It’s seven am when Stiles wakes up, which is unusual in itself and even more so because this isn’t his bed. He registers that he’s mildly hungry at about the same time he notices the charred and slightly water-damaged ceiling. It’s not his ceiling, or Scott’s, and Stiles lies there looking at it, trying to remember. He wasn’t out with the drag queens the night before and as far as he can tell, nothing’s hurting or bleeding, which is a bonus these days. It doesn’t leave much room for other options, especially with that familiar feeling of being watched creeping up his spine.
Stiles sits up, clutching the covers and blinking at the world as if that’d force it to make sense again. “Derek,” he says, voice sleepy-hoarse. “Um.”
Derek’s sprawled in a really old chair, the leather soft and worn, cracked and discolored with age. If Stiles wasn’t having a freak-out of the silent kind, he’d have a look around and see that Derek’s bedroom is a cacophony of probably every piece of furniture he managed to salvage.
There’s a desk, well-loved and polished to a shine over years of use, the top blistered black in one corner. It has a laptop on it and tomorrow that’ll remind Stiles of how Derek wasn’t raised in a cave by wolves. So to speak. There’s a Jeep office chair with a soft orange throw on the floor beside it, as if it’d slipped down the last time Derek had sat behind his computer at a late, chilly night. If Stiles was looking, he’d see a walk-in wardrobe slightly ajar and filled with clothes, an old lacrosse uniform, and oddly, a woman’s coat. He’d see that the bed’s an antique, with a headboard that would make the owner of the Brocante store on Main Street –– just second hand crap, mostly –– drool.
Stiles doesn’t see any of that now, but he will. At this particular moment in time, he’s too busy staring rabbit-eyed at Derek on his ancient leather sofa, eyes dark and unreadable as always, staring at Stiles as if he’d just sleepwalked into his bedroom. Which, um.
“Did I sleepwalk into your bedroom?” Stiles asks because take the bull by the horns and all that shit. At least it’s Saturday and his dad has the weekend shift, so he doesn’t need to worry about that.
“You tell me,” Derek says. “One minute I’m asleep, the next I wake up and there you are. Which is impossible because I should’ve heard you coming a mile away. No one sneaks up on me. Especially you.”
Stiles would be offended. He really would but not only is it the sad truth, he feels a pinch of sadness that Derek doesn’t ever get to sleep soundly. There’s no one to keep watch so he could. Derek looks a bit bewildered, like he wants to wear that anger mask but it’s slipping out of his control and Stiles isn’t sure what to do with that.
“So what are you doing here, Stiles,” Derek says and his eyes blink red but Stiles isn’t buying it.
“I don’t know,” he tells Derek, pulling up his knees so he can hug the soft blue comforter. “Dude, I seriously don’t know.”
“There’s something strange going on,” Derek’s saying and he sniffs the air. He stands up and walks toward the bedroom door. “Your scent is nowhere but here.”
“I don’t get it,” Stiles says, quickly peaking beneath the blankets while Derek’s turned away and thank god, he’s wearing pajamas.
“What I mean is,” Derek says, more patient than Stiles has probably ever seen him, “your scent is nowhere else in the house. There should be a trail. Your Jeep isn’t outside, but here you are,” he eyes Stiles up and down as he climbs awkwardly out of the bed, quirking an eyebrow, “in Spongebob pajamas.”
“They’re snuggly, don’t judge,” Stiles says, scratching his belly. He pads over to the one window that isn’t shattered but it faces the back of the house so he can’t tell if Derek’s right and he came here apparently on foot. He looks down. On bare feet, which are completely clean. “Do you have some clothes I can borrow? Or at least some socks, this place is freezing.”
“Well, I’m sorry,” Derek says, “I’ll make sure to have central heating for your next sleepover.” Derek turns around and rummages through a drawer for a second. He lobs a pair of socks at Stiles, who is still staring with probably not the most intelligent expression on his face and they hit him right between the eyes. “Spiderman?” Stiles yells on a high laugh as he peels the socks apart but Derek’s already out of the room and Stiles hears him shout back, “Whatever, Spongebob,” from somewhere below him.
“This is the weirdest shit,” Stiles says to himself, hopping about a bit as he pulls on the ridiculously soft socks.
When Stiles finds the kitchen and Derek in it, he has time to register the fully functioning and well-stocked fridge which Derek just pulled a gallon of milk out of, when Derek’s nostrils flare and his fangs elongate.
“There’s someone––“ Derek says, beginning to turn toward the back door behind him. It has a broken pane of glass and something whooshes through it. Derek stumbles a little, milk sloshing over his hand, as if someone bumped into him. He looks at Stiles, making a pained noise and then at the arrow protruding from his chest, straight through his heart.
Stiles feels like he can’t breathe, like time slows to a near stop. What he’s seeing can’t be real. One minute Stiles is amazed by Derek having a personality besides big bad wolf, and the next he’s watching blood trickle from his mouth.
The milk jug slowly slips from Derek’s fingers, and Stiles should move, should try to catch it, but he can’t. Because doing that is admitting that this is real, and it’s not. “Derek, why aren’t you healing,” he’s saying, “Derek pull it out. Oh my god, am I dreaming? Is that it?” It has to be. He’s in some fucked up nightmare and he can’t wake up. As long as the milk doesn’t hit the floor, he thinks, because he read something once about controlling dreams, this won’t be real.
Of course, it does. It hits the charred tiles with a sickening plop and Stiles feels the wetness hit his sock-clad ankles. The milk goes everywhere, it splashed halfway up the fridge, covering cabinets and walls and pools around Derek’s feet.
Derek is still staring wide-eyed and shocked at Stiles, like he can’t believe it either. He opens his mouth but all that comes out is a blood tinged gurgle. He’s sinking to his knees and Stiles rushes over because he will not let Derek hit the ground.
“I got you, I got you Derek, I can take it out,” Stiles mumbles and Derek must hear the lie, “just, just hold on, I’ll take it out and you’ll heal.” Together they sink down, Stiles clutching Derek for all he’s worth, easing him onto the tiles. There is blood on Stiles’ hands and mingling with the milk on the floor, turning pink.
Derek’s lips are moving, but Stiles’ ears are ringing so he bends closer to Derek’s mouth and holds his breath so all is silent.
“Too late,” Derek says, his voice a wet whisper. Stiles feels the puff of air against his cheek. He won’t realize until much, much later, that that was Derek’s dying breath. “Wolfsbane ... Stiles.”
And that’s it. Derek’s head falls back, eyes staring unseeing at the ceiling. Stiles sits there, stunned, until his arms tremble and his legs feel dead from holding Derek up. He eases him down and yanks out the arrow, knowing an avalanche of words is tumbling out of his mouth but he can’t even register what they are. He just remains there, holding the arrow and staring at the hole in Derek’s heart for god knows how long. Long enough for the smell of souring milk and congealing blood to permeate his sinuses to the point he thinks he’ll never smell anything else.
“Scott,” he says into his phone, unaware he’d even pressed dial until he’d heard Scott’s hello. “Derek’s house. Bring Deaton.” Stiles hangs up and does nothing but watch Derek remain dead until he hears footsteps on the porch and a frantic Scott calling his name.
They load Derek’s body into the van they arrived in. “You should come with us,” Scott says, taking the porch steps two at a time to where Stiles is standing in the doorway, “or at least let us drop you off at home. Whoever did this could still be out here, Stiles. This isn’t safe.”
Stiles shakes his head. He knows Deaton will, will do things, to Derek’s body, to try and find out if there’s a way to kickstart the healing and Stiles can’t bear that. He can’t be a witness to that.
The idea of going home to his bedroom is unbearable too, like his life will actually go on after this. He doesn’t get why he’s so upset, why seeing Derek dead feels like the end of something he never got to start. “I want to stay here,” Stiles says, “just come get me tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow,” Scott tells him, giving Stiles’ arm a squeeze. “First thing.”
It’s really cold, when Stiles wakes up. He feels the draft through the covers and he has that weird crinkly sensation of being watched. Stiles nearly yells for his dad to check his wardrobe for monsters like he used to, just for laughs (because hah, monsters don’t live in closets. They live in burnt out houses and are your best friend until the moon is full,) when he realizes the window’s at the wrong side of the bed.
He remembers everything all at once. The gnawing hunger he’d ignored in favor of not having to go into the kitchen searching for food the day before, turns into lurching nausea.
“Fuck,” Stiles mutters. He presses his face into Derek’s pillow and inhales deeply. It smells like him and Stiles is mildly surprised he even knows what Derek smells like but it’s unmistakable and familiar. His hand bumps against his phone beneath the pillow and he pulls it out. It’s seven oh three and no messages from Scott. If Derek was alive, Stiles’d know by now. “Fuck,” he repeats, only this time it breaks on a small sob. He’s alone so he doesn’t care, thinks someone at least, should mourn.
Suffice it to say, there follows a freak-out even Stiles won’t attempt to describe as manly. It’s brief though, so that’s something. Derek is standing by the bed and Stiles knee-walks over to him.
“You’re alive,” Stiles is saying, face full-on beaming but he can’t be bothered to hide it. He’s so relieved he wants to hug his arms around himself and curl up. “Oh my god, what did Deaton do, it’s amazing.” Stiles looks Derek over, has to suppress the urge to touch because Derek is scowling down at him, and okay maybe sleeping in Derek’s bed two nights in a row might be construed as a bit weird. “Oh man, I was so convinced you were dead, I can’t believe it. Even, wow, even your shirt is mended, like, like it never… happened.”
Stiles’ eyes flit up to Derek’s and back down to the clean shirt Derek had been wearing the day before, no sign of any arrow holes or blood. Derek’s just frowning now, instead of glowering, so Stiles swallows and asks, “What, what day is it?”
“Saturday,” Derek says slowly, uncrossing his arms and looking at Stiles as if he completely lost the plot this time. “What are you babbling about?”
“No,” Stiles says a bit weakly. “Saturday was yesterday.”
“It really wasn’t,” Derek says. “So are you going to tell me what you’re doing here ––” He looks Stiles over, “–– in Spongebob pajamas.”
“You’re one to talk,” Stiles says, hands in his hair and mouth on autopilot as he tries to wrap his mind around all this, “with your Spiderman socks.”
At least the bed is a warm and soft surface to be pinned down against. It makes a nice change. “How do you know that,” Derek hisses, fangs protruding from his mouth a bit, eyes limned red.
“Lemme go,” Stiles wheezes, fingers scrabbling over the arm Derek is pressing against his chest. He’s not afraid and he thinks Derek knows it, that it might make him a little angrier even, but there is something about being breathless with relief at seeing someone alive that cancels out any and all former feelings of fright, apparently.
For a few long seconds, Derek just looks at him, eyes moving over Stiles’ face, no doubt listening for glitches in Stiles’ heartbeat. “Fine,” he huffs, easing off and climbing down the mattress. “But your stomach sounds like it’s digesting itself so let’s go to the kitch––”
“No!” Stiles yells, jumping off the bed and scrambling after Derek, grabbing his bicep with both hands and digging his fingers in. “No, not the kitchen,” he says, quieter, and Derek must see something on Stiles’ face because he doesn’t even comment on the grabbing. He takes hold of Stiles’ wrists and guides him down into the leather chair.
“All right,” Derek says carefully, his frown growing deeper when he glances at Stiles’ hands trembling in Derek’s grip. Stiles gently works them loose and digs his fingers into his knees while Derek crouches down in front of him. “Start at the beginning.”
“Stiles,” Derek says when Stiles is done, lightheaded from reliving it all. Derek sighs and shakes his head. “I really want to believe you, but––“
“I know, I know, okay?” Stiles groans, rubbing his face. “But it wasn’t a dream, it was real. How else would I know about your Spiderman socks … which, by the way, can I have them? My feet are freezing. Or that your kitchen is just below this bedroom, that you like organic whole milk so much you buy it by the gallon.”
Derek huffs and hands Stiles the Spiderman socks. “It tastes better,” Derek says a bit defensively.
“Hey, I’m not laughing at you or anything, I’m just saying, if that was a dream, none of that would be real, right?” Stiles stares down at the socks, remembers how yesterday –– today –– whatever, they’d been soaked with milk and blood. “You were dead,” he whispers. “You were dead and there was nothing I could do, it was … fuck.” His hands start to shake so badly he can’t even pull the sock over the foot he’s got propped up on the edge of the seat. He hates this, hates being so weak in front of –– Stiles startles when Derek’s hands are suddenly on his.
“I’m fine, Stiles,” Derek says quietly, batting his hands away and slipping the sock over his toes. It’s such a contrast to the earlier threatening, Stiles can’t even think of something to say to make it less awkward. “I’m alive and I’m right here. We’ll figure out what happened, and even if we don’t, it’s over now.”
“Can we at least go somewhere else?” Stiles asks. So it can’t happen again, he doesn’t say, but he doesn’t need to. Derek just nods and they head for his Camaro in silence.
They’re on the long, empty stretch of road between the Hale house and town, when their way is blocked by a huge tree lying across both lanes.
“Don’t get out,” Stiles practically begs, “it’s a trap.” He grabs hold of Derek’s wrist, who is half turned away from Stiles, reaching for his door.
“Stiles,” Derek says, “it’s fine, I’m just going to take a look.”
“No,” Stiles says and his heart is pounding like mad. It’s as if he’s having a premonition or something, not what will happen exactly, just that it will and it’s going to be bad. He’s breathing hard and Derek twists around.
“Stiles.” Derek curls his fingers briefly around Stiles’ hand holding on to him. “Calm down. You’re going to hyperventilate,” he’s saying but Stiles hardly hears him. “It’ll be okay.” Derek tugs his hand free. “I’ll be right back.”
He’s not. It goes so fast Derek is dead by the time he hits the ground. There’s no arrow. It’s a bullet Stiles can’t even remove.
This time there’s no lazy moment’s reprieve where he can’t remember. Stiles doesn’t need to check to know it’s seven am and his eyes are barely open when he’s already asking, “Derek?”
Derek’s sitting on the edge of the bed, not even looking angry, which Stiles is surprised about until he feels wetness dripping down his jaw. The panic attack that follows is the worst he’s had in years and it takes him half an hour to snap out of it.
“Oh god, not again,” Stiles says afterwards, lungs burning with the oxygen overload.
Derek looks down at the Spiderman socks. “You’re cold,” he says by way of explanation.
“Yeah, but just, another pair, please,” Stiles whispers, feeling extremely stupid. It’s not like a pair of fucking socks is going to put an end to this.
“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?” Derek asks when Stiles has calmed down and is sitting cross-legged against the headboard, Derek at the foot of the bed.
“I keep going through this same day,” Stiles says. “And you keep dying. Then I wake up, and here you are, alive and it’s Saturday again.”
“I keep dying,” Derek repeats.
“Yeah. First time it was a wolfsbane arrow through your heart, second time a bullet.” Stiles scrubs his face like it could make the images go away. It doesn’t so he just looks at Derek instead, trying to convince his brain he’s on the bed, alive and not bleeding out on a road.
“Why are you even here to begin with?” Derek asks, looking at him in a way that is becoming familiar fast, “in––“
“Spongebob pajamas, yes, I know, all right? I know. And I have no idea. I just appear here, we talk, you die, rewind. And I’d really, really like it to stop.”
Derek’s staring somewhere off to the left of Stiles’ head, chewing his lip, which is something Stiles has never seen him do. “This isn’t anything I’ve ever heard of,” Derek says eventually. “Have you tried, the other days I mean, researching it?”
“We were on our way to my house yesterday when the road was blocked by a tree. You got out and got shot.”
“Okay,” Derek says gently and he’s leaning forward a bit. It takes a second before Stiles realizes Derek can probably hear his heartbeat going up again and is offering a little comfort. “This time no getting out of the car until we’re at your house, how’s that?”
“No matter what?” Stiles asks, hating how pathetic he sounds but watching Derek die twice is enough, thanks.
“No matter what,” Derek agrees.
Stiles is nervous the entire way to his house. He can tell it’s setting Derek’s teeth on edge in turn but Derek doesn’t comment on it. He just drives in silence and takes a deep breath of relief like he shares it with Stiles when they reach his bedroom.
“Right,” Stiles says, booting up his laptop. “Stay away from doors and windows. Let’s do this thing.”
Reliving the same day, he types into his database and clicks on the first thing that pops up. “It’s a time loop,” he tells Derek who rises from Stiles’ bed to read over his shoulder. Stiles points at the screen. “If it’s a physical time loop, it can’t be broken unless I leave Beacon Hills, and that might not even work, so let’s pretend that one’s not it. If it’s a conscious time loop, it means everyone’s consciousness loops through the same day again.”
“But then why are you the one on the outside of it?” Derek asks. “You’ve got to be the only one being aware of what’s happening or you would’ve heard by now.”
Stiles briefly checks some news sites and his phone, but there’s nothing. Just a normal Saturday as far as the world is concerned. “I don’t know,” he says, annoyed. “I don’t know why I remember, or why it’s you that keeps dying.”
Creatures causing time loops, he searches next and comes up with basically nothing, unless the TARDIS is real. “Crap,” he says, with feeling. He’s about to suggest calling Deaton when he sees Derek on full alert, could swear his ears have pricked up as he stares at the curtains over Stiles’ window like he can see through them. “No,” Stiles whispers. “Derek, no.”
Derek kneels down by his chair and grips his shoulders, giving Stiles a little shake. “If I don’t go out there, they’ll come in. And I won’t leave you with a memory like that.” Like what, Stiles wants to ask, but doesn’t need to. He can imagine blood pooling on his bedroom carpet without Derek spelling it out. He knows he’d never be able to sleep here again if that happened, whether Derek was alive again tomorrow or not. “Just stay here,” Derek says, rising to his feet again.
“No,” Stiles says. “I’m not going to let you face this by yourself.”
“Stiles,” Derek says, but he’s out of time. Stiles can hear the howling too; eerie, too loud and far, far too numerous. Derek opens the window and leaps out and Stiles, he doesn’t even hesitate, sprints for the front door.
Stiles wakes up and by the way Derek is holding him down on the bed he guesses his throat isn’t sore from an upcoming cold.
“Stiles,” Derek’s saying, “Stiles, please stop, I didn’t do anything, I swear, I didn’t, Stiles goddamnit.”
Stiles blinks up at him. “What?” he croaks, because he doesn’t get why Derek is looking at him like Stiles just died a violent death and not the other way around.
“Oh thank god,” Derek says, slumping down, briefly pressing his forehead against Stiles’ shoulder. He sits back again immediately, moving a hand over his face like he’s never been this tired in his life.
“What’s going on?” Stiles asks and ow, yeah, his throat really hurts.
“You tell me,” Derek says, looking down with the least annoyed and the most haunted expression Stiles has ever seen on Derek’s face. It’s not a nice change at all. “I was asleep and suddenly you’re there screaming, like, like,” Derek swallows and Stiles has never seen this before either, Derek lost for words and almost scared. “I don’t know,” he goes on. “You were shouting my name and then stop, as if I –– god, it was awful.”
“I’m sorry,” Stiles says because he knows what that must’ve looked like. He knows Derek must think Stiles has nightmares about him now, but he can’t tell Derek Stiles had just witnessed him being brutally ripped apart by a pack of Alpha wolves. He just can’t. It didn’t help the last two times and Stiles can’t cope with it again.
“I need to go,” he says instead, pushing at Derek who is completely unaware he’s still straddling Stiles’ thighs, until he gets it and climbs off. Stiles stands on wobbly legs for a second and then makes his way over to the door.
“Where are you going?” Derek calls after him. “Stiles, wait. You’re barefoot and wearing Spongebob pajamas!”
It keeps happening. In ways Stiles never, ever wants to remember and he dearly hopes he won’t, once all of this is over. It doesn’t matter whether he’s around Derek or not, either. He thought staying away might mean Derek staying alive, but it doesn’t. In fact, when he’s not there, it’s worse.
He wakes up and Derek is lying beside him, eyes open and on Stiles. Under normal circumstances, he’d take a moment to appreciate being in bed with Derek Hale, waking up together, but now it doesn’t even register.
Stiles can’t waste time explaining anything either and something on Stiles’ face makes Derek agree to parting with his car keys and to not leave the bedroom, no matter what. It’s worrying, really, but Stiles has no room for more worry so he just drives.
“Stiles.” The vet straightens, foot pushing a black bag that clunks as he does it under the workbench. Stiles would find this suspicious if he had the energy, but he doesn’t. He already knows the vet isn’t all he seems, but at least he’s one of the good guys.
“There’s something wrong,” Stiles says, rushing through the words and stumbling over the lip in the doorway, hurting his toes. He catches himself against the frame and Deaton frowns.
“No, no not ––” oh god he hasn’t even given thought to Scott once since that first time, and he can’t. He can’t. He just has to assume Scott is safe and oblivious during all of this, he doesn’t have the strength for anything else, “–– not Scott. With Derek, with, with me.” He catches his breath. His pajama shirt sweat-sticks to his skin and it’s gross.
“Derek?” Deaton says, sounding surprised. “What’s going on?”
“I don’t know how to explain this, I just, you’re gonna think I’m crazy but I’m really, really not and if you don’t believe me, I don’t know what I’ll do. Just, go through it again I guess, but I can’t, I can’t watch him die again.” He doesn’t realize he’s shivering all over until the vet leads him to his operating table and makes him hop on it.
“Calm down, Stiles. Take a deep breath, that’s it. Another one, go on, breathe out all the way. Now, tell me from the beginning, I’ve got time.” Stiles opens his eyes and he wants to laugh at that, because yeah, he’s got time all right. He reins it in, thinks he’ll dissolve in hysteria if he does, so he just swallows twice, past the lump in his chest and begins to talk. Deaton’s eyes grow bigger with every minute and by the end he’s clutching the table by Stiles’ thigh.
“Shit,” he says which sums it up nicely in Stiles’ opinion. “Okay, I need to do some research. I have an idea but it might take a while. Come back tomorrow and ––” Deaton winces as he says it. Stiles does laugh then, and yup, there’s that note of sheer panic, high and stressed. “Right,” Deaton goes on. “Leave me your number and I will call you as soon as I find something. If you don’t hear from me before tonight, come back tomorrow okay, keep coming back, don’t give up. We’ll sort this out.”
“Okay,” Stiles says, feeling mildly better. He doesn’t really want to go back and go through this again but on the other hand he can’t leave Derek to his fate. He’s learnt the hard way that what happens will happen, whether he’s there or not. And if it’s slow, then at least Derek won’t be alone.
Derek’s not there when Stiles gets back and he doesn’t have the courage to go look for him. Stiles feels like he hasn’t eaten in days, which, technically, he hasn’t, so he knows it will take absolutely nothing to make his stomach turn.
As quiet as can be, Stiles locks himself in Derek’s bedroom and sits in the middle of the bed, clutching his phone. At three minutes to midnight, he receives a text.
It’s a spell, it says and nothing else. Stiles takes a shaky breath and lies down, wrapping himself in Derek’s comforter.
He’ll go back to Deaton tomorrow.
When seven am comes around again, something feels different and for a brief moment Stiles is hopeful, until he opens his eyes. Derek’s beside him, fast asleep, which is new but not groundbreaking because Derek’s been moving steadily closer over the days, going from the leather chair to actually being in bed with Stiles. He thinks about that as he watches Derek’s face, so close Stiles can feel puffs of the air Derek is breathing against his nose, but he can’t imagine how that would be significant so he lets it go.
With a little noise Derek stirs, rubbing his face into his pillow as he tries to wake up and bumping his head against Stiles’ shoulder in the process. Derek stills and his eyes fly open. Stiles braces himself but the accusing question doesn’t come.
“Stiles,” Derek just says and then he yawns. It’s so endearing, Stiles feels his insides tighten and he has the sudden, almost irrepressible urge to pull Derek close. To hold him until the shape of him feels as familiar as his dad, the –– sadly –– only other person Stiles gets to hug on a regular basis. Stiles shrugs it off, thinks it’s a side-effect of watching someone die over and over again.
“You all right?” Derek asks, knuckling his eyes and then stretching his arms over his head.
Why aren’t you more weirded out that I’m here, Stiles wants to ask, but the moment feels strangely peaceful, and knowing what’s coming, Stiles doesn’t want to break it just yet, so he nods.
“I’ve got no idea why you’re here,” Derek says, snuggling deeper underneath the blue comforter, “but I’m having a weird sense of Déjà vu.”
Stiles feels utterly lost and strangely isolated, but he takes a deep breath and for the third? fourth? time, tells Derek everything.
“Why is it happening to you?” Derek asks. They still haven’t moved, are just lying in bed facing each other like it’s the most normal thing in the world.
“What do you mean?” Stiles asks, inching his feet a little closer to Derek’s, because they are still cold.
“Well if someone was trying to punish me, I’d be the one reliving this day. Not you. So it’s you they’re after.”
Stiles gapes at him, and not just because Derek just pushed his warm feet against Stiles’. “What? You think dying on a daily basis isn’t a punishment?”
“I’m sure it’s unpleasant––” Derek huffs a laugh at the noise of disbelief Stiles makes, “––to die in pain every day, but I don’t remember any of it. You do. So either someone is punishing you for something, or––” Derek’s eyes narrow.
“Or?” Stiles prompts him when he doesn’t go on.
“Or they’re trying to teach you a lesson.”
“What kind of lesson?”
Derek studies him for a long moment, eyes flicking over Stiles’ features with an intensity that makes Stiles wonder if Derek doesn’t have the answer after all. “I think,” he says eventually, “this will all end once you figure that out. I’m going to have a shower.”
“No!” Stiles yells, lunging forward and grabbing Derek’s arm. “Please don’t. Not, not yet. I’m not––” ready he thinks but Derek smiles down at him, squeezes his hand briefly before gently prying it loose.
“It’ll be all right,” he says and it sounds so much like a promise, Stiles lets him go.
He doesn’t go looking for Derek when he doesn’t return. He just grabs the car keys and drives to Deaton.
The next morning Stiles wakes up quietly. Deaton hadn’t been much help beyond, yes, it’s definitely a spell. Stiles sighs and blinks against the too familiar sunlight. He knows it’s still the same Saturday and he fights down the anxiety because Derek is sleeping quietly beside him and Stiles doesn’t want to wake him up to something as unpleasant as Stiles having another panic attack.
Instead he rolls onto his side and looks at Derek. Stiles wonders if there isn’t some sort of significance to this after all. Derek is lying on his side with one hand tucked under his face, which is much younger looking without the perpetual frown in place.
Stiles follows the lines of Derek’s slightly open mouth with his eyes, the curve of his bottom lip, the sharp edge of his chin and cheekbones. He watches the dusting of shadow-filled eyelashes brushing the fragile skin beneath his eyes.
Derek’s beautiful, Stiles thinks, in a way he’s never realized before. In a way that isn’t just, wow hot. He’s beautiful in a gentle way that is completely unexpected and takes him by such surprise he feels winded. Like he’s punched in the solar plexus but instead of pain, a soft warmth floods him. It’s accompanied pretty fast by despair because, oh god. He will die today and there is nothing I can do.
Stiles indulges, then. It’s not like Derek will remember tomorrow and if this means Stiles gets beaten up, he’ll gladly take it. He almost wants to feel physical pain to offset the ache inside him that’s been there for days on repeat. Something that builds and builds every time the light in Derek’s eyes goes out. Every time he thinks, not again. Please, not again.
With slightly trembling fingers he reaches out, lets the rough stubble on Derek’s cheek scratch against his fingertips. He’s so busy thumbing back and forth over Derek’s jawline, he misses how Derek’s eyes have opened until a hand clamps around Stiles’ wrist.
“What are you doing?” Derek asks. He doesn’t sound angry like Stiles expected. Just mildly curious and not entirely awake.
“Saying goodbye,” Stiles answers so quietly, no human would’ve heard it.
“Goodbye?” Derek asks, more awake now, pushing himself up on one elbow to bring him eye to eye with Stiles. He’s still hanging on to Stiles’ wrist. “Why are you saying goodbye?”
“Because I wanted to, just once.”
“I’d like to say I don’t know what you mean,” Derek tells him, “but it feels like I do. It’s––” He gives Stiles a questioning look. “We’ve been here before?”
Derek is still not angry, or annoyed, or all the things he usually is at Stiles. He just sounds a bit bemused, like he’s on the verge of smiling even and Stiles can’t take it. He can’t deal with knowing Derek more and more, liking him better every day, while Derek never remembers any of the things Stiles tells him.
“I could confess to you my deepest secrets,” Stiles says on a shuddering exhale. “I could show you everything and it wouldn’t make the least bit of difference.”
“Stiles,” Derek says, frowning now, but it’s clearly with concern and nothing else. “Of course it would, I’m not that much of a bastard. What’s going on? What do you need to tell me?”
“I’m falling,” Stiles begins, but it’s impossible to go on. He can’t say the words and have this play out either way. Rejection would be easier, even, because if he has this, even for a day only to lose it again, Stiles won’t know what to do with himself.
A woman appears in the garden, in an almost see-through dress and with a sword dripping in something Stiles just knows is wolfsbane. He can’t watch this again, so before Derek even has a chance to push him back, Stiles has walked into her blade.
There’s a moment of reprieve with no pain that doesn’t last long enough at all. It gives him time to register Derek’s voice, frantic but far away, as if through water. The woman is blurry at the edges of his vision as it starts to black out. Stiles hears her say, This is your last chance, and then there is such agony, it’s easier to let go.
“Jus’ five mo’ minutes, dad,” Stiles mumbles into his pillow before he realizes that wasn’t his dad at all. He groans pathetically. “Derek.”
“Don’t know why you have to say it like that,” Derek tells him, and he sounds amused. “You’re the one showing up in my bed.”
“What time is it?” Stiles asks, cracking an eye open to see Derek sharing his pillow.
“Just gone seven.”
“Of course it is.” Stiles sighs and hugs the comforter, then flinches violently, remembering where the sword had disappeared into his stomach. He flips over and paws at his pajama top to get to skin, which is completely smooth.
“Morning ritual?” Derek asks him and Stiles pulls a face.
“It is these days. Why aren’t you looming and frowning at me?”
“Would you be more comfortable if I was?” Derek props himself up on his right elbow and looks down at Stiles. He’s smiling.
It’s so weird.
“It’d be more natural,” Stiles mumbles and he closes his eyes before he does something stupid.
“Yeah,” Derek says after a long silence. “I guess it would be.”
Stiles expects him to move away but nothing happens, so he opens his eyes again. Derek’s still there, looking at him like something’s funny.
“You,” Derek says. “I thought you’d be out of the bed and as far away as possible by now, but here you are as if you wake up in my bed every day.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” Stiles tells him. He should get up and go to Deaton straight away. Make use of the full day. The woman had said it was would be the last.
He’s so comfortable though, the bed warm and soft and even his feet aren’t cold. Stiles snuggles deeper underneath the comforter and turns onto his side. Derek drops down too, face very close to Stiles’.
“So you gonna tell me why you snuck into my bed, Stiles?” Derek asks him quietly.
“I didn’t sneak into your bed,” Stiles grouses.
“All the evidence is against you, Spongebob,” Derek says and he’s got this look on his face, this knowing look, it makes all the blood pool in Stiles’ cheeks. He knows exactly what his face is like, red along the edges of his jaws, flushed high up his cheekbones and he moans with embarrassment, dragging the covers up to his face. “I don’t know what’s going on,” Derek goes on in that same soft voice, “but it feels … right. Somehow.” He tugs at the blanket and breathes deeply when Stiles reemerges. “You smell like you belong.”
Stiles knows Derek can hear his heart go wild and there’s nothing he can do about it, so he ignores it. “My god, I’m starving,” he says and Derek laughs.
“I can tell. Come on, let’s go downstairs and––“
“No,” Stiles says. He grabs Derek’s wrist as he’s about to leave the bed and pulls him back. Derek tilts his head, waiting for an explanation but doesn’t pull himself free. Stiles swallows, thinks about what he’s doing.
If this is really it, if this is the last day he gets, he’s not going to ruin it. He’ll step between Derek and whatever threat comes next, but at least he’ll have this day. His fingers tremble slightly as he slips them between Derek’s and he finds his courage when Derek just squeezes. “Can we… go somewhere? For breakfast, I mean. Get, get pancakes, or waffles or whatever you like. Just, away from here and, just you and me.”
The corners of Derek’s mouth curl up. He looks mildly baffled but says, “Yeah, sure. I’d like that.” Stiles lets go of his hand and gets out of bed. “You going out like this?”
Stiles looks down at himself and shrugs. “Why not,” he says. “Just gimme some socks.”
They drive to the nearest diner, a cheap place that Stiles loves anyway because he used to go there with his mom when his dad was working Sundays. Derek smiles at the waitress and Stiles wonders who he’s seeing, if this is Derek what he’d been like before the fire. If this is who Derek would’ve grown into if he’d never lost his family.
He wonders why he gets to witness Derek like this now.
“Stiles?” Derek asks and Stiles blinks. The waitress is looking down at him.
“Coffee please,” he says, “and blueberry pancakes.”
“You all right?” Derek asks when she’s gone.
“Um. Yeah. I must’ve, um. Never mind.” Stiles doesn’t know what to think so he hides behind his menu.
Stiles gets free pancakes because of his pajamas and Derek laughs and laughs at him, like Stiles has never heard before. It’s as heartwarming as it makes him ache. That it took so long to trust Derek when all the while he could’ve had this, and now it’s too late.
“I don’t know what it is about you today, Stiles,” Derek says suddenly, eyes serious and cinder-bright, “but I haven’t felt this carefree since before my family died.” He doesn’t even wince, just looks at Stiles with a tinge of sadness in his smile.
“I’m sorry,” Stiles says, shifting his empty coffee cup around and around.
“For what?” Derek asks, putting a hand on Stiles’ wrist to stop the movement.
“For your loss. For not realizing earlier that you’re actually really great.” Quietly, a bit afraid he might be overstepping a boundary, Stiles adds, “For not being there when your life sucked and you came to me and I basically told you to go die in a ditch.”
Derek stares at Stiles, his hand tightening marginally over Stiles’ fingers. “You didn’t let me die in a ditch though. Or drown in a pool. And you’re here now, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” Stiles says, feeling breathless. “Whenever you need me.”
They don’t talk much after that. Derek’s always there though, touching Stiles one way or another, leaning into him as they get out of the diner, brushing his fingers over Stiles’ arm on their way to the car.
“Where to?” Derek asks, both hands on the wheel, the engine purring softly as it idles.
“Anywhere you want to go,” Stiles says. It’s only eleven am but he feels like he’s losing. He desperately wants to cling to this, even though he realizes it’s not real. Not all of it. It’s like he’s seeing something he could’ve had if he hadn’t been so bent on blaming Derek for all the changes in his previously uneventful life.
They’re not moving so Stiles blinks a few times against the burn in his eyes and then turns to Derek, who is staring at him.
“Will you tell me?” Derek asks quietly and Stiles shakes his head.
“I can’t,” he says and the disappointment in Derek’s eyes makes the feeling of all this slipping away flare like a burn. “I want to be here though. With you. So go wherever you want to go.”
They end up driving to the coast, which takes Stiles completely by surprise. He’d always imagined Derek to stick to the woods, his territory.
“I love the smell of the sea,” Derek tells him and Stiles knows he was being obvious again.
“Yeah?” he says. “Doesn’t it all smell like seafood?”
“Some days,” Derek says easily as he parks the car. “But mostly it smells sort of... endless. I can’t explain it. It smells like freedom. Like the wind drives away the last of the smoke.”
Stiles gets them ice cream, chocolate and vanilla because he thinks deep down Derek’s a bit of a traditionalist, and then they settle on a big rock where the beach is empty. Shoulder to shoulder they eat in silence and there’s a moment Stiles goes beet red when he catches Derek watching him lick a smear of vanilla off his wrist. He doesn’t catch it all, doesn’t really know it until Derek’s mouth is suddenly on his hand, sucking gently at the sticky skin.
Stiles’ heartbeat fails to go back to normal after that and he catches Derek looking away and smiling more than once. It’s quiet and peaceful and exactly what Stiles needs after all they’ve been through.
He just wishes it could last.
Derek looks different on the beach. Stiles can’t put his finger on why, just thinks that, seeing Derek in the open and in the sunlight like that, he’s not meant to be a creature of the night at all.
The sun has started to set when Stiles catches sight of her.
“I just need a second,” he says to Derek and gets to his feet. The sand is still warm between his toes, the upturned cuffs of his pajamas wet from the seawater.
“Stiles?” Derek asks, but he doesn’t look back.
“Please,” Stiles tells the same woman who had stabbed him, “Not him. Not today.”
“I’m not here to kill Derek,” she says.
“So it’s me,” Stiles breathes and he feels like he could fall to his knees in relief. “Who are you and why are you doing this?”
She smiles and it’s not unkind. “You could call me a portent. Or a harbinger of death, just not the way you expect. You were both on the cusp of a decision in your lives. I just made sure you took the right turn, this time.”
“This time?” Stiles asks, narrowing his eyes at her. He looks over at Derek who still sits in the sand, arms wrapped around his knees, watching them. The sunlight makes his skin look golden and it suddenly strikes Stiles why Derek looks so different. His shoulders aren’t rounded with burdens and the soot-stained circles beneath his eyes are gone. I’m good for him, Stiles thinks and the thought settles heavy in his bones. Stiles can’t see Derek’s expression from here but since he hasn’t even moved after she mentioned killing either of them, Stiles knows she’s done something to stop him from listening in.
“You made your choice before. It was the wrong one. It turned into heartache and loneliness and death. Beacon Hills has seen so much of that lately, the balance needed to be restored. Giving you another chance to make the right decision was the best way to achieve that.”
“You couldn’t just ––” Stiles waves his hands about, remembering all the times he’d seen Derek bleed to death, and the one time the sword made him bleed. “–– Have told me?”
“Easy lessons are rarely worth learning,” the woman says and when she smiles she looks decades younger. “A sacrifice had to be made.”
“Do I have to die again?” He whispers. He doesn’t think it makes him a coward, for all he’s never considered himself to be brave.
“It’s not a sacrifice if it doesn’t hurt. You have until sunset.” And with that, she’s gone.
Eyes on the sinking sun, Stiles walks back to Derek. He has an hour, maybe.
He stops a few feet away, facing the ocean and Derek gets up, goes to stand behind him. He puts a hand on Stiles’ stomach and pulls him closer. “Are you going to tell me, what that was all about?” He asks, mouth right beside Stiles’ ear.
“Yeah,” Stiles breathes the lie, leaning back against Derek’s solid weight. “I guess I’d better. Can we go home though? I’d like to get out of these pajamas now.”
“Which home do you mean?” Derek asks, turning Stiles around by his hips. “Yours or mine.” Stiles opens and closes his mouth a few times as he lets the implications of that sink in.
It’s not like he has clothes at Derek’s to change into.
Derek laughs at Stiles’ expression, lifting his face to the sky and Stiles just takes him in, unbearably torn between utter delight and anxiety. He presses his forehead against Derek’s neck and Derek tightens his grip, holds him closer and rubs his jaw against Stiles’ temple. “I’ve never kissed anyone before,” Stiles murmurs, “but I’ve never wanted it more than right now.”
Derek pushes at Stiles so he can look at him. His smile is radiant and pleased. He frames Stiles’ face with both hands and continues to smile even when he’s pressing his mouth against Stiles’.
Waking up is downright painful this time. The sun is trying to stab right through Stiles’ eyelids and he moans pathetically. It feels like he’s been ground face first into the mattress by a heavy weight all night. Which, huh, that heavy weight is moving.
“Ow,” Derek groans, right in Stiles ear. He shifts and Stiles takes what feels like the first deep breath in hours. He blames the lack of oxygen for the few extra seconds it takes him to catch on.
“It’s Sunday!” Stiles cries after scrabbling for his phone, sending the pillow flying at the same time Derek says, “I’m alive,” in quiet astonishment. There’s a beat of silence and then they gape at each other.
“What?” Derek says, snatching the phone from Stiles’ hand, breathing hard as he stares at it.
“What do you mean,” Stiles asks him. “What do you mean you’re alive? You’re not supposed to remember, you never remembered anything before.”
Derek slowly pushes himself up, mirrors the way Stiles kneels on the bed. “Stiles,” he says slowly, “what has been happening to you for the past week?”
Stiles swallows hard, it makes his ribs ache like an echo of the car accident he died in last night on their way to Derek’s house. It had been awful and horrific and Stiles thinks the ghost pain where the seatbelt cut into his neck and chest will never go away. Neither will the memory of the expression on Derek’s face when he pulled Stiles out of the wreckage, a desperate hurt of briefly having and then losing. Again.
“You kept dying,” Stiles says, feeling like he could choke on the words. “Over and over and there was nothing I could do. And then I stepped in front of you once, and this woman came, told me I had one more chance. We had this one day and it was ––” Stiles stops, looks up from his hands to Derek.
“Amazing,” Derek finishes for him. His tone betrays nothing but his eyes are ablaze.
“Yeah,” Stiles whispers. His face is heating up, blood pooling in his cheeks. It feels like they are on the edge of something, like it could go either way, wax or wane. Stiles can’t look away even though he really wants to. Derek’s eyes are roaming all over him, searching him, checking, Stiles realizes, for wounds that aren’t there.
“It was always Saturday,” Derek says. “Every day was Saturday and every morning I knew I was going to watch you die until––”
“It was you who died.” Stiles wonders if the entire world is trembling, or if it’s just him about to shudder out of his skin. The room is thick with something, Derek feels it too, would look like he’s ready to fight if it wasn’t for the way his eyes are searching Stiles. His muscles are coiled tight as he sits on his knees at the other end of the bed. He’s waiting, Stiles understands and he couldn’t stop the smile spreading over his face if he wanted to.
It’s the sign Derek needed and he makes a soft noise, belying the speed with which he crosses the bed. On hands and knees he crawls over and then he’s in Stiles’ space, cupping the back of his head with one hand, fingers of the other splayed wide between his shoulderblades, pulling him close. Stiles expects a kiss, but instead Derek presses his nose behind Stiles' ear, inhaling deeply. Stiles gets it, because he’s digging his fingers into Derek’s back so hard it would leave bruises on anyone else. They need to make sure this is real.
Later, they’ll have to talk about this, because they are jumping from mild dislike and severe distrust to … something neither of them is quite ready to define. There’ll be time for that. Real time. Not the kind that repeats like a broken record, scratching and grating until they feel raw.
In this moment, Stiles doesn’t care about any of that. He wants to kiss Derek, taste him, and when Derek doesn’t give any indication of being done with the nuzzling and getting with the plan, Stiles buries a hand in his hair and yanks.
Derek’s eyes are lined with red, and Stiles can see him blink to reign in it.
“Don’t,” he says. “I wanna see. Lemme see?”
Derek lets his eyes bleed full red, but Stiles doesn’t get much chance to enjoy it because he’s being pushed back into the bed, Derek heavy and hot above him and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t keep his eyes open. Not with Derek whining softly every time Stiles shifts against him, sucking softly at Stiles’ tongue. Stiles is mindless almost instantly, can’t even pretend he’s kissing back, he just lets Derek open him up and mouth at him like there won’t be a tomorrow.
Stiles vaguely wonders when that particular feeling will go away.
Derek mumbles something, and Stiles is too lust-stupid to catch it the first time.
“What?” he says, pulling back a bit and putting a hand against Derek’s jaw so he can look at him. Derek appears to be as out of it as he is.
“We’ll get it right, this time,” Derek says, “and later I want you to tell me about that day we had. The good one, not any of the others.” There’s something a bit haunted in his eyes, and Stiles figures he probably looks very much the same. He pulls Derek down until he can feel him everywhere and smothers the promises he wants to make with Derek’s mouth.
Later. They have time, after all.