(or on a mobile, tap MP3 below)
4 hours and 10 minutes
(right click and Save As)
Cover art by newgrange
in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why,remember how
A hot mouth slants over Stiles’, hands gripping hard at his hips. He lifts his hands to cup Derek’s jaw and gives himself over to it, just yields, knowing Derek needs it, is still battling the terror he can’t yet control. This is their third round for the night, and he can tell by the fine tremor in Derek’s body that the alpha isn’t doing well.
“Babe,” Stiles leans into the kiss, “It’s okay, I’m here.”
Derek’s hands tighten, hard enough that there’ll be bruises tomorrow.
Stiles won’t poke at them with pride like he usually does. He can’t be proud of anything to do with this – with the way Derek is broken open on the inside with fear and remembered loss, and is just -just barely- functioning. What they’re doing right now is the emotional equivalent of papering tissue over the hole in the Titanic.
“A misfire, a fucking misfire,” Derek chokes out, “Stiles.”
“Ssh, I know,” he soothes, and when Derek’s head drops to his collarbone he presses soft kisses onto the inky black hair, “I know, I know.” And he fucking does. He can’t quite shake the cold, can still feel the ice that had appeared in his belly the moment he turned and saw the shotgun already levelled at him, finger already squeezing the trigger.
Fuck, he’d thought, a fucking shotgun gets me, after all this? And even though he’d been already in motion, too experienced by now to freeze, he’d known - same as Derek had - that it was all too late. Over Derek’s roar from the other side of the clearing, over Scott’s sharp NO, the hunter’s finger had finished curling in anyway, and Stiles had waited for the flare of pain to hit and-
Nothing. Just a soft click and a look of stunned confusion on the other guy’s face in the second before Stiles took him down.
Damage done, though. Because now here was Derek, hours and hours later, still stuck in a loop of could have lost you how would I what if you almost gone can’t lose you too-
Stiles closes his eyes against the sudden sting and wraps his arms around Derek, squeezing with everything he has. This is why Derek resisted so long, kept Stiles at arm’s length for years even though strangers on the street could see he was hopelessly gone for the alpha. It had been a near-death experience just like this that had finally punched through, sheer terror accomplishing what friendship and flirting and loyalty couldn’t.
He can’t be sorry that he loves Derek, that Derek loves him, he can’t be. But he knows the fact of it is a gaping wound for the alpha, that there are times he just breaks under the strain, and this is one of those times. Derek is barely here now in all honesty, just huffing out broken breaths against Stiles’ skin and mumbling names he never says outside of nightmares, names Stiles has seen on gravestones in the Hale family plot.
Some losses you don’t get over.
* * *
Derek is passed out from exhaustion in their bed when a soft knock interrupts breakfast, and Stiles checks the hallway camera feed on his iPad, because... paranoia for the win, that’s why. Stiles blinks once, twice.
Huh. This is... different.
Last night’s almost-became-a-human-sacrifice scowls at Stiles as he pulls the door open. “Hi,” he says, sullen.
“Uh, hi,” Stiles says, voice rising, body tense. “Did you. Uh. Forget something?”
“I have to thank you,” he says, not sounding too thrilled about it.
“O...kay,” Stiles says, confused. Because the dude really sounds like I have a gun to my head have to thank you. “You’re welcome, I guess. How did you find out where we li-”
“No,” he says, frowning darkly, “I mean I have to offer reparation.”
“Uh, no,” Stiles says. “You really don’t.” His spidey-sense is tingling now, this is seriously weird because this kid was in no state to follow them home last night and it’s not like the pack hands out business cards in the middle of disposing of bodies. Last night they hadn’t even exchanged names. So how does the guy come to be standing here now? “Trust me, its fine.”
He starts to step back, a redistribution of weight only, and then an older woman, a really fucking beautiful older woman -Stiles can’t even help the way his mouth gapes open when he catches sight of her- just suddenly looms up over the guy’s shoulder and hisses something at him.
The guy flinches. “Then you do it,” he snaps at her.
The woman gives him such a glare that Stiles is already opening his mouth to apologise, just from the general air of pissed-off-Mom she’s radiating, and then she turns toward Stiles.
“You saved my son’s life,” she says. Her left eye twitches a little with an implied and I love him even though he’s an annoying little shit. “A debt lies between us.”
“No, no ma’am, it’s really fine,” Stiles says, waving that away and wondering where the fuck Derek the perpetual lurker is when Stiles actually wants the alpha to come and rescue him by using his incredible powers of rudeness. Stiles just can’t be rude to a Mom. It’s like, a thing.
“The debt must be repaid,” she says, and it has the weight of a vow. The words resonate through him, ringing through his ribcage and the bones of his jaw, and Stiles loses his breath and maybe his grip on reality because she draws herself upright and where there had once stood a supermodel-level MILF in a polka dotted dress now there is Galadriel’s much hotter older sister, a Presence of unmistakable power in their ordinary, smells-vaguely-of-Thai-takeout hallway.
“Oh shit,” Stiles says. His hand tightens on the door but he knows damn well that’s not going to help him much against power like this.
Sure enough, a second later he’s in some kind of glade in the woods, possibly woods in another Realm because there had been heavy summer rain pelting against the windows in Beacon Hills, and where Stiles is standing right now the ground is dry and vaguely autumnal.
Magic might also explain why strangers at the door hadn’t awakened Derek.
“There is no need for alarm,” She says, and only then does Stiles realize he’s panting, drawing in audible breaths, already at the on-ramp for an awesome panic attack, and Her voice is really messing with his head. “I mean you no harm, young mortal.”
“Right,” Stiles gasps, and tries really hard to get control of himself, because he doesn’t want to piss Her off. “Sorry. Just, uh. Wasn’t expecting...” he waves a hand, “this.”
“The debt must be repaid,” She repeats.
“You uh,” Stiles swallows, “you know we do this stuff all the time, right? For mortals, and I mean- we don’t even get a thank you card. Don’t expect one.” There had been brownies, once, though. Awesome, fudgy brownies. Do the Fae bake, Stiles wonders? He would go for cheesecake instead of a magical kidnapping every time. Not that anyone is asking Stiles’ opinion on this.
"The Queen of the Fae cannot leave a debt unacknowledged,” victim-from-last-night says from behind his mother, sounding bored.
Stiles shoots him a venomous look, because if he had just been a hapless college student none of this would be happening. Plus, he looks ridiculous in his emo ensemble now that Stiles knows what he is. His mother’s floor-length robes and the faint glimmer of light in Her hair really matches the whole non-human, multifaceted eye thing She has going on. Queen of the Fae. Oh my fuck.
“My power is sufficient to grant you the wish dearest to your heart,” She says, and Stiles stops short, hands cupped around the back of his head to lessen the vibration so he can think.
“Dearest to my...” he eyes Her. “Uh. What exactly -”
“The thoughts you dare not speak, the secret wishes you make in the night.” Stiles just stares at Her and She adds thoughtfully, “Your mate’s suffering is more distressing to you than your own.”
“My... Derek,” he manages hoarsely. “You mean you- no. No way. You can’t-”
“Even time itself bends to the will of the Queen,” emo Fae kid says, still bored. He’s actually examining his black nail polish, the little shit.
“That’s- not possible.” The Queen stares at him, and Stiles swallows again. “You can’t – you can do that?”
She inclines Her head.
Stiles swallows. He’s panting again, he realizes, heart racing at the thought. “I uh. Give me a minute. I need to- I need to think.”
Stiles winces because he’s dropped his hands which means her voice explodes through his head again. And then he’s back in his doorway staring at empty space, heart still thundering like he’s been running for his life.
He lets his legs go out from under him. Well, lets is overstating it, it’s more like his legs withdraw consent and suddenly Stiles is no longer standing up. Once he’s slumped in the doorway he stares into the distance and turns it all over in his head.
Changing the past. It shouldn’t be possible. But if there’s one thing they’ve learned since high school, it’s that almost anything, apparently, is possible.
Give Derek back the life Kate stole from him. The family she burned.
Stiles swallows, drops his head into his hands and tries to think it through.
The Hale pack survives. Peter never goes crazy, never bites Scott. The Argents don’t have any reason to return to Beacon Hills, Jackson never becomes the kanima, the alpha pack- well. Hmm.
Maybe the alpha pack never comes to Beacon Hills. Maybe they do. But if they do, they’d likely face a large, established pack, not an inexperienced alpha and a bunch of terrified teenagers. Beacon Hills was stable, once upon a time. Stiles remembers all the years where Dad’s job had been way less dangerous. There had been a lot of quiet years before Peter’s rampage and even earlier, when the Hales were alive. Surely it can be that way again?
Things can go wrong with that scenario, Stiles knows. There’s always the risk that other bad things could happen. But.
In the other room Derek turns over and makes a tiny, pained noise. It’s his brother’s name. His nine-year old brother who never got to be ten. Surely saving the lives of children is worth it?
Stiles shoves to his feet and staggers toward their bed. Once he’s there, biting his lip and staring down at Derek, he can’t avoid thinking about the other, undeniable change, and it feels like a stone is lodged in his gut.
Stiles will never know Derek. The chances of them meeting, of forming any kind of connection at all are- astronomical. Same hometown doesn’t really mean a lot in the grand scheme of things.
Derek will be out of high school a year after Stiles starts. Derek will be working, or at college, when Stiles is an adolescent. By the time Stiles goes to college, Derek’s adult life will be established, and the odds of anything bringing them together...
He clenches his fists so hard that his nails cut instantly into the palm of his hands.
Stiles can’t let that change anything. He can’t be that selfish. He crouches, leans in close and kisses Derek’s downturned mouth. “I love you,” he says, and Derek’s eyes flicker open.
“I love you so much I’d do anything for you, you know that?” Stiles chokes out, and runs a finger down the curve of one perfect cheekbone.
Derek is blinking awake. “Stiles?” he says again, muzzily. “You okay?” He pushes upright, sheet pooling at his waist.
“Nope,” Stiles says, trying for a smile. None of this will matter anyway, this relationship won’t ever have existed. His heart twists up and he can’t breathe for the thought of it.
Derek, bringing Stiles consolation donuts when he’d dislocated his shoulder and missed senior prom. Derek, reluctantly admitting he couldn’t imagine a life without Stiles. Derek, laughing helplessly during the credits of Despicable Me 2.
None of it will ever happen and he can’t breathe.
“It’s okay,” he soothes automatically. He manages one huge gasping breath. “I’m going to fix it, Derek. Give back what she took.”
Derek reaches out to clutch at him, and misses. They both stare down blankly at his hand. That just – that doesn’t happen. Derek’s control of his body is absolute. He tries again, and makes no contact.
“Stiles?” Derek asks, panicked, and Stiles takes a deep breath. This is the same thing as Derek not waking, earlier. It’s Fae magic, putting Stiles beyond the alpha’s reach in every way.
“You have decided, then,” that voice comes from behind and Stiles winces, watches Derek cringe away from the noise. He can only imagine the pain Her voice causes in Derek’s more sensitive ears.
Stiles slides back, off the bed, to stand. He’s crying, and he doesn’t bother trying to hide it. Crying is the only sensible reaction here – he’s terrified of a thousand different things and he’s losing something most people never even find. “I love you,” he tells Derek one more time, voice breaking.
“Stiles,” the alpha cries out, eyes full of terror as he lunges forward, and it seems so unfair, for that image to be the last glimpse of Derek Stiles gets in this life.