Stiles thinks he’s finally starting to wrap his head around all the craziness: the fact that he’s standing here face to face with himself… or almost himself. A version of himself with slightly shorter hair, dressed in a fitted black tee that he wears with the kind of casual confidence Stiles would usually ascribe to Scott or Derek, maybe, but definitely not himself.
The fact that Allison, god, Allison of all people had been the one who’d found them, dazed and stumbling through the preserve in the aftermath of the spell. And she’d just frowned at Stiles’ pained exclamation as he’d attempted to rush toward her, Derek’s hand on his arm, too tight with tension, barely holding him back. She’d whistled sharply and Isaac had appeared through the trees moments later, brows furrowing as he’d stepped up to Allison’s shoulder like he wasn’t the slightest bit surprised she wasn’t dead (her hair grown back out a bit, her bow a newer model Stiles had never seen her with), murmuring “something up, they smell… off.”
Boyd and Erica had met their little group on the porch of a Hale house that, not only hadn’t been bulldozed by the county, but looked fresh and rebuilt and whole and lived in again. (And this time Stiles had been the one to catch Derek’s arm, keeping him from… Stiles hadn’t been sure what exactly, only that Derek had been moving like he might just topple over, or rush the people wearing the faces of his dead betas, or turn and bolt away from the house-that-wasn’t-his-house).
Stiles has been through a lot of insanity in the past few years, and some kind of parallel universe where things are sort of the same but different? Hell, Stiles had been dealing with that shit long before he’d even started thinking about werewolves.
He’d been keeping up with about half a dozen co-existing Marvel Universes since he was eleven, ok? That the theory’s got merit isn’t actually all that shocking to him. He has a handle on it, no matter how weird it all is.
That is… until the door swings open and his alternate’s face lights up almost before Derek… not-Derek steps into the room.
“Took your sweet time, dude. You left me to entertain the house guests.”
Not-Derek rolls his eyes but smiles easily, and Stiles can’t help notice the way the rest of the wolves shift around him, making space for him automatically, forming a half-circle with a slight, indefinable something in their stances that seems to indicate deference.
“I was tracking a scent through the woods. Something like… ozone, magic. I couldn’t…” And then he freezes, eyes catching on Stiles’ face and taking him in, his body going rigid. The betas all seem to tense along with him, and Stiles knows right away, wonders if Derek realizes too, this version of him is still an Alpha.
Not-Stiles laughs, stepping around the edge of the room toward his Derek.
“House guests,” he intones cheerfully. “What do you think?”
The other Derek stares at Stiles a few seconds longer, before his startled eyes flick to his own.
“His hair’s different,” he says, dumbly, and not-Stiles laughs, and this right here is when the world stops making sense, because his voice goes husky and his hand drifts, almost casually, to tug at the front of not-Derek’s shirt.
“What, you like it better that way?”
His head ducks down shyly, but he looks up at his Derek through his lashes with a smug smile playing over his lips, and Stiles feels a little shiver of awareness go through him because this other him’s flirting, ok? Flirting with Derek. And he’s pulling it off the way Stiles pulls off tripping over his own feet most mornings, and not-Derek’s falling right for it, going with the pull of the hand fisting his shirt and then they’re kissing, mouths meeting in a soft, slow press that seems to stretch on forever. Stiles can’t look away until he can’t bear to look any longer, and he finds his gaze going to Derek, who’s staring down at the floor in front of him, seeming every bit as shocked, baffled, blindsided, as Stiles feels.
There’s a quiet “mmm” of satisfaction from the other Stiles that makes Derek jolt, eyes going up and back down again fast, and then Stiles hears his own voice murmuring “Scott and Kira watching CiCi?”
“With your dad,” not-Derek answers, tone a satisfied rumble that has Stiles swallowing hard because he’d done that, or… Other Him had done that, and suddenly alternate universes don’t feel like a piece of cake anymore. They feel damn confusing.
There’s a quiet laugh from the doorway, and then Isaac’s announcing: “Hey guys, I think you’re freaking out the house guests.”
Stiles’ counterpart scoffs, and Stiles is staring at Derek but his damn peripheral vision is still able to pick out the way he shifts, arm slipping around his Derek’s waist as he turns to look at them.
“Oh come on, it’s nothing they haven’t—” He cuts off fast, and when he starts up again his tone has completely changed, going low and shocked. “Wait… you guys aren’t… really? That’s just weird.”
Derek’s neck is going flushed in a way Stiles has never seen it, so he drags his gaze back to take in the other Stiles, the “wrapped around a Derek like their bodies would slot together perfectly” Stiles, and grits out “You’ve got no idea.”
“It’s just weird, right?”
They’re finally alone, standing awkwardly in the only free room in the rebuilt Hale house. Apparently most of the pack lives together in it now, and even the ones who go far away for college have rooms waiting here for them. Lydia’s studying in England and trying things out again with Jackson just like she is in their reality (of course the one thing that seems to be the same between their two worlds has to be on another continent), but unlike in their world, Jackson’s kept in touch with Derek and they’re apparently well on their way to officially declaring each other packmates.
There had been another available room until “just a few weeks ago,” Stiles’ alternate had told them with an odd, over-bright grin. “But now, y’know.” Which they didn’t, obviously, but he hadn’t elaborated.
Derek’s hovering in the corner by the window, looking like he wants to bolt straight out of it and run for the forest, and Stiles is in the opposite corner - totally coincidentally, it’s not his fault the desk he’s decided makes a good perching post is about as far away from Derek as he can get without kicking down a wall.
“I mean, there is some serious level of Alternate going on in this reality. Like… wow, what wires got crossed sticking this one together, am I right?”
Derek just keeps staring, arms tight over his chest. He seems more dazed by the whole experience than Stiles, who’s hopping determinedly on board with the idea.
Well… not on board with the idea, but like, totally casual about it. Good for alternate him, right? Even if he’s got some seriously questionable taste because, hello, Derek. Still, Stiles isn’t one to judge.
And it’s not like Derek’s completely, one hundred percent objectionable. He’s got, like, objectively good arms. Arms that alternate Derek had wrapped around the other Stiles' waist so casually as they'd leaned into each other downstairs. Arms this Derek keeps showing off every time he crosses them over his chest like that, god.
Stiles drops his gaze to his hands, clenching and unclenching in his lap.
“Scott’s gonna laugh so hard when we get home. He’ll probably be mad if I don’t get video evidence… but that’s probably not evidence we really want him having anyway, huh?”
He’s hoping for at least an exasperated huff, an eye roll.
Derek just keeps staring out the window.
The other him is softer, Derek decides quickly. Softer and stronger, more comfortable with his place and his purpose. He has a pack of betas who respect him, who love enough to want to live with him even when they have other options.
Who he hadn’t allowed to run out on him or get killed.
The other him looks at him sometimes like he’s trying to work out a puzzle, sometimes like he’s figured it out and he doesn’t like what he’s found. He hovers pointedly around his Stiles when he senses Derek coming close, though what he thinks Derek might do to or with him, Derek doesn’t know, doesn’t care.
He doesn’t care.
Dinner that night is a mildly awkward, mildly nerve wracking, and completely heart-wrenching affair. It becomes clear fast that Boyd and Erica are not only dating but engaged, and that Isaac and Allison, while taking things slower, are in a committed relationship that had started back in junior year of high school.
Derek watches it all – this happy, successful pack… this family – and he feels his wolf whining deep inside for all the things it never had a chance to have.
The other Stiles sits beside Derek’s counterpart at the head of the table, leaning in to intone little comments that make Derek’s neck flush as he tries to pretend he can’t hear them (the entire pack hears them, and Allison’s smirk seems to say she doesn’t have to listen in to know what’s being said anyway). He’s constantly moving, letting his hand catch and twist in the other Derek’s sleeve when they’re both sitting idle, stealing bits of food off his plate and depositing things he doesn’t like in their place. Sautéed mushrooms make him scrunch up his face as he discards them, and it’s apparently a universal dislike because Derek sees his own Stiles frowning down at his own portion as well.
Derek loves cooked mushrooms.
The ones on Stiles’ plate go untouched.
They skip and skim over topics throughout the meal, coming close to and then dancing away from the events that had kept everyone safe in this reality when they’d faced such brutal deaths one by one in his own world.
In the afternoon on the second day, once it’s been decided for certain that Stiles and Derek aren’t witches, shapeshifters, or some other form of enemy in disguise, the other Stiles approaches them. He smiles as easily as always but there’s a vein of tension running through him now, coloring his scent and affecting his movements. He reminds Derek suddenly of his own Stiles more than he ever has so far.
“So,” he starts off, eyes flitting over Stiles fast before catching on Derek and dragging more slowly, searchingly: scanning down his borrowed cream-colored Henley and then up to his stubbled cheeks (his alternate, Derek has noticed, is more clean-shaven. It goes well with his “softer” demeanor). “Obviously we all know by now that things are pretty different here than what you’re used to.”
“Understatement,” Stiles intones, because of course he has to, and his alternate sends him a fond look, the kind Stiles sends Scott sometimes when he’s too distracted to catch onto some obvious point.
“Right.” He looks down, smiling, before: “So, um… I guess you guys probably don’t have CiCi.”
“CiCi…” Derek echoes evenly. He’d heard them mention her yesterday – that Scott and Kira were “watching” her, and then again after the painful pack dinner, when the other Derek had drawn his Stiles aside and told him that at least one of them should be “spending the night with CiCi.” Stiles’ alternate had agreed and had gone, and hadn’t been back until mid-morning.
Now he rolls his shoulders a little, nervously, and runs a hand through his slightly-shorter-than-Stiles’ hair.
“Yeah, uh, Claudia.” Derek feels the spike in Stiles’ heart rate, in his adrenaline, as his head jolts up, shoulders tensing. The other Stiles shoots him a sort of pained smile. “After Mom.”
Which makes Derek catch on as well. Theirs to look after. Named after Stiles’ mom.
“She’s just a couple weeks old,” not-Stiles explains quietly. “We kept her at dad’s last night just in case, but… well, she shouldn’t be away from her den too long. She’s still working out what all the scents mean, and I don’t want to confuse her if we don’t have to.”
Scents. Derek’s mouth goes dry.
“She’s a wolf?”
If she’s a wolf… if she’s theirs and she’s a wolf…
The other Stiles’ lips curl, like he’s trying to fight his smile for a few seconds before he gives up and grins broadly, rubbing at the back of his neck, so happy and proud it’s painful to look at.
“Yeah, she’s totally got your eyes, dude. Or, you know, Derek’s eyes. I was hoping for that. But she’s got my nose, which Der says he loves, and my complexion which will probably come back to bite her later on. Although… I guess, werewolf, no sunburns right?”
He arches an inquisitive brow, but Derek’s too busy staring.
Stiles lets out a choked noise.
“She’s… part Derek’s and part mi—yours?”
The other Stiles is still beaming, carefree and content. It’s a good look for him.
“A true Stilinski-Hale. Courtesy of Cora.” And while they’re both still trying to process that: “Anyway, Derek’s bringing her back over right now. Just wanted to give you guys a heads up before a baby got here all smelling like us.”
She’s beautiful. She’s been here an hour already, and Stiles can’t take his eyes off her.
He’s being totally obvious but he doesn’t care. He’s always loved kids and this one… this one has his nose, no doubt. It’s too early to tell what color her hair will be, but it’s already hovering at a shade between Stiles’ own and Derek’s, and her eyes. Her eyes are Derek’s eyes exactly, mutable layers of green and gold that Stiles can’t bring himself to call hazel.
Erica drawls “take a picture, it’ll last longer,” and Stiles ends up taking about two dozen of them on his phone.
…Because he’s gotta have proof to show Scott, right? Scott’s gonna laugh his ass off, for sure, when Stiles tells him about all this.
“Is my hair too long?” Derek looks up from his place on the floor, brows arching.
“It’s… longish. Longer than it was when I met you.”
Stiles lifts a hand to rake through the item in question, then grimaces, dropping it.
“I mean… Other You seems to like it shorter. Do you like it shorter?”
Derek stares at him for too long again before he huffs, eyes going back to the ceiling.
“It’s hair, Stiles.”
And Stiles falls back onto the wide mattress, sighing.
It’s late at night, hours after Stiles has fallen asleep, when Derek hears the barely murmured voices start to sound out through the otherwise silent house.
“So good, three of us sleeping under the same roof again.” It’s Stiles, the other Stiles, soft and sleepy and content. Derek’s voice sounds out after that, humming agreeably.
“The bed felt lonely last night.”
And Derek can’t imagine himself saying that, just putting his feelings out there that way.
The voices go quiet then, but after a few seconds a shuffle of movement takes their place, a scrambling of bodies against sheets and the wet sounds of mouths and tongues, and Stiles’ voice, that’s definitely Stiles’ voice, panting out wordless sounds, increasingly needy sounds. There are some things Derek had never needed to know, and topping that list was most definitely “the sounds Stiles makes when he’s close to getting off.” And other sounds are joining in, intimately familiar sounds, clashing and harmonizing with Stiles’ moans in a way Derek can’t think about, won’t. Is already trying to forget even while it’s happening.
He gets a pillow over his head and considers humming loudly, but that would probably just wake Stiles and then Derek would have to explain why he’s humming, so he just settles for breathing too loudly into the fabric and trying hard to ignore it.
Finally it ends, and Derek almost manages to miss the breathless “love you, I never want to spend another night without you” echoing through the air in his own voice.
He drags the pillow off his head, his eyes going up to the bed where Stiles lies sleeping. Derek can just make out the edge of his face - hard edges and soft features - from his place on a nest of sheets and pillows on the floor.
The house is silent for a while, and Derek’s just starting to drift when: “I feel kind of bad for them,” the other Stiles breathes, voice carrying through the wall in a way only a wolf with no other place to focus its attention could hear. “They both look so miserable.”
“Of course they are, they’ve been torn away from their world.”
“I don’t think that’s the only reason.”
There’s a sigh, Derek’s alternate taking his time picking out his response.
“Stiles… you don’t know what their lives are like. They might have people waiting for them back home.”
“No one that measures up to me and you, I bet.”
“Can’t argue that.”
There’s another kiss, blessedly short this time, before the new parents finally settle down for the night.
And Derek can’t fall asleep.
Stiles is on his way back from the bathroom the next night when CiCi starts wailing.
She’d probably heard him passing – or smelled him – and Stiles winces as he starts to walk past her room (not his kid, not his problem, right?) but she’s right there, and she’s crying, and she’s probably going to wake up the whole house any second.
So he pauses in the doorway, just to check on her. And then he’s standing at the edge of her crib, trying to shush her. And her arms are flailing up towards him and somehow he finds himself sitting in the soft armchair by her bed, staring down at her as she smiles, gurgles, and clutches his pinky in a baby werewolf death grip.
Claudia Stilinski-Hale. The daughter with Derek that he’ll never have.
He’s still staring at her finally sleeping face when he sees a shuffle of movement. Derek’s in the doorway, starting: “Stiles, what—” before stopping, going startled and still.
Stiles has been gone for a long time, scent staling in the air when Derek wakes up to the dawn light and an empty bed. He drags himself off the floor and goes looking for him – part of him still waiting for a bloodstained shoe to drop on this painfully cheerful reality – and tracks his scent to the baby’s room and…
Stiles is there, cradling the baby – their baby (not their baby) – and smelling of her and of Derek and contentment in a way that sends his wolf clawing and settling, howling in his chest. The girl’s tiny hand is wrapped around Stiles’ pinky as she dozes, and Stiles’ sleepy face looks so content, so pleased when he glances up that Derek almost wonders if he’s in front of the wrong person, if he’s actually looking at the alternate, for all their scents and hair are different.
But he's not. It’s Stiles. Stiles and (not) their baby.
He can’t look away.
“Hey, yeah, sorry I… she was crying, so I…” He grins down at her again, and Derek makes a little noise that Stiles seems to take as disapproval, because he’s standing and moving to lower her back into her crib. “Yeah, I probably shouldn’t—”
Derek’s against him the second she’s out of his arms, pressing against his back, arm looping to slide up his chest. His face ducks into Stiles’ nape, nuzzling along his neck, breathing in the scents that are driving his wolf to distraction.
Stiles makes a faint noise, a weak echo of the noises he’s heard spilling from Stiles’ alternate late at night, then he’s huffing out a shaky “Derek?” and all at once Derek realizes what he was doing. He falls away, stumbling backward, eyes on the floor.
“Sorry, I… sorry.”
Stiles doesn’t turn, his hands tight on the crib gate. His voice comes out soft and unsteady: “What the hell was that?”
“I just… you smell like… she smells like…”
He can’t get the words out. He doesn’t know if there’s any way for a non-were to understand. But Stiles surprises him as usual, drawing in a shaky breath before turning.
When Derek’s eyes drag upward, Stiles’ are soft and pained and happy and miserable and Derek knows he’s not the only one confused to the point of aching right now. He nods, staring until Stiles looks away.
“It’s just weird, right?” But his tone is nothing like it had been when he’d asked this question on the first day.
“Weird,” Derek finds himself echoing dully. He can’t begin to describe what he’s feeling, and when Stiles looks back, a smile twitching on his lips, he finds himself staring too long at that mouth.
Six more days pass before both versions of Stiles and the alternate world's Deaton manage to work out how to get them back home, and then they're back and spend a few hours getting jostled around by the pack, being begged for stories they can’t really answer or don’t want to. Scott’s scent goes startled and pained when Stiles accidentally mentions the alternate Isaac’s presence in that world's pack, and Derek doesn’t want to think about what will happen if they bring up Allison, Boyd or Erica. It had been hard enough to live through, themselves.
And then, blessedly, the pack’s gone and it’s just him and Stiles standing there, staring at each other in the quiet loft and trying to work out how to say goodbye after nine days of forced cohabitation with their decidedly happier alternates.
Or at least, Derek’s thinking about saying goodbye. Stiles’ mind seems to be on a different track entirely because his jaw’s setting determinedly and he’s striding across the room, grabbing Derek’s shirt and pulling him forward into a hard, sloppy kiss.
For a second Derek thinks he’s maybe come back with the wrong Stiles, or this is some poor attempt to break tension… and then he stops trying to think at all and starts kissing back. The air’s sharp with them and the lingering scent of pack and, past that, of the child that won’t ever be theirs.
Derek pulls back and Stiles actually whimpers, and for once Derek doesn’t want to hide from the sound. He wants to roll around in it, make it happen again. It’s his this time, not some other Derek’s. He’d caused it. But…
“I’m not him,” he murmurs, a sudden, suspicious pain twisting in his chest. “I’m not soft or happy or an Alpha.”
Stiles stares at him for too long, before smirking.
“Does it look like I’m making out with him?”
“I don’t know.” Derek looks down. “You’ve never done that before.”
“You’ve never looked at me like you did this week before.” Stiles’ hand drops from his shirt, and Derek’s wolf whines at the loss. “I mean, if it was just a scent thing, like an ‘alternate universe happy family messing with your instincts’ thing that’s fine, I just… things aren’t the same here, I know. But some things could be.”
Maybe some things should be.
“And… you would want that?” Want to be with Derek? To kiss Derek and steal food off Derek’s plate and maybe someday, someday in the very distant future, have a kid of their own with Stiles’ nose and Derek’s eyes?
Stiles licks his kiss-reddened lips and laughs softly.
“Actually, I don’t know. I’m not sure I can date a person this slow on the uptake.” Derek’s own lips twitch, a smirk that transforms into a grin as Stiles steps in closer, hand going out to play with the sleeve of Derek’s shirt. Derek’s hand brushes along Stiles’ jawline, trails through his longer-than-the-alternate-Stiles’ hair.
“We’re not them,” he repeats, feeling warm and settled and sure. “But maybe we could try being us.”