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Where The Inevitable Isn't

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There are some things in this world that Stiles has decided are inevitable. Practically fated. The earth completes a full rotation every 24 hours, the tide comes in twice each day, and Stiles is eternally irritated with Derek Hale.

Especially right now, when Derek is giving Stiles that patented “don’t you even try that shit with me” look. Like he’s Stiles’ dad or something.

“I’m just saying,” Stiles huffs out exasperatedly, “that I am totally capable of coming along if all that we’re doing is intimidating a pack of selkies. I mean, I’d have to be incredibly incompetent to mess that up. Selkies are like, the lamest supernatural creatures we ever have to deal with. They’re basically grumpy otters.”

“Seals,” Derek grumbles, crossing his arms and leaning against a wall, “much bigger than otters.”

“Seals. Whatever. I’ve been talking to Deaton, and I made this magical thingamajig that can transport me out of danger like some kind of, of, Star Trek transport beam if something goes wrong.” Stiles digs around in his pocket until he pulls the thingamajig out. It’s a sort of crooked looking, and resembles a brooch his great aunt would wear, but Deaton swore there was some powerful magic in it. “So I have a panic button, I’m great at intimidation, and I refuse to be left out of another adventure.”

Isaac’s mouth twitches upwards. “I don’t think they’re adventures, exactly.”

Stiles whirls around, eyes scanning Derek’s refurbished living room until he finds Isaac in the mess of werewolves lounging across every available surface. “Whose side are you on, Isaac?”

Holding up his hands in an “I’m here to make peace” gesture, Isaac backs out of the conversation as definitively as though he was backing out of the room. Staying comfortably in a leather armchair the whole time of course. (Stiles is going to give Derek such a hard time about the amount of leather he picked out when he redid the Hale House.)

At the moment though, he’s giving Derek a hard time about the Selkie Adventure. “I’m not even asking to go flying into battle, I just want to be there. You keep saying I’m pack, but then I get left at home like a helpless army wife or something because my fragile humanness can’t handle a couple otters.”

“Seals,” Erica pipes up cheekily.

“Whatever.”

Derek sighs heavily, running a hand over his eyes and propping his feet up on the coffee table that he keeps telling everyone to keep their feet off of. Hypocrite. “You think I want to tell the Sheriff why his kid-”

“Hey, I’m an adult now, moved out and everything-” Stiles has to say this all the time, it’s like Derek thinks he’s still the sixteen year old kid he met in the woods.

“Why his kid has suddenly died under my watch?”

“But I’m not going to die, Derek, that’s the point. The very sharp, definitive point. So pointy that you could draw blood with it. Pointy as the Empire State Building, pointy as those cone bras Madonna wears, pointy as-”

“Fine, fine!” Derek groans, “you can come along. Just don’t do anything stupid, or try to attack anything that doesn’t attack you first. And you use that... thingamajig the second it looks like you might have to.”

Stiles punches the air with one hand, and fist bumps Scott with the other. “Knew I’d wear you down.” Stiles’ opponent giving up in the face of Stiles’ never ending stream of words is also inevitable. If Stiles were allowed to just talk at the selkies, they’d give up invading Beacon Hills’ coastline within minutes.

Resigned to the awesome fate of having Stiles along on their adventure, Derek starts going over their plans and generally being broody all over the place. Stiles wouldn’t be so irritable around Derek all the time if he wasn’t such a grump. See, this is why he tried to throw a birthday party for Derek a few months ago. The guy just needed to relax and have some cake. Maybe get a party blower and a conical hat to go with it. But no, Derek just stood stock still as they sang Happy Birthday, refused any sort of sugary baked good, and then left the house, (his house,) as soon as he possibly could.

Stiles honestly doesn’t know how to deal with that. There’s probably a very interesting guy underneath the layers of leather, scowls, and stubble, but Stiles can’t seem to get him out, which is frustrating and a damn shame.

XXXXX

The selkie intimidation plan is working well. Selkies, as it turns out, are basically just a bunch of wimps when it comes to being terrorized by a pack of werewolves, a girl with a crossbow, and a nineteen year old guy with a pretty hefty baseball bat. Their leader, a seaweed covered guy that must smell really bad to the werewolves if he smells this bad to Stiles, is trying to negotiate with Derek, who doesn’t do negotiation very well.

“If weeee weeeere to take onlyyyyy part of the beeeeach,” the selkie says carefully in his strange dialect, keeping an eye on Derek’s claws at all times, “then perhaps we could reeeach an agreeeement. A mutuallyyyy beneficial agreeement.”

“Get out.” Derek has always been one with words.

“I sayyyyy,” the selkie looks sort of malevolent with his hair flopping across his face like that, covering one eye like he’s some sort of supervillain, “that is not a veryyyy pleasant wayyyy to speeeeak to a selkieee high lord. Weeee were beeeeing so very nice beeefore now.” He sighs dramatically, like there’s an audience somewhere he’s trying to impress. “I suppose we shall have to kill you after all.”

So apparently there were more selkies hiding up in the rocks further up the beach that not even the wolves’ super smell could pick up. Stiles vaguely remembers Derek saying something about the overwhelming smell of salt at the beach making it difficult to distinguish scents, but that doesn’t seem to matter now that there are a dozen or so seals charging at them. They really are quite a bit larger than otters, and sort of terrifying when they bellow like that, layers of muscles and fat heaving tremendously.

And, Stiles thinks dazedly from where he’s been knocked onto the ground, sand in his mouth and the sun in his eyes, they pack quite a punch.

There’s a lot of yelling and growling around him, typical noises from a werewolf fight. Stiles had once commented that they sounded a lot like dogs having their way with a chewy bone when they fought. Not even Scott had appreciated the observation. He hears the whistling of the crossbow getting shot, which reminds him that he has a baseball bat, which seems unhelpful for dealing with angry seals that were 150 pounds of angry muscles, but Stiles is theoretically there to help.

He swings his bat around, feels the comforting weight of it against his palm. It isn’t the most badass of weapons, but Stiles doesn’t like the idea of guns, hasn’t ever since the first time his dad took him to a shooting range, so he sticks to his bat, thank you very much. He’s gotten pretty good at wielding it too, worked out the best angle to keep his elbow at for the most force, what parts of the body he can hit that will send an opponent down in no time flat. If all of his friends weren’t on the lacrosse team, Stiles would totally try out for baseball and do well at it. Maybe even first line. Did they have first line in baseball? These were the sort of things you didn’t learn in Beacon Hills.

First line or no first line, Stiles can swing a bat, even at screaming seals that would be cute if they weren’t trying to kill him. The first thud against a blubbery skull makes him flinch, but he’s managing to hold his own, more or less, and as he periodically glances up, it looks like everyone else is doing alright as well. Scott is fending off a selkie with big brown spots like a cow while Isaac defends his rear, and Boyd is just picking selkies up and throwing them hard enough out of the way that they bounce until they lie, dazed, against the sand. Erica is doing some sort of acrobatic thing with jumps and high kicks, Allison is picking off any selkie she can get a clear shot at, and Derek. Well. Derek. If there’s one thing he’s good at other than brooding, it’s fighting. He does it with a natural brutality that first gets Stiles impressed, but then makes him sad when he thinks about how much fighting Derek must have had to do to get this good at it.

Whatever. Derek looks like a black belt when he fights. Stiles has other shit to deal with. Like the selkie coming in on his left, already too close for Stiles to have leverage with his bat.

The slam against his side is the sort that hits so hard he gets whiplash as he’s pushed to the ground, his bat sent flying. Though the whiplash isn’t as bad as the repetitive slamming he gets against his gut from the selkie’s tail. That really sucks. Stiles is going to have some impressive bruises that will make him glad he no longer lives with his dad, who doesn’t need to see Stiles beaten up again. There’s another unending pattern. It’s just written out in broken blood vessels and disappointed looks.

A second selkie joins the first, slamming and thrashing and roaring and just when it looks like he’s about to get a concussion, Stiles puts his proverbial foot down. Not his actual foot because that’s sort of twisted up underneath him, but enough of a foot to get him digging around underneath his shirt to pull out the thingamajig. He pulls a trembling finger across one of the spots on his torso where he’d managed to get his skin broken, and then slides two crisscrossing lines of blood across the thingamajig. It’s the coward’s way out, yes, but technically Stiles is just following orders. Derek specifically told him to bail out if things got too bad.

There are a few breathless seconds where Stiles is terrified that the thingamajig is actually just an ugly brooch, but then a pull comes from behind him, and he feels like the Lorax, being pulled by the seat of his pants up up and away. Stiles has just enough time to wonder if this is what disapparating feels like before he lands again, flat on his back, somewhere that definitely isn’t a selkie filled beach.

Stiles sits up, wincing, and takes a look around. Now that he thinks about it, he probably should have asked Deaton a few more questions about the thingamajig before he snatched it up and left the clinic. Specifically, where the thingamajig would take him when he activated it. Stiles is in a forest, but the ground beneath him is way too steep to be anywhere in Beacon Hills, and the trees are very tall, very old pines, wide around the base in a way that speaks of an old growth forest. None of those wimpy post-logging era trees around here, no sir.

It’s quiet. There are no lights in the distance, no faint sounds of people talking, no path to follow to a conveniently placed mountain cottage. Stiles swings his arms aimlessly for a second, then starts moving downhill, faint remembrances from Boy Scouts telling him that water (and therefore civilization) can be found downhill. Now, in the middle of the wilderness, is as good a time as any to see if Scoutmaster Davis knew what he was talking about.

There’s no signal on his phone, of course. The clock on it seems out of whack too, since it seems to think that it’s seven in the morning when the sun is clearly starting to set. Scoutmaster Davis would say that Stiles should have brought a satellite phone or a radio.

“Well sorry, Scoutmaster Davis,” Stiles grumbles under his breath, because it’s getting cold and he is far too alone and he’s always been more comfortable talking than not, “I guess you never thought I’d end up magically transported to a mountain in the middle of nowhere with no supplies but a hoodie and my undying spirit.”

Stiles stumbles on a patch of particularly dry pine needles on a patch of particularly steep ground. He flails until he regains his balance, and then shuts up, moving more carefully, keeping an eye on the slope below him. No hospitals within god knows how many miles. With the bruising on his ribs, Stiles doesn’t know if he could manage to stop himself from sliding down and down and down until he hit one of the outcroppings of rock below.

When the sun really starts setting, and all of the shadows start looking like monsters and all the small sounds of twigs snapping are mountain lions coming to eat him and all the cliches are cliches, Stiles is really not having fun anymore. Any ideas of this being an adventure have long since disappeared in favor of daydreams about finding a big batch of curly fries dangling from the branches of a magnificent curly fry tree, or at least some helpful hikers.

He even tries working the thingamajig again, but it seems to be out of juice, as it just hangs inertly around his neck.

“You aren’t even useful anymore,” Stiles informs it, “now you’re just ugly. No, I won’t take it back, it’s all your fault we’re here in the first place.”

After the sun disappears behind the mountains, Stiles tries walking with his cellphone as a flashlight, but it isn’t very helpful, and eventually he gives up and picks a comfortable looking patch of ground. He doubts that he’ll sleep, but it’s better than wandering around in the dark and wasting his battery.

Sleeping in the woods is terrible, mostly because very little sleeping actually occurs. Instead, Stiles tosses and turns and laments the loss of any sort of blanket, because the hoodie, while stylish, is not the most effective at cutting out the freezing cold mountain air. Staring upwards at the sky, which is black and liberally sprinkled with stars, (like Stiles needs more proof that he’s miles away from any buildings,) Stiles’ mind starts spinning possibilities. Maybe he’ll just wander around until he dies of dehydration. The air is dry, and Stiles is sure he can feel it pulling the moisture out of his body. Maybe he’ll run across a cult and get sucked into their culty ways, marry eighteen wives under eighteen and never emerge into the real world again. Maybe he’ll become a mountain man, living off the land and never seeing another human soul, always missing other people by just a few miles.

Needless to say, he has some pretty unpleasant dreams.

XXXXX

Stiles wakes up, stomach grumbling, thirsty, more worried than the day before, and for lack of anything better to do, continues walking downhill. It’s starting to make his knees hurt, but it’s better than trying to climb the mountain. The sun rises further and further, and Stiles is pretty much dying of boredom. Braiding pine needles can only entertain him for so long.

“There was a great big moose,” Stiles starts singing halfheartedly, “there was a great big moose, he liked to drink a lot of juice, he liked to drink a lot of juice,” it had been a while since Stiles sang camp songs, and this seemed to be a good opportunity, “sing an oh-way-oh, sing an oh-way-oh. Way-oh-way-oh-way-oh-way-oh, way-oh-way-oh-way-oh-way-oh.”

Jesus, whoever wrote these songs must have been even more bored than Stiles is at that moment. Then again, they could have just been deranged, rambling on and on about “way-ohs” until somebody wrote it down and made it a camp song.

Stiles’ inner (and outer) ramblings are interrupted by the sight of a group of about five figures hiking along a ridge in the distance.

He cups his hands around his mouth and hollers, “hey! Heeeeeyyyyy!” His shouts echo around the nearby mountains, which amplify the noise like some kind of magnificent bullhorn. Why had Stiles ever thought these mountains sucked? He feels like giving them a kiss on their big, rocky face.

One of the hikers turns their head. The sun is behind them, so Stiles can’t see their features, but they can see his. Stiles jumps and beckons desperately, trying to convey that he is incompetent and in need of help. One of the figures fiddles with their considerable backpack to pull out something that’s probably a pair of binoculars. Look at that preparation. Clearly these are people that Stiles needs to ally himself with. Binocular Person obviously sees something they like, because their head whips up to the others, and after a few seconds of them talking, all five of the figures start racing down the mountain, sliding past trees and rocks, jumping over obstacles and coming towards Stiles like they’re triathletes and he’s the finish line.

Thank goodness these people realize the urgency here. Stiles really hopes that they have lots and lots of water.

Then an arrow shoots past his head, and Stiles realizes that they aren’t rushing towards him to rescue him. Oh god, had he stumbled into a Hunger Games situation? Since when did those happen in real life?

One of the people shouts at whoever shot the arrow, “don’t kill him, are you crazy?”

Oh. Alright, clearly there had been some sort of mistake. Friendly fire.

“We’ve got to capture him.”

Perhaps not. Stiles starts running.

When the werewolf business started, Stiles got the impression that he would be getting into pretty good shape from all the running for his life. Turns out, it isn’t the running for your life that gets you in shape, unless you’re running for your life every day or two, for long enough to reach your optimum heart rate. Running for your life gets you in shape because once you have to do it a few times, you start jogging in the mornings so you aren’t in such dire straits when the latest monster decides it want to crunch on you.

So Stiles is a pretty good runner. But right now, he’s scared and hungry and thirsty and he still can’t really move his torso, because the bruises on it hurt even more now, and all it will take is one misplaced foot on the eroding soil and-

There he goes. Full wipeout, face pressed into the ground. Stiles tries getting up, for the principle of it, but then he gets tackled back down. Someone heavy is pressing into him, and he can hear them talking crystal clear now that they’re right behind him.

“Someone has rope, right?”

“Right here.”

“Thanks.”

The feel of rope binding Stiles’ hands together is something that he never wanted to be familiar, but that’s just his life apparently. A never-ending sequence of mishaps. It’s like a comedy of errs, but with more bruises, and also it really isn’t funny.

A familiar sounding voice notes, “It’ll be a pain to take him all the way to base.”

“But we have to,” replies another, even more familiar voice. “Hale would do anything to get him back.”

“Allison?!” Stiles asks the dirt incredulously.

The dirt doesn’t say anything, but there is an intake of shocked breath from behind him.

A hand slams his head further into the ground, and hot breath hisses against his ear, “don’t you dare talk to my daughter, Stilinski.”

“Chris?!” Stiles tries to ask.

Chris doesn’t say anything to him as he yanks Stiles up and starts pushing him in a direction that Stiles thinks might be east, but that doesn’t discourage Stiles from trying to talk to him. “Last time I checked we were getting along pretty well, I don’t know about you. In fact, I thought you were growing to respect me a bit, and for god’s sake, Allison!” Stiles manages to twist around and catch a glimpse of her before his head is forcibly turned back. Her hair is in a painfully tight looking bun, her eyes hold no recognition, and she looks slightly startled that he’s talking to her. “Allison, we’re buds! I saw you maybe fifteen hours ago, what is even happening here, have I been asleep for fifteen years and emerged in some sort of hellish futurescape?”

“I’ve never seen you in person before,” Allison spits, “and somebody must have something to gag him with, right?”

One of the other three guys rips a bandana from around his neck like he’s some kind of old west bandit, and hands it to Chris, who stuffs it into Stiles’ mouth. It tastes like sweat, and Stile gags on it slightly. So much for trying to talk his way out of this. Allison and Chris really don’t seem to like him at all, and while Stiles will admit that maybe he isn’t their favorite person, something is clearly going on here. He doesn’t know who the other three people are, he assumes they’re hunters from the shotguns strapped across their backs and the outdoorsy clothing they’re wearing, but he isn’t sure beyond that.

They carry on in silence, and Stiles muses that nobody ever mentions how awkward kidnappings (well, technically abductions now that he’s an adult,) are. Nobody wants to talk in front of him, in case they accidentally spill the nuclear launch codes or something, and after a few hours, Stiles just starts feeling bored again. Occasionally someone will open their mouth to say something, then think better of it, and just make a coughing noise instead.

At least they gave him some water when they stopped for a break a few miles back. They’d shoved the gag right back in afterwards, but at least Stiles doesn’t feel like his mouth is made of sandpaper anymore.

Around noon, they’re making their way into a valley, and a square utilitarian building comes into view. It looks like an old military base, the type that was built out of cinderblocks, lots of gray paint, and Cold War paranoia. Chris, still heading the procession of hunters, nods to one of the guys at the gate, who opens it without asking any questions. Whatever is happening, Chris seems to be in charge of it.

It’s a mix of old and new inside the walls. The infrastructure is covered in peeling paint and rusted iron, but it’s full of big unlabeled boxes, clearly just trucked in, and there are cots scattered everywhere and hotplates hooked up to generators like Stiles has stumbled into a massive hunter dorm room.

Stiles doesn’t get a cot. He gets shoved into an honest to god jail cell with bars, because military bases apparently have those. Stiles eyes the rusted bars and wonders first if he could file through them, and second if he’ll need to get a tetanus shot after this. Assuming he escapes. Usually Stiles makes it out of these situations, but he is literally in a fortress, and logically speaking, his luck can only last for so long.

Once they leave him in the cell and wander back down the gray hallway, Stiles sits down as quietly as he can, because his feet are tired, but he also wants to hear what they’re saying now that they think he’s out of earshot.

Allison’s voice is excited, “He was just right there! That was really lucky.”

“It certainly was,” Chris said thoughtfully, “I thought it was a trap at first, but now I think he’s just a bit addled. He wasn’t talking sense when we picked him up.”

One of the other hunters, with the deep baritone, comments, “We’re still going to ransom him, right?”

“Hit it on the head, Michael. Hale will trade his own life for his mate’s, then we’ll have the resistance by its throat.”

Woah. Hang on. There was a lot of information in that sentence, and all of it made Stiles’ head spin. A resistance? Since when is there a war going on? A cheeky little voice in Stiles’ head chirrups something about not being in Kansas anymore, and Stiles has to agree with it. It’s seeming less and less likely that there’s some sort of intricate prank going on, and more like that reality turned on its head and decided to not make sense anymore.

And also, there’s the small matter of Stiles and Derek not being mates the last time Stiles had checked.

Stiles, fresh off of a research jag, had asked Derek about mates once, to which Derek grumbled, “it really doesn’t matter, Stiles.”

“You say that now, but things that don’t matter tend to end up mattering right when you need them. No withholding info, Derek! I, as official unofficial researcher for the pack, demand to know the logistical specifics of mates. Preferably with footnotes.”

Derek rolled his eyes and leaned against the porch railing with the familiar expression of someone buckling themselves in for an unpleasant ride. But he starts talking, because it is a fact of life that when Stiles gets into full persuasive mode, Derek will go along with him. “Mates supposedly exist, but I’ve never met anyone who had an actual mate. It’s a soul bond sort of thing. The single person you’re made for, and supposedly your wolf can recognize that person if you come across them. But it’s incredibly rare to do it.”

“Why not? Don’t you believe in the power of true looooove, Der-Der?” Stiles prodded.

Derek shot him a weary look. “There are seven billion people on the planet, and one of them is my mate. I’ll probably never meet them.” He shrugged. “Mates really don’t matter. They’re so rare they’re basically theoretical.”

“So Scott and Allison?”

“Not mates.”

“Damn. And I’d been hoping they had an excuse for being such idiots around each other.”

There was a faint trace of an amused smile on Derek’s face, but it was gone before Stiles could take a picture or something. “No, that’s just them.”

Nowhere in that conversation had Derek mentioned that he and Stiles were mates, and Stiles has a feeling that that’s the sort of thing you mention to a person. So Stiles isn’t entirely sure what Chris is thinking, but if he thinks that Derek is going to come and rescue Stiles, then great. Stiles has sort of had enough of Derek swooping in to save the day, but he’s also had quite enough of having his life threatened. Yay mates! Getting Stiles out of the hands of crazed hunters. Stiles is basically just accepting each new dose of absurdity in his stride at this point.

“So what, now?” asks one of the other hunters.

“Yes. Stilinski is crafty, we don’t want him having too much time to come up with an escape plan. Allison?”

“Going.”

There is rustling, a thud, then the sound of several pairs of footsteps walking back down the hall. Stiles tries to look as harmless as possible as Chris and the guy Stiles assumes is Michael show up in front of his cell. They’ve both brought chairs with them. Michael sits in his backwards, leaning on the backrest and straddling the seat like he can intimidate Stiles with his leg flexibility or something. Chris just sits in his chair like a normal person, because even here, he’s still a smidge less wackadoodle than other hunters.

Another thud echoes down the hall, then Allison comes into view, staggering slightly under the weight of a big electronic looking machine. A brief burst of panic flashes through Stiles as it occurs to him that he might be staring down a torture device, until Chris reaches over, spins a dial, and a burst of static comes out of it. Some kind of radio then. Maybe built in the Middle Ages, judging from its size.

“Do you remember what channel they’re on?” Chris mutters to Michael as he messes with the settings.

Michael combs a hand through his oversized beard. “We’ve managed to communicate with them through some of these before,” he leans forward and starts messing with the settings as well until Chris withdraws in frustration, letting Michael work on the radio alone.

Stiles tries to give him a look that displays sympathy for Chris’ plight, but he might just come off as looking like his forehead itches.

“Try this one.” Michael holds out one of those black plastic boxes attached to the radio that you talk into. Stiles’ dad is a cop, he should really know these things, but alas.

Chris tells the microphone thing, “this is Argent Base One, we have your mate, Hale. Over.”

No reply comes from the radio, but this seems to be normal, judging from the reactions of the hunters. Allison still isn’t looking at Stiles, who has a feeling that he makes her uncomfortable. Chris repeats himself into the mike again, then again a few minutes later.

The fourth time, he gets a reply.

“Argent! What. Did. You. Just. Say.” Oh, Derek. Stiles would recognize that speaking pattern anywhere, bad reception or no.

Chris smirks like a fisherman with a tug on the line, and leans back in his chair. “We have your mate, Hale. Over.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” It’s almost comforting to hear those familiar tones of incredulity. Especially when they aren’t directed at Stiles.

“Check your camp, Hale. Or wherever it is you wolves sleep. Check your cave. We’ve got him. Over.”

Scuffling noises come through the speaker as Derek presumably checks his camp, and Derek is growling into the radio. “Swear to god... if you... will rip out your...” Stiles feels the strangest swell of pride in his chest. Derek cares that much that he’s missing? Has he managed to actually make an impact on Mr. Emotional Impenetrability himself? But then Derek’s voice calms down considerably, and he’s back to full sentences. “Is that really the best you can do, Argent?”

Chris looks confused. “What do you mean, Hale? Over.”

“You just felt like making me worried for two minutes? Is it really getting that dull on that side of the battle lines?”

“Are you honestly telling me you aren’t worried about us having your mate in custody?”

“No, I’m really not,” Derek’s voice is level, almost cheery. “I’m looking at my mate right now. In our camp. Safe and sound.”

Stiles feels strangely disappointed. So much for a daring rescue from an angry werewolf mate. Instead, Derek’s shacking up with somebody else, happily hanging out in his camp, wherever that is, and leaving Stiles at the hands of trigger (or bow) happy hunters in an altered version of reality.

There’s a moment of awkward silence where everybody just looks at each other. The hunters take a second look at Stiles to make certain he actually is Stiles, and not just some kid (adult, dammit!) with a buzzcut. Michael looks at Chris like he’s an idiot, and vice versa, and Allison generally looks exasperated with everyone.

She grabs the mike. “That’s cute, Derek. Bluffing. But I’m looking at one Stiles Stilinski right now, and he matches the wanted posters perfectly.”

Wanted posters? Jesus. Wait, did they even make wanted posters anymore?

“I don’t know what you’re trying, girl, but I don’t appreciate it.” Derek’s voice is still level, but the dangerous kind, the kind that comes paired with intense eye contact and tensed muscles. “I thought that hunters were at least more dignified than prank calls, even if they could murder women and children without a second thought.”

Damn. So much for the code. Although Stiles should have guessed that the hunters had abandoned it the second they tackled a defenseless human to the ground, unprovoked.

Chris takes the mike from Allison and barks into it, “you shut up, Hale. Don’t pretend your hands are clean. Now, we have Stilinski. If you don’t want him dead by tomorrow sundown, you turn yourself in. You know where we are.”

Stiles thinks about his dad, and he hopes to whatever power is out there that he isn’t going to die in some world other than his own, with no idea where his father is. Have they started looking for Stiles yet, back in his reality? Or did Stiles wipe away the existence of that reality completely when he set off the magic thingamajig?

“I’m shutting off the radio,” Derek informs them, and now his voice is just tired.

“Wait!” Allison grabs the mike and shoves it at Stiles, ripping out his gag. “Talk.”

“Uh, um, what?” Stiles says into the mike. “Hi?”

“Stiles?”

He can picture the look on Derek’s face. It’s the one where he’s very confused but doesn’t want to show it, so he just keeps his face blank and tries not to let his eyebrows reveal that he has no idea what’s going on.

“Um, yeah? I am seriously so confused right now, Derek, tell me you have an explanation for me, because everything is topsy turvy and it’s like I’m Alice in Wonderland except without the fun LSD part.”

Stiles’ own voice echoes back from the other end. “Well buddy, I don’t think we’ll be able to help you there. Actually, my guess is that the hunters got themselves someone who could do impressions. Bad party trick, bad plan to get our Derek here captured. You guys should have made sure Derek couldn’t find me before you rang us up.”

It’s trippy, like hearing himself in a home movie. Stiles can picture himself choosing the words, but hearing someone else say them is so odd. But there’s no time to ponder... Other Stiles because his life depends on these people thinking he’s worthy of rescue.

“Wait, wait wait,” he protests, “um, our favorite color is red, we think Christian Bale is the best Batman, we’re terrified that our dad will die-”

“Nice try,” Derek says, “kill him, see if we care.”

There’s nothing quite like that sweet sting of betrayal. It cuts down to the core, makes Stiles feel like curling up in a corner to pity himself for a few hours. He’d done it before, and he would now, if he didn’t have company.

Chris let out a world weary sigh and picked up his chair. “Just when I thought we had a leg up on you bastards.”

“What are you even talking about?” Stiles protests, because damned if he’s not going to try and get some sort of answer out of Chris.

He fixes Stiles with a venomous stare. “I’m talking about five raids in the last month alone, I’m talking about my men not getting enough supplies to eat with you damn werewolves poisoning our food, and I’m talking about fucking Yreka.”

Stiles has never heard Chris swear before, and can now say with certainty that it is terrifying. Stiles is used to hearing reprimands, but they’re usually along the lines of put that down and stop talking, not stop poisoning people. What has Other Stiles been doing to provoke that much ire? Most of all, Stiles worries about how much of it is true. What if in this world, he’s like an evil version of himself, with a scar over one eye and a goatee or something? Stiles is suddenly, illogically glad that he didn’t see the face behind his voice on the radio. Whoever that guy is, Stiles doesn’t want to meet him. And that’s only partially because he’s jealous that Other Stiles gets Derek rescue privileges and Stiles doesn’t.

Also, what happened in Yreka? Last Stiles heard, that was a small town in Nowhere, Northern California. Nothing but pot farms and hiking trails as far as the eye could see. Hardly a place of interest.

Then Chris says, “At least you’ll be dead by tomorrow night anyway,” and suddenly Stiles doesn’t give a damn about what’s going on, he just wants to live.

He starts yelling at Chris, he doesn’t even know what, just shouts and protestations and proclamations of innocence that fall on deaf ears as the hunters leave the way they came.

Looks like he can’t talk his way out of everything. What a swell way to find out.

XXXXX

Stiles is becoming very familiar with the wall of his cell. He briefly contemplates etching tallymarks into it, but he has nothing sharp to work with, and he would only leave a single measly scratch on the wall. Then again, maybe it would give the next prisoner to be thrown into the cell some hope. The last guy only had to stay a day. Before he was killed, but the next prisoner doesn’t need to know context.

The wall itself is cinderblock, like the rest of the building. Old and cracked, but not cracked enough for Stiles to pull a Kool-Aid Man and bust through the wall. The cell is bare of any furniture whatsoever, so no convenient nails or wires to sneakily pull free and use to tunnel his way out. In under 24 hours.

Contemplating his place of prison isn’t very pleasant, so Stiles eventually turns to watching the movements of the hunters outside, which he can do if he cranes his head just so and looks between the bars and through a window sort of down the hallway. They sort of remind him of the mongol hordes in Mulan. Not just because they’re totally the villains here, but because they have so many random layers and straps running across their body, and this rugged look to them, both the men and the women. Stiles half expects them to break out into a song about their diabolical intentions.

He imagines describing the goings on to Scott, the way he would if he got home. “It was so weird, man. It was sort of like an army camp, with all these camping supplies and weapons everywhere. They would even, like, snap to attention when Chris walked by, like he was their commanding officer or something. Maybe hunters really had official hierarchies back in that world. Doesn’t matter now of course, because everything’s normal again and we’re about to have a Call of Duty marathon.” Stiles sighs and rests his head back again the chilly wall. He knows things are bad if playing Call of Duty with Scott (whose video game skills really are terrible,) sounds just like heaven.

“Derek, dude, it was crazy,” he mumbles into his arm. He talks to Derek in his head more than he’d like to admit, he might as well do it aloud now. “Even Chris, who can be pretty chill, was like, freaking out. He wanted you dead, can you believe that? He hasn’t wanted you dead for at least a year in our world. You were my mate there, too. Not, you know, mine, but some other Stiles. It was weird. You still sounded like your normal grumpy self over the radio though. Near as I could tell, you were running some sort of werewolf resistance. Way more badass than you are here, and I didn’t even see you in person before I miraculously escaped and returned to the real world.”

When Stiles stops talking, feeling faintly ridiculous, the cell sounds even quieter than before.

XXXXX

Time is relative, a very important scientist said once. Stiles is certain that time speeds up in the hours before he’s due to be taken out and, well, probably shot.

The minutes blur together like they’re in a race as Stiles wonders what it will feel like, whether he’ll go fast or slow.

Seconds lose any meaning whatsoever as they run by so much more quickly than normal, and Stiles wonders if they’ll give him any last words. Hopefully they will, and he can say something badass on his way out.

But for some reason, the only words he can think of are “so long and thanks for all the fish.” Not exactly the tone he’s going for.

He’s bustled out of his cell by Chris and some other hunter in such a hurry it feels like he blinks and he’s outside. Well shit. This is it.

Stiles looks around. As a guy with maybe a few minutes left, he feels like he should enjoy these last few minutes of life. But he’s so uncomfortable, and he really has to pee, and he can’t even enjoy the wild beauty of nature or anything like that because it’s blocked from his view by ten foot high, slate gray walls. The sky matches, clouded over and dull. What a day to die.

For all of his life, Stiles had felt like he was faced with choices at every turn. There were so many paths he could take, each leading in different directions to entirely different outcomes. He can feel each and every one of those paths fading away, until all he can see is one. There are no forks in the road, no detours he can take, only one destination: a bullet wound in his head. Possibly chest.

They take him to one of the guards by the gate. No talk, no explanations. They’ve done this before, and Stiles doesn’t need to know what’s going on.

“You armed?” Chris asks the guard brusquely.

The guard, whose face is covered with a hood, sunglasses, and a scarf, nods briefly.

Chris shoves Stiles into the gloved hands of the guard. “Take the renegade outside and shoot him. We don’t need more blood in the compound.”

“What,” Stiles spits, because he only has a few minutes, and he might as well have some sass, “you can’t even shoot me yourself?”

Chris’ face twitches minutely, and he looks away. “No. I can’t.” He nods pointedly at the second guard, on the other side of the gate. “You go too. This is Stilinski here. Yes that one. He’s slippery.”

The second guard, also wrapped up so his face is covered, nods mutely.

“And for god’s sakes,” Chris says exasperatedly, “take off those sunglasses, it’s too cloudy to look like an idiot. New recruits,” he grumbles to his companion, the one who had helped take Stiles out of the cell, “think they’re a bunch of hotshots just because they’ve put down a wolf or two.”

Neither of the guards take off their sunglasses.

“Bossman,” says Chris’ companion slowly, looking around the compound, “aren’t Ramirez and Wiesclaw supposed to be on duty today?”

“Yes,” Chris replies sharply, waving a hand at the guards, who have been backing out of the compound with Stiles since the two men started talking. “They’re right here.”

“No, they’re asleep on their cots.”

Chris’ head whips towards the two masked guards, who probably aren’t guards at all, since they take off running, Stiles in tow.

It takes Stiles a few split seconds to get his feet under him so he can actually run, instead of being practically carried by the guards who aren’t guards but are definitely strong. A third guy whose face is also covered breaks away from some ATVs parked outside the compound, and starts running alongside them. Stiles only knows a few people who can run this quickly, and they all have one thing in common.

“Hey,” he says between pants and looking over his shoulder at where hunters are starting to appear up on the walls of the compound, “so I’m guessing you’re part of the resistance I’ve been hearing so much about?”

“Yes,” grunts one of the guys, way less out of breath than Stiles is, “and we’ve got some questions for you.”

“Derek?”

Derek, or a version of him at least, glances at Stiles from behind his scarf, and wow, how had Stiles not noticed him immediately?

“Not now. Right now, we need to get under cover.”

Scott’s voice comes from the third guy, who’d been with the ATV’s. “I see shotguns coming out. We need cover!”

Other Derek immediately moves so that he’s blocking the gun from having a clear shot at Stiles and the other guy who hasn’t said anything yet. Gallant. They turn so they’re headed into the trees, following a twisting, nonsensical route that makes sense only in that it puts a lot of trees between the guns and the escapees. That, and the ATVs can’t follow where the trees are so close together.

Stiles is pretty sure that the hunters have started following them on foot now, but at least they have a healthy head start. At least he isn’t staring down the wrong end of a gun barrel right now. He can see more pathways opening up as it becomes less and less likely that he’ll be shot dead.

Of course, that’s when they hear a gunshot, and Other Derek grunts behind Stiles, staggering, then continuing on like nothing happened.

“Really?” Stiles huffs, “they aren’t using wolfsbane bullets?”

Other Derek shakes his head. His scarf has slipped down, and Stiles can see that his face is pale and pained. “They are. I have tolerance at this point.”

Stiles doesn’t want to think about how many bullets it would take to do that, and is thankfully distracted when Scott shouts, “there!” and practically penguin slides into a crevice between two boulders.

Other Derek, Stiles, and the last guy follow Scott through what turns out to be an incredibly narrow tunnel of rock that they need to crawl through in order to fit. When they come out the other side, considerably more dusty, with cuts on their hands, Stiles sees that the boulders come together right around where two mountain slopes meet, effectively creating a gate that Scott is currently sealing up with a few rocks positioned right by the tunnel exit.

It’s a clever setup. The hunters will have to either move the rocks away with their human strength, or try to climb up the boulders or mountain, both of which are steep enough that by the time they make it through, the escapees will be gone.

“Phew,” the third guy groans, pulling his scarf off, as well as his hood. “Thought we were goners for a second there.”

“You say that every time,” Scott calls from where he’s wedging the last rock into place, stoppering up the tunnel.

“Well,” Stiles says, grinning as he bundles up the scarf and shoves it in his pocket, “we’re almost goners every time. And whose fault is that, Scott? Because I’m insinuating that it’s yours, so there.”

Stiles looks at Stiles. To be more precise, Stiles looks at Other Stiles. Who is a lot tanner, and has kind of a ridiculous amount of hair, falling down almost to his shoulders. There isn’t a dramatic facial scar, but Stiles can make out a few smaller ones on Other Stiles’ hands. There is some facial hair, at least. Not a goatee, but scruffy looking, like it isn’t deliberate, and Other Stiles just hasn’t been able to shave for a while. Looking around, Stiles realizes that Other Derek, Other Stiles, and Other Scott have all been forgoing shaving and haircuts. Of course, only Derek manages to pull a half beard and long hair off, looking like a wolfy Jesus instead of an unshaved mountain man. Because he’s always got to be obnoxious like that. The earth revolves around the sun, and Derek is irritatingly attractive. Circle of life or something like that.

“We should probably get going,” Scott jogs up to them, away from the blocked off tunnel, “it’ll only hold for so long.”

Other Stiles makes a noise of agreement, and hoists one of Derek’s arms over his shoulder. Scott takes the other arm.

“And, um, Stiles,” Other Stiles says as he and Scott start jogging with a listless Derek between them, “why are you here? Or what are you? Because I feel like I’ve been taking this pretty well, but I’m sort of looking at my doppelganger, and it’s really weird.”

Stiles follows behind them, not managing to run as fast as they can uphill. “I’m kind of thinking this is an alternate universe? Or I’m from an alternate universe?”

“Oh my god,” Other Stiles laughs as he climbs up a jagged outcrop of black rock, “like our lives couldn’t get any more like a bad science fiction novel.”

“Yeah, I’m still not sure whether I’m from the gritty alternate reality or you are. I mean, it’s not exactly peace and quiet on my end, either.” Stiles, now that he’s pretty sure he’s going to live, is starting to enjoy this. Having a conversation with himself is pretty cool.

“We’ve been living in the mountains for about two years now,” Scott observes, “it’s pretty gross.”

“Ah but that’s not what other me asked,” Other Stiles pipes up cheekily. “He asked if we’re gritty.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Scott, my boy,” Stiles and Other Stiles can totally tag team, this is awesome, “‘gritty’ is like, you know, when they remake superhero films so that their costume is in a darker color and there’s more angst. Gross is you after lacrosse practice, pre-shower.”

“Lacrosse,” Other Stiles moans rapturously, “you still play lacrosse? We haven’t had a chance to play lacrosse in years, not since the pack got ran out of town.”

Stiles winces. “Yikes.”

“Also,” Other Stiles continues, “once we get around this ridge I’m going to dig a bullet out of Derek’s thigh. With my bare hands. That’s pretty gritty. Speaking of which, Scott, how’s the big guy’s heart rate doing?”

“Okay. We really should get the bullet out though.”

“What happened to him being resistant?” Stiles protests.

“Resistant, not immune,” Other Stiles says darkly, “something we know from experience. Bloody, bloody experience.”

Other Stiles runs his free hand over Derek’s hair with a familiarity that reminds Stiles quite suddenly that other him and Derek are probably a lot closer than they seem. He isn’t sure how to deal with that.

Remembering that they have an injured Alpha on their hands and hunters somewhere on their tail, they forgo wasting breath on talking and hightail it up the mountain. Stiles’ legs and back are burning by the time they reach a relatively flat area several hundred feet up from where they started. They settle Derek down onto the ground, where he’s looking pretty sick at this point. Scott flits through the trees to a spot where he can look down at where they came from.

“We seem to be hunter free. I think they gave up not long after we went through the tunnel.”

Stiles groans from where he collapsed onto the ground, “does this mean we climbed a mountain for nothing? Because I’m going to be really mad if I’ve melted my legs for no good reason. Furious. Like, ‘dad had bacon without my explicit permission’ angry.”

Other Stiles’ face contorts into something dark and sad for a second, then flicks back into cheeriness almost immediately. It would barely be noticeable if Stiles wasn’t so familiar with his own expressions. What with them occurring on his face and all. “There’s still a few more miles of mostly uphill before we reach our camp,” Other Stiles says cheerfully as he starts rummaging around in the many pockets of his cargo pants. “Other me, go comfort Derek at his bedside or something. You probably don’t smell right, but you’ll calm him down a little while I work out the wolfsbane antidote.”

Stiles staggers over to Derek, and flops down next to him, then Derek dazedly shuffles over so he can set his head in Stiles’ lap. It’s a shock coming from a guy that normally avoids any sort of human contact, (especially with Stiles, who he considers to be little more than an annoying gnat.) Not that the weight of Derek’s head isn’t oddly comforting, but there’s just something incredibly strange about watching Other Stiles kneel by Derek’s legs and run a comforting hand along his thigh like it’s no big deal.

Other Stiles empties a handful of bullets onto Derek’s stomach, all different shapes and sizes, and all, Stiles guesses, filled with wolfsbane.

“Scott, what caliber do you think they were using?” Other Stiles asks matter-of-factly as he pulls out a few bullets that he’s already judged to be inappropriate.

Scott comes over so that he and Other Stiles can run through the bullets, tossing back and forth technical details about shotguns versus heavier artillery and the amount of proliferation the wolfsbane has in Derek’s blood. Then Other Stiles quickly runs through a few calculations involving some weird fractions and Derek’s body weight, then empties out a bullet and a half of wolfsbane.

“We’re sort of pros at counteracting wolfsbane poisoning at this point,” Other Stiles explains. His voice is neutral, but Stiles knows he’s preening. “Derek’ll be up to fighting shape in no time. Actually, in seventeen minutes. We haven’t worked out the number of seconds yet, but I’m sure-”

“You are such an ass,” Stiles chuckles.

Other Stiles winks as he goes to work on Derek’s leg, cutting through the fabric around Derek’s thigh with a nasty looking knife. “But you love me as much as you love yourself.”

Stiles comeback, (which was going to be witty and awesome, no doubt) is cut off by Derek’s loud groans as the wolfsbane is burnt out of his system. His bearded chin juts up as he writhes, and Stiles is suddenly and inappropriately aware of how long Derek’s neck is. It just makes this gorgeous line from his jaw too his collarbone, built from ripples of muscle and tanned skin.

“There you go,” Other Stiles soothes, “you’ve got it, almost done. I’m here, Derek, alright? Right here.”

He’s leaning over Derek’s body and looking straight into his eyes. Derek looks right back like a drowning man.

It’s all so romance novel that Stiles has to look away. Scott makes eye contact with him and gives a rueful shrug. Like this happens all the time. It’s just Stiles and Derek climbing all over each other, as ridiculously touchy as Scott and Allison.

Other Scott has a sort of confidence that his Scott doesn’t have. His Scott was never insecure exactly, but Other Scott is unexpectedly capable. There was a sureness about him when he ran through the bullets with Other Stiles, and Other Scott’s uneven jaw is set firmer, his eyes steelier, even his muscles are musclier than they are in Stiles’ universe. Allison would probably love it.

“You don’t have Allison,” Stiles blurts out.

Other Stiles and Derek ignore him, but Scott tilts his head in confusion. He looks less like a puppy dog now that his hair is long enough to be pulled back in a ponytail holder, but he can still manage the confused puppy eyes pretty well.

“Allison?” he asks, “who’s Allison?”

“Oh, just some girl from my reality,” Stiles tries to sound as breezy as he can. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to mention that he’s pretty good friends with Chris Argent’s daughter back in his universe. He’d rather not be tossed off of a mountain cliff, thank you. “She’s your girlfriend back there, but I guess you don’t know her here.”

Scott shrugs. “Probably not. The only Allison I know is Allison Kim back at base camp, and she’s fifty-seven. I think that one of the high ranking hunters is named Allison too, but she wants all of us dead, so you’re probably not talking about her,” he chuckles.

Stiles just nods and goes with a noncommital, “mmm,” because he can’t lie in front of two werewolves and himself.

Silence falls, and Stiles is suddenly aware of how incredibly awkward it is that Derek’s head is in his lap while his doppelganger is cuddling up against Derek’s chest. Other Stiles doesn’t seem to care who’s watching, he just nuzzles his head against Derek’s shirt like a cat, perfectly comfortable just where he is. Good for him.

Eventually, (probably seventeen minutes later, but Stiles doesn’t want to give his other self the satisfaction,) Derek stirs, head jostling around in Stiles’ lap. His arm instinctively rises up to tighten around Other Stiles’ waist, and he murmurs “thank you,” into Other Stiles’ ear.

It’s kind of sweet, and Stiles has seen his Derek apologize maybe twice, so it’s also a moment he feels like he should document for posterity, but what he says is, “this is nice and all, but would you mind getting out of my lap? My legs are in iffy enough shape as it is after our daring mountain escape.”

Derek groans, but lifts his head obligingly so Stiles can scoot out from underneath him.

“It’s dark,” Scott observes. “We making camp?”

Other Stiles hums in the affirmative, not bothering to move. Stiles doubts that they’re hiding any camping equipment in their clothing, so it looks like another night of roughing it.

He looks at his hands, “We risking frostbite? Because it’s pretty cold to be sleeping out in the open.”

The others just laugh.

“I’m the only- we’re the only ones risking frostbite, on account of the human thing,” Other Stiles explains, “and you should have seen us back in December. You know, when we say we’re heading back to camp, it’s not exactly a heated cabin. It’s a nice clearing that Erica, Isaac and Boyd are in.” He pauses. “Erica, Isaac and Boyd are-”

“I’m familiar. We have them in my universe.”

“Cool. Assuming they aren’t evil over their with a crazy facial scar or something.”

“Nope. Not evil at all. Unless you count Erica’s diabolical plan to buy out all of the leather miniskirts in a ten mile radius.”

Derek chuckles, (chuckles!) making Other Stiles bounce up and down on his chest. “That girl. I remember the leather miniskirt phase. It doesn’t work as well around here.”

Stiles rubs his hands together, as they’re already starting to feel stiff in the cool mountain air. “So I see. What exactly are we doing, by the way? Cuddling for warmth?”

“Yes,” Derek says like it’s no big deal, like the pack hasn’t been begging him for a straight year to join in on their puppy piles. Which, to this Derek, Stiles realizes, they haven’t.

Scott’s already pressing up behind Other Stiles, throwing an arm over and pulling his hood up against the cold. Stiles remembers back in the pre-middle school days when they would camp out in his back yard and do that. Stiles always made Scott be the tauntaun that Stiles, (who was always Luke Skywalker, thank you,) would use for warmth. They’d usually give up an hour or so into the night, when it got too hot underneath all of the sleeping bags that Melissa had piled onto them, but Stiles still got nostalgic looking at Other Scott getting his cuddle on with someone other than Allison.

Naturally, Stiles got up to lie down next to Scott, but Derek patted the spot next to him as soon as Stiles got to his feet. What did he want? Was he pointing something out on the ground?

Other Stiles just groaned, half asleep already, “g’wan, cuddle up. It’s not like you’re not used to it.”

“Um, no,” Stiles says hesitantly as he slips under Derek’s other arm. “My Derek and I don’t cuddle. Woah, it is warm under here though. You know, I always wondered if Alphas had higher body temperatures than normal werewolves.”

Seriously though. It is super comfortable. Stiles is going to have to break out his “talk until they get tired” technique on his Derek when he gets back, because they have been missing out if Derek is this nice to lie on and isn’t in their puppy piles.

“That’s a damn shame, sir,” Other Stiles says from his side of the Derek sandwich. “Your Derek isn’t a cuddler?”

“I haven’t had the chance to find out.”

Other Stiles looks confused, and even Other Derek twists his head around to look at him between tumbles of black hair. Scott is fast asleep already.

“Like, are you abstaining until marriage or something? Because dude, you are missing out. Hard. Heh, hard.”

Derek cuffs Other Stiles lightly over the head. “Please. Maybe they only just met.”

“Is Derek ugly in your universe? Because don’t let that turn you off. He has a heart of pure, lovable gold. Unobtanium even.” He explains to Derek, “it’s more valuable,” and Derek gives him a fond smile, like he gets this all the time.

“What? No,” Stiles is slowly realizing that they’re making some assumptions that would never have even occurred to Stiles, “Derek’s just as hot in my universe, and I’ve known him since I was sixteen, and he’s really grumpy and I don’t know if he’s a cuddler because we aren’t together.”

Other Stiles and Derek both recoil in shock, as much as they can while lying down. Then they look at each other, engaging in a silent conversation of eyebrows and face twitches.

“You’re not... homophobic are you?” Other Stiles says uncomfortably, “because this is going to get real awkward real fast.”

“What? No. Come on. Why is this so weird? My Derek and I don’t get along, he’s never looked at me like that, so we aren’t dating. What’s weird is looking at you two,” Stiles pulls an arm free so he can gesture at Other Stiles and Derek, “seriously, I’m in the Twilight Zone this is so weird. It’s like somebody looked at the pack and was like ‘what’s the most unlikely pair out of all these people? I know, the grumpy, werewolf greek god and the hyperactive, much younger nerd boy -you know I mean it in a nice way, man- but wow.”

They engage in another silent conversation. “We never looked at it like that,” Derek says into the night, “it was just a fact from the moment we met.”

“Inevitable,” Other Stiles agrees.

“Yes, yes,” comes Scott’s sleepy voice from behind Other Stiles. Not asleep after all. “You’re fated by the gods, blah blah blah, love of destiny, soulmates whatever shut up and go to sleep.”

“Remember when we first met, Derek, o’ star of my heart?” Other Stiles asks wistfully, fluttering his eyelashes and talking louder than before just to get on Scott’s nerves. “Our eyes met across a crowded forest floor, and I turned to Scott and said ‘see that guy? I’m going to marry that guy one day.’”

Derek laughs. Seriously, that will never get old. “I seem to remember both of you being a bit startled when I wolfed out right there and charged at you.”

“Yeah...” Other Stiles says fondly, “good times, good times.”

The others go to bed fairly quickly, the sounds of Scott’s snoring serving to be an effective lullaby, but Stiles, unused to the early bedtime, lies awake for a while, curled as close as he can to Derek’s body heat. Other Derek, he reminds himself ruefully. This lighthearted, affectionate guy is not his Derek. However much Stiles may wish he were.