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The Butterfly Effect

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3 days from now.

 

Sheriff Stillinski pulled his pistol and edged cautiously into the Quick Mart. The door was ajar.  The silent alarm had pinged the station’s board.  The latest in a rash of these breakins all over town.  This was the first time an alarm had gone off.  He took a moment to steel himself and will the wave of exhaustion from staying up with Stiles through a panic attack early this morning away.  He took a breath.  Just go by the book, follow the procedure, it’ll be fine.

He could see two silhouettes by the cash register. Solid shadows in the dark. They hadn't noticed him yet.  With any luck this would be over and done in a minute.

"Freeze! Put your hands in the air." The sheriff yelled.

The two figures, a pair of burly men in their thirties, jerked and spun, their hard features outlined in the backlight of freezers at the back of the store.  Their widening eyes focused on his pistol. They weren't moving.

The sheriff thanked his lucky stars, whatever those might be. He took a couple of steps into the store, pulling handcuffs off his belt with his left hand.

A sharp pain shot through the back of his head, a loud clang reverberating through the store.   He felt his knees buckle under him. The floor rolled up toward him and the second stab of pain shot through his body as he hit the ground.

"Stupid small town pig." He heard from behind him.

He managed to turn his head, now an iron weight on his neck.  The third man was a wide shouldered pale man. He grinned showing his gold capped teeth. He brandished a large metal pipe in his hand. The tip botched in crimson.

The other two stepped toward him. Knives were gleaming in the half light. Stillinski groped for his pistol, but his hand wasn't working anymore.

They  laughed and stabbed down at him.

                I'm so sorry, Stiles.

 

The Present.

 

Chris Argent stopped at the edge of the clearing near the nemeton. He didn't like coming out here.  It had been a few months since he, Melissa and John had been trapped there by the darach. Rescued by all of the kids; something that indicated their potential. They were a good team.

That said they were going through an adjustment period. Scott was a natural leader, but still a teenager regardless of his status as the true alpha. He had been studying with Deaton, consulting with him as a mentor and teacher. Something that had not changed with Derek's return. Derek had pitched in with the new pack as he was needed, but according to Allison he hadn't been around a lot.  This was typical and not exactly bad news as far as Chris was concerned. Allison had absolved Derek in her mother's death, Chris had dealt with it intellectually. At the very least he acknowledged Derek was an ally, but that was it for now. The less he saw of the man the better.

Chris heard something snap on the opposite side of the clearing, bringing his attention back to the moment.  The members of Scott's pack had taken turns patrolling by the nemeton in case anything or anyone was drawn to the site. Despite Allison's statement to the contrary, Chris refused to consider himself part of the pack.

He pulled two forty-fives out of his jacket and headed into the clearing scanning the area for whatever was out there.  His eyes centered on a figure crouched by the roots of the tree. He had a shock of brown hair standing up from his head, a courdoroy blazer and messenger bag slung over his body. Chris could see a pair of black rimmed glasses on his face. He did a double take.

"Stiles?" He called out.

The figure spun and stood up quickly. He teetered unsteadily for a second and focused in on Chris. It was Stiles.  "Chris- I mean Mr. Argent."

"What are you doing out here?"

He blinked and pushed the glasses up on his nose. " Oh, I was taking some samples for Deaton. Sorry, I guess I should have let someone know."

Chris raised an eyebrow. Something seemed off about him. But then Deaton had mentioned the side effects of the spell. It could be that. Allison mentioned he had trouble sleeping because of it. But still.  "Are you all right?"

Stiles was looking at him with something Chris could only read as affection. How Allison looked at him if he had to pinpoint it. He blinked like he'd been somewhere else and refocused. "Yeah I'm fine. I'm just a little out of it."

Chris nodded. He was skilled at reading people, it came with years of being a hunter. And something was off. The glasses. Yes. But something else was tickling at the back of his head.

Stiles stood up and brushed dirt off his pants and looked up.  “Why are you out here?”

“The patrols?”

Stiles looked at him blankly.  Then blinked.  “Oh right, sorry.  Haven’t slept.”

Chris nodded.  That had to be what was off.  “Allison said you had trouble sleeping. “

“Yeah.  Nothing like darkness around your heart to help you sleep.”

Chris Argent winced.  The three children who sacrificed themselves to save their parents.  It was supposed to be the other way around. 

“Are you going to shoot me?”

“What? No.”  he holstered the guns.   “Maybe Deaton could give you something.”

“Already has.”

Chris nodded and looked around the clearing.  He didn’t know what else to say to that.  Maybe someone in his hunter contacts could help.  He’d make some calls.  It was strange Stiles was more effected than the rest.  Scott and Allson had bad days but it wasn’t like Stiles. “Sorry.  Are you through out here?”

Stiles nodded.  “Yeah, I’m through.”

“When did you start wearing glasses?” 

Stiles blinked and looked at him.  “I just got them today.  Do they look okay?”

Argent nodded.  “They make you look scholarly.”

Stiles snorted.  “Great.  Enhancing my natural nerd.  Just what I need.”

Chris smiled.  “Where’s the jeep?”

“Oh, uh I bummed a ride out here.  Lydia was gonna come get me. I can wait til she gets done shopping.”  He looked at Chris.

Chris frowned.  “I’ll give you a lift.”

“Great!”

They started walking back toward the SUV. Stiles kept stealing glances at Chris, Chris pretended not to notice.  Allison also talked about Stiles being on Adderol and his somewhat odd behavior.  He wrote it off.  “So do you want me to take you to Deaton’s?”

Stiles nodded his head as he climbed in.  “That would be perfect.”

Chris Argent turned the ignition.

 

Scott hurled the last of the trash into the dumpster when he heard the crash from inside the vet’s office.  He bolted through the door and raced into the exam room where Deaton had been restocking supplies for tomorrow.

The man was propped against one of the wire shelves, leaning precariously and panting.  Scott could smell the sweat and wave of something else coming off him, acrid fear.  Scott’s heart jumped.  Deaton was never scared.  Not of anything. 

                “Deaton!”  He yelled at the man’s side in an instant thanks to his werewolf speed.  Scott grabbed him supportively under an arm. He looked like he might lose his balance further.  Sweat ran down his face,  pooling at his chin and beard.  “What is it?  What’s wrong?”

                Deaton grasped Scott’s arm like a vise.  He looked up into Scott’s eyes blinking, desperately trying to focus.  “Something has happened.  The balance has been upset.”

                Scott blinked.  He mentally chastised himself for not knowing what that meant.  “I don’t understand…”

                Deaton motioned for Scott to help him stand up.  Scott practically hoisted  Deaton into a standing position with his strength, forgetting himself for a moment. 

                Deaton gasped and steadied himself on the table.  He looked at Scott.  “I need you to get me some things from the cabinet.  He nodded toward his druid supplies. 

                Scott grabbed all of the vials Deaton asked for, a dish of water and helped prop him up while he mixed the herbs in the dish, muttered something in an odd language Scott figured was druidic or whatever language he used for magic.  Might be their own language, might be something else.  Lydia was the language buff.

                Deaton swirled his finger in the water and looked into the bowl.

                Scott studied Deaton.  He looked so weak.  He was shaking, barely able to hold himself up.  Scott had to help him.  He had to protect him.  Whatever or whoever was doing this had to be stopped.

                The air in the exam room crackled and a static charge shot through the room.  The hair on Scott’s arms stood up.  The water in the bowl turned blue and Scott could swear he saw images running across the water.  He waited.  His heart pounded in his chest, he could feel Deaton’s strength leaving him.  He had to do something.

                “Stiles.”  Deaton shook his head.  “Stiles did something.  It’s not possible.”

                Scott felt anger surge in his chest.  Stiles.  Stiles must be experimenting with magic or poking into something he shouldn’t.  God, he was always causing trouble.  Scott would stop him.   “I’ll make him stop.” 

                “Scott, wait-“

                Scott shot out of the door. He felt his alpha reflexes kick in.  He was aware of the birds swarming above the clinic.  Cawing and chirping in agitation.  He blinked and surged forward at a full run, dropping to all fours.  He had to save Deaton.  He had to stop Stiles.  No matter what.

 

                Stiles groaned and tapped at his keyboard.  He was bored.  Homework was done.  His dad was out at the station.  Scott was at work.  Isaac was with Allison.  Lydia was with Aiden.  Danny was with Ethan.   Derek was… Derek.  He thought about texting him for a moment.  He’d been different since he came back.  A little more open.  A little less grr.  Not like much, but Stiles had noticed.  In Derek terms he might have had a breakthrough. 

                Stiles popped up out of his desk chair and walked over to his nightstand and picked up his phone.  Hmm, to text the sourwolf or not.  It couldn’t hurt, right; I mean a hello or something.

                He flipped clicked the phone.

                “Stiles!” he heard a growl from behind him.

                He had half turned when he was picked up and pushed through the air into his wall.  Pain shot through his back and side.  God it hurt.  He thought something popped somewhere. Stiles actually saw stars for a minute.  In all the times Derek did that to him he’d never actually hurt him.

                Stiles twisted a little to see a pair of glowing red eyes burning into him.  “Scott?”

                “What did you do?”  Scott growled at him, full alpha voice.

                Stiles blinked.  “What?”

                Scott’s brow creased into a glare.  “What did you do to Deaton?”

                Stiles shook his head.  What was he talking about?  “Deaton?  Why would I do anything to Deaton?”

                Scott’s grip tightened on Stiles’ arm, he felt another pop and a star of pain shot through his vision.  God it hurt.  He was shaking now.  He tried to make himself stop. . Scott was attacking him again.  It wasn’t even a full moon.   “He said you did something.  What did you do?”  Scott demanded.

                “I didn’t-“Stiles started, he gasped from pain in his arm.

                “Get off of him!” 

                Stiles saw a hand grab Scott’s shoulder and fling him across the room.  Scott hit the wall where Stiles’ wall of crazy happenings was pinned to a bulletin board and a small bookshelf was taking up space.  The bookshelf exploded as the bulletin board shattered from the impact of Scott’s weight.  Papers flew up in the air like oversized snowflakes drifting in the air.

                Derek was suddenly in front of Stiles, placing himself between Stiles and Scott.

                “Thanks.”  Stiles said weakly.  Then brow furrowed remembering Derek wasn’t an alpha anymore.  “Can you stop him?”

                “I don’t know.”

                Stiles looked over Derek’s shoulder as best he could.  The man was completely between him and Scott.  This was a pretty familiar view for Stiles now that he thought about it.  Derek was always protecting him.  Even before he had his breakthrough of not being grumpy all the time.

                Scott’s eyes were red and glaring at Derek.  “I’ll go through you if I have to.  I have to stop whatever he did.”

                “What did you do?”  Derek asked.

                Stiles shuddered the pain wasn’t his arm it was his shoulder and it was hurting like crazy.  He felt a little unsteady.  “Dude, I haven’t done anything.  I swear.”  Stiles heard his own voice tight with pain.

                Derek’s head was cocked to one side.  Listening to Stiles’ heartbeat, no doubt.  He nodded and tensed.

                The roar in front of them was deafening.  God they were going to die here in Stiles’ room.  His dad would find their remains splattered all over his blue walls.  He didn’t even know why.

                Derek reared back with a fist and punched out as the roar freight trained at them.   Stiles saw Derek’s fist slam into Scott’s nose full force.  The crack of bone breaking echoed through Stile’s room.  Scott yelped a half wolf and half human cry as he sailed backward.  He flew into Stile’s desk, scattering the papers and books.  Stiles watched his laptop teeter for a moment as Scott slid down the front of the desk.

                Stiles looked at Derek, he was shaking his hand and Stiles could see it looked wrong, fingers slightly askew.  “You broke your hand.”

                “It’ll heal.  It’s healing now.” Derek said tightly as he adjusted his fingers, righting them so they would heal straight.   He hadn’t moved.  He was still between Scott and Stiles and he was still tense and coiled.

                “Derek?  Stiles?”  Scott’s voice came from the other side of the room.  He didn’t have the growl in his voice.  He sounded confused, which was ninety percent of the time from Stiles’ point of view.  Stiles peeked warily over Derek’s shoulder.

                Scott was slumped against the desk with normal eyes. His nose looked like it was just stopping gushing blood, though it was all over his face and the front of his t-shirt.  He had the confused look too.  Staring at the two of them like they had suddenly appeared in front of him.  Great, Stiles thought, more hallucinating werewolf problems, that’s just what they needed.

                Scott stood up slowly.  Derek for his part took a step back, keeping himself in front of Stiles, now there were inches between them.  Stiles could swear he heard a low growl from Derek.   Scott took a step forward.  “How did I get here?”

                Derek stood up slowly.  “What’s the last thing you remember?”

                “I was getting stuff from Deaton’s cabinet for him. He- he wasn’t doing well.  Something was wrong; he was trying to find out what.  I felt like I had to protect him.  Make sure he was safe.  Then I was here.”

                Derek seemed to relax a little at that.  He took a half step to the side. 

                Scott walked forward. His eyes widened.  “Oh my god, Stiles!”

                He was right in front of Stiles. He reached out to touch Stiles’ arm and Stiles flinched back.  He couldn’t help it. He tried to make himself part of the wall.  What if this was a trick?  A tactic change.  His arm was killing him. It hurt so bad he kind of felt like he was going to pass out.  He couldn’t take anything else.

                And Derek was between them again.  “You should go, Scott.”

                Scott blinked he looked from Stiles to Derek and back to Stiles.  “I did that?”

                Stiles nodded, which made him dizzy. This wasn’t good.  He might faint soon. 

                Scott’s expression was pure pain and guilt.  He looked at Stiles, he seemed to sniff the air for a second and took a step back.  “I don’t remember.”

                “Which is why you should go.” Derek said firmly.  Stiles imagined he was scowling at Scott but he couldn’t see his face.  Derek was a master at scowling when he was annoyed or protective.

                Scott looked crestfallen but nodded and took a few more steps back until he was by the window.  “I’m sorry.”  He bolted out.

                Stiles felt himself let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding and his legs suddenly went to jello and the world teetered.

                A pair of hands caught him and carried him gently to his bed .  He was sitting, swaying slightly with Derek kneeling in front of him.  He felt hands tracing him.  He jerked when Derek hit a sensitive spot on his back.

                “Sorry.”

                “Sokay, wasn’t you.” Stiles muttered,  “So what’s the prognosis? How long have I got?”

                Derek looked at him.  Stiles suddenly felt like the man was looking into his soul. It was strange and at the same time comforting.  “That’s not funny Stiles.” There was no heat in his voice.  An edge of irritation and something else Stiles couldn’t quite place.

                “Sorry. Just trying to lighten the mood.”

                Derek sighed.  “It’s okay. Just, no dying jokes, all right?”

                Stiles suddenly remembered the Hale fire and Boyd and Erica and felt like a grade A douchebag.  He started to say all of that and then thought the better of it when another pain shot through his shoulder.  He managed “Okay.”

                “He dislocated your shoulder and two of your ribs are popped out on your back.”

                “Huh, my back doesn’t even hurt.  Probably because my shoulder is on fire.  So hospital then?  Scott’s mom will love this.”

                Derek was studying Stiles again and looking from Stiles’ shoulders to his eyes and back.  “Do you trust me?”

                Stiles blinked at the question.  A year ago the answer would have been no.  A year was a long time.  A lot had happened in that time.  “Yes. Of course I do.”

                Derek studied him for a moment and Stiles saw a glimmer of something flash through his eyes, a slight upturn of his mouth.  And Stiles was suddenly aware the two of them had a moment.  He had a moment with Derek, the unapproachable walled up werewolf.  He’d be happier about it if his arm wasn’t shooting pain through his body.    “All right.  I want you to lean on me with your left arm. “  Derek took Stiles’ left hand and put it on his right shoulder.  “If it hurts squeeze.  You won’t hurt me.”

                Stiles nodded.  He winced as Derek put both hands on his right pain fire filled arm.  “What are you gonna do?”

                “Put your shoulder back.”

                Stiles winced. 

                “Trust me.”

                “I do.”  Stiles clenched his eyes, preparing for another painful pop.

                And the pain stopped.  He looked at Derek who was concentrating intently on Stiles shoulder.  He could feel Derek manipulate his arm and shoulder, but it wasn’t hurting at all.  He felt the pop.  Like when he popped his knuckles.  He was aware of it, but there was no pain.  He looked down to see Derek’s arms flowing with black lines.

                Derek disengaged with his right hand and felt around Stiles back.  A moment later two more pops.  Stiles was aware that Derek had an arm around him.  He could feel the werewolf’s heat encircling him. He started to say something snarky and sarcastic about them hugging but a voice inside his head, that he’d never heard before, screamed NOOOOOOO!  Loudly.  He blinked as he realized that would ruin this and said nothing.

                Derek let him go he felt a slight ache slowly come back to his shoulder, though it was nothing now. More like he’d banged it in lacrosse.  Same with his back.  Derek looked suddenly tired, face drawn.  He stood up and swayed a bit.   Stiles caught him with his left hand and guided /pulled him to sit next to him on the bed.  “Whoa there, maybe you should sit for a second.”

                Derek looked for a moment like he might argue then he scooted back against the wall.  “Yeah, maybe for a minute.”  He closed his eyes.

                Stiles watched the steady rise and fall of Derek’s chest for a minute before scooting back onto the wall next to him. 

 

                Deaton was shaking. He’d managed to stand up and get his phone.  Scott wouldn’t answer.  This was very bad.  He could hear the birds and the disquiet from the other animals in the clinic. Scott had gotten caught up in the druid’s aura.  The one that had caused all of the chaos with Jennifer.  The one that made the animals around a druid strive to protect them when they were in danger.   Scott was susceptible.  Extremely so, from what Morell had told him.  He had faced down the Alphas when they hunted her and swore to let her come to no harm, even though a physical confrontation would have surely killed the boy.

                He tried again.  “Come on, Scott.”  He muttered.

                The front door jingled.  Deaton was relieved.  Scott must have come out of it once he got away from Deaton.

                “Hello, Deaton.”

                He looked up.  Stiles stood in the doorway.  Or a Stiles.  Deaton grunted.  The Stiles in front of him had the same shock of hair pointing up, the same wry expression and the same gait.  But he looked a little different with the glasses, the corduroy blazer and the messenger bag.  “Stiles?”

                He smirked at Deaton.  “Yes.  It’s me.  Or a me that could be I guess if you want to be technical.  But you’re already working that out in your head I think.”

                Deaton shuddered.  Two Stiles.  Ordinarily this would be a series of running jokes, but this was why Deaton was sick.  “You’ve time traveled?”

                Stiles nodded.

                “Why?”

                “I have to save him.”

                Deaton’s eyes widened.  “You’ve come back to change something.  Alter destiny.”

                Stiles glared at him.  “Screw destiny.”

                “I’ll stop you.”  He said firmly.  “Scott will stop you.”

                Stiles walked a couple of steps closer and Deaton could feel the power coming off him.  “You won’t,   Iridin Cedarwood.”

                Deaton gasped, he felt his body shudder,  his magic flowing out of him.  “How did you?”

                Stiles smiled at him.  “Know your true name?”

                Deaton nodded, gulping. 

                “You told me.  Right before you helped me come back here.”

                Deaton stumbled backwards and crashed into the shelves behind him.  Supplies rained down around him as he tried to crawl and claw backwards.  “I wouldn’t” he protested.

                Stiles knelt down. Reaching into the messenger bag and producing a container of herbs.  “You did.  Think about that.  I have to succeed.”

                Deaton shook his head.  “But the spell, the only spell that lets you come back. Physically come back.  It’s---“

                “Difficult? Too risky? Morally wrong?”

                Deaton stopped moving.  “But why would you do this—“ 

                “They all died.  I’m going to stop that.”

                He unscrewed the top of the jar and poured its contents into his palm. 

                Deaton eyed the mixture.  “What is that?”

                Stiles blew it on him.   Uttered a couple of words followed by Iridin Cedarwood.  Deaton felt his entire body tingle. 

                “Sleeping spell.  You’ll be asleep for a week.”

                Deaton glared at him.  “Those are reversible.”

                Stiles stood up and dusted off his hands.  “True. But this one requires true love’s kiss to reverse.  And while Scott’s fond of you he doesn’t qualify, also I know who your true love is, she won’t be here for at least a year. “

                “Stiles, please.  Listen to me.”

                Stiles stopped and looked at him.  “I’m listening.”

                “Everything you do here is an alteration.  Your presence changes things.  Every interaction.  Not just who you save….” He felt himself fading.

                Stiles form seemed hazier.  “That’s what we’re counting on.” Was the last thing Deaton heard before the darkness overtook him.

               

                Scott made his way back to Deaton' s clinic at a rapid run.  He had no idea what was happening. One minute he was helping Deaton the next he was bleeding from his nose on Stiles' floor with Derek crouched protectively in front of a hurt Stiles.

The look on Stiles' face when he moved to help him had haunted his run back to the clinic. The pain and distrust in his eyes sliced into Scott’s stomach. His arm hung at a wrong angle making his pale best friend ashen.   And Scott was responsible for it. He shuddered.

Then there was Derek.  The wary way he looked at Scott. How he kept Scott away from Stiles. The gleam in his eyes said he wanted to kill Scott.  Scott was an Alpha now and he hadn’t been afraid of Derek in a long time. But tonight he had been.  Derek had always protected Stiles and vice versa.  Which had always been a little odd since they seemed to hate each other for a good deal of the first year they knew each other.  Scott sighed and he dropped back to a more human pace.

Scott made it to the front of the clinic and froze. The front door was ajar. Scott went into a crouch and stalked slowly up to the door. He sniffed at the edge of the doorway and winced at the ammonia smell flooding his senses. He growled and moved slowly inside.

The front was empty. He looked around as he made his way back to the exam room. "Deaton?"

Silence answered him. He frowned and peered into the exam room. At the edge of the door a bottle of ammonia was turned over. It was overpowering his senses.  He couldn’t smell anything. 

Deaton was lying on the opposite side of the exam table, Scott could see his feet.  He leapt into the air and landed at his boss’ side.  Deaton’s  eyes were closed and he had an almost peaceful expression. Scott panicked for a moment until he saw the rise and fall of Deaton’s chest.  He heard soft snoring.  He was asleep? He nudged the man, but nothing. He shoved hard, still nothing.  He shook him. He yelled “Deaton!!”  Still nothing.  Scott sighed.

He bent over Deaton and sniffed. The ammonia dominated most of what he could smell and something that smelled a little like herbs.  And something, for just a second that smelled very familiar, he almost missed it.  But it was there. 

“Jesus, Stiles, what did you do?”

He slumped down to the floor and called 911.

               

Sheriff Stillinski finally made it into his house at about 7 in the morning. He rubbed his eyes as he turned the key in the lock. This night had gone on far longer than expected.  Now he was going to have to nap for a few hours before going back to work.  He’d been used to it before but now that he knew the truth about Beacon Hills he felt like he had a whole new weight with his job.  Not to say he didn’t appreciate the truth, he did, but sometimes he thought he could identify with ignorance as bliss.

He opened the door and the smell of bacon and coffee wafted through the front hall.  He stopped and inhaled.  It smelled amazing.  He wasn't supposed to eat bacon. He frowned. God, what's he done now? He rounded the door into the kitchen. "Stiles---"

He stopped as Derek Hale turned around from the pan at the stove. He stared at the sheriff for a beat. "He's still asleep. There 's coffee."

Jon Stilinski opened his mouth to say something and then stopped.  He had so many questions flying through his head. First among them was why was Derek Hale cooking breakfast in his kitchen? Then it hit him and his heart sank. "Something happened. Is he okay?"

Derek poured a cup of coffee and handed it to him. He watched the man take a breath. "It did.  He is.  I stayed here in case."

Jon took the coffee, sat down and gestured to the other chair. "How about you fill me in?"

Derek sighed; he pulled the pan off the stove, clicked it off and sat down handing the sheriff a plate. “Scott attacked him in his room. I got here in time to pull him off but Stiles was hurt."

“Scott? Why would Scott attack Stiles? He didn't say anything about that."

Derek’s eyebrows rose.  “You saw Scott?”

Jon nodded.” At Deaton’s.  He said he found him in some sort of coma.  I mean that’s what the doctor’s say.  He said the door was ajar when he got there, ammonia was spilled on the floor.”  Jon shook his head.  “I knew he was holding something back”

Derek glowered at the coffee for a second like it had done something to annoy him and then shrugged.  "He wasn't himself. After I hit him he snapped out of it. Last thing he remembered was being at Deaton’s. Then he was on Stiles’ floor.  I suspect it’s something like what happened with the animals and Jennifer.  Something druidic.”

Jon grunted, taking a gulp of coffee then shook his head.  “I was hoping that was behind us.”

“Yeah.”

“Oh my god I’m late!” Stiles burst into the kitchen flailing, grabbing bacon and shoving it into his mouth as he poured a cup of coffee.  His backpack was half on and his clothes looked like he’d tossed them on in motion. They were sticking to him in spots from where he’d obviously not toweled off good enough after showering.

He spun around and froze.  His eyes went from Derek to his dad and Derek and back to his dad.  “Um. Morning?”

Jon knew that look.  It was the teenage panic of the parent talking with your friend and the horror that your parent might now know something you didn’t want them too. He usually got that look right before Jon busted him at something.  The kid should never play poker.  Derek was watching both of them quietly, no not both.  Stiles. He was just watching Stiles. “Derek told me about Scott.”

Stiles looked at Derek quickly then back at his dad.  “I don’t think it was his fault, Dad.  I mean he’s my best friend, he wouldn’t hurt me on purpose.”

Jon nodded.  “He said that too.  Still, be careful Stiles.  Something’s going on around here.  Deaton’s in a coma and Scott’s attacking you.  God knows what’s next.”

Stiles’ shoulders sank a bit. “Great,  another day in Beacon Hills.”  He looked at them both. “I should go to school.”

Jon nodded.  He looked all right.  Seemed like his old self.  Derek must have prevented any major damage from happening, something he was grateful for.  He looked at Derek.  “Alphas are stronger than betas right?”

“Yes.” He sipped his coffee.

“So could he have killed you?”

Derek looked like he considered it for a second and nodded.

Stiles swung and looked at Derek with that lightbulb look.  The one that Jon saw whenever his son had a moment of unexpected clarity.  “Stiles, if you need me you call, understood?”

Stiles nodded. He hadn’t taken his eyes off of Derek . Derek looked up at him and he looked away. 

Jon just watched for a beat. Huh.  “Derek, would you mind driving him?”

Derek and Stiles both looked at Jon with confused expressions. Derek recovered firs t and nodded, standing up.  Stiles blinked, started to open his mouth then closed it. 

“Text me when you get to school, and I’ll pick you up this afternoon.”

“Okay.”  He suddenly bent down and hugged Jon, “I love you, Dad.”

“Love you too. Be careful.”

 

Stiles climbed into Derek’s Toyota and settled into the passenger seat.  “Well that was weird.”

Derek maneuvered the car through traffic and out toward the school.  “He’s just worried about you.”

Stiles nodded, he fidgeted with his hands and looked out at the road. “Are you okay?”

Derek looked a little surprised.  “Yeah. I’m fine.”

“You could have died!”

“But I didn’t.”

Stiles was silent for a second.  He didn’t know what else to say. “You didn’t have to clean up my room. Not like you made the mess.”

“Neither did you.  I was awake.  I just straightened some of it.  How’s your shoulder?”

Stiles shrugged, which reminded him that it ached a little.  “Kinda sore, but good.”

“Lay off lacrosse for a couple days.”

“But---“

“Stiles.”  He said in the Derek no argument tone, which Stiles sometimes argued with anyway.  But this made sense; he was still hurting a bit.

“Okay. Got it, no lacrosse.  What about this Deaton thing?”

“I’ll look into it.”  He had an odd look on his face.

“Do you know what’s going on?  Oh my god, you do!”

Derek pulled the Toyota over and looked at him.  “I don’t. I have some ideas, but they’re just ideas.  I’m going to look into them. I’ll let you know if they pan out.”

“You will?”

Derek shook his head and rolled his eyes.  “Let’s pretend I know you well enough to know that if I don’t keep you in the loop you’ll just start looking on your own and invariably wind up in a mess by yourself.”

Stiles started to argue but he had a point.  “Harsh.  Probably true but harsh.”

Derek looked out the window past Stiles and his eyes narrowed.  Stiles turned and followed his gaze.  Scott was in front of the school watching them, then turned and went inside.

Stiles heart skipped a beat.  Something was wrong.  He could feel it curl in the pit of his stomach.  He opened the door.

A strong hand clamped on his shoulder.

“If you need me, call.”

Stiles nodded.  “I will. Thanks, Derek.”

 

                Derek pulled up to the clinic.  The lot was empty save for a prius in the parking lot. Nothing said druid like an eco friendly car.  Thankfully there was no sign of a police investigation or tape.  Not that it would stop Derek, but it was less to worry with.

                He popped out of the Toyota and walked toward the door.  He got four steps from the door and the hair on the back of his neck rose.  He stopped and cocked his head to one side.  It took him a second.  The heartbeat was slow, calm, and well trained, a perfect hunter.  He sniffed the air.

                “I see we had the same idea.”

                Chris Argent stepped out from the alley by the clinic.  His expression was a mix of annoyance and amusement?  “I see your time away didn’t dull your senses.”

                Derek nodded.  The tension in the other man’s voice was buried, but not well.  Derek understood it.  He might sympathize, but Argent’s wife had tried to kill Scott and the bite wasn’t fatal.  Just her fear of being a wolf.  “Find anything?”

                Argent shook his head.  “Nothing outside, I haven’t made it in yet. “

                Derek nodded.  “Shall we?”

                Argent smiled his cold hunters smile and walked toward the door.  He produced a lock pick and began working the lock.  It took less than a minute.  Derek was impressed.

                Argent swung the door open and Derek started forward.

                Argent’s arm blocked Derek’s path.  “Wait.”

                Derek’s eyes dropped to the arm blocking his way and then up to Argent’s eyes.

                He watched the man lower his arm and walk over to the doorway. He ran a finger along the doorway and pulled black a black covered finger,  it looked like soot.

                Derek blinked and looked at it.  He sniffed and took a step back.  “Is that?”

                Chris Argent nodded. “Wolfsbane.  Black wolfsbane to be specific.  Very rare and particularly potent. “

                Derek nodded.  He knew some varieties and their purpose.  “And what does this do?”

                Argent looked at it with a frown. “Takes away the human side, tamps it down.  It lets the wolf out to run on instinct alone. Just base instincts. Hunt. Kill. Protect.”

                Derek swallowed.  “You’ve used it?”

                Argent shook his head. “No, it’s too unpredictable.  Some other hunter families do though. “

                “You think there’s another family here?”

                “Probably not, but I’ll keep an eye out.  Someone laid a trap though.”  He stepped through the door and shone a flashlight across the tile floor.  “It’s everywhere. Deputies, the Sheriff, Scott, Isaac.”

                Derek’s heart sank.  “You’re sure?”

                He stuck his head back out.  “Yes.”

                “Which means Isaac and Scott are exposed.”

                “Shouldn’t be enough for long term effects, just cloud their judgment.  Let me poke around a bit.”

                Derek nodded and watched the other man disappear into the clinic. He sighed and focused on listening to Argent move around in the clinic.  He knelt down and waited. 

                The acrid stench caught him by surprise.  Death.  It was close.  He stood and stalked toward the source of the smell.  He rounded the corner, behind the clinic, near the exam room from what he could tell.  There next to the wall were a small pile of dead birds.  He knelt.  All them were broken, necks, wings, and bodies.  Like they’d flown into something.  He looked at the clinic wall.  Red splotches dotted the side of the building.  So there it was.  At least Scott’s behavior made some sense.  Whatever was happening to Deaton triggered something in the nearby animals, rushing to help him, protect him from whatever was happening.  Scott had been at ground zero.  He’d reacted to protect Deaton from Stiles, though Derek wasn’t clear on how he jumped to Stiles as a threat. Maybe Scott would remember.

He turned back toward the entrance as Chris Argent rounded the corner.  “Find something?”

                Derek pointed out the dead animals and relayed his theory.  Argent nodded.  “And you?” 

                “The inside is pretty covered with wolfbane.  Some of the animals look like they hurt themselves trying to get out of their cages, though none fatally from what I could see.   There was an ammonia bottle tipped over in the exam room, probably killed the scent of whoever was in there.”

                Derek shrugged.  “Maybe, covered it anyway.  With all the wolfsbane in there I can’t exactly go in to check.”

                “I think that’s the point.  Whoever is behind this knows about Deaton and the werewolves.”

                “But what do they want? And why Stiles?”

                Argent chuckled.  “I’ve been wondering that myself.  Could be to get at you or Scott.”

                “Me?”

                The hunter shook his head.  “Look, I’ve been around the two of you, you seem to charge to each other’s rescue a lot. You’re—”

                “Pack.”  Derek finished.

                “I was going to say friends.”

                Derek blinked.  He never thought about it.  They didn’t have prolonged conversations, but then, Derek didn’t have prolonged conversations in general. He didn’t mind Stiles.  He was a safe spot.  “I suppose we are.”

                “Where’s Peter?”

                Derek shifted.  “I haven’t seen him.  Or smelled him.  But the wolfsbane would render him ineffective too, if there’s as much as you say.”

                Argent appeared to ponder that and looked slightly disappointed.  “Right.  So someone new.”

                Derek sighed.  “Looks like it.”

                “Maybe it has something to do with whatever Stiles was doing out at the nemeton.”

                Derek looked at Argent.  “What?”

                “Last night, he was out there.  Said he was getting samples for Deaton.”

                “Well it would explain why Scott thought he did something.” Logic, at last something made some sense.  “Maybe we should ask Stiles what kind of samples he picked up.”

                “Agreed. I’ll meet you there.”

 

                Lydia Martin flipped her red hair as she entered the hallway, stopping for a fashionable pause at the school entrance to allow any admirers to have a moment to gaze at her.  Aiden was flanking her, as he did these days.  Most of her one time male admirers only spared her a quick glance with her boyfriend nearby.  She was aware Aiden had a territorial glare when it came to her admirers.  She thought it was cute. 

                History had been dull.  She’d already finished the book and now it was just a slow motion rehash of all the material.  She should probably think about testing out or something.  Maybe a college class, she mused.  She’d seen Isaac in class, he seemed off.  I mean, granted, the boy was a little odd at times but this was different.  He looked like he was having trouble focusing on anything.  He also sneezed a lot.  Werewolf allergies.  She might ask Derek.  Depending on his mood she might get an answer.  Of course, he had been more forthcoming since he made it back in town. 

                She glanced down the hallway.  There was Stiles getting things out of his locker.  Danny and Ethan were walking up the stairs.  No sign of Allison.  Scott was further down the hallway making a beeline for Stiles. His eyes looked intense.

                She frowned and tugged at Aiden and headed toward them.  She wondered what was going on.  Scott looked different.  Angry.  Like that time the two of them had kissed. 

                “Stiles! What did you do to Deaton?”  She heard Scott growl, literally.  He wasn’t shifted, but his voice was animalistic.

                Stiles spun, flailed backwards and plastered himself against the wall of lockers.  “What? Oh my god, Scott.”

                Scott put his hand on Stiles shoulder, Stiles winced and tried to pull away but it was no use. 

                “I could smell you at the clinic.  I know you did something.  Maybe you didn’t mean it.  I just need you to tell me what you did.”

                Lydia was in motion.  She could see Stiles looking around and over Scott’s shoulder.  He looked afraid.  That was new.

                “I told you I don’t know what happened.  I told you that last night when you dislocated my shoulder!”  Stiles tried to pull free again and still failed.  Scott pressed him back against the lockers.

                Lydia came to a stop right by them.  “Dislocated his shoulder?”

                Scott blinked and looked at her.  He had an odd look.  Reminded her of Isaac, different reaction though.  “I, it was an accident.”

                “And grabbing his shoulder and pushing him into a locker is a what?”

                Scott blinked again.  He looked like he was trying to focus. He turned and saw his hand on Stiles shoulder and let go.  “I- I don’t know.  Stiles-“

                Stiles took a quick step to the side and behind Lydia, right next to Aiden.   “Look Scott, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.  I told you I wasn’t there. I wasn’t lying.”

                “He isn’t” Aiden said from beside Stiles.  She noted Stiles’ surprised look at Aiden’s support.  She supposed she understood that. 

                Lydia raised her eyebrows at Scott.  “So?”

                Scott shook his head and then let out a mighty sneeze that made half the hallway jump including Lydia and Stiles.  Aiden resolutely caught her while Stiles flailed into someone standing next to him.

                “Werewolf allergies?”

                Scott shrugged.  “I dunno, head is foggy. Kinda hard to focus.  The only thing I can think about is Deaton. I have to fix it.  Everything tells me Stiles knows what’s going on.  Even if he isn’t lying.”

                Stiles made an exasperated sound.  “If I knew I’d say something.  Christ, Scott, I don’t want anything to happen to him either.”

                Scott seemed to focus again.  “Then tell me what you did!”

                Lydia turned to Aiden.  “Maybe you and Scott walk to Math?  I’ll be right there.”

                Aiden nodded and walked over to Scott; pivoting him without too much effort and heading them down the hall.  She turned to Stiles who was watching them go.

                “Are you okay?”

                He looked at her.  “Yeah.”  He even gave her a smile, fake as it was.

                “He dislocated your shoulder?”

                “Shoulder, ribs, it was a Scott lovefest last night.”

                Lydia eyed his shoulder and looked at his ribcage.

                Stiles looked suddenly self conscious and twisted like she was looking through his clothes.  “Well it was a couple on my back, Derek fixed them.”

                She arched an eyebrow .  “Derek?”

                “Yeah, you know, the broody one.” He looked down.  “If he hadn’t got there I don’t know what Scott would have done.”

                “Good thing he’s your friend then.  Werewolf healing, I assume?”

                She could see the puzzled look cross Stiles face, like he was processing something, then the corners of his mouth turned up a little.  “Yeah, werewolf healing, it took it out of him though.  He passed out on my bed.”

                “Hmm.”

                “What was that?”

                “What was what?”  She said innocently.

                “Your ‘hmm’ Lydia, you never just go ‘hmm’ without it meaning something.”

                “Nothing.”

                “Lydia!”

                She walked down the hall toward math.  Fighting the urge to smile.

                He caught up with her.  “Is this because I said he passed out on my bed, because he just did and I mean I did too. Um I mean but we were in clothes, and we just slept I mean nothing happened if that’s what you’re ‘hmming’  it was just two guys passed out on a bed.”

                Lydia held her expression and turned to Stiles and nodded understandingly.  “Hmm.”

                Stiles made a choking noise and his ears turned a shade of pink as he grumbled and headed down the hall. Lydia smirked and only felt a moment of guilt for enjoying that.

               

                Stiles muttered to himself as he rounded the corner of the hall and headed toward Spanish.  Just what he needed: Lydia making assumptions and remarks.  I mean, she was just getting his goat as they used to say.  He winced at the thought; he’d been reading too many old stories. 

                He sighed.  He and Derek friends.  When did that happen?  He supposed that it was sometime during all the mess with the Alpha pack and the Darach.  Or maybe it was after he came back without Cora.  Stiles hadn’t noticed.  Derek had come by for Stiles to help with research.  He’d pop through the upstairs window, ask Stiles questions , peruse the beastiary and discuss happening in the area.  Now that he thought about it, he was the one that kept Derek in the loop on most things as the man tended to stay out of Scott’s way unless asked. 

                “Stiles.”

                He stopped abruptly as his guidance counselor blockaded his path.   “Morell.”  He returned. 

                “I couldn’t help overhear, Scott. “

                Stiles frowned.  “I bet you couldn’t.”

                Morell gave him a look.  He supposed it intimidated most students.  He’d been face to face with angry alphas and betas for a while.  Unless she suddenly started muttering magical spells and waving wands Stiles wasn’t going to duck and cover that easy.  “Stiles, my brother is in a coma.”

                Stiles shifted and looked down at his feet.  “I know. I’m sorry.”

                “Yesterday something happened, something powerful.  It rippled out of the nemeton.  Did you feel it?”

                Stiles blinked.  “Why would I?”

                She shrugged and turned and started walking with him.  “Deaton said you had… potential.”

                Now it was Stiles who shrugged.  “Maybe, I mean I did do something with the mountain ash that time.  I haven’t done anything since. “

                “It takes practice to fan the flame. “

                “Does that mean you want to teach me to be a jedi?”

                He could almost feel her grimace next to him.  “Perhaps.  Something is here.  It’s rippling.  I can feel it moving.”

                Stiles glanced at her.  “So there’s a disturbance in the force?”

                She shot him a glare.  “I’m serious.”

                Stiles sighed.  “I know.  Do you know what it is?  Where it is?”

                She shook her head, put a hand to her forehead.  “No, but it’s close.  The ripples are strong. “

                “Are you okay?  What do you mean ripples?”

                She took her hand away and focused on him.  “It’s like change, points of alteration.  It’s hard to explain.”

                Stiles frowned.  “Magic?  What like a reality changing thing?”

                “Yes, but strong, so strong.  I feel like I should seek it and stop it, and then at the same time I feel as though I should run from it.”

                Stiles stopped for a moment.  “Would Deaton have stopped it?”

                Morell  paused a step ahead and turned.  “Yes. He would have tried.  As the emissary tied to an alpha in the area he would be more attuned, and he would be stronger thanks to that tie.”

                “Thanks to Scott?”

                Morell just nodded. 

                “So it knew to take him out.  You’re the next druid around.  Does that mean you’re in danger?”

                “I’ll be all right.”

                “Right, cause that always works out so well for us.  How about I call Derek and see if we can get you somewhere safe after school?”

                She eyed him.  “Do you think Derek Hale would help me?”

                Stiles frowned.  “You mean despite the fact that your brother, his emissary, never helped him when he became an alpha.  Never advised him like he was supposed to because he wanted to be the emissary of the true alpha? While you helped the alpha pack, advised them and watched as Erica was killed and knew what they had planned for Boyd.”  There was more anger in his voice than should be, and heat.  He’d put this together a few months ago.  I mean Derek hadn’t handled the alpha power well at all, but knowing someone was in town to help him who shirked his duties and never tried to help.  It was a little maddening.  Stiles had wondered in the time Derek had left how things might have been different if Deaton had bothered to do his job. 

                The shock on her face spoke volumes.  “Uh, yes.  For that reason.”

                He leaned forward and pointed at her.  “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but he tends to protect the people who need help.  So, yes, I think he’d help you because it’s the right thing to do.  I’ll come by your office after school and we’ll figure something out. “

                Her shocked look continued as she slowly nodded and turned and walked down the hall.

                Stiles grumbled to himself and headed toward Spanish, to which he was now late.

               

                Allison waited around the corner listening to Stiles somewhat venomous exchange with Morell.  Not that the woman didn’t deserve it with her part in the alpha pact and Erica’s death.  She could claim she had kept the mayhem they caused to a minimum but there were still deaths and still losses.  Nothing would change that. Allison suspected that was what she told herself to make it less real.  Less painful.  She knew about doing that.  She’d done it the whole summer after Scott’s breakup and through the Alpha pack and the Darach.  She’d been fortunate to find an all too real anchor in the form of Isaac in the middle of it all. It kept her sane in a crazy time.

                Scott ordinarily had Deaton, of course her father had told her about the incident with Deaton that resulted in Scott going primal and attacking Stiles.  Only to be saved by Derek. Again. Stiles was right, regardless of how he did as an alpha, he always tried to help. 

                Stiles anchor was supposed to be Lydia and she supposed Lydia was his anchor, but she was too caught up in Aiden for the most part to be there for Stiles.   Allison felt the pang in her stomach at the fact that Stiles had to face the darkness in his heart alone.  It wasn’t fair.  She knew the flashes of darkness for her were intense and wrenching.  She shook her head.

                The sound of Stiles’ footsteps jarred her back to the moment.  He was just at the corner when she said his name.

                Stiles jumped and flailed dropping his books and sending papers flying.  “Jesus!  Does everyone just skulk and wait for the perfect scare Stiles moment?”

                Allison suppressed a grin as she knelt down to pick up his papers.  Stiles was already grabbing his books.  “Sorry. Dad and Derek are outside.  They want to talk to you.”

                “They’re here now?”

                Allison nodded. 

                Stiles looked like five things ran across his mind at once.  He looked relieved, panicked, horrified and suddenly confused.  “Do you think Derek can hear us?”

                She snorted.  “Probably.  Super wolf hearing and all.”

                He blinked a few times, looked back down the hall to where he and Morell had their heated confrontation a moment ago.  He shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.  “Okay, well I guess we should go see them.”

                Allison eyed him.  He looked at her down at his feet and then back at her again.

                “What?”

                “Are you okay?”

                Stiles blinked, gave his sudden playful smile and sprung up a little.  “What, no, sure.  I’m fine.  Just a typical week in Beacon Hills.”

                She can’t help but smile when he does, it’s infectious.  Part of why people love having him around.  But he hides a lot under that smile, his wit and sarcasm.  She reaches over and takes his hand as they walk toward the exit.  “What about the nemeton?  The Darkness?  I know sometimes its hard to deal with.”

                The smile fades a bit and he looks down again.  “It’s fine.”

                “Stiles, you can talk to me.  I understand, you know.”

                Stiles stops and looks suddenly pained.  She can see it in his eyes.  “It’s okay sometimes. I mean most times it’s just kind of in the background, like something just on the edge of your vision.” He pauses and she nods in agreement.  An exact description.  “But then sometimes it’s so strong, I just feel like everything will get swallowed up.  Like it’s just me and this mass of darkness.  Like everything around me, my dad, you, Scott, Lydia, Derek, Isaac, you’ve all been swallowed up and I’m alone in the darkness.  I don’t sleep much.  Matter of fact until last night I tended to get three or four hours and then had to be up and doing something else.  Anything else.”

                Allison feels her heart swell at the pain in his voice.  “You’re not alone, Stiles.  You know that.” She squeezes his hand.  “Have you talked to Lydia?”

                He blinked.  “Yeah, a little.  It helps some.  She’s got a lot going on with Aiden and the whole learning about being a banshee though.”

                Allison frowned at that.  Maybe she would have a talk with Lydia later.  It wasn’t fair for Stiles to go through this alone. “You can always talk to me.”

                He brightened a little.  “Thanks, Allison.”

                “Anytime.”

                They started walking again. He looked over at.  “You think you could teach me that whole move silently thing?” 

                Allison smirked.  “Anything’s possible.”

 

                Morrel settled at her office.  She didn’t have another student for an hour.  Danielle, she recalled. She opened the girl’s file and started looking at it.  She shook her head as she tried to focus on the words in the file, but she found she couldn’t.  She kept hearing Stiles in her head.  The anger. And he had every right.  She knew that.  The horror of the last year was still with her.  She tried to reign the alpha pack in,  tried to get Deucalion to back down and succeeded many times, but they were true monsters.  Killing their progeny for power.  And she had been a part of them.

                “Dining on ashes?”

                Morrell jumped.

                Stiles stood in her office. She hadn’t heard him come in.  He gave her an appraising look through black rimmed glasses.  She blinked.  He hadn’t been in glasses before.  And his clothes were different, a corduroy blazer, a messenger bag, nothing she had seen on Stiles fifteen minutes ago.

                Her stomach clenched.  She started to jump up. He waved his hand and she felt an invisible weight sit her back into her chair.  Her eyes widened. 

                Stiles closed the door and sat down across from her.  He pulled a small box out of the messenger bag, black, no bigger than an Ipod and sat it on her desk.  “White noise generator, to give us privacy from all those prying alpha ears out there.”

                “You’re the one.”  She said.

                He nodded. 

                “You attacked Deaton.  He’s in a coma.”

                “It’s a sleeping spell.  Nothing more.  He’ll be awake and good as new in four days. “

                Her head raced at all the ways that could be broken earlier.  Good.  Maybe she could even reason with Stiles and get him to break it.  Get him to see that what he was doing was insane.  “You traveled back here from the future.”

                He nodded again; he looked at the books on her bookshelf absently.  “Yes, your brother already told me it was insane and the consequences, well I know about those too.”

                Morell stopped at that.  .  “Why?  The price is so high.”

                Stiles took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes, it was only then that she saw how much older he was.  “Because the future is bleak.”

                “What do you mean bleak, Stiles?”

                He sat back, looking at her with eyes weary from age and pain and things she couldn’t read.  “There’s a darkness coming.  We weren’t ready. We were too distracted by all the funerals.  All the dead friends.”

                “Someone’s going to die.”

                He shook his head.  “No.  They’re not.”

                “So you travelled back in time to save someone, Scott perhaps, from dying horribly here and preventing the future.”

                He put his glasses back on.  “Something like that.”

                “And what part do I play?  I assume you came here to remove me from the equation, like you removed my brother.” 

                “Your brother was connected to the nemeton,  he’s also still got his alpha.  He’s more tuned into the natural world right now.  He would have made it his mission to stop me and Scott’s.”

                “What you’re doing is against nature.”

                “I know.”  He said softly.

                “Your presence here changes everything.  Not just the death you want to stop.  Everything.  It may alter things so much that you cease to exist.”

                Stiles looked at her, she felt herself sit back under the gaze.  “Do you ever regret what you did?”

                She took a sharp breath.  She starts to say something. She starts to defend herself.  But something in his eyes stops her.  His tone isn’t like the other one.  No anger, no accusation.  “Every day.”

                He nods.

                “But I wouldn’t go back, not like you have.”

                “No, it wouldn’t do any good.  It took us years to find the nexus point.  Well, to confirm the nexus point.  I suspected it all along.  The spell has a great cost you know, not just to me but to those who help cast it.”

                Her face pales slightly.  “Deaton.”

                Stiles nods again, a sad expression on his face.  “We were the last ones fighting the darkness.  Everyone else is…  This is all we have left.”

                She swallows. Her senses tell her he is telling the truth.  “So you’re here to put me to sleep like Deaton?”

                “No.  I’m here to ask you to leave for a few days.  Until this is over. Leave your books here and do nothing.  “

                Morell stands, she finds herself shaking as her awareness is peppered with the power coming off of Stiles, the energy, the ripples.  The sacrifice he’d made.  The sacrifice her brother had made somewhere in a future long from now. 

                “It’s your choice.” 

                She nods.  Stiles stands, picks up the device and turns to leave.

                “Stiles.”

                He pauses as he opens the door.

                “Be careful.”

                And with that he is through the door.  She frowns and looks at her tomes in the bookshelf.  She pulls them out and onto her desk.  She makes her choice.

 

                Stiles and Allison walk out the back of the school toward its main parking lot.  He sees Derek and Chris Argent.  Argent is standing in a way that Stiles always thought appeared casual to the unsuspecting,  no one would no how fast the man could react.  Derek was crouched and leaning against one of the school’s brick signs.  The two men were watching them walk up.  Derek was watching him with what Stiles had learned was concern and something else he didn’t recognize.  His patented scowl was nowhere to be seen.  Stiles didn’t know if that was good or not.

                As they walked up he caught a look pass across Chris Argent’s face.  He took a couple of steps forward and Derek was suddenly there as well. 

                “Sorry to pull you out of class, Stiles, but we need to ask you some questions. “  Argent began.

                Stiles shrugged. It was apparent that the universe had no plans for Stiles to learn Spanish today and he figured he should just accept that and move on.  “S’okay.  I’ll just rosetta stone it later.  What’s up?”  He looked from Argent to Derek and back. 

                “When I picked you up last night you were gathering samples from the nemeton.  You had me drop you at Deaton’s.  Did anything happen when you were there or did he say anything to you?”

                Stiles looked from Argent to Derek to Allison and back.  “Do what?  I haven’t seen Deaton for a few days.”

                Argent’s expression looks annoyed, border of irritation. “Stiles, I picked you-“

                “He’s not lying.”  Derek interrupted.

                Stiles could see the puzzlement on both their faces. Still he was thankful for the wolf lie detector for the for the second time this morning.

                Argent’s eyes narrowed and he stepped forward stopping with his own face inches from Stiles.  Stiles gulped but froze.  He watched Argent’s eyes back and forth across his face before stepping back.

                “You don’t have contacts on, where’s your glasses.”

                “Stiles doesn’t wear glasses.”  Allison and Derek said at the same time and then looked at each other awkwardly for a moment.

                “Yeah, what they said.”

                Argent frowned.  “But you were wearing glasses. You had on a corduroy blazer and you carried a large messenger bag…”

                Stiles snorted.  “My god who carries messenger bags anymore?  And a corduroy blazer?  What am I a college professor?”

                Argent looked at Derek and Allison.  “A double?”

                “Did I have a goatee?”  Stiles asked.

                “What?  No.”

                “Evil doubles have goatees.” 

                Allison and her father looked at Stiles like he’d grown a new head.  Derek was frowning though Stiles could see a small smirk on his lips, oh my god he got the reference.  That was new.

                “Never mind.”  He said.  “So there’s someone running around here like me?’

                “It could explain Scott’s behavior.”  Allison said.  “If this other version smell s anything like you then he’d think it was you.”

                “Hey- I don’t smell.”

                Derek rolled his eyes.  Allison frowned slightly.  Argent looked like he might be about to face palm. 

“Everyone has a scent, Stiles.”  Derek said.

Stiles blinked. He knew that he supposed.  Scott used to say he could smell Allison sometimes. Stiles always thought that was kinda rude.  He  stopped that train of thought and moved to the double thing.  Weird.  Creepy.  “So my other self, clone, doppelganger or twin from another universe is here and he went to Deaton’s and took him out.  But he left you alone?”  he looked at Argent.

Argent nodded.  “Yes.  And that is odd now that you point it out.”

Stiles shrugged.  “Maybe you aren’t a threat.” 

He caught the glower on Argent’s face.  Nerve hit.  Allison was looking wide eyed at the ground and Derek, damn him, was trying his best to conceal some fairly obvious amusement.  “ I mean- uh- maybe he doesn’t think you’re a threat because Deaton’s a druid.”

The expression softened and he shrugged.  “Maybe.”

“We should probably check on Ms. Morell.”  Allison put in.

“I think Stiles and I are meeting her after school.”  Derek said.

“Right- “and panic hit Stiles.  Derek heard that.  Which meant Derek had in fact heard all of it.  His angry rant to the guidance counselor.  He cleared his throat. “Yeah, we got it covered.”

Allison was looking at the ground again and Derek had raised an eyebrow at him, but nothing more.  Argent gave nothing away. Bastard. 

“All right,” Argent said.  “I’ll see if I can find anything about this sort of things from the hunters network and get back with you.  Allison, you should tell Scott.  Someone should probably be with Stiles in the meantime, in case the doppelganger decides he wants to take Stiles’ place.”

Derek nodded in agreement.

Stiles gulped.

               

                Lydia blinked.  She was looking at a blue faded stone wall.  The heavy smell of chlorine was in the air.  The gentle splashing of water was nearby. She took a breath.  The last thing she remembered was walking to English right after Math.  This wasn’t English.

                She sniffed again. There was another smell.  She recognized it. Its coppery scent had sadly become so familiar to her.

                She slowly turned around.  Her eyes fell on a pile of bodies next to the swimming pool and she screamed. 

                The scream echoed all over the pool, the glass windows high at the top of the walls vibrated with her wail.  She kept screaming at the horror before her by instinct alone.

                The crash of the gymnasium doors opening interrupted her symphonic trance and she stopped and turned.

                Derek Hale charged through the external doors with Stiles right behind him.  Allison and Chris Argent followed them in immediately. 

                The doors from the school burst open a moment later. Scott, Isaac, Aiden and Ethan rushed in.

                All of their eyes fell on the pile of bodies by the pool.

                “What’s going on?” Scott growled.

                Lydia blinked.  “The swim team are dead.”

                “Someone skinned them.” Isaac stated the obvious.

                All eyes focused on the bodies, no skin, boys and girls piled into a bloody pile at the pool’s edge.  Like carelessly discarded toys from an angry toddler.

                Chris Argent stepped up to the pool’s edge where Derek was kneeling and sniffing the air above the pool.  Lydia could see the werewolf’s blue eyes scanning the water.  “More like something.”  Argent said.

                Lydia watched Stiles step up to Derek’s other side.  His eyes flitted from Scott to Derek and to the water.  He looked different.  Tired, maybe more tired than she was used to seeing him. His eyes had dark circles under them and for a moment she was aware of how fragile he looked.  She hadn’t noticed before.

                There was a time when he would have charged to her side and made sure she was okay after she screamed. But not today.  She saw his concerned look for a moment, but then he looked away as she felt Aiden touch her arm.

                “You all right?” Aiden asked.

                She nodded.  “I’m all right.” She let him fold her into his strong arms. She felt safe and warm suddenly.  Then the water churned.

 

                Scott eyed the swimming pool and the bodies next to it.  Aiden was wrapping Lydia in his arms and pulling her back away from the water when it churned in front of him.  Off to the side, in his peripheral vision he caught Stiles flailing backwards, Derek backing up and keeping himself between Stiles and the pool.

                The water swirled, whipping faster and faster into a whirlpool. Scott growled and crouched.  Isaac flanked him on his right and the twins to his left.  His pack.  He glanced at Derek, Stiles, and the Argents.  Allison had pulled a small crossbow from her bag, Mr. Argent pulled a pair of forty-fives, and Derek was in full wolf form in front of Stiles. 

                Scott was satisfied with that.  He was feeling better now that he was in his alpha state. He’d talk to Stiles in a while. Right after they put whatever this was down.

                “McCall!!”  A voice wailed from the pool. Everyone in the room froze as a glowing blue figure rose from the whirlpool.  Scott gasped, an action echoed by Stiles, Derek, Allison, Lydia and Isaac.

                Matt’s form floated above the water.  Head lolling to the side, glowing eyes roaming over all of them.  “Oh, look you’re all here, except Jackson I see, but then he’s the only one I’d spare. “

                He gestured and a fountain of water shot at Scott, he bounded out of the way as water hit the wall behind him.  He heard sizzling and a sudden acrid burn filled the air.  He glanced back and saw the brown and black spot where the water hit.  Don’t let it touch you. Noted.

                Matt gestured again, this time at Lydia.  The water fired out and impacted on Aiden’s back as he moved and shielded her.  He screamed in agony as the water burned into his clothes and flesh.  Scott growled.  This had to stop.  But how?  Scott wasn’t even sure what Matt was now.

                He saw movement to his left and saw Stiles walking out toward the pool fishing into his jacket pocket. 

                “Stiles!”  he and Derek growled at the same time.

                Matt sneered at him.  “What do we have here, the brave little boy with no abilities.  What are you gonna do?  Talk me to death?’

                Stiles had a small jar in his hand, top unscrewed and in the other hand.  “Nope.  Thought I’d try this.”

                Stiles slung the contents of the container through the air at Matt.  The grey ash hit Matt and he shrieked, clawing at his face and body wherever it hit him.  The water in the pool stopped spinning as the body fell back into it.  “I’ll kill you for that Stilinski!”  Matt shrieked as the waters bubbled and went silent.  Suddenly the pool looked just like an ordinary pool again.

                Scott rushed over to Stiles.  “That was awesome!  How’d you know that would work?”

                Stiles shrugged.  “I didn’t. Just thought most things don’t like mountain ash. Figured it was worth a try.”

                Scott frowned.  He heard a pained noise from Derek and glanced back at the man.  His expression was annoyed, but Scott could smell the worry on him.  He didn’t like that answer any more than Scott did.  “So you just took a chance on getting your skin boiled off?”

                “A little help?”  Ethan’s voice came from behind them. 

                Scott turned and saw Ethan and Lydia hovering over his brother.  Isaac and Allison were also at his side.  He could see Isaac and Ethan already taking pain from him as deep black lines raced through their veins.   He looked at Derek who was eyeing them with disdain.  Despite turning on the alphas Derek wasn’t fond of them, they were in Scott’s pack though, so he said nothing.  At least not yet.

                Scott sighed and walked over to Aiden, latching his own hand onto Aiden’s shoulder and letting the healing flow.  “We need to find out how to stop him.  Before he kills anyone else. “ He looked pointedly at Stiles and Chris Argent.  “Deaton’s in a coma, but we can ask Morrell if she knows what this is.  We should do some research and see what we can find out. “

                There were nods all around.  Aiden climbed to his feet.  His back looked awful but he was mobile and would probably be healed within the hour.  Ethan hovered as Lydia showered Aiden’s face with kisses and whispered thanks and sweet nothings that everyone but Stiles and the Argents could hear.  Stiles looked pained at the display for a second.  A reminder that she chose someone else. Again.  Scott thought.  His friend looked away, met Scott’s eyes for a moment and then looked at the floor.

                Scott took a few steps forward to Stiles.  He looked up, blinked and backed into Derek.   Scott felt the pang from that.  His best friend was afraid of him and from what he did he understood.  But that wasn’t him. Stiles should have bounced back by now.  He wasn’t usually so fragile.

                Derek’s hand gripped Stiles’ good shoulder.  “It wasn’t Scott’s fault.  There was black wolfsbane everywhere in Deaton’s office. He wasn’t himself.  Someone did this to him.”

                Stiles and Scott blinked at the same time, they both looked at Derek. 

                “When did you find this out?  And why aren’t you affected?”

                Derek nodded at Chris Argent.  “I would have been, but he saw the powder and checked the place out. I would have been effected too if I had gone in.”

                Stiles and Scott both said “Oh.”  Which prompted Derek to roll his eyes. 

                “Scott wouldn’t hurt you on purpose.” Derek said to Stiles, “You know that. You two are best friends.”

                Scott saw Stiles nod and smile a bit.  He wasn’t sure what was more odd, the fact that Derek was peacemaking or that Stiles was listening to him.  He also couldn’t help but notice that Stiles was still backed against Derek and Derek hadn’t even tried to move away.  And it was then that Scott looked at Stiles, really looked at him, and saw the darkness.  His friend was paler than he had been, slight dark circles under his eyes and something in his eyes, just a glint of sadness.  Scott felt himself shake inside.  How had he missed that?

                “Yeah, Stiles, it wasn’t you I know that now.”

                Stiles looked at Derek and Chris Argent.  “Well, actually it was.”

                “What?”  he blinked and looked from Derek to Chris to Stiles.

                “Apparently I have a doppelganger?” Stiles said with a shrug.  “Mr. Argent met him.”

                Scott frowned.  This was weird, though it explained why the vet’s office might have had Stiles smell.  At least if his double had made an appearance there.   “So he attacked Deaton? Why?”

                “We don’t know.” Argent said.  “I gave him a ride to Deaton’s last night. So I know he was there.”

                Scott nodded.  At least his senses hadn’t been wrong about Stiles.  They just picked up on another Stiles.  “Hmm, well they definitely smell the same.”

                Stiles sputtered.  “I don’t smell.”

                The other werewolves all looked up and held their gazes on Stiles for a minute then looked away.  Stiles sputtered.

                “He has glasses.”  Argent told him.

                “But Stiles doesn’t wear glasses.” Scott said.

                Allison and Derek shared a look that Scott found disconcerting, more because he’d never seen them do that before than anything else. He caught Chris Argent raise his eyebrows.

                “Right, no glasses for Stiles.”  Stiles confirmed.

                “Stiles, did your mother wear glasses?”  Lydia asked from near Aiden.

                Stiles blinked, his chipper demeanor cracking for a second.  Scott heard his heart jump at the question.  He got an odd look as he turned to her.  “Yeah, to read and such.”

                Lydia frowned.  “So you might have to wear glasses when you get older.”

                Stiles nodded. “Yeah, I mean maybe---“

                Scott looked from Lydia to Stiles, Stiles eyes brightened and went wide.

                “Oh wow.”

                “What?”

                He looked at Lydia who nodded.  “I mean wow, that’s just crazy.”

                “What?”  everyone echoed.

                Stiles jumped and looked at all of them.  “Maybe it’s me from the future.”

                Scott felt himself staring at Stiles.  Derek was rubbing his hand over his chin.  Allison and her father looked at each other and back at Stiles.  The twins and Isaac were watching Stiles and looking at Scott and back again.  “So like Back to the Future?”

                Stiles shrugged.  “Maybe. I mean, maybe I build a Delorean time machine and come back here.”

                Scott started to say something but Isaac interrupted.  “Okay, but why? Why come back?  Doesn’t that change things?”

                “Like the Butterfly Effect.” Ethan said.

                Everyone looked at him. 

                “I wonder if there’s any way to do it with magic?”  Stiles mused.

                Chris Argent stepped up.  “Not that this isn’t all fascinating, but we are at a murder scene.  We should probably leave and call Stiles’ dad. “

                Scott nodded.  “All right, start researching and keep your eyes open. “

                Everyone started moving.  The twins and Lydia headed back into the school.  Allison said something to her dad and she and Isaac went back into the school.  Scott’s heart dropped a little, it always did.  Maybe one day it wouldn’t but not yet. Stiles and Derek hung back for a second, waiting on Argent to finish his call to the Sheriff. 

                “Maybe we should see about Morell?”  Stiles said to Derek.

                Scott watched Derek nod at him.  He walked up.  “I can come along.”

                Stiles nodded and smiled.  “All right, cool.  We’re the three musketeers!”

                “No.”  Derek said as they started walking into the school.

                Stiles frowned.  “The three amigos?”

                “No.”

                “What about the three caballeros?”

                Scott groaned and briefly missed the days when Derek would have smacked Stiles and told him to shut up.

               

                Derek shook his head as they walked down the hall toward Morell’s office.  Stiles had offered a dozen somewhat creative and ultimately groan-worthy  names for the three of them.  A year ago Derek was fairly sure he would have pinned Stiles to a wall and told him to shut up.  Now he sort of found himself enjoying the chatter.  Well maybe not the chatter itself, but the familiarity of it.  It felt normal. 

                “Oh my god Stiles, we are not the Terrific Trio!”  Scott groaned.

                “Yeah, sounds like a bad comic book.” Stiles admitted. 

                “We don’t need a nickname.”  Scott returned. 

                “Nicknames are cool. “

                Derek felt relief wash over him as they got to Morell’s open office door and then he caught the scent and froze.  Stiles crashed into him muttering an apology.

                “What is it?”  Scott asked.

                Derek turned slightly and looked at Stiles.  “When you talked to Morell before, were you in her office?”

                Stiles blinked.  “Uh, no we were in the hall, down there.”  He pointed. “Uh… why?”

                “Because your scent is in the office, and it’s recent.”

                Scott barged past Stiles and stepped in, inhaling.  He locked eyes with Derek.  “The double?”

                Derek frowned. “Probably.”  He sniffed the air.  “Might be a trail.”

                Scott sniffed the air and nodded.  “I’ll go.  Stay with Stiles.  In case it’s a trick.”

                “You should get Isaac.”

                Scott grinned.  “I’ll be fine. As someone used to say. ‘I’m an alpha.”

                Derek winced at the words as Scott took off down the hall. He really had said that a lot.  He sighed and walked into the office, Stiles stopping at the door.

                “So is that a catchphrase that comes with the job?”  Stiles asked.

                Derek scowled at the question and shook his head.  “Maybe?”

                “It would explain a lot.” 

                Derek fought the urge to mutter and busied himself with looking around Morell’s office.  There was no sign of her.  But her books were still here.  One was open on her desk.  That seemed a little odd.  Derek crouched and stalked over to the book.  He sniffed the air.  Nothing odd or out of the ordinary. He stood up and turned.  Stiles watched him from the door, his expression worried and cautious.  Derek nodded and he walked in.

                Derek looked around the office as Stiles picked up the open book.

                “Huh.”

                Derek raised an eyebrow. 

                “It’s open to a section on water spirits.”

                Derek’s stomach jolted.  He walked over and peered over Stiles’ shoulder.  The script described water nymphs.  “I don’t think he’s a nymph.”

                “He’s an evil ass, definitely not a nymph.  But I should be able to find something in here.  Think she’ll mind if we borrow it?”

                Derek shrugged.  After the Alpha pack Morell’s feelings weren’t high on his list of things to worry about. “Better to ask forgiveness.”

                Stiles smiled mischievously.  “I live by those words.”

                “I’ve noticed.”

                Stiles snorted.  He picked up the book and tucked it under one arm.  They walked out of the office as the PA system announced that students needed to remain in their classrooms for the time being due to a spill at the pool.

                Derek and Stiles traded a look.  “I think your dad is here.”

                Stiles nodded.  “We should—“

                “Stiles!” 

                Sheriff Stilinski was coming down the hall, he stopped at the two of them, pointing at the swimming pool doors at the far end and turning to the two deputies with him.  “Secure the area, I’ll be in to take Mr. Argent’s statement in a moment. “  He got two “yes, sirs.”  He waited until they were almost to the pool and then turned back to his son and Derek.

                “Are you okay?”

                Stiles nodded.  “Lydia found them.  It was Matt.”

                Sheriff Stilinski blinked.  “You already know who did it?”

                “Yeah, he’s a ghost or something.”

                The Sheriff looked at Derek for a moment who just nodded.  He heard the sigh clearly. 

                “There are ghosts now?”

                Stiles shrugged.  “Yeah, it’s just a cornucopia of fun in Beacon Hills. “

                The Sheriff frowned.  “Go home.”  He eyes the book under Stiles arm.  “I assume that has some sort of answers.”

                “We hope.” Derek put in.

                “All right.  Does this have anything to do with why Scott attacked you?”

                Stiles shook his head.  “No, that’s different we think.”

                The Sheriff just looked at Stiles expectantly. 

                “We think that was because a double of me came back in time to do something.”

                Derek watched the Sheriff’s face blank.  The man  took a deep breath and rubbed his hand over his face.  He was taking this remarkably well since he’d only been in the know on the supernatural for a short time.  Derek wasn’t even sure what to make of the time travel theory.  It made sense; it just seemed on the edge of impossible. Even for them.

                “Are you in danger?”

                Stiles started to say something and then stopped himself.  “I, uh well, he might try to take my place so maybe?  I mean he wouldn’t hurt me or anything I think, since he’d hurt himself by doing that.  Can’t kill yourself in the past without killing yourself in the process.”

                The sheriff’s face had one of those looks like he was trying to process all that.  He slowly nodded and looked at Stiles for a long moment.  Then he turned to Derek.  “So you’re watching over him?”

                Derek blinked.  Stiles looked at him too.  “I can do that.”

                “Good, I’ve got the late shift, I won’t be home til sometime in the morning.  If you don’t mind to stay.”

                Derek nodded affirmative, even though he wasn’t sure what to think.  He’d gone from being arrested for murder to being asked to watch the Sheriff’s son.  It was quite a transition.  Not a bad one, by any means, but he didn’t know what to think.  He saw Stiles smirk slightly and then look back at his father.

                “If you’re about to tell me you’ll be fine alone—“

                Stiles held up his hands.  “Whoa, dad. I got attacked in my room last night, it’s not like I could make that argument fly if I wanted to, I was just going to tell you not to worry.”

                The sheriff frowned.  “I always worry, you’re my son.”

                Derek felt a pang in his chest.  He envied Stiles this.  Family was a precious commodity.  Derek hadn’t heard that phrase in years.  Not since before the fire and Kate Argent.  At least he had Cora.  Peter counted too, he supposed, though he wasn’t sure how much.  Derek watched Stiles’ father pull him into a quick hug and part.  He focused on Derek again.

                “Thank you.” 

                Derek just nodded again.  “My pleasure, sir.”

                The Sheriff nodded at that and headed off toward the swimming pool.  Stiles turned back.

                “Sorry.”

                Derek frowned and started walking toward the school entrance, Stiles kept pace.  “For what?”

                “You having to babysit.”

                “It’s all right.  We’ll be researching whatever Matt is anyway.”

                “Yeah, but you’d probably rather be doing other things.”

                Derek pushed the school doors open.  “Why do you say that?”

                Stiles shrugged. 

                “Stiles.”

                “I don’t know.  I guess it seems like everyone has better things to do most of the time.”

                “Even Scott?”

                Stiles blinked at that.  “He’s been different.  Busy with the whole Alpha thing and Deaton.  I think he talks to Allison’s dad a lot too.”

                Derek grunted at that.  He opened the Toyota with his key fob and moved around to the driver’s seat.  “I don’t mind, Stiles.  If I didn’t want to I wouldn’t.  You should know that by now.”

                Stiles smiled a little at that.  He was a mix of emotions.  On the one hand he was like his old self, crazy, jabbering, smiles and nonsense and then he was lonely, and almost sad.  Derek hadn’t seen this side of him much.  Glimpses since he came back.  The darkness around the heart.  That’s what Scott had said.  He’d also been told about the anchors. Lydia seemed noticeably absent; maybe that was why he was having a hard time.  And truthfully Derek didn’t mind.  He was actually curious about Stiles now.  After what he’d said to Morrell and more to the point how he’d said it, Derek honestly hadn’t know how much Stiles cared. Maybe Argent was right.  Maybe they were friends.

                “I’m going to stop at my apartment and pick up some things.”

                Stiles just nodded.

 

                Scott trailed the scent out into the forest.  It was strong and clear and lead right into a clearing where an envelope sat on a small stump.  Scott froze and sniffed the air.  The trail stopped here.  Something that shouldn’t be possible.

                Scott shifted and his vision went to the infrared.  It wasn’t as useful in the day but he was mostly trying to see if he could find a person nearby.  There was nothing.  He crouched by the envelope and sniffed.  He looked around for any powder of any kind.  He picked the envelope up and opened it. 

                He pulled out a small slip of paper. He recognized the handwriting as Stiles.  It was eerie.  “Nemeton.  Midnight.  Come alone.”

                He frowned.  Going alone seemed like a bad idea.  But this was Stiles, wasn’t it?  A future version of his best friend.  He could trust him, surely.  Besides he needed to know what was going on and if any of this was connected to Matt.  There was an explanation for Deaton.  There had to be.  Maybe he could even get Stiles to reverse whatever had been done.  But probably not, if he didn’t go alone.

                Looks like he’d be sneaking out tonight. His dad had been a particular pain since returning.  Always in Scott’s business, like his sudden appearance and wanting a relationship made up for the past few years.  He felt himself growling and stopped.  It wouldn’t do any good. 

                He needed to head back to school and check in with Stiles and Derek and go by to see Deaton when school was out.  He shoved the piece of paper in his pocket and headed back.

 

                Stiles jumped out of the car and trailed Derek to the door of the condo.  It was a nice complex, urban in feel but not too far from the school and the suburbs like the loft had been.  Stiles wasn’t surprised he moved.  After everything he went through there, it probably contained more ghosts than he would want to live with.

                Derek unlocked the door and walked in.  Stiles took a couple of steps in and stopped at the door.  He blinked and looked around.  There was a huge living area with a couch, a couple of chairs and tables with lamps on them.  A large television hung on one of the walls with shelves under it containing electronics.  He could see a table and chairs in the kitchen, just to the right of the living room.  It looked spacious and modern. 

                “Are you going to come in or just stand in the door?” Derek asked from where he was standing in the living room.   He was looking at Stiles with what Stiles read as amusement.

                Stiles took a step in and closed the door then strode out into the living room.  It looked like furnishing by Ikea, but compared to the Spartan state of Derek’s last three homes this was a quantum leap in evolution.  “Wow, dude, this place is amazing.”

                Derek actually smiled which was kind of weird.  “I’m going to grab a few things and a shower.  Make yourself at home.”

                Stiles nodded and walked over to the couch and entertainment area.  He looked over at the blu rays stacked neatly on one of the shelves.  He had to go look.  He heard the shower kick on and figured it was okay to snoop a bit.  They were out in the open anyway and he had been told to make himself at home.  He shrugged off his coat and laid it on the couch as he knelt down.  Star Wars.  The Dark Knight Trilogy, The new Star Treks, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Avengers.  Stiles was impressed.  Derek was a closet geek.  He also had a movie called Into the Wild that Stiles had heard of but never seen and Gladiator, which wasn’t all that surprising. 

                He stood up and walked over to a painting on the far wall.  His phone buzzed.  He fished the phone out and checked it.  A text from Scott.

                “Are you okay?  Got back to school.  You were gone.”

                He tapped the keys. “Fine.  Dad sent me home.”

                “Alone?”

                “Dad asked Derek to stay with me.”

                There was nothing for a good minute.  Stiles looked at the painting.  It looked like some of the preserve out by Derek’s old home.  The leaves looked like fall.  It was vivid and colorful. Stiles recognized the stream in it and the bridge, where Matt had been drowned.  He cocked his head to one side and thought about that.  Ghosts and their place of death. That was a thing.  He’d have to check the book for that, but something was turning in his head.  This could be a key.  His phone buzzed.

                “Why?”

                Stiles blinked. There had been a good five minutes since the last text and he tried to imagine what took so long.   He knew Scott well enough to know this was a fuming thing, though he wasn’t sure what he was fuming over.  “Because you weren’t there?”

                “I was chasing the trail!  You guys didn’t even wait.” 

                Stiles blinked at that.  He supposed they should have waited and felt a little guilty for leaving Scott behind.  Scott was also probably feeling guilty about the attack and overcompensating, which he tended to do.  “Sorry. You can come over later if you want.”

                Stiles went into the kitchen and looked at the counters, appliances and refrigerator. Stainless steel and very modern,  soo much better than what he and his dad had at home.  It was very nice.  He opened one of the cabinets to find it bare.

                “Haven’t got to the dishes yet.”

                Stiles squawked and leaped a good foot in the air.  He spun around.  Derek was leaning against the counter. He’d changed into a blue v neck T-shirt and black jeans.  He was watching Stiles and eyes twinkling in definite amusement.  “Jesus, Derek!  I swear I’m going to make all my friends wear bells. No wonder you’re a Batman fan.”

                Derek blinked.  He glanced over at the television.  “Who isn’t?”

                “True that.  Your place is awesome.  Not at all minimalist like your last couple. “

                “I thought I’d try something new.”

                Stiles nodded.  “I approve, for whatever that’s worth. “

                The edges of Derek’s mouth twitched ever so slightly.

                “But we gotta get you some dishes. “

                “Yeah---“

                “I mean people will want to eat off plates and you’ll need something to cook in for all your hungry visitors.”

                “You’re my first visitor.”

                Stiles stopped and looked at Derek.  His phone buzzed.  “Sorry.”   He fished it out again. 

                “I’ve got dinner with Dad tonight, probably shouldn’t cancel it since you’re well protected.”

                Stiles blinked at the text and tried to read between the lines.  Scott would use any excuse to stay away from his dad.  Surely he wasn’t jealous, but that’s what was coming to Stiles mind.  “Stop pouting. Come by if you want.”

                He looked up at Derek who had his patented raised eyebrow expression.  Stiles had gotten pretty good at reading the mysterious  Derek Hale over the past year.  Eyebrows were a language on the man’s face, everything having a meaning.  “Scott’s butt hurt because we didn’t wait for him at school.”

                “Ah.”

                Stiles shrugged and walked over to the entertainment console again and pulled out Star Wars.  He looked back at Derek.  “You have watched these right?  They aren’t for decoration.”

                Derek glowered at him. “Of course I’ve seen them.  I just wish they had the original versions in there and not the super cgi edited ones.  Han shot first.”

                Stiles blinked.  He felt his heart leap.  “Oh my god, you’ve just gotten cooler with three words.”

                Derek rolled his eyes.  “Just like that huh?”

                Stiles nodded.  “Yeah…”

                He thought for a second and texted Scott.  “Hey, did you ever watch Star Wars like you said?”

                Derek walked over and picked up a duffle.  “Ready?”

                Stiles nodded.  His phone buzzed.

                “Not yet. I’ve been busy.”

                Stiles sighed.  “I think I figured something out thanks to your painting,” he motioned to the wall. “I just need to look some stuff up.”

                “Laura painted that.  It was in a restaurant downtown. I asked them if I could have it back. Offered to buy it, but the owner just gave it to me.  It’s nice to have something to remind me of her.”

                Stiles felt a lump in his throat.  That was the only thing missing here.  Pictures of family.  Derek’s entire life had reset in that fire and then his sister was murdered.  He had Cora and Peter, but Cora had stayed in New York when Derek came back and Peter, well, Peter wasn’t around much, which Stiles was probably as thankful for as he imagined Derek was.  “It’s beautiful,” Stiles said, “she was really talented.”

                Derek nodded and looked at the painting wistfully and then at Stiles.  Something in his eyes was different when he locked his gaze on Stiles.  Like he was seeing Stiles differently.  He looked away after a moment leaving Stiles to wonder what that was about.  It didn’t look angry or hurt.  Just different.

                They headed for the door.

               

                Sherriff Stilinski opened the door to his house and the warm smell of cooking flooded his senses.  He could hear Stiles chattering in the kitchen. 

                “See, you need pans and stuff for cooking.  Otherwise you’ll just eat takeout or junk food all the time, which probably isn’t a big thing for your werewolf metabolism but still, healthy is better. “

                “Yes, I see that.  I told you I just haven’t stocked up on anything yet.  I was planning to go today but then—“

                “Evil water ghost.  Yeah, that happens. Here anyway.  Hey Dad!  You staying for dinner?”

                Jon winced and walked around the corner. His son was at the stove cooking while Derek was sitting at the kitchen table watching.  He walked over to peer at the pans.  Pasta and chicken parmesan it looked like. “I’ll stay.  Everything all right?”

                Stiles nodded and continued to stir. He shot over to the toaster oven, grabbed a pot holder and pulled out a small pan of bread and started brushing butter onto it.   “I’m teaching Derek to cook.”

                Derek frowned.  “I can cook.”

                “Hot pockets and cans of soup don’t count.”

                Derek grunted something Jon couldn’t hear and Jon chuckled.  His son seemed lively again, which was nice for a change.  He’d watched his son be a shadow of himself for the last few months.  His personality coming out in small doses.  Mostly he just looked exhausted and a little sad.  Jon had been worried.  He knew from the times he was home that Stiles wasn’t sleeping a lot,  two or three hours at best.  And it was all because of what the trio had done to save their parents.  It made Jon sick to think about it.  He was grateful, but he had watched the toll it took on his son and he didn’t want to think about how much the way Stiles looked reminded him of how his wife had looked in the months that lead up to her death.  Until this morning, when he’s slept the entire night thanks to Derek.  This made Jon wonder a lot throughout the day.  He looked at Derek, who was staring at him with a quizzical expression.

                Jon’s stomach sank a little, suddenly remembering during Stiles lengthy debriefing that werewolves are very good at picking up people’s moods. Super senses was what Stiles had said.  Well, not really, he had listed all the senses and then put super in front of them while smiling proudly.  He sighed and nodded towards the den.  He walked in and heard Derek getting up to follow him.

                When they were in the den and out of human earshot he turned.  Derek was watching him, eyes cool but evaluating, maybe a tinge of concern.  “Thank you again for this.”

                Derek blinked, whatever he’d been expecting it clearly wasn’t that. “It’s not a big deal.”

                Jon leaned in a little, trying to be quiet as his son’s hearing was not wolf level but astoundingly good.  “It might not seem like it, but believe me it is.  I feel guilty most nights when I have to work and leave him here.  Scott used to be over more, so it wasn’t so bad, but that’s not the case lately.  And now with the nightmares and him not sleeping—“

                Derek frowned and looked back in the kitchen.  “Nightmares?”

                Jon nodded.  “I figured he hadn’t said anything.  My son doesn’t let anyone know he’s hurting if he doesn’t have to.  He started that after his mother died and it just keeps going.  He’s especially bad at telling me things, like he doesn’t want to burden anyone.”

                Derek nodded his gaze was far away and Jon wondered if maybe Derek knew a little something about that as well.  “I didn’t know. I know he’s different though.”

                “Yes.  He hasn’t had a full night’s sleep in a couple months.  Until last night.”

                Derek snapped back to reality and his eyes widened slightly. “Oh.” He frowned. “Might be a side effect from the healing.”

                Jon shrugged.  “Could be.  Could be something else.  Anyway I appreciate you being here. He seems pretty much himself tonight and he must like you.  He only cooks for me.”

                Derek blinked at that.  He looked back at the kitchen and Jon could see the man was clearly surprised.  Truthfully, given Derek’s history, it didn’t seem like he had people doing things for him that often. 

                The doorbell rang.  Derek’s gaze shifted to the front door.  “Scott.”

                Jon blinked.  He nodded and walked over to the door, opened it and Scott was standing on the porch holding a dvd case.  Super senses at work.  Scott looked instantly sheepish under Jon’s gaze.

                “Scott.” He gave Scott his best fatherly look of concern.

                Scott looked at his feet.  “Sheriff.  Uh, hi.  I was just coming over to make sure Stiles was okay.”

                Jon didn’t move.  “You’re feeling better?  In control?”

                Scott winced and made eye contact.  “I am.  I should have told you last night.  I didn’t know what to say. I’m sorry.”

                Jon blinked.  Scott was different too, the old awkward Scott was still there, but there was strength there as well and nobility if that was the right word.  His gaze was intense and sincere.  “All right.  Derek said you weren’t yourself this morning. We thought it had something to do with Deaton.”

                Scott blinked at that.  “He did?”

                Jon was missing something but Scott was still a teenager, alpha or not, and teenagers were prone to all sorts of overreactions and assumptions.  Even the level headed ones like Scott.  “You can stay for dinner if you want. “

                Scott smiled his sheepish awkward grin that took Jon back to the boy’s elementary school days and nodded.  “That would be nice.”

                They walked into the kitchen where Derek was pouring pasta into the pasta strainer in the sink.  Stiles set the small table, adding a plate to the setting for three. He eyed the box in Scott’s hand and smirked.  “Star Wars, Scott?”

                Scott shrugged.  “I thought we could watch it, if you weren’t busy.  It’s the first one.  Allison said it has a funny alien in it.”

                Derek shot Stiles a look and went back to the pasta.  Stiles turned back to Scott with his mouth half open, looking at Scott like he’d said something insane.  “My approval of you and Allison is withdrawn.  Also it’s not the first one.”

                “But it has the number one. Also Allison and I aren’t together.”

                “I’m not going to be able to look at her at the next meeting.”  Stiles said, almost sadly.

                “Funny alien.” Derek muttered as he dished pasta onto plates.

                “But—“

                Jon walked over and clapped Scott on the shoulder.  “You should stop now. No sudden moves. I think you’ve agitated the nerds.”

                Derek and Stiles both shot him a look.  Stiles broke into a laugh.  Derek actually smiled.

                Stiles walked forward and guided Scott to the table.  “Don’t worry, I’ll teach you the ways of the Force.  I’ve got the whole set.  We’ll start with the real first one.”   

 

                The Sheriff left after dinner, heading back to the station to finish a long night.  Scott had felt a little more relaxed once dinner started.  Stiles had joked with him a bit more about Star Wars and he and Derek had traded a lot of commentary that he had no clue about, including Stiles talking about a tv show and new movie coming which had Derek’s rapt attention. 

                Scott didn’t know what to think.  He always knew Derek was more than the werewolf in the forest, but this was a surprising glimpse.  It was also odd that he and Stiles were getting along.  Scott didn’t know what to make of it, and he felt a twist of jealousy for a minute then stopped himself.  Stiles deserved friends and so did Derek.  It didn’t mean Stiles wasn’t his best friend.  He sighed at himself as he finished the meal and chided himself for being an idiot.  The Sheriff asked about Scott’s dad, which made him the center of attention for a few minutes as he talked about his dad being around and trying to get back into Scott’s good graces.  He expected the sheriff to say something, but he didn’t.  Derek looked like he wanted to, but also said nothing, though he expected that had more to do with the alpha thing than anything else.

                After dinner and the sheriff left they all climbed onto the couch for Star Wars Episode IV, which made no sense to Scott and he said as much, earning glowers from both Stiles and Derek in unison.  He sighed and sat back. 

                He was impressed.  “I can’t believe that was so good.”

                Stiles nodded sagely.  “Now you understand.  Also I feel better about you as a human being.”

                Scott shook his head and laughed. He checked the time.  It was eleven already.  “I should go.”  He had to get home so his dad would see him and then sneak out for his midnight meeting, but he kept that to himself. He hoped that was the right thing to do.  Maybe he should tell Isaac, just in case.  He was glad the night had been quiet.  Stiles hugged him goodbye and said he would text him after he figured out what to do as far as Matt, he was almost done with the druid cross-reference. 

                Scott made it home, ignored his father and slipped back out the window and headed to the nemeton.

                Scott moved into the clearing and eyed the stump warily.  He wasn’t sure he should be so close to it, despite everything it unnerved him.  The tug of the darkness was stronger here.  He felt off.  He sniffed the air.

                “Stiles.”  He said and turned.

                Stiles walked out into the clearing.  He looked much as Chris Argent had described.  The glasses, the jacket and the messenger bag.   He stopped at the base of the nemeton.  “Scott.”  He said.

                Scott closed the distance until he was only a foot away.  Probably foolish if this was a trap, but something told him it wasn’t.  He examined the man in front of him.  Stiles still looked young, but there were some signs of age around his eyes and mouth.  But his oldest feature was the eyes themselves.  They reminded Scott of Deaton or the Sheriff.  Eyes that had seen so much.   A reminder that this wasn’t the Stiles he knew.  “You wanted to meet?”

                Stiles nodded.  “I figured you had questions, and I figured you had enough going on with Matt. I should put your mind at ease.”

                Scott eyed him.  He took a deep breath.  “Why are you here?”

                Stiles sighed.  “You’ve probably worked out to save someone or prevent something by now.  I’m sure Lydia and the now version of me worked it out.”

                Scott nodded.  “Do you remember that?”

                Stiles blinked at him and pushed his glasses onto his nose.  “It comes in bits and pieces.”

                “So who dies?”

                Stiles looked at him.  “My father dies tomorrow night.”

                Scott gasped.  “Oh, Stiles.”

                He nods.  “Everything dominoes after tomorrow.  I came back to stop it.”

                Scott took a deep breath.  He couldn’t imagine what he would do if their places were reversed. “So the rest of us helped you?”

                Stiles laughed, but it was bitter, not like his friend at all.  “Scott, there are no others left.  Just me and Deaton, trying to fight nightmares.”

                Scott stared at him.  It wasn’t a lie.  But how could that be?  “All of us?”

                Stiles frowned.  “It wasn’t all at once. Over time though. “

                “Allison?” he asked.

                Stiles just nodded.  “You were together after Isaac was killed.  You were even happy for a while.  But that wasn’t in the cards for us.”

                Scott felt cold for the first time in ages.  He got to be with Allison but Isaac died.  The implications of the rest, Derek, the twins, Lydia, probably Chris Argent and Morell.  All gone.   “All because of your dad?”

                Stiles glared at Scott.  “What do you think? I didn’t have anyone else.”

                Scott raised his hands. “You had me, you had Derek, Isaac?”

                “Derek. I didn’t even realize who he was until he was gone.  I treated him like crap.” Scott could hear the guilt and grief in his voice.

                Scott blinked.  That didn’t make any sense.  He frowned.  “It doesn’t seem like it to me, at least not now.  We just watched Star Wars together tonight.  All three of us.”

                The other Stiles looked surprised.  “What?”

                Scott watched the thoughts racing across his friend’s face.  “So that never happened?”

                Stiles shook his head.  “No.”

                “But how?”

                “Ripples.”  Stiles sighed.  “It was part of the risk. I was never here in the beginning.  I never had to take out Deaton.  I never had to make Morell leave.”

                “You didn’t make me go primal and hunt down the source of the disturbance.”

                Stiles looked at Scott. “What?”

                “When Deaton looked for the cause, he said your name.  I woke up with a broken nose on your floor with Derek between us.”

                Stiles’ mouth had the edge of a smile.  “That is also new.”

                “He’s still there, per your dad’s request.”

                Stiles knelt down and traced a finger along one of the nemeton’s roots.  “Good.  Then maybe it will turn out differently.”

                Scott took a step forward.  “Stiles, let me help you.  Tell me what to do.  I don’t want your dad to die.”

                Stiles blinked and looked up at him.  “Scott, you have to fight Matt.  You have to stop him.  That’s what you have to do. “

                “But—“

                “That can’t change!” Stiles stood up suddenly.  He was inches from Scott.  Scott smelled the odor and winced.  He took a step back.  It was like something was dying.

                Scott’s eyes widened as he looked at his friend.  “Stiles, are you—you smell sick?”

                Stiles took off the glasses and rubbed his nose.  He chuckled.  “Cat’s out of the bag.  I’m dying Scotty.”

                “What?”

                Stiles shook his head.  “The power to send someone back in time is a measure of last result.  The spell requires the life of the caster and the one sent back, well their life force bleeds out of them.  I’ve got a few weeks at best.”

                “Oh, Stiles.”  Scott blinked.  He felt suddenly sad beyond measure.  “You and Deaton?  Both? It was that bad?”

                Stiles nodded.  “We didn’t have any other options. “

                Scott stepped forward and hugged Stiles.  He felt his friend stiffen at the contact.  It took a moment for him to relax.  “I don’t want you to die, even if you’re the older you.”

                Stiles laughed and returned the hug.  “I know, Scott.  I appreciate that.  I do.  But what I want is for all of you to live.  If I change things enough, then the future I’m from won’t come to pass.”

                Scott let him go.  “Sounds like it’s already different.”

                “Let’s hope.  I should go.”

                “Stiles, what about your dad?”

                He looked right into Scott’s eyes.  “Scott, you’re my best friend and I know you wanna save everyone, but you have to trust me this time.”

                Scott eyed Stiles.  “Tell me how to cure Deaton and I will.”

                Stiles sighed.  “He’ll be asleep for five days unless woken by true love’s kiss.”

                Scott blinked.  “Seriously? Does he even have a true love?”

                Stiles turned and started walking away.  “Everyone has a true love, Scott, sometimes you just don’t realize it until it’s too late.”

                With that he vanished into the tree line and was gone.  For the briefest moment Scott considered going after his friend.  He’d listened to the man’s heart the entire time. He hadn’t lied.  Not once.  Scott sat down on the edge of the nemeton.  But he felt like he was missing something.  Something in all of those truths that he didn’t understand.  His phone buzzed.  He looked at it and saw the plan for dealing with Matt.  He nodded to himself.  That was something.  He looked off into the clearing.  “I hope you’re still on our side.”

 

                Derek watched Stiles texting out the plan for Matt. It had been so easy it was suspect.  He’d said as much and Stiles agreed as Stiles was every bit as paranoid as Derek was about things being too easy.  Also their lives didn’t seem to cut them breaks.  The only thing Stiles could say was Morell had literally left it open to the page they needed.  A parting gift.  Derek hoped they were that lucky.  After the texts he told Stiles to sleep, made sure he was settled and headed down to the couch, changed to a tank top and gray pajama pants and settled in for the night.

                Derek’s dreams were fitful, they always were. Images of people and things that often made no sense.  He had a brief dream of Star Wars and then the old Hale house preserve.  It was a bright sunny day and he was standing out on the old dock that he and his brothers and sisters used to run and jump into the clear lake in front of him.  He felt warm and content.

                “Derek.”  A voice rasped behind him.  Derek spun.  Stiles was on the edge of the dock.  He was gasping and wheezing for breath.  His eyes were full of fear and panic. 

                “Stiles?”  he moved forward as Stiles fell into the water.  He jumped after him and hit the cold water.

                Derek sat up blinking.  He could still hear the gasping and wheezing.  He blinked again cocked his head to one side.  Stiles.

                He bounded off the sofa to the base of the stairs.  His second leap took him to the top of the stairs and he ran into Stiles room. He flicked on the lights and Stiles was shaking and gasping on the edge of the bed.  He looked paler than Derek had ever seen him.  Derek ran forward kneeling at the bed.

                “Stiles?”

                “Can’t breathe.” He rasped between gasps.

                Derek fought a swell of his own panic.  He had no idea what to do.  He knew he had to get Stiles to breathe somehow.  He had to get him to focus, he just wasn’t sure what  he could do to make Stiles focus. 

                He grabbed Stiles by the arms gently.  “Stiles, look at me.  It’s okay.  Just breathe okay? I’m right here.”

                Stiles tried to focus on Derek but he couldn’t seem to.  Derek let his hands trace down Stiles arms until their hands were together.  He started rubbing circles on Stiles palms.  The breaths were ragged.  He leaned in and put his forehead on Stiles’ so their eyes were just an inch apart. 

                “I’m right here, Stiles.  You’re okay.  Just breathe.  It’s okay.”

                Stiles’ eyes were focused on Derek’s now.  The breaths were coming steadier as Stiles concentrated on inhaling and exhaling.  After a good minute of breaths Derek sat slowly back and listened to Stiles heart and breathing.  Both were normal now.  Derek felt shaky and took his own breath. 

                Stiles was watching him.  His face reddening as he looked at Derek then looked down at the floor.  “I’m sorry.”  He said.

                “For what?” Derek asked.

                “I should have a better handle on this by now.  I should be able to deal with it.”

                Derek watched the embarrassment creeping over Stile’s face.  He’d shown weakness, which was not supposed to be happen when you were a teenager.  Or an alpha.  He sighed at that life lesson. He hopped to his feet and sat next to Stiles on the bed. “Do you want to tell me what it was about?”

                Stiles kept looking at the floor.  “It was Matt, he was drowning all of us.  Everyone was dying, you, Scott, dad, Lydia, Allison,  all of us.  And everyone was screaming at me that it was my fault.”

                “Stiles, how could it be your fault?”

                He shrugged.  He was shaking.  Jesus was this every night?  “I can’t lose anyone again.” He whispered.

                Derek felt the words hit him in the gut.  He blinked at the emotion that played across his face.  He sometimes forgot about Stiles’ mother, not forgot, just didn’t think about it.  Stiles did know loss, just like Derek did.  He took a deep breath.  “I think that was the basis for everything I did.  Everything I’ve done since the fire.  I thought if I was powerful, strong and disconnected I could keep people safe.  I used to wake up from nightmares for years.  Laura would shake me awake every night as my family burned to death in a fire.”

                He looked over.  Stiles was watching him intently, he scooted closer until his leg and Derek’s touched.  “You know that wasn’t your fault.  None of it.”

                Derek met his eyes. “Neither was your mother.”

                Stiles blinked eyes widening at the piercing word Derek had spoken and looked away.  “I know.” He whispered.  “I just wish I believed it.”

                Derek could feel the honesty rolling off of Stiles.  “Same here.”

                Stiles met his eyes again.  They were wet with emotion.  “I’ve never told anyone that, not even Scott, or my dad.”

                Derek wasn’t sure why he did it, but he put his arms around Stiles and hugged him.  Stiles didn’t do anything for half a second before returning the hug, tightly wrapping his arms around Derek and pressing his face into Derek’s shoulder,  “Me either.”  Derek said.

                Stiles sniffled a little into Derek then raised his head.  “Sorry I woke you.”

                “I’m not.”

                Stiles sat back and looked at him.  Arms still around Derek.  His eyes watching Derek’s expression, studying it. 

                “You should go back to sleep.”

                “Not gonna happen. It’s just how this works.”

                Derek frowned then sighed.  “All right. Come on.” He let go of Stiles and headed toward the door.  Stiles fumbled after him. 

                “Where we going?”

                “I’m sure there’s something on television.”

                “Man, you don’t have to stay up with me.”

                Derek padded down the stairs and  into the kitchen,  he found the hot cocoa mix in the cabinet,  made two cups and brought them in where Stiles was watching an I Love Lucy rerun.  He handed a mug to Stiles and sat down.  Stiles held it in his hand and smirked.

                “So hot pockets and hot cocoa.  I’m impressed.”

                “Shut up, Stiles.”

 

                The house was dark when Sheriff Stilinski got home.  The reports on the swimming pool murders had been ridiculously detailed.  Especially since they had needed to be faked and written in such a way that no one would draw water ghost out of this incident.  Not that that was much of a worry.  Most people didn’t leap to that conclusion.  Chris Argent had been nice enough to come by and help with the drafts of the reports.  Hunters used keywords in searches that could trigger unwanted attention for Scott and the pack here in town.  Argent had perused the reports and helped reword them and even wrote a few to lend a hand.  As a result it was only three a.m.  when the Sheriff got home as opposed to much later. 

                He unlocked the door and carefully opened it, no creak or sound beyond the turning of the knob and a slight whine of the hinges.  Stiles wouldn’t hear it.  Derek was probably another story.  He stepped in and was greeted by a pair of glowing blue eyes in the hall.

                “Jesus!”

                Derek took a step forward and put a finger to his mouth. 

                Jon Stilinski was instantly offended and irritated all in one breath.  He had to stop himself from yelling at Derek.  Wolves and their creepy stalking abilities.  He thought Stiles had been exaggerating about Derek scaring the crap out of him all the time.  Now he knew.  “You scared the hell out of me.”  Jon hissed.

                Derek just looked at him.  “Stiles is asleep on the couch.” He whispered back.

                Jon nodded.  His heart was still beating like a drum but the words felt like a cool breeze.  It was three in the morning and his son was asleep.  But on the couch?  He motioned for Derek to follow him into the kitchen, then felt like an idiot since it was dark, then felt more like an idiot because Derek could see it and it wasn’t a waste after all. 

                He flicked on a night light.  It cast a small arc of light that pierced the darkness.  Jon could make out his son’s form on the couch.  He turned back to Derek who was leaning up against the counter. 

                “He had a panic attack.”  Derek said softly.  His eyes were looking past the sheriff and into the room beyond.

                Jon nodded.  “Yeah, he’s had a couple since all this started.  He can never calm down after them, let alone sleep.  I’ve had to stay up with him until school starts. How did you get him to let alone sleep?”

                Derek cocked his head to one side and shifted his gaze to the Sheriff.  He suddenly felt like he was being studied and weighed in the man’s eyes.  It was a little unnerving.  Derek wasn’t like Scott or the other werewolves in Beacon Hills, he was born a werewolf.  He remembered Stiles talking about Derek’s intensity before.  He had seemed a little less intense this afternoon. He was different tonight, protective and watchful.   After a moment he shrugged, “I just talked to him.  I made him hot cocoa?”

                Jon smirked.  “I’ll have to try that next time.  How did you know he liked it?”

                Derek sighed.  “I honestly remembered him talking about it one night.  He went on about the healing power of hot cocoa for a good fifteen minutes.  While we were being chased.” 

``             “You should hear the one on cookies.”

                “ I have, at least eight different kinds.”

                Jon smiled.  “Then you’ll have to hear about the other five still.”

                Derek just shook his head.  “I’m sure I will.”

                Jon studied the man for a minute, trying to read him.  “So, son, there’s one thing that puzzles me.”

                Derek raised his eyebrows.

                “He told me he thought you hated him.”

                Derek blinked.  He looked back out at Stiles with a concerned expression and then back at Jon.  His features softened.  “No.  I tried to scare him off, push him away to keep him out of harm’s way.  Not that that strategy does anything but send him racing right at you.”  Jon just nodded.  “And yes, he was annoying, persistent, always speaking his mind, never backing down.  He didn’t care that I was an alpha or a werewolf or anything else. He just pressed on, pushed me to be more than I was and expected so much out of me I thought I would strangle him.  I never hated him.  He’s actually one of the bravest people I know and he’s saved my life on more than one occasion.”

                Jon Stilinski blinked and felt his chest swell with pride.  “Thank you for saying that.”

                Derek shrugged. His eyes moving back toward the couch.  “He doesn’t sleep?”

                Jon shook his head.  “Not much.  Not since the sacrifice. But the past two nights he’s okay.  Did you heal him again tonight?”

                He looked back and shook his head.  “No.  Just talked.” 

                Jon watched the other man carefully.  So just the man’s presence was enough.  That was odd.  Or maybe it wasn’t.  Derek was larger than life, fierce, protective and probably the most misunderstood man Jon had talked to.  He wouldn’t have thought the man in front of him was any of those things.  After all he’d been through he could care about nothing or no one and who would blame him?  Yet here he was.  And somehow, more importantly, he made a lonely haunted young man feel safe.   “You should get some sleep.  I know I should.”

                Derek nodded and started toward the den. 

                “And Derek?”

                He stopped.

                “You’re a good man.  Your mother would be proud of you.”

                His shoulders sagged and he walked into the den. 

 

                Stiles woke up with a start.  He flailed a bit and looked around quickly to gather his bearings.  He was in the den on the couch, a pool of drool on one of the pillows.  He frowned at it in disgust, hopefully it would dry out.  He looked around.   Derek was in his father’s chair sound asleep.  He looked more peaceful than Stiles had ever seen him.  It was different.  Nice.  He also somehow looked perfect in the morning, which Stiles did find annoying.  A jagged bit of hair was visible jutting out over his own forehead, he puffed air at it.  It wiggled slightly but refused to budge.  He stood softly, careful not to make any noise and started for the stairs.  He stopped suddenly and looked back.  Derek was still asleep.  Also weird. He was sure Derek was going to be up and scaring the hell out of him with some ninja wolf move that would give Stiles another in a long line of heart attacks before the age of eighteen.   He shrugged and headed toward the stairs when he saw the clock.  Ten a.m.  “Oh crap.”

                He ran up the stairs to his phone.  There were fifteen texts with varying degrees of panic in them,  six from Scott who was leaving to check on him at lunch if he didn’t hear back soon.  Stiles smiled at that.  He shot him a text about the bad night and promised to meet up with the group at the Argent’s after school as they had planned.  Truthfully this probably worked out better as he needed to raid Deaton’s office and maybe wouldn’t be rushed. Plenty of time.  He texted everyone else that he was fine and showered. 

                When he made it downstairs he was surprised to see Derek was still asleep.  Course, Derek and his dad had talked in the kitchen for a bit,  Stiles had heard it.  Most of it.  He shook his head and smiled.  Part of him wondered if the once sour wolf had been replaced when he left town.  Maybe there were two dopplegangers?  Nah.  At least Stiles hoped not.  He walked into the kitchen, started coffee and looked in the fridge.  He started making breakfast and was humming to himself as he scrambled six eggs and cooked hash browns.  He caught a glimpse of Derek at the coffee pot. He raised an eyebrow.

                “So stealth mode doesn’t work in the morning?”

                Derek rolled his eyes.  “I didn’t want you to sling our breakfast all over the kitchen.”

                “I wouldn’t!”

                “Would.”  He grunted and sat down. 

                Stiles frowned.  “That’s a great comeback.  You’re witty in the morning too.”

                “And you’re sunshiney today.”

                Stiles blinked.  He supposed he was.  He felt good actually.  Better than yesterday which had been a staunch improvement over the last few weeks.  “Guess I am.”  He plated eggs and hashbrowns and put them on the table in front of Derek.  “You’re not a morning wolf.”

                Derek shot him a frown and took a bite of the eggs and hash browns.  “You’re quite the cook so I’m going to let that pass.”

                Stiles laughed and sat down across from him with his own plate.  He’d saved some for his dad, but wasn’t sure when he was getting up.  He shrugged to himself and dug in.  “So this plan…”

                Derek met his eyes.  “You mean the one left open on the desk for us?”

                “Yeah…. Figure it’s Morrell or the time traveling me.  I mean, I’d want to help right?”

                Derek frowned at his plate as he scooped more eggs up.  “Maybe.  He has his own agenda.  It would be better if we knew what it is.”

                Stiles nodded.  It was head warping, but he watched a lot of sci fi so he could wrap his head around it.  “Yeah, I mean I could be back for vengeance, to prevent the end of the world, or something else.  I wonder if I remember the lottery numbers.”

                Derek shook his head.  “If you were going to go back and change something what would it be?”

                Stiles stopped eating and thought about it.  “I don’t know. I mean there’s lots to consider.  Stop the wrong thing and it goes from bad to worse.  Stop your family’s home from being burned down?  Stop Scott from getting the bite.  Set Peter on fire while he’s in the hospital bed? Hit Jennifer Blake with a shovel the first day of English class?  Guess it would depend on what you wanted to change, or what you could change if you were just one guy.”

                Derek nodded. “So why here? Why right now?”

                Stiles shrugged.  “Matt?  Though he seems pretty much a done deal. I mean, granted turning him into a kanima so we can dispatch him is risky but doesn’t seem like anything crazier on the scale than anything else.”

                “We’re missing something.”

                Stiles shook his head.  “Aren’t we always?”

 

                Night was falling as Scott and the others joined Derek and Stiles at the bridge where Matt was drowned by Gerard.  Scott watched as Stiles pulled out a camera from his bag. He sat it down by the water’s edge.  Lydia and Allison moved over to join him.  Stiles handed Allison a sheet of paper and started giving her instructions.  He heard Isaac growl softly.  Scott didn’t like it either, but the spell called for an attachment or an anchor, something to pull Matt here. Something he couldn’t resist.  Matt’s obsession with Allison in life was almost certain to bring him here in death. 

                The next part was up to Stiles and Lydia, she was going to scream, which Scott never looked forward to, while Stiles recited the spell.  Scott wasn’t to clear on the how and the why but it would manifest him as what he last was on the mortal plane.  That was a part kanima.  If they were lucky it would be a half kanima, half dead guy, but Stiles had doubted they were going to be that lucky, as they never got lucky.  Scott agreed to a point.  But he’d already discussed strategy with the group.  Avoid the claws if possible should go without saying but he said it anyway.   The Argents were on ranged attack while the wolves got in close to put the threat down.  Scott knew he and Allison would be targets,  possibly Stiles and Derek. He’d contemplated hauling Gerard out in his wheelchair for bait, but figured Allison and her father might not approve.

                “Okay let’s do this!”  Stiles yelled.

                The wolves all shifted and crouched, spread out in five different directions so as to not present too tempting a target.  Chris Argent drew his pistols while Lydia and Stiles stood back from Allison. 

                Allison began reading out loud.  It was Latin so Scott had no clue, but he could see Lydia nodding as she spoke, silent approval of the pronunciation.  The air around the creek and bridge suddenly grew heavy. It was humid and wet, mist drifting off the creek which was rapidly expanding from its normally narrow banks.  The twins and Isaac growled.  Scott tensed. 

                Allison stopped reading and looked at the water. It bubbled and swirled, the shimmering water form of Matt slowly rising up to face her.  His head lolling to the side as he focused in on her.  “Allison, I didn’t know you cared.”

                Allison stood her ground.  She had to distract him from Stiles and Lydia that was other part of this. The part that he didn’t like.  “Matt, why are you doing this?  You got your revenge.”

                “Revenge?  Revenge?  Yes, I got it just long enough to be drowned by your grandfather, so he could use the kanima for his own ends. He’d just one of the many stops I need to make now that I’m back.”

                If that bothered Allison, and Scott suspected it didn’t, she didn’t show it.  “Can’t you just rest in peace? Let it go.  Let it go and go back to the other side.”

                Matt laughed.  “Let it go? I’m dead Allison, my murderer still lives and all the people that got in my way the last time are alive too.  I’ll rest when they’re dead.  Maybe I’ll save you for last.”

                Allison smiled a cold smile.  “Just remember we gave you the chance.”

                Lydia screamed. 

                Matt clutched his ears and writhed.  All of the wolves were dropped to a knee except for Derek.  He was watching her from his crouch, his gaze from her to Scott and to Stiles.  Stiles read from the druid book, not that any of them could hear, he gestured in the air and threw some herbs into a bowl at his feet.

                The flash from the bowl blinded Scott. He blinked rapidly, his vision coming back in blurred shadow images.  Matt’s form was in the water, not floating anymore.  He could make out Allison backing up as she made her way toward her dad.  Stiles flailed around for something to hold onto also trying to back away from Matt.

                Scott’s vision was clearing quickly and he could see the wolves were regaining their vision faster, with the exception of Chris Argent, who appeared to be unphased.  He must have known better than to look at the magic bowl. A warning would have been nice. 

                Matt was getting to his feet.  He looked human.  Lucky them.

                Stiles and Allison were blinking rapidly and backing up quicker, they could obviously see Matt or his form.  Matt was laughing.  “Stiles, you and this magic.  It’s going to get you hurt or killed…”

                Matt’s form suddenly shimmered and scales flowed across his face, shredding through tattered clothes, down his hands with pronounced claws appearing at the end.  “Yesss,  killed!”  The last of the human voice hissed.  His back exploded outward and giant bat-like wings sprouted into existence.  He let out a dinosaur roar, something Scott would have expected  on television, not in real life.  He flapped his wings and was airborne, tail curling up and under.  He let out another shrieking roar.

                “The tail!  Argent shouted.  “The tail is deadly poisonous, even to wolves.  Don’t let it sting you!”

                Scott blinked.  “Take the wings out!”

                It looked back at him, eyes fully aware, not animalistic and controlled like last time.  Its jaw opened in a hideous grin. Then its head twisted to look at Stiles and it shot forward.

                “Stiles!”  Scott yelled.

                Stiles was back peddling but not fast enough.  Scott raced forward.  He watched the kanima’s tail rear back and strike.

                Derek was there in a blur of motion, in front of Stiles, shielding him from the blow.  Scott willed his body to move faster, he urged himself to move like never before, his heart sinking as he did. He was going to be too late this time.  

                The tail lanced out.

                Everything went into slow motion.  Scott felt like he was jogging through molasses and there was a soft glow at the edge of his perception.  Then Stiles was in front of Derek.  The other Stiles.

                The wet squelch echoed across the area as the tail impaled the older Stiles.   Matt roared and pulled back looking from the glasses wearing Stiles to the Stiles behind Derek, clearly trying to figure out what was happening.  As openings went, it was pretty good. 

                Scott leaped onto Matt’s back and began shredding at his wings.  Gunfire echoed as the kanima body rocked with bullets, followed by the familiar whistle of arrows.  Behind him Ethan, Isaac and Aiden were cutting through the tail with their claws, the three wolves had it pinned and immobile.  Matt was shrieking in pain.  Scott growled and clawed deeper, blood spraying everywhere.

                The kanima bucked and fell toward the water.

               

                Lydia was shaking as the overwhelming feel of the grave pressed down on her.  Matt was being ripped into behind her, wailing in pain.  Good, the bastard should have stayed dead the first time.  She wasn’t focused on that though.  She was looking at the scene in front of her.  Stiles gripped Derek’s shoulders as another Stiles, one with glasses and a blazer and a gaping wound bubbling a green ichor. 

                She glanced behind her,  Matt was trying to rally or limp off, but his wings were shredded and his tail had been cut off.  Four werewolves should be able to handle it.  She hoped.  She walked over toward the Stiles group.

                “Stiles?’  Derek was looking from the one slumped in front of him to the one to their Stiles, who was still latched onto Derek in wide eyed shock. 

                “Yep.”  The wounded Stiles answered.  He was smiling, looking at Derek and smiling.

                Derek blinked.  He grabbed the wounded Stiles and tried to support him.  “Just hold on. There has to be something we can do.”  He looked over his shoulder.  “The book?”

                Their Stiles blinked, nodded and let go of Derek and ran over to his bag.

                “Nothing you can do.  The venom doesn’t have an antidote.”

                Derek’s eyes widened.  Lydia could see wetness in them.  She could feel it in hers.  Stiles was going to die, he wasn’t their Stiles, and she was thankful, god she was thankful, but it was still Stiles.

                “Why?”  Derek demanded.  “Why would you do this?”

                “It was my turn?”

                Derek growled and the future Stiles put a hand on his arm. 

                “Maybe I just couldn’t imagine a world without a Derek Hale in it.”

                Derek blinked.  “I’m not—“

                Stiles coughed even as the younger Stiles made it back, paging through the book like crazy.  “Stop that, man.  You are worth it.  You’re the guy that always listened to me.  You don’t even realize what that means.”

                Derek shook his head.  “I can heal you.  Scott and I—“

                The older Stiles shook his head.  He was still smiling.  “Trust me.  Even Scott can’t stop this. “

                Their Stiles was looking more and more desperate as he dug through the book.  Watching yourself die was a new nightmare.  Lydia felt tears for this man running down her face. 

                “I have to do something!” Derek cried out.

                The older man nodded.  “I do have two last requests.” He beckoned Derek closer and whispered in his ear.  Derek’s expression changed, he was surprised, Lydia could tell.  Derek sat up and looked in the older Stiles eyes, cradled his head in his hands and places a soft kiss on his lips.

                Their Stiles gasped, watching in something akin to wonder.  Lydia’s heart fluttered for a second at the man’s gentleness.  He settled the older Stiles head onto the ground and dashed off into the woods in a blur of motion.

                The kanima emitted a final death shriek behind her, she couldn’t take her eyes off the dying man.  She crouched down next to him, reaching up to grab their Stiles and pull him down as well.

                He looked at her through the glasses, eyes twinkling at her. “Hey Lyds, long time no see.”

                “Oh, Stiles, what have you done?”

                He laughed, it came out a series of coughs.  “It was my turn.”

                “What does that even mean?” Scott growled from behind Lydia. 

                The young Stiles was shaking, looking from Scott to his older self.  “Why do you keep saying that?”

                He coughed again.  His eyes went out of focus for a second then zeroed in on his younger self.  “When he saved me last time, do you know what he said Stiles?”

                Stiles blinked then shook his head.

                “Last time?” Scott repeated.

                “Shush.”  Lydia said.  She was aware of the Argents forming a loose circle with the other wolves around them.

                “He looked up at me, dying in my arms, while I asked him over and over why he did it.  He said.  ‘Because I can’t imagine a world without Stiles Stilinski.”

                The younger Stiles blinked and looked off in the direction Derek had ran.

                “I didn’t even know he cared.  I’d been too busy being a jackass to him.  Then he was gone. So it was my turn.”

                “What about your dad?”  Scott interjected.

                “My dad?”  their Stiles whipped his head back to Scott and then to his older self.

                “He told me he came back to save his dad.”  Scott looked at the older Stiles. “ You lied.”

                Lydia frowned and looked back at Scott.  Allison and the others were matching her gaze.

                It was Allison that spoke.  “Something’s going to happen to Stiles’ dad, and you didn’t tell us?  You talked with him and you didn’t tell us?”  Her soft tone had a slowly building edge.

                “Didn’t lie.  I said I came back to save him.  Just didn’t specify who the him was.”

                Their Stiles was shaking, he looked like he was about to explode.  Lydia blinked as it hit her.  She put a hand on him.  She looked down at the time traveler.  “You sent Derek.”

                He erupted in a fit of coughs.  His skin a pale green color now.  “Yep.  You were always smart and pretty Lyds.”

                He looked at the semi circle. “It was nice to see all of you again.”

                It produced some surprised reactions and odd looks.

                He looked up at his younger self and coughed again.  “Your turn.  First, don’t hate Scott forever, cause right now you want to.  Second, learn the ways of the Force, you know what I mean.  And third, and most important, don’t squander this opportunity. “

                The younger Stiles nodded and the older emitted one last battery of coughs and fell silent.

                Allison sniffled and Lydia took a moment to dry her eyes.  She saw Isaac and Ethan doing the same.  Even Aiden looked misty eyed.  She blinked at that.  Maybe there was hope for him yet. 

                Scott stepped forward.  “Stiles, I’m—“

                Stiles kneed Scott right in the groin.  Scott yelped and went down.  Werewolf or no, weak spot was a weak spot.  Stiles grabbed the supplies and picked up his older self’s messenger bag and headed off toward the cars.  He stopped at Chris Argent, who was watching Scott groan on the ground with a mixture of pity and ever so slight amusement.  “I need a ride.”

 

Sheriff Stillinski pulled his pistol and edged cautiously into the Quick Mart. The door was ajar.  The silent alarm had pinged the station’s board.  There had been a rash of these breakins all over town.  This was the first time an alarm had gone off.  He took a moment to steel himself and took a breath.  Just go by the book, follow the procedure, it’ll be fine.

He could see two figures by the cash register. Solid shadows in the dark. They hadn't noticed him yet.  He took another breath.

"Freeze! Put your hands in the air." The sheriff yelled.

The two figures, a pair of burly men in their thirties, started and spun, their hard features outlined in the backlight of freezers at the rear of the store. Their widening eyes focused on his pistol. They weren't moving.

The sheriff thanked his lucky stars, whatever those might be. He took a couple of steps into the store, pulling handcuffs off his belt with his left hand.

A sharp pain shot through the back of his head. He felt his knees buckle under him. The floor rolled up toward him and the second stab of pain shot through his body as he hit the ground.

"Stupid small town pig." He heard from behind him.

He managed to turn his head, now an iron weight on his neck.  The third man was a wide shouldered pale man. He grinned showing his gold capped teeth. He brandished a large metal pipe in his hand. The tip was coated in crimson.

The other two stepped toward him. Knives were gleaming in the half light. Stillinski groped for his pistol, but his hand wasn't working anymore.

                A growl echoed from the door and the three men turned suddenly.  The burly men shrieked in terror as a werewolf barreled into them. He kicked one and the thug flew back into the freezers with a tinkle of glass.  The other was waving his hands as he got punched square in the face and went down like a sack of potatoes.

                The third man brandished the bat , he backed out of the Sheriff’s view and the wolf leaped over him, a flash of his blue eyes visible as he did.  He heard the other man shriek in a very unmanly fashion. There was another thud.

                Derek Hale was suddenly over the Sheriff.  “Hold on.  I called 911, ambulances are coming.”

                Sheriff Stilinski nodded; his whole head throbbed with the movement.  “Stiles?”

                Derek put a hand on the back of the Sheriff’s head, the throbbing receded.  “He’s fine.”

                The sheriff nodded, no throbbing this time.  He could hear the sirens.  Derek was looking back out the door.  “Go.  And thank you.”

                Derek nodded and bolted, gone as quick as he appeared leaving the sheriff to wonder what he was doing here in the first place.

 

                Chris Argent followed Stiles toward his car, Allison in tow.  He probably should stay.  Someone needed to help with the cleanup. But he was still walking behind Stiles,  the young man hunched and moving quickly.  He was stinging from the revelation like everyone else.  Scott had talked to the future Stiles, found out information and kept it to himself.  Maybe he had a good reason; maybe he didn’t, whatever the reason it seemed a pattern when it came to Scott.  It wasn’t any more conducive than Derek’s “because I said so” style had been.  Derek at least seemed to have changed.

                The three of them climbed into the car.  Stiles was already on his cell phone to someone at the station when Chris started the car.

                “He’s been hurt—“

                Allison leaned forward, gripping Stiles arm. Chris threw the car in reverse and headed out.

                “Okay, thank god.  The hospital, yeah, yeah, I’m on the way.  Really?  Weird.”

                He hung up Chris eyed him as he headed for the hospital. 

                “Well?”  Allison said.

                Stile broke into a smile and sat back.  The tension rolled out of his body. “He’s okay, probably just a concussion. “

                “And the weird part?” Chris prompted. 

                Stiles smirked.  “The perps,  cop speak for criminals, all claim to have been attacked by a monster.”

                “They’re alive?” Chris asked.

                Stiles looked annoyed for a moment.  “Just some broken bones.  Apparently one of them fainted dead away.”

                Allison hugged him over the seat. “That’s great news.  Derek saved him.”

                Stiles relaxed a little more.  “Yeah. He saved my dad.”

                Allison grinned and sat back. 

                “I’m still mad.”

                “Me too.”  Allison and Chris said in stereo.

                Stiles laughed.  “Well, this complicates things.  Not such a big happy family for a bit.”

                Chris gave him a sidelong glance.  “All families have rough spots.  We should know.”

                “No drama like hunter drama?”  Stiles put in, seeming more his old self.

                “So, Stiles.”  Allison asked from the back seat. “What are you going to do now?”

                Stiles looked over at Chris and then into the mirror at her.  He cleared his throat.  “Um, I’m gonna see my dad and um, why?  What else should I be doing?”  His voice rose an octave.

                Chris sighed.  Teenagers, so many of them in his life now.  “What do you want to do?” Chris knew his tone was pointed and matter of fact.

                Stiles blinked.  He looked at the dashboard.  “I don’t know.  I mean, some future me came back and sacrificed himself for Derek.  And I have the strangest feeling Derek would do the same for me, and I don’t know what to do with that, and god you probably don’t even want to talk about Derek.”

                Chris sighed.  It bothered him a little that after all of this he was better about talking about the man.   Maybe he’d been wrong, not that he was going to say that out loud just yet.  “It’s fine.”

                Stiles looked surprised.  He shifted in his seat a little, half turning so he could see both Allison and Chris at the same time.  He started to say something, then stopped, then started again and then sighed.  “I used to hate him, I remember that I did, I just can’t remember why.  I mean, I had all these reasons of why I should hate him and I followed them like a list.  I mean I put him on lists of suspects every time something happened and then he’d turn around and save me and I’d save him and we just keep saving each other and then there’s this, travel back in time and save him.  I mean, that’s a big save.”

                “Not something you do for just anyone.”  Chris observed.

                “They’d have to be really important,” Allison said, “like more important than anyone else.”

                Chris tried not to smile at her gentle prod as he could swear he saw the gears cranking full tilt in Stiles’ head.  Chris had a thought.  “I mean, he is a monster though.”

                Stile’s blinked, eyes widening. “What?  He’s not a monster, he’s brave, he’s loyal and he’s a good guy.  I mean, he doesn’t have to help anyone, he could just walk away after everything he’s been through and he’s—Oh my god I like Derek.”

                Chris grinned.  Allison laughed in the back.

                Stiles narrowed his eyes at Chris.  “You don’t think he’s a monster.”

                Chris shook his head, turning the wheel into the hospital entrance. He was surprised at his thoughts. “No, Stiles, I don’t.”

                “You did that on purpose.  Very evil.  I’m impressed, you’ll have to teach me how to do that.”

                The SUV pulled to a stop.

                Allison leaned up again.  “So what do you want to do?”

               

                Stiles stood outside the door to Derek’s apartment, stomach knotted, heart skipping beats and body shaking.  He had been staring at the bell for a good four minutes he was sure, maybe longer.  He took a deep breath and pressed the button. The door swung open as soon as he pulled back.  Derek was standing there in a black shirt and blue jeans, looking like a GQ model, as usual.  He looked worried though, at least that’s what Stiles thought. Also he was suddenly aware that Derek had probably heard him outside before he rung the bell.

                “Hi.”  Stiles said.

                “Hi.”  Derek said back.

                They both stood there looking at each other.  Stiles sighed.  “Can I come in?”

                Derek nodded and stepped aside so Stiles could enter. 

                He picked up his duffle bag and walked into the apartment.  Derek eyed the bag but didn’t say anything as Stiles made his way into the living room and across to the kitchen. He sat the bag down on the bar and turned back.  Derek was a couple feet behind him watching him.

                “You weren’t at the hospital.”

                Derek shook his head.  “There might have been questions.  I didn’t want to complicate things for you or your dad.”

                Stiles nodded. “Dad said he told you to go.”

                “How is he?”

                Stiles took a breath feeling the flutter of emotion rise in his chest.  He pushed it down.  “Concussion.  Melissa is watching over him though, so he’s okay.  He was sleeping when I left.  Isaac was watching him, and Scott.”  There was a bitter tone to the last word.

                “Something wrong?”

                Stiles just growled out.  “He knew Derek.  He knew and he didn’t say anything to anyone.  My dad was going to die and he knew it and didn’t say anything.  Just like with the Alpha pack, playing his cards close to the vest, not sharing, and it’s all supposed to be okay.  I mean he did it with Gerard too and I keep forgiving him.  And I probably will again someday, but right now I hate him a bit.”

                Derek’s eyes were wide.  He looked like he wanted to say something.

                Stiles held up a hand.  “I’ll forgive him, maybe in a few weeks.  I figure when Lydia speaks to him again I will.”

                “Lydia?”

                “They’re all furious dude, I mean I don’t know what was said after I left, but Lydia said it wasn’t a love fest.  Even Isaac’s mad at him.  Today anyway.  Doesn’t matter.  Scott can stew in his choices for a while.”

                Derek gave him an appraising look and just shrugged. He looked at the duffle and raised his eyebrows.  “What’s—“

                “In a minute.  First, I have some stuff to say.”

                Derek looked like he was about to bolt.

                Stiles could feel his heart thumping in his chest.  Don’t lock your knees he thought, last thing he needed was to faint or something from the nerves.  He took a breath. 

                “So we have this thing.  We save each other a lot.  We’re there for each other even when we drive each other crazy and maybe, maybe we don’t make each other crazy like we did at first, and that’s cool, I mean I like it when you’re around.  You always listen to me, you always take care of me, and tonight you would have died for me, no doubt, no regret.  You leaped in front of death for me.”

                Derek slowly nodded.  Eyebrows raising slightly.

                Stiles started to fidget with his hands.  “I mean, you would have died, and…” he felt himself shudder inside at the thought.  “I don’t know what I would have done.”

                Derek took a step forward.  “Stiles—“

                “Do you know what he said?  What he told us you said when you sacrificed yourself the first time?”

                Derek shook his head.

                “He said you couldn’t imagine a world without Stiles Stilinski in it. He said he couldn’t imagine a world without you in it. And you know what I realized then?  I don’t want a world without Derek Hale in it.”

                Derek blinked.  Stiles could see him thinking about what to say.  Stiles nerves shot up, suddenly worried about what Derek would say.  He was sure his heart speeding up was like thunderdome to the werewolf.  He tried to focus on slowing it down but he was freaking out, maybe this was all a big mistake, maybe he should have just let this all go.

                Derek took a step forward and put a hand on Stiles shoulder.  The warmth shot through Stiles immediately, his heart actually felt like it was steadying.  He looked down at Derek’s forearm, no black lines, no wolf healing.  Just Derek. 

                Derek took a breath.  “I know you listened in when I talked to your father. You’d woken up and were listening to us talk.”

                Stiles blinked.  “Oh. Uh. Yes.”

.               “I meant it.  You’re not someone I want to lose.  I’ve lost too many people I care for.”

                “Well dude, I don’t want to lose anyone else either, after my mom, I don’t know if I could do it again.   I mean clearly in a future without you I just come back in time and save you because I can’t live without you. “

                Derek’s hand squeezed Stiles.  He looked at his feet for a moment and then into Stiles eyes.  “Watching him die nearly killed me.  I only held on because you were there.”

                Stiles heart skipped a beat. He was suddenly very aware of Derek’s closeness to him.  His warmth, his eyes and oh screw this.  He leaned in and kissed Derek Hale.  Derek gasped and froze for a moment then he returned the kiss, pulling Stiles gently against him.  His lips were softer than Stiles expected.  Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek’s neck.  After a minute they pulled back, arms still around each other.

                Stiles took a breath, he knew his heart was beating a staccato in his chest.  “So I think we should date.”

                Derek’s mouth twisted in a slight smirk.  “Huh.  Dating.”

                “I mean, if you want, it’s not like—“

                Derek leaned in and kissed him, interrupting the sentence.  Stiles thought knees might be about to go wobbly. Derek pulled back again.  “You were saying?”

                “I don’t even—“

                Derek took a breath.  “Yes.  Dating.  Also I think I found a new way to get you to shut up.  Useful.”

                “Har har.  So I brought dinner.”

                Derek raised an eyebrow and eyed the bag. 

                “Well dinner fixings, some pots and stuff, even some paper plates.”

                Derek slowly unwrapped himself from Stiles and sat down at the table in the kitchen.  Stiles watched him sit and took a breath and grabbed the bag and started pulling things out of it.  Derek just watched him as he got things started.  

                “So what about your dad?”

                Stiles blinked as he tossed chicken into the pan.  “He’s gonna be in the hospital overnight for observation.  Oh and he said to tell you to come to dinner on Sunday.”

                Derek blinked.  “Okay.”

                Stiles smiled.  “I think he has to give you the hurt my kid and die speech, or something.”

                “So you told him?”

                Stiles nodded, seasoning the green beans turning on the burner. “I figured I’d save myself the stress.  Also I try to not keep stuff from him anymore. “

                “Good.” He stood up and walked over to the stove and looked at the pans.  “So is this our first date?”

                “No!  I have to do something bigger, sweep you off your feet and all that other stuff.”

                Derek smirked.  “All right.”

                “This is thanks for saving my dad and me and stuff..”

                The rest of the night went smoothly, Stiles talked with Derek about movies and food and favorite things.  Good and not so subtle dating material.  They retired to the couch and made it halfway through Batman Begins before they were both nodding off. Derek nudged Stiles out of his sleep.

                “It’s late.”

                Stiles blinked sleepily.  “Yeah, I should go.”

                Derek frowned at him.  “You can stay here.”

                “I’ll be okay.”

                Derek rolled his eyes.  “Stiles.”  And there was that old tone.  Stiles had kinda missed it.

                He held up his hands.  “All right.  You have any blankets?’

                “Yes, on my bed.  Come on.”

                Stiles smirked.  “Why, sir this is so sudden.”

                “Uh huh.  Get your bathroom supplies and pajamas out of your bag.”

                Stiles felt his face flush hot. “How did you—“

                “Werewolf.  Also we’re not having sex. Yet.”

                Stiles blinked.  “How about snuggling?”

                Derek laughed as he walked down the hall.  “Come to bed, Stiles.”

                There was snuggling.