The energy he's expended from crying and confessing has clearly taken its toll and he fights just to stay awake.
"You rest now," John lulls, running his knuckles gently down Stiles now dry cheek. He takes a moment to relish the feeling because he knows as soon as Stiles comes off all these pain meds he's not going to let John get away with that anymore, and watches as his son drift off into a semi-peaceful sleep. When he's finally under, John pulls himself up off the bed and goes over to the window.
It's completely dark outside and he realizes he doesn't even know what time it is. He fishes the smartphone Stiles picked out for him last year from his trousers pocket and activates the display. It's 11:11pm, he notices with a sinking feeling of dread, and he's got 6 missed calls from the precinct. John has half a mind to chuck the damn phone and it's large, digital numbers broadcasting that damn time out the window, and when a strange feeling washes over him, he actually does it. He opens the window he's pretty sure Scott left open so he could sneak in at night, and tosses his cell phone out into the night, 11:11pm flashing at him as it tumbles through the air towards the ground.
Beacon Hills sits glittering under it's own light beneath him, wet from the recent rains. He watches the phone sail through the air and land on the ground with a satisfying splat, plastic and electronic components scattering in every direction on the wet pavement 3 stories below.
Maybe it wasn't the most adult thing to do, but he's tired. Tired of feeling like he's no longer in control of his own destiny. Tired of feeling utterly helpless over what's happening to his son. Because the truth of the matter is, he is in control and he can no longer allow a silly thing like the time of day dictate to him when things are or are not going to go wrong! He's not going to let supernatural psychos come in and destroy his son's life or his town. He's stronger than all of it, put together, and so is Stiles.
…But a thing is only as good as the sum of its parts. And the only reason things have gotten as bad as they have is because some of their parts are broken. Scott, Malia, Lydia, Liam, and Stiles (hell, even John and Melissa) are out of sync somehow and he's got to get them working together again if any of them even hope to get out of this thing alive. Somehow they've managed to loose sight of the big picture and come hell or high water, John is going to make it right again.
Fueled by a kind of righteous fire, John snaps the window shut and stands for a long time just looking out over his beloved city and then finally his son. He might not know what's going to happen tomorrow or how they're going to handle what happened with Donovan, but John knows one thing for sure: he's not going to rest again until his son and his town are made safe. And the first step? Head back to the BHPD in the morning and throw that ugly, brown, 80's piece of shit clock in the garbage can where it belongs.
Because he's the Sheriff of Beacon Hills, as Deputy Bara was so keen to point out to him so many days ago, and there is nothing he wont do, no lengths he wont go, to protect the things that he loves.
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