Stiles woke up in increments, mouth full of cotton and scratchy eyed. He was swaddled up in his blankets like some kind of human-burrito, but he noted absently in a sleepy daze that his bed smelled a little different. Smoother, earthier, a little less teenage-boy ripe. It was actually really nice. He could definitely smell the undercurrents of come though, which made total sense because his bed was his favourite place to jerk. In fact, he could smell everything…
He tried to flail and sit up in one spasmodic movement but no, burrito kept his movements trapped, resulting in him rolling off the bed onto a hard wooden floor. Definitely not his floor. He scrabbled out of the covers, his face smooshed against the cool wood, and squeezed his eyes shut, momentarily thinking that maybe if he didn’t look, nothing would be wrong. Maybe this would have worked for 16 year old Stiles, but the grown up version of himself knew that the bad shit was going to happen no matter how hard you tried to pretend otherwise. He carefully, quietly, pushed himself to all fours, not quite willing to think about how easy the movement was, how his muscles all just aligned and lifted his weight with ridiculous ease, and waited for a moment, listening. Just listening, to the overwhelming sounds assaulting him from every angle, but muted enough that he just knew they were coming from outside. He huffed and sat back on his heels, his face feeling pinched and not at all slack and open jawed like it usually would be whenever he got this confused, and looked around the room. Spartan, was a word that could be used to describe this place. See also: Barren. Bare. Inhospitable. A perfect natural habitat for Derek Hale.
Stiles grimaced at that, but it felt weird and like his face wasn’t sure how to make that expression anymore. He wasn’t entirely capable of thinking about that abandoning jerk-face without grimacing, scowling, or sometimes, when he was alone at least, letting his face crumple into an expression of hurt and loss yet. That particular aching feeling of abandonment and worry was still fresh as a daisy in his chest. Still, Stiles was nothing if not pro-active, so he unfurled to his full height – yes, unfurled. Maybe for the first time ever in his life ever, a word like unfurled was applicable, as he stood and rolled his shoulders, his body feeling weirdly heavy and also awesome. Totally in control and not aching or sore or too hot or too cold or too full of barely contained energy. He still hadn’t really dared to, you know, look down at himself, or look in a reflective surface, or actually even acknowledge how this was so obviously not him, but he’d face that down later. Right now he just wanted to revel in the almost alien feeling of being calm for once.
Derek woke up somewhere very different than where he’d fallen asleep. Almost before he’d even snapped awake, he knew something was wrong, and his stomach roiled with the certainty. Not impending doom or anything like that, but just a steady feeling of wrongness. He felt dulled down around the edges, couldn’t hear or smell his surroundings like he should be able to. He knew he was in a bed, he was warm, and he was comfortable. Not his own bed, mind you. He was too hot, so he shoved down the comforter and scrubbed his hand through his hair, pushing the floppy mess away from his forehead. He definitely felt less coordinated than usual, and that hair definitely wasn’t his own. It was finer, fluffier. Softer to the touch. Kind of nice, objectively, but very much not his own. Still, he felt curiously un-panicked about this, almost detached really, even as he became more aware of the incessant humming under his skin, like his muscles were itching to move. So he did. He swung himself to sitting, and sighed a hefty, put upon sigh. This room was familiar, with the plexiglass free standing wall littered with scribbles and half strung bits of red string. He couldn’t even muster up any surprise as he lifted his hands, staring down at Stiles’ pale, long fingers. It was weird seeing them so still, actually; usually they were flitting and dancing about, wild gesticulations to go along with whatever Stiles was rambling about, or wracked with fine tremors as he carefully counted his fingers in those moments of paranoia and madness. But always in motion. The current buzz in his muscles that he was feeling went a long way to explaining why Stiles moved so much, all the time.
He flexed his fingers experimentally, flopping back on to the bed and idly scratching his bare belly. Now what? And if he was here, then where was Stiles?
“Scott? I’m freaking out,” Stiles near-panted into the phone, pacing around the room.
“Who is this?” Scott asked carefully, and Stiles could picture the exact confused look he’d be wearing. Alpha or not, Scott was still sometimes so endearingly puppy like.
“Dude!” he exclaimed with a gesture that in his own body would have been a flail. “It’s me. It’s Stiles.”
“Stiles.” Scott repeated, void of inflection.
“Uh yeah. Stiles. Your bestest bud. Your bro. You know. Stiles.”
“This isn’t Stiles’ number. And you don’t sound like Stiles. Actually, you kind of sound like-“
“Derek. Yeah. I know.” Stiles huffed and sat on the edge of the bed, curling and uncurling one hand into a fist. “Dude, I woke up this morning, and I don’t know what is going on but I’m… in Derek? Oh God, that’s just… bad place. Bad place in my brain,” Stiles stood and tried to rearrange his newly acquired facial features into something that would adequately express his discomfort. He wondered if it sounded like he was protesting too much.
“You’re in Derek,” Scott repeated again, slowly.
“Stop repeating me Scott!” Stiles whined, loudly. “Yes. I woke up, and hey presto, I’m Derek,” he finished angrily. “And I don’t know where I am, because that jackass hasn’t been in touch, at all. Not even once. He’s all ‘bye, see you never, off I go into the fricking sunset,’” Stiles groused.
“So if you are in Derek -”
“Please stop saying that,” Stiles muttered over him.
“- Then where are you? And where is Derek?” Scott finished, ignoring Stiles complaints.
“That’s… that’s actually a good point. I have to go. Stay by your phone.” Stiles hung up and rubbed a hand over the back of his neck, pointedly ignoring how firm and taut the muscles were there. Because A) Derek was pretty much built all over, and B) dude was strung tighter than… something tightly strung? Whatever, Stiles was in a crisis. No time for pithy word play.
He was back to pacing as he listened to the phone ringing, and literally, literally, growled when he heard his own voice saying “hello?”
“Derek?” he barked out, his voice sounding rough and yep, still growly. He wasn’t sure if this was some kind of residual bad feeling towards the guy, but Stiles couldn’t hold off on the rumbly voice.
“Stiles?” his own voice came back at him. Huh. He sounded kind of… higher. And softer, than he sounded to himself. Himself when he was in himself he means. He shook his head, wondering if the slightly canine behaviours like head shaking and cocking your head like Scott sometimes did were just inherently part of being all wolfy. Huh. He was wolfy right now. “Stiles!” came his own voice again, slightly more insistently. Oh, yeah. He needed to use words on the phone. He knew that.
“Yes it’s Stiles,” he hissed. “What the hell man?!”
“You need to come here,” his voice replied, sounding flatter than he’d heard it in a while. It was creepy.
“Dude. It’s called inflection. Try it. And I don’t even know where I am!”
There was a silence, and call him crazy but it felt a little bit guilty to him. Because yeah, Derek had left them all after the showdown in Mexico and no, he hadn’t kept them updated on his whereabouts or how he was doing or if he was even alive. “You’re still in California,” his voice sighed at him, sounding resigned. “It’ll take you a few hours, and my car is down in an underground parking lot about three blocks over. I’m assuming you woke up in my bed?”
“Yeah, I guess I did. This is pretty much your standard level of décor so…” Stiles glanced around at the bare walls again, catching his reflection in the windows. He’d poured himself into a shirt and sweats, grateful that Derek (and himself, now he’d given it some thought) slept in underwear.
“Shut up,” Derek said without any real venom, but Stiles could practically hear the eye roll. “It’s still the Toyota, and the keys -” he cut off abruptly, but Stiles could hear a muffled “what the fuck?” in the background, along with a yelp that sounded suspiciously like Scott.
“Hey? Hey! What’s going on?” he demanded, and was promptly ignored.
“Dude, put some pants on or something,” Scott whined.
“Hey! Yeah, put some pants on buddy. You don’t get to see the goods! Those are my goods!” Stiles shouted indignantly, aiming to be heard down the phone.
“I woke up in the body of a teenage boy Stiles,” Derek replied through gritted teeth. “I’m aware of ‘the goods’,” he sighed. “They were all welcoming and attention seeking this morning.”
“Oh man! You got my morning wood,” Stiles moaned, tugging a hand in his – Derek’s – hair.
“Yep,” Derek replied shortly.
“Did… Did you…” Stiles stuttered, completely unsure of if he even wanted an answer.
“Jesus! No!” Derek exclaimed, sounding horrified. Stiles was almost insulted.
“Whatever jackass. My dick is awesome. Where’re your keys?” he asked, trying to get this conversation back on track.
“In my jacket pocket. So is my wallet and probably anything else you’ll need. Just get here,” he ordered before hanging up. Stiles definitely did not mimic him in a high pitched voice, at all. Because he’s a grown up now. And hey, now he has the body and everything to prove it. He wouldn’t say he was tempted to go and hit a bar and fail to get very drunk, because werewolf, and see if he could pick up a woman (of course he could. With Derek’s body and Stiles social skills, he’d be a frickin’ ladykiller), but it was close. But having sex in Derek’s body? That would be too weird. Way too weird.
Also kind of intriguing, but mostly weird.
Stiles was just going to go find the stupid leather jacket, get in the stupid car and drive to figure out what stupid thing stupid Derek had done now to end them up like this. No detours to the bathroom to jack off, because when would he ever get the chance to experience it as someone else ever again? Not that he wanted to get his hands on Derek’s junk or anything. And no weirdly explosive orgasms that left him feeling sated but not totally exhausted and wrung out like usual. Nope. Not. At. All.
It was late afternoon by the time Stiles half leapt/half pulled himself onto the roof overhang, strolling towards the window with ease, even on the uneven and sloping surface, before pushing up the window and slipping inside. He could kind of get used to this whole being-in-control-of-his-body thing. What he definitely wasn’t prepared for was the surge of anger he felt when he saw himself – Derek – just standing behind Scott, looking over his shoulder at Stiles’ laptop screen. He wasn’t expecting the snarl that ripped from his chest, and he definitely didn’t coherently think out his reaction; just one minute he was standing in front of the window and the next he had himself – Derek – shoved up against the wall, Stiles’ fist curled up in the neck of his tee, face pressed far too close. He wanted to shake him, to rail at him and demand he explain why he didn’t ever even try to let them know where he was. How he was. Ask him how he could just do that?
Instead he just sucked in air and growled with every exhale, locked on his own big brown eyes, inhaling his own scent but overlaid with that same earthiness that he’d identified as Derek. It was weird, seeing his own face, his own body like this. There was no fear in his eyes, no twitchy little movements, just a stillness that scared Stiles. It reminded him too much of the Nogitsune, and he backed off quickly, pushing away from Derek and turning his back, feeling oddly like he was splintering apart. There were too many uncomfortable memories in this room right now for him to cope with.
“Dude,” Scott said quietly, standing slowly from the chair as though trying not to startle him. He placed a hand on Stiles’s shoulder, squeezing.
“I’m okay,” Stiles rasped, “I’m fine.”
“Look at your hands man,” Scott murmured, hand retreating. Stiles looked down at his hands, both clawed and tense. “Breath dude, it’s okay. Breath through it,” Scott coaxed, clasping a hand behind Stiles’ tense neck. Stiles did as he was told, falling back on all the old tricks he’d used when he was younger and convinced he was dying every time his body began to panic. It took some time, but he watched his hands change, felt the hum over his skin, like a hot gust of air mixed in with a subtle buzz, like vibrations everywhere. “There you go buddy,” Scott grinned.
“Stiles –“ Derek tried.
“Shut up,” Stiles ordered, squeezing his eyes shut. He couldn’t figure out why he was so mad. It’s like everything felt intensified in this body, like he couldn’t react normally anymore. “Just shut up for a minute, okay.”
“How about you go get us soda or juice or something?” Scott suggested, casting his eyes over towards where Derek stood at the door. Stiles felt the moment he walked out, like he could suddenly breath without tasting Derek in his throat.
“I don’t –“
“Dude, no worries. It’s okay. He hurt you,” Scott shrugged, as though it was the simplest thing in the world. “Plus, this has to be really weird for you. I mean, it’s weird enough for me. He’s so still.”
Stiles loved Scott so much in the moment, for just getting it. For understanding. For not making him say it. He nodded and moved to his bed, settling down on his front and inhaling his sheets. Even they were tainted with the faint scent of Derek though.
“It’s so weird seeing you like this. I mean not you. But Derek, all flopped out and pouty,” Scott smiled.
“I’m not pouty,” Stiles grumbled into his pillow. “Ugh. How do you deal with the smells? Everything smells so much.”
“You learn to filter it out. But uh. Doesn’t always work,” he made a little face and looked at Stiles, scrunching his nose up. Stiles stared back blankly until Scott sort of looked pained and glanced down towards Stiles’s crotch for a barely there moment.
Stiles just wailed wordlessly into his pillow again, feeling his face, his ears, burn with a blush. “I was curious!” he whined, just as Derek stepped back into the room, holding a little tower of soda cans.
He halted and closed his eyes slowly. “Don’t want to know,” he stated, opening his eyes back up and passing out drinks. “Finished growling at me?” he levelled at Stiles.
“Wow. That right there,” Derek gestured at Stiles’ face, “is why I don’t pout. Grown men should not pout.”
“I’m not pouty!” Stiles shouted, flapping his arms. Scott and Derek both watched him curiously.
“It’s weird, like he’s Stiles, but you,” Scott mumbled with a frown, looking towards Derek.
“Eloquent Scotty,” Stiles sniped, opening his drink and gulping down half. He looked up to find them both watching him with tilted heads. “Ugh. Why is this happening?” he asked Derek.
“Deaton said it’s magic.” Scott piped up.
“The magic is keeping us each contained in different forms. It’s actively working to keep us like this.” Derek added. Stiles blinked at the lack of intonation coming from what should be his own mouth, and felt his face get all pinched again.
“Dude. You look so much like him right now,” Scott breathed.
“It’s like muscle memory or something,” Stiles explained, looking to Scott. “If I stop thinking about it, his face just falls into this scowly thing. I can feel it happening,” Stiles grinned.
“Dude! That looks too weird! Derek doesn’t smile!”
Stiles hopped up to look in his mirror, giving his reflection his goofiest grin. It looked lopsided even with Derek’s perfectly symmetrical face, and showed off his teeth. Including his slightly bunny-like front teeth, and wow. That’s adorable! Stiles poked at them experimentally with a finger and grinned at Derek in the mirror, ignoring the glare he got in return. One that was severely underwhelming coming from his own face.
He schooled his face into a return glare, earning an eye roll from Derek who continued, “The magic is using itself up, keeping us like this. It’ll drain itself soon.”
“Like in that one Buffy episode,” Stiles said – in all seriousness – to Scott, who nodded back sagely. “Dude, werewolves. We can hear you muttering under your breath you know,” he said offhandedly to Derek, who huffed out a sigh.
“We just need to ride it out.”
“Fine. We can do that. We can stay here until it’s done,” Stiles shrugged, looking to Scott.
“Sorry,” Scott winced. “I have to… with Kira and her parents and…”
“Fiiiiiiine, just leave me in my hour of crisis,” Stiles flung his arm over his eyes, a grin peeking out underneath.
“Catch you later buddy, keep me updated,” Scott grinned back. “It’s good to see you Derek, I’m glad you’re okay,” he said slipping out the door.
Stiles could joke, that’s what he did to cope after all, but he didn’t really want to be alone with Derek. At all. The room was almost instantly uncomfortable as soon as Scott walked out, and Stiles felt the tension tugging at his chest; he could actually feel himself wanting to shift. He had to focus to keep it from happening, and it was the weirdest sensation. He rubbed a palm over his – stupidly firm – chest, and licked his lips. He wasn’t going to speak first damn it.
“I’m sorry, Stiles,” Derek blurted out, tapping his fingertips against his leg. “I couldn’t be here anymore, I just. Losing my strength… It felt like losing everything that made me me, and Braeden was offering a way out. A way to be something again. I jumped at it. You guys were good. A pack. It felt like time for me to go.”
“Wow. That was almost a soliloquy there Derek,” Stiles bit out, dripping sarcasm. “But you know what? You left us, and you didn’t even try to get in touch. You cut us out. I didn’t even know if you were alive, Derek! You don’t have a great track record for not nearly dying you know?”
Derek stepped closer and reached out to stop Stiles’ erratic arm movement, and it felt so bizarre. Seeing his own long, pale fingers wrapping around his wrist, thicker and with enough strength to break the hold without trying. He was suddenly aware of how careful the wolves all had to be about their strength. How easy it would be to hurt Stiles, or Lydia, or any human, really. It was almost enough to make Stiles feel reckless and stupid for jumping in to so many frays, and he realised how lucky he’d been up to now. He also realised he could hear Derek’s heart; a steady beat, hitching only once when he’d touched Stiles.
“Why didn’t you call?” Stiles asked quietly, listening.
“It didn’t feel right,” Derek answered carefully. Not a lie. But not a truth either.
“Derek,” Stiles sighed, his shoulder sagging.
“It hurt being here.”
“It hurt not having you here Derek. It hurt. Why didn’t you call?” Stiles repeated, voice taking on a slightly desperate edge, but he just didn’t care anymore.
“You’ve got Scott! And the pack. You’ve got Malia,” Derek snarled, pulling away from Stiles and backing over to the far wall.
“You had the pack too Derek. You had us!” Stiles argued back, before his brain caught up. “I have Malia?” he asked.
Derek deflated, a pained look on his face.
“I had Malia,” Stiles nodded slowly, realisation dawning. Derek looked at him with an indecipherable look on his face. “Past tense,” Stiles clarified. “Braeden?”
“It was. I was just -”
“Wilful ignorance?” Stiles asked with a quirk to his lips, feeling entirely overwhelmed to the degree where he was calm again. It was like overload, because if Derek was not-saying what Stiles thought he was not-saying…
“Yeah,” Derek breathed out, resigned. He watched as Stiles moved closer. “You’re different,” he murmured.
“I made it to senior year,” Stiles said, his voice catching a little. “I made it.”
Derek reached out and pulled Stiles close, wrapping his arms around Stiles’ waist and hugging him tight. It could easily have been platonic, though with an edge of desperation, so it wasn’t crossing any lines. They could have this.
Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek, and pushed his face into the crook of Derek’s neck, huffing out a little amused sound. “It feels really weird to be hugging myself dude.”
“Tell me about it.” Stiles could feel Derek smile against his neck.
Stiles pulled back, skating his fingertips down Derek’s forearm and curling his hand loosely around Derek’s wrist. “C’mon. We have time to kill. We can do this when we’re us again or something. Xbox?” he suggested.
Derek shrugged, grateful for the distraction, and moved to sit on the bed as Stiles set up the console. Derek won, again and again. “Muscle memory,” he crowed at Stiles. It was so comfortable being here like this with Derek that Stiles couldn’t even bring himself to care too much about losing, and when they got sleepy, he didn’t let himself think too much about curling up against Derek, arm draped across his waist. He didn’t think too much about Derek playing with his hand, lacing their fingers together as Stiles laid his head on his shoulder. And in the morning, he didn’t think about waking up, back in his own body, because Derek was still there, fingers still holding on to Stiles’. He didn’t think about it because he knew that Derek wasn’t going to leave him this time.