He feels it when the moon rises, in the way every hair seems to stand on end and his skin almost tingles. He feels electrified.
He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, grounds himself.
In the meantime, his in-game avatar dies a brutal death; neither he nor Stiles notices. “You OK?” asks Stiles.
He gives himself a minute to respond, taking quick stock of his body and his mind. Still human. Stiles’s voice comes again, insistent, worried – “Scott? You all right?” – and this time Scott finds the words. “Yeah, I’m – I’m fine.” His breakup with Allison still a recent wound, there had been a – mostly unspoken – worry that he wouldn’t be, but he’s found the control within himself that he had with her and feels okay, if tense.
He opens his eyes and meets Stiles’s, says, “I’m good. Really,” and Stiles sighs in relief.
“Good. Great,” Stiles says. “Now back to your regularly scheduled programming, I guess?” He hefts his controller meaningfully and nods at the console screen.
Scott grins. “You’re on.”
A few hours later, the scent of coffee is wafting up to them, and Scott realizes he’s thirsty. Heading downstairs for a glass of water, he finds his mom at the kitchen table, mug in hand.
“You’re up late,” she says.
“So are you.”
She smiles and inclines her head, conceding the point. “Late shift at work tomorrow. I’ll sleep in the morning. How about you? What are you up to?”
“Nothing,” Scott snaps, “I’m fine.” Moments later, he’s awash in regret. “I’m sorry. I – the moon’s messing with me, I’m all over the place, and I—”
“Scott, it’s okay. Forget about it,” she says. “Can you just try to sleep? Tomorrow will be here before you know it.”
“I can’t go to sleep. If I’m not conscious to control it…. In the beginning, I’d fall asleep and wake up in the woods.” He tries to keep the shame and anxiety out of his voice, but they sneak in anyway. “It’s not… comfortable, to fight my body on this all night, but it’s better than the alternative.”
“If it would be easier for you, you’re welcome to… change.” Uncertain on the last word, she waves a hand at her own body, clearly indicating his. “I mean, if that would help. You’re my son – you’re not going to scare me.”
Her heartbeat ratchets up a notch, and it’s more than just the flat-out lie, it’s fear.
“It’s okay if – ” he starts, then tries again. “I mean, you don’t have to do that for me.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. If it’s safe and it’ll help you, you go ahead and do what you need to do.”
She’s scared – but she’s his mother first. It hits him all over again how lucky he is. “That’s… a good idea, actually. I’m just gonna go back to my room….”
She gives him a questioning look.
“Well, Stiles and I have been gaming; got to let him know what’s up,” he says in response, and it’s true and a copout at the same time. “Plus,” he adds after a moment’s hesitation, choosing his words carefully, searching for ones that won’t scare her overmuch, “I’m not totally sure it’s safe. I could… lose myself, and hurt someone.” Hurt you, he doesn’t say. “If it’s safe, I’ll come out, I promise. We can, I don’t know, watch a movie or something.” If they’re both staying up, they might as well do it together.
“All right. And Stiles is welcome to stay if you two want. How’s a Monty Python marathon sound?” Melissa suggests.
Scott laughs. “Perfect,” he says. “I’ll just be back in a few, then.”
“OK,” Melissa replies, nodding. “I’ll get the DVDs and the popcorn.”
Scott goes back up the stairs to his room and to Stiles. “Can we maybe postpone the rematch to some other time? Apparently Mom and I are gonna have a movie night.”
“On a full moon?” Stiles asks, and Scott can understand his skepticism.
“Uh-huh. She even offered to… she offered to let me shift.”
Stiles’s eyes widen. “Wow. And a couple weeks ago she couldn’t look you in the eyes. Progress.”
He nods. “Yeah. I know it scares her, though. And, really, it scares me too. What if I’m not safe? What if without Allison, I can’t control it once I start? What if I hurt her?”
“Man, stop freaking yourself out. Look at you, you’re fine, you’ll be fine.”
Stiles’s heartbeat puts the lie to his words, but Scott nods again, anyway, and turns and shuts the door. “If I lose it, you’ll get help?” Stiles nods. “Stay safe. Keep her safe.”
“Okay,” Scott says. “Okay. Here goes.” He takes a deep breath and exhales, relaxing his hold on his body. Claws and fangs and wolfish features form, even as he keeps a tight hold on his mind. That, the moon can’t have.
Finally, his yellow eyes meet Stiles’s blue. “You in there?” Stiles asks, and he’s trying to keep his voice light and a confident smile on his face, but it’s not enough to mask his nerves.
“Yeah,” Scott says, “it’s me. I’m okay.”
At that, Stiles’s smile reaches his eyes. “Awesome, dude,” he says, turning to open the window.
“You leaving?” Scott asks. “Mom said you can stay if you want.”
“Nah, man, you enjoy your family night. But don’t think you’re getting out of our rematch this easy – next time, I will cream you.”
Scott snorts. “Yeah, you wish.”
Stiles gives him a fake scandalized look, clutching his heart, and then climbs out the window into the night.
After another minute, just to be sure, he opens the door and comes downstairs to the sound of a DVD menu screen – he recognizes Monty Python and the Holy Grail; they’ve both seen it a million times – and the strong buttery smell of popcorn. “Stiles went home,” he says, and it’s less about Stiles’s absence than his own presence. It’s just something to say, to warn her.
All Melissa says is, “Oh, okay.” She comes in from the kitchen, bowl of popcorn in one hand and coffee mug in the other, and meets Scott’s eyes for a second. “Any better?” she asks.
“Much,” he admits softly, sinking onto the couch. “Thank you.” He pauses, and Melissa sits down as well, setting the popcorn bowl between them. Now, so close, her heartbeat loud and fast in his ears, he finally says, “I’m not gonna hurt you.”
“I know that.”
“No, you don’t,” he says, shaking his head. “But trust me, if I thought I’d hurt you, I wouldn’t be here.”
“If I didn’t trust you, neither would I.” She smiles, and gestures at the bowl. “Popcorn?”
He smiles back and takes a handful, mindful of his claws.
They spend the next several hours laughing and reciting lines along with first one movie and then the next.
When the moon sets just before the credits roll on Meaning of Life, he shifts back and looks over to find his mom is already asleep.
He doesn’t want to wake her. Partly because he doesn’t want to scare her, and partly because she’s fallen asleep. She’s fallen asleep with her transformed werewolf son at the other end of the couch, feet from her. This isn’t progress, this is something else entirely, something better. He expects she’s still scared of what he is, of what it means for him, of what it gets him into. She’d be crazy not to be. But she isn’t scared of him, not anymore.
So he doesn’t want to wake her, doesn’t want to shatter the moment, but when he turns the movie off, she stirs. She blinks the sleep out of her eyes, looking to the TV and then over at Scott.
“Movie’s over?” she asks.
Melissa nods. She doesn’t ask about the moon, doesn’t need to.
Silence descends, and before it can get too awkward, Scott takes the empty popcorn bowl and escapes into the kitchen to put it in the dishwasher. When he returns, he’s found words; says, “Well, I’m gonna call it a night, I guess.”
His mom looks up from where she’s putting the DVD back in its case and fixes her gaze on him again. “Yeah, me too,” she says. “Good night, sweetheart.”
“Night, Mom. Love you.”
She may not be able to hear his racing heart, but her expression suggests she can clearly see the anxious look he feels on his face – that he half-suspects the entire night has been a pleasant dream and doesn’t want the illusion to end.
Melissa closes the DVD case and stands. “I love you, too,” she says. “No matter what. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to grips with this, but it doesn’t change anything. You’re my son and I love you.” She pauses. “Just so we’re clear.”
“We’re clear,” Scott says, smiling.
Suddenly he’s in her arms. He returns the hug, laughing.
“Crystal,” he says.