So, here’s the thing about the Spark; it both is and isn’t something special.
The spark itself? Is even more common than actual diamonds. Everyone has it to one degree or the other because the spark is life itself. It’s the beginning, the end, and every last thing in the middle. What separates a Spark from a normal human being or a squirrel or a stalagmite or a discarded Dasani bottle is that they have a little extra spark along with the will, the need, and the imagination to use it.
Stiles has all four of those things, but lacks that crucial fifth step where you actually have a freaking clue what to do with yourself afterwards because ,as it turns out, there is no Hogwarts. There’s no benevolent mentor. Stiles does not have a magical Mister Miyagi. Dr. Deaton is not interested in the job and Miss Morrell is a little too interested.
The only instruction he gets it this and it comes from a witch that Boyd ends up having to kill because she’s trying to summon up a demon to do …something. She never really was clear on where she planned on going with that and Stiles wasn’t in a position to ask.
“The spark is what you make it.” She says this as she strops the ivory-handled straight razor she plans to slit Stiles’ throat with. “Everyone is different with different sparks. The only thing that stays the same is the duty using it imposes on you.”
“Duty? I don’t understand.” Stiles is making a weak show of struggling against his bonds, which is really a cover for the fact that he’s dislocated one wrist and is wiggling out of the handcuffs she used on him. He has never been so glad that he inherited his dad’s broad wrists in his life.
“You will.” She murmurs, eyeing her reflection in the blade’s mirror surface. “You will.”
The first time he wakes up in the middle of the night full of the need to be doing in a way that has nothing to do with his usual hypermanic phases, he understands. That time it makes him drive all the way out to Mount Shasta to paint a mystical sigil on Doctor Fenris’ front step, which somehow prevents the man from committing suicide when he gets home from an overnight call but also makes him forget that he ever even heard the word ‘werewolf’.
Dr. Deaton is waiting for Stiles when he gets home, not to lecture him but rather to hand him a beer he’s too young to buy for himself and clap him on the shoulder.
“Does it get easier?” He asks the older man as he cracks open the bottle using the edge of his kitchen counter.
“No.” Deaton sighs and looks (just for a moment) like he’s half a million years old. “It never does.”
“Don’t sugar coat it for me or anything, Doc.” Stiles gripes.
Deaton snorts and gives him a smile that is somehow so much more genuine than the benevolent ‘all knowing’ expression he tends to save for people like Scott and Derek. It occurs to Stiles in that instant that he isn’t Deaton’s student anymore –if he ever was.They’re equals in this thing, whatever it is, and have been since Stiles looked at a bumper sticker and used his willpower and imagination to create something out of nothing.
“Why do you think I brought you the beer?” He asks.
So it becomes just one more secret because after the first twenty you might as well keep going, only this one is one he’s keeping from everyone except a few select individuals and even they aren’t people he can trust all the time. Alan Deaton has always danced to the beat of his own drum and Miss Morrell’s motivations are as opaque as her demeanor is inscrutable.
Stiles refines his style and learns some things about himself in the process, mainly that he will never be a martial badass and should probably leave that up to the werewolves. He’s very much a background kind of guy; more of a Q than a 007. Eventually he’s going to have to be okay with that. It hasn’t happened yet, but Stiles supposes there’s time for all that. The Universe is surprisingly courteous that way. It never drags him out on a call the night before a test or in the middle of Werewolf Trouble or makes him late for a meeting. What it demands is never more than he can give, which is actually kind of distressing because that still covers a lot of territory.
Still there are parts of the internet that exist for Stiles alone and he never has to live without a book he really needs (or sometimes just wants.) They always find their way into his hands be it through the library, a recycling bin full of discarded books, or the occasional yard sale. His window box grows plants that normally wither under the California sun and are remarkably resilient to being trodden on by jackbooted werewolves. It’s nothing he would have called ‘magic’ a year ago, but it’s his.
His extra-curricular activities and his extra-extra-curricular activities very rarely overlap. Once Stiles would have said they never do, but that stopped being true when he woke up at 4 am on a Sunday with the overwhelming need for a breakfast burrito from Mama Ocielo’s.
Sometimes the call of duty takes weird forms, okay?
So he piles into his Jeep, ignoring the disbelieving noise his dad makes at seeing him showered and awake so early, and drives over to an unbelievably sketchy taqueria on the north side run by an eighty-year old Mexican immigrant and all her grandchildren where the telenovellas never end and heaven is served on a paper plate wrapped in tin foil with a plastic cup of salsa verde on the side.
He is not expecting to see Derek Hale sitting on the (possibly stolen) park bench out front looking lost. The foil-wrapped burrito in his hand is less surprising, except for the part where it’s no longer steaming in the cool early-morning air and has clearly been allowed to go cold. It’s one of those Ultimate Meat Destroyers that’s like 3000 calories in one go and in the hands of a werewolf. That thing should have been demolished by now.
Not that he gets to see Derek eat very often, but seeing a werewolf off his feed is very distressing to Stiles for obvious reasons.
“Yo.” He says, strolling up to the bench from the darkened parking lot. “Derek.” He tacks the name on in an afterthought that makes him sound kind of weird, but whatever. If Derek hasn’t figured out that he’s a weirdo by now then there’s no hope for him.
Derek’s eyes flicked up to him looking … looking bright icy blue and like he doesn’t know Stiles at all.
“Well shit.” Stiles says, with feeling.
So time-travelling fifteen year old werewolves. They are apparently a thing.
“I was on a vision quest.” Derek mutters it with all the butt-hurt dignity of any teenager ever into his second destroyer of the evening, which he got to-go and is currently inhaling while seated in the passenger side of Stiles’ jeep. “It’s part of my rite of adulthood.” He pauses and grimaces a familiar grimace. “Normally no one in my family actually gets a vision. You just stay outside all night, get cold and hungry, then come back in the morning for a pancake breakfast and presents. Lucky me, I suppose.”
Stiles squints at Derek. “Mostly I am offended that you are growing facial hair at fifteen.” He says and pokes Derek in the jaw. Derek tolerates it surprisingly well. “What the hell, man?”
“Werewolves hit puberty earlier.” Young Derek says like Stiles isn’t mooshing his cheek with an index finger and has yet to draw back a bleeding stump. “It just lasts longer and manifests differently.”
The thing is that Stiles can absolutely buy that this is a much younger Derek from the future. His expression is open in ways that Now Derek’s never is and maybe never will be again. He emotes, for chrissakes. Stiles didn’t believe until now that Derek even knew what emotions other than rage and tragedy were.
He still calls Now Derek up on the phone to verify that there are indeed two Dereks running around Beacon Hills.
“Is it an emergency?” Now Derek growls into the phone.
“Not really, unless you count…” Stiles is talking to a dial tone before he gets much further than that. “Yup, that’s you.” He tells Young Derek, who is regarding him with this sort of adorable crinkled puppy dog expression that reminds him of Scott in weird mentally incestuous ways.
“Are you sure?” Young Derek asks. “He sounded like an asshole.”
Stiles considers his response, but there’s no good way of putting it. “Because you …kind of are?” He winces as Derek’s face goes from ‘confused puppy’ to ‘kicked puppy’. Stiles drums his fingers on the steering wheel as he talks. “Look, you’ve got reasons; like, legitimate and heartbreaking reasons that are traumatizing just to hear about. I don’t even know what all they are because for every one thing you let slip, there’s always like ten more lurking in the wings just waiting to rain on someone’s parade. Usually yours.” He shrugs one shoulder. “Yeah, I know, not what you want to be hearing on your vision quest of adulthood. The good news is you become an Alpha?”
If Stiles hopes that that would give Younger Derek some hope for what is looking to be an abysmal future then he hoped incorrectly. Too late he remembers exactly how Derek got to be an Alpha. “There is less patricide involved than you’re probably imagining.” He adds belatedly. “Uh, you got any idea how long this quest is supposed to last?”
Derek wets his lips (and Stiles does his level best not to get distracted by his bizarrely adorable overbite. Since when did Derek even have that? This isn’t fair.) “Until dawn, I guess. That’s what my uncle told me; the sun will guide you home.” He looks toward the horizon, where the sun isn’t even warming the sky yet. “I suppose I have a while.”
‘His Uncle’ being Peter. Oi vey.
“My dad’s at work by now.” Stiles makes the offer because really, it’s in everyone’s best interests to keep this Derek off the streets. “You can chill out at my place until it’s time to go back.”
Derek cocks his head and considers Stiles. “Yeah.” He says at length. “We can do that.”
The drive to Stiles’ place is mercifully uneventful, although Derek putters with the radio (ignoring Stiles’ declaration of ‘driver picks the tunes, passenger shuts his cakehole’) until he finds a soft jazz station and settles into his seat with an expression of what can only be described as meditative bliss.
“Woulda figured you for a classic rock guy.” Stiles observes, unable to let it go.
“Music soothes the savage beast.” Derek says completely without irony. He cracks an eye to peer over at Stiles. “My sister listens to the loud stuff enough that I like the break when I can get it.”
“Figures Laura would have been bossy.” Stiles sighs. He’s never been able to get a read on Laura Hale’s personality beyond ‘tragic’ and ‘dead’, but given the fact that she was raised to be the next Alpha it follows that she’d have had a forceful personality.
“She is.” Derek agrees softly. He looks up as Stiles pulls into the drive and says, “This is the Sheriff’s house.”
“Yup. My dad.” Stiles confirms and frowns as Derek stares at him. “What?”
“I don’t recognize you.” Derek says, looking oddly intent. “I feel like I would have recognized you. My mom and Mrs. Stilinski are friends.”
“Yeah, well, I’d be in the fourth grade and using a different name.” Stiles dismisses Derek with a wave. “Does she have a weedy hyperactive ten year old with a name no one can say? That’s me seven years ago. Come on in. I have an xbox and a bunch of games you won’t get to play for another four years.”
Derek perks up at that, which is something Stiles files away in the back of his mind for the next pack bonding session.
As it turns out fifteen-year-old Derek is a murder at fighting games. They get through Unreal Tournament and Soul Caliber IV before Stiles calls a break. Seriously, he is not going to be able to sit for a week after that beating but something about young Derek’s sportsmanship makes him not mind.
“I need snacks if I’m going to be defending my honor this hard.” He groans and kicks his feet out in front of him. As if on cue, Derek’s stomach rumbles. Loudly. “Seriously? Already?” Stiles groans and Derek ducks his head as if apologizing for his bodily needs. “You’re worse than Scott and Isaac combined. Fine. I’m going to make nachos. I’ve got some books you can read on the shelf over there.”
In retrospect, Stiles is going to admit that leaving a time travelling werewolf alone in a room with all his journals, notebooks, and the entire internet is a bad idea. In his defense, Stiles was planning on being gone for ten, fifteen minutes tops. He wasn’t planning on fielding a panicked phonecall from Scott who just remembered the physics exam they had scheduled for Monday.
Stiles putters his way through making nachos and only manages to extract himself after some forty odd minutes by promising to email Scott scans of all his notes in preparation for an epic cram session.
His notebooks are scattered across the floor when he gets back up to his room with a triple portion of re-heated nachos balanced on his fingertips. Derek is nowhere to be seen, but when Stiles looks at his computer he sees a browser window up and it’s… it’s displaying an entry from the Beacon Hills Gazette archive.
No need to say which one.
Stiles is just starting to panic when he looks out his (closed and locked from the inside) window to see the sun has crested the horizon. The breath leaves him in one gust.
‘The sun will guide you home’, Derek had said and apparently it did.
“Well, shit.” Stiles mutters and puts the nachos down on his desk. “Could I possibly have fucked that up any worse than I did?”
Stiles holds still and listens for the sound of causality collapsing in on itself. It fails to happen and Stiles is forced to conclude that the answer is ‘yes.’
He emails Scott the physics notes on general principle and then crawls into bed for a good long mope.
At some point while he sleeps the page on his laptop is replaced first by a 404 error and then by an article on a gardening show.
It takes Stiles all the way into third period to figure out that something is wrong.
Scott’s pretty much the same, if a bit clumsier, and is still every bit as gone on Allison as he was before so apparently that is all Scott and not some freaky werewolf mating thing. Allison seems a bit…perkier; less like three of her family members went nuts and all died in increasingly gruesome ways over the course of a month anyway.
Isaac’s in another class all together –advanced placement- and is walking upright and bright eyed with way less leather in his wardrobe than Stiles remembers. Lydia is less brittle-looking and Jackson is his old self, which is to say: a raging asshat. It’s not all sunshine and roses, though. Erica is still wearing gray and has spots. Miss Morrell is walking around with a pinched expression like someone peed in her cheerios this morning and Dr. Deaton is sitting on the hood of Stiles’ jeep when he makes his way into the parking lot.
“What the hell is going on?” Stiles hisses as he gets to within earshot of the vet and out of earshot of any potential werewolves in his class. He’s spotted two Hales thus far; raven-haired twin girls who stick close together and giggle a lot. He knows they were a big family back in the day so there’s no telling how many others are around.
“The timeline’s been changed.” Deaton has a soda for Stiles this time, not being so dumb as to hand a minor an alcoholic beverage in the middle of a high school parking lot. “You, I, and Bianca are the only ones who will remember the other world. It’s part of what we are. Using the spark makes you a fixed point in time. Your memories will start to fill in as the day goes by.”
“My memories? Screw my memories, how do I fix this?” Stiles squawks and gesticulates in some manner that he hopes will convey the massively fucked up situation they’re in right now. “This isn’t the right world!”
Deaton catches him by the wrist, forcing him to stop flailing around. “It is the right world, Stiles.” He says, all infinite patience and acceptance. “Reality is not what you think it is. It’s constantly changing and re-arranging itself. The universe self-edits.” Deaton releases Stiles and points across the parking lot to where Scott and Allison are being adorable all over each other by Allison’s SUV. “The people you love –and who love you- are more than the things they have done. Scott is no different as a boy than he was as a werewolf.”
“…but a relationship is a sense of shared history. If the history is now just fictional then what kind of relationship can we possibly have?” Stiles points out. He starts to pace as he tries to bleed off some of his distress through physical activity and furious analysis.
“The same relationship you had before; one of mutual trust and occasional respect. The important things haven’t changed. Reality is resilient that way. It’s not fiction.” Deaton taps Stiles in the forehead. “Everything has really happened, you’re just remembering the way things could have gone.”
“Is this why you’re so distant all of the time?” Stiles casts about looking for something, anything stable to hold onto and finding none. “How can you connect –really connect- with someone when they might not remember you the next day?”
“That’s not how it works, Stiles.” Deaton sighs. “It’s not always easy, I’ll admit. Peter and Derek Hale are people I usually like and respect, but I did not like or respect the Peter and Derek you met first.” His gaze turns hard. “However I know that there’s more to both those people. I know because I have seen them at their best and at their worst. You will always be bouncing back and forth between timelines, Stiles, but the people you love will always be there. The important things never change. Somewhere inside they are always the same.”
“You say the universe self-edits.” Stiles whips around, only taking barest notice of the fact that no one in the parking lot is paying attention to this bizarre exchange. “Then my world, my original timeline had to serve a purpose. What was it? Do you know?”
Deaton shakes his head. “It was a dark time.” He admits. “And it lasted for a very long time. I can’t pretend to understand the innermost workings of the universe, but if I had to guess… I would say it was to make you.”
Stiles goes still. “What?”
“You didn’t exist before the shift that led to the Hale fire.” Deaton points towards the Hale twins who are passing by, not even looking in their direction. “Before that Scott was just my well-meaning, if slightly dim assistant. I never saw the potential for him to be a hero, but look where you led him.” Scott laughs at something Allison is saying. “He may not remember all the lessons he learned in your timeline, but part of him still has them stored away all the same. He’s deeper now than he was before and it’s because you exist. It’s one of the reasons I declined to train you at first. I had no idea what you were. I have never witnessed the birth of a Spark before. I thought you might be another Bianca and for that I am sorry.”
Despite the fact that he wants no part of what Deaton is selling, Stiles can’t help but remember Young Derek saying ‘I would have recognized you.’ Wouldn’t that have been true? His scent should have been familiar at least even if his mom wasn’t prone to dragging her son along to Girls-Nite-Out with Mrs. Hale.
“So, what? I’m supposed to just … go home? Play video games and hang out with Scott like nothing ever happened? Like we didn’t almost die half a dozen times, like his girlfriend’s family isn’t eight different kinds of crazy just waiting to go off?”
“That’s exactly what you should do.” Deaton hands him the soda bottle. “Go home and take some time to absorb everything that is different. Learn the changes. This isn’t a perfect world. Beacon Hills doesn’t know how to be the peaceful hamlet it pretends to be. Something will happen soon enough.”
Stiles accepts the drink. What else can he do?
Absorbing things, however, is going to have to wait because when Stiles gets home Derek is waiting in front of his house, pacing back and forth on the front walk like he’s trying to convince himself to go up and knock.
He and Derek don’t know each other in this world. Stiles has ‘absorbed’ enough to know that much. Derek is too busy blowing up the bestseller’s list to spend time hanging around teenagers like his old self did.
(Stiles pauses for a moment to regret the fact that he’ll never know if the other Derek was also a novelist. Stiles wouldn’t have guessed so, but in retrospect he seemed to have an awful lot of money for someone with no visible employment.)
“Hi there.” He calls out and gets a vicious stab of enjoyment out of the way Derek freezes and then slowly turns around …wearing a disturbingly friendly smile. Stiles knows that smile. He’s seen it turned on poor unsuspecting deputies who ended up having to get treated for a concussion afterwards. That is Derek-trying-to-be-charming, which almost always ends with someone getting knocked out. “Oh my god, could you maybe try a little less hard?” He blurts it out without thinking and ducks in shame when Derek’s eyebrows crawl up into the vicinity of his hairline. “Can we pretend I didn’t just say that?”
“You…” Derek wets his lips and it is every bit as distracting on twenty-four-year-old Derek as it was on fifteen-year-old Derek. Maybe moreso now that Stiles doesn’t feel like he’s creeping on a kid. “You recognize me.”
“What, do your creepy werewolf powers tell you…” Stiles slaps a hand over his traitorous mouth, which does nothing to allay the surprise… surprised pleasure? On Derek’s face. “Uh, yes. Hi. Derek. Hello there. Um.”
“You remember me.” Derek takes a step forward and then another. “You found me at the taco place when I was on my vision quest. We played video games and you went downstairs to make nachos right before the sun came up.”
“And you read all my notebooks.” Stiles agrees. “About that.”
Derek has the good grace to look chagrined (Holy Mother Mary, this Derek knows what shame is.) “I know I shouldn’t have, but I had to know.” He drags a hand through his hair and Stiles realizes that there is no metric ton of product keeping it in that weird reverse duck-tail Derek used to sport. It’s all clean and…touchable now.
NO. Bad thought! BAD. Stop that.
“Look, when you called the… me you knew, I could hear him talking.” Derek frowns. “I can’t imagine talking like that to someone who was being nice to me. I had to know why I was like that. Why you kept talking about werewolves who weren’t part of my family.” He swallows. “Why you used the past tense when you talked about Laura.”
“I’m sorry about that.” Stiles admits and rubs a hand over his head as he drops his gaze. “I probably could have handled that better.” He blinks when someone catches his hand. It’s Derek.
“No, you did what you were supposed to do.” Derek isn’t looking at him though. He’s looking at Stiles’ hand in his own.
They’re of equal height. Derek’s got a bare half inch on Stiles, but you wouldn’t really be able to tell that by looking at their hands. Derek’s got slightly shorter fingers and a broader palm where Stiles has abnormally long and flexible fingers and paler skin with a dusting of freckles across his knuckles.
“You’re supposed to meet someone during your quest.” Derek speaks slowly, as he is prone to. It’s nice to see that this at least hasn’t changed. “It can be a family member or someone you’re …close to. They show you what you’re supposed to learn. Even if you didn’t mean to, I think I was supposed to see those things you left out. I was supposed to learn from it. I did.” He frowns. “I hope I did. It’s different here now. I wasn’t expecting you to remember me.” He looks up, strangely earnest. “I had no idea how to say ‘thank you’.”
“You’re, uh, welcome.” Stiles rocks back on his heels, nervous energy building inside of him again. “I really shouldn’t, but I apparently do? So this is all kind of weird for me.”
“I’m sorry.” Derek looks sorry too even though he didn’t do anything wrong, not really. Was he supposed to just let his family burn? “Everything is different for you now. I didn’t know that would happen.”
“No, look…” Stiles can’t quite get past the part where they’re still holding hands. Seriously, what is this? “This? The remembering? That’s me. What I am. I guess you could say. I don’t really understand it yet, to be honest. But it’s nothing you did to me. So don’t be sorry.”
“Oh.” Derek nods, looking very serious. “I’m not. Is the thing. I should be, but I’m not because …it’s you. You’re here.” He edges a little closer and Stiles realizes that something has gotten lost in translation as Derek’s hand closes around his. “Actual you and I get that I am not your actual Derek, but … I’d like it if you gave me the chance to be.”
This is some incredibly heavy shit based on three hours of an acquaintance. “Look, Derek…” Stiles starts to say, but for once he can’t find any words that means what he wants to convey.
“It wasn’t a coincidence that you are the one who found me.” Derek hasn’t let go of his hand, but he’s eased up on his grip a little. “I was granted a vision and I have to believe it was for a reason. You were part of that and I think I know why. I hope I know why.” He takes a breath. “I’m older than you are now and that’s weird, I know, but I got to know you when we were closer to the same age. The other me was an asshole to you, but you were still kind to him. I would like to not be an asshole. To you. Specifically. It turns out I’m kind of an ass generally, but I can do better when it counts. I came here hoping you’d give me the chance to try.”
“Dude, are you asking me out?” Stiles kind of hates that his voice has gone high and thin, but none of that matters in the face of this bashful little boy grin Derek’s giving him right now.
He thinks back to what Deaton said and has to wonder if this was the Derek hiding underneath his Derek’s protective shell of scowls and leather.
“Yeah.” Derek says. “Your dad is totally going to shoot me, but so long as he’s not using wolfsbane I should be fine. I can take it.”
“I know you can take it.” Stiles mutters. “Speaking of things I’d rather never see again: how about less getting shot? I can handle cutting bullets out of my my jerkass alpha, but it’s less cool when we’re talking boyfriend material.”
Derek grins, bright and fast and real. “…I can do that.” He promises, edging closer still. “So is that a yes?”
“Yeah, I guess it is.” Stiles says and means it; yes to everything, to a whole new world with new problems and old faces with new smiles because the important things never change …but sometimes you see them a little differently.