As soon as the witch utters the words, she’s tackled flat onto the ground by Isaac, and he and Scott begin tearing her apart. Derek’s not paying attention though; his entire body is tingling, pins and needles traveling up and down his limbs, and he feels light-headed. He glances at Stiles, who is watching him with a curious expression.
“Oh shit,” Stiles exclaims as comprehension dawns on him. “Everything makes sense now. Derek, I know what the witch did, she cursed you with – “
But before Stiles is able to finish his sentence, everything fades away and Derek is surrounded by darkness.
Derek wakes up in the forest, naked. It’s cold, which is weird because it’s June. He stands up, the leaves and underbrush crunching beneath his feet, and moves around in an attempt to warm himself. The woods are familiar, so he inhales, smells Beacon Hills and Pack. He takes off running through the woods, following the scent until he comes to the Hale House.
But it’s different. It’s not burnt and falling apart anymore; it’s been completely remodeled, painted white with blue shutters. Flowers have been planted around the edges, and there are two cars in the driveway he doesn’t recognize. The front door opens and he quickly hides behind a tree.
Derek almost passes out as he watches the man walk onto the porch.
He’s looking at himself, but he’s older. Which is not possible, and he’s desperately trying to figure out what the witch did to him when the man on the porch calls out “Derek” in his own voice. “I know you’re behind the tree.” The man pauses, and then says, “I’m guessing the witch just cursed you.”
Derek peeks around the trunk and peers at himself suspiciously. “You’re twenty-seven, and you’re going to be leaving in about thirty seconds.”
“Wait, what?” Derek steps out from behind the tree and walks towards the porch. The other version of himself is older, with a few more lines around his face, but otherwise he looks almost exactly the same. “What is happening to me?”
“You’ll be okay,” the Derek on the porch tells him.
“I don’t understand,” Derek says, but then everything fades away. He ends up back in the forest, the dead witch torn to shreds to his right, and Stiles, Scott, and Isaac standing in front of him, staring at him in shock.
Derek passes out.
When Derek wakes up, his entire body aches. He glances around, and Deaton is standing over him, the Pack fanning behind the vet. He struggles to sit up and quickly discovers that his head is pounding.
“How are you feeling, Derek?” Deaton asks.
“Like hell,” Derek says. He rubs a hand over his face and sighs. “What the hell happened?” He remembers bits from whatever happened – a dream? A vision? He doesn’t know. It’s all too unbelievable.
“The witch cursed you,” Deaton explains, and then he shares a look with the others.
“Did anything odd happen to you after the curse hit?”
“Like what?” Derek grinds out, his hands gripping the metal table so hard it’s cutting into his skin. There’s an uncomfortable feeling snaking up his spine, because he knows what they’re referring to.
“Derek, you disappeared,” Isaac manages, his voice thin and shaky. “You were there, and then you just kinda…faded.”
So, it wasn’t a dream. Great.
“Where did you go?” Scott asks. Derek doesn’t answer, but looks resolutely at the floor. “Derek, what happened?”
“I don’t know,” Derek growls, and glares at all of them. “It didn’t make any sense.”
“Tell us,” Deaton says gently. He sits on a stool and crosses his arms over his chest. Derek glances at each of their faces, and he doesn’t miss the way Stiles is looking at him, like he’s not at all surprised by all of this, like he’s waiting for Derek to reveal something. Derek ignores it as he grits his teeth, trying to decide what to tell the others.
“I was in the woods, at the house,” Derek says. He doesn’t want to tell them that he talked to himself or that the house was different. He’s not crazy.
“That’s it?” Deaton prompts, obviously not fooled. “Was anything different? Did you speak to anyone?”
Derek growls, his fangs extending as his eyes flash blue. “Since you already know what you want to hear, why don’t you tell me what’s wrong so we can fix it?”
Deaton’s mouth is a hard line as he reaches behind him for a large, weathered leather-bound book. “The witch hit you with a time-travel curse,” Deaton explains. “The Curse of the Ages, intended to bounce you through time until you are either killed, your body gives up, or you go insane.”
Derek just blinks as he absorbs the information. “What?”
“You’ve been cursed with the ability to time travel,” Deaton repeats, this time slower. “You probably won’t be able to control it, at least that’s what the lore says. There’s not much on this curse though.”
“How do we break it?” Derek asks, his fangs digging into his lips where he’s got his teeth clenched. His claws are piercing his palms, but he barely notices it.
“I’m not sure,” Deaton says.
Derek launches himself off the table and storms out of the examination room. He realizes absently that he’s barefoot and shirtless, wearing only his jeans. In the waiting room, he picks up a chair and smashes it against the wall. “You’re paying to replace that,” Deaton says calmly from behind him.
“Time travel,” Scott says, “That’s great, though, isn’t it? You can go back and stop things from happening and – “
“No!” Deaton exclaims. Derek glances at Deaton from the corner of his eyes because that exact thought had been creeping at the edge of his consciousness. He could go back, stop the fire from happening, save his family. But Deaton’s vehement exclamation and the look of abject horror on his face quashes any hope Derek had. It was a stupid idea anyway.
“Derek must never meddle with the past,” Deaton says. “Part of the curse is the appeal to fix what has already transpired, but doing that would destroy the very fabric of time. If Derek tried to change the course of events, like say for instance the fire – “
“He could like end the world,” Isaac says.
Deaton nods and turns to Derek. “Have you ever spoken to your past self?” Derek shakes his head and looks at Deaton like he’s crazy. He’s pretty sure if he’d have spoken to a future version of himself, he’d have done something to prepare for this. “Then, you can never speak to your younger self,” Deaton says. “If it hasn’t already come to pass, then it can never happen.”
Derek’s head starts pounding again as the implications of everything whirl around him. He suddenly feels an overwhelming terror grip him. If there’s anything Derek knows he’s good at, it’s fucking shit up.
Nothing happens for two weeks. Derek walks around nervously, waiting to be yanked from his time and shoved into some future place. He’s even made a list of questions for his future self. Just because he can’t talk to his younger self doesn’t mean he can’t talk to future Derek.
He’s driving down the road when he suddenly feels the tingling in his limbs again. He has just enough time to pull the car over onto the side of the road and yank it into park before he’s on his hands and knees in the forest. He’s naked again – great, that’s something he won’t get used to – but at least this time it’s warm.
Derek stands up and brushes his knees off. He hears a twig snap and he instinctually covers himself with his hands before turning towards the source of the noise. A little boy stands in front of him, his head cocked to the side and his eyes narrowed.
Fuck, Derek thinks. A kid is the last thing I need to deal with.
“What year is it?” Derek demands.
The kid studies Derek carefully as he fidgets. He’s scrawny, probably only eight years old, with messy brown hair and clothes that are dirty from playing outside. “That’s a really weird question, Mister. Who doesn’t know what year it is? It’s not like it’s January, because I can never get the year right in January when we go back to school from Christmas break, and all my teachers always get really angry because I sometimes get the years mixed up, but really, I’m usually not thinking about the date anyway, I’m trying to stay focused on my school work like my mom asked me to, but – “
“Kid,” Derek interrupts, shifting from foot to foot awkwardly. He realizes how this must look, standing buck naked in front of a small boy. If someone comes by, he’s going to get shot, and he’d prefer not having to find somewhere to hole up and heal when he doesn’t even know where or when he is. “I don’t care about your school stuff. What year is it?”
“2002.” Derek does the math; somewhere, he is fourteen and his whole family is alive. Unexpectedly, grief hits him and he crumples to the ground, shaking and trying not to fall apart. “Mister, are you okay? Are you a criminal? Are you hurt? My dad is a deputy, I’ll call him if you try anything bad. If you’re hurt, I can call my best friend’s mom because she’s a nurse and really nice. She always gives me a Batman band-aid when Scott and I – “
Derek’s head snaps up, and the little boy abruptly stops talking and looks at him in fear. Derek studies him closely this time. He’s smaller, much younger, but the signs are still there. A scattering of tiny moles, a deep gash on his knee that will be a scar in ten years, and bright honey-brown eyes looking at him with a familiar mixture of fear and curious fascination. Derek inhales and can’t believe he didn’t notice it right away. It’s slightly different, more sugary than usual, but the same hints of toffee and blackberries.
The boy takes a step back, and Derek can feel the uptick in his heart. Shit, he thinks. He wasn’t supposed to change the past, and here he is, talking to Stiles like they’ve known each other for five years. Derek glances around at the sky, waiting for it to come crumbling down or something.
“What are you looking at, Mister?” Derek jumps because suddenly, Stiles is right beside him, and how in the hell did he sneak up on him? Stiles is looking at the sky, searching for whatever Derek was looking at.
“How do you know my name?” Stiles asks. “Do you know my dad? Why are you naked? Are you hurt?” Derek never thought he’d see Stiles talk morethan he does now. In the future, not now. When he is twenty-one. Whatever.
God, Derek’s head hurts.
“Do you have anything I can cover up with?” Derek asks, his hands still firmly over his junk. This would be awkward with a stranger, but knowing it’s Stiles makes it just plain uncomfortable.
Stiles shakes his head, but he pulls off the red hoodie he’s wearing and hands it to Derek. “You can use this.” Derek takes it and nods his thanks as he spreads the small jacket over his lap. He sighs because it doesn’t cover much, but Stiles just keeps on talking. “My mom always says I should share more, but she doesn’t know that the kids at school are mean and don’t like to share. I tried to share my comics, but Jackson just ripped them up, and then Nathan took my pudding cup, and when I told him he should share his Cheetos, he pushed me. Scott tried to push him back, but he just pushed Scott down and made Scott have an asthma attack.” Derek notices that Stiles has mentioned his mother twice now, which means she must still be alive. Stiles has never talked much about his mother’s death, but he knows she’ll be dead in a year or two. He wishes he could warn Stiles about it, wishes he could run to his fourteen year old self and warn him about Paige, Kate, his entire miserable existence.
“Thank you,” Derek says, indicating the jacket.
Stiles sits on the ground beside him and crosses his legs under him. “Why are you naked? Are you poor? Do you need clothes? My mom is always giving stuff to charity, I bet I can get her to give you some clothes. I can ask her – “
“You can’t tell anyone about me,” Derek says suddenly. He can just imagine that right now, Stiles running home and telling the sheriff he met a strange, naked man in the woods. He knows how protective he is of older Stiles; he can only imagine the way he would be about kid Stiles.
“Why not?” That suspicious look is back in Stiles’ eye. “You’re a criminal, aren’t you?”
“I’m not a criminal,” Derek says in aggravation. “I’m…from the future.”
“No!” Stiles’ face instantly lights up and he’s on his knees, grinning widely. “You’re an alien?”
“I’m not an alien,” Derek growls. Out of all of space and time, how did he end up with eight year old Stiles?????
“They traveled back in time in Star Trek and in Doctor Who. Do you have a favorite Doctor? I like Four, but I also live Five. My dad likes Seven a lot.”
“I’m not an alien,” Derek says. He’s about to tell him that he’s a werewolf, but he realizes that future Stiles didn’t know about werewolves, so instead he says, “I’m just a man from the future.”
“Awesome.” Stiles’ face melts into a grin, and Derek smiles despite himself. “What’s it like in the future? Are there hoverboards and flying cars and spaceships?”
“No.” Derek rolls his eyes. “You watch too much TV.”
“What’s the future like?” Stiles asks as he plops back onto the ground clumsily.
“A lot like now,” Derek says. Stiles looks disappointed. “What?”
“I don’t want it to be like now.”
“Scott and I want to be really popular and have lots of girlfriends and go to college together and get married and live next door to one another and have lots of kids and dogs. Scott loves dogs.” Derek smiles, thinks about Scott in veterinarian school and Stiles in college miles away. “I wonder if I ever become popular. I like this girl, her name is Lydia, and she only likes popular boys.” Stiles crosses his arms petulantly and looks so dejected that Derek really wants to tell him he’s never going to get her, but that they’ll be best friends one day.
“Being popular doesn’t matter,” Derek says.
“You sound like my mom.”
“Then she’s a smart woman.”
Stiles rolls his eyes and then gets to his feet. “I have to go home for lunch or my mom is gonna worry. Do you want me to bring you back a sandwich?”
“That sounds great.”
Stiles grins, and Derek notices for the first time that he’s missing one of his bottom teeth. “Don’t go anywhere. I’ll come back with a sandwich.”
“Where am I going to go? I’m not wearing any clothes.”
Stiles laughs and then runs away through the woods. Derek watches him, cringing as Stiles trips over almost every log and exposed root that crosses his path. Derek doesn’t know what to do, so he just sits there and waits. He’s about to doze off when he feels the tingling in his limbs and the forest starts to fade away.
Derek lands sprawled on his ass in the Hale house. He just lays there for a few moments, trying to catch his breath. When he feels recovered enough to move, he searches for his stash of clothes he keeps there, and finds a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. He slips them on, and then runs barefoot through the forest, headed towards where he left his car. When he gets to the road, his car is gone. On top of his otherwise spectacular day, now his car has been stolen.
Since he’s in Beacon Hills and doesn’t feel like running barefoot all the way back to his loft in the city, he heads towards Stiles’ house.
They are in serious need of a talk anyway.
The sheriff isn’t home, and Stiles is upstairs watching TV. Derek glances around to make sure no one is watching before climbing up the side of the house and tapping on Stiles’ window. Stiles doesn’t look surprised to see him.
“When did you get back?” Stiles asks as he lifts the window. He crosses back to the bed as Derek swings himself inside the room.
“Half an hour ago. Someone stole my car.”
“Isaac has your car,” Stiles explains as he closes his laptop. “Dad called and asked if you were okay because a deputy found your car abandoned on the side of the road. He thought you’d been kidnapped by some creature.”
“How long ago was that?” Derek asks as he sits in the computer chair.
Derek sighs and runs his hands through his hair. He doesn’t know where to begin to understand what is happening to him. He sits there in the silence with his head in his hands, just listening to the sound of Stiles breathing.
Stiles must have known about the time travel, must have realized that was him in the woods that day right after Laura was killed, must have known he was the naked time-traveling man.
“Why didn’t you tell me you met me when you were eight?” Derek lifts his head, and Stiles is just looking at him like he’d been expecting this conversation. Derek realizes he’s been expecting it for years.
“You told me not to,” Stiles responds.
“No, I didn’t,” Derek argues, and Stiles’ expression is somewhere between sad and frustrated. “I did,” Derek says as he starts to understand, “just…I haven’t actually told you yet.”
Stiles nods. “I brought you a sandwich that day, a few hours later. The only thing I found was my red hoodie by a tree. I thought I imagined you. You didn’t even tell me your name.” Derek looks at him closely, and then shakes his head. Stiles says, “I wasn’t sure how old you were. I’ve been expecting it for a long time. I didn’t know it was a witch’s curse. You never told me.”
“So, you’ve known me since you were 8 years old?”
Stiles nods. “Yep.”
“How…how did you never let it slip?”
“You told me it was imperative that I never tell past you – which was future you for me, I think – anything about all this until it happened to you. You said I never did, and you never figured it out.” Stiles shrugs. “I trusted you.”
Derek rubs his temples and groans. “This is so fucking maddening.”
“Preaching to the choir, dude,” Stiles says with his hands up. “I was eight years old when I met a naked guy in the woods who told me he was a time traveler. I’ve been dealing with it for a long time. Welcome to the club.”
Derek gets up suddenly and heads towards the window. “This is too weird.”
“Derek, wait!” Stiles calls after him, but Derek leaps from the window and takes off running, despite the fact that he still has no shoes.
Derek ignores Stiles’ text messages for three days. They’re just repeats of the same few phrases.
I’m sorry I never told you.
I never even told Scott.
I swear, you told me not to. Be mad at yourself, not me.
You seem to deal with it okay, so there’s that, right?
Derek wonders how after everything that has happened to him, this is the breaking point. This is the thing that has him curled on the bed under the covers, refusing to come out. After the fire, Laura wouldn’t let him mope. They cried each night in their separate rooms, but every day she forced him (and herself) out of the bed and out of the apartment. They started out by sightseeing in New York, then when they exhausted that, they explored the different neighborhoods and tried every kind of food New York had to offer. By the end of the first year, they had a pizza comparison chart and blisters on their feet every day.
But now he didn’t have Laura to force him out of bed. He only had his Pack, who were too afraid of him now to approach him. He could tell when Isaac was hovering on the other side of the door, debating if he should enter the room and talk to Derek. He always decided against it, and Derek was left alone.
It wasn’t just that he was cursed and now apparently traveled through time, but that Stiles has known him since he was a little boy. That day when he met Stiles in the woods, right after Laura died, Stiles had known him. Stiles had known him for eight years at that point.
For some reason, Derek feels violated, like something else has been taken away from him. He’s been working side by side with Stiles for the past five years, and Stiles never once mentioned that they knew one another. More than anything, he feels betrayed.
When Stiles texts him again - Derek, please talk to me - Derek grabs his phone and angrily taps out a response.
I don’t want to talk to you. Ever.
Stiles doesn’t text him back.
One minute, Derek is in bed, and the next he’s naked in the forest. He grunts and pulls a stick out of his side that the fall caused to be impaled into his skin. Naked and bleeding, exactly how he wanted to start this.
When he glances around, he’s surprised to see a pile of clothes and a pair of house slippers sitting on top of a nearby log. Derek grabs them and sniffs them. They smell damp and slightly musty, but it’s better than being naked, so he slips them on, his side already almost healed, and walks through the forest.
“Derek!” He glances into the trees and sees Stiles running up to him, cheeks flushed and out of breath. He’s older this time, maybe ten or eleven. His head is shaved into the buzz cut, and he’s a few inches taller, just as skinny. There’s something vastly different about him than the last time Derek met him.
If Stiles is ten or eleven, that means his mom’s recently died. It means that the fire…Derek does a very stupid thing then and inhales. He chokes on the smell of smoke in the air, of the faint scent of charred flesh.
He drops to his knees, coughing and gasping for breath as he tries to get the smell out of his nose, out of his mouth. Stiles is crouched beside him, his hand resting comfortingly on his back. “Are you okay?” Stiles asks quietly as Derek dry heaves.
“Does it look like I’m okay?” Derek growls. He’s trying to control his wolf, because Stiles doesn’t know about werewolves yet, and his fangs and claws are out, his eyes blue.
“Oh,” Stiles says suddenly. He throws his arms around Derek’s shoulders, his face buried against the back of Derek’s neck. The display shocks Derek so much that he morphs back human. “I’m so sorry. My dad wouldn’t let me go to the funeral, because he said I had no business gawking at the Hales, and I tried to tell him we were friends, but he didn’t believe me.” Derek feels himself crack a little, and tears leak out of his eyes. “I was there, though, at the police station that night. When you and Laura…I gave you my Reese’s Cups because I knew how much you liked them, and you just looked at me like you didn’t know me, but you took them anyway. Eating my favorite candy helped me a little after my mom died.”
Derek is surprised at the force of his own forgotten memory. Sitting in the uncomfortable plastic chair in the police station while Laura talked to the deputy and the social workers, a small boy had come up to him. “I know they’re your favorite,” he said as he handed Derek the candy. “They’ll make you feel better.” The boy had smiled at him while Derek just stared at the package in his hand, confused and numb.
“Stiles!” the sheriff had yelled from down the hall. “Get back here, right now! I told you not to leave my office!” The boy had scurried down the hallway with flailing limbs, but he’d looked over his shoulder to wave and smile before disappearing back into the sheriff’s office.
That was Stiles. Derek hadn’t known it at the time, but that was Stiles, and Stiles had known him although he had no clue who he was.
“That was you?” Derek asks, his voice tight. Stiles pulls away and nods his head. “You know who I am now?”
Stiles’ face scrunches in confusion. “You’re not the same Derek who came to see me last week, are you?”
Derek shakes his head. “I’ve only met you once, when you were eight years old.”
“Oh.” Stiles nods and extends his hand. “I’m Stiles Stilinski. Nice to meet you.”
Derek looks at the proffered hand, but reaches out and shakes it.
Derek doesn’t bother tapping on Stiles’ window before he lifts it and enters his room.
“One day, you’re going to come in on me doing something you don’t want to see,” Stiles says, not even pausing the video game he’s playing. “What do you want?”
“I was with you in the forest,” Derek says. That causes Stiles to pause his game and turn to look at him. “It wasn’t long after the fire. You introduced yourself.”
“That was a rough night,” Stiles says, tossing the controller on the floor. He looks at Derek closely. “Are you okay? If I recall correctly, you weren’t doing so well then.”
“I’m fine,” Derek lies, and he can tell Stiles can see right through him.
“Dude, I sat with you in the park for hours while you cried,” Stiles says. “You’re not fine.”
“If you know the answer, why did you fucking ask?” Derek snaps. “Since you know the fucking answer to everything about me. You know my whole fucking future.”
“I don’t know everything,” Stiles says. “I only know the bits I’ve already lived through. My future I have no clue about. You never would tell me.”
“I hate this!” Derek exclaims. “I hate that you know more about my life than I do, that there’s a part of my life that I’ve lived but I haven’t because I went back in time but I haven’t lived into the future yet!”
“How do you think I feel?” Stiles yells. “Derek, you were as much my best friend as Scott growing up. For a long time, I thought you were imaginary, that I had made you up. I thought I was crazy! I had made up an imaginary friend who was an older version of a kid I’d never met who lived out in the Preserve. How do you think that made me feel?”
“What the hell is my problem?” Derek says. “Why did I keep going to talk to an eight year old?”
“I wasn’t always eight, you know.” Derek glares at him. “Besides, you knew me as twenty-one year old Stiles. I think it made you feel connected somehow.”
“So, I just fucked up your life in addition to my own?”
“You didn’t fuck up my life.”
“I’m surprised,” Derek snorts. “So, it was just a thing. I would show up, you’d be there, end of story?”
Stiles nods. “Pretty much. You sometimes showed up when I wasn’t there. I’d find the clothes piled somewhere else in a heap, find a cold campfire that wasn’t there before. I tried to be there for you as much as I could.”
“We’ve got to find a way to break the curse,” Derek says as he paces around Stiles’ room. “I can’t keep doing this. Do I ever break the curse?”
Stiles shrugs. “You usually looked like this,” he waves his hand in Derek’s direction, “whenever I saw you. But I suspect that you probably look like this for awhile.”
“Will you help me break the curse?” Derek asks. “Maybe between you and Lydia, you can find something.”
“Yeah, sure, of course.” Stiles nods, and Derek notices that he looks like there’s something he’s holding back.
“What do you mean, what?”
“There’s more to all of this,” Derek says. He points his finger at Stiles. “What are you not telling me?”
“I can’t tell you,” Stiles says, and to his credit, it looks like it pains him. “You made me promise not to. You said there were certain things you had to discover in your own timeline.”
Derek growls and storms towards the window. “Fine! Let me know if you find anything.” Derek drops down into the night, and just runs.
Time travel becomes something so regular that Derek gets used to it. Most of the time, he ends up in the forest with younger Stiles. But sometimes he ends up in places he doesn’t recognize, like busy streets where people speak different languages, or in times that he obviously knows isn’t the present based on the clothes. The farthest he’s ever gone back is sometime in the 1970s, when he ended up in an empty alley in a large city he didn’t recognize in the middle of the night.
Once he ends up on a familiar street in New York, and he’s ducking behind a dumpster when he catches her scent, glimpses dark hair walking down the street. His limbs start tingling before he can tell if the girl who turns to look at him is Laura.
He tells himself it’s not. It’s easier that way.
Derek pulls the loft door open wide enough to let Stiles slip through, laptop under one arm and two large, ancient-looking tomes under the other. Derek immediately goes to the refrigerator and grabs two sodas and joins Stiles on the couch.
“What’ve you found?” Derek asks as he sits beside Stiles.
“I think to break the curse, we have to use some complicated alchemy that I’m not sure I can do,” Stiles explains. He opens the book and points to a page written completely in Latin. “Lydia translated this for me, and I don’t even know where to get half these ingredients.”
“Fuck,” Derek says.
“I’m going to keep looking, but we may have to actually find a witch who is familiar with the curse and willing to undo it.”
“I’m tired, Stiles,” Derek says. “I traveled four times this week. I saw you three times, ended up somewhere else another time. It’s exhausting.” He drops back against the couch and sighs.
Stiles closes his laptop and pushes the books to the side. “No curse talk tonight,” he says. “We’re going out. My treat. Dinner, a movie, bowling, something.”
“Stiles, you really don’t – “
“No, I do.” Stiles stands up, leans back and crosses his arms over his chest. “Look, I’m sorry I can’t tell you things, and that I kept so much from you for so long. It’s not like I have a fucking rule book on this or anything. I was just a kid, Derek, and you were, well, you, an adult, and you told me not to ever tell, so I didn’t.”
“I know,” Derek says, because he does. After months of this, he finally understands why Stiles kept it from him, understands why he at some point in the future tells Stiles to keep it a secret. “I get it now. I’m not mad at you anymore.”
Stiles smiles, and Derek thinks it’s the first real smile he’s seen from him since all this began. “Good. Now, come on. You need to have some fun.”
Derek allows Stiles to drag him into the Jeep and into a diner in town. “Chili cheese fries? Really?” Stiles glances at Derek in amusement after the waitress has taken their order.
“That’s rich coming from you,” Derek says.
“Oh, I’m not judging. You just usually get stacks of protein or salads full of things I can’t pronounce.”
“Do you see anything healthy on this menu?” Derek points to the diner menu in the holder on the edge of the table. “You basically forced me into junk food.”
“I’m stealing your chili cheese fries,” Stiles says.
“Not if you intend on keeping your fingers,” Derek replies. Stiles laughs, and Derek feels some of the tension ease from his shoulders.
It’s weird, sitting across from Stiles now that he’s spent so much time with him as a kid. It’s not that it’s made Derek like Stiles more – nearly five years of being Pack has made Derek rather fond of him – but it’s like he understands him now. Like certain pieces of Stiles are slotting into place in his mind.
When the waitress brings the food, Stiles ignores his own plate in order to grab for the chili cheese fries. Derek lets him.
It’s easy and comfortable as they eat in silence, Stiles stealing fries from his plate every few minutes. It’s something completely new between them, but it feels familiar and right.
“The drive in?” Stiles suggests as he pulls out of the diner parking lot. “They’re playing an 80s action movie marathon.”
Derek rolls his eyes, but shrugs. “Sure, that’s fine.”
“Gah, don’t sound so happy.” Stiles pushes him playfully, and Derek finds himself smiling. “I know how much you love bad Schwarzenegger films, okay?”
“Which one are they showing?”
“And First Blood, although that’s obviously Stallone. It’s going to be epic.” Derek shakes his head, but doesn’t disagree.
Derek buys them sodas when they get there, and Stiles insists on Reese’s Cups and Twizzlers. When they’re back in the Jeep, Stiles opens the package of Reese’s Cups and offers Derek one. As Derek takes his, he asks, “Do you remember – “
“When I used to give you Reese’s Cups in the forest because they were your favorite?” Stiles turns towards Derek and watches him in the darkness of the Jeep. His legs are folded in the seat in front of him, resting on the steering wheel. Derek thinks he looks like a human pretzel. “Or the time I gave them to you in the station and you didn’t know who I was?”
“Both,” Derek says.
Stiles nods and nibbles at the edges of his Reese’s Cup, biting off the sharp edges until there’s nothing left but rounded, smooth chocolate. Derek has seen Stiles do that numerous times as a kid out in the forest, wonders how he never noticed him doing it until now. “I remember everything about your visits. Does that make me sound weird?”
Derek shakes his head. “No.”
Derek doesn’t tell him that he’s starting to remember everything, too.
“I don’t know why you like that movie,” Stiles says after Commando is over. “It’s awful.”
“Shut up, it’s better than Beverly Hills Cop.”
“Hold your tongue!” Stiles laughs and reaches for his soda, which is empty, so Derek hands over his half-full cup. Stiles sips from the straw as he digs into the bag of Twizzlers. “Why haven’t we done this before?”
“This,” Stiles says, waving his hand around the Jeep. “Hung out, bonded, whatever.”
“There never seemed to be time,” Derek replies.
“The rest of us found time,” Stiles points out. “I used to hang out with Cora a lot before she went off to college.”
“None of you ever seemed to want me around,” Derek finally says. He remembers lonely nights in the loft when the Pack was out. Derek has never been social, has never been one for going out, but occasionally he had wanted to join them for a movie or dinner. They just never seemed to want him around, the surly surrogate older brother who’d ruin all the fun.
“That was probably mostly me,” Stiles says almost to himself.
“Why do you think?” Stiles asks, and suddenly it makes sense. Easier to pretend he didn’t know Derek if Derek wasn’t actually around. “But we’re doing it now, and that’s all that matters, right?”
“Are you ever going to tell Scott that you knew me?” Derek asks.
Stiles stares out the windshield for awhile. Finally, he says, “No. Scott’s having enough trouble with the fact that you time travel now. Can you imagine if I told him I’ve known you most of my life?” He glances at Derek. “Would it sound weird if I said I don’t want to tell him? That I want to keep that for myself?”
Derek shakes his head, because he understands. He doesn’t want to share Stiles with anyone, either. “No, it doesn’t sound weird at all.”
Stiles drinks the rest of his soda, and Derek gives him a five to go buy them a new one. He brings one large soda back and another packet of candy. Derek thinks Stiles blushes when he gives him the second Reese’s Cup.
Derek transports during the middle of First Blood, and when he gets his bearings and steals clothes from someone’s garage, he realizes he’s really disappointed that’s how his night with Stiles ended.
A few days later, Derek’s somewhere in Beacon Hills, he can see that. There are no clothes in the forest, so he breaks into an empty house and steals clothes and shoes before heading down the streets. The afternoon is brisk, and Derek wishes he’d also lifted a jacket or extra shirt; the thin t-shirt is doing nothing to block out the cold.
He thinks it’s the early nineties based on the cars, but Derek has never been good at identifying car makes and models. He’s entering the Stilinski neighborhood when he sees flashing red and blue lights behind him.
Derek makes a break for it. “Stop!” the cop yells, and suddenly there’s another sheriff’s car cutting off his escape down the side street. Quickly, he changes directions and runs into the front of a third car he didn’t know was there. While he’s on the ground, three deputies surround him, guns pointed at him.
“Come on, son. Let’s get you off the pavement.”
Derek blinks the daze from his eyes as the man slaps handcuffs on him. “Sheriff Stilinski?”
The sheriff laughs. “Not yet, son. One day, maybe. But nice try.” Derek lets the sheriff drag him into the back of his squad car. “Watch your head there.”
Derek spends two days in jail before he ends up back in the loft.
“Shouldn’t we be researching?” Derek asks as Stiles turns the Jeep into the park.
“Derek, you spent two days in jail. I think we can take a night off,” Stiles says as he pulls into a parking place.
“That’s the exact reason why we should be researching!”
“No. I’m putting a ban on it for now. You are banned from all research-related activities until you have some time to decompress and to calm down.” Stiles reaches into the back seat and tosses a baseball glove at Derek’s chest. “Come on.”
Stiles leads the way to the baseball field, carrying a basket of baseballs and his bat slung over his shoulder. He’s wearing a baseball cap and beat up sneakers.
“I’m not dressed for baseball, Stiles,” Derek says. Stiles shrugs.
“Doesn’t matter. We’re not going to actually play with only two people.” Derek grunts as he puts on the glove. It’s a little tight, making it hard to move properly. Stiles rolls his shoulders and then tosses the ball to Derek, and Derek misses it. “I thought you were good at this, werewolf reflexes and all.”
“Maybe if I didn’t have a kid’s glove,” Derek snaps.
“Not a kid’s glove,” Stiles says as he catches the ball Derek throws him. “Not all of us have freakishly large hands. Seriously dude, you’re like some weird mutant. A giant, or a troll. You have troll hands.”
“I don’t have troll hands,” Derek mutters as he catches the ball. He throws the ball a little harder than necessary, and Stiles starts hopping as he pulls his hand from the glove and shakes it around with little groans. Derek smirks.
“Just because you have mutant troll hands doesn’t mean you have to try and ruin my perfect hands.”
“Don’t you mean scrawny chicken hands?”
“Oh, it’s on, troll hands.”
“Bring it on, chicken boy.”
Three hours later, they share a sports drink on the grass by first base. Derek’s muscles feel well used and loose, and he feels content.
“See?” Stiles says, knocking into his shoulder. “Told you this was better than researching.”
“Perhaps.” Derek takes a long sip of the berry flavored drink.
“You should always listen to me. I’m always right. Just make it a general rule. I’ve been telling Scott this for years, but for some reason, he still refuses to listen to me half the time…”
“Maybe if you talked less.” Derek ducks when Stiles swipes at his head.
“You like listening to me talk.”
“I certainly do not.”
“Don’t lie,” Stiles says as he grabs the bottle. “You’ve been listening to me for years. You used to sit and listen to me for hours.”
“It’s so weird,” Derek says as he picks up a piece of grass and twirls it between his fingers. “For you it’s in the past, and for me, it hasn’t happened yet, or it just happened like two weeks ago.”
Stiles places a hand on Derek’s shoulder and squeezes. “You were really nice to me back then,” Stiles says. “Much nicer than you are to me now, come to think of it.”
“You’re eight. What am I supposed to do? Be an asshole?”
“I’d prefer you not to, but since I already know what happens, I know you’re never mean to me.” Stiles bumps his shoulder again. “It’s weird now to know that all those times I talked to you, we were also talking like this.”
They sit in silence, sharing the rest of the sports drink while the sun sinks beneath the trees. Derek finds himself staring at Stiles’ hands, the long delicate fingers that never rest. They flutter across his bare knees and shins, across the grass, through his hair and across his shirt. Derek wonders what they would feel like fluttering across his neck, across his chest, across his naked skin, never resting, continuous points of contact and electricity.
Derek looks down at his own freakishly large hands, the thick fingers and dark hair dusting his knuckles. Stiles reaches out and grabs one of his hands and lies it flat against his palm. He leans close and says, “You don’t have troll hands.”
“Never thought I did,” Derek says, but he feels himself blushing anyway.
“You have good, strong hands,” Stiles says with a nod before he drops his hand. Derek can still feel his palm tingle.
“I guess you don’t have chicken hands.”
“You guess?” Stiles laughs and Derek watches as he slides his fingers into his hair. He wants to tell Stiles that they’re perfect, just like the rest of him.
Instead, he says, “Yeah, they’re not so bad.”
Stiles laughs and drops back onto the grass. Derek lies down beside him and looks up at the sky, now a mixture of purples, pinks, and oranges. “Thanks, for tonight.”
“It’s awesome when I’m right,” Stiles says, and Derek smiles when he feels the back of Stiles’ hand resting against his own.
Stiles doesn’t show up for hours when Derek arrives this time. Derek finds the stale clothes on a log near a pile of toys. After Derek’s clothed, he squats down and sees that it’s not a pile at all. It’s a large track of some kind made with a combination of plastic toy track and sticks. It wasn’t here the last time that Derek was, so that means Stiles must have been working on it while he waited for Derek to show up.
Derek hates the idea of Stiles playing alone in the forest, waiting on him to show up, so he takes off into the trees, trying to dispel some of the tension in his shoulders.
Stiles shows up in the late afternoon with cookies and a backpack. Derek catches his scent as soon as he steps into the forest, so he’s sitting on the log, waiting for him when he appears in the clearing. Stiles’ entire face lights up when he sees Derek, and he runs the last few feet until he skids to a halt right in front of him.
“You’re here! You’re really here!”
Stiles is eight, small with messy hair and a missing front tooth this time.
“I’ve been waiting for you for a long time. I thought you were mad at me and didn’t want to be my friend anymore,” Stiles says as he pulls off his backpack and drops it to the ground.
“I can’t control it,” Derek explains. “I just disappear and show up places randomly.”
“That’s weird,” Stiles says. “You’re weird, but I like you anyway.” Derek chuckles as Stiles opens the bag of cookies and hands one to Derek. Derek takes a bite of the treat; it’s surprisingly perfect. Stiles notices his reaction and grins. “My mom made them. She makes the best cookies.”
“Does your mom make good cookies?
Derek nods. “She did. She made better cakes, though.”
“Did?” Stiles sits on the leaves and begins to open his backpack. “Does she not cook anymore?”
“Um, she’s dead.”
Stiles looks at Derek for a moment before he scrambles to his feet and throws his arms around Derek’s neck. “I’m sorry,” he says quietly. “I can’t imagine losing my mom. Do you want my cookie?”
“No,” Derek smiles as he pushes the surge of emotion deep down inside him.
Stiles goes into the backpack and pulls out a package of Reese’s Cups. He opens them, and offers one to Derek. “They’re my favorite. They always make me feel better when I’m feeling sad.”
Derek smiles and takes the chocolate. “They’re my favorite, too.” Stiles grins as he starts nibbling at the edges of the candy in a gesture so familiar that Derek’s heart clenches.
“I have cars and monster trucks,” Stiles says as he sits the Reese’s Cup on the ground thoughtlessly. “I’ve been building a track while I wait for you. It’s gonna be awesome.” Stiles pulls out trucks and cars and hands one to Derek. “Do you like monster trucks?”
Stiles grins his toothless grin and sets the car on the log. He picks up his piece of candy and takes a bite. “Scott loves monster trucks. His mom just bought him a big new track that has buildings and ramps you can drive off!”
“Sounds like fun,” Derek says as he idly pushes his truck along the track.
“Scott’s parents are getting a divorce, so he’s been kinda sad lately. His dad is in the FBI!” Stiles says excitedly. “But I don’t like him very much, even though he has a cool job. Being a deputy is cooler than being in the FBI, though,” Stiles says, and Derek smiles at the blind loyalty to his father. “Scott’s dad makes Mrs. McCall cry, and he makes Scott cry and be sad, and Scott is my best friend and no one should make him cry. His dad is a jerk.” Stiles looks up suddenly. “Don’t tell anyone I said that.”
Derek doesn’t say anything, like who in the hell would I tell?, just remembers Scott’s dad’s brief time back in Beacon Hills, which left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Derek wasn’t sad to see him leave again.
“Do you know if Scott and I are friends for a long time?” Stiles asks, his eyes large and bright. Derek hesitates, and Stiles looks crushed. “Ohmigod, we’re not, are we??” Tears well up in his eyes and stream down his face, and Derek panics.
“No, no! Please don’t cry,” Derek says as Stiles grips his toy cars, his lip wibbling. “Shit.”
“You just swore,” Stiles says.
“Thanks for pointing that out,” Derek drawls. Stiles laughs despite his tears.
“I don’t want to not be friends with Scott. Scott sometimes makes me mad, but he’s like my brother because we don’t have brothers.” Stiles throws his cars into the woods and stands up, sniffling. “I don’t want to play anymore.” He starts stomping away, tears flowing down his face, and then Derek does a stupid thing.
“You’re still best friends,” he says. Stiles stops and looks at Derek over his shoulder suspiciously.
“You’re just saying that to make me feel better.”
Derek sighs. “Why would I lie to you?”
Stiles wipes his nose with the back of his arm. “We’re really still friends?”
“Closer than ever,” Derek replies. “But you can’t tell him. I shouldn’t even have told you.” Derek sneaks a glance at the sky, just to make sure.
Stiles is grinning, his face and eyes still red. “I won’t tell him, I promise.” He turns to the woods. “I lost my cars.”
“You threw your cars,” Derek corrects as he joins Stiles. “I’ll help you find them.”
While they’re searching, Derek says, “You can’t ever tell anyone anything you know about me or the future.”
“It’ll mess everything up.” Derek crouches in front of Stiles and wraps his hands around his tiny arms carefully. “You’ll know things even I won’t know. If you ever meet me, I won’t know who you are, and you can’t tell me that I know you.”
“But…what if I mess up and accidentally tell you?” Stiles asks, worrying his bottom lip in a way Derek’s seen him do a thousand times.
“How do you know?”
“Because I’ve already lived through it,” Derek says with a smile. “I know you don’t mess it up.”
Stiles smiles and Derek ruffles his hair.
Derek finds the cars in the underbrush and they play until Derek disappears.
Derek gets beat up in an alley by five guys who catch him running naked. He’s pretty sure he has multiple broken ribs, a punctured lung, a shattered femur, a broken jaw, and a concussion. After he fades, he doesn’t reappear in the loft, but on a street in the middle of a neighborhood in Beacon Hills. Thankfully, it’s the middle of the day and most of the houses are empty. It takes him a half hour to break into the nearest house because walking on his leg is impossible and he can barely breathe.
When Stiles picks up the phone, Derek asks, “What year is it?”
“The present,” Stiles responds. “Where are you?” Derek gives him the address and makes his way out of the house, leaving a trail of blood behind. He makes Stiles wipe up the blood as best he can and spray the rest with cleaner from under the counter before he puts him in the Jeep.
“I’m taking you to Deaton’s,” Stiles says.
“No,” Derek says. “Take me home. I just need to heal.”
“Are you sure?” Derek just growls.
By the time they get to the loft, he’s able to put enough pressure on his leg to hobble inside with Stiles holding him up. He’s got a blanket from the back of the Jeep tied around his waist.
“What can I do?” Stiles asks when Derek sprawls on the bed, his body in so much pain as it heals that he can barely stand it. He tries to respond, but he’s hurting too bad to bother. “Derek? I’m not leaving.”
Derek thinks that’s a great idea, but he just lies there, groaning as the bones and tissue stitch back together. Stiles brings a bowl of water and a rag over to the bed and cleans the blood from him.
“What happened?” Stiles mumbles as he spends an extra long time wiping his face. He has to clean the rag three times. “Who did this to you?”
“Some guys in the future, I think,” Derek says. “They didn’t like that there was a naked guy running through the streets.” Derek snorts, and regrets it when it makes his chest hurt. “They called me a pervert.”
“You are kinda gross, you know, just showing up naked everywhere,” Stiles says, a hint of teasing affection in his tone. “Everyone knows you have a perfect body, you don’t have to run around naked to drive home the point.” Stiles carefully wipes mud from his broken collarbone. “I blame your childhood visits for my own inferiority complex.”
Derek looks up at Stiles. “Really?”
Stiles rolls his eyes. “No, idiot. Why would I compare myself to a time traveling naked man? That’s just crazy.” Stiles laughs and the sound spreads soothingly through Derek’s body.
Stiles stays with him through the night, and falls asleep next to him on the bed.
Derek goes into a diner two weeks later with clothes he lifted from a K-Mart and the five bucks he stole from a lady’s purse.
He’s about to sit down at the bar when he smells familiar perfume and turns to see his mother sitting alone in a booth, reading the newspaper. Derek’s drawn to her like a magnet, unable to control his legs as he walks over and pauses beside the table. She looks up and stares at him curiously.
“Are you Talia Hale?”
“May I?” he asks, pointing to seat. She nods and never takes her eyes off him as he slides into the booth across from her. “You’re the Alpha from these parts?”
“You already know that,” she says, sliding her cup of coffee towards him. She signals the waitress. “Can I get another cup of coffee and an order of strawberry pancakes with a side of extra crispy bacon?” The waitress nods, and Derek gapes at her.
“How did you know?”
“You must think I’m a rather horrible mother if you thought I wouldn’t recognize my own son’s scent.” She tilts her head and studies him. “Witch’s curse?”
“How did you know?”
“I’ve read the books, dear.” She lowers her voice, her lip curling. “I didn’t become an Alpha for nothing.”
Derek tries hard to control his emotions, because his mother will be able to tell if something is wrong. But it’s impossible. His mother is sitting across from him, smiling and talking like she hasn’t been dead for a decade. She’s younger than he remembers, but she knew his pancake order which means he must be at least a toddler.
“You’re seven,” she answers, although he didn’t ask the question. “You’re at the park with Laura and Peter. Your father is home watching Cora.”
The pancakes show up then, which thankfully distracts Derek from his overwhelming grief. He concentrates on his mother’s heartbeat, the sound of her breathing, the smell of her perfume as he cuts his breakfast.
“How long have I been dead?” she asks after a few moments of silence. He lifts his eyes, and they’re suddenly damp and threatening to spill over at any moment. Derek glances nervously out at the sky, because like Stiles, this was a meeting that should never have happened. But at least Stiles didn’t know who he was. “You’re not going to rip apart the fabric of time because I figured it out. Let me guess, Alan told you to be careful?” Derek nods, and she smiles. “He’s right, you can’t change what has happened. In your timeline, this has already occurred.”
“I hate this stuff,” Derek says. Talia reaches out and covers his hand, and Derek stares at it, the touch sending so many emotions through his body that he can’t breathe.
“That long, huh?” Derek hates the way her beautiful face looks sad. “I always knew it was a possibility, sweetheart. Alphas have a tendency to have short life spans.”
“I’m sorry,” is all that Derek can say. She smiles.
“Nonsense. Tell me about your life. Tell me about your father, your sisters, and Peter. How is everyone?” Derek is unable to lie about his father, but manages to give enough of the truth about Laura when she was still alive that his mother believes that only she and his dad are dead. She laughs about Cora backpacking through South America, and when he tells her about the new Pack, she smiles happily, and when he talks about Stiles, she asks, “The sheriff’s son? I heard he recently had a child.” Talia smiles. “Does he make you happy, Derek?”
“What? No, it’s not like that,” Derek says, pushing the remnants of strawberry sauce around on his plate.
“You may be an adult now, but you can’t lie to your mother any better than you can at seven.”
“It’s not like that for him,” Derek amends.
Talia shrugs. “Then he’s an idiot.” Derek barks out a laugh.
They walk towards a nearby patch of woods after breakfast, and Talia sits with him until he fades away, the scent of her perfume still clinging to his skin when he materializes naked in Stiles’ bedroom.
“Derek?” Stiles tosses him a sweatshirt and a pair of gym shorts that are slightly too small and remains silent as Derek puts them on. When Derek is fully clothed, he just stands in the middle of the room, staring at his feet. “Derek, what happened?” Stiles asks, his hand sliding up Derek’s arm and across his shoulder.
“I spent the day with my mother,” Derek whispers. Stiles pulls him onto the bed and cradles him in his arms as Derek fights off the tears he knows he can’t allow himself to cry. “It’s like I have to keep losing them,” he whispers.
“Fucking witch’s curse.”
He falls asleep with Stiles’ arms around him, her scent still in his nostrils, the feeling of her touch burning into his hand.
He wakes up in the middle of the night with a start, a cold sweat covering his skin.
“Derek?” Stiles doesn’t move from where he’s glued to Derek’s side. “You okay?”
“I didn’t tell her I loved her,” Derek says.
“She knows,” Stiles says. “You didn’t have to tell her. She’s always known.”
Stiles nuzzles closer to Derek and wraps his arms around him tighter, and Derek doesn’t think too much about how glad he’s not alone right now, how glad he is that it’s Stiles beside him.
It’s been a month, and Derek hasn’t travelled. He stops waking up nervous, starts to relax. When Stiles invites him over for a Beverly Hills Cop marathon, Derek agrees to it only if they can change the movie.
You’re no fun, Stiles texts him. We can watch whatever you want. I’m not picky :)
So, Derek and Stiles have a classic Hitchcock marathon. During The Birds, Derek notices that Stiles’ heart is racing, and he glances at him out of the corner of his eye. He’s actually freaked out.
“This has you scared?” Derek asks, pointing to the television. “Stiles, you’ve stared down rabid omegas and ghouls, and this has you scared?”
“Dude, you don’t know. Back in junior year, with the Darach stuff…” Stiles shudders. “English class was like a deleted scene from this movie. Birds have freaked me out ever since.”
“You could have said something,” Derek says, reaching for the remote, but Stiles lunges across him to stop him.
“No.” Stiles slaps Derek’s hand lightly. He turns his head enough to look at Derek, and their faces are mere inches apart, Stiles nearly lying in Derek’s lap. “I want to finish the movie,” he says awkwardly. “No one is going to say that Stiles Stilinski was defeated by a 1960s film with bad special effects.” That doesn’t stop Stiles from inching closer and closer to Derek as the movie continues, and by the end of the night, Stiles is asleep on Derek’s shoulder, and Derek can’t be bothered to move him.
Derek lands in Stiles’ bedroom, but the room is empty. He inhales, but there’s no trace of Stiles or the sheriff’s scent. The house smells empty, devoid of life. Derek goes over to the window and looks out at the neighborhood. It’s changed, there are some newer houses in place of the old houses, and some of the trees are larger while other trees are missing completely. The cars parked along the street look like nothing Derek has ever seen.
Derek curls into a corner and closes his eyes. He tries not to think about how Stiles may be dead, that Stiles could be living in another state, married with children. But as the night progresses and he lays naked and alone on Stiles’ empty bedroom floor, he’s just reminded how everyone fades from his life, that no one is permanent, not even himself.
That’s the real curse of Derek Hale, just a fleeting impression in the world, not important enough to be anything but a shade of a person who fades in and out of people’s lives as easily as they fade from his own.
Derek’s in the grocery store the next time he travels. One moment he’s pushing a cart and trying to decide on vegetables, and the next he’s on his knees behind the Hale house. He stands up and wipes the debris from his skin as he looks around. The house is painted white with blue shutters, there’s a garden with lilies and daisies, and there’s a swing set and a tricycle to his right.
“No, I’m not telling you about them,” he hears his own voice say. He turns around and future Derek is walking towards him with a blanket. “You’re going to be leaving in about fifteen minutes.”
“Oh.” Derek takes the blanket and wraps it around himself distractedly. He’s staring at his own face. The last time he was in the future, he wasn’t there long enough to get a good look at himself. He looks different, although it’s the same features he’s seen reflected back at him his entire life. It’s the weirdest experience he’s had during all of this, and that’s saying something.
“It doesn’t get any less weird,” future Derek tells him. He points to a patio table on the back deck, and Derek follows him there. “Time traveling was never easy.”
“Does that mean I’ll eventually stop?” Derek asks, and he sees himself shrug.
“I can’t tell you things about the future, you know that.”
“I don’t actually know anything,” Derek says. He props his elbows on the table and the blanket slides down his shoulders. “How old are you?”
“Thirty nine,” he answers. Derek inhales, tries to catch a scent of his life, and future Derek laughs. “Nice try. I knew you were coming, so I’ve been taking measures to mask the scents. You deserve to discover your life on your own.”
“I hate this,” Derek says. “Everyone knows more about me than I do.”
Future Derek shakes his head. “They don’t. It just feels that way. Part of the curse.”
“Fucking witches,” Derek mutters.
“It all turns out okay,” future Derek tells him. “I’ve told you that before. Just believe me.”
Derek doesn’t have a chance to respond. The next moment he’s in the middle of the living room in the loft, Scott and Isaac gaping at him from where they’re watching a movie on the couch.
“Today’s my birthday!” Stiles tells Derek after he’s dressed in some of the sheriff’s hand-me-downs. “Mom brought cupcakes to the school and everybody got one, but I got the biggest!” They’re walking idly through the woods, Derek grabbing Stiles’ arm every few moments when he trips on something buried in the underbrush. “You should have seen the frosting, Derek. It was like this high!” Stiles holds his arms out wide.
Derek arches an eyebrow. “You’re exaggerating.”
“A little, but there was like a whole lot. And it was chocolate, because chocolate is the best.”
“Did your class enjoy it?”
“They did! Scott told me he thinks that’s what it’s like to be popular. Even Lydia told me happy birthday. Derek, Lydia spoke to me! My mom even saw, and she told me she thought Lydia was very pretty.” Stiles kicks a dead branch with the toe of his scuffed sneakers. “I think something is wrong with my mom.”
Derek tenses, but Stiles doesn’t notice. “Why do you say that?”
Stiles shrugs. “She looks sick, and her hair falls out, I find it sometimes in the drain in the bathtub. I hear her and Dad talking sometimes when they think I can’t hear, and they get quiet when they realize I’m there.” Stiles stops suddenly and drops to his knees and starts moving around the underbrush until he finds a solitary wildflower. He smiles as he picks it. “For Mom.”
“It’s very pretty. She’ll love it.”
“Dad has been drinking more,” Stiles says. “Mom doesn’t like it.”
“I’m sure everything will be okay,” Derek lies, because it’s Stiles’ ninth birthday and how can he tell him his mom, the center of his world, will be dead in a few months?
“Hey Derek, what’s your last name?” Stiles asks as he trips over a root. He pushes himself up without a thought and brushes his hands off.
“I don’t think I should tell you,” Derek says.
“It’s because you’re a criminal, right?” Stiles says. “Has my dad arrested you? Are you in jail in the future? Do you like disappear from your jail cell to come visit me? Have you – “
“Hale,” Derek says, just to stop Stiles from talking. He knows that Stiles knows who he is in the future, knows that Stiles knows him by the time of the fire. “My name is Derek Hale.”
Stiles looks up at him, mouth hanging open wide. Because he’s not watching where he’s going, he trips over a stump, and Derek grabs the back of his shirt to keep him from falling. “Like, the Hales, that big weird family no one knows who live in the Preserve in the really big house?” He looks Derek up and down. “I’ve seen you around town. You’re sister is in my grade, but she doesn’t go to my school.”
“Yep, that’s me. I’m…fourteen or fifteen now.”
“This is so cool!” Stiles exclaims with a wide grin. “You’re right here with me, but you’re also with your family somewhere else. I’m in my own sci-fi show!”
Derek laughs and rolls his eyes, and then hooks his arm around Stiles’ neck and drags him along. “I’m friends with Derek Hale, this is so cool,” Stiles mumbles from where his head is smushed against Derek’s side. Derek lets him go and he stumbles for a few steps.
“Will you play a game with me?” Stiles asks, turning around backwards and stumbling along. Derek wonders how Stiles made it to twenty-one without breaking his neck. “Please, Derek? It’s my birthday.”
“Okay, I’ll play a game with you.”
“Yippee!” Stiles runs back to where he’d dropped his backpack and pulls out a deck of worn playing cards. They’re in the middle of a game of Rummy when Stiles says, “My birthday wish came true.”
“I know. Lydia told you happy birthday.”
“No, you came to visit me.”
Derek’s in the kitchen with Stiles, sautéing sausage for the pasta he’s boiling for dinner. Spell books lay open and forgotten on the coffee table, Stiles’ laptop has already gone to sleep. They were supposed to be researching anti-curses, but they’ve been doing nothing but running into dead ends for weeks.
Derek keeps looking over at Stiles as he throws together a salad with the vegetables from Derek’s refrigerator. They’ve been spending more time together, two or three nights a week. Sometimes they research, sometimes they go to dinner, sometimes they sit at home and watch a movie.
“You’re starting to see it, aren’t you?” Stiles asks without looking over at him.
“That I’m him, that I’m kid me.” He drops a handful of cherry tomatoes into the bowl before glancing at Derek. “It’s weird, isn’t it? I’m starting to see that you’re him, too.”
“Future Derek,” Stiles says quietly, turning back to the salad. “My Derek.”
The Pack is surrounded by a group of Dryads, angry snarling tree nymphs with terrifying mossy teeth and skin that looks like bark.
“I thought they’d be hotter,” Isaac says as Derek crouches beside Scott, snarling and snapping their fangs.
“Dude, really?” Stiles mutters from behind them.
Derek’s eyes dart from one Dryad to the next, trying to sense a weakness, when his limbs start to tingle and he’s suddenly in the forest floor. He snaps his head up, sniffs the air wildly before he sees Stiles sitting on a log, reading a comic book.
Stiles stares at him in shock for a minute before he screams and runs away.
Derek checks the sky and makes sure the world isn’t ending because he just accidentally revealed the existence of werewolves to twelve year old Stiles.
“You knew about werewolves,” Derek says when they’re finally alone later that night, after they’ve killed the Dryads and Scott and Isaac have gone home. They’re standing in Derek’s kitchen, cleaning the blood and Dryad muck from their bodies.
“Did I run away screaming?” Stiles asks, and Derek nods. “I was so scared, dude. I slept with my overhead light on for two weeks. My dad had no clue what was wrong.”
“Didn’t I come back and explain?” Stiles looks like he’s going to refuse to answer, but then he says, “Not for six months.”
After most of the muck is off of them, Derek lets Stiles take a shower first. When Derek comes out of the bedroom freshly showered, he finds Stiles sitting on the couch, wearing his clothes. Derek just stands there for a few moments, trying to wrap his head around the fact that Stiles is wearing his sweatshirt and shorts, and smells like him.
“What?” Stiles asks when he notices Derek hovering like a creeper in his bedroom doorway.
“You’re wearing my clothes,” Derek says as he walks further into the living room. He tentatively sits on the couch beside Stiles, trying hard not to just hold Stiles down and kiss him stupid.
“You didn’t expect me to put on my clothes covered in Dryad guts, did you?” Stiles grabs at the sweatshirt, and Derek gets a whiff of them that makes him moan. Stiles looks at him oddly, and Derek stares in horror. “I went into your drawer to find these, I hope that’s – umph!” Stiles’ words are cut off when Derek presses his mouth against Stiles’. Stiles’ lips are warm, and he tastes sweet, like toffee and blackberries. “Oh thank God,” Stiles says, gripping at Derek’s hair and opening his mouth to kiss him deep.
Derek pulls away suddenly and stares at Stiles in confusion. “What?”
“I’ve been waiting for you to kiss me for years,” Stiles says as he crawls into Derek’s lap. He leans down to kiss him again, but Derek turns away. “Wait, why with the turning away? You are not supposed to be turning away, you’re supposed to be kissing me.”
“We’ve kissed before?” Derek says. He feels a pang of jealousy, which just makes him angry.
“Only once,” Stiles says. “You told me I couldn’t tell you.”
Derek growls as he pushes Stiles off of his lap and back onto the couch. “Fuck this!” He shouts as he gets to his feet. “I’m so goddamn sick of all of this. Of kissing you, and you already fucking knowing that we got together!” Derek feels himself shaking. “And I’m jealous because this isn’t your first kiss with me, but I’m jealous of my own self!”
“Other than the kissing that I kinda sorta maybe talked you into, we haven’t done anything,” Stiles explains. “I swear. Derek, please, I’ll tell you anything you want to know, but please don’t leave me.” There’s a note of panic in Stiles’ voice, an uncertainty he’s never heard before. Derek spins around on his heel to face Stiles who’s slumped on the couch. He looks crestfallen and genuinely scared.
“You really don’t know anything else, do you?” Derek asks.
Stiles shakes his head. “You come to me when I’m growing up some more, but I’m flying blind for the first time in years.”
It only takes a moment before Derek is across the living room and lifting Stiles into his arms. Stiles kisses him desperately, like they’re sharing oxygen to breathe. His hands are in Derek’s hair, his legs tight around Derek’s waist as Derek carries him over to the bed. They tumble in a graceless heap onto the mattress, hands clinging and pulling desperately.
Derek feels like he’s falling apart in the best way possible, falling apart into Stiles. He’s been stripped so thin over the last months, spread over time and space until he feels like he’s not even real anymore. But Stiles is warm beneath him, solid, real, not fading.
“I’m here, Derek,” Stiles says, breaking their kiss long enough to look up into his eyes. He cups his cheek gently. “You’re not going to fade away.”
“I don’t want to lose this moment,” Derek says. “I don’t want to suddenly be somewhere else.”
“Then stay with me,” Stiles whispers, grabbing Derek’s hand and pressing it against his erection. Derek palms Stiles’ hard length through the front of his shorts as he kisses him, all tongue and desperate need. Derek wastes no time taking off their clothes, and when his naked body slides against Stiles’, he moans. “This is nothing like I imagined,” Stiles says as Derek slides two slick fingers inside him. “I’ve imagined this so many times, so many ways, and this is much better than anything in my imagination.”
“It should be,” Derek says. “This is ours, right now. Present Derek and present Stiles.”
When Derek slides into Stiles, he’s tight and hot and making quiet sounds as his hands grip Derek’s biceps. There’s a bright flush on Stiles’ neck and chest, and his head is thrown back and eyes squeezed shut. He’s the most beautiful thing Derek has ever seen. As Derek rocks into him, Stiles pulses around him, and it takes Derek’s breath away, makes him feel grounded in the moment.
When he comes, Stiles digs his heels into Derek’s ass, screaming his name over and over. And when Derek comes, he feels whole for the first time in years.
He lies with Stiles in his arms, idly kissing him, for a long time afterwards. When he finally pulls away, he drags his thumb underneath Stiles’ eye and says, “Do you ever wish it was him with you? Your Derek instead of me?”
Stiles rolls Derek onto his back and climbs on top of him, his arms bracketing Derek’s head. “You’ve always been my Derek,” Stiles says, “Because it’s all you, it’s always been you. I just had to wait for you to figure everything out.”
Derek just stares at him, smiling stupidly because he can’t believe this is his life, that Stiles is above him and looking at him like he’s the only man in the world. He lunges up and kisses him, and then his limbs start to tingle. “No! Not this time,” he mutters as he tries to hold on to Stiles. Soon, he’s bruised and bloody on the streets of a cold city in the winter of 1984.
Summer turns to fall, and the Pack moves back to college, and Derek is left alone. He drives to see Stiles the first weekend he’s gone.
“Derek,” Stiles laughs when he opens the apartment door. “I haven’t even unpacked. What are you doing here?”
“I missed you,” Derek says, sliding his arms around Stiles’ waist and kissing him.
“I saw you three days ago.”
“Three days too long.”
Stiles takes Derek to dinner at his favorite restaurant near campus, then holds his hand as he gives him a tour. “That’s the library, where I’ll be spending all of my time this semester – “
“Not all of it,” Derek murmurs against Stiles’ neck as he nuzzles into it.
“I have a senior thesis to write, you know,” Stiles laughs as Derek nips at the skin behind his ear. “But I guess I can schedule some time when I’m not studying.”
“Good,” Derek says.
Stiles takes Derek on a tour of the library, and when he shows Derek his favorite study corner, Derek pulls him into his arms and starts kissing him. Stiles drops to his knees and grins up at Derek mischievously. “Are you insane?” Derek hisses as Stiles thumbs the button open on his jeans and slides the zipper down.
“You have werewolf senses,” Stiles whispers as he pulls out Derek’s cock. “Put them to good use.” He slides his lips over the head of Derek’s cock, and Derek bites back the moan threatening to escape. His hands disappear into Stiles’ soft hair and grip his head as Stiles blows him right there against the stacks filled with books on literary theory. Derek only half-listens for people nearby, and by the time Stiles has his balls rolling around in his palm and his tongue sliding along the head, the whole university could approach them and Derek would only be focused on Stiles’ mouth.
After Derek comes, they rush back to Stiles’ apartment, and Derek fucks him against the front door, then again on the couch.
Derek wakes up beside Stiles the next morning, Stiles’ hair a mess on his head, the sun shining through the blinds casting stripes on his pale skin.
Derek smiles and watches Stiles in his sleep. His mouth is open, his breathing deep and slightly wheezy. His eyes drag over Stiles’ face, the slope of his nose and freckles dotting his face. Derek lightly trails his finger along the line of moles across Stiles’ face – cheek, jaw, ear.
It’s weird, the depth of his feelings for Stiles. Stiles has known him for years, and Derek can’t imagine how or when Stiles went from seeing him as his best friend, the weird man who just appears randomly, and started feeling something more. Was it before they met when Stiles was 16? Was it during the early years in Beacon Hills, when Derek wouldn’t let anyone near, when his life was falling apart and he pushed everyone away? Was it when he returned, ready to open himself to his Pack and getting hurt again because he wanted to live?
Derek wonders if it even matters, because Stiles is with him now, is gripping him unconsciously in his sleep, moves closer whenever Derek even slightly moves away.
Derek kisses Stiles’ forehead and snuggles closer to him. He didn’t travel anywhere in the middle of the night and woke up beside Stiles. He falls back asleep, happy.
He’s still there.
Derek lands in what he thinks is Atlanta sometime in the early 2000s. Three homeless people see him running naked through the streets in broad daylight as he searches for clothes. He finds a small, local clothing store on the busy city block where he’s ended up. He breaks the handle from the back door and slips inside. The storeroom is full of boxes, and he quickly finds a surplus of men’s pants and shirts. He’s zipping up his fly when the door opens up, and a man with a gun steps inside the room.
“Hold it right there,” the man says. Derek makes a run for it, but the man pulls the trigger, and the bullet lodges itself right in Derek’s spine. He falls to the floor, but five seconds later, he’s a bloody heap in the loft.
He’s writhing in pain when he feels two pairs of hands rolling him onto his stomach, and his head ends up in someone’s lap. He inhales, and he smells Stiles, Isaac, and Scott.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in class?” Derek asks, then he shouts as fingers dig into the flesh for the bullet hole. He’s light-headed and dizzy and feels consciousness slipping away as the fingers probe and search.
“It’s fall break, Derek,” Stiles says, his fingers gently running through Derek’s hair.
Just before Derek passes out, he realizes he’s been gone a week.
Derek lands with a loud thump, and the first thing he notices is the scent of Stiles and panic. He looks sharply to the right, and his eyes land on Stiles’ small form by the log where he keeps his clothes. Stiles is curled in on himself, knees to his chest, head buried against his thighs. His arms hug around his legs tightly.
“Stiles?” Derek asks as he grabs the sweatpants on the log. Stiles doesn’t move, and Derek can smell the salt of his tears as he pulls the t-shirt over his head and sits on the ground beside him. “Hey, what’s wrong?” Derek asks with a hand on Stiles’ back.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Stiles screams, nearly choking on his tears. “You knew and you didn’t tell me and…” Derek feels a stab in his gut, and he doesn’t know what to do as Stiles sobs uncontrollably beside him. “Mom…” he starts, but that’s the only word he gets out before another round of hysterical crying hits him.
Derek grabs Stiles and pulls him into his lap, and Stiles curls against his chest, his small body shaking as he cries. Derek holds him, tears sliding down his face as he feels the grief Stiles feels. Hours have passed by the time that Stiles stops crying and goes limp in Derek’s arms.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Stiles shakes his head and just clutches on to Derek’s t-shirt until Derek’s arms and legs start to tingle and he fades away.
“I saw you in the forest yesterday,” Derek says quietly. They’re lying on Stiles’ bed in his apartment at UCLA, naked and sweaty. The sheets are tangled around them, and Derek’s head is resting on Stiles’ chest as Stiles runs his fingers through his damp hair.
“What did we do?”
“You just cried.”
Stiles stops brushing his fingers through Derek’s hair and rests his hand on his head. “I sat out there waiting for you for three days. Every day, I’d wake up and run out to the forest and just hope and wish that you would show up.”
“What did your dad think about you disappearing every day?”
“He was drunk,” Stiles says. Derek can feel the old grief in Stiles, a shade of what he’d felt the day before in the forest. “Dad had a lot of trouble coping after Mom died.”
“I’m sorry I made you wait,” Derek says.
“Don’t apologize,” Stiles says, “I don’t know how I would have gotten through it otherwise.”
Derek has Thanksgiving dinner with the Pack, Stiles’ dad, and Scott’s mom at the McCalls, and he’s laughing with Isaac and the sheriff in the living room watching football when he fades. He materializes in the middle of a busy highway and just narrowly misses getting hit by a car.
He doesn’t know where he is or what year it is, so he hides in the forest until he ends up back in the loft.
Stiles is sitting on the couch, waiting for him. “You missed the pecan pie,” he says, pointing to the plate on the coffee table. “You can’t miss Mrs. McCall’s famous pecan pie. I’ll make some pumpkin spiced coffee while you get dressed.”
Derek’s relieved when he realizes he was only gone a few hours this time and didn’t miss the end of Thanksgiving. He curls up with Stiles on the couch, drinks flavored coffee and eats pecan pie while they watch It’s A Wonderful Life.
“Hey Mister, you’re back,” Stiles says. There are clothes on the log, but they smell fresh instead of damp and like mold. “Where’d you go the other day? I brought you a sandwich and you weren’t here.”
Derek sits heavily on the log. He’s tired, was in the middle of Christmas shopping with Stiles, Scott, and Isaac when he traveled this time. Stiles comes over cautiously and sits on the log beside him.
“I looked up time travel on the internet,” Stiles says, “They say it doesn’t exist.”
“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”
“I know. My dad told me not to talk to strangers on the internet because they could lie and be anybody.”
“But you can talk to strange men in the forest?” Derek asks.
“No, my dad wouldn’t like that either, but you told me not to tell anyone, and my dad won’t get mad at me if he doesn’t know.” Stiles fiddles with the toy that he’s holding.
“What are you doing?”
“Playing Batman. Look.” Stiles stands up and shows him the utility belt he’s wearing, and Derek notices for the first time Stiles is wearing a black sheet tied around his neck like a cape. “This is my Bat Hook. See?” Stiles throws it into a low hanging branch. “Now I can climb like Batman.” Stiles runs over to the tree and climbs the low branches so he can grab the hook. Derek picks up the Batman figure he left lying on the log. Stiles still has the doll sitting on a book shelf in his apartment. “That’s my favorite toy,” Stiles says when he comes back to sit by Derek. “Mom and Dad bought it for me for Christmas. Isn’t he neat? He comes with all sorts of accessories.” Stiles spends the next five minutes showing Derek all the Batman doll can do.
“What’s your name, Mister?” Stiles asks later.
“I’m Stiles Stilinski,” Stiles says. “Stiles isn’t really my first name. No one knows my first name, except the teachers at school, but they don’t even call it out on the first day because no one can pronounce it. It is my grandpa’s name.” Stiles gets up from the log and asks, “Are you going to be coming around a lot?”
Derek shrugs. “I’ll be back a few times, yeah.”
Stiles grins. “That’s awesome. We can be friends! And now I have someone who can play Joker! Scott won’t be Joker or Robin, so he’s Superman and I’m Batman. But now I have a Joker.”
Stiles makes Derek put up a Christmas tree in the loft, so they go down to the lot and pick out a ridiculously tall tree and manage to drag it all the way up to the living room. Isaac and Scott bring decorations they bought at Target with Derek’s credit card, and Stiles plays Bing Crosby’s Christmas album while they decorate.
“Isn’t this exciting?” Stiles says as he hangs glass balls from the branches.
“I don’t know if exciting is quite how I’d describe it.”
“Such a Grinch,” Stiles says and then kisses Derek on the cheek. Derek grabs him and pulls him into a proper kiss, and Scott and Isaac groan behind them.
“Dude, there’s not even mistletoe around,” Scott says.
“No mistletoe,” Derek says, glancing over his shoulder at Scott and Isaac.
They both nod, and Scott says, “Yeah, fair point.”
They cover the tree in so many ornaments that it looks gaudy and busy, but Stiles stares at the blinking lights with a grin on his face and says, “It’s perfect.” Derek kisses the side of his head because if Stiles is happy, Derek is happy.
They pile presents under the tree until they’re spilling out over the floor. Cora skypes him from England on Christmas Eve, where she decided to stay for the holidays instead of coming home from Cambridge.
Later that night, Derek and Stiles are alone in the loft, drinking peppermint coffee with Christmas music playing in the background. They’re seated in front of the tree, the only light coming from the twinkling Christmas lights that dance off of Stiles’ skin and make his eyes sparkle.
Derek bought Stiles a first edition of an old Batman comic that cost him too much, but the guy at the comic book store said it would be a perfect gift for a true Batman fan. Stiles stares at it in shock, unable to speak for a few minutes.
“How…why…how…this is way too expensive,” Stiles finally says. He looks up at Derek, his eyes wide and shocked. “I can’t believe you bought this for me.” He leans forward and kisses Derek. The kiss is slow and unhurried, and Derek leans into it, into the warmth of Stiles’ mouth and the taste of peppermint on his tongue.
Stiles’ heart is pounding in his chest and he’s blushing when he hands Derek his gift. “Why are you so nervous?” Derek asks as he holds the box in his hands. “I’m sure I’ll love it.” He gives Stiles a reassuring smile before tearing the brightly colored paper.
He gasps when he opens the wooden box. Lying inside are a compass and a pocket watch. Derek picks up the compass and peers at it closely. It’s well made and heavy, and when he turns it over, there’s an inscription on the back. So you can find your way home, no matter where you are.
Derek lies it back in the box before picking up the pocket watch. It’s silver, with a wolf engraved on the on the lid. He turns it over in his hands, and there’s also an inscription on the back.
No matter the time, I will always love you.
Derek puts the watch back in the box with shaking hands and glances up at Stiles. Stiles is watching him, biting his lip absently.
“I love them,” Derek says, his voice scratchy. He sets the box aside, pulls Stiles into his lap, and kisses him deeply.
Stiles has never told him he loved him, and Derek is overwhelmed with the knowledge. Derek can’t find the words to say how he feels, because I love you doesn’t feel like enough, so he tries to say it with his lips, with his mouth, his hands.
Slowly, they undress each other, never speaking a word as they watch each other in the low light. They’re still sitting by the tree, Stiles in Derek’s lap, when Derek guides Stiles down onto his cock. Stiles throws his head back, and Derek leans forward and bites the chord of his neck as Stiles rocks back and forth in Derek’s lap. Derek holds Stiles close, staring up at his face as Stiles rides him, and by the time that they’re close, they’re both trembling.
“I love you, too,” Derek whispers against Stiles’ mouth, “I love you so fucking much.”
Stiles grips on to Derek’s shoulders as he comes, small moans escaping his throat as he moves in little circles on Derek’s cock. Derek comes then, Stiles still clenching around him.
They stretch out beside the Christmas tree afterwards, their legs and feet tangled, and stare at each other with soft smiles. “I love you,” Derek says again. “And I love the gift.”
Stiles smiles and says, “I’ve loved you most of my life, Derek Hale.”
Derek feels that for the first time, maybe the curse wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to him.
Derek misses New Years.
He’s running through Beacon Hills in nothing but the pajama pants he swiped before hunters landed on his tail. He’s running with all the he has, but he’s still disoriented from the traveling and isn’t exactly sure where or when he is, which is how he gets cornered and a face full of wolfsbane.
He floats in and out of consciousness until he wakes up in a warehouse, tied up and hanging from the ceiling with ropes soaked in wolfsbane burning into his wrists, and Gerard fucking Argent in front of him. He’s probably thirty years younger, which means Derek jumped farther back in time than usual. He looks around for signs of Chris, for her. Derek’s been lucky in his travels not to come across her path yet, and he doesn’t want to start now.
“Omega,” Gerard says, a delightful and cruel curve to his lips. “The lone wolf. Running naked through the streets like the animal you are.” Derek growls, his eyes flashing blue as his fangs and claws come out. “See? Feral, savage,” Gerard spits on Derek’s face. “Animal.”
The other hunters beat him, landing punches on his body that would kill a regular human. They cut on him with knives dripped in wolfsbane, and one of them shocks him with so many volts that Derek feels like his eyeballs are frying. Still not as bad as when Kate tortured him, and he thinks that says something about her determination and passion for the job.
One of Derek’s shoulders is out of socket, and he can’t decide if that, the stab wound where the wolfsbane’s seeping inside, or the aftershocks of the electrocution hurt him more. At this point, it’s a tossup.
Derek’s vision is blurry, but he panics when he sees Gerard pull a large sword off the ground behind him. The blade glints in the harsh, artificial light in the warehouse, emphasizing the sharpness. This cannot be happening, this cannot be happening.
“He’s scared,” one of the men laughs from behind him. “The thing can feel.”
Derek wolfs out as he fights against his restraints, but it just causes the pain to spread. He howls in pain, and the hunters laugh at him. Gerard smiles as he lifts the sword.
Derek thinks that there’s no way he can die this way, tied up in a warehouse sometime in the 1970s. He doesn’t even know what would happen if he died in the past. Would his body show up in the present? Would he be erased from all time and cease to exist?
Gerard says something to the hunters behind him, but Derek can’t hear for the blood rushing in his head. He thinks about his family, how he’s not ready to leave his Pack, about how this is not how it’s supposed to end. He can’t leave Stiles, not yet - not ever - and he’s seen his future self, who was happy and forty and living in the remodeled Hale house. He couldn’t have met himself if he died in this spot right now.
Derek screws his eyes tight and focuses all his energy on Stiles. Please let this work, he repeats to himself over and over, as he thinks of the forest, of Stiles’ bedroom, of Stiles’ voice in his ear and his hands on his skin.
He opens his eyes as Gerard lifts the sword, but a second later he’s landing on a pile of leaves, and he passes out.
Derek wakes up to the smell of toffee and blackberries.
He smiles and reaches out, his hand making contact with a warm body. His entire body is sore, and his head is pounding, but the wolfsbane is gone which means Stiles found him and fixed him.
“Derek, are you okay?” Stiles asks. Derek touches Stiles’ arm when he runs a hand over Derek’s forehead, angles his head to kiss the inside of Stiles’ wrist as he slides his hand underneath Stiles’ shirt. He needs to touch Stiles, feel his skin, his warmth, his heartbeat. Stiles’ heartbeat is irregular, and Derek’s thumb swipes absently over the scar on Stiles’ hip, except, the scar isn’t there.
Derek’s eyes fly open and Stiles is leaning over him, gaping. Derek snatches his hand away and sits up, his head spinning. “How old are you?”
“This is a new development,” Stiles says, and his cheeks are burning bright pink.
“Fuck,” Derek says again. He glances out of the window, but the sky is still there. And he’s alive, not cut in half by Gerard Argent’s blade on a warehouse floor sometime in the past. It could be worse. “You should never have found that out.”
“How old am I?” Stiles asks, and Derek narrows his eyes.
“Older, and stop asking questions. I’m not telling you.” Derek leans his head back against the headboard. “So, this is what you knew,” Derek whispers to himself. “Have I told you how much I hate time travel?”
“Like a thousand times.” Stiles crawls onto the bed and sits facing him, legs crossed under him. “What happened?”
“Hunters, Gerard Argent,” Derek says. “He almost cut me in half.”
Stiles reaches out and cups his face, and Derek leans into the touch out of habit.
Derek spends four days recuperating on Stiles’ bed. Stiles goes to school, but comes home immediately afterwards.
“Where am I?” Derek asks. “Am I with my aunt’s Pack in Nevada?”
Stiles nods. “Yep. I haven’t seen you in almost a year.” He picks at his nail and doesn’t look at Derek. “I miss you, you know. When you left with Cora junior year, then when you left again that next summer for Nevada.” Stiles finally looks up at him. “I thought I might never see you again. You haven’t visited me in three years.”
“I’m sorry that I made you sad,” Derek says. “I was a mess back then.”
“We all are,” Stiles says. “For some of us it’s not back then.”
“I come back,” Derek says. “You’ll see me again, I promise.”
“Can…can I kiss you?” Stiles asks awkwardly.
“No.” Derek shakes his head. “No.”
“But you’ve already kissed me,” Stiles says, “I just…do you know what it was like, Derek? Meeting you in the woods that day and pretending I had no clue who you were? You were so fucking mean to me. You looked at me like I was some annoying nuisance, you,” Stiles exclaims, waving his hands at Derek, “the same guy I’d known since I was eight. You were one of my best friends, Derek, and I couldn’t even tell anyone. I just had to wait while you yelled at me and slammed me into things.”
Derek sighs, and for the first time, he truly understands what it had been like for Stiles, growing up with a time traveling man from his future.
“That day you showed up in my room, when you were running from the cops, I thought at first you were my Derek,” Stiles places a hand on Derek’s arm, “this Derek. But it only took a second to see that your clothes were wrong – “
“You mean that I was wearing them?” Derek jokes, and it earns him a small smile.
“That you weren’t in the hand me downs in the forest, that your facial hair was too short, that you looked younger than you do now. I was so disappointed.”
Derek leans up slowly and reaches out to cup Stiles’ face. “I shouldn’t be doing this,” Derek tells him, “but I already know we do, so…” Derek closes the gap between them and presses his lips to Stiles’. Stiles kisses him tentatively, slowly, mostly lips and none of the confidence and ease Derek’s familiar with.
When Derek pulls away, he notices for the first time that Stiles really has been in love with him all along.
“Where have you been?” Stiles shouts when he finds Derek in his loft a few hours after he gets back. “You’ve been gone for a month! I thought…” Stiles shakes his head, and he’s both furious and relieved.
“I was with you, after the hunters attacked me.”
“That means you kissed me,” Stiles says as he sits down beside Derek on the sofa. “I’ve been wondering if I’d be jealous when you told me you finally lived through it, but oddly enough, I’m not.”
“It was you I was kissing,” Derek says, lying back and pulling Stiles on top of him. He nuzzles his face into the side of Stiles’ neck. “No reason to be jealous.” Derek just holds Stiles for awhile, face buried against his neck with Stiles’ hands running through his hair. He can’t believe how close he came to dying, can’t believe he almost lost the opportunity to hold Stiles in his arms. He just sits there and inhales, surrounded by toffee and blackberries.
“We have a month’s worth of catching up to do,” Stiles says after awhile. “I’ve been jerking off like three times a day, but I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be quick at first.”
Derek smiles against Stiles’ neck as he pushes his hands into the back of Stiles’ sweatpants. “Then let’s get started.”
Later, they’re lying on Derek’s bed, and Derek says, “I’ve been cursed going on a year, and there’s almost four months of my life that just disappeared because of it.”
“We’ll figure out a way to break it,” Stiles says with his mouth against Derek’s chest. “I promise.”
“I’m not so sure anymore.”
There are no clothes in the forest when he shows up this time. He sits on the forest floor for hours, just waiting to return home when he smells Stiles. He’s confused, because Stiles has always left him clothes, and he’s already met Stiles, and Stiles never said they had any contact prior to that first meeting at age eight.
Derek jumps up and hides behind a tree.
“I know you’re out here,” Stiles says. “Are you going to eat me?”
Derek peers around the tree. Stiles is around twelve, and Derek realizes he’s seeing Stiles after the whole werewolf incident. “I’m not going to eat you.”
“Are you sure? Cause you had some freaking large teeth, like ‘Grandma, oh what big teeth you have’ big.”
“Little Red Riding Hood joke, really?” Derek steps out from behind the tree, hands covering his junk, and Stiles tosses him his hoodie. Derek catches it with one hand. “That’s the best you could come up with?”
“You’re a werewolf.”
“So, like the Wolf Man? Full moons and,” Stiles pauses to howl.
“Something like that.”
“Okay,” Stiles says before sitting down. “Just don’t eat me.”
“I’m not going to eat you.” Derek exhales heavily through his nose as he sits down beside him, hoodie spread over his lap.
“You haven’t been here for awhile,” Stiles says. “I mean, other than the whole,” Stiles growls and bares his teeth, his hands curled in what Derek guesses is supposed to be claws.
“Told you I can’t control it.”
“Are you any good at math?”
Derek shrugs. “I’m okay.” He helps Stiles with his homework until he fades away.
It’s spring, and Derek and Stiles are at the car wash with the Camaro.
“You need a new car,” Stiles says as he washes the hood.
“Why? I love this car. There’s nothing wrong with this car. It’s still in perfect working order.”
“It’s like ancient now.”
“It’s not that old,” Derek says. “You still have that piece of crap Jeep.”
“That’s not by choice,” Stiles says. “That’s because I can’t afford to buy a new car.” Stiles flicks suds on Derek. “Besides, my baby is sensitive. She’s not ready for me to give her up.”
“You’re a hypocrite,” Derek laughs, wiping soap from his shirt.
Stiles comes around the car and flings a scoopful of suds at Derek. Derek’s eyes flash blue, and Stiles grins widely, and the next thing Derek knows, they’re both covered in soap and soaking wet. They’re both laughing when Derek pins Stiles against the side of the car.
“You just ruined my clothes,” Stiles groans. Derek lifts an eyebrow, and Stiles says, “the back of my clothes weren’t wet.”
Stiles has soap in his hair and on his cheek, so Derek carefully wipes the suds away with his thumb. When he leans forward and kisses Stiles, his hands slip on the window of the car and Stiles’ lips taste like soap.
Derek lands behind the Hale house in the dark. It’s pouring down rain. The house is white with blue shutters, so Derek runs to the house and quietly lets himself inside. He figures he probably will wake his future self anyway, but he doesn’t want to wake the rest of the family as he searches for spare clothing. Derek leaves a trail of water behind him as he creeps down the hall and opens the first door on the right. There’s someone asleep in the bed, and he starts to shut the door when he hears a soft, “Derek?”
Derek freezes, and the person in the bed sits up. It’s Stiles. “What are you doing home?” he asks as he rubs his eyes and turns on the light. He looks surprised to see a younger, naked Derek standing in his doorway. “You’re not my Derek.”
“You always say that the time traveling Derek is your Derek,” he says as he steps inside the room and closes the door. Stiles is in his bed, in the Hale house, twenty years from now. Derek feels dizzy for a moment and grips on to the doorknob to keep from swaying on his feet.
“When I was a kid and that’s all I knew.” Stiles smiles sleepily. He’s older, with lines etched around his eyes and mouth, but he still is the most beautiful man Derek has ever seen. He points to a door on the other side of the room. “Towels are in there, you’re dripping all over my floor.”
Derek tries not to look at too much as he walks through the bedroom and searches for the towels. He’s trying not to think too much about anything, is afraid to react to the knowledge that Stiles is still in his life, still in his bed. He comes back into the bedroom, drying himself off.
“I’m forty, in case you were wondering,” Stiles says as Derek towels his hair. “You’re at some werewolf gathering in Utah. I stayed here with the kids.”
“We have kids?”
“I figured the swing set and tricycles in the back yard during your other visits would clue you in to that.” Stiles pats the space on the bed beside him. “You don’t have to stand there like I’m a stranger. Besides, you look like you’re freezing.”
Derek slips under the comforter, which not only helps warm him up, but also covers his nudity. Although it’s Stiles, it’s a Stiles he doesn’t know, who is almost twenty years older than his own Stiles.
“Let me guess, you hate time travel?” Stiles’ eyes shine with mirth as he teases him.
“You look happy.”
“I am.” Stiles reaches beside him and turns off the lamp before shedding his underwear. Derek stares at him in shock as Stiles wastes no time climbing onto his lap. “Don’t look so scandalized,” Stiles says before leaning close to his ear and whispering, “I’ve been waiting for this night for twenty years.” He drags his teeth along the shell of Derek’s ear, and Derek moans despite himself.
“This feels…odd,” Derek says, pulling back to look at Stiles. “Like we’re cheating on our own versions of ourselves.”
Stiles reaches into the side table and drops a bottle of lube beside them on the bed. “My Derek already knows we did this, and you will go home in a few hours and tell your Stiles what happened, and you have a small fight and end up fucking against the wall.” Stiles wraps his hand around Derek’s cock, and Derek grabs the bottle of lube. His whole life is spinning around him, his future revealed in startling detail that terrifies him, but just like always, Stiles is there, calming him, touching him, grounding him.
No matter where he ends up, Stiles is always there to ground him.
Stiles’ body feels achingly familiar, but different in certain ways. There are lines in his skin that weren’t there before, scars and small differences on his body. When Stiles sinks down onto Derek’s cock, he feels exactly the same as he does in the present, twenty years before. But this Stiles rides Derek with no hesitation, fucks him with a comfort that they haven’t quite reached in their present relationship. It’s the intimacy of two people who have been together for years, and Derek’s getting a glimpse of how things will be for them.
Afterwards, Stiles is holding Derek and running his hands through his hair. “Do you like me better than, uh, your me?”
Stiles laughs quietly. “No. You’re the same person. I loved your twenty years ago, I love you now. You look almost the same, with a few more wrinkles, a little softer around the middle. But you’re still more gorgeous than any other man I know.”
Derek doesn’t ask any more questions; he feels like he’s cheating fate enough as it is by lying here in the first place.
“I hate this!” Derek says when he returns to Stiles. Stiles has been watching him pace back and forth in the living room from the couch.
“Derek, what happened?”
“I fucked you, future you. I showed up at our house, and you basically seduced me. Though, I wasn’t really resisting because, well, it was you, just, older you.”
“What?” Stiles asks. “Are you saying…did you…did you cheat on me with…me?”
“I don’t know, maybe?” Derek growls as Stiles rakes his hands through his hair.
“I bet we are the first couple ever to have problems because one of us fucked our future self.”
Derek leans his arm on the bookshelf and stares at Stiles. “Why aren’t you more upset?”
“What, do you, do you want me to be upset? Do you want me to get mad because you cheated on me with me? Because I’m pretty sure that’s not cheating. Fucked up, but it’d be kind of hypocritical and point to some disturbing self-esteem issues if I got mad at you.”
“You kissed me in the past, I fucked you in the future.” Derek drops heavily onto the couch.
“This whole situation is fucked, Derek. I think as long as we’re with some version of ourselves, it shouldn’t matter. You’re still with me, and,” Stiles says, curling his hands around Derek’s neck, “I’m still sexy enough at forty to seduce you.” He presses his face against Derek’s neck and drops a light kiss against it.
“What the fuck is wrong with us, Stiles? Should we even be together? I mean, it’s like we were forced to be together. You knew when you were eighteen that we’d be together, knew when you were eight that we’d be friends. And now, we know we stay together for at least twenty years. What if we want to break up? What if we weren’t supposed to be together in the first place?”
“Derek, what are you saying?”
“This fucking curse has ruined my life!” Derek screams. “It’s forced us together, and I’ve relived my family’s deaths and your mother’s death multiple times, and I feel like I have no control over anything!”
Stiles shoots to his feet. “You think what we have is because of some fucking curse?” Stiles glares and takes a step away. “Fuck you, Derek. Yeah, our lives have been beyond fucked up, but that doesn’t make what we have any less real.” Stiles throws his hands up. “Fuck you, Derek. I’m done.”
Stiles storms towards the door, and Derek stands there for only a moment before rushing after him. He shoves Stiles against the wall and covers his mouth with a bruising kiss. Stiles grabs Derek’s hair, gripping and pulling as he kisses back with uncontained fervor, and Derek takes Stiles by the thighs and lifts him, and Stiles wraps his legs around his waist tightly.
Stiles’ hands are immediately at their flies, pulling out their cocks and pressing them together. Derek readjusts his grip on Stiles’ thighs so he can thrust into his hands. Stiles has his fingers linked around Derek’s cock, his palms sliding against their lengths and pressing them hot against one another.
“I love you,” Derek whispers desperately against his mouth. “I love you now, in twenty years, forever. I’ll love you forever.”
Stiles kisses him harder, his hands speeding up as his thumbs brush against the heads of their cocks at a different tempo that his hands. Derek comes first, moaning deeply into Stiles’ mouth, and Stiles uses his come to slide easier along his own shaft. He comes a few minutes later, Derek clutching him tightly and afraid to let him go.
The pack is surrounded by werepanthers, three to be exact, and they are big. Derek and Scott stand in front of Stiles and Isaac, ready to pounce. One of the werepanthers lunges for Scott, and they start fighting off to the left. Derek and Isaac attack the other two.
Derek feels it as much as hears Stiles’ scream. He turns around, and everything around him stops when he sees a fourth werepanther’s arm buried inside Stiles’ torso. Blood is leaking out of Stiles’ mouth, and he looks at Derek helplessly, and the only thing Derek can focus on is the slowing beat of Stiles’ heart, thump…thump…th-thump… And then silence.
Derek howls, and suddenly, he is yanked from where he’s standing and deposited back onto the same field, right at the moment the werepanther sinks his hand into Stiles. He watches in horror as Stiles dies again, and looks over at himself when he howls, his face torn in grief. He’s yanked again, and he’s at the same scene, and when he looks over he sees two of himself. He glances to his other side, and there’s a long line of Derek’s watching Stiles get killed over and over again.
After around the fifteenth time Derek is pulled back in time thirty seconds, he feels an excruciating pain shoot through his body. It feels like his entire soul is being ripped apart, and he looks up to see the sky opening, the world caving in around him.
Derek finally did it. Derek finally tore apart time because of the witch’s curse.
Derek falls to the ground and feels himself being shredded into tiny little pieces, burning pain so bad that it’s all he can concentrate on, each part of himself hurting greater than the last. But then he’s being dropped into the forest, where Stiles is eight years old and coloring. He lifts his head and smiles before Derek is on a busy street, a car swerving off the road and hitting a telephone pole to avoid hitting him. Next, he’s outside a warehouse, and he can hear himself laughing and smell Paige’s shampoo. Then he’s on a busy street in New York, and he sees himself and Laura waiting to cross the street. Then he’s back in the forest, and Stiles is older and halfway up a tree. He ends up outside Isaac’s house, and he hears Isaac’s dad yelling at him, and then he’s in the train car in the subway station where he’s training with Boyd, Erica, and Isaac. He lands outside the Hale house with the white walls and the blue shutters, and then inside Stiles’ bedroom where Stiles is asleep in the bed, and then he’s outside the Hale house before he was born, his mom inside cooing to a baby Laura.
He’s bounced from place to place, only staying for a second or two before he’s thrust through time again. The pain has dulled, replaced instead by a constant nausea and the feeling that his head is splitting apart, layer by layer. He thinks of Stiles, of Pack, of home.
Derek lands on his back, and he remains there for two, five, ten seconds before he passes out.
When Derek opens his eyes, he’s on his back fifty feet away from the Pack, the three werepanthers looking at him in terror.
This is different, he thinks.
“Derek, what happened?” Scott asks, and Derek realizes he’s naked and Stiles is still alive. This has never happened before, and he wonders if he somehow broke the curse. “How did you get over there? I thought I was fighting, and then Stiles screamed – “
“I think I broke the curse,” Derek says as he jumps to his feet and bares his fangs. “There’s a fourth werepanther hiding in the woods behind you.”
The Pack makes easy work of taking down the werepanthers, who are so freaked out by Derek’s disappearing and reappearing that they barely fight back.
When they’ve been taken care of, Derek crosses the field and pulls Stiles to him and wraps his arms around him tight.
“Derek, you okay, buddy?” Stiles asks. “Because I’m having trouble breathing.”
Derek laughs because Stiles is in his arms, Stiles is breathing, Stiles is alive.
Six months pass without any incident. Derek goes to Deaton and explains what happens, and Deaton believes the curse is broken, but Derek is cautious anyway. The Pack graduates from college, and Derek helps Stiles pack his apartment at UCLA.
“I was thinking,” Stiles says as he writes kitchen on the side of a box. “Why don’t we get a place together. We could buy a house, or, and you can totally say no if you want to, I was thinking we could rebuild the Hale house, plant some flowers, maybe paint it white with – “
“Blue shutters,” Derek finishes for him.
Stiles looks at him oddly and smiles. “You knew?”
“Did I tell you about the house?”
Stiles shakes his head. “Nope. All my idea. No weird time travel stuff here.” Stiles walks over and lowers himself into Derek’s lap. “So, I’m guessing that’s a yes, then?”
“Can I say no?”
“Well, you could, but you might rip the sky apart. It happened before, I’m sure you can do it again.”
“You’re an asshole,” Derek says, trying to push Stiles off his lap. Stiles wraps his arms around Derek’s neck and leans close.
“But you love me,” Stiles says.
“Yes, I love you.”
Half an hour later, when they’re lying naked and sweaty on the floor amidst the boxes of Stiles’ belongings, Derek says, “Do you think this would have happened without the curse? Me and you?”
“Does it matter?” Stiles runs a hand up Derek’s chest.
Derek shrugs, his arms tightening around Stiles. “Maybe.”
“I think that no matter what happened, we were meant to meet and be together,” Stiles says. “Maybe we are cursed, unable to be with other people.”
“That would explain a lot,” Derek remarks dryly.
Stiles looks at him seriously, and then says, “I don’t care what got us here. I’m just glad that we’re here.”
Derek leans forward and kisses Stiles again.
Once when Stiles was ten, he asked, “Are we friends in the future?”
Derek nodded and replied, “We are.”
“I’m glad. I think I want to be your friend forever. We can be best friends, kinda like me and Scott, but different.” Stiles looked at Derek and smiled. “I like you, Derek, even if you are a naked time-traveling man.”
“I like you, too, Stiles,” Derek had said. He didn’t tell Stiles that they were friends forever, didn’t tell him they lived happily ever after, because he didn’t know that then.
And there were some things Derek was glad he found out for himself.