So, Stiles has a boyfriend. Well, it turns out his boyfriend is a demon who has partially possessed him. What could go wrong?
July 28-29, 2015
So, Stiles has a boyfriend. This is a fact that has only settled into his mind, despite the fact that he is currently driving said boyfriend to dinner. And to think, only two days earlier, they had a chance meeting in a coffee shop. Okay, so maybe things have moved fast. Maybe if Stiles were not directly involved in this, he'd be inclined to distrust it, ask questions, and doubt the hell out of the wisdom of this. Except, well, Stiles has a boyfriend.
Life's weird, huh?
Pulling into the parking space, Stiles turns to grin at his companion, Lance, and says, "You'll love this place. Best tacos this side of Beacon County." He pauses, his door half-open, and shrugs, "Actually, only real tacos in Beacon County. Worth mentioning, anyway." He slides out of the jeep, shutting the door after him, and locks it. Waiting a moment for Lance to emerge as well, he then pulls open the door of the little family-style taqueria and grins. "Step right in," he says with all the gallantry he can muster. (It isn't really much.) "No sense getting rained on before dinner, anyway."
Come to think of it, the weather's been odd this week, too. Oh, well.
Lance has a boyfriend. And he's still not sure exactly what all this means, or even what it entails. He's seen TV. He's read books and stuff. He's not bad at internetting, but he's really not very good at it either, which should be pretty evident from the inordinate amount of problems he seems to encounter with texting. Maybe a side effect of his nature? He could probably claim that if he weren't trying to hide it.
In all his time on Earth, he's never really had to deal with any of the problems that go along with actually caring about another living being. To say nothing of actually enjoying his company, being incredibly excited by the most...ridiculous...things! He can't believe it. It's all racing through his mind at a million miles a second. He's so lost in thought that when Stiles speaks as they pull into the parking space, he has to pause a moment and switch over to "English mode", that is to say actually registering that someone is talking to him and their words mean something.
It takes him a second to respond, but he smiles, and Lance hops out and locks his door too, shutting it and glancing to the sky at the rain comment. It really has been raining a lot. He dips his head at the door being held for him and glances back for Stiles, holding out his hand. And today he's dressed in a slightly more respectable pair of jeans, and a very dark red t-shirt with similarly-colored details of two circular eyes, a mouth with cute little fangs, and two little horns -- the design is only really visible under light, which gives it a subtle quality.
Man, Lance thinks. What am I even doing?
Stiles' ears turn a bit red, but he takes Lance's hand and lets him lead the way into the place. Though, as they enter, Stiles stops beside Lance and gestures here and there, pointing at key items as he describes them. "Okay, so, you've got your standard menu up front, order on the right, pickup on the left, salsa bar over there, and drink machine just past it. I'm feelin' the deep fried 'California style' tacos, myself, but... well, the burritos are really good, too. And of course they do free chips." He adds, raising one finger pointedly, "The best chips."
Lance actually had intended to let Stiles lead him, but he takes the hint as Stiles...doesn't lead. So they go, and then they stop at the gesturing, and Lance carefully takes in each of the features outlined. It's almost as overwhelming as everything else in his life right now, and along with everything else, he comes to a conclusion. "Why don't you order for me? You know what's good. I'm sure I'll love it, if you like it." He smiles, and it's warm, and he hopes it's convincing because while it's not inauthentic, it's also hiding a lot of insecurity and confusion.
"Done and done," Stiles says agreeably, clearly in his element here. He heads up to the counter, idly tapping his left palm against his right fist in what is probably a nervous gesture--he has a lot of those, even when he's relaxed--and glances over the menu. Finally, when a girl in apron appears at the counter, Stiles offers a big smile and says, "Hey!" At her invitation to order, he says, "We'll take the 'mucho grande' taco basket, all California style, all deep fried. Two large drinks, and--that comes with the chips, right? Great! Then, that'll do it!" After she reviews the order, he nods, pays cash, and drops the change into the tips jar. (Not that he has the money to burn, but he's trying to impress Lance, here.)
Stepping back over to Lance, he gestures to a corner table. "Wanna sit? I'll go grab the drinks and chips." He's clearly enjoying the whole "taking Lance out" thing, and without waiting he goes to do just that. Halfway to the counter, he turns around to call back, "Oh, hey! What're you drinking? Coke? Sprite? Dr. Pepper?"
Lance seems a little distracted tonight, but he's able to snap back to the present when addressed, at least. Even if it does take him a second or two to really get himself "with it". He nods and moves in the direction of the table, then when he's almost there, he turns as he hears Stiles. Questions, questions -- "Do...they have cherry anything?" He's eating out. At a restaurant. He's eating out at a restaurant and Stiles is trying to impress him and he's utterly enchanted by it and this is ridiculous, he doesn't drink soda usually!
Shut up, shut up, shut UP, he tells his mind. Calm down. He rests a hand on the table, still standing and waiting for his answer. Helpfully, he tries to smile again, looking to see if Stiles can find what he's asked for. "Or if they don't, Dr. Pepper's fine!" He's pretty sure he likes Dr. Pepper.
Stiles fetches the drinks and a large basket of divinely deep fried tortilla chips, fills up at the soda machine, and then plunks his butt down in the chair opposite Lance, somehow (if barely) managing to carry it all. He sets one cup in front of Lance, announcing, "Cherry Coke!" The chips, he pushes to the center of the table, and then, tearing the paper off his straw, he nods down at his own cup. "Equal parts Cherry Coke and Doctor Pepper to half a part root beer with just a splash of strawberry lemonade for zing." He winks, grinning, and pokes the straw into his cup, taking a slow, happy sip.
Lance does sit down once Stiles seems to have everything figured out himself. He happens to look up when he notices the vast armful, but by the time he actually pulls himself out of his own mind-wanderings to take enough notice, Stiles is so close he can only help him set it down. "Sorry. You should've told me to come help you!" His smile returns though with the interesting drink recipe. "Would you like me to get some salsa from the salsa bar? That's...what we do, right?" Wrapping his fingers around his cup, he lifts it to his lips and takes a little sip. It has been a long time. He swallows and then turns his head to sneeze. The fizz tickled his nose!
Stiles looks scandalized at having forgotten salsa. "You're right! You hit the salsa bar--basically get two of everything--" And then Lance sneezes, and Stiles can't help but grin, finding it irrationally cute. "And I'll go get us some napkins," he declares. Hopping up, he reaches to tap Lance playfully on the shoulder, then heads across the way.
Lance brightens more when his shoulder is tapped. He waits until Stiles is out of the way, then gets to his feet and stretches his arms up a little bit. Not a lot, since he's in public, and what's more, a restaurant. Strolling to the salsa bar, he is then confronted by a truly staggering number of options. Well, it's more like six or seven options, but he's paralyzed by indecision for a moment. Then he just decides, well...might as well go for it. Whatever! He can handle this. It's not like the food's going to be too hot for him. But as he starts for one, he stops himself and slowly looks over to where Stiles is getting napkins. Maybe it would be too hot for Stiles. He can't have that. Can't do it. So he breathes in slowly and turns back to the salsa bar. Okay. Mild to medium salsa. The chipotle one and the salsa verde. Those should be okay. He brings back two little cups of each and sets them down, then sits down himself. Hopefully this will be acceptable.
Stiles returns with a slightly bigger pile of napkins than is strictly necessary, but apparently he too wanted to make sure to "do it right." Noting the salsa choices, he grins in approval. "Nice! Guess you know your salsa. Most people just grab the pico and give up." He leans back in the chair a bit, seeming pleased, and reaches out to snag a chip, which he then dips into the chipotle salsa. Crunching cheerfully, he then looks back to Lance, smiling as he chews. It might be simple, even silly, but he's happy.
Of course, behind it all is the shadow of what Lance has been seeing for two days now. Beneath the happy exterior is a fatigued mind, a soul with an open wound. Whatever natural defenses he might have against the spiritual world have been rendered useless by whatever caused the equivalent of a wrecking ball through the psychic walls of his mind. It's nothing that should happen to a person under normal circumstances. In fact, it has the stink of ancient magic all over it...
It's something Lance noticed at first, even though it might not have been an overt notice, something he could put his finger on. It's not that mental damage, the psychic "open door" that Lance has become utterly infatuated with, but it's probably what initially caught his eye so that he could notice Stiles at all. He's been thinking on it, more and more. He's fairly sure he at least understands somewhere in the neighborhood of what's happening here, and he's entirely certain he doesn't like Stiles basically walking around all the time with a "possess me" sign on his back.
But before his expression can become too broodly, Lance puts on a smile, a little belatedly after Stiles tries his salsa. He reaches over and takes a chip to dip...and dips it into not his own cup, but the one Stiles just dipped from. And he crunches, licking his lips. "Mm! That is really good!" Maybe he just hasn't had chipotle salsa before. "I uh...just got what looked good. I don't know if I've ever had food like this before."
"Oh, wow," Stiles says, looking impressed. "Good instincts, then!" He munches a few more chips, then gets an impish sort of look and reaches over to feed one to Lance. "Lance... You seem kind of thoughtful, like... pensive. What's on your mind?" He reaches with his free hand for one of Lance's, intending to give it a squeeze. He may be the one with the spiritual trauma, but he doesn't know it. He's just concerned--because, well, that seems to be just what he does.
Lance leans up immediately, noticeably cheered by the feeding. He carefully positions his mouth, laughing as he doesn't quite get it right at first, and then finally does crunch into the chip, careful not to bite Stiles on his fingertips. He chews and sits back, smiling and licking his lips as he swallows. "Oh, uh...well...I don't know. Just a feeling. So!" Reaching over to take the hand squeezing his with both of his own, he lifts it and kisses the back of the fingers. "I want to know. Are you okay? Have you gone through...some kind of trauma lately? I just...I know it's a stupid question, but humor me."
Stiles is clearly charmed by the flirting, laughing a little and leaning into the table, but then the question makes him pause, and his expression fades to a distant one. He draws a deep, slow breath, and then gives a very tentative nod. "I... Okay, yeah. I gues... maybe?" He falls silent, toying with a chip idly in one hand while hanging on to Lance's grip with the other. It seems he may have said all he plans to, and then he says quietly, "I... don't know how much I can talk about yet, but... I had a near-death experience. Technically, well... I was pretty much clinically dead for a few seconds."
"W-what?!" Lance becomes, for the first time since Stiles has met him, visibly upset. "Did someone attack you?!" He doesn't let the hand go, keeping it gripped tight between his own, looking with that piercing gaze into Stiles's eyes, locking his focus there. He leans closer, over the table. But after a moment it seems to sink in, and he shakes his head. "No, uh. No, I'm sorry. You said you weren't ready. That's okay." Forcing a smile again, he kisses the hand, but he doesn't release it...he'll let Stiles decide if he wants to pull back. "I just...you were so startled. I'm probably already smothering you with stupid stuff. Blame it on my inexperience, okay?"
Stiles gives a laugh so soft it's almost just an exhale, dropping his head for a moment to stare at the tabletop, but when he looks back up he meets Lance's eyes with his own. "No, not... nothing like that. It was..." he breaks into a sigh, his brow furrowing, and he says, "I'm going to tell you this, and it's going to sound bad, but... without explaining everything right away, just... know that it's not how it sounds, okay?" Then, taking another deep breath, he offers a small, almost apologetic smile, though it fades quickly. "It was... self..." His gaze drops down, focusing on their hands, as he can't quite manage to meet Lance's eyes any longer. "Self-inflicted, I guess... is the term."
Lance feels his stomach sink. The pit just became somewhere in the realm of the mythical ninth circle. Here, this perfect thing, this being that does not know exactly how different and how precious he is, and here he's confessing to a self-inflicted near-death experience? Lance might have come to Beacon Falls and, had things gone differently, might never have met Stiles. Might never have experienced these emotions, these real feelings, that he had never before experienced. He's now experiencing other such feelings, and they do not agree with him.
"What?" The redhead asks, with a trembling tone that is the sound equivalent of a window that's just had a rock shot through it with a lawnmower. His mouth is dry, he knows that much. Wait, why are his cheeks wet? He lets go with one hand, though he makes up for it with the other one, and touches his face. What in the hells is even going on?! That heap of napkins becomes suddenly relevant as he hurriedly wipes along his face, though his long lashes keep some beaded drops on them.
That reaction causes a pang of pain that spreads across Stiles' face like thin cracks in stone. He holds Lance's hand tighter, and he gives his head a firm shake. "It's not like it sounds! I--god!" He shakes his head, refusing to let the emotions he feels boiling inside spill over completely. Though he does wipe vaguely at his eyes with his free hand, just in case. "It's way too soon. I want--I really want to explain it to you, but if I did... you'd freak out. You'd think I was nuts, and you'd never talk to me again."
"No," Lance forces a smile, although he's finding it harder to really cover his reactions. Damn it all! He wasn't asking for this. He certainly didn't want it. All these...emotions. Tidal wave of feelings that he finds uncomfortable and extremely unfamiliar. "I wouldn't think you're nuts for anything except thinking, for some reason, that I'm a good choice in boyfriends." His smile spreads, although his eyes are clearly sparkling with unshed tears. He's used to pain, though. This shouldn't hurt so much. The thought of it shouldn't cause this kind of inner agony, but it does primarily because he's had no time to experience it before and deal with it, and build up resistance to it. He's just shut it out for all his years of existence and now he's having his first real moment of serious what-if tragedy. With the first person he really cared about at all. "I'm totally ruining our dinner."
Somewhere in the back, a bored but skilled college-aged guy is working the fryer. He's been given the tacos, prepared expertly by his mother, who is in her own way a culinary visionary, adapting recipes she got from her grandmother in Mexico to suit the American palate--and the young man carefully fries each one to golden perfection, just so the cheese and guacamole are melding together, but not so much that there's any singing of the fresher ingredients. As the two out front have their emotionally charged, serious conversation, this guy is just doing his job. It really is just a Tuesday.
Sitting across from Lance, Stiles lets out a slow breath. He looks up and stares deep into his newfound lover's eyes, and something changes in his expression. There's a firming, a sense of decision, as the endless array of possible outcomes that he's always constantly running through his head once again quiets... and he elects to throw the dice. Seems Lance has that effect on him. "Okay," he says, breathing the word out softly. "I'll tell you everything, if you want... but... I'm warning you right now, you're either gonna be freaked out... or you're gonna think they should pack me off to Eichen House with all the other 'mentally compromised' patients."
Lance shakes his head, smile diminishing, and instead he wears a more serious look as he meets the gaze trained on him. He lowers his voice, just a little, a serious tone to his words. Of course, he almost always looks Stiles in the eyes, which makes it seem like he's always telling the absolute, honest truth...which he probably is. "I don't want to make you uncomfortable. I just...I worry about you. If that's...how it is, I don't want anything to happen to you. Like...can you..." Oh for...there it is again. That possibility of imagining a world without Stiles Stilinski, a world where Lance had come to Beacon Hills and found nothing but a cup of coffee and a local scene to plunder. He shakes his head again, mutely, clearing his throat. "Let's um. Let's eat a little. Don't want this to go to waste. But uh, yeah. We can talk afterwards if you want."
Stiles looks almost like he wants to argue, but then the cheerful girl from the counter arrives, setting a gigantic basket of fried tacos in front of them. "Here you go, guys!" she says brightly. "Careful--they're pretty hot! Just let me know if you need anything else, okay?" She departs, then, and heads back to the other side of the room. Stiles sighs, then allows a sheepish smile.
"Way too heavy for a second date, huh?" he asks, reaching up to scrub his free hand through his hair. "Well, um... I guess let's have some tacos, then! We can talk after, like you said. If... you want to know anything, then... just ask. I'll tell the truth, and... we'll see what happens." Then, as if to shut himself up, he grabs a taco and takes a big bite. Then ensues a mildly awkward moment of opening his mouth, sucking in some air, and then taking a quick slurp of soda. "Mmpkay," he says around the half-mouthful of food, "Fee whumfen't kiphing 'bout ba hopt!"
Lance is jarred from his ponderous thoughts by the cheerful girl delivering tacos. He offers her a nod of his head and looks a little happier -- just a little -- to at least divert this conversation. Thoughts, out of head! And when Stiles gulps at his drink, he starts to laugh, and it's real mirth expressed in his tone. He takes one of the tacos himself, carefully, but takes a bite and doesn't seem to be too bothered by how hot they are. He does, however, notably chase it with a sip of cherry coke. Maybe he's just got a higher tolerance for heat. "I'm...well. Sorry. Again. Seems like I'm just clumsy enough to keep stepping on land mines."
Shaking his head, Stiles finishes chewing and then swallows, washing it down with a bit more soda. "No," he explains with a little smile, then pauses to open his mouth a bit, as if airing out his tongue, and rolls his jaw a bit before continuing. "No, I'm just... kind of a minefield of issues. You picked one of the most screwed up kids in Beacon Hills to have a fling with, Lance," he says, laughing quietly. Then he shrugs, as though trying to put aside the tension. He lets the taco cool a few more seconds before taking a more cautious bite, chewing, and swallowing. "But they're really good, right? The tacos? Sooo crispy and cheesy, and... mmmm."
"They're amazing." Lance picks his up and takes another bite, chewing, really appreciating the food this time. He nods once, then again, with greater enthusiasm the second time. "I really like them. I mean, I don't really eat a lot." Considering his build, he must mean he's just very careful about his diet and choosy about what he puts into his body. Or maybe he's one of those lucky bastards who can eat anything and just put on no end of lean muscle instead of gaining weight. Another gulp of his drink. Another chip or two, some salsa. "Look, you're worth it all. You're worth anything and everything."
Laughing softly, Stiles shakes his head and offers a faint grin. "Careful. You keep that up, you're gonna start giving me some of that stuff they call 'self esteem.' I'm not sure the world is ready for 'Stiles plus healthy self-image.'" He snorts softly, shaking his head, but he's still smiling. And he munches on his taco until it's gone. Then, more soda. Finally, after a while, he says quietly, "Most of my brain... pretty much completely refuses what you just said. But the rest of me... is pretty much reduced to the level of a thirteen-year-old writing in their journal about how a cute boy asked them to the school dance." He raises both eyebrows, adding, "You, Lance, are entirely too good at this 'charming' business." And he slurps more soda.
Lance sits back in his chair, still smiling but shaking his head, hands folded over his stomach. "I am not charming," he counters, tone soft, not really insistent about it but clearly not so convinced it could be true, even from someone else's perspective. He lets Stiles have the lion's share of the food; for whatever reason, probably just what he said about not eating a lot. Eventually he does start again, crunching a chip here, a taco there. It's like he's holding back so Stiles can eat more, and that's probably exactly what he's doing. He wants Stiles to get more food, because he needs it apparently. "If you ask me to a school dance, people are probably going to just run screaming from me."
Stiles does seem to have the typical capacity of the teenage male to cause food to disappear rapidly. He's happy enough to go to town on the fried food feast, though he's not usually completely reckless about what he eats. But it's a date, after all. He stops, though, with a taco in his mouth when Lance makes that final remark. Carefully putting the food down, Stiles takes a slow sip of soda. Then he reaches out to plant one forefinger in the center of Lance's chest. "Okay, let's, let's get something established... here. If I'm 'worth anything and everything'? Then you are charming. And if I took you to a school dance, people would do nothing but stare and wonder where I found such a hot, sweet, fun guy."
He leans back, apparently no longer hungry, and shakes his head. Offering a mild but humorless smile, he says, "I've been to dances like that--with the running and the screaming. Trust me. No way you're doing that. Not here. You'd have to be, like... a real monster."
The poke, the cute, affectionate teasing, all of that makes Lance grin, and it builds him up again. But the last part makes him suddenly avert his eyes, clearing his throat sharply. Self-consciously. He looks up again and tries for a hopeful smile. "Uh...would...you like to get a box or something? I...feel like I should be up front with you too. I'm...thinking for some reason that I haven't been exactly forthcoming about certain details that I'll probably regret telling you, but..."
Stiles is already standing up. He's tried not to show it, but the whole conversation has sent his brain to whirring and zipping its way through possibilities and questions, drawing imaginary red ribbons between points in his head and striving to create a workable picture. His curiosity is ablaze by now, and he's more than ready to jump at the chance to indulge it. He heads for the counter, calling out, "Can we get a to-go box, please...?"
Moments later, they're stepping out of the restaurant with a bag of boxed tacos and into an evening that has cleared of rain and clouds. The stars glitter above, visible for the first time since Lance arrived. "Well," Stiles says, "Where do you want to go to... talk?"
"Wherever you're most comfortable." Lance, this time, carries the bag on one arm, and the other has Stiles taken by the hand until they get to the jeep, where he lets him go to his place as the driver. Lance climbs in and sets the bag down in the back, carefully, before buckling himself in. "I don't care where it is. But I want you to be comfortable because I don't want to freak you out."
Once in the jeep, Stiles starts the engine. He sits thoughtfully for a moment, and then he nods. Pulling out into traffic, he drives along back the way they came, and he stays silent. He doesn't even turn on the radio, instead rolling down his window to let in the cool night air, now that the rain has let up. Eventually, perhaps oddly, they reach Beacon Hills High School, and Stiles pulls to a stop. Putting the jeep in park, he kills the engine and shuts off the lights, so they're lit only by the faint glow of the car's dash display--and as that is just a few small bulbs, no digital screens or anything like that, it's pretty dark. But it's clear enough to see when Stiles turns to face Lance, smiles softly, and says in a voice with just a touch of a rough edge to it--an edge that actually sounds more subdued than emotional--"So. Who starts?"
Lance breathes slowly in and slowly out. He endures the ride in silence, not wanting to push anything, not introducing anything that Stiles doesn't. But when he doesn't, and they end up at the high school, it's finally arrived: the moment they've both been waiting for and dreading. He leans closer, suddenly, and kisses Stiles, and though at first it seems like a casual, light kiss, he closes his eyes and deepens it. And he lingers for some time, rubbing his lips against Stiles's, maybe drawing strength from it, maybe to give Stiles some reassurance and confidence and stability. When he finally does break it and open his eyes, he flicks his tongue over his lips. "You. Please." His eyes are dark. Very dark. But that's got to be an optical illusion. It's very dark in the night, as nights tend to be. And as he turns slightly, it's clear to see they're fine and perfectly normal.
Only a distant corner of Stiles' mind files away Lance's eyes in the dark. Most of him is divided between focusing on the kiss, which he returns with a tender need--not in the sexual sense, but in the sense of needing something to hang on to. It may have happened fast with Lance, but Stiles has had basically no one to talk to about things. Scott's been away, even. And suddenly, a guy happens, and--well, it's all been a lot. And now Stiles has to tell him there are monsters and magic and...
Oh, the dramatic irony.
As Stiles pulls back from the kiss, he reaches up to brush his fingertips over his lips. Weirdly, he feels a lot better after that kiss than he thought. He lingers that way for a moment, and once again the gears in his head almost seem to audibly click, but then he looks up slowly, and says, holding up one hand, palm out, and moving it slightly for emphasis. "Just... just bear with me. Don't freak out, and don't say anything until I get through it. Then you can either believe me or... decide I'm a basket case." He draws a deep breath, meets Lance's eyes, and says, "So... like a year ago, my best friend was bitten... by a werewolf."
Lance holds up his hand. "I promise. I am not going to freak out." When Stiles starts to speak and moves his hand, he reaches out and takes that hand, kissing it again, this time on the palm -- he really likes to go for the palm, but it is kind of an intimate spot when you think about it -- and softly starts to rub it in a calming massage of kneading cycles, circles working around it. He says not a single word, slowly nodding at what he's told. It doesn't look like he's particularly surprised, but at least he's not screaming or running or something.
Stiles looks a bit surprised by the lack of surprise, but with a small nod he forges ahead. Perhaps the holding and kneading of his hand is actually doing more to ground him than he realizes--or maybe the subtle mystic change, that wisp of darkness he just inhaled from that kiss, is already doing its job.
"Well, it kind of sparked a bunch of... weird crap. We've had to deal with crazy reptile monsters, werewolf hunters, a pack of rogue alpha werewolves, and... one crazy dark druid, called a 'darach.' She was using human sacrifice to fuel a ritual to reawaken an ancient site of druidic power--And, like, I admit, I'm kind of fuzzy on exactly how the druids even got here, but c'mon, melting pot, right?--called a nemeton. And she was going to complete the ritual by killing several of our family members." He draws a deep breath, reaching up to scrub his free hand across his face.
"So we made the sacrifices ourselves and completed the ritual before she could."
Lance pauses, at that, to look to Stiles. He frowns, just a little bit, but in confusion rather than anger or anything of that sort. "You...made sacrifices? What do you mean?" He starts rubbing again, thumbs start moving again as they had before. He's not judging...not before he knows the details, not before it's made clear exactly how these sacrifices were made and what was going on, really. The nemeton...that information he files back for later access. "So...you were at this site? Isn't that dangerous?"
Stiles slowly relaxes again, offering a weary sort of smile. Too weary for him, really. It runs against so much of who he is, but he's also someone who cares about people and can't stop. Deep down, anyway. "I mean, we sacrificed ourselves. We were clinically dead, and we completed the ritual... but we also had these... visions." He makes a fluttering motion of his free hand beside his temple, shaking his head.
After a moment, he says, "Anyway, thaet's... the trauma. We died so we could stop the monster. And it worked. Scott, my friend... he seriously took a level in badass and became a True Alpha, one made without killing. He found a way to save everyone... and no one else had to die. Even the darach... they broke her power and let her go." He draws a deep breath, slowly releasing it.
"God. I can't believe I just told you all that. And you haven't even freaked out."
Lance takes the hand, his fingers stopping with the massage at that, and he brings it to his face and kisses the palm again, then curls the fingers in and kisses the back of the fingers, then the back of the hand. "That takes tremendous courage. And I'm hoping that it's a sign you're a really together kind of guy mentally and things like that don't generally freak you out. But...if Scott ever takes that kind of risk with your life, I don't know what I'm going to do." He then opens his fingers, to let Stiles take back his hand exactly as he likes, or not. Lance takes in a slow, deep breath. He leans closer, until he's so close he could probably kiss Stiles again. "I'm going to be very honest with you. When I said I was new to this? I wasn't exaggerating. And...well. There's a thing or two we need to talk about first. Are you okay?"
Stiles lets his fingers twine with Lance's, holding his hand, and gives him a slow, puzzled look. He does say, ever the dutiful best friend, "It wasn't Scott's call. We all did it together. We had to save everyone." But then he just finds himself nodding, quiet. He's been burning with a desire to know more, to understand--and here it is. So he just says, softly, "Okay. Go... go ahead. I'm all right. I'm listening."
"You need to be careful. You have...a vulnerability. I don't know if the others you mentioned have that. But as long as I'm around, you don't have to worry about it." Lance sighs heavily, reaching a hand up to stroke through Stiles's hair, holding his hand with the other. "Do you promise me you aren't going to freak out? Like...I understand if you don't want to be with me anymore. I understand...if you kick me out of your car and...and delete me from your phone. I'm not going to do anything bad to you. Ever."
Stiles takes a deep breath, raising his eyebrows, but he squeezes Lance's hand. "Okay... okay. I'll be real, here. I want to tell you 'No way, I'll never do that.' But if I did that, I wouldn't be taking you completely seriously. So... I'll hear you out. And when you're done, then..." he gives a slow nod. "Then we'll go from there. I promise to listen and... well, be as fair as I can. So, like... hit me." He wonders what Lance means about the vulnerability and protection, but for now he holds his curiosity in check. For now, he makes himself listen.
Lance lets the hand in Stiles's hair drop to his own lap. "Can you see my face? Like, can you see me right now? Clearly enough?" The light from the dash isn't the brightest, but it should at least be enough to lend a little illumination on it. He hadn't thought about a canopy light, but either way he stays close. "I like your honesty. It's not stupid honesty or a put-on."
"Mostly," Stiles says, his features scrunching a bit. "I can turn on the light?" He reaches, clicking on the dome light, which casts harsh, bright light down from above, but it does illuminate their features. He raises his eyebrows a bit and says, "How's this? I guess I can see you pretty clear now." He smiles some at the last part. "Well... I like honesty. Sometimes it's not possible, but... when it is, it's nice." He falls silent, waiting to hear what Lance says next.
Lance squints just a bit, but his eyes soon get used to it. "Please, please don't hate me..." He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. And then when he opens them again, they're solid black, like night without dash lights or canopy lights, without headlights or a phone to turn on and see where the exits are. A black purer than tar or india ink, deeper and darker than anything Stiles may have ever seen in his life. But rather than be devastating and terrifying, he just swallows hard and looks, for all this imposing quality, like he's trying very hard not to cry. He takes another deep breath and slowly, slowly fills his lungs, and then sighs it out again. "Okay."
Stiles squints, peering close, at first not quite trusting what he sees. Then his expression grows more focused, more puzzled. He looks very close, his head and shoulders swaying slightly from side to side, such as the jeep allows, to try to alter his perspective. He notices the lack of light playing on those eyes. And he seems... a lot more curious than scared. After a long time, he finally says softly, "Scott's eyes turn red. It's the whole... alpha thing. Before, they turned yellow. Not, like... the whole thing, like you. Just the irises. So, you're not a werewolf... or a kanima... or... anything I've ever seen." He settles back a bit, brow still furrowed.
"So... what does it mean? You're... special. You're different, like Scott."
"The term...well. Time hasn't been exactly kind to it. Think of me as...a free spirit. Uh. Say, apropos of nothing, have you ever heard of a figure called Demogorgon?" Lance closes his eyes and opens them again, and they're back to normal, or at least back to the way they were when he first met Stiles. He's very good about eyes looking into eyes. Like there's the window, and there's not a lot held back.
Stiles still looks more curious and fascinated, if puzzled, than anything else. "A free spirit," he echoes, then ventures, "Sounds... kinda vague." He folds his arms across his chest, leaning one elbow on the steering wheel. "Demogorgon? That's not, like... Medusa's sister whose album never got popular, is it?" His tone is lightly playful--it's in his nature to be playful when things are dauting--but he's clearly still curious about the real answer. Then, licking his lips slightly, he asks, "So, what... what term?"
"Oooookay." Lance reaches down, releasing Stiles's hand, and twists something off his thumb, holding it up and out to the other boy. "I want you to have this. I'm...happy you're not freaking out. Happy I'm still here in your jeep. And I really hope the next thing I say isn't going to change that, but..." He waits for the ring to be taken, and hopefully it will be, and then after glancing down at the floor of the jeep, thinking of the first time he saw that floor, loving that floor because it means he's here with Stiles...then he looks back up again. "The common label is 'demon'. Just consider where the label's coming from."
Stiles accepts the ring, blinking at it--mostly, as an annoyed corner of his brain observes, because it's a ring, not because it might be special or magical--and then slowly looks up to try to meet Lance's eyes again. He only looks more puzzled at all the buildup... and then the bomb is dropped. Stiles blinks abut half a dozen times in rapid succession while literally doing a double-take, and then says in a carefully calm voice, lifting his eyebrows high while pointedly nodding once. "A demon. Like... The Excorcist?" He stops, then, and shakes his head again. "Wait, the label... okay, okay, wait. Look, I'm not really religious. I'm definitely not Catholic or anything. So you're gonna hafta forgive me, here, but... 'demon'? People would call Scott a 'demon,' historically speaking. So... what the hell does 'demon' even mean?"
Lance holds his hands up, shakes his head. "No nononono. Demon, it's just like...well, literally, a free spirit. Some more...primal than others. I'm not gonna lie to you, Stiles...I don't have exactly the same moral or ethical scale as you do. I'm not the same in terms of my values or what I regard as acceptable. I am like a god to some of my kind -- I command, and they obey. Or else." His tone remains so soft, so gentle, as if he were being extra-careful, as if his words were like literally tiptoeing around eggshell floor. "I...have been around a while. I have not...ever...really...fallen in love before." He casts his eyes downward with that, as if it embarrassed him to admit. "I have had a lot of sex. Like, a lot. And um. I've never been so excited as when we were together." He looks up again, then, eyes so crystal-clear. And not black and scary. "I have never known fear in my existence until now. I have never known the anguish of thinking about, what if you hadn't made it and I never got to meet you, and I don't know what to do, Stiles. I don't know what to do."
Stiles stares ahead, his mind racing and reeling. It's so much to take in--so much that he wants to call "impossible," but... what's that even mean anymore? So instead, he lets out a soft, bitter laugh, and lowers his head back against the seat. "A demon. My new boyfriend, who took-- I gave--" He cuts off and groans wearily. "Fuck. My. Life." Then, slowly leaning forward and opening his eyes again, he regards Lance warily, uncertainly. "Let's pretend I've never heard that word before. Let's assume I believe everything you've told me. So, going off that... tell me. Do you hurt people?" He adds, after a beat, his tone harsher, "Do you kill people?"
"Yep." Lance looks right into Stiles's eyes. "But I am a knight, and this is a war. I'm not going to lie to you and tell you it's all sunshine and roses. I was...a reaper, to begin with. I conveyed people from the world of the living, to the world of the beyond. And it was boring. It was horrible. There was no joy in it, no creativity. Nothing. That's how you fall. One day you think, I want more than this. And then they consider you 'fallen'. And all you can do is just...what I've done." He sighs again, hanging his head and looking down, down at the floor. He's never felt so small, and never so vulnerable. "And I don't blame you if you want to be done with me. My head's still spinning from, stupid me, thinking I could just blow into town and find some party guy, get a hookup for some of those delightful mind-altering substances humans love so much, and figure out the lay of the land...and then actually finding, oh hey, guess what? After walking the Earth for who knows how long, I have found the one person in a million who flips every switch that I forgot existed or that I tried to pretend I didn't have. Because you know what?" Lifting his head, he continues. "Humans...are, by and large, awful. A little nudge, a little suggestion, even a hint, and they're doing worse things than I could ever imagine. Worse things than I have ever done in my entire existence, Stiles. It puts me to shame. If you ever meet a demon, and you ask them about Demogorgon, and they say I'm a butcher, or a merciless horror, I have never in my entire existence, plumbed the depths that humanity regularly dips into. And I thought...arrogantly. Stupidly. That no human would ever connect with me. I thought I didn't need those emotions. And now I..." Trailing off, his voice cracks a bit, and he just shakes his head. "I don't know. I just don't know. But I swear I'm not gonna make you puke pea soup or masturbate with a crucifix," he notes, a feeble but important attempt at humor.
Stiles listens. He listens, and he thinks. He thinks so hard there are practically sparks flying from his temples. He's so focused that, while he registers the joke about pea soup and the crucifix, he hardly even reacts to them. "Okay," he says slowly, "So I'm supposed to believe... that you're the conflicted monster with the deep down secret heart of gold, and I'm the pure... person... who makes you realize the virtues of humanity?" He sounds reluctant, doubtful. "Look, my best friend is a werewolf. Some of the most screwed up people we've ever met were humans... hunters... who just wanted to kill him for what he is. And Scott doesn't kill. He's more like Superman than the wolfman." His frown deepens. "So let's say for a second that I go with this 'you complete me' stuff, and I say, okay, so I've flipped your switches." He meets Lance's eyes, hard, and says, "Now. Right now. And in the future. Do. You. Kill. People?"
"I don't kill you," Lance replies. "But I can't guarantee I wouldn't kill someone who threatened you. And killing other demons, well...it's more like, sending them back to their realms of origin. Hell, and such. I don't know what happens to angels if you 'kill' them, but you can cause an awful lot of--well." He clears his throat, lifting his hands and pushing them through his hair, ruffling it and shaking his head. "I know how squeamish humans can be. And apparently...yeah, apparently you did try to do everything short of dying. Life is precious, don't get me wrong -- I don't believe it's not." His tone quiets again. "I don't have a heart of gold. But if we're honest, I didn't know I even had a heart to begin with, aside from a purely biological organ tasked with ferrying blood around this body, until I met you. You're not a pure person, you're just...well, you're perfect. And if we're honest, as far as I understand it, I'm ridiculously, stupidly, madly in love with you and to use your beloved dog and wolf comparisons, you have a big, scary attack dog with sharp teeth that will bite the living shit out of anything that threatens you. You know what?" He gently touches the ring in Stiles's hands. "That is my symbol. My sigil. That is what ancient magicians used to represent me. If you get targeted by a demon and they see that, they will literally piss themselves and apologize to you, probably while begging for you not to tell me about it."
"Better the devil you know, huh?" Stiles asks, the words tasting sour on his tongue that seemed so cute the other day. He closes his hand around the ring and sighs deeply. "Okay, look--and maybe you need time to think about this answer--but I need to know if you hurt people, like... innocent people. I need to know if you're a soldier in a war that is so way beyond what I understand or if you're a monster who uses war as an excuse to go nuts and kill things. And I definitely need to know that you wouldn't kill because of me... at least, like, unless you had no other choice."
Stiles does understand the idea of killing to protect. His dad's the sheriff. He knows that cops don't carry guns for show. "And I need... to think." He reaches over, turning the key in the ignition, and flicks the car's lights on as the engine comes to life.
"I'll drop you at your hotel," he says softly. "And I'll... I'll call you... tomorrow. But right now, I need time to... to process all this."
"I'm not...well. Maybe I am a monster. Humans love to cast demons as the easy monster, right? Like Regan and Pazuzu and all that. No, don't worry about it." Lance reaches for the door and opens it, slipping out and turning back to cast a forlorn look at Stiles. "I don't hurt innocent people, no. I don't hurt people not involved in what I'm involved in. And I swear to you that I do love you and I would do anything for you within my power. Whatever you do, and whatever you decide...please...keep that ring on you. Always. With what you've told me, you need its protection. There's no magic spell on it, nothing funky, you can take it to a witch or whatever and confirm...just my symbol." He starts to push the door shut. "I love you, Stiles. I'm sorry I never said it before now." The door closes then, and he's gone. And thunder rolls in from the west. It'll be raining soon, and violently.
Stiles watches Lance go, staring after him, frowning... and after a few moments, he shoves the car into gear rather more harshly than he needs to and drives off in a way his father would certainly never approve of. He's glaring out the window as he goes, lips pressed together hard and thin. And he absolutely refuses to cry. If he gets that emotional, he'll never sort it out. He'll never understand. And he needs to--desperately--or it will eat him alive. And in spite of it all, through the turmoil of confusion, anger, fear, hope, and other, much deeper and more confusing things, is the thought that makes the whole thing more confusing and impossible than any other.
He said... he loved me.
The next day...
Stiles hardly slept that night.
When he got home, the first thing he did was down several shots of the booze they'd hidden in the jeep--because he'd be damned if he was facing this particular reality without a chemical haze of one kind of another--and then he'd managed to get past his dad to reach his room. At first he'd just thrown himself on the bed and tried to sleep, but after half an hour of that, he'd given up. So, with sleep not an option, he went online and did research. He read everything he could find via Google and the local library search function--everything on demons. And by the time he'd finished, about five hours later, he'd come to a clear conclusion.
Nobody knew shit about demons. Not really.
Sure, he'd found some interesting possibilities if he needed to keep one out of a door or even perform an exorcism, but there was almost nothing on what they really were or what they actually did. There was lore but no facts, no evidence. In other words, it was mythological research--not investigation. So he kicked around his room for a while, even eventually passing out for a while (long after the buzz wore off). When he woke to see the sun was up, Stiles entered into a staring contest with his phone, conflicted... and just mulling it all over. Processing. Deciding. Finally, a while before seven o'clock in the morning, the phone won. He grabbed it and sent a text.
[Phone] Stiles texts: Where r u?
[Phone] Lance texts: some forest
[Phone] Lance texts: i dunno where i am
[Phone] Lance texts: can probably find somewhere
[Phone] Lance texts: there is a lake? (ufo) (ufo) (dog)
[Phone] Lance texts: oh not this again
[Phone] Stiles texts: Send me GPS
[Phone] Stiles texts: Coming ur way
[Phone] Lance texts: how do i do that
[Phone] Stiles texts: Srsly? Ok. Coming ur way. Find me.
[Phone] Lance texts: (photo of Lance looking very confused and squinting)
[Phone] Lance texts: that wasnt it
[Phone] Stiles texts: Use ur d-mojo. Find me.
About half an hour later, Stiles is hiking through the woods with his backpack slung over one shoulder and his phone in hand, looking around to spot any trace of Lance. As he reaches a small rise, a bit closer to the Nemeton than he strictly likes, he calls out warily, "Lance? You around here?" He taps out a quick text.
[Phone] Stiles texts: In woods. Where u?
Suddenly, Lance is just there. But not in front of Stiles, behind him. So as not to startle him. Behind and slightly off to the left. "Uh. Yeah, here I am." He has one hand behind his back, but he waves with the other one; he doesn't advance, though, just in case. After a second, he tries a tentative, hopeful smile, lifting his brows as he looks to the boy in front of him. "Sorry. I started fiddling with my phone and I still couldn't figure out how to do that GPS thing."
Stiles turns to face Lance's voice, and after a moment he returns the smile. He slowly approaches, glancing down often as he does, carefully keeping his voice and body language casual. "Hey. So... I went home. I got a little drunk, and then I pretty much spent all night freaking out instead of sleeping. But I got a lot of thinking in... between the freak-outs." He pauses a short difference from Lance, giving a mild shrug. "Then, this morning, it all kind of clicked into place."
He raises one hand to vaguely gesture at Lance. "See... you're a new kind of thing. A new creature--at least, in my life--but then, so's my best friend, Scott. And I don't understand what that means, but the same thing would be pretty much true if you came from a really foreign culture I didn't understand. And all I have, really, is a bunch of half-baked rumors based on fear and religious dogma. I wouldn't be ashamed, for example, of falling for a soldier home from war--which is basically what you told me you are. So, with all that in my head, I guess I came to a conclusion."
Also, if Lance is paying attention, he'll notice: Stiles is wearing the ring.
Lance is tense. Very tense. And as much as he'd like to try to calm himself down...well, he's had a fairly freaked-out night too. Fortunately he didn't go on a bender of murders and vengeance, but then he's not really that type of person. Besides, he's pretty sure it wouldn't make him feel any better. He waits for Stiles to finish what he's saying, but even though he leaves off on basically a cliffhanger, Lance suddenly thrusts out his hand from behind his back. "I picked these! For you!"
They're all weeds. Every last one of them. Pretty weeds, but still all weeds. There are some mushrooms in there, apparently for accent. Probably shouldn't eat those. At least there's nothing there like queen anne's lace or poison ivy. "Oh, uh. Bad timing." He's so nervous. He may have interrupted accidentally on purpose because he was too anxious about what Stiles might say and how he would react, what he had decided. But he does notice the ring is on, and it does give him some comfort to know that, whatever he's going to conclude, he's wearing something that will protect him.
Stiles looks startled by the bouquet, but then his smile deepens a little. "That's... actually... really sweet," he says, sounding mildly and pleasantly surprised. He shoves his phone in a pocket, then reaches out to lightly brush his fingertips across them. "Wildflowers," he says, not even thinking the word "weeds," actually. "Kind of... appropriate, really," he murmurs. Then, looking up, he meets Lance's eyes. "Anyway, I realized that I wouldn't be comfortable pre-juding someone from another culture. And I don't like it when people pre-judge Scott. So I should judge you on who you are--not what. And... that means I need to get to know who you are better." He raises one hand up, very slowly, to touch Lance's cheek. "And I can only think of one way to do that," he says softly.
Lance isn't so good at keeping his eyes on Stiles's this time. He's much more bashful, much more reserved and quieter, far less sure of himself. He does look up when he's touched, and he leans his cheek against the hand. "I knew you were perfect." Now, at last, he seems to have eased up a little bit with the tensions in his body, in his muscles. He doesn't say anything else, for quite some time, just letting himself be touched. But not reaching out to touch Stiles, as if he's afraid he might be unwelcome perhaps...he just keeps himself still, in that space he occupies.
"I guess what I'm saying is..." Stiles starts to say, but then he's called perfect, and his expression seems to crack, as if he's having to work to hold back an emotional outburst. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. There I was, acting like you'd never accept me and my life... but I wasn't even doing the same for you." He moves to grasp Lance's shoulders with both hands, tightly. The words are quiet, the tone one that almost sounds unfamiliar in his voice. "Will you... please forgive me?"
"There's nothing to forgive." Lance slowly lifts his own hands, brushing the fingertips along Stiles's, along the back of the hands, over the forearms, and up and around until he's resting his hands on the boy's chest. Feeling his breaths, in and out, his heartbeat, thumping. Comforted by this simple knowledge and touch. "You were frightened and uncertain. You have had one trauma after another. It wasn't my intention to make that worse, or to introduce you to another one. I...really didn't know this was going to go in the direction it did. I didn't think I'd ever need to tell you. Most of the time, it never comes up in my dealings, but...well. As you know, you seem to be the exception to every rule up to now." A little grin trips across his lips.
Stiles takes a deep breath. He look up and gazes directly into Lance's eyes, and he says in a soft, reasonable tone, "We have lots to talk about, lots to figure out, to learn. Understand each other, each other's damage... our strengths... lots and lot to learn and know." He slides his hands up, then, clasping them behind Lance's neck, and offers a grin. "Think for now I can get away with saying 'Shut up and kiss me'?"
Lance's own grin spreads, and he leans in for a kiss, first soft and almost unsure. But then it's deepened, and more insistent, and he slides his arms around Stiles. The kiss may end, but he keeps his face next to Stiles, pressed against his, and he squeezes his arms to press his body close too. He sighs, a shaking, shivering exhalation, perfectly audible even in the ambient sounds of the forest.
And in that moment, at least for that moment, all is well. A new beginning has been given the chance to prove itself, the opportunity to become something more... as only the future can tell.