The bathroom door opened then and Scott came out. He'd toweled his hair into a shaggy mess and exchanged his wet long-sleeved shirt and jeans for a pair of knee-length gym shorts. He was also bare-chested and shoeless. "You know I could hear you out here," he said with an abashed grin. That grin looked so much like Scott that, if Stiles didn't know better, he would have thought that Scott had managed to pull one off in the bathroom and the problem was now solved.
"So," Stiles said, ignoring Scott's comment. He didn't want to have to explain why he'd been bumping around the room. More, he suspected Scott already knew, since Stiles'd probably been muttering under his breath while doing so. He'd always had a bad habit of talking out loud to himself, to the point where he sometimes caught himself and wondered what kind of person he must be if even he didn't listen to his ramblings.
Scott's grin disappeared and he looked suddenly awkward, like a marionette whose strings were too loose. "Yeah," he answered, dropping his head. He slumped into the desk chair. Not the green chair. Did that mean something?
"I'm guessing this is a new problem," Stiles ventured. He tried to think back to when Scott's fuse had become so short. The guy had always been prone to a mercurial mood, but the snapping was definitely recent. "Since, ah, Allison broke up with you?" he guessed.
"Yeah," Scott said again. He glanced up quickly, barely enough for the eye contact to count, then went back to watching the floor. "But not really until after the full moon," he amended.
Stiles did some quick math in his head. The full moon had been on a Monday, the horror night in the school on the previous Wednesday. Five days. And now it was an additional two weeks on top of that. He shuddered. He could barely go a day without getting himself off, and here Scott had gone almost three weeks. No wonder he was so testy. "So everything was fine before that?" he asked.
"Not … fine," Scott replied, "but not-" He huffed a sigh and dragged his fingers through his hair, clearly struggling with a different kind of frustration. "W-w-we didn't get as far as everyone seems to think," he said, "because I kept changing." He went suddenly still, head slightly cocked toward the window. Off Stiles's questioning expression he said, "Heard a car door slam, but it's not Mom's."
"Sooo…" Stiles prompted. "How far did you get?"
Scott perked up, a proud grin spread across his face. "I took her bra off," he said.
"Way to go?" Stiles replied, not sure if he was supposed to feel impressed on behalf of his friend's sexual prowess, embarrassed at his friend's lack of prowess, or jealous because he couldn't even claim such a paltry accomplishment.
Scott apparently decided to accept the comment as a compliment; his grin widened—then abruptly died. Stiles could practically see the thought balloon over his friend's with the word Allison peppered throughout it. "She wanted to," he said, adding, "With me," as if that were the really unbelievable part. "A-a-and I couldn't, and now she won't let me near her, and I can't even..."
"Jerk off," Stiles supplied, when it became clear that Scott wouldn't be finishing the sentence. "Spank the monkey. Hold the sausage hostage—" He could feel his vow slipping away.
"Stiles!" Scott wailed. "You're not helping."
"And I'm not going to," Stiles replied with a definitive nod. "So you can just get that idea out of your head."
Scott's mouth dropped open, stuck on a protest that wouldn't form. The look of panic that flooded his face was so comical that it was all Stiles could do not to crack a grin.
"I'm your Yoda, dude," he pointed out, just in case he wasn't being clear. "Not your Han Solo. And definitely not your Leia."
"Dude," Scott complained. "That's gross! Leia was Luke's sister!" The objection tapered off with the final r still hanging in the air. Scott's eyes widened, then softened as his gaze turned internal. A small smile danced around his mouth, pulling one corner up in a far-too-familiar expression.
Stretching across the gap, Stiles stomped his foot on Scott's. The teen yelped, yanked his foot back, snapped out of his daydream. "Not the time, man," Stiles said. "Think about Allison in Leia's slave costume later." A moment passed. Scott grimaced, nodded. "Which does bring up the question: Why don't you think about her when you—"
"Doesn't work," Scott snapped. "It just makes things worse."
"You've tried it?"
"I've tried it."
Stiles leaned back on his elbows and pondered what he knew. The problem with researching werewolves was not the lack of information, but the lack of quality control. Every website breathlessly proclaimed its truths, few agreed with any other, and Stiles had no way to differentiate the real or useful from the patent nonsense. Silver killed werewolves! But only if introduced to the heart! No, it didn't; It only burned them! Caused pain but not death! No, it didn't! (Yes, it did. No, it didn't.) Wolfsbane prevented transformation! Made the werewolves sick! Could be used like a divining rod! Was just a myth! Or a conflation with the vampire mythology! His head reeled from the contradictions. The only thing he could be certain about is that issues surrounding teenage werewolf self-pleasure were not covered in any of the literature. "I'm probably going to regret saying this," he said, after a moment to recover, "but, Derek—"
Scott went pale. "No," he said, the word strangled.
Stiles flinched, but couldn't blame his friend. Derek was scary.
"Stiles," Scott continued, "What am I supposed to do? You have no idea how h-h-difficult it is at school. I-I-I can smell…" He rolled his neck, scowled, squirmed uncomfortably in his seat. Stiles recognized that squirm; he was guilty of it practically every time Lydia sashayed into the room.
Stiles sat back up, dragging his hands over the back his head and down his face. "Have you tried, I don't know, changing your grip? Using the vacuum cleaner? Rubbing against a tree? The carpet?" Only the noise Scott made in the back of his throat—somewhere between a squeak and a growl—got Stiles to stop listing the alternatives as they popped into his head. "I'm just brainstorming here. What about a sex toy? One that you could, uh, hold and get your claws out of the equation." He couldn't help grimacing, both at the suggestion and at the mental image it created that he really, really did. not. want.
"A sex toy?" Scott's eyebrows danced up. "One that I'm going to buy with the credit card I don't have off the web site I don't have access to and have shipped to the house so that my mom can find it first!" Scott's voice climbed as he spoke, growing increasingly shrill.
"OK, OK. I'm just trying to get caught up here. Unlike you, I haven't been thinking about your libido non-stop for three weeks. And I hope I'll never have to think about it again." Stiles squeezed his eyes shut, pressed his fists to his forehead. There was something he was missing. Something he had read or thought and had dismissed as not important. If only he could catch it out of the maelstrom in his mind.
"It's getting worse, Stiles," Scott spoke, now sounding calm, though based on how tightly his fingers dug into his thighs, he was anything but. "The moon has started waxing." His mouth opened as if there were more, then closed. The implications didn't need spelling out. Assuming Scott didn't break before the full moon, what kind of monster would he be then? Handcuffs didn't hold him last time, and that was all Stiles had been able to trick him into. How would they be able to protect him, or anyone else, when there was more than one kind of lust involved and no morality to restrain either?
And why was Stiles thinking about silver? Silver the metal. Silver the color. Silverwear. He shook his head. Silver bullets. Also not helpful.
"Is that look going to help me?" Scott asked, hopefully.
"Huh?" Stiles blinked, twitched, torn between following the thread that his brain had just handed him and the goings on in the real world. The idea had been right there, and now it was gone. "No. Not yet."
Scott had been leaning forward, alert. He slumped again. It was like he'd given up, had revealed to Stiles what was going on only because he was completely out of options. Which, Stiles realized, was exactly what had happened. Even when they had sleepovers, even late at night when the conversation invariably turned to some combination of girls and porn, Scott had never willingly shared his personal habits. He didn't judge any one else's, and he wouldn't share his own. That he was this open now only showed the depths of his desperation.
It was like they were rehearsing to be guests on a supernatural daytime talk show—a thought that Stiles cut off cold. He couldn't shake the idea that he was missing an obvious solution. Solid silver. Liquid silver. Frozen silver? Now that was just ridiculous. And, then, there it was. Stiles jumped to his feet, the mattress springs creaking with the sudden weight shift. "Be at school tomorrow," he ordered. "I think I've got something."
Because of the school's zero tolerance policy, Stiles couldn't address Scott's questions until lunch. Fortunately, most of them were buried in laden stares and meaningfully drawn eyebrows that he could pretend he hadn't understood, though he nearly chewed his lips raw in the effort of trying to keep quiet. The two boys had no sooner plopped their trays of cafeteria spaghetti on the table when Stiles pulled a small, brown translucent bottle out of his pocket and set it in front of his friend. "Take this," he said with a quick survey of the room to verify that no one was watching. The place was abuzz with activity and conversation, none of which intersected with the two friends. Once again they sat alone at the long table, just like old times. Drawing attention to the bottle was best avoided. At only a couple inches tall, with the kind of top that doubled as a dropper, it could easily pass for a prescription medication—or a not-so-prescription one. And without an Rx label, it would get both of them expelled if a teacher saw them handing it off.
Scott held the bottle up to the fluorescent cafeteria lights and tilted it back and forth. The liquid inside was viscous and opaque. "What is it?" he asked. The extra day hadn't been kind to him. His skin was ashen, eyes bloodshot and drooping from the exhaustion of stress, the lines of his body taut. His shirt was on backwards, the tear in the collar seam showing from where he'd ripped out the tag.
"With any luck it's the solution to your problem." Stiles rolled his shoulders in a physical punctuation of a mental track shift. "Or it's a slow and painful descent into madness and death. Obviously, I'm hoping for the first option." Under his breath, he added, "And hoping it's not both." He shoved a forkful of sauce coated noodles into his mouth, slurping loudly to catch the marinara before it dripped onto his shirt.
If Scott heard the aside—and there was no chance in the world that he hadn't—he chose to ignore it. Instead, he unscrewed the lid, brought the bottle to his nose, and inhaled. Frowned. "Yeah, but what is it?"
"Hrdragrmum," Stiles mumbled around another noodly mouthful, swallowed, tried again: "Hydragyrum." Though he over-pronounced the word, Scott responded with a blank look. Stiles rolled his eyes. Would it kill Scott to do a little homework? Seriously, what would the guy have done without him? "Did you know that some experts believe the myth about silver killing werewolves started with a mistranslation of the chemical name for liquid silver?" Scott shrugged, still not making the connection. He looked like he was waiting for the punchline to a badly told joke. Stiles slapped his friend on the back of his head. "Mercury, you idiot. Liquid silver. Apparently this stuff has been used for thousands of years to treat, like, every possible disease and condition out there, including a lot of sex related ones."
Scott jumped at the word sex, cast a furtive glance around. On confirming that that they were somehow still flying below anyone's interest radar, he leaned closer to Stiles and dropped his voice. "What am I supposed to do with it?" He recapped the bottled, rolled it around between his fingers, watching the fluid coat the inside then coalesce with the rest.
"I would suggest eating a drop or two before you—" Stiles darted his gaze around the room pointedly. If any phrase would get overheard and latched upon, it would be that one. "—You know. It should suppress the wolf for a little while. Your healing should protect you from the heavy metal poisoning, but if I were you, I'd be as stingy as possible with using this stuff cause, well, I could be wrong." He made a moue and shrugged broadly, both hands out, indemnifying himself. "Also, I had to steal it from Harris, so this might be all I can get for awhile."
Scott blinked at him, took a breath as if to argue. Stiles started placing bets with himself about whether the protest would be over his use of killing, poisoning, or steal. Instead, his friend closed his hand around the bottle. "Screw it," he said, standing up. "Whatever this does can't be any worse." Without another word, he left.
Stiles's eyebrows shot up in a silent Really?
On second thought, what did he care? And the spaghetti wasn't half bad today. Oh, and garlic bread. He turned back to his tray and resumed eating.
When Scott returned a few minutes later, Stiles could tell by the fact that Scott didn't punch the table, crush the bottle in Stiles's face, or sulk into his seat that the hypothesis must have panned out. Then he caught the goofy grin, did a double-take. OK, then. Mission accomplished.
"We're never talking about this again," Scott declared, utterly failing to sound severe around his obvious relief. He reclaimed his seat, picked up his fork and dug in.
"That's fine," Stiles replied, with a dismissive wave of his hand. The line in the sand had been so thoroughly obliterated that there'd be no re-drawing it—for whatever that meant. "Dude," he continued, after a swig of water, "I've never meant this so much in my life: You really need to get laid."