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.
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.
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.
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?”
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?”
“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?”
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?”
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.
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.
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, 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.
Up next: exposition! And also Stiles being a wee bit... not jealous... intrigued. Yeah, that's it. Intrigued by Other Derek and Other Stiles.
Chapter 2: Grittiness
The plot thickens.
Can I just say how much I’m enjoying picturing the boys with really long hair? Like, I’m imagining Scott in particular having these really girly, slightly curling locks and it’s just so ridiculous I can’t even.
Oh, and I should mention that, while I have a solid enough outline to know that this’ll be 6 chapters, I’m still writing, so if you put suggestions in your reviews, I just may include them. I want to know what ya’ll think!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Captain’s log, stardate...five. Five days into my stay in this alternate universe, and the answers are coming to me slowly. The thingamajig continues to be nonfunctional, but I have been transported to the renegade base. At the moment, there have been no major upsets.
Unless you count the ridiculous looking afros that Isaac and Boyd have started sporting. When Stiles and his hiking group of Derek, Scott, and Other Stiles arrived at the camp, they were greeted by an enthusiastic contingent of betas, all with various states of overgrown hair. Erica is the only one who’s beard free, but her mane has gotten longer, and she cheekily informs Stiles that she’s plenty hairy underneath her clothes, if he’d like to check. Stiles, as he got used to the workings of the camp, soon realized that there wasn’t much anybody could do about it. The pack packs light, the camp being little more than a collection of sleeping bags, pads, and backpacks. No room for shaving equipment or haircuts.
There’s a whole different way of life in the camp, Stiles finds out. Sort of like intense backpacking, with a side of secrecy. Going to bed and waking up with the sun, because they can’t risk their lights being seen, and avoiding fires except at dusk, so the hunters can’t see their smoke trails, rolling up their sleeping bags, zipping up their backpacks, and setting off to a new clearing every now and then.
They can’t stay in one place for very long because, as Stiles grudgingly admits, this is the grittier universe.
“It started with the Defense of Human Homesteads Act,” Derek says one evening as they briskly warm their food before they have to put their fire out.
Other Stiles grimaces. He disagrees. “Really, most of the anti-werewolf discrimination started with the Nonhuman Disclosure Act.”
“But nobody started getting killed legally until that Supreme Court ruling that said murdering a werewolf was within your legal rights,” Isaac points out as he stirs the pasta by sticking a finger into the boiling pot of water. Werewolves. Show-offs, every last one.
Derek waves a hand. “However it started, about two years ago, the Argents and their followers more or less put a price on the head of every werewolf within their sphere of influence.”
“So, most of central and eastern California,” Other Stiles explains, “some of Oregon too.”
“Biggest werewolf hunt in the United States,” Derek continues.
“And Canada,” Other Stiles adds.
Erica rolls her eyes. “Nobody cares about Canada.”
“Some seven thousand or so werewolves were suddenly in danger,” Derek continues, his grim face contrasting oddly with the christmas tree shaped pasta he’s getting spooned onto his plate. “About two thousand are dead now for sure. Shot with wolfsbane bullets, their houses burned down while they slept, electrocuted until their brains shorted out-”
“It was rough,” Other Stiles finishes, so that Derek doesn’t have to continue. “So we talk to Danny, he’s a hacker friend-”
“So we talk to Danny, and he gets us into the Federal Database of Nonhuman Entities, because Danny is a wonderful ray of sunshine, and one of the good humans. We ended up with a bona fide mailing list of other werewolves. All because the FNEB decided they wanted to keep tabs on every werewolf in the nation.”
“It was poetic,” Boyd chuckles.
“That it was, my friend. That it was. So Derek gets to sending out emails, letters, calls, fucking facebook messages-”
Derek objects, “it wasn’t just me. You’re making me sound like some sort of folk hero.”
“You’ll always be a folk hero to me, o’ star of my heart. Whatever. Derek and,” Other Stiles nods pointedly at Derek, “a bunch of other Alphas start organizing, and investigating, scouting, whatever, and they find that there’s a network of caves in the Sierras. That’s where we are, bee-tee-dubs. I don’t know if anyone’s actually told you. But yeah, so they find these caves. And they are miserable, let me tell you, freezing and icy and gross even in the summer, but nobody really knows about them because they’re terrible for human tourists. Werewolves though, can handle them. So, we move out of Beacon Hills, start setting up in the caves. It was slow-”
“Too slow,” Derek spoons another bunch of christmas trees into his mouth, “a lot of good people died on the way there because we decided to stagger the arrivals.”
“But we got three thousand odd werewolves hidden out of the Argent’s warpath,” Other Stiles says determinedly, “which is more than anyone else has managed. We hear rumors about places in Canada, Mexico, where werewolves have made it out. Some lucky bastards that made it to Europe, where they can practically live in the open, but we’re organized, which is more than anyone else can say. What you’re looking at here,” Other Stiles spreads his arms out, gesturing at their miniscule camp, eyes alight with more than reflections from the flames, “is a guerrilla squad.”
“That’s a fancy way of saying that we’re in charge of making distractions,” Boyd explains.
“Distractions that have gotten most of us onto the top of the Argent’s wanted rosters,” Other Stiles objects. “We draw attention away from where everybody else is hidden, a thousand or so miles further up in elevation. Make it inconvenient for the hunters to get organized, make their living situations uncomfortable, block off roadways.”
“Fight for freedom,” Erica drawls ironically, punching a hand into the air.
“Mostly we just camp out,” Isaac confides to Stiles behind a hand. “There are some other squads up and down the mountains, too. Stiles is just a drama queen.”
“We are not!” both Stiles object in unison.
“Sure you are.” Isaac licks his plate, then dumps it into the water bucket. “Hearing you say it, we sound like Robin Hood or something.”
Other Stiles gives Isaac a long suffering look. “We aren’t stealing anything. We are fighting a noble and glorious fight of glory for our werewolf brethren.”
“So. Confused,” Stiles states, because this is really getting to him. “Are you, um, other me, a werewolf? Because I thought you said you weren’t but I’m thinking maybe I misheard.”
Other Stiles looks nonplussed. “I’m human. What gave you the idea? It couldn’t have been my bulging muscles.”
Other Stiles’ muscles are much bulgier than Stiles’, actually, but that isn’t the point. “You know you always say ‘us’ when you’re talking about the wolves?”
Derek wraps an arm around Other Stiles’ shoulder. “He is one of us.”
“Dude,” Stiles holds up his hands defensively, because he knows Derek’s affronted face, “I never said he wasn’t. It’s just confusing, alright? Confusing pronoun usage. You know how it is. It’s confusing, is what it is.”
Other Stiles’ mouth twists ruefully. “I’d take the bite if Derek would let me-”
“I’m not going to doom Stiles to being on the run for the rest of his life.”
“Like I wouldn’t spend it following you around anyway...”
They devolve into what’s clearly an argument that’s brought up a lot, full of phrases that sound as though they’ve been said many times before, and Stiles takes a moment to process.
It’s something to take in. There have been times, yes, when Stiles thinks that it would be pretty worth it to take the bite and get super healing, but to want it as bad as Other Stiles seems to, to the point where it’s an old argument between him and Derek... Stiles doesn’t want to be a werewolf because it would change who he is, because he would be in danger of hurting other people, because it’s such a permanent decision he doesn’t think he could ever be ready for it, but Other Stiles lives and breathes their life, he fights with them, he uses confusing pronouns. He’s already committed himself so firmly to the pack that he’s bypassed everything holding Stiles back.
Not to mention the extreme level of dedication that Other Stiles and Derek have to each other. Stiles supposes it comes with being mates. The more he thinks about it, the more intriguing the prospect is. Everyone Stiles knows, even Scott, has doubts about the relationships they’re in. A niggling feeling that maybe the people they’re with aren’t “the one,” or that something will go wrong, or that they’re moving too fast, or too slow, or they don’t communicate, or something else worthy of a Dear Abby letter or a tear stained diary entry. Derek and Other Stiles don’t have to worry about it. Like Scott said, they’re “fated by the gods, blah blah blah, love of destiny, soulmates whatever.”
It seems like cheating, but Derek and Other Stiles don’t have doubts, and they’re so happy. They sleep on the ground, they’ve been on the run for years, their people are being hunted down, they have all of this responsibility for what’s basically a werewolf colony they settled themselves, and they have so many reasons to be tense and unhappy and angry and angsty, but they aren’t.
Alright, so Other Derek is just as capable of being pessimistic and grim as the one from Stiles’ universe, and Other Stiles can get downright fanatic sometimes when he’s talking about the measures they went through to protect the werewolves at base camp, but when they’re together, when they’re talking, when they’re sneaking off to a private grove of trees out of the range of werewolf super senses, they’re happy.
The rest of the pack, who take their bad luck with the same sort of let’s-push-our-sleeves-up-and-try-to-fix-this-shit attitude they do in Stiles’ universe, treat the whole thing like some sort of ongoing joke. There go Derek and Stiles, off to compose epic love poems. Look at them, planning new ways to dramatically declare their love to each other. Without Scott and Allison to gently make fun of, they giggle quietly at Derek and Other Stiles instead.
It isn’t a situation Stiles ever thought he’d see -least of all because he hadn’t known alternate universes existed until a few days ago- but he has to admit, (to himself, in silence, and to no one else,) that he thinks it’s fascinating. He feels so creepy, and voyeuristic, but he can’t stop his eyes from lingering on the dark shape of Other Stiles and Derek curled up together in the night, able to squish up close because they found a way to zip their sleeping bags together. It’s for warmth, but also because Derek’s a cuddler. Stiles misses having an excuse to snuggle up to that, now that he has his own sleeping bag. The way that Other Stiles just lies on top of Derek like he’s a mattress, and Derek doesn’t seem to mind at all, maybe because he’s used to it, or too strong to care, or cares too much to stop Other Stiles from squishing the air out of him, Stiles doesn’t know, but it’s sweet. Reassuring. He thinks for a short time that it’s like watching his parents kiss, weird, but nice, then backtracks quickly because yikes.
Watching Other Stiles and Derek kiss is not like watching his parents kiss. Largely because his parents only ever exchanged light pecks when Stiles was in the vicinity, but also because Stiles gets very preoccupied with the way that Other Derek cups Other Stiles’ jaw when he moves in. He never fantasized about one of his parents doing that to him, that’s for sure. Never fantasized about having his face cradled like it’s something precious, (it just goes to show how seriously Stiles is taking this that he isn’t making Lord of the Rings jokes,) like even Derek could find him precious.
Then Stiles has to remind himself that his Derek and Other Derek are not the same person. His Derek is mastering the lone wolf routine despite having a pack, while Other Derek works with Stiles like they’re two parts of the same organism. Or maybe experienced dance partners. Watching them pack their bags is entertainment all on it’s own, (it helps that there’s no TV around, so you find entertainment where you can,) because their belongings inevitably get mixed up with each other’s, so they sit across from each other, their backpacks in their lap, and toss objects back and forth in tandem.
“Toothbrush-wait, how did your toothbrush get into my bag?”
“Seriously, why is your toothbrush in here?”
“Wolfsbane stock. These had better be quadruple bagged.”
“They are. Ooh, here’s your nice underwear. Wouldn’t want to lose these.”
“Stiles. Stiles give them back!”
“We’ll just see about that, mister!”
“Is that so?”
“Y-oh my god oh my god oh my god Derek it tickles! It tickles!”
It would take Other Stiles and Derek much less time to pack if they didn’t keep taking breaks that involve feeling each other up.
Captain’s log, stardate, two weeks in. Note to self: stardates are way less cool when they’re just days. The thingamajig continues to be nonfunctioning, to my dismay. The Other pack is pleasant, but they are planning to destroy an Argent supply route, and I am being taken along. I doubt that I am qualified enough with explosives to make it out with my eyebrows intact.
“Dude, first of all, it’s weird that you’re saying that out loud, and second, we aren’t going to make you put out explosives on your first run,” Other Stiles comes out from a patch of trees to sit by Stiles on a rock by the creek bed, “that would be suicidal. Would it be suicidal me as well, since I’m you?”
Stiles rubs his chin, “not unless you die when I do. Wait, what if you do? What if we have some sort of crazy psychic connection that means when I die, you die?”
“I think if we did, I’d have felt it when you skinned your knee the other week. That was rough.”
Stiles prods the scabrous patch on his knee. “Tell me about it.”
“It was rough.” Other Stiles smirks. “Ow! Easy with the poking in the delicate places.”
“I was testing,” Stiles says innocently, “I didn’t feel a thing.”
“Ugh, I saw that one coming from a mile away.”
“Can’t imagine why.”
“Are we always this annoying?”
“How about rogueishly charming?”
“Let’s go with that. Oh yeah! Rogues, criminals, guerrilla squads, the mission in two days.”
“Was that your train of thought?”
“It was yours too.”
“What we’re going to do,” Other Stiles says decisively, slapping his hands together, “is give you a gun, and you run backup. Dad... Dad taught you to shoot, right?”
“Yeah. So, what, I’ll be the Black Widow in this gang of Avengers?”
“Yup. You’re the human with a gun. Enjoy it.”
“What are you the human with?”
Other Stiles grins wickedly. “The explosives.”
The Argent’s supply route is really more of a middling sized dirt road, but apparently it’s important, bringing food and weapons to all eight of the Argent outposts along the Sierras. The Argents and their followers may technically be classified as just a Human Defense Militia, but they are damn organized. Stiles thinks it reeks of Gerard.
Surrounded by trees on all sides, the route is actually quite pleasant looking. It’s almost a pity that it’s going to be blown up.
“We’ve done this a few times before,” Other Stiles explains as he sets another line of charges across the road, “but the hunters eventually come in and repair the damage. This time though,” he explains, “we have some very pretty new combinations of C4. I’ve got big plans.”
“He always has big plans,” Derek murmurs fondly under his breath.
Stiles is laying the fourth string of charges. The other three are further down the road, each separated by a half mile. The guerrillas picked the most vulnerable part of the road, where erosion had already done a number on it, and there were water sources running underneath it instead of bedrock, so the ground can collapse further inwards. Stiles doesn’t know when they found time to conduct geological surveys, but Other Stiles seemed confident enough when he explained the plan, and everyone else needed nothing more than Other Stiles’ stamp of approval.
Derek unhooks a walkie talkie from his belt. “The last line is down, over.”
“We’re still good over here,” Scott answers, his voice tinny coming out of the bright yellow speaker.
“And here,” Erica adds.
“And here,” Boyd says from his spot. It’s the furthest down the road, two miles away from where Stiles, Other Stiles and Derek are with the last row of charges.
“Everyone back up from your lines,” Derek orders as he takes both of the Stiles’ shoulders and walks them backwards into the tree line. “Stiles,” he says, leaning away from the walkie talkie for a second, “are we good to go?”
Other Stiles nods, fiddling with a remote detonator. “Can I say it?”
Derek hands Other Stiles the walkie talkie.
“Fire in the hole!” Other Stiles hollers gleefully as he presses down on the detonator.
Stiles was expecting a bit more of a mushroom cloud, but this will do. Clouds of dust erupt as the charges go off with a roar and flashes of light. Glimpses of the other explosions can be seen between the trees, and hoots and hollers start coming through the walkie talkie. There’s a pretty impressive crater slashing through the road, wide and deep enough that any four wheeled vehicle is going to have serious trouble trying to cross it. From the sounds coming from the walkie talkie, the other explosions had similar results.
They wait next to their crater for the rest of the pack to come up the trail to meet them, finding a comfortable fallen log and laying claim to it.
“That went pretty smoothly,” Stiles observes, because he’s an idiot who apparently doesn’t understand the concept of dramatic irony.
No sooner are the words out of his mouth than they hear engine noises and shouting coming from around the bend in the road. It isn’t the rest of the pack coming to greet them.
“Hurry up,” Derek yells into the walkie talkie with one hand while his claws withdraw from his other, “we have company!”
Melodramatic phrasing? Yes. True? Unfortunately, also yes. It’s a jeep filled with hunters, which hurts Stiles to his very soul. Why’d they have to take a jeep? As soon as the hunters see the crater and the faces that grace wanted posters all across central and eastern California and some of Oregon, they start pulling out the guns and tasers.
Derek wolfs out, and sprints forward like he’s invincible, while Other Stiles pulls out the handgun that was hanging at his waist and starts shooting warning shots, one hand steadying the other, just like their dad taught them. Stiles wishes he had his baseball bat, but in this situation, wishes end up with you dead on the side of the road, so he pulls out the intimidating gun that Other Stiles shoved into his hands earlier that day, and starts shooting. He doesn’t aim anywhere important, doesn’t know what to do, because he has no desire to actually kill anybody. It’s one thing braining selkies, even going after Peter, who was hurting people, but these hunters are barely older than he is, and they’re awfully human shaped.
Derek jumps inside the jeep, suddenly in too close range for the hunters’ shotguns, and he starts slamming their heads against the metal walls, knocking them out one by one while Other Stiles makes enough of a distraction with gunshot noises and yelling that the hunters can’t focus entirely on Derek. Following their lead, Stiles shoots a bullet into one of the jeep tires, mentally apologizing to his own baby back home. There’s a pop, and the jeep starts to lurch to one side, so Stiles moves on to the other tire. It’s satisfying, like picking off a scab or jumping on bubblewrap. He starts circling around the jeep so he can aim at the other two tires, since shooting a car is way preferable to shooting people, but a hunter jumps out of the back and goes for him, even though Derek is still causing a ruckus in the back of the jeep.
The hunter is tall and thin, with half grown sideburns and an impressive shotgun that he points straight at Stiles’ face. Not so much for subtlety, these guys. Also, Stiles refuses to be in his second near death situation in a span of less than a month, and he’s still planning on getting home at some point, so he knocks the barrel of the shotgun upwards and ducks underneath it, coming up to slam the butt of the gun into sideburn guy’s temple. He goes down a lot easier than Stiles thought he would.
Stiles whirls back up, gun at the ready. He’s got this, you just watch him, no hunters are going to be messing up his day, no sir, not unless they want to fear the Stilinator. There’s a fire burning in him that only some good old fashioned bad guy thrashing can put out. He looks for his next victim.
They’re all on the ground. Isaac and Scott finally show up, panting, on the other side of the crater, only to see a collection of seven or so hunters passed out against various surfaces.
Other Stiles puts his gun away. “Great timing Scott, as always. Help us unload this thing.”
Stiles follows them as they start pulling boxes out of the jeep, “that was a lot easier than I thought it would be.”
“They’re untrained,” Derek grunts as he heaves a hunter over his shoulder to drop him out of the car, “probably just given a gun and told to drive up to one of the outposts.”
“Wolfsbane in this one,” Isaac observes, pointing at a crate. Other Stiles gingerly lifts it out of the way.
By the time Erica and Boyd show up, anything useful has been taken from the jeep and into a few bags slung over Scott and Isaac’s shoulders. Everything else has been dumped out, sabotaged, unscrewed, or had dirt mixed into it. For good measure, Derek hauls the driver’s seat right out of the car. It’s an easy way to make sure it’s a pain to drive, and also quite nice to watch, since Derek’s brute strength is a spectacle all to itself.
A hot, hot spectacle.
After they deem that their work is done, Derek walks over to Other Stiles and starts patting him down for injuries, like he couldn’t smell the blood if Other Stiles had been hurt. Even Stiles’ Derek does this after a fight, even if he isn’t so handsy. Other Derek’s hands move knowingly across the surface of Other Stiles’ body, and Stiles should look away, he really, really should, but he doesn’t, because Derek’s nosing around in Other Stiles’ long hair, cupping the back of his head, and holding on like he needs to be certain that Other Stiles is there. Other Stiles just smiles softly. He’s used to it. He pats Derek’s back and rubs it soothingly, then takes his hand and starts leading the rest of the pack back up the mountain.
It won’t be long until the hunters wake up, but Stiles still wishes they could have stayed on relatively flat ground for just a little longer before climbing back up the mountain again.
“I can’t believe nobody died,” Stiles huffs as they navigate a particularly tricky set of rocks, “back home, whenever we tried something like that, somebody always died. They came back to life a lot, but somebody always died.”
“We have somebody die a lot as well,” Derek says, his face dark as he speaks. Stiles wants to pull his cheeks up until he smiles, but that isn’t really his territory. “We’ve been trying to keep mortality rates down since Yreka.”
Yreka. Chris had mentioned that. “What’s-”
“It was just bad,” Isaac says softly. “Violent. Too violent. We try to not be seen as savages, we try not to be savages, but some omegas got carried away while the Argents were laying siege to a big pack in Yreka, and it, uh, didn’t end well. For either side, I guess.”
“Doctor Deaton was busy that day,” Erica is trying for gallows humor, but it falls flat.
Scott notes ruefully, “I think he was actually glad to go back to base camp after that. Not many battles at base camp. He barely has to do any healing there.”
“Wait wait wait wait wait,” Stiles cuts in, because mournful reminiscing is great and all, but this is important. “you have Deaton?”
“Um yeah,” Other Stiles says, “between his magic and all that werewolf sympathizing, he classified as a nonhuman entity and had to go into hiding. You have a Deaton too?”
“Yeah. Zen, mysterious, cryptic vet.”
“That’s him,” Other Stiles pauses, “wait, he’s a vet in your universe? Because that’s actually so perfect I can’t even.”
“Yeah, he is,” Stiles says, feeling the weight of the thingamajig heavy against his chest, “and I have some questions for him.”
The trek up to base camp is long, strenuous, and cold. Stiles is not a fan of the long and strenuous part, but the cold bit actually turns out to be pretty nice, because Derek decided that he was capable of keeping both Stiles warm at the same time, so Stiles finally has an excuse to squish up against all of Derek’s... everything again. It makes walking difficult, but also much more fun, because he can focus on feeling Derek’s ribs expand and contract next to him, rather than the feeling that his legs are about to implode.
Eventually, they get high enough that there are slivers of snow on the ground, even in April, which Stiles, a Beacon Hills boy who sees snow every five years if he’s lucky gets excited about.
He learns not to get into snowball fights with werewolves. Derek will go easy on Other Stiles, but none of the pack bother being gentle with Stiles, so he’s pretty sure he’ll have some snowball shaped bruises in the morning.
He also learns, from spending all day walking right next to Other Stiles and Derek, that they argue almost as much as he and Derek do. They argue about the route they’re taking, about Derek’s hair, about whether that was a red-tailed hawk or a red-shouldered hawk, how much they would have to restock when they got to base camp, whether they should assign more people to guerrilla squad by mariposa, whether Other Stiles looks good with his tan or not, whether chocolate counts as a necessary food item, and even the age old question of who would win in a fight: Superman or Batman, (Batman,) all within the space of two hours. But it’s fond, teasing in a way that makes Stiles wonder if he and his Derek sound this way when they bicker. Probably not, but a guy can hope.
There’s a light dusting of snow over everything, like powdered sugar or really heavy dandruff, by the time base camp comes into view, the slightest sliver of a cave entrance near the summit of the mountain they’re on. A guard on a nearby hilltop stands up, but Scott waves a red piece of fabric, and the guy stands down, gesturing with some sort of arm signal for them to go ahead. They tramp through the light snow to the cave entrance, Boyd covering up their tracks as they go.
Base camp can be defined by a few things. First, it is crowded. Thousands of werewolves all smashed into one place equals a refugee camp like atmosphere, hundreds of little circles of bedding and cooking equipment right next to each other. Second, the base campers have an interesting way of decorating. It involves a lot of graffiti petroglyphs, and ornaments hanging off of stalactites. Third, guerrilla fighters are treated like kings, (and a queen.)
They’re greeted first by a fearsome looking woman in a fur lined coat by the entrance, who checks their names against a roster, even though judging by the wink she sends Derek, she knows who they are. She stumbles a little over the second Stiles Stilinski, but she seems to trust Derek’s judgement when he says it’s safe. Once they’re further in, and behind a draping piece of fabric meant to keep heat in, a regiment of werewolf children start squealing and howling in delight, jumping onto whatever member of the pack is within reach. Stiles is particularly fond of the little girl that tugs on Erica’s extra long braid like it’s a doorbell to ask to be picked up. Erica obliges. The rest of the cave residents react in a similar way to their arrival, barring the constant demands to be carried around.
Stiles learns quickly that what they’re in is one long, tunnel-like cave out of several within the mountain, but that this is the one where the pack stays. Derek explains that the placement of their camp in the cave was actually quite a political decision involving the territories of other packs in the cave. It takes a lot of soft-footing to deal with so many Alphas in one place.
When he was told about base camp, Stiles pictured something like an army barracks, filled with sweaty twenty somethings sharpening knives angrily, but what it really is is a conglomeration of families, all stuffed into one place. Most of the knife sharpening twenty somethings are on guerrilla duty, or on supply runs, getting black market food from sympathetic Nevadans. For everyone else, cave life on the run is surprisingly domestic. The little old ladies from different packs meet around a lantern near the northeast corner of First Cavern and hold stitch n’ bitches every two days like they’re in a church basement back home. They even make Stiles gloves for his “freezing little human hands.” There are a few squares of foam matting and some soccer balls in Second Cavern for the kids, and even a few teachers, banned from teaching humans, that try their hand at stuffing a little education into raucous werewolf kids. Omegas are around, but a fifty year old ex bookshop owner from Turlock informs Stiles that slowly but surely, they’re getting assimilated into packs, “mostly on purpose.”
To Stiles’ surprised delight, he finds Danny in Third Cavern, working with a few electricians to get a better generator system together. They’re even thinking of getting wind power in the future, something sustainable, if they can keep it quiet from the outside world. Danny is managing to avoid the mountain man beard, unlike a lot of the guys in base camp, but it doesn’t even occur to Stiles to try his hand at flirting. Besides, from the looks of it, Danny’s getting pretty friendly with an ex-computer engineer from San Jose, so Stiles figures that Danny’s happy where he is.
Stiles asks if Jackson is around too, but Danny just shakes his head, face closed off, and changes the subject. Stiles doesn’t know what he would say to Jackson if he were there anyway, so he doesn’t press.
There are other absences, too. Stiles notes that no members of Derek’s family can be found. He asked the roster lady, but she shrugs and says, “isn’t it just you?” God only knows where Peter is. He could be off building a deathray or organic farming in Venezuela for all Stiles cares. Stiles’ dad isn’t there either, which makes Stiles nervous. He could very well still be in Beacon Hills, sheriffing away, but the human brain looks for patterns, and Stiles can’t help but think about how every time their dad comes up in conversation, Other Stiles looks guilty and sad.
But Stiles tries to push away his worries with the knowledge that, for all that he’s a visitor, maybe even an illegal alien in this universe, it isn’t his, and soon enough, everything will go back to normal.
It takes a surprisingly long time to get to see Deaton. He has a waiting list, of all things, and no amount of eyelash fluttering gets Stiles a higher spot on it. By the time Stiles’ appointment comes around, the pack has debriefed the ruling authority in the caves about what they’ve been up to, dropped off loot taken from hunters, and picked up more supplies of their own. The only thing that needs to be done before they can head out again is Stiles having a talk with Deaton.
Deaton is a magical healer in this universe, but with people rather than animals, as Stiles finds out. He also does most of his work in a makeshift tent in central Second Cavern with a 13 year old omega outside, acting as his receptionist. Stiles sits outside of the tent with the other people waiting, and perks up his head when Deaton’s current patient leaves the tent, testing out his arm experimentally.
“Who’s next, Mora?” Deaton asks from inside the tent.
Mora checks the waiting list. “Stiles Stilinski, Alpha Derek Hale.” When werewolves ask your name in the caves, they want yours, as well as your Alpha’s. Stiles had felt oddly proud when he added Derek’s name to his on the waiting list. He gets appreciative looks from the wolves when he tells them Derek’s his Alpha. It’s a nice feeling.
“Oh. Stiles,” Deaton’s voice holds recognition, “send him in.”
Mora waves at Stiles unnecessarily, as he’s already going into the tent. Once he’s in, he and Deaton stare at each other for a moment.
“You aren’t quite Stiles.”
“You... have dreadlocks.” And tie-dye, and a dreamcatcher hanging around his neck, but Stiles thinks that the most pressing issue is the dreadlocks.
Deaton stares for a second more. “Alternate universe?”
“Yes!” Stiles crows in relief. “You gave me this,” he pulls out the thingamajig, “in my universe, and it was supposed to take me out of danger, which I guess is did but also now there’s a second me and everything is different like you have dreadlocks and live in a cave and I just want to go home.” More or less. It’s less of a pressing goal now than it was on his first day.
Deaton holds his hand out for the thingamajig, which Stiles hands over. He taps it lightly, sprinkles some powder over it, dunks it in a bottle of what Stiles thinks is just olive oil, but doesn’t really want to know, and then sets it onto a canvas mat. “Ah. Yes. I see. You made most of this yourself, correct?”
“Yeah,” Stiles says proudly.
“Which would explain why the sigils are so strange,” Deaton murmurs to himself. “There’s an issue with the protection range, which is why you got thrown so far out of your original location, but I assume this isn’t working anymore?”
Stiles shakes his head.
“Mmm.” Deaton runs a few more tests, all of which involve shining various lights onto the pink stone in the center of the thingamajig. “Oh. It’s tied up in the moon cycles.”
It doesn’t seem like he’s going to say anything else, so Stiles prods, “which means...”
“It will only work when the moon is in the same phase as it was when you used it the first time,” Deaton explains.
“So, gibbous moon.” Stiles has to keep very close track of the moon stages for both werewolves and any magical shenanigans he gets up to. Don’t judge, Stiles knows for a fact that his Scott has Allison’s menstrual cycle down to the day.
“Gibbous then,” Deaton agrees, pulling out a small etching tool from underneath an honest to god crystal ball. He scratches a sigil onto the back of the brooch, one Stiles is fairly sure signifies reversal. “Use it again on the gibbous moon, and it should take you back to where you originally used it.”
“Great. Wait. Isn’t that in almost a month?”
Deaton shrugs. “It would have worked immediately if you were here to get the sigil reversed four days ago, but for now you have to wait.”
Stiles mulls this over as he walks through the labyrinthian tunnels back to where his pack is stationed, just between the O’Hannery pack and the Mitchell pack. He could just spend the remainder of his time at base camp. It’s safer, and there would be less hiking involved. He could hang with Danny, entertain some of the kids, try his hand at knitting.
Then he turns a corner, and sees Boyd and Erica tickling Isaac to within an inch of his life, and Scott methodically working through their inventory, an expression of intense concentration on his puppy dog face. He sees Other Stiles laughing as he uses a borrowed razor from the O’Hannerys to shave off Derek’s wolf Jesus beard, and thinks that he could probably handle another month with them. No need to say goodbye right away.
Up next: saddest kisses ever!!!11!!11!!!!!! lyk omg.
Chapter 3: Expectations
So many feeeelllsss writing this one.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Contrary to popular belief, Stiles does have some self awareness. He says stupid stuff because he doesn’t have a brain/mouth filter, but he knows it’s stupid. Similarly, he knows that it isn’t idle curiosity driving his fascination with Derek. Any Derek.
But it only really hits home when he comes back to their camp, and Other Derek’s beard is gone, and his chin length hair is being shorn back to a more reasonable shape. Everyone else is partway through cutting their hair as well, since they finally have the means to do it, and, according to Other Stiles, “seeing your buzzcut reminded the rest of us that there’s a more practical option than looking like the cast of Hair,” but Stiles’ focus is entirely on Derek.
Because it’s Derek. It’s Derek, with that jaw and the hair that flips up right over his forehead, and those ears that stick out just a little more than is conventionally attractive, but somehow make him even hotter because they make him look like a person instead of like an alien’s interpretation of the perfect human being. The lines that Stiles have been carefully drawing between Other Derek, (the affectionate, albeit slightly surly guy that ruffles Scott’s hair and kisses Other Stiles like he means it,) and his Derek, (the uncommunicative loner whose conversations with Stiles are only ever arguments over what to do about the latest supernatural baddie) are blurring, falling away.
When Derek brushes the last few clippings out of his hair by shaking his head like a dog, making Other Stiles laugh and smack his arm, Stiles wants. He wants that for himself, wants to put the ease and the teasing and the mates into a bottle and take it home with him.
Derek pulls Other Stiles in with an arm and kisses him enthusiastically, running a hand over Other Stiles’ newly shaved head, and it looks so much like what Stiles wants that it hurts.
“Smooth enough for you?” he hears Derek ask.
Other Stiles runs an appraising hand over his chin, checking for stubble burn, and then over Derek’s, probably just because it feels nice. Smooth, soft, warm... bitable.
“Yeah. You’re good. I dunno though, the wolf Jesus look was pretty good on you,” Other Stiles points out.
Scott looks up from his inventory. “I’m going to run over to the east corner to see if they have some more water bottles for us.”
“I’ll come with,” Stiles says quickly.
“Sweet,” Scott grins. He seems a little lonely with Other Stiles spending most of his time with Derek, and Stiles is happy to keep him company. Hanging out with Other Scott makes him nostalgic for the old days when Scott was just his bro. No melodramatic whining about his girlfriend whatsoever.
Scott looks over his shoulder at where Other Stiles has jumped onto Derek’s shoulders and is making Derek give him a piggyback ride. “They’re so cute,” he says longingly.
Well, maybe he’ll whine dramatically about Other Stiles and Derek instead. Improvement? Jury’s still out.
“Yeah,” Stiles agrees. “It’s weird for me to see Derek so cheerful, but there you go.”
Scott is puzzled. “Derek isn’t cheerful. He’s a big pile of grumpiness except when Stiles, um, you know, our Stiles, really works at it.”
“Man,” Stiles laughs, “you’ve never met my Derek. Compared to him, your Derek is a barrel of kittens and rainbows. The first time we met, he threw your inhaler at you and told us to get off of his property like an old man in a cartoon. ”
“No way,” Scott snickers, reflexively moving to push away a lock of hair that isn’t there anymore, “I can’t even picture it.”
“He was wearing all black too, and a leather jacket, like some kind of motorcycle gang member.”
Scott shrugs at that. “He was wearing all black when we first met him too. Now it’s all,” he waves a hand vaguely, “camping clothes that can insulate and whatever, but Derek had a leather thing back in Beacon Hills. I thought it was really creepy when we first met him.”
“Of course he did. Oh, hey, uh,” Stiles begins, because what the hell, he’s curious, and it’s not like he can google-fu an answer to this one, “how did other me and Derek meet? Because Derek mentioned something about wolfing out and running at other me, so right now I’m picturing him slinging other me over his shoulder like a caveman. Seriously, I’m imagining a club and a fur loincloth.” Which... isn’t a terrible mental picture.
Scott winces good-naturedly, “uhhh, no, that wasn’t what happened. Well, some of that happened. But, you know, not all of it. I, um, okay, so me n’ Stiles, other Stiles, not you Stiles-”
“Yeah, I got that.”
“Um, okay, cool. So me and Stiles were in the woods, because I’d lost my inhaler in there, it’s a long story-”
“No, we did that too, I’m following.”
“Cool. So we’re looking around for the inhaler, and there’s just leaves and dirt everywhere, so it’s not going so good. And then Stiles looks up, and it’s sort of like he’s a squirrel that heard a noise, because he’s like, at attention for some reason. I totally asked later why he did that, but even he didn’t really seem to know. But a few seconds later, maybe a minute, whatever, this guy all in black shows up, kind of far off, but he’s coming our way, and I was like ‘dude, he is shady, let’s keep on going, pretend we don’t see him or something,’ but Stiles is like, ‘no, no, I think it’s alright,’ and I’m seriously tugging at his arm but he’s like, planted to the ground, and the guy -it’s Derek, so you know-”
“Right, so Derek is coming towards us faster now, and I guess he’d caught Stiles’ scent, but at the time I was like ‘holy crap, this random dude in the woods wearing all black is running at us, we’re going to get killed,’ but Stiles is like ‘you can go Scott, I don’t care, but I need to see this dude up close.’ Of course I stuck around, cos I’d be guilty if he killed you while I’d run off, and then Derek’s like, maybe fifteen feet away, and he just wolfs out! And we’re like, ‘holy shit!’ And I’m thinking that finally Stiles is going to run away with me, but he flinches for like, a second, and then he just stands his ground like an idiot while Derek’s sprinting at him with claws and teeth and creepy glowing eyes.”
“Holy shit! Exactly. Then Derek sort of leaps onto Stiles, and he changes back, but it’s looking like he’s having some trouble keeping human, and they’re just staring at each other, and then I wasn’t worried so much about Derek slashing Stiles’ face off, I was just really uncomfortable because suddenly I felt like I was third wheeling it pretty hard.Because they were like, grabbing each other’s faces, and then next thing you know they’re, um, you know, eating each other’s faces. Except, not literally.”
“Yeah, I’m catching your drift.”
“Like, they were making out pretty hard.”
“Figured it out on my own, thanks.”
“I saw Derek’s tongue. It was weird.”
Scott grins wickedly, and continues, “and eventually they come up for air, and I’d be gone if I didn’t think that maybe there was still a chance that Derek was a crazy serial killer, but they, like, pull back for a second, and I’m like, ‘wait, Stiles, do you know this guy?’ and Stiles is like ‘nooo,’ and then Derek, who’s still got his arms, like, wrapped around Stiles, awkwardly pulls one free and shakes Stiles’ hand, and he’s all like, ‘I’m Derek,’ all polite, and I don’t think I’ve seen anybody fall so quickly in my life.”
“Then what happened?”
“Eh, explanations and stuff. It doesn’t make as good of a story though. Derek pretty much just said that Stiles was his mate and that was that, and Stiles had like, no problem with it. Said he knew something was up about Derek.”
“Wait,” Stiles says slowly, “I thought only werewolves could tell who their mate was.”
Scott shrugs. “It’s not like there’s a textbook entry about it. My guess is that werewolves know, like, for sure, right away, but humans kind of sense that something’s up. You know, it’s your soulmate. A one in seven billion chance, and there they are. Like, you’d feel something, you know?”
Stiles feels something alright. Disappointment leaking through his gut and making his heart sink, because apparently, he’d been unknowingly holding out on some expectations for the Derek of his world. Like it was just a fluke that they weren’t together and happy and mated, and they would get on the right track once Stiles got back. A part of Stiles had been thinking that he’d come home, and just go, “hey, Derek, are we mates and you just haven’t said anything about it?” and Derek would reply, “now you mention it, we are indeed! Now come to my bedchamber, where we will have super hot sex and then cuddle after!” But that was just wishful thinking, because when he met his Derek Hale, all he felt was fear and a tiny bit of resentment. Nothing more, nothing less.
He doesn’t ask any more questions between then, and the time they reach the east supply room. Scott probably thinks something is wrong with him, and Scott’d sort of be right.
The exit from base camp takes some time, between each pack they pass wanting to hug each of them goodbye, and every single one of the betas remembering last minute that they’d left something behind. But leave they do, and the way back to the main areas of action is easier. It’s downhill, and the pack is comfortable in the knowledge that Stiles isn’t going to be forever trapped in a gritty alternate universe, so the mood is lighter as they tramp through the light snowdrifts.
Stiles sticks close to Scott and Isaac on the way back through the snow, and they’re perfectly happy to sling a few arms over his shoulder to keep him warm. It’s nice. there’s a sense of camaraderie to it, almost enough to overshadow the feeling of being a little kid who needs to be sheltered from the chill.
Mostly, it means that he doesn’t have to watch Derek and Other Stiles. He watches them anyway, but this way he can pretend that he’s actively trying not to. It’s like entering in a contest, and knowing that he lost, but gazing longingly at the shiny gold trophies anyway. Other Stiles had managed to win himself a Derek, and Stiles can’t look away.
It isn’t just the carefree way that they exchange kisses, or those hugs that look like they could crush bone, that Stiles wants, it’s the way that Derek trusts Other Stiles. It isn’t incredibly obvious, but Stiles is an expert at picking up on their subtext at this point, and he knows how hard it must be for Derek to turn to Other Stiles when he thinks no one is looking, and bury his head in Stiles’ shoulder, throat exposed, fragile, and letting Other Stiles take over for a little bit. But he does, because even though he’s loath to show weakness, he’ll show it to Other Stiles.
On a quiet morning when the betas are, honest to god, off hunting squirrels, Derek rests his head against Other Stiles’ chest, and words start spilling forth, like Other Stiles had blown up the dam holding them back. “Sometimes I just look around and I wonder what I’m doing here, how I got here. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a lawyer like my dad. That was before the FNEB cracked down. It seemed completely possible back then.”
Derek probably hasn’t noticed Stiles standing behind them. He smells like Other Stiles now. Not identical, but eating the same food, and sharing the same living space means that Stiles can blend into the background if Derek is like he is now, lost in memories and the fabric of Other Stiles’ shirt.
“I was going to do everything right,” Derek spits out bitterly, twisting a hand around one of Other Stiles’ calloused ones. “I was daddy’s little boy, and I wasn’t ever going to be a delinquent teenager. I’d go to a nice college, that was the plan even back when I was eight...”
Stiles backs away as quietly as he can. Apparently he still has some respect for privacy. He’d worked too hard to try and get his Derek to open up to him even a little bit, he isn’t going to cheat and see a glimpse of Other Derek’s soft side by eavesdropping.
In the meantime, their missions increase in frequency. They blow up more roads, since the last round had gone so well. They move the signs that hunters leave behind them that give directions to the nearest base. They sneak in under cover of darkness, wearing black and camouflaged faces, and dust high powered laxatives over as much of the hunter’s food supplies as they can.
It strikes Stiles as almost juvenile, like the pranks that he and Scott would plot in middle school, but Other Stiles explains that their strikes can’t be too violent, if they want the human public to side with werewolves.
“We can’t just hide forever,” he explains, “new refugees come to base camp every week. It’s time consuming, but we need to change the attitudes of the people towards nonhuman entities. So we try to seem like we’re fighting for our own, instead of, you know, violently killing people who just wanted to protect their homes.”
A hunter dies a week after that, a few days before Stiles is due to leave. It’s a joint mission between their pack and a guerrilla squad further south. The other squad is made up of a collection of volunteers from different packs, which might explain why their focus is so scattered. All that they seem to have in common is a shared desire to “make those assholes pay, man.” Stiles hadn’t found it very encouraging at the time, and looking at the slashed up body of the hunter on the ground, he feels like he should have seen it coming. Squad E is full of walking neon signs saying “don’t trust me with sharp objects,” and what do they do?
They fucking trust them with fucking sharp objects, and now everything is fucking complicated, and it’s hard to feel like you’re the fucking good guy when some hunter lady with curly brown hair and a purple bead necklace is lying at your feet with most of her guts visible.
So Stiles is in a bad mood. He wants to be alone, and not even because saying he wants to be alone usually gets people to follow and console him. For once, he just wants to sit on a rock shaped like a granite wave, and sulk in solitude.
Naturally, Derek comes out of the trees not long after that, and sits next to him.
“You, um, you seem upset,” he mutters awkwardly.
Stiles laughs, and it only sounds half bitter. “Who sent you to come talk to me?”
Derek toys with a pebble, scraping it against the granite below him. “My Stiles. I was thinking of coming over before that, though. He just said that he always feels better when I talk to him, so it could work with you too.”
“Ah.” Stiles leans back, and looks at the cold blue sky. He knows he’s being an ass, but he can’t seem to stop. “I don’t know if it’s working so well with me.”
Derek sighs heavily. “I, ah, I’m sorry. We forget,” he says haltingly, “that you and your Derek don’t get along. This is... weird for you.”
“It’s not... that,” Stiles says. Looks like he can’t help himself. “I... I want you to be here too much.” Shut up mouth, shut up shut up shut up. “Or my Derek. Or something. I don’t know.”
Eyes widening slightly, Derek nods in understanding. “Oh.”
“I’m... taken.” Poor guy looks like he’s going to burst something, trying to let Stiles down gently.
“Yeah, I know. And I mean, it’s cool. You two are happy. Really happy and that’s great, I want other me to be happy. I’d be like, hurting myself if he weren’t. I just,” Stiles gestures wildly, like that can convey his meaning accurately. “I want that too.”
Well. Just lay your cards all across the table, why don’t you, Stilinski?
Derek scrubs a hand over his shorter hair, and keeps looking into the middle distance. Emotional talks go better when Derek doesn’t have to make eye contact with anyone. “If you just tell your Derek when you get back -be direct, I can’t pick up subtlety for shit- he’d be happy to oblige.”
Stiles just laughs, or at least hysterically cackles. “Sorry, sorry, I just. Just, he isn’t my mate there. You can put up with all of the awkward weirdness because of the mates thing, but he doesn’t have too much patience with me. We mostly just argue, and I try to get him to come out of his shell, for all that’s worth, but it’s not exactly a love connection. He hasn’t been sending any pining glances my way, that’s for sure. He hasn’t been just hoping and wishing upon a star so bright that I’d make a move.”
But Derek’s shaking his head, a knowing smile on his face. “I don’t believe that. Maybe that Derek is shyer, or he cares more about not making a move on somebody younger than him, or something else ridiculous, but he cares. He and I aren’t exactly the same, but I can’t imagine a universe where Derek and Stiles aren’t mates.”
Stiles envies that certainty. He really does. “He doesn’t treat me like anything special.”
“Maybe other me is an idiot who hasn’t made a move, but he smells you more than he does everyone else, right? Stands between you and danger? Even just sits next to you when the pack gathers for something?” Derek asks knowingly. None of the items on his list ring a bell.
Shaking his head slowly, Stiles answers, “no.” For all intents and purposes, Derek treats him like just another pack member.
Well. There’s Derek’s “oh shit” face. It’s a rare specimen, only comes out in particularly painful social interactions, or when someone has had a particularly painful limb broken.
“I... I just assumed. Those are textbook mate behaviors. But he cares,” Derek rushes out hurriedly, “trust me. He just shows his affection differently than I would.”
Stiles snorts. “If by differently you mean he slams me into walls.”
Derek’s shocked face is something to behold. Stiles is getting to see a whole scrapbook’s worth of expressions today. “He slammed you. Against a wall?”
“A few times, actually.”
Derek doesn’t have anything to say to that. He runs a hand through his hair again, crosses his legs, uncrosses them, looks around like there’s a hole in the ground somewhere that he can sink into.
“I mean, it’s fine,” Stiles says, “well, no it’s not, but I get it. My life’s not a romance novel like yours is. I’m not going to get all depressed because I don’t have a damn soulmate. That would be ridiculous.” He lets out a shaky breath around the lump in his throat. “In my universe, I’m the comedic relief, the sidekick, and the sidekick doesn’t get love interests. I’m-I’m used to it. When I go back, nothing will have changed. I’ll just know that at least... at least another version of me somewhere got to have, ugh, I don’t know, true love, I guess.” He runs a hand over his face, mostly so Derek can’t see his expression. When did this turn into a Stiles self-pity fest?
A warm, heavy arm pulls at his shoulder and tucks him against a muscled chest. Stiles doesn’t open his eyes.
“God, I can’t handle it when you cry,” Derek’s voice rumbles above him.
“I’m not crying.” Just close.
Sitting in silence for a moment, Derek rubs his thumb against Stiles’ back. “That Derek doesn’t know what he’s missing. He’s unhappy, self-loathing filled idiot. I know I was before I met Stiles.”
Stiles twists his head up to look at Derek’s face. Other Stiles had done a good job with him. He really is just a big teddy bear.
His gaze flicks down to Derek’s mouth.“Can I... could I just... just once. I just want to know what it’d be like.”
Derek looks concerned, but he doesn’t move away. “I don’t think it would make you feel better.”
“I know,” Stiles whispers, “but I don’t wanna get over this just yet.”
Leaning forward, Derek cups Stiles’ jaw. Like he’s precious, like he’s worthy. His nose brushes against Stiles’ briefly, sending a shock down his spine, and Stiles can feel Derek breathing, feel the flicker of Derek’s eyelashes against his cheekbone as Derek presses his mouth against Stiles’. His lips are chapped from the dry air, but they’re perfect, and soft, and they make Stiles so very sad. It’s a good sad. It pulls a soft noise out of his throat and makes his eyelids fall closed. It feels like a soft sigh, a flutter in his chest, the cathartic hot wetness of a tear on a cheek. But it does make him sad, this gentle, close-mouthed kiss. It’s the last he’ll get. He wants to catalogue so much about it, the pad of Derek’s thumb against his ear, the solid press of their foreheads pushing together, but he knows that the memory will fray, and there will come no more Derek kisses to replace it. Stiles pictures himself an old man, remembering that he once kissed a version of Derek Hale in a forest. By then, he won’t remember the details, the way that Derek smelled like a nylon rain jacket and petrichor, how his heart crumpled up like a paper cup after a party. Maybe that’s good.
Derek pulls away, and their lips make a faint smacking sound as they part that Stiles wants to record. He crushes Stiles to his chest with strong arms, but he doesn’t kiss him again.
Other Scott keeps asking Stiles about Allison. It’s getting increasingly difficult to describe her without bringing up the fact that she’s a zealous hunter nutjob here.
“So, you said she’s got dimples?” Scott asks, practically bouncing as they walk to the spring with the water jugs.
Stiles rolls his eyes. Some things don’t change, and one of them is Scott always talking about Allison. “Yeah. She’s pretty.”
Scott grins. “Sweet.”
“Aw, somebody’s got a crush on a girl he’s never met,” Stiles teases.
Scott’s practically blushing. “No! I’m just curious. I want to know if other me is getting any.”
“He is. Never shuts up about it. It’s on Scott’s top ten conversation starters list: sex with Allison. Real appropriate for polite company, let me tell you.”
“Why would he shut up about it? It’s probably awesome.”
“Dude,” Stiles stops in his tracks, “have you never...?”
Scott makes a dismissive noise, “‘course I have. Come on. Did you see how we’re treated at base camp? Girls are friendly there.”
Well. That’s weird. Scott the ladies man. Under different circumstances, Stiles would take that to be a sign that the world was ending.
“It just might be nice to be, um, monomanous about it.”
That’s more like it.
“You mean monogamous.”
“Oh.” Scott looks confused. “What did I say?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Stiles chuckles, trying to find a dry spot next to the spring where he can sit and fill the jugs. This would be a lot easier if they hadn’t procrastinated until after dark.
Scott just flops onto the wet grass and dunks one of the white plastic containers under the surface of the water. He has the werewolf water jug, the one where they don’t need to bother filtering or boiling its contents.
“Is she funny?”
“Funny enough, I guess. She laughs at my jokes, so she’s got a sense of humor. Those might just be courtesy laughs, but I’m going to take them anyway.”
“Hmm. She’s gotta be around this universe somewhere, right?”
Stiles doesn’t like where this is headed. “Sure. Probably not a good idea to go and find her though. I mean, what would you even say?”
“I know, I know,” Scott screws the cap onto the first jug. “It’s just nice to fantasize like a normal nineteen year old sometimes. Life in the suburbs, a girlfriend, thinking about college.”
“My Scott goes to Beacon Hills Community.”
“See, that’s nice. I mean, I’m not going to desert the cause, there’d be nowhere for me to go anyway, but man, sometimes I just want to be a normal idiot teenager, you know?” Scott continues filling the bottles, eyes on his work. “Get drunk, which I can’t do anymore, and that sucks, or freak out about careers, or even just sit on a couch and play video games. I think my thumbs are out of practice. Put me in front of an Xbox right now and I would suck so hard. You know how long it’s been since I sat on a couch? ...Too long.”
Makes sense. It’s hard to carry a couch up a mountain.
Stiles watches the air bubbles rise up from where he holds the water jug underneath the surface of the spring. “You’re not going to be up here forever. There’ll be a couch again someday.”
Scott snorts. “Stiles talks all the time about, uh, ‘social change movements.’ They take a long time. It’ll be generations before people are able to really change their minds on werewolves, and then where’ll I be? Dead, probably. And I’ll probably go really young, too. And how long can we keep hiding thousands of people in a cave? The hunters will start looking up there eventually.”
“Look on the bright side, man! You’ve got the ladies falling all over you. You’re a werewolf folk hero.”
Scott snickers gently. “Derek hates it when Stiles calls us folk heroes.” The last jug gets set on the bank, heavy and dripping. “Which reminds me, you and Derek, huh?”
Stiles freezes. “What have you been hearing?”
“Don’t freak out, it’s not that bad. Just Derek tells our Stiles everything, like everything, and I have good hearing, so, you know.”
“Oh. It was a one time thing.”
Scott nods. “Yeah, I thought so. Our Stiles isn’t so much for sharing.”
Stiles screws up his face. “That would be so weird.”
“It’s basically just masturbation.”
“But way more awkward! Like, way more! Think of the logistics, Scott! What is the etiquette for threesoming with yourself? How do you look yourself in the eye afterwards?” Stiles is laughing now. “Do I have to take myself on three dates before we leap into the sack? Are flowers appropriate? What if Other Stiles has a different favorite flower? And how am I supposed to get daffodils around here anyway?”
Scott throws his head back and laughs. Stiles realizes that he’s never seen this Scott do that before. “Oh god. Yikes. Ugh, dude, I just,” Scott thumps a hand on Stiles shoulder and eyes him very seriously. “I ship you and your Derek very hard.”
“You’re my OTP?”
“Where are you learning these things?”
“She’s just messing with you, Scottie. You can’t be deceived by those big eyes!”
“She even gave you a ship name.”
“That sounds ridiculous.”
“Well, just,” Scott heaves up the water bottles and starts heading back to camp, “I just hope everything works out.”
It’s a vague sentiment, but Stiles appreciates it anyway. “Thanks man. Hey, um, I mean, I’m leaving tomorrow, but I’m really going to, uh, miss you.”
Scott smiles broadly, “thanks dude. Hey, you know, don’t be afraid to visit. We’d be happy to have you, if we’re, you know, alive.”
When they reach the camp, it’s suspiciously empty. Only Other Derek and Stiles are left, packing up their bags in tandem again, preparing for the next move: a few miles west.
“Where is everyone?” Stiles inquires as he sets down the bottles by the rest of the food.
Other Stiles shrugs. “Getting some fresh air? I dunno.”
“Toothbrush,” Derek calls, tossing it over.
“Wait, dude, why is my toothbrush in your bag?”
“Shut up, shut up!” Scott whispers, his voice suddenly frantic. Stiles didn’t know he cared so much about dental hygiene.
Now Derek’s looking in the same direction as Scott, both of them resembling meercats about to sound an alarm. “Wolfsbane. And gunpowder,” he announces urgently.
“And we’re moving,” Other Stiles declares, managing to sound commanding in a whisper. “Here we go, sneaking away, like sleek footed cats on the prowl. Sneaking, come on, sneaking...”
Stiles feels a lot like a cartoon character as they try to slink away. He’s Bugs Bunny, taking huge steps on his tiptoes, hiding behind improbably thin trees, and looking incredibly suspicious. All he needs now is a tiny branch to use as really crappy camouflage.
They make a frantic, silent exit, stumbling and making odd movements with their legs as they twist last minute to avoid stepping on any noisy twigs. Stiles hopes wildly that Isaac, Boyd and Erica have caught the hunters’ scent too, and are making themselves scarce.
Trying as hard as he can not to breathe too loudly, Stiles sprints along with the others, putting his hard won running for your life skills to work. It would suck so hard if he were killed now, literally hours before he could activate the thingamajig and be home free.
The gibbous moon doesn’t even need to be in the sky, it just has to be the same day, so Stiles can technically teleport off right when the clock strikes midnight. Just a few more hours. A few more hours of huffing and puffing around on a mountain, scared for his life. If they’re lucky, the hunters will lose their trail in a matter of minutes, and he’ll be able to wait for midnight in peace.
But when are they ever lucky? They start hearing voices from somewhere behind them, harsh shouts of “over there!” and “did you see that?” and “I think that’s Hale!”
“Shit! Shitshitshit!” Other Stiles hisses as he leaps over a boulder. Derek runs at him and hits him under the knees, scooping him into a fireman’s carry so that they can move faster. Scott does the same with Stiles, which puts his face in an unfortunate position right in front of Scott’s ass, but at least they’re able to move at full werewolf speed, rather than wait up for those pesky humans.
For a few minutes, it’s just tense pants and seeing the ground blur past and feeling like he isn’t being very helpful. Derek leads them into a part of the mountain that’s all craggy rocks, stripped bare of vegetation, just strata upon strata of contorted gray shapes in the dark. Trying to navigate the place is nigh impossible, but Derek’s clearly been here before, because he ducks around a few boulders, turns a corner, and disappears.
Scott pauses for a second, looking around, until Derek’s hand beckons from a crevice that Stiles had thought was just a shadow. Scott follows, and sets Stiles down in a cramped cave that smells like sweaty teenage boys and lichen. This is no base camp, it’s more of a pocket of rock than anything, and there’s barely enough space for a mosquito to maneuver, but it’s hard to spot, especially in the dark.
No one dares to speak, and their breathing is loud in the cave, for all that they try to stifle it. At least it’s a sign that they’re alive. They can hear faint shouts in the distance. It’s a game of hide and seek. The hunters are “it,” and they all have to keep quiet and still in their hiding place. Except instead of the mild embarrassment that normally comes with being found, they’d be shot dead with wolfsbane. It’s a good thing that keeping quiet and still is totally Stiles’ specialty.
The hunters are coming closer, walking slowly through the area, knowing that their prey must be around somewhere. It’s only a matter of time.
There’s a scraping noise to Stiles’ right, and he almost has a heart attack. He jumps, and Derek gives him the evil eye, then shifts the rock he’s holding in his hands. It’s big enough that even Derek’s muscles are straining, but also big enough that when Derek sets it down, it covers most of the entrance to their hiding place. Not all of it, but enough to make them feel slightly more secure.
“You see anything?” The voice comes from so close by that they all flinch.
“Tom, you idiot, if I saw anything, don’t you think I’d fucking tell you?”
Both Stiles cover their mouths with their hands to keep silent.
“Ugh, it’s dark and we can’t see a thing, Maureen! Can’t we just go back?”
They perk up. Yes, yes, go back Tom, go back to your nice warm bed and don’t think about the wolves hiding right next to you.
“Tom,” Maureen’s patience is wearing thin, “there is a reason we have that we have a bazooka back at the jeep. You know why we have a bazooka back at the jeep?”
Always with the jeeps. Why do they gotta ruin jeeps for Stiles?
“Um, for attacking... werewolves?”
“For blasting fucking werewolves out of their fucking hidey-holes, Tom. Now stay the fuck here and I’ll go get the fucking bazooka.”
They can’t run. If they run, they’re going to be shot down one by one like little ducks (or wolves) in a row. If they stay put, they’ll be blasted to smithereens.
Derek buries his face in whatever part of Other Stiles he can reach. Scott looks like he wants his mom. Stiles doesn’t want to see his own face. It’s probably horrifying. They’ve painted themselves in a corner. They’re like those people who built bomb shelters that would cremate them alive if a nuclear bomb ever actually landed nearby.
Their time is running out.
Then something occurs to Stiles. He taps frenetically at Scott’s hand until he can grab his wrist and check Scott’s watch, a hefty, waterproof piece of plastic that would probably handle a bazooka blast better than the rest of them.
Stiles tilts the watch until the sliver of moonlight leaking through their impromptu door can illuminate the face. It’s 11:00PM. Stiles would punch the air if the ceiling weren’t so low.
One hour, he mouths. They look at him in confusion until he pulls out the thingamajig from the cord around his neck.
First Other Stiles’ eyes widen, then he grins. The jeep needs to be half an hour away. That’s all they need. A half hour to get there, then it’ll be an hour before the bazooka is back. Here’s hoping that the thingamajig can carry multiple people. And that the Others won’t be trapped in his universe forever if they all get there.
If time passed quickly when Stiles was wasting away in a hunter jail cell, it moves like molasses now. Frozen molasses.
They keep expecting Maureen to show up at any moment. Stiles will relax for a second, then think “I could die. Right. Now.”
Then he doesn’t, and the cycle repeats.
Every time Tom shifts around on his seat nearby, out of sight, but loud enough that each crunch of gravel beneath his feet sounds like a gunshot, they think that he’s decided to screw waiting and try to find them again.
He takes to talking to them.
“I know you’re around here somewhere wolfies.”
“I’ve got a nice doggie bone for you if you come out.”
“Heeeerreee wolfy wolfy wolfy.”
If Stiles weren’t so afraid for his life, he’d be rolling his eyes.
They check Scott’s watch compulsively. 11:18 PM, 11:32 PM, 11:48 (oh god so close) PM.
At 11:50, Stiles has Scott nick a vein with a claw in preparation to draw the crossmark across the brooch.
At 11:52, they’re all holding onto the thingamajig and each other as hard as they can, ready to go.
At 11:54, Maureen comes back.
“Tom! I’ve got it!” Dead. Dead dead dead. “Help me set it up.”
Take a long time, Tom, take as much time as you need.
11:56. “There we go!”
There’s a rumbling boom and a flash of light as the bazooka is fired at a section of mountain. It’s not their hiding spot, but it’s close enough that they can feel the vibrations making the stone around them shiver.
Derek kisses Other Stiles like it’s their last goodbye, and it very well might be. Stiles and Scott make eye contact for a brief, awkward second and then look away.
11:58. There’s another boom, to their left this time. They can feel the heat.
11:59. “Wait, it’s jammed. Oh no, there it goes!” Fuck fuck fuck.
12:00. Scott’s watch beeps an alarm. They all jump a foot, and they hear Maureen yell, “there, there, that shadow!”
Stiles draws a line across the stone of the brooch, finger wobbling. His knees are literally knocking, he’s shaking in his boots. He draws the second line, and he can feel his muscles tensing up, waiting for impact-
And then he’s up, up and away, lifted by the seat of his pants.
Stiles is headed back to Kansas. The others though?
Up next: well. Cliffhanger and all, I suppose I shouldn't say.
Sand, as it turns out, is not as comfortable to land on as you might think. Especially when it’s the middle of the night.
Stiles pulls himself off of the ground with a groan, stumbling for a second over a small dune behind him. Who put that there? Shame on them. He rubs his neck and looks around him. There’s Other Scott, sprawled a few feet away, and Other Stiles, who, rogueish bastard that he is, has managed to land on his feet. Other Derek -Stiles swings his head around- there he is, up on the rocks, climbing his way back down like a mountain goat.
Or those seals that could navigate those rocks like nobody’s business. Speaking of which-
“Shit, we’ve got to go,” Stiles whispers urgently.
“I thought we’d escaped!” Scott yelps.
“No, well yes, but also no because we were fighting selkies right here and I don’t know if we won, but I don’t want to find out if we lost.”
“Aren’t selkies just otters?” Other Stiles asks.
“They’re seals,” Other Derek grunts as he joins them. “Seals are bigger.”
“What difference could that possibly make?” Other Stiles does a little dance to get the sand out of his clothing.
“You’d be surprised,” Stiles grumbles. “My point is, let’s get out of here. Have the gods of teleportation gifted us with any money?”
Everyone looks at Stiles with varying levels of exasperation. Stiles wishes that he hadn’t left his wallet, keys and now defunct cellphone in his backpack at camp, but then again, he’d been planning on leaving that universe after carefully double checking his pockets and giving a thorough goodbye to everyone. Funny how his plans never seem to work out.
“Walking it is,” Stiles declares, making his way towards the road. “It’s about two miles to me’n Scott’s apartment.”
“We live together? That’s so cool!”
“Scott, we live together now,” Other Stiles points out.
Scott pulls a shard of seashell out of his pocket and replies, “but not in an actual building. Man, I’ll bet we’ve got so many video games.”
He’s right. Stiles would be thrilled to get home and boot up Halo if he didn’t want to just collapse onto his bed right now. After weeks of going to bed right when it got dark, being awake at midnight is uncomfortable.
Being awake at one is even less so, but it takes that long to get to the building, since they have to avoid any industrious Beacon Hillian that gets worried at the sight of four dirty, bloody teenagers (and one 26 year old.) Stiles wouldn’t mind if they called the cops, but even his dad might get freaked out at seeing a second Stiles without any explanation beforehand.
Reunions will have to wait until after they all get some sleep, Stiles reasons as he leans on the front door of Chez Stilinski-McCall and hammers on it with one hand.
It flies open. Scott had heard them coming.
Poor Scott. He doesn’t know what to focus on first. There’s Stiles, who’s probably been missing for a while, and Other Scott, which must be like looking into a more badass mirror, and Other Stiles, who is half asleep on Other Derek’s back.
“Sti... wha...” Scott slurs sleepily.
Stiles pats Scott’s arm. “It’s a long story dude, but right now we all just wanna crash. Me and my doppelganger here can share my room, and you won’t mind Other Scott here bunking with you, right? Sweet.”
They file past Scott, who stands in the doorway, struck dumb.
“I’m sharing with you,” Other Derek tells Other Stiles, “I don’t care if it’s cramped.”
Scott blinks. “What the fuck is going on?”
Swearing Scott is a very unhappy Scott. This situation must be dealt with carefully. “Well, funny thing happened, I used my magical get away from danger thingy-”
“No!” Scott explodes. So much for careful handling. “we thought you were dead! I went to a memorial service Stiles! A memorial service! Nobody could find the body so they just had your school picture in a frame at the front of the church!”
“Oh gross, the one where I’m half blinking?”
“Wh- it doesn’t matter! You-” Scott shoves Stiles’ chest, then wraps him in a bone crunching bear (or maybe wolf) hug. “Jesus Stiles. We were going crazy, Deaton was talking about how all these people die when they don’t use magic just right, some shit about astral implosion, and it’s been two months! Where were you?” Exhaling shakily, Scott gestures at the Others, who are standing awkwardly against the wall of the living room. “Who are these people?”
Stiles waves a dismissive hand. “Alternate universe versions of ourselves. And Derek. Trust me, it’s crazy, but can we just talk about it in the morning?”
Scott takes in the exhausted expressions of everyone in the living room, and his own pajamas, then nods. “Yeah, yeah I’ll call the pack in the morning, too. They’ve been going crazy.”
“That’s my man.” Stiles claps Scott on the shoulder, then jerks his head for Other Stiles and Other Derek to follow him to his room.
Other Stiles takes a flying leap onto his bed and moans appreciatively. “Maaattress. Yesssss.”
Even Derek makes an approving noise as he lays back onto it. He’d better. Stiles had gone for a top of the line mattress on that sucker. The rest of the apartment got secondhand furniture that was holding together with Elmer’s Glue and hope, but the bed had to be comfortable. Stiles had bought a queen in a hope that his totally not hypothetical future bedfellows would appreciate it. Nothing turns somebody off of touching your dick like a twin bed that says “I’m just barely out of the house.”
There will be no dick touching tonight, of course, but the big mattress at least means that they can all fit onto it.
Stiles’ first thought when he wakes up is “I’m in a cocoon. A cocoon made of blankets. A blankoon. Conket? Blankoon.”
His second thought is, “who’s jumping on top of me?”
“Stiiiiiiles!” Erica squeals, bouncing up and down on the bed, “you’re alive!” She wraps her arms around his neck and he drowns in hair for a moment before she pulls back. “You’re our Stiles and not alternate universe Stiles, right? I mean, he” she points at the bleary eyed Other Stiles next to him, “smells a bit different, so I just assumed. But no, he’s more muscley than you are,” she gropes Other Stiles’ arm, “and you’re always going to be the least muscley in any contest, so-”
Stiles bounces his knees up, and Erica falls off the bed.
“And look at alternate universe Derek!” she cooes from her spot on the floor.
“Other Derek, I call him Other Derek.”
“Mmm, easier to say, I like that. But does he know he’s cuddling up to, uh, Other Stiles? Because it’s adorable, but when he wakes up I bet he’ll be wishing he squeezed onto your dinky little couch.”
Holding up a finger, Stiles begins, “actually, he’d probably-”
A call of “Erica! Let them sleep!” comes from the other room. Good old Scott. Stiles can’t tell which one of them it is from his voice, but he appreciates it.
“She’s just as bad here,” Other Derek grumbles softly from where his face is nestled between Other Stiles’ shoulder blades.
“Just with shorter hair,” Other Stiles agrees, pulling the blanket up further over himself and Other Derek. “Let’s go back to sleep.”
“Nuh-uh-uh,” Erica objects, “Stiles is coming with me to make breakfast.”
“But Erica...” Stiles moans as she bodily pulls him out of bed. Werewolves suck.
“We have to feed the guests, Stiles! Now up and at ‘em!”
Looking out the bedroom window at the barely risen sun, Stiles groans, “ugh, what time is it?”
“6 AM,” Erica trills as they move into the kitchen. “I was the first one up to get Scott’s text.”
Stiles looks accusingly at Scott, who’s nursing a coffee in one of the threadbare armchairs in the living room. “You said you’d wait till morning!”
Scott shrugs. “I didn’t think anyone would be up at 1AM Wednesday night, so there wouldn’t be any harm in sending it. But then Erica had to be a morning person.”Ah yes. It’s one of the great tragedies of the universe.
As Erica’s demolishing their kitchen, somewhere between when she pulls out every last package of meat from their refrigerator and when she spills orange juice all over the counter, Stiles realizes that her outfit of choice has changed somewhat. Now that he looks, it’s a pretty obvious departure from her usual “more leather than a dominatrix” ensembles, but it takes Stiles a while to notice fashion choices. He’s proud of it, actually. It’s one of the last remaining vestiges of his masculinity.
“So,” Stiles says, trying not to sound like he’s judging her as he waves a hand at her baggy jeans, sneakers, and baggy sweatshirt, “this is a new look for you.”
Erica violently slaps a raw strip of bacon onto the frying pan, sending droplets of oil flying. “Old look actually. These are from my glamourous seizure days.”
“Oh. Well. It looks... comfortable.” Stiles gets a feeling that he’s treading on thin ice, and is regretting bringing up her outfit at all. He may be her gay(ish) best friend, but he’s not qualified to talk about clothes.
Something about what he said ticks Erica off, or maybe she’s been brewing some pent-up emotions this whole time, but she snaps, “well, I decided that clothes, makeup, all that, they don’t really matter.” That’s actually a pretty nice statement about inner beauty- “see, it started when I caught myself trying to find a good lipstick color to match all black funeral clothes, and then I thought, ‘really? Is this really important? Is that going to bring Stiles back from the dead? No! No it fucking isn’t!’” She roughly rearranges the frying pan on the stovetop and it squeals plaintively.
Stiles gingerly takes ahold of the frying pan, and pulls Erica in against his side with his other hand.
“I said it was rough, man,” Scott comments quietly from the living room.
Taking control of the pan, Stiles silently works through the entire package of bacon, letting Erica hang off of him and bury her nose in his neck. He can try and reassure her as much as he wants, but words don’t work well in situations like this. Grief reacts better to gestures than conversations.
Finally, he says, “I think it’s done.”
“Bacooonnn!” Erica yells, making Stiles wince as it’s shouted right into his ear. He’ll give her this: she sure knows how to get werewolf boys out of bed.
“Warm breakfast!” Other Stiles crows from the bedroom, “perishable warm breakfast at a table!”
Other Stiles appears in the hallway, pulling a bleary Other Derek behind him. It reminds Stiles of a kid dragging a parent out of bed on Christmas morning. They sit at the slightly off-kilter breakfast table, Other Stiles eagerly pulling a napkin over his lap in preparation.
Erica starts pulling mismatched plates out of the cabinet with loud clatters, illiciting a startled shout from Scott’s bedroom. Scott looks venomously at them all. “Other me had a terrible night’s sleep, and now you gotta wake him up?” He adds in a hushed tone, “I think he has nightmares. Like, really bad ones.”
Other Stiles and Other Derek nod knowingly. They’ve seen a lot of shit. Stiles doesn’t even know all of it, since for some reason none of the Other Pack ever felt like sharing campfire stories about their grisliest missions.
Wearing a pair of Scott’s pajamas, Other Scott stumbles out into the open. “Do I smell bacon? Warm breakfast?”
“Yeah dude,” Stiles answers, leading Other Scott towards their tiny two person couch. “Just sit down, play some CoD, and wait for the food that’s a’coming.” He slaps the video game controller into Other Scott’s hand, and Other Scott looks up at him gratefully.
“I think they just had a moment!” Erica comments from the kitchen as she regains her usual acerbic exterior.
“Don’t you have plates of bacon to focus on?”
“Can’t you do it and not be a misogynist that makes the girl do all the cooking?”
“But I did all the cooking! And haven’t you heard? None of us have had a warm breakfast in months!” Stiles pulls out his most pitiful expression, and prods hopelessly at his newly concave stomach. They hadn’t been starving up in the mountains, but Stiles would recommend the Werewolf Guerrilla Diet to anyone looking to lose a few pounds.
Erica looks thoughtful as she takes in his even skinnier body, the circles under Other Derek’s eyes, the plentiful scars on Other Stiles’ tanned hands, Other Scott’s nightmare-weary look. “Fine.” She forks a few strips onto a plate and hisses angrily. “But you have to tell me what exactly you were up to that was worth making us think you were dead for the last two months.”
It takes about forty-five minutes to explain the whole story to Erica and Scott. It’s a meandering tale, filled with all sorts of detours and sidebars about magical transport theory, and anti-werewolf laws in the alternate universe. Then they have to repeat it to Boyd, who shows up at a more decent time in the morning. He takes in every detail with a nod and attentive expression, in comparison to Erica, who has a new snappy comment at each new development.
They keep forgetting things, or accidentally leaving parts out that they have to return to. Stiles kind of forgets what his pack knows, and what Other Stiles, Derek and Scott might find interesting to know about this one.
When Allison walks into the apartment using her key, and the Others jump up, snarling, Stiles realizes that he may have left out a crucial detail.
She comes through the door with a cheery, “where’s Stiles?” closely followed by a, “ah! Derek, what are you doing? S-Scott?”
Her expression when Scott comes between her and Other Scott would be priceless if Other Derek and Other Scott weren’t a few seconds shy of ripping her throat out when he did.
“She’s a hunter!” Other Scott hollers, grappling with his other self.
“She’s shot me,” Derek growls, “two separate times. You may think she’s your friend, but she’ll have her crossbow out the second your back is turned, Scott.”
Then Other Scott notices the way that Scott’s hand around Allison’s waist is a little more than just protective, and he pulls back immediately, claws retracting, asking Stiles in a shocked voice, “so this is Allison? Allison the girlfriend?”
Doesn’t matter what universe he’s in, Allison will always cause weird mood swings in Scott. Stiles is a little worried for Other Scott’s safety, if he’s so immediately willing to put his guard down around someone whose doppelganger had managed to shoot Other Derek twice. Speaking of which, apparently the Other Pack had enjoyed more firsthand encounters with Other Allison than Stiles had originally thought. Not enough to get on first name terms, but enough to recognize her face.
Allison is the first to recover herself and hold out a hesitant hand, keeping one eye on Other Derek, who hasn’t backed down yet. “Yes. You’re, um, the other Scott?”
Other Scott takes her hand, but seems to forget that he’s supposed to shake it. “Hi.”
Scott eyes Other Scott dubiously, and tightens his grip on Allison’s waist. “You wanna explain the growling thing?”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter anymore. Misunderstanding, it’s fine,” Other Scott tries to say airily, finally letting go of Allison’s hand.
“Allison here isn’t exactly on our side where we’re from,” Other Derek grits out.
Scott’s eyes widen. “She’s one of the hunters you’re gorilla fighting?”
“It’s guerrilla,” Other Stiles corrects from where he’s calmly sitting with a glass of orange juice, “and Derek dear, put those away, we’re in polite company.”
Other Derek sheathes his claws and teeth immediately, like a puppy about to be smacked with a newspaper. He keeps a suspicious eye on Allison even as he sits down, though.
“We were talking about blowing up a road?” Boyd offers.
They gratefully jump back into telling the story of Stiles’ Dimension Traveling Adventure, starting from the beginning again when Isaac, Danny, Lydia and Jackson all walk in, bearing Starbucks. The Others keep sending Jackson weird looks, but after the Allison fiasco, Stiles doesn’t want to bring it up. It makes sense that Jackson would be an even bigger asshole in their universe. Like, an evil lizard warlord or something. Then Stiles remembers how Other Danny didn’t want to bring it up, and thinks that’s definitely what happened.
Naturally, because Stiles’ life seems to be tailored for the most dramatic effect possible, the last person to show up is his Derek, (not his, he reminds himself,) who slams the apartment door open and stands briefly in the threshold before storming into the crammed sitting area, ignoring everyone other than Stiles. His hair is wild, and he looks paler than usual, (although that might just be in comparison to Other Derek, to whom outdoor living had been very kind.) He’s a small, contained, storm, a shipwrecker that will sink anything that comes too close, that dares to block his path.
Everyone else had given him a pretty enthusiastic embrace when they saw him alive. Several, even. Boyd had lifted him up and twirled him in a circle. Isaac had cried. Stiles has a feeling that he’ll be dealing with sentimental conversations for days. Emotional fallout, like his disappearance was a nuclear explosion of angst, and now he has to put on a hazmat suit to clean up the mess he made.
The fact that Derek’s hug, composed of two vice-like arms around his shoulders, manages to be more melodramatic than all of that, with the entrance and the silence and the tightened jaw- it’s impressive.
Not that Stiles isn’t following right along in the melodrama. He grips back around Derek’s waist, even though he has a feeling that this is a “I’m hugging you but you will not hug me” sort of hug. It’s so close to everything he wants that it hurts, this embrace, because he knows that once Derek is sure that he’s here, and alive, he’ll calm back down and they’ll return to their usual passive-aggressive sniping.
If he tries to vomit the feelings brewing in his gut onto Derek, or run a hand across that stubble, or just sit Derek down and talk to him, really talk, Derek will run. It’s Derek’s modus operandi when it comes to feels. Not having any other options, Stiles hangs on, holds his arms around as much of Derek as he can. This is what he gets, right here. A few seconds to enjoy the firmness of the muscles on Derek’s back, and pretend.
He pictures himself, an old man, remembering that Derek Hale had once held him close like he meant it, and that was all.
Derek breathes in a lungful of eau de Stiles, then withdraws. “It’s... good to see you,” he states, then retreats to the Alpha’s Chair: the leather one that Derek claimed on day one of the move-in and no one has dared touch since.
A small, hopeful voice in the back of Stiles’ head says, “It’s good to see you! He likes you! He likes you! He really likes you!” and Stiles squashes it back down. Listening to that voice is only going to hurt him in the long run.
Off to his left, Stiles knows that Other Stiles and Other Derek are utterly scandalized, but they’re in his Oz now, and they’ll have to get used to it. Derek is an inscrutable emotional pendulum, welcome to his life.
From his throne, Derek demands, “so what happened?”
And then they start the story over again. By the end of it, Stiles is certain that they’ve covered every possible angle of the story.
Then Other Derek comes back from the bathroom, leans over the back of the couch and gives Other Stiles a kiss hello. Because it’s Other Derek and Stiles, the kiss isn’t a “oh hello again, it’s been a few minutes, hasn’t it?” peck, it’s an “I felt so alone and desolate every moment you were gone, my honey bunny, and also I want to make sure all of your teeth are still in your mouth. With my tongue,” sort of kiss.
Before Other Stiles and Other Derek’s ill-timed PDA session, the pack had been dealing with their interdimensional visitors in the same way you do with unexpected, distant relatives: with a sort of polite detachment. The Others seemed fairly normal, but the pack was still treading carefully. The kiss apparently flicked a switch, and convinced everyone that the Others were from weirdo-backwards world, and that chaos and anarchy should definitely ensue.
Scott and Jackson start making incoherent yelling noises, gesturing wildly towards the spectacle like nobody else has noticed.
Lydia and Danny start urging Other Derek and Other Stiles to kiss again, while Allison coos over their cuteness into Scott’s horrified ear.
“I knew something was up with them,” Isaac marvels thoughtfully.
“Well at least some version of them finally jumped each other’s bones,” Erica notes dryly.
Boyd just chuckles for two minutes straight over the pack’s collective breakdown.
Derek looks thoughtful. It isn’t the horror that Stiles was afraid of, or the enthusiastic support he’d been futilely hoping for. Derek’s just mulling over the new information, face inscrutable.
Other Derek nods at his doppelgänger across the room. “We’re mates,” he says, a challenge in his voice.
Derek’s jaw drops slightly, and his eyebrows rise a few millimeters. That’s Derek-speak for “I am surprised by this turn of events.” What he says out loud, (and everyone knows that if you really want to know what Derek’s thinking, you don’t listen to what he says,) is “I see.”
“You two aren’t.”
“No,” Derek agrees.
It’s like they’re having a competition to see who can compose the shortest sentence.
Other Derek hasn’t stopped making eye contact with Derek, like a dog about to rip another’s ear off. They’re having an Alpha-off, each of them sitting up straight, muscles taut. It takes some serious self loathing to get into a fight with yourself, but the Dereks are almost there.
“So what exactly,” Other Derek bites out, “do you think is wrong with Stiles?”
Looking taken aback, Derek retorts defensively, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him.”
“Then why,” Other Derek replies peevishly, one arm hooked around Other Stiles’ shoulders, “are you being a fucking idiot-”
“Ooookaaaayy,” Isaac exclaims, because he’s a beautiful human being with a phobia of conflict, “I just realized that nobody’s called the Sheriff. He’d probably like to know Stiles is back, right? Get a rundown of what’s going on?”
Scott slaps his forehead. “I knew I was forgetting someone!”
Stiles has to admit that he’s a bit annoyed when Other Stiles usurps his dramatic reunion scene. His dad no sooner opens the door than Other Stiles catapults himself into the Sheriff’s arms, holding on tight like the Sheriff is Other Stiles’ long lost teddy bear.
Then again, dads are kind of there to be teddy bears, aren’t they?
The Sheriff grips back just as tightly, since he isn’t equipped with the ability to creepily identify people’s scents from 300 paces, and so is perfectly happy with an armful of Stiles, even if it isn’t the right one.
From what parts of Other Stiles’ face that Stiles can see, he determines that Other Stiles is in the middle of a Moment, and that he should probably let them have a second to themselves. He joins the rest of the pack in tactfully looking away from the scene. Oh hey, that’s a swell lamp over there. Pretty neato, let’s examine the brass work.
Eventually, Other Stiles and Stiles’ dad part, and the Sheriff looks at the rest of the room, then stops dead.
“Stiles,” he starts in a warning tone as he looks between both Stiles, uncertain which he should address, “what have you gotten into now?”
“At least give me a hug too, dad, come on.”
The Sheriff does, and Stiles relaxes into his grip. He may be nineteen, but he can still appreciate a nice hug from his dad. Dad hugs are the best hugs. That’s one of the many rules of life that Stiles has picked up over the years, along with “curly fries are the best fries,” and “graphic T-shirts are the best kind of T-shirts.” Stiles realizes that he hadn’t really felt like he came home until he gave his dad a proper embrace and wrinkled up his uniform a little.
“Alright kid, now tell me why I’m seeing double.”
“It all started when we were fighting selkies on crescent beach,” Erica begins, knowing the tale by heart at this point.
“And then,” Isaac continues, “I was ambushed by angry seals! And I had to escape!”
Scott picks up the story, “so I pulled out my magic thingy, and zap!”
“Fine, fine, so we’ve all heard the story before,” Stiles laughs, “but dad, while nobody else appreciates it, lemme tell you: it was an adventure.”
So his dad doesn’t like hearing about all of the danger Stiles has been getting himself into, but he responds with the appropriate amount of shock when he realizes that Other Stiles and Other Derek are together. Finally. Everybody else (except for Scott and Jackson,) just acted like they’d seen it coming, which, come on. Who saw it coming? It’s fucking crazy.
The Sheriff even gives Other Derek the “you hurt my son’s doppelganger and I’ll hurt you” talk. Other Derek takes a weird delight in it, grinning like a loon the whole time that the Sheriff details in gruesome detail the way that he will avenge the honor of his son.
“Don’t worry about it,” Other Stiles reassures the Sheriff, “he’s plenty intimidated. It’s just that the star of my heart over here likes that you aren’t holding a gun to his head.”
“Like... a shotgun wedding?” The Sheriff guesses, raising an eyebrow. “Because if that’s the case, there’s more about this alternate universe that you aren’t telling me.”
“No, a literal gun with bullets,” Other Derek says. It’s hard to take him seriously when he has Other Stiles’ feet in his lap, but Stiles knows better than to think he’s joking. “This is going much better than the time I met my Stiles’ father.”
Other Stiles shifts closer to the Sheriff, even though he’s already resting his head on Stiles’ dad’s shoulder. “You didn’t approve of the werewolf boyfriend. I mean, yeah, it was illegal in like five different ways and could have gotten me lynched, but illegal or not, I don’t think Derek appreciated almost needing his arm chopped off.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” the Sheriff says guiltily, like he figures it’s only polite to apologize for what an alternate version of himself did some two years ago.
“It’s fine,” Other Stiles waves a dismissive hand, “go on, keep talking about how you’ll rip out Derek’s hair and make him eat it.”
“It’s not as much fun when he’s enjoying it,” the Sheriff grumbles.
From what Stiles can see, Other Stiles is enjoying the lecture as much as Other Derek is. They’ve both attached onto his dad as some sort of surrogate for the Other Sheriff, which gives Stiles a pretty grim idea of what’s going on in their world.
Pretty quickly it becomes clear that since the Others will have to stick around for at least another month before they can go back, and that Scott and Stiles’ two bedroom apartment is not the most comfortable place for five grown men (something Stiles can say now that he’s an adult,) to stay. So the Others pack up their nonexistent belongings and move to the Hale House and its surplus of bedrooms.
It’s like the setup for a sitcom. “He’s a grumpy Alpha werewolf who can’t seem to wipe a scowl off of his face. He’s a slightly less grumpy Alpha werewolf who resents the other guy with a passion because he hasn’t made the same life choices. And now they’re roommates!”
For all that Stiles and Other Stiles mostly get along swimmingly, and Scott and his alternate version do too, (Other Scott’s crush on Allison notwithstanding,) Derek and Other Derek create enough discord for everybody else combined. You’d think that they could bond over their mutual appreciation of being men of few words and leather, but no. Other Derek is taking Derek’s thoroughly platonic opinion of Stiles as a personal insult to his own mate, and Derek doesn’t like anyone telling him what to do, even himself. By god, if Derek wants to be mean to Stiles, he will, and no doppelganger is going to make him do otherwise.
Or so Stiles thinks until a few days after he comes back, and he finally gets to talk to Derek alone. He’s just dropping off some of his clothes for Other Stiles to wear, and on his way out when Derek catches up with him on the porch.
Derek just sort of stands there, kind of glaring, but that’s his default expression, so Stiles doesn’t know what to make of it.
“... so what’s shaking, Derek?”
Derek clears his throat as he shifts from foot to foot. “The Giardini pack passed through again to say hi last month .”
“Everything went fine, and Isaac got some of their email addresses.”
“Erica and Boyd have been fighting,” Derek blurts out next, like that’s a reasonable conversation topic to leap to. “I didn’t even know they were together.”
“Are you kidding, of course they’re together.” Finally, Stiles might add. They’d been dancing around each other since before the Alpha pack incident, and that was years ago.
Derek shrugs helplessly, “well I didn’t know, and apparently Erica decided that since you were gone, she’d start complaining about her relationship problems to me.”
“Oh no,” Stiles snorts, “really?”
“Yes.” Derek replies flatly, before driving their conversation train off of the proverbial cliff again. “There were some plumbing problems in the upstairs bathroom, but we couldn’t find that contractor you hired for it last time, and we had to use some guy named Smelly Mike. He was terrible.”
“I can find Handy Dan in the yellowpages if you want-”
“Peter sent a letter from Thailand, apparently he’s gotten himself married to some Thai spirit of wealth.”
Stiles cracks up, and has to lean against the porch railing for a minute before he can regain enough breath to say, “I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.”
“It was an accident.”
“Uh oh. I hope spirits of wealth aren’t possessive.”
“They’re actually very greedy,” Derek is fighting back a smirk. “But Peter apparently didn’t see that coming and was surprised when she wouldn’t let him go.”
“Oh man,” Stiles sighs, blinking tears out of his eyes, “talk about karma.”
“He said he texted you asking if eating ginseng with a spirit was enough to get married, but you didn’t reply.”
It definitely is. Spirits take eating a meal together very seriously, as Stiles remembers from that incident with Beacon Hills’ rather inept forest spirit. But, “I was kind of out of the service area.”
Derek blinks, tilting his head to the side. “So you and Peter really do text each other?”
“Nonono,” Stiles objects, “he texts me. And usually it’s just something creepy like ‘what are you wearing?’”
“So what else has been happening?” Stiles waves his hand in the universal gesture for “go on.”
“That’s it. Only so much can happen in two months.”
“Okay, I thought you were leading up to some sort of really dramatic news and were just warming me up.”
Derek shakes his head, “No. Just-” he exhales heavily, looking at anywhere but Stiles. He’s like a kid that scratched his dad’s car and doesn’t want to tell him. “Erica. Had been talking. About how I took you for granted. Even though you’re important. To the pack.”
If you discount the part where it sounds like his words are being pulled out of him with a pair of pliers, it’s actually a pretty sweet sentiment. Stiles hates Derek for it, can’t he just be grim and angry and easy to let go of?
What Stiles says out loud is, “um, thanks. It’s, uh, it’s good to be back.”
“Yes it is.”
Then Derek reaches a hand out, then realizes halfway through what he’s doing, so his hand detours from wherever it’s original destination was and awkwardly strokes a finger down the upturned curve of Stiles’ nose.
“Okay,” Stiles squeaks, “yay bonding moment I’ve got to go home and work out a cover story with my dad. And also fill out a bunch of paperwork that like, nullifies my death certificate, which is weird. Did you know that there’s going to be a county records office somewhere with my birth, death, and rebirth certificate? I’m imagining somebody coming across it in a few decades and just being like what? What is this?”
By the end of his monologue, Stiles reaches his jeep, and has a key in the door.
Derek, still standing on the porch, holds up a hand and waves. “Goodbye,” he calls out.
Goodbye. He’s upgraded from silently nodding and walking away. Oh my god. What is Stiles even supposed to do with that? Derek had better get over whatever this “be nice to Stiles” kick is soon. The rest of the pack is already back to treating him like a normal person instead of a resurrected king, so Derek had better follow the trend on that one, or else Stiles is going to be more confused than he already is.
But of course, it’s a rule that whatever Stiles wants, Derek will do the opposite. He starts saying thank you whenever Stiles passes him something, and adding smiley faces to the end of his texts. The smiley faces actually disturb Stiles more than anything, because he can’t picture Derek making a :D face without being deranged in some way.
Derek starts actually holding conversations with Stiles, real conversations that cover more than logistics about pack business, or information about magical plants. They always start a little stilted, kind of awkward because Derek seeks Stiles out and delivers a pre-planned line to start them, which isn’t a natural or organic way to start talking by any means. Yet somehow, something like “pretty cold weather for summer,” turns into:
“I guess so. Better than freezing my ass off up in the Sierras though.”
“Did I ever mention the week that Laura and I were trapped in a blizzard in the Appalachians?”
“I thought that only ever happened in movies!”
“It happens in real life too. It’s just more boring.”
“Oh, yeah. I get that. Like, you can play in the snow for like an hour, then you go inside and you’re trapped. It’s like being on vacation and then having to awkwardly hang around in the hotel for hours.”
“We weren’t in a hotel.”
“It was an abandoned cabin outside of this small mining town.”
“Aw, dude. Do you just make poor housing choices all the time? Like, do you drive around, see a hole in the ground, and think ‘that looks cosy’?”
“Shut up. It’s just been a series of unfortunate-”
So after a while, it isn’t so bad.
Stiles starts getting suspicious around week two. A phrase like “he’s friendly... too friendly” keeps circulating around in his head until he seeks Lydia out, (because if anyone’s a shrewd judge of character, she is,) and asks her “what exactly was it like when I was gone? Because Derek is acting really strangely nice around me and I’m wondering if you guys cast a spell or something...”
Lydia rolls her eyes. “Don’t get all low self-esteemy around me, it isn’t flattering on you. Yeah, we missed you. We all did, and even Derek, because despite popular belief, he’s actually capable of emotion. Particularly,” she leans forward over the cafe table, “when it involves someone close to him dying. And he thinks it’s his fault.”
Of course. Because all of Derek’s roads lead to the fire.
“Ooohhh shit,” Stiles breathes, thudding his forehead against the wood of the table. “I triggered Derek’s guilt complex. Why didn’t I even think of that? Because he’s such a rolling ball of martyrdom most of the time it should have been way more obvious oh my goddd.”
One of Lydia’s perfectly shaped eyebrows climbs up her forehead. “In my experience, when in doubt, assume Derek’s feeling guilty about something. If Laura or one of his other family members came back from the dead, don’t you think he’d be nicer to them, too?”
“I’m not exactly on the same level of importance as Laura,” Stiles scoffs, “I mean, I’m just another pack member. Who, okay, maybe is pretty helpful.”
Lydia sends him a withering look and stands up, taking her croissant in its brown paper bag with her. “What have I said about low self-esteem not being a good look for you? It’s not classy to fish for compliments, Stiles.” Then she leaves, wafting perfume and disapproval over him in a cloud.
Since Stiles can’t read Lydia’s mind, he’s not really sure what she meant by that, but their little talk did give him some food for thought.
So. Derek feels bad for letting Stiles “die.” Super. He’s acting nice because he’s guilty, and because Stiles is convenient to have around. Why, that’s what Stiles has always hoped for! The guy of his dreams to starting to be cordial to him because he feels an obligation. Whoo. Pull out the roses and champagne.
After Stiles’ conversation with Lydia, he gets bitter. Every moment watching Other Stiles and Other Derek prance around the Hale House with their perfect relationship, each time Derek pulls out a chair for him or pats him approvingly on the back feels like it’s designed to spite him.
Because here’s the thing: Stiles was perfectly prepared to go home, maybe cry into his pillow a little, write a few angsty poems in his diary, eat some ice cream, and then get over Derek. It wouldn’t be too difficult, once he was away from Other Stiles and Other Derek’s epic lovefest. Derek would be grumpy, Stiles would get irritated, and he’d forget about all of the hidden cuddly depths that he could plumb if only he and Derek were mates. It wouldn’t be fun, but it would be easy. It would be better for everyone’s emotional health at the very least.
Then he had to go and invite the Others along for the ride.
It’s especially irritating because he gets along so well with Other Stiles and Other Derek. Other Stiles understands him like nobody else, and Other Derek is predisposed to liking him. So they hang out in the Hale House living room and burn through the days leading up to the gibbous moon by watching TV, eating junk food, and generally recuperating from months (or years) of hard living. It’s great, if only Stiles’ couchmates didn’t require each other’s touch at all times. It gets a guy down after a while.
Not to mention, for some reason, whenever Derek walks in, they get even touchier than usual. Stiles ends up being caught with a perfect example of what he can’t have on either side of him. Derek doesn’t even leave when their other selves start making out right there on the couch, just sits on the other side of it and watches the TV like it’s fine. Stiles suspects it’s a territory thing: Derek won’t let Other Derek kick him out of his own living room.
After a particularly disturbing incident that had involved actual grinding and moaning right there in the living room, while Derek just kept methodically crunching his way through a bag of potato chips, eyes fixed on House declaring that it wasn’t lupus, Stiles drags Other Stiles outside and hisses, “what are you doing? This isn’t the back of a movie theater you know.”
Other Stiles smirks incorrigibly. “Dude, can’t you tell? We’re kind of the same person after all. Two peas in a pod.”
Stiles flails wildly, “I honestly don’t know. My guesses are that either Other Derek has been shot with some kind of aphrodisiac, or you’re trying to give Derek a how-to guide on makeout sessions.”
“Got it in one, good buddy!”
God he’s annoying. Stiles doesn’t like what that says about himself.
“You... what? I’m pretty sure Derek knows how to kiss.”
Other Stiles leans back against the porch steps, casual as you please. “It’s not a demonstration of technique. I mean, you know, Derek’s a sex god in any universe.”
“Actually, I don’t.”
“But Stiles,” Other Stiles implores, “you could know. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Stiles’ face twists up. “Like, you want to show Derek... how good it could be?”
“That’s really creepy.”
“Only if you define creepy as ‘awesomely good idea.’”
“No, I define it as creepy.” Why does Stiles feel like his dad right now? “Because you’re trying to encourage my Derek to, what, jump me because he’s seen you two and thought it looked like fun?”
“Well, when you put it like that, it sounds like a crappy plan.”
“That’s because it is a crappy plan!”
“No! See, you have to think about it,” Other Stiles says, holding out his hands like they’re presenting an invisible package. “We haven’t just been having our gropey-feely way with each other around him. We’re living in the same house, don’t you think he also sees us being all,” Other Stiles casts around for a word, “emotionally connected, too? Like, your Derek’s a pretty lonely guy, but mine isn’t, and hopefully we can get Derek to think that that’s because my Derek has me. And look, he’s already acting nicer to you.”
“That’s just because he feels guilty!” Stiles bursts out, “and you’re forgetting a crucial fact here: Derek and I aren’t mates! You’ve noticed that by now, right? There’s no point in even trying this, because it is literally impossible to pull him out of his shell! I’ve been trying for years, and he’s always been a grumpy loner, and he’ll always be a grumpy loner, no matter what I do! So no matter how much I want Derek to pull his head out of his ass, and go on long walks on the beach with me or whatever, he isn’t going to. I don’t have the power to fix all of that fucked-upness. He doesn’t even want me to be the one to try.”
There’s a crashing noise from inside the house, and Stiles realizes with a jolt that while taking someone outside to talk privately may work with humans, the walls of the house may as well be made of tissue paper for werewolves.
Other Stiles grimaces. “Yowch. Way to be candid.”
“I- you- I’m going to-” Stiles sputters, trying to sound threatening despite the fact that he can’t seem to string a sentence together. “Ugh, I’ve never been madder at myself, and you’re not even me!” That doesn’t make any sense, but it’s as good as it’s going to get, and Stiles kind of needs to storm off right now.
And make some goddamn apologies, because he’s an adult goddamn it, and he can’t just let Derek sulk. Fuck this is going to be awkward.
He finds Derek outside on the balcony outside of his room. Derek likes it there because he’s high enough up that he can see the moon without trees in the way. Even a few stars are visible, because they’re far enough away from light pollution to see a smattering or two. Stiles leans against the sliding glass door for a few minutes, letting the summer soaked night air fill in the silence. Crickets are literally chirruping, but that’s alright. This far out into the woods, there are enough of them going at once that it isn’t awkward; it’s a song. Stiles found out a while ago that for years after the fire, there weren’t any crickets around the house, because the earth was too dead or something like that. Stiles wonders if Derek realizes what it means that there are crickets here again.
“Crickets,” he says stupidly.
Derek makes a noise of agreement, but stays in the cold metal lawn chair on the balcony, looking up into the sky.
“I’m um, sorry about that,” Stiles continues, because he wants to just put in his apology and go, whether Derek accepts it or not, “you’re not just a grumpy loner, or anything. I was trying to prove a point, I exaggerated. So, um, sorry.”
“It’s fine.” Everything is fine with Derek. You could set his favorite leather jacket on fire and it would be “fine.”
“I mean it! I mean, yeah, you’re a little grumpy, and yeah, you’re kind of a loner, but you’re, um, pleasant.” Pleasant? Stiles uses nicer adjectives to describe his food.
“And you want to go on long walks on the beach with me,” Derek replies dryly.
“Ah. Um. Yes? Kind of. Sorry.”
Derek shakes his head, “I get it. Our other versions have a -what did other you call it? An ‘emotional connection?’”
“Yeah. It’s like they’re trying to pass it on. Like, you know, a disease. But, you know, that’s... them.”
And speak of the devil, Other Stiles and Derek walk out into the yard. Stiles is inclined to believe they’re doing it for a reason, (an exhibitionist reason,) but then they keep on walking, towards the trail nearby that leads into the woods. Stiles is going to assume that they’re going for an innocent, scenic hike, for the sake of his sanity.
Other Derek tickles the spot on Other Stiles’ side that’s always been sensitive, and Other Stiles yelps. Other Derek ducks down and kisses the spot, then they keep walking. Just as they’re about to disappear behind the trees, Other Derek says something to Other Stiles.
They’re too far away for Stiles to hear, but not for Derek.
On the balcony, Derek’s face crumples, vulnerable in a way Stiles has never seen before, and probably isn’t supposed to see now. It’s entrancing, seeing the layers of ironclad protection break away for a second; so that for a moment, all Stiles sees is a lost man, adrift in summer air and a symphony of cricket song.
The man disappears after a few seconds, leaving Derek behind.
“Yeah,” Derek murmurs, “that’s them. They got lucky.”
Stiles stares at the side of Derek’s head for a long moment. “Exactly,” he finally replies, quiet, in case he startles the moment away.
Up next: Some things that are well overdue.
(I had a writing teacher once that wouldn't let us use words like "thing" or "stuff" in sentences. HAH. HAHAHA. HAH.)
Chapter 5: Choices
I finally got the title into the story! #overlyexcited
Also... rating went up. Hoo boy. No explicit, smutty blow-by-blows, but too sexual for a T rating.
Stiles has a hard time letting anything go. Unfortunately, that’s a trait that Other Stiles shares with him.
A tapping at his window at ten o’clock wakes Stiles up. It’s been a long time since anyone has come in through his window, especially since the whole pack has a key to Scott and Stiles’ apartment, but Stiles is still hardwired to wake up to the sound of fingers on glass.
He stumbles to his feet and opens the window. It’s Other Stiles. The guy’s sure lucky that he and Scott have a ground floor apartment.
Other Stiles’ hair is all mussed up, and his cheeks are visibly red even in the darkness of the room.
“You stink like sex,” Stiles observes.
“No I don’t.”
“No you don’t, but I’ve always wanted to say that. And also,” Stiles gestures at Other Stiles’ ruffled appearance, “couldn’t have showered first or something?”
Other Stiles shrugs, flopping down onto Stiles’ bed, aggressively rearranging Stiles’ carefully put together pillow formation. “We gonna bother with boundaries now?”
Stiles rolls his eyes. “Fine. Get your sex stink all over my bed, see if I care.”
Other Stiles thrashes around on the bed obnoxiously, rubbing himself all over the covers.
Stiles raises an eyebrow. “You try too hard sometimes.”
Other Stiles grimaces. “Yeah, I came over to say that me and Derek -my Derek- have been talking, and we’re sorry for, y’know, playing matchmaker. Obviously it’s not going so great.”
“It’s fine,” Stiles sighs, taking a spot on the bed, “Derek wasn’t too upset. Actually, he sort of agreed with me. About how you guys are ridiculously perfect, I mean.”
“Dude, we need to have a talk about our tendency to exaggerate. One of these days we’re going to seriously mislead somebody.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Derek and I aren’t ‘perfect,’” Other Stiles scoffs, burying deeper into the pillows. “This is nice, is it like, goose down or something? Can you make pillows out of that or is that just comforters?”
Stop, wait, go back.
“Stop, wait, go back. You and Derek are totally perfect. Like, ridiculously. You’re a goddamn shining beacon of love and affection, and I spend a lot of time around Scott and Allison, so I know what I’m talking about.”
Other Stiles heaves a sigh, and fiddles with the edge of Stiles’ comforter. “You know, everyone thinks that. It’s kind of annoying.”
“Well, sorry that everyone has eyes.”
“Okay. Okay listen. Here’s the thing,” Other Stiles begins, holding a hand up to the ceiling like he’s got a bone to pick. “Yes, okay, yes Derek and I are very close. We’re around each other all the time and I don’t ever get sick of him, I trust him more than anybody else, yes, even Scott, and the sex is fantastic. However! And here’s where you’ve got to listen, because nobody ever listens past the ‘however’ part: it’s, I don’t know, it’s damaging to spend all of your time together and trust each other with your lives and beyond and have fantastic sex all the time.”
“I don’t think the sex thing really fits into your argument.”
“It doesn’t. I’m just gloating. But, ugh, okay, example time. Depressing, angsty example time. I- the thing is- well. When we were in Beacon Hills -not this one, obviously- it wasn’t exactly easy. Peter was running around biting people before the FNEB caught and put him down; and Jackson was running around paralyzing people before he got put down too; and Derek was linked to all of it-”
“Wait wait wait, Jackson’s dead?”
“Oh. Yeah. Kind of weird to see him here, I got to say. I mean, you’re all buds and I just knew him as an ass who caused everyone a lot of trouble and put Derek into some pretty hot water. When one non-human entity starts acting up,” Other Stiles says to Stiles’ questioning face, “all the non-humans in town start getting their front doors spray painted, if you know what I mean.”
“So what happened to Lydia in your world?”
“Um, she was sad? I don’t know, we left Beacon Hills not long after that. She’s rich and human and scary, I’m sure the FNEB didn’t give her too much trouble.”
“Man, that does suck. All of it. Like, wow.” There had been times when Stiles thought that it would be easier if the world just knew about werewolves, because then he wouldn’t have to come up with weird excuses anymore. Apparently that wouldn’t work so well in practice.
“Oh, what? I didn’t get to the point of my example.”
“There was a point?”
“Of course there was a point.”
“I dunno, we can tell some pretty meaningless stories.”
“I mean, I once went on for half an hour about the edibility of birdseed, and that was pretty meaningless, but-”
“The thing is-”
“I talked about it anyway.”
“Stiles!” Other Stiles barks.
It shouldn’t be so much fun to rile himself up. Stiles puts on his most nonchalant expression and says breezily, “Oh, were you saying someth-”
“I abandoned Dad.”
There’s shame on Other Stiles’ stupid face, as there very well should be. “I. Abandoned. Dad. He wasn’t evil, before you ask. He was just Dad, sort of overprotective, making terrible dietary choices, kind. He didn’t approve of Derek, and I understood. I did. I didn’t leave in some stupid huff like some teenager all upset that my Dad didn’t get me.”
“So why the fuck did you-”
“Derek was leaving, and I followed. He didn’t even ask me to, though I knew he was working up to it. But Derek was going to go with the werewolves to what would be base camp, and it wasn’t even a question. I went with him. I left my father, our father, who singlehandedly raised me for years, for a guy I’d known for, oh, five months.”
“Oh my god.” That’s big. Stiles doesn’t think of himself as a daddy’s boy, but gun to his head, you ask him to make a list about the importance of the people in his life, his dad goes on top every time.
“Yeah. I mean, I felt bad. I feel bad. I’m a terrible son. But I wouldn’t change that decision.”
“Is it because-”
“No, not because the sex is that good.”
So sue him for trying to make light of the situation.
Other Stiles flips so that he’s on his side, facing Stiles. “It was never really a choice with Derek. Just sort of inevitable. We even aren’t separate people anymore. It’s a mate thing, I guess. Where I go, he goes, and vice versa. No matter how much we damage on our way.” Other Stiles toys idly with the stuffed wolf Stiles keeps in his bed. “So no, not perfect.”
There’s not much else to say for a while. One of the many reasons that Stiles hates serious conversations.
Luckily, Other Stiles hates them too, so when the glowing numbers on Stiles’ alarm clock are about to switch to 11:00PM, he mentions, “Scott ships you and your Derek.”
“I’m not sure. Both of them, I think?”
“Oh god, it’s spreading.”
“Must be. I ship you two too. Heh, tutu.”
Stiles groans, “are we onto this again?”
“Hey, I’m not saying you’ve got to do anything,” Other Stiles says quickly, “just, you know. Being mates isn’t the key to happiness or anything. You’ve got something I don’t. A choice.”
Then Other Stiles leaves, and Stiles is stuck with his own thoughts for the rest of the night.
The Hale House seems to have everybody but the person Stiles wants to talk to in it. He searches the entirety of the house before dragging himself into the living room and asking “does anyone know where Derek is?”
“I think he’s in the backyard?” Allison suggests.
Stiles is honestly impressed that she’s capable of keeping a straight face while the Scotts are glued to both of her sides, each trying to do a better job of cuddling than the other.
Before Stiles goes, he shoots a “can you believe them?” look at Isaac, who offers a sympathetic expression back. Other Scott’s been trying to capitalize on his time in the non-gritty universe as much as possible, which mostly involves playing video games and making moon eyes at Allison. He’s going to be in a rough spot when he goes back. Stiles knows, he’s in that spot right now.
Speaking of which, he has to go to the backyard.
The house may be all redone, plumbing issues aside, but the backyard is still a work in progress. It was just going to be left as is, but then Lydia started talking about landscaping with a “wild nature motif” and now there’s a big square of overturned dirt in the yard that Derek’s currently digging a trench through.
Derek is looking up before Stiles even opens the back door, and gives a little wave.
“Did you see that episode of Fringe last night?” Derek asks, pulling out one of his pre-canned conversation starters.
“No dude, I was here for barbecue night.”
Derek coughs and returns his attention to his shovel. He’s standing in the trench that he’s digging, and looks kind of like he just wants to dig himself a grave in it.
“It’s cool though,” Stiles reassures quickly, “I liked dinner. You probably got a kick out of being better at barbecuing than Other Derek.”
Smirking slightly, Derek doesn’t say anything.
“Called it!” Stiles crows, then trails off. He feels like he has something to say, but he’s not sure where to start. Well, he can always stall. “Where are the shovels?”
“You don’t have to-”
“But I want to. Besides, it would be awkward to just stand here and chat while you work up a sweat putting in all of the sprinklers’ underground tunnel thingies on your own.”
Derek makes like he’s going to toss his shovelful of dirt at Stiles, then pulls back last second. “At the side of the house under the overhang... Thank you.”
“Uh, you’re welcome.” Polite Derek will never stop being weird.
Stiles returns with the shovel and starts digging a shallow furrow into the ground, following the path of tiny neon flags that had been set out earlier. “So...” he drawls, as casual as he can manage, “how about them Giants?” People talk about sports, right?
“Good, I guess.”
“I like baseball,” Derek grunts out unexpectedly.
“I thought only vampires played baseball.”
“Where did you get that idea?”
“Oh, ah,” crap, he’s been caught. “Obscure reference. I don’t think you’d get it.”
“You read Twilight?”
“It was for research?”
“I don’t need you judging my life choices, big guy. I was doing a paper about the influences of paranormal romance on the romantic expectations of its targeted readers.”
“Yeah, totally legitimate.”
“Do you still have all the books?”
“Are they underneath your pillow?”
Stiles gapes. Derek is teasing him. “You... you... Judgey McJudgerson!” He tosses a clod of dirt at Derek.
Miracle of miracles, it slips right down the front of Derek’s shirt, and Derek swears, flapping the bottom of his tank top and jumping around to get the grit out.
He eyes Stiles murderously. “You want the sprinklers put in or not?’
“You wanna stop being a grumpy-puss or not?”
“Grumpy-puss isn’t a word.”
“Shakespeare made up hundreds of words, and nobody’s giving him trouble about it.”
Derek snorts, stalking forwards with another shovel full of dirt. “You’re comparing yourself to Shakespeare?”
“I am a fucking wordsmith,” Stiles argues back happily.
He argues. Happily. Because arguing with Derek... makes him happy.
Derek’s just about to fling the shovel of dirt at him when Stiles holds up a hand. “Wait! Wait wait wait!”
Derek gives him a skeptical look and empties a sizable amount of dirt onto Stiles’ head. Coughing through the dust surrounding him like he’s an unwashed cartoon character, Stiles chokes out, “We’re enjoying ourselves.”
Of course Derek looks like he’s being accused of something. “Um, yes? Sorry.”
“No, no this is good! Very good!”
Very good indeed, because Stiles is starting to look back on all of his and Derek’s arguments and wonder if they really were arguments, or just their own unique brand of communication. Because, thinking about it, Stiles hasn’t been honestly angry at Derek since he tried to sacrifice himself to save the pack when the Alpha Pack came through. Holy God, he and Derek get along. When had that started happening? Definitely since before the thingamajig had its mischievous way with him. This feels like something he should have noticed earlier.
Derek’s watching him cautiously, and Stiles realizes that he’s been suspiciously silent for god knows how long.
“Derek, we get along!” Stiles takes Derek’s shoulders and tries to shake him. Derek’s a brick wall, so it doesn’t work, but that’s not foremost on Stiles’ mind. “I, I was talking to other me, and he was talking about mates, and choices, and he was talking about inevitability and stuff and I’m not making any sense, I know, but I want to make a choice because I don’t care if we’re mates but I want to try anyway because we get along and oh god you have no idea what I’m talking about so I’m just gonna-”
Stiles kisses Derek. It’s less than a peck. It’s a whisper of a touch between mouths, soundless, testing.
He pulls back and time stops. There is Derek, across from him, eyes wide in shock, and the trees, crystal clear behind him, and the smell of pine, and the too-loud noise of breathing, and Stiles isn’t going to forget a single detail of it.
Derek drops his shovel. It clatters when it hits the ground. He breathes out shakily, then time starts up again as Derek explodes into action, wrapping one hand around the back of Stiles’ head and yanking him forward.
It’s like Derek was a rubbed band being stretched and stretched and stretched until he finally sprung free and whipped forward, licking feverishly into Stiles’ mouth. It goes to show how caught up he is that when Stiles leans against him too heavily, Derek trips on the edge of the trench and doesn’t bother to find his balance. Instead, they fall to the ground in a clatter of gardening tools and dirt. Derek slams his head pretty seriously against the ground, and Stiles slams his head pretty seriously against Derek’s shoulder, but then they’re kissing again, because they have priorities, alright? What’s a case of whiplash compared to lips on lips and wandering hands making their steady way up and down then up again?
Stiles eventually surfaces for air, because he isn’t that experienced, okay, he can’t quite breathe and kiss at the same time yet. “Just to be clear,” he pants, “we’re not mates?”
“No,” Derek replies, as breathless as Stiles.
“Good,” Stiles says shortly, before he dives back in. He doesn’t need no magical soulmate bond telling him what to do, he’s a free agent now, baby.
Later, Stiles realizes that his jaw is aching, and they’ve been making out for a ridiculous amount of time. It’s not his fault, he was distracted by stubble and big hands that cradled his jaw. Derek should have had an eye on his watch, is the sun setting? Good god. Stiles rests his head on Derek’s shoulder and they breathe for a few minutes. There isn’t much to say really. Stiles has the heavy weight of Derek’s arms around his waist, and Derek makes a comfortable pillow, and for once, things are looking up.
“So...” Stiles drawls eventually, “what now?”
Derek shrugs, making Stiles’ head bob up and down. “What do you want to do?”
“Um, eat?” When in doubt, go for food. “Oh, and keep this on the down low. I just know that the second the pack finds out, they’ll be all over us, acting like they saw it coming the whole time, and I don’t want to give them the satisfaction.”
Derek’s eyes flicker away guiltily.
“They’ve been taking turns peeking out of the back window for the last 45 minutes.”
“Oh my god,” Stiles yelps, spinning around to see Lydia’s face disappear behind the curtain. “Those little... minxes! That’s it, we’re eating out. I refuse to eat with all of these peeping toms!” He directs his last comment at the house, then stands up, patting the dirt off of himself with one hand and offering his other one to Derek. That’s a thing they can do now, right? Hold hands? Is Derek a hand holder? Or is that just something you’re supposed to do to appease a girlfriend?
Derek takes his hand, uses it to pull himself up, then lets go. That’s cool too. They take a detour around the house, walking with about a foot of space in between them. Is it too early to press up against Derek’s side? Stiles had just been pressed all along Derek’s front, so tossing an arm around his shoulder shouldn’t be too different, right?
Stiles doesn’t work up the nerve until they get to the car, and by then, it’s too late, and Derek’s already sliding into the camaro.
They end up at a little diner at the edge of town, the type that looks a bit like someone’s grandmother decorated it in the seventies. It’s filled with waitresses that will be there for life, menus the size of novels, and the best pie in the whole county.
It’s the dinner rush, but since Derek and Stiles are only two people, they manage to snag a little two person table in a corner, nestled underneath a frankly terrifying tasseled lamp. They rifle through their respective menus, and Stiles marvels at how he’s now intimately acquainted with Derek’s molars, but still manages to feel nervous. Would it be cool to hold Derek’s hand over the table? Are they into PDA? Is that a thing Derek would do?
“Can I get you something to drink, boys?” the waitress asks from beneath her perm.
Derek orders orange juice and Stiles gets a coke.
“Orange juice? I always pegged you for a black coffee guy. Actually, I know you’re a black coffee guy. Like, black hole black coffee.”
Derek shrugs, playing with a napkin. “I always order orange juice at restaurants. Vitamin C.”
“That’s adorable. Also, how did I not know that? Derek... have we never gone out to eat together before?” That can’t be right. Can it? No. They’ve known each other for at least three years.
“We all went out when the house was finally finished.”
“Oh yeah, I guess I didn’t notice.”
“No, you were trying to braid Erica’s hair into cornrows for most of the night.” Derek’s mouth turns up at the corners.
“Oh yeah,” Stiles remembers, “that was, um, distracting, I guess. I was, uh, distracted. Sorry.”
“It’s okay. It was months ago.”
“Right.” Other Stiles and Derek never had this problem, Stiles bets. They just clicked like two puzzle pieces that the universe literally made for each other. “Okay, is it just me,” he bursts out, “or does it seem like we’re under a lot of pressure?”
Derek sort of collapses inward onto himself. He replies, “yes,” but his eyebrows say much more.
“Thank you,” Stiles leans back in his chair, “it’s like we’ve got to compete with them or something stupid.”
“Exactly,” Derek agrees, nodding at the waitress when she drops off their drinks. “I can’t believe that other me is managing to ruin everything without even being here.”
Stiles has to crack up at that. Because of course Derek would blame his other self. He’s like a kid that always points at their younger sibling when a vase is broken. “Oh man. okay, seriously though. We can’t let them and their annoying practically married-ness get to us. Dude, I got it, okay, it’s like having Ivy League parents. Like, the expectations are so high for you that the only thing you can do is get yourself a nice crackden and teenage pregnancy.”
The single eyebrow raise of doom. “So... ignore them?”
“That seems tricky dude. They’re kind of living with you. Although it would be a pretty cool prank if we all ignored them until they thought that they’d been cursed into invisibility or something.”
Derek takes a sip of his orange juice pensively. That man can do anything pensively, it’s impressive. “So we...?”
“I don’t know dude, what do you want from me, a guidebook to our future relationship?”
Did Derek’s face just light up at the word relationship? Because Stiles is going to assume it just did. So awesome.
“Just, okay, I’m not going to call you stupid petnames like Other Stiles calls Other Derek. You know?”
“Good. I refuse to carry you on my back anywhere. You have legs, I don’t know why other me can’t understand this.”
“I’m not going to sit in your lap. Ever.”
“I won’t make out with you on a couch in front of everyone.”
“Just in the backyard?”
“You know what I mean.”
“I...” Stiles cast around for something else, “won’t leave my toothbrush in your backpack?”
“I don’t know, I’m more used to other us in the other dimension,” Stiles sputters, almost knocking his glass of coke over.
In between Derek’s light chuckles, Stiles swears he hears, “god I missed you.”
Stiles gasps dramatically, batting his eyelashes. “Why Derek! I never knew you felt this way.”
Derek rolls his eyes and kicks Stiles’ ankle softly. “Idiot.”
Even a day before, Stiles would swear up and down that Derek was not the type to play footsie in a diner, but he would be wrong. By the time they’re halfway through their meal, he’s pretty sure he has friction burn on his calf. Whatever. He is going to fucking cherish that friction burn. There will be a picture of it on his wall forever after.
When the waitress comes to give them the bill, she jerks her head at Derek, who’s coming out of the bathroom, and comments wryly, “you got a ring picked out yet?”
“Wh- I- oh-”
She winks. “Don’t worry about it kid. It’s just that all of the gals in the kitchen are cooing over how cute you and Mr. Stubble over there are.”
After she leaves, Stiles turns to Derek, who heard everything. “I changed my mind. I have a petname for you, and it is Mr. Stubble.”
Derek grumbles, “at least it’s better than ‘star of my heart,’” and Stiles thinks that maybe they aren’t soulmates, maybe they aren’t in love, maybe they still don’t know how to handle each other, but give them some time?
He’s pretty sure that they’re going to be epic.
As if Stiles’ life couldn’t get any weirder, he comes to the Hale House the next morning to see Allison chasing after one of the Scotts, bow in hand, stretched and ready to fly.
“Ah!” he yelps, “oh shit, Scott!”
“Chill out dude,” one of the Scotts, Stiles thinks its the one from this universe, says. Apparently he’d been standing a few feet away and Stiles just hadn’t noticed. “They’re training.”
“Oh. Since when does Allison help with training?”
Scott shrugs. “Other me wants to know how to deal with her fighting techniques.”
Allison lets an arrow fly with no warning, and Other Scott jerks to the right, ducking and making a 180 degree turn on one hand so he can sprint back towards Allison. It must be Other Scott then, no way could Scott manage that level of acrobatics. Other Scott is trying to get into close quarters, but Allison is fending him off with arrows that keep slowing him down. One hits him in the shoulder, and she winces, but Other Scott just yanks it out and feints left, then right, and swoops in underneath one of her arms to press a finger to her throat. It’s not clawed, but the intent is clear.
“Gotcha,” Other Scott says softly.
“Oh yeah?” Allison raises an eyebrow and taps Other Scott lightly with the silver blade she had an inch from his back.
They spring back into motion, Other Scott spinning to grab her wrist, while she brings her bow around to knock him over the head. Other Scott has more brute strength than she does, but Stiles knows for a fact that Allison is tricky. She takes advantage of the brief second that Other Scott stumbles back to swoop to the ground, pick up a handful of dirt, and toss it in his eyes. Other Scott groans, wiping at his eyes while Allison bears down with the knife again. At the last second, his hand comes up, blind, to stop her. The fingers of the other hand press against her gut.
“How about now?” Other Scott asks smugly.
Allison drops her weapons and gives him a hug around the middle. “Good job! You’ve just got to remember the weapon for close range. If I have one, then I’ll bet that Little Ms. Hunter Fanatic does too.”
Now that the fight is over, Stiles feels comfortable asking loudly, “so what’s going on? Last time I checked, this wasn’t your normal Sunday morning.”
“Oh, dude, have we not told you our idea?” Scott replies excitedly, “it’s so cool, we came up with it last night.”
“So that’s why you took so long coming back to the apartment!” Stiles realizes.
“Yeah, it’s seriously so cool,” Other Scott adds. “We were thinking, well, it would suck to have spent this whole month just relaxing and then getting shoved back into, you know, the general suckiness of constantly fighting hunters. So, like, we’ve been talking for years back home about how we need a, uh, sustainable solution to the hunter thing, but that would involve, you know, negotiation, and that’s hard because they’d shoot us first. But,” Other Scott holds up a finger, then points it at Allison, “they’d listen if we had Allison with us. Or at least Chris would. And if we can talk to Chris, then he can talk to other hunters, and yeah, okay, it would take a long time, but it’d be, like, steps towards a treaty.”
Stiles grimaces. “So you’ll be holding Allison hostage until they listen to you? Dude, they already have an Allison. And does this mean that Allison will be going back with you?”
“That’s just the thing,” Scott blurts excitedly, “me and Allison will go with the Others, and if we’re lucky, we can get our Chris to come too. Then we isolate the Argents, and try to talk some sense into them. Like, when you’re looking at yourself saying that negotiating with werewolves is a good idea, it’s a lot harder to say no.”
“That’s... interesting,” Stiles agrees. He can vouch for it being hard to argue with yourself, at any rate. What can he say? He gives good advice. “But I don’t know Scott, um, that Scott,” he points at Other Scott, “how do I know this isn’t just some really complicated plan to seduce the other Allison?” he teases.
Other Scott takes a tad too long to answer “No! Come on. No!”
“Dude! That’s not going to work, you know!” Stiles exclaims, before he claps a hand over his mouth. Too harsh. Friends don’t tell friends that they can’t be with the girl of their dreams.
Other Scott looks serious in that way that Scott never can, and replies, “I know. It’s just a hope. A side possibility. Let me have my daydreams, alright?”
Sometimes Stiles forgets that Other Scott isn’t as optimistic as his Scott. He’s been worn down by too many cold nights waiting for ambushes.
“Yeah,” Stiles acquiesces quickly, “yeah, I mean, it could happen. I never thought Allison would put up with this joker,” he hooks a thumb at Scott, “so who’s to say you can’t make it with Other Allison? Odds can’t be that much worse.” Well, yes they can. But Stiles isn’t going to say that, because he’s a supportive friend, dammit.
“And,” Allison pipes up, changing the subject because she’s brilliant at evading awkward conversations, “we talked to Other Stiles and Other Derek, and they like the plan. I’ve just got to get my dad onboard, and we’ll be packing our bags in two weeks time.”
Is the gibbous moon already so close? When did that happen?
“It’s like a vacation,” Stiles nods, “fresh air, lots of nature, camping. For, you know, weeks. And weeks. And jesus, how long would it take to work out these sort of negotiations? Because it took months here.”
Allison squares her shoulders. “I know it will take a while. But I’ll have Scott, and my dad, and all of the Others,” she pats Other Scott on the shoulder, “to keep me company. And wouldn’t you want to do whatever you could if you knew it could help thousands and thousands of people? Even if they aren’t from your dimension?”
What is it with his friends making him think deep thoughts all of the time? Whatever happened to lighthearted chats over coffee about, oh, stocks and stuff?
Over the next two weeks, Stiles thinks about the hordes of kids growing up pale underneath a mountain. How they were all wearing hand-me-downs from the older kids, and eventually the base campers would run out of hand-me-downs to give, and clothes would have to be added to the long list of supplies that runners had to hike down the mountain for each month. How there’s only so much food they can haul back up, so the pre-teens that should just be starting their growth spurts aren’t. He thinks about how whole packs have to stay inside on full moons. The thousands of people in the caves can’t all stampede out on the same full moon, so only a few dozen go out each month while the rest shiver and thrash in cramped quarters. Stiles remembers the fanatical expression on Other Stiles’ face when he described the cause, how Other Stiles counted himself with the wolves wholeheartedly.
Stiles has always been fighting. From scuffles in elementary school to the battles of wits he carries out with Mr. Harris, from hanging onto his friendship with Scott for dear life, even when shit got tough, to keeping his father from going into an early grave. He has fought. He’s even done battle. He once clubbed an Alpha werewolf over the head with a baseball bat and knocked her out cold for a full ten seconds. But Stiles has never had a cause. Never a crusade. He’s only ever fought to keep what is his.
So on the night before the gibbous moon, Stiles sits on Derek’s balcony and says, “I think I want to go with Scott and the Others back to their universe.”
Derek leans forward, making his chair creak, the plastic strips stretching against the metal frame. “Is it that much better?” He’s using his grim resignation voice.
“Wh- no, I mean, well, no. It’s really uncomfortable and stressful, but I want to help. It’s grim there. Gritty even. I want to help. Then, you know, head back eventually.”
Derek runs a hand over his head, thinking. The crickets sing loudly. Stiles is used to it by this point. He and Derek have spent many a night out here, sometimes talking, sometimes not. Either way, Stiles ends up going home later and later each night. He stumbled through the front door at five in the morning a few days ago, and Scott had commented that he might as well just stay over at the Hale House if he was going to hang around into the wee hours of the morning.
But he and Derek are taking their time. They have the pack to think about, and they can’t jump into the deep end, only to break up like some kind of cataclysmic event and have weird custody battles over the betas. So they talk. They kiss, they touch, and they talk until it’s too cold outside to not pull out a blanket and curl up underneath it, watching the sky and pretending they don’t make wishes when shooting stars streak past.
“It’ll be months,” Derek states. “It won’t be a quick visit.”
“I know.” Stiles exhales shakily. “It’s a commitment. But I’ve got to do it. I mean, I helped when we drew up that treaty with Chris here, didn’t I? And I know for a fact that I have a more encyclopedic knowledge of lore than other me does. I’ve had two more years with steady internet access-”
“I’ll come too.”
Derek looks a little startled at how the words just poured out of his mouth. Stiles can relate.
“I, um, I’ll come too.” Derek pauses, then adds, “if that’s alright.”
Lately, when Derek feels self-conscious, he gets more polite. Like he’s afraid if he’s too brusque, Stiles will go, “oh no, I was expecting you to be a big cuddly teddy bear all of the time. This will not do. I’m leaving you and taking the kids with me.” Really, Stiles prefers it when Derek inevitably forgets to try and be nice, and becomes his usual abrasive self. In fact, he’s starting to realize that he enjoys it when they give each other shit so much that he probably had a thing for Derek for longer than he knew.
“Yeah, no, yeah, that’s fine,” Stiles reassures, rubbing his hand over Derek’s thigh, “just, you know, bring a comfortable sleeping bag.” He’s sure as hell not going to turn Derek down. He’d already had his worries about leaving for months when he and Derek had only just gotten their act together.
Derek puts his hand over the one Stiles has placed on Derek’s thigh. “Okay.”
“So, um, why?” Stiles asks hesitantly. Asking “why” with Derek can sometimes open up a whole moody can of worms that didn’t need to be opened.
Looking embarrassed, Derek murmurs, “It was hard enough when you were gone for two months.”
Stiles’ face breaks into what must be an incredibly sappy smile. He squeezes Derek’s hand and he thinks there may have been a giddy squeak or two that escaped his throat. “You’d miss me!”
Realizing that he’s revealed a soft side and trying to counteract the damage, Derek continues, “and an extra two hands would be helpful. And I don’t want Other Derek thinking that two Stiles are better than one.”
It’s too late. Stiles knows for sure now that Derek is a softy with an extra soft soft spot for a certain nineteen year old who talks too much. This is something to be celebrated with lots and lots of kisses, and Stiles sets to work on celebrating.
They’ve built this into an art, the two of them. Pressing their mouths together underneath the black summer sky, inhaling the scent of faraway barbecue and fruiting trees in the distance when they emerge for breath; keeping one hand fisted around the fleecy green blanket wrapped around them both so their arms don’t grow goose pimples from anything other than light fingers trailing across bodies. Stiles has kept his pledge to never sit in Derek’s lap -because it would make him feel like Derek’s his sugar daddy- so it’s Derek that leans far forward, practically sitting on top of Stiles as he plumbs the depth of his mouth. It’s glorious. It’s always glorious, but tonight is a celebration, and barring a parade, there’s only one other way Stiles wants to spend it.
There’s a time and place for taking things slow, and the night before they embark on a dangerous adventure is not the time nor the place.
So he links his arms around the small of Derek’s back and pulls their hips together. Derek gasps slightly against his mouth, and Stiles suddenly feels much warmer. They push and pull against each other, pressing as close as they can while still being able to move. Derek’s stubble scrapes especially hard against Stiles’ cheek, and it hits home that this is Derek here with him, letting Stiles be the romantic lead for once, sprawled across him, willing to follow him through thick and thin.
A particularly enthusiastic hip roll later, Stiles is groaning into Derek’s mouth, and his hands are fluttering across Derek’s torso, unsure of where to touch first. It’s like Derek’s body is a candy store, except instead of lollipops and caramel, there are pectorals and abdominal muscles and these gorgeous deltoids leading into these statuesque trapeziuses, and Stiles took Anatomy and Physiology, alright?
“Do you,” Derek pants, “want-”
He doesn’t have to say anything else. Stiles nods desperately and leans in to nip swiftly at Derek’s jaw because he can’t help himself. “This is the last time we’ll have soundproof walls between us and a pack of werewolves for a while,” Stiles reasons. It’s practicality, really.
“Okay,” Derek agrees, rolling up against Stiles once more before darting inside the house. Wasn’t the whole point that there would be soundproof walls? The Hale House’s internal walls aren’t soundproofed, only the outside ones.
Derek reemerges a handful of seconds later with what looks like the entirety of the bedding that the Hale House has to offer in his arms. Stiles has a fleeting mental picture of Derek busting into Other Stiles and Other Derek’s room to steal their sheets.
“Good call.” Breaking out in shivers would probably ruin the mood.
Derek tosses the blankets at Stiles’ head. Also a mood ruiner, come on Derek.
Then Derek sets a promising looking bottle on the rickety little side table, and would you look at that, Stiles is in the mood again.
“C’mere, you stud,” he purrs. Perhaps his natural animal magnetism is offset by the comforter half covering his face, but Derek walks up to him anyway, and pulls the blankets off of Stiles, to start laying them out on the tiled floor of the balcony.
The heaviest blankets go down first, for padding more than anything, and Stiles entertains himself by watching Derek bend over as he arranges a nest. Finally, Derek seems satisfied, and he beckons a hand at Stiles as he lays back against the pile. Yes please.
Stiles jumps in with Derek, cuddling in when Derek pulls the other half of the blankets over them. Everything is warm and soft, and Stiles feels swaddled, cradled, safe.
“Hi,” he whispers, running a finger over Derek’s cheek.
“Um, so do we just...”
Derek chuckles lightly, and buries his face in Stiles’ neck while his hands tug Stiles’ shirt upwards.
After that, it’s a blur of
hands on cloth on skin
layers shedding- just clothes or something else?
sweat under hands, which should be gross, but isn’t
so much that should be gross but isn’t
where’s that damn bottle?
legs spreading and fingers searching
warm and warm and warm
his face, moving up and down as his body does too
blue gray green whatever eyes shutting, then opening and shutting again, can’t make a decision
the crickets are so singing, ballads and arias and concerts, because the crickets are life
and this is life
and this is them
and this is Stiles and Derek and no one else, looking at the dark triangles of pine trees in the distance, blankets thrown off, letting the night air cool them off, because they sure as hell aren’t going to let go of each other, even if they are overheating.
Stiles weaves his fingers through Derek’s. “Why do I feel like this is the calm before the storm.”
Derek exhales heavily, and hot breath brushes against his shoulder. “Because it is.”
The next morning, as they all gather around the thingamajig, Other Stiles informs Stiles that he stinks of sex, and Stiles can’t stop grinning.
Chapter 6: Allegories
And here we are. The last chapter, where loose ends are tied up, and metaphors are made. Thank you all for following me as I worked through this behemoth. It wasn’t supposed to be this long, but fanfiction has an odd way of inspiring a lady until she writes 40k and 100 pages in a matter of weeks.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Stiles groans, seeing Chris and Allison’s silhouettes appear in the gate of the hunter compound. “Wheelbarrows. Good god, could they be any more obvious? Why don’t they just carry Other Chris and Other Allison’s unconscious bodies over their shoulders and be done with it?”
Scott shrugs, then immediately grimaces as it rustles the branches of the bush that they’re hiding in. “I guess asking Other Chris and Allison didn’t go too well.”
“So Plan B,” Other Scott finishes. “Scott, are you hearing them talk to the guards?”
Scott snickers. “Yeah,” at Stiles’ raised eyebrow, he continues, “they’re just pulling rank, not explaining where they’re going, just being all ‘don’t question it.’”
“It’s working,” Derek points out flatly.
So it is. Chris and Allison are just walking out of the compound like it’s perfectly normal to go out on a father-daughter walk at midnight with two full wheelbarrows. Sometimes hunters are so much like the incompetent henchmen in cartoons that Stiles just wants to facepalm all over the place.
It’s all so easy. Nobody expects body doubles. Or the Spanish Inquisition.
They stop messing with the wheelbarrows once Chris and Allison have followed the road out of sight of the compound. It isn’t easy to carry two full grown bodies through a valley and up a mountain in the dark, but the three werewolves are pretty handy. Stiles is running on one hell of an adrenaline rush anyway. They’d spent weeks planning out the perfect mission, and it all went off without a hitch. Except for the having to knock out Other Chris and Other Allison bit. But whatever. Hopefully once they have the Other Argents in the cabin, they can engage in some calmer conversation, and only have to resort to light bondage.
To distract himself from the thought of light bondage mixed with the view of Derek’s ass in front of him, Stiles tugs on his radio. “We’re about half a mile from the road. Is the coast clear?”
“Clear,” Other Isaac informs him.
“Clear here too,” says Other Boyd.
“We are good, good buddy,” Other Stiles replies.
Stiles gives the thumbs up to his companions, as if they couldn’t hear the dialogue. Because that’s right, he’s the radio guy. He’s the guy in charge of the radio on their secret mission. That won’t stop being cool. He’s on a secret mission, carrying the legs of one of their captives as they sneak away in the night. That, plus the view he’s getting of Derek, has him in a pretty good mood.
Naturally, that’s when he trips over a tree root.
It’s downhill from there, which Stiles means in the figurative sense, because it’s all uphill walking. The thrill of being on a secret mission wears off after a while, once it’s been hours of hiking in the dark, and around the third time they need to sedate one of the Other Argents who are waking up, he starts feeling guilty too. Their plan seems awfully idealistic now that Stiles starts thinking about how the Other Argents will react when they finally wake up. They aren’t going to be happy and reasonable, that’s for sure.
Finally, the cabin comes into view. They’d spruced it up a little, made it look a bit less like an abandoned shack in the woods, but mostly they’d put a lot of locks on it. As they’re working off of Plan B, it’s looking like those locks will be put to use. The rest of the pack is waiting outside, and helps Scott, Other Scott, Stiles, Derek, Allison, and Chris put the Other Argents’ bodies into the only bedroom. It’s not a cell, per se, but it also lacks anything sharp and has a lot of locks and very small windows.
“Phew,” Stiles groans, stretching out his arms and flopping onto the threadbare couch, which sags more than he expected. “I’m exhausted. Why did I let you talk me into being in the retrieval party?” he asks the group at large.
Derek, already halfway into their sleeping bag, recalls, “you just followed me.”
“Some things never change,” Other Stiles says fondly.
“Like us single people getting resentful with you two -four- around?” Isaac asks dryly as he tucks himself into his own pile of bedding.
“Exactly,” Stiles can’t keep the hint of smugness out of his voice as he drags himself off the couch and into the sleeping bag conglomeration that he and Derek had zipped together. It’s snug, but warm in a cabin without central heating. Not to mention, it encourages cuddling, which is much appreciated, since Special Alone Time with Derek is hard to come by now, so Stiles takes what he can get.
Other Scott stays up to keep watch, which surprises no one. He sits on a rickety folding chair outside the door to the bedroom, grimly keeping both eyes on the door. He has so much hope and heartbreak wrapped up in the people behind that rectangle of wood. Stiles has a bad feeling about it all, and it makes him feel so lucky that he has Derek’s warm, slow-breathing weight next to him, but he also wants to rage at the world for meting out good fortune so unevenly.
The morning is going to be chaos, he knows. The quiet weeks of planning and easy jokes with the pack will be traded out for yelling, arguments, fights, and if they’re lucky, tense negotiations. Pulling the edge of the red nylon sleeping bag over his face, Stiles nestles underneath one of Derek’s arms and lets himself drift to sleep. The fights can wait for a few hours at least.
Before the sun has even risen, there are bangs and shouts coming from inside the bedroom. Stiles has no idea why the Other Argents think shouting “let me out!” is going to accomplish anything, but then again, it’s kind of a necessity in this situation. It’s the first thing you shout when you wake up in a strange, locked room.
Chris and Allison go into the room.
Stiles doesn’t know what they’re saying, but it takes a long time to say it. Over the next hour, there’s more shouting, a few successive thuds, a single harsh spike of laughter, and someone indignantly hollering something about “humanity!” Then the door opens, and four irritated looking Argents walk out. None of them are happy, but none are making a break for it either.
In the days that follow, Stiles plays something of a minor role. He works more on getting ahold of food and luring Derek into hidden dark corners than anything. So far, he’s pretty sure that the Argents have only agreed to listen to what the werewolves have to say, no promises.
The atmosphere in the cabin is tense. It’s a small space filled with thirteen people who don’t have anywhere to go. Especially since for all the claims that the pack is making about having an equal discussion about werewolf rights, Other Chris and Other Allison always have a buddy with them if they walk outside of the cabin.
Other Chris is alright. Stiles isn’t exactly in the mood to give him a hug or anything, but he remembers that, for all that it was worth, Other Chris couldn’t bring himself to physically pull the trigger on Stiles all those months ago. He has some morals, some understanding of a code. Though more bigoted than Chris by far, he’s still somewhat open to negotiation. He understands that there are werewolf children, who even he doesn’t like the idea of killing, and he understands that werewolves themselves aren’t pure evil. Other Chris is kind of a product of his environment, Stiles thinks. He’s anti-werewolf, but mostly because that’s the attitude he’s been surrounded with all of his life. Other Chris is concerned with protecting human civilians, and he reasons that people who can sprout claws and teeth make it hard to protect human civilians.
Other Allison though. Other Allison is the reason that it took an hour to get the Other Argents to come out of the bedroom peacefully, and the reason that the Other Argents had to be sedated in the first place to be taken out of the compound. From what Stiles can gather, Other Allison had spent a lot more time with Kate and her mom than with her dad, and held some more extreme views because of it. Not only does she blame Derek for Kate’s death at Peter’s hands, she considers him responsible for her mother’s suicide, even though in this universe, she was bitten by some random Alpha squatting in a warehouse in Palm Springs. Other Allison refuses to be within five feet of a werewolf, and her eyes, more harsh than Allison’s, are constantly flicking around the cabin, checking for exits, traps, a single wolf looking too fidgety. She doesn’t want to negotiate at all, but she’ll stick around for her father, and thinks that there are some weaknesses about the wolves that she may be able to pick up on, living with them. She makes Stiles nervous.
Other Scott takes it all in stride, somehow. Maybe he was expecting even worse than her fire-eyed hatred. When she spits out epithets at Erica, who brushed against her on the way to the bathroom, when she smacks the table for the fourth time that afternoon, demanding to know why they’re supposed to care about the positive impact werewolves have on the country’s economy, Other Scott maintains a calm face and head, even as Scott and Allison look on with matching expressions of horror. He refuses to let her unnerve him.
Stiles think Other Scott may have gotten himself dedicated to a hopeless cause.
Allison confesses to Stiles one evening, as they’re dragging a bucket of used wastewater outside to dump, that Other Allison terrifies her. “It’s just, that could be me, you know?”
On a surprisingly hot afternoon, they all sit out on the sagging porch in a desperate bid to keep cool. Stiles and Other Stiles are talking about comparative levels of violence in werewolves versus other nonhuman-entities (Stiles has picked up the lingo by this point,) when Other Allison shoots to her feet and takes off sprinting due west. There’s no way she’ll get far, not with all of these wolves around, but Other Allison is rash and angry. All of the calm was probably getting to her.
Other Scott gets up immediately, holding out a hand to everyone else. “I’ll get her.”
Other Chris is about to stand up, but Chris puts a hand on his shoulder, and he leans back into his seat, scowling.
In under a minute, Other Scott catches up with Other Allison. They’re still within view, even hearing range for Stiles.
For a moment, it looks like Other Allison gives up. Other Scott has circled around in front of her, and he’s undeniably faster than she is. He walks forward slowly, one arm out, herding her back towards the cabin.
Then Other Allison pulls out a tiny blade from an ankle sheath. She must have been hiding it for almost a week.
“The ankles!” Allison gasps, “why didn’t we check her ankles? No!” she cautions when Isaac looks about to spring forward, “Scott’s got this.”
He does. Other Scott grabs the knife with a well-executed feinting maneuver. He flings it behind him, where it embeds itself deep into a tree.
Other Allison shrieks and aims a roundhouse kick at his head. It’s not a wise move, considering that the Scotts have always had pretty dense heads, werewolves or not, but she doesn’t seem to be thinking straight. Stiles is hit with a sudden image of Other Allison’s brain boiling inside of her skull from the sheer heat of her rage.
Catching her foot, Other Scott pushes it backwards coolly, and Other Allison stumbles, landing on her back. She springs back up, and Other Scott apparently loses his sanity and decides that it would be a great idea to grab her shoulder with one hand, and plunge his other hand into the neck of her shirt.
The Chrises make identical outraged shouts, Erica and Isaac yelp, and both Dereks jerk their heads back in surprise and raise their eyebrows incredulously. Stiles can feel Derek’s forearm tense beneath his fingers, and he soothes his thumb across the contracting muscles. Allison repeats that Other Scott knows what he’s doing.
Other Scott pulls a stiletto knife out of Other Allison’s cleavage.
Allison rubs a sympathetic hand over her chest. “That’s just not classy.”
Other Allison backtracks quickly, face hateful, but her shoulders tensed with fear. She sees a werewolf with a knife, and it’s not something she wants to see.
Other Scott holds the knife out to her, handle-first. Stiles can’t see his face, but he’s willing to bet it’s the same calm, neutral expression that Other Scott has held this whole fight.
“You want to use this more than I do,” Other Scott points out. Casual as you please, it’s as if he’s passing a TV remote to her.
Other Allison snatches up the knife and watches him, panting, her legs still braced in a fighter’s stance. Other Scott holds his palms out carefully to his sides, and bares his neck.
“Holy shit,” Derek breathes.
Nobody else reacts quite as placidly. The betas are up and raring to go, even as Scott and Allison try to stop them, and Other Stiles is spewing a steady stream of profanity into the air, covering his eyes with one hand, then immediately removing it, then putting it back on again.
Oblivious to the drama happening on the porch, Other Scott and Other Allison maintain their staring match until Other Allison raises the knife, frigid steel glinting in the blinding sun, and with ruthless accuracy, throws it over Other Scott’s head so it sheathes itself in the tree behind him. She collapses, shaking and crying.
“Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you you wolf bastard you have no right! No right to make me... think you’re so...” Her body makes a contorted shape against the sun at her back as she twists in on herself, a night black outline against the molten light behind her.
Other Scott picks her up, cradling her trembling, swearing form to his chest, and his face is broken from its neutral mold. He looks sorrowful, even as he takes their runaway back to the cabin and she thrashes weakly against him.
Everyone on the porch falls silent when Other Scott carries Other Allison into the cabin. Apparently there was more going on between those two than Stiles thought at first. That sort of drama can’t come without context.
“Oh my god,” Stiles groans as he thuds his head back against the grass, “I really wish that I had some cigarettes right now.”
Derek, in the subvocal state that comes with post-coital bliss, makes a questioning noise against Stiles’ stomach.
“Like, you know, sex that good needs to be followed up with some badass smoking in bed. But of course we have neither cigarettes nor a bed. We have a nicotine-free field of grass.”
Why is Derek not talking? A terrifying thought occurs to Stiles. “Wait. Derek, wait! Was the sex not cigarette worthy?”
After all, Derek probably has higher standards than Stiles does, and Stiles tends to get distracted by all of the touching, so maybe he just didn’t notice Derek not having a good time-
Derek heaves himself up Stiles’ body and collapses, mouth-first, onto Stiles’ lips, effectively cutting off that train of thought. “Was good,” he mumbles eventually against Stiles’ lips, “can’t talk. Can’t move.”
Stiles grins because hell yes the Stilinator is dynamite in the sack (grass field) and nobody is going to say differently.
“Aw yes. If nothing else dude, we’ve got the sex part down,” Stiles crows, running his hands through Derek’s hair like he knows Derek likes.
Leaning into Stiles’ hands, Derek murmurs, “we aren’t doing so bad with the other stuff.”
“Aw, Mr. Stubble, you really mean that?”
“Stop smirking like that.”
“This is a happy smirk. No, a lecherous smirk. Actually, no, lets stick to a happy smirk.”
“I don’t care, stop it.”
“What happened to you losing the power of speech to my incredible sexual prowess?”
Derek snaps his mouth shut and manages to look ticked off even though he’s mostly naked and still sprawled across Stiles’ body.
Stiles stops smirking. “Alright, alright, smirk is gone. And yeah,” he runs a soothing hand over Derek’s shoulder, trying to get the muscles to un-tense, “we’re doing good with the other stuff too.”
The thing about Derek is that he won’t talk about something, even if he wants to. It stays stoppered up inside of him, unless you pull out the cork.
“What is it?”
Derek’s fingers trace across Stiles’ chest. “I like this.”
“Me too. Wait, are we talking about my teensy tiny pecs or, you know, this?”
“This. It’s been... better than I hoped.”
Stiles twists his neck awkwardly so he can kiss Derek’s forehead. It just seems like the thing to do. “You must have been picturing something really sucky.”
“No. No, just, I’m realistic. I wasn’t picturing much happening at all.” Derek shrugs, “when you came back, I was... ecstatic,” the word sounds odd coming out of Derek’s mouth, “but I didn’t understand why for a while. Then I did, but I thought it was useless, because we weren’t... like that.”
“It’s my thing.”
Stiles cracks up, laughing until Derek’s disgruntled head is bouncing up and down on his chest. “But hey, everything turned out better than expected. We aren’t even weird and bipolar like Other Scott and Other Allison.”
Derek’s eyes widen. “They haven’t...”
“Oh. Dude. No. I mean, they aren’t together, but the weird thing is, they’re like really close. I mean, what was that yesterday? With the screaming and the fighting and the bridal carrying? And I thought our Scott’s life was a soap opera.”
“She slapped him in the face this morning and he smiled,” Derek recalls, looking mildly disturbed.
It doesn’t come as much of a surprise when the tension comes to a head a few days later. Derek and Stiles are walking along a bluff overlooking the house, trying to get some air after a particularly tense exchange about werewolf reproductive rights, when they see Other Scott storm out of the cabin. Other Allison follows him a few moments later, and they’re both seething mad.
She punches him in the gut, then launches forward to attach their faces together. Stiles is genuinely worried that she’s trying to bite Other Scott’s face off, but Derek rubs a soothing hand over his shoulder, and Stiles realizes that any face-eating is being enjoyed by both parties. His mouth twists downward in mild horror. “Really? This is... really?”
Derek shrugs, eventually pulling his eyes away from the scene below him. “It works for them.” They both wince when Other Allison pushes Other Scott up against a tree, and they start pawing at each other desperately. “They seem... happy.”
Other Scott and Other Allison sink to the ground, and Stiles claps his hands decisively, “Oookay, so let’s just keep on walking, I don’t need to see this.”
They scurry (that is to say, they hurry manfully,) further along the bluff. Once it looks like Derek can no longer hear whatever disturbing noises Other Scott and Allison are making, Stiles comments, “they sort of remind me of us.”
Derek raises an eyebrow.
“You know, they’ve got a lot going against them, but other versions of themselves are so happy with each other that, you know, they think it’s worth it to love each other anyway.”
Derek’s eyebrows rise further up his face, and Stiles realizes what he just said. “Oh, ah, or you know, just really like each other anyway, or have a basic level of affection for each other, just a nice sexbuddy deal even, I’m not saying they have to be in love, if, you know, they’re... not?”
Hooking a hand around Stiles’ back, Derek reels him into his chest. “It’s alright,” he whispers into Stiles’ hair, “I think they love each other too.”
“Last chance, buddy,” Stiles says ruefully to Scott. “Or this train is leaving without you.”
“Dude, you aren’t changing my mind now,” Scott chuckles. “Besides, it’s not like it’s goodbye forever.”
“Deaton says that he should be able to transport us out of here once we’re ready,” Allison adds.
Stiles fiddles with the thingamajig that he and Derek’s hands are wrapped around. The time to try and get Scott and Allison to come back to their home universe is past. Their bags are packed, preparations made, and Stiles and Derek aren’t needed anymore, but Scott and Allison are.
“The treaty’s been written up,” Stiles wheedles, “do you really need to stick around longer?”
“We aren’t close to done,” Scott says solemnly, a habit he’s picking up from Other Scott, “the fight is still ongoing, even if it isn’t as desperate as before.”
Derek’s thumb rubs across Stiles’ hand, “but I need to go back to the pack. We’ve been away for too long.”
Stiles sighs, and envelops first Scott, then Allison, in a hug. “I feel like we’re abandoning you,” he mutters.
“It’s our choice to stay,” Allison soothes, “besides, my dad’s here, we aren’t all alone.”
Stiles can feel Scott shudder in his arms, but doesn’t point it out. Letting go of them, he slowly wraps his fingers around the thingamajig. Derek delicately scrapes a claw across one of Stiles’ fingers, and Stiles wipes two criss-crossing lines of blood over the center stone.
The familiar tug pulls, and Stiles grips onto the thingamajig harder. He has mixed feelings about the little thing. It’s ugly as all hell even now, and made his life a lot more complicated than it used to be. But looking at Scott and Allison as they fade out of view, and Other Scott and Other Allison behind them, (Other Allison stubbornly refusing to acknowledge Other Scott’s hand around hers,) and feeling Derek’s fingers wrapped tightly around his, warm and amazingly familiar, Stiles thinks that if he could send an inanimate object a thank you card, he would.
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