Stiles listens to his dad ask him the same question that comes up way too often, and gets lost counting the dark flecks that scatter across the white expanse of the all-too-familiar hospital ceiling. Here again, and ‘He’ll be fine,’ the doctor says.

His dad wants to hear it from Stiles’ lips, though. Is he okay?

Is he really okay?

His answer doesn’t come as easily as it used to, no quip or snap back like it’s easy come easy go. The feckless lie sticks in the back of his throat, burning away like a hot coal choking the life out of him.

I’m fine.

He’s said it more than a million times, and no super-hearing anybody has heard his heart skip a single beat. Or maybe they did, but that thought doesn’t make it any easier, because that means they’ve ignored it a million times, too. And it should be easy, he’s brilliant at lying straight to his father’s face these days. Stiles knows how to twist a definition to make it true, how to believe in nothing and make it something.

He’s fine.

Molehills out of mountains.
Tip of the iceberg.

Shrink it down until it’s just an ember, a single flicker of pain low in his chest. It burns enough to remind him that it’s there, but cool enough for him to force the words out.

He stops counting the tiny holes in the ceiling, and plasters a bright, brilliant lie across his face.

________________


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