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Life is too quiet, without Stiles.

*

You had to leave--Beacon Hills was killing you faster than it wasn’t and you never really meant to go back and stay. It just happened. And then you realized it didn’t have to be that way, that there was more than a pack that didn’t need you and a town full of bad memories and sidelong glances, more to the world than a life you hated.

So you left, and you never looked back, never once regretted it.

But after the dust settled and Braeden bugged out to hunt down her obsession, you realized how quiet this life alone was.

You realized that just because there was more to life than Beacon Hills and the monster of the week, it didn’t mean you had any fucking clue what that meant for you.

You were closer to thirty than not, alone in the world, with a not small fortune waiting and you had no idea what you wanted.

*

For a few years you travel. You spend six months in South America with Cora and her pack, but it isn’t home and you can only side eye your baby sister hooking up with an alpha you don’t know so many times before the discomfort drives you away.

She looks sad when you leave, and you kiss her and inhale her scent and try not to think that you’re losing your family.

“You don’t have to go,” she says and you smile and lift your bag.

“Yeah, I do.”

Something sad fills her eyes and you hug her again before you leave.

You think it’s ok, because you know she’s safe and you know you can go back.

You won’t.

But you can.

*

You go to Europe, spend a few months with Isaac and then a week with Jackson, before you figure out that both are best in small doses. You travel with Chris Argent for a time, and you thought you’d hate it, hate him, but there’s something to be said about having the familiar around you.

You and Chris fought the same wars, are haunted by the same demons, and there’s comfort in seeing the familiar reflected in his eyes when you wake from your nightmares.

*

You spend a year in Romania and Russia, hunting down mythology and folklore in an endless search that feels like chasing your tail, but it’s soothing too.

You think this is something you could be happy doing, researching and learning, burying yourself in the history of your people that is so quickly and easily forgotten.

*

It’s easy to get lost in your head, out here. You hole up in a little cottage in Borek Stary, far enough outside Rzeszow that sometimes it feels like you are the only person in the world. You can stay in your cottage for days, and never see another person, and you don’t mind it so much.

But it’s quiet.

Life is very quiet.

*

Peter calls and talks about the pack, and you get used to that, get used to the rambling chatter that doesn’t come out and say, “Scott hasn’t killed anyone, the kids are fine, Malia didn’t maul anyone this full moon, Lydia isn’t screaming, Stiles is good.”

No, he always couches it in inanities that don’t mean anything, news about a town and a life that feels like it belongs to someone else, and you like it that way. But.

You like knowing, too.

*

“Be good, nephew,” Peter says and you blink as you realize he’s hanging up.

“Peter,” you snap and he pauses, a pregnant pause that fairly screams, what?

“You--you didn’t say anything about Stiles,” you spit out, hating yourself for asking, hating that even now, you care.

The pause that follows is longer, heavier and you feel a curl of dread because--it’s Beacon Hills. Your reaching for your passport and bag before you can even breath. Anything could happen there, and you’re here, you can’t protect him, he could be hurt, could be dying and--

“He moved, Derek. Last month. He’s in Boston.”

*

You always assumed he'd be there, waiting for you. You aren't sure what to do with the knowledge that he isn't.

*

The thing is.  You had to leave Beacon Hills, and you've been content for the past four years. But you haven't been happy. You don't think you've been happy since you sat with Laura and Cora in your childhood bedroom and listened to your dad singing sappy love songs to your mom.

But if you ever came close to it, it was with Stiles.

*

It sits under your skin, a restless itch, as Peter calls every month with updates and you compile research.

You build a name for yourself without realizing it, with Alphas and emissaries and hunters, for knowing things, a need that claws at you after so many years of being so fucking confused by life, after so many years of watching Stiles and his burning drive to know everything.

But it bothers you, every time Peter hangs up without word of Stiles, like he is this great big unknowable puzzle, when Stiles had always been something you knew even when you didn't understand that.

You pack aimlessly, not really realizing what you're doing until it's done and your little life is tucked into three boxes of neatly organized research and two suitcases. You blink at them and wonder what it says about you.

You ship the boxes to Isaac for now and buy a one-way ticket to Boston, eleven months after Peter tells you Stiles left.  

*

You check into a hotel and with the local Alphas. Like most big cities, there is a cluster that works together with varying degrees of success. You’re startled to realize they welcome you because of who you are and not who your mother was.

Chris sends a few hunters around and if it bothers them to work with a werewolf, neither are stupid enough to say it. You don't particularly care if it's Hale or Argent that makes them hold their tongues.

You work some, poke a few of the local bookstores and occult shops and get a sense of the place.

You try to convince yourself you're there for any reason but him.

*

“Why did Stiles leave?” you ask and Peter doesn't hesitate at all.

“The same reason you did. Staying here would have killed him. Staying here was killing him.”

You've been in Boston for two months and you want to see him so badly it aches in your teeth and you have never been more terrified.

You ruin everything you touch, everyone you care about.

Why would he be different?

*

The day you see Stiles, you aren't looking for him. You step out of a bookstore that has a surprisingly thorough collection of beastiaries and catch a familiar scent a heartbeat before you hear his voice, familiar and exasperated and fond as he chatters at Scott.

The unsettled itchy feeling that's been digging under your skin for months, maybe years settles and you take a deep breath, stepping into the shadows of the building as Stiles heads inside.

You wait there, hidden in the shadows, ignoring the reek of the dumpster and wondering when the hell you reverted to your behavior from almost six years ago and then you wonder how you’ve known Stiles for six years and then you wonder how you stayed away--why you stayed away--for four.

You spend a lot of time wondering, and don’t come up with any answers before he leaves the bookstore and you follow him without actually deciding to.  

*

You stay away from him as much as you can, hide in your hotel room with your research, but sometimes you catch his scent, fleeting and so faint you almost think you imagine it.

*

He's different here. You realize it one afternoon, after you trail him from the occult shop. He's quieter and contained, his boundless energy focused.

He smiles more, a confident flirty thing at the barista, a wide welcoming things at friends, a friendly small thing at strangers.

He's gets a phone call from Scott and you see it, the Stiles you knew peeking through, familiar and exhausted and not quite sure of himself. And you see him shake it off, like a ill fitting coat, after he hangs up.

You don't know what to do with that.

*

If Stiles has outgrown Beacon Hills, has he also outgrown you?

The longer you think of the loose relaxed slouch of his shoulders, the more you think you're ok with that.

*

The Stiles you knew sat the bench to be close to his friend, chased werewolves for the same reason, and took care of his dad.

You didn’t know him to care about anything but the paranormal and the handful of people he chose to love, and now--watching him now, you wonder if that was the truth or necessity.

This Stiles excels in his classes, has a wide and varied circle of friends, haunts local bookstores and coffeeshops, goes to poetry readings and museums, spends his weekends attending every concert he can get tickets to.

He’s like a sponge, soaking up every bit of normal life that he missed in high school and you love that, love watching it, love the content little smile that curls his lips when the world is quiet and peaceful and good.

*

You learn that while Stiles will try anything once, and usually more than that because he doesn’t care just seems to enjoy the experience--you are pickier. And for the first time in years, without the pressure of a pack or a family or even friends, you feel the freedom to indulge in that.

You consult on cases for Chris and his nebulous network of hunters, and you answer when Isaac calls.

You don't check on Beacon Hills or the pack and you try very hard not to feel guilty about that.

You don't always follow him. Sometimes you find yourself without research to do and you go to a movie, lose a few hours in a story that isn't real but that you love anyway.

You spend whole weekends in bookstores, consuming ridiculous amounts of coffee and books by the dozens.  You buy a laptop with a giant screen just to stream old movies you remember watching with your parents and Laura and you only cry a little, watching them.

*

You aren't sure what to do when an email comes from Stiles. It doesn't surprise you except for the part that it does, and you stare at it, unopened, for hours.

It isn't the first time he's emailed since you left. They came almost weekly when at first, a rambling stream of what was happening in Beacon Hills and random bits of life.

You never answered them and eventually they slowed until it was a cursory check in more than anything.

That itchy tight feeling in your chest that had almost gone away squeezes tight, and you can't breathe for a second.

You don't want to be a check-in for Stiles. It hurts that you've allowed yourself to become that.

*

Once upon a time you lived in a city that almost killed you and did kill everyone in your family.

You changed a pack of teenagers and watched them die or leave, watched another pack form around you while you lingered, strange and apart, on its edges.

Once upon a time you knew a boy who was loud and fierce and funny, who held out a hand and asked you to trust him and you hated yourself for doing that, for needing him. But you did.

You still do.

*

It takes you the better part of a week but you finally open the email and blink at it.

It’s not a cursory check in. It’s not even a request for information or a badly hidden check that you aren’t dying alone of guilt in the woods.

You---

You stare at the three little words and you don’t know what to do with them, don’t know how to handle this.

Except that you do, and it’s easy, when you stop thinking and just respond, let instinct guide you the way it always has with Stiles.

You stare and smile and rub your thumb over the three small words like they’re everything you didn’t know to ask for.

 

           I miss you.

*

You trade emails, holed up in your hotel room that is beginning to smell like you instead of strangers, beginning to feel like a safe space and you kind of revel in that, in the fact that you get to have safe spaces.

And Stiles. You get to have him, in this small way that includes minutia of your day and how grateful he is for good Greek food. He send you links to books and articles and a moon cycle calendar, dog jokes because at the heart of him, Stiles is a dick, always, but it makes you laugh.

He makes you laugh.

*

You don’t stop trailing him all over the damn city, but you don’t do it nearly as much anymore, and maybe that means Stile isn’t the only one who is finally growing up.

*

Chris stops by and you show him the town and ignore the subtle hints that he could use a hand hunting. He wanders through your hotel room with a curious glint in his detached gaze, as you prop yourself up on pillows.

It’s a pretty view and you’ve always liked pretty things.

“You haven’t seen Stiles,” he says more than asks, and you wonder at the note in his voice, the one that is warning and hopeful at the same time.

“No,” you lie, easily and push out of bed.

It feels wrong, in a way that Chris has never felt wrong, when Stiles hangs like a ghost between you, and jealousy spikes through your gut.

You wonder what it means that you are jealous of his attention towards Stiles--not because his attention is wandering from you but because Stiles is yours.

*

The knock on the door comes three days later, while your elbows deep in research on domovoi, while you are still trying to get the scent of Argent out of your bed and your den and you’re distracted, which might explain why you don’t notice until you have the door open, the familiar scent, the heartbeat you know as well as your own--

Stiles, ” you breathe.

This close you can see all the things you haven’t. The way his face is older, his jaw sharper and scruffy, the way his hair curls long at the nape of his neck, and the tiny scar under the right ear, like he was nicked with a blade.

There is a curl of ink peeking out of his shirt, high on his collarbone and you want to drag that down and see how he marked himself.

He is close enough to touch, scent so strong it’s almost intoxicating, and madder than hell.

“What the hell , Derek?” he snarls,  shoving into your room.

His scent is going to linger. You know it. It’ll cover up what is left of Argent and distract you for days.

You don’t want to think about why that thought is so enticing.

“What are--what are you doing here?” you stumble over the words, trying to make sense of Stiles being here , even while it feels so right you want to trap him here forever.

“What am I doing? What the fuck are you doing?” Stiles snarls. He rips off his coat and glares at you, all furious tension and long lean lines. “You’ve been following me around Boston for months and I mean, it’s a regression, right, but hey, whatever, your life, and I liked knowing where you were. I wasn’t gonna force myself on you. But then you’re not so cut off from Beacon Hills you can’t see Chris fucking Argent, can’t take him out and I don’t fucking get it.” Stiles rants and you’re not sure what to even start with, so you just kind of stare at him.

Until his shoulders slump, just a little, and you catch the harp sour scent of dejection in him. “Is it me? Am I the problem?”

Fuck.

“You. Um. You look--happy? And. I liked it. Like seeing you happy. I didn’t want to ruin that.”

He stares at you, for so long the itchy tight feeling in your chest flares up, almost suffocating, and then he smiles and shakes his head.

“Idiot,” he murmurs, fondly, and you give him a timid sort of smile.

“C’mon,” he says, catching his fingers in your sweater, and tugs. “We’re gonna get coffee, you fucking stalker.”

You follow him, and try not to think about how easy and right it feels.

*

Boston, you find, is a much better place, experienced at Stiles’ side.

*

“You’re different,” Stiles says, one afternoon. He showed up at your hotel room, gave it his usual look of disdain, and then dragged you out for a late breakfast that turned into a visit to your favorite bookstore and relaxing together over books and coffee.

Stiles is quiet, on days like this, when content stretches like taffy between you, and there is no need to fill up the space with mindless prattle.

You blink at him, mind slowly turning from your book. There is a part of you that is always tuned to Stiles, to only him but as you bring that part of yourself to the fore and set your fictional world aside, you realize why it is so slow to register--why you are so deeply immersed in a world that isn’t here and now.

With his heartbeat steady near you, you feel safe in a way you haven’t felt since before the fire. His statement registers a moment later and you shrug lightly, a smile kicking up the corner of your lips.

“I am. So are you.”

*

The concert is in a tiny bar that you would miss if preternatural hearing didn’t alert you to it, and you give the narrow door a narrower eyed glare, huffing as you wait for Stiles.

You catch his scent and heartbeat before he sees you and glance up to watch him stride up, and gods.

You always knew Stiles was attractive, all of that pale mole spotted skin and pink lips, the messy hair and long limbed body he hadn’t quite grown into.

But here, where he has grown into it. Where he wears black jeans so skinny they’re obscene and a black shirt that displays his strength instead of hiding it, with a loose grin and bright eyes, he looks incandescent.

“Hey, big guy,” Stiles greets you with a smirk and you grunt something, not quite able to speak and he laughs, bright and shiny and happy as he drags you into the club.

The music thumps in your bones and hundreds of strangers press close but there is Stiles, happy and pushed against your side, his heartbeat a steady baseline that you focus on, and when the crowd is screaming and chanting along, it’s Stiles you stare at.

*

“Did you like it?” Stiles demands, as you steer him home, clinging to you. There is black smudged under his eyes, eyeliner that makes your stomach twist in ways you aren’t ready to deal with and he looks so damn hopeful and happy you nod without telling yourself you could, nod and grin when he lets out a triumphant crow.

Later, when he is gone and you are safely tucked behind your hotel door, and all you can smell is him, all around you, and you take yourself, achingly hard, in hand, it’s Stiles you think of. When you come, a high, broken noise spilling from you as you rut into the sheets, it’s Stiles name, drawn out and twisted.

*

Life is simple and easy and beautifully complicated, with Stiles in it. He fills it up with things you don’t expect, works of fiction and philosophy and art, long rambling one-sided conversation about politics and the problems inherent in the educational system. He drags you to record store and pet shops and stands you up in a soup line, and takes you to feed seagulls at the water, and invades your hotel room with his endless piles of homework and lecture notes.

Life is simple and easy and beautifully complicated and you are happy .

*

“Derek?”

“Hmm?”

“How long are you gonna stay here?”

You blink up at him, your gaze dragging away from Planet of the Apes, and focusing on Stiles.

He’s sprawled on your bed, feet in the air as he scribbles on his notebook and taps at his laptop and you wonder why you don’t mind him there when you always hated the scent of Argent in your bed.

“It’s just--you’ve been living here,” he waves vaguely, “for months. I know you didn’t mean to stay this long--I guess. You don’t have to stay, if you don’t want to.”

You look at him, and see the way his gaze flickers, nervous, listens to the way his heart beats too fast, and shrug. Close your laptop. “I want to stay.”

His eyes snap to you, and there’s something there you want to explore, want to push, and he licks his lips, sitting up. “So how long are you going to stay here?”

You grin and drag him out to look for a house.

*

Stiles is quiet as you drive out to a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city to look at an old farmhouse. It’s the fourth week of your search for a new place and it’s the quietest you’ve ever seen him, but you don’t push, just let him work through it until he finally huffs.

“Scott wants to come visit, for spring break.”

You still. Because you haven’t thought of that, about Beacon Hills encroaching on this bubble you’ve been living in with him, and you don’t--panic claws at you and Stiles’ hand lands on your shoulder, squeezing hard enough that you can feel bruises forming even as they begin to heal.

“I told him no. I’m going--I’ll be gone for a week, we’re going to Panama for a few days. But. I--um. I didn’t want him here. Is that weird? It’s Scott, and he’s always been part of everything I do, but I didn’t want him in this part of my life. I don’t want any of them here.”

It sounds like a confession and you feel your heartbeat settle, your claws retract. “I’m here,” you say, not what you meant to say, but what comes out, skirting close to that unacknowledged thing floating between you.

Stiles knocks a loose fist into your shoulder, and grins for the first time today. “You’re different.”

You think different maybe isn’t a bad thing.

*

It takes almost three months of Saturday’s driving to open houses, and daily texts of new addresses, and ruling out one after another after another, to find it.

You’re sad that Stiles isn’t here, that when you do, he’s in Florida with Scott. As you walk through and fall in love with it, you can picture him, dancing through the kitchen as he cooks, blinking sleepily from the couch as you enter the room, curled in the window seat with coffee and his phone, talking to his Dad.

You make an offer before you leave, and get the acceptance of your bid two hours later and then it’s just a matter of waiting.

*

He come home smelling like Scott and booze, a little red, and grinning, and throws himself into your hotel room with a sigh of relief that makes you want to gather him close and kiss him. “God, I missed you. Can we order in and watch Bond?” he begs and you smile.

“Yeah,” you agree, handing him the takeout menus, and turning on the TV, because all the concerts and bookstores and museums in the world pale in comparison to just this.

*

“When you left--where did you go?”

You look at him. You’re wandering through a occult shop, quietly making fun of all the fake shit on the shelves, and the question spills out when you casually mention running into dragon’s tongue at a shop in Prague.

You shrug. “Everywhere. Nowhere. I just--I went. I was….looking for something.”

Stiles pauses, close enough you can feel the body heat coming off of him, his eyes smiling lazily at you. “Did you find it?”

You stare at him and grin. “Yeah. I did.”

*

You close on a Thursday, while Stiles in class, and you’re glad because you don’t want him to know until you’re there, in the house. You’ve been keeping it from him for a month now, and it’s burning under your tongue, to tell him.

You text him that you’re going to New York for a research trip and use the weekend to pack up and move into the new house, to buy a bed and some kitchen essentials. You text Isaac and tell him to send your boxes and putter through the house.

It reminds you, vaguely, of the house you grew up in, but it’s smaller, cozy, with wide open living spaces and a big yard you want to plant a garden in, a spiraling staircase to the small loft bedroom upstairs.

It’s cozy and warm and yours .

*

The call comes just after lunch on Tuesday, and you hide your grin as you answer.

“Dude! Where are you?” Stiles demands, frantic.

“I’ll text you the address,” you say and he huffs, hanging up as you do. You walk, nervously, through the house for a bit, and then go sit on the front steps, cradling your coffee in your hand, your socks catching on the concrete as you curl your toes into the step, and wait.

Stiles stumbles out of his Jeep, and you can smell the shock on him, but he’s grinning as he bounds up to you.

It’s been five days since you saw him, the longest since that first afternoon you followed him around Boston, and your chest eases, a tightness you weren’t aware of until it’s gone easing.

“Oh my god, Derek,” he marvels and you grin, pleased.

“C’mon. I’ll show you.”

*

He makes fun of your lack of furniture as you draw him through the house and you shrug and point at the list on the fridge. “We’ll go shopping,” you say, simple.

His heartbeat stutters a little when he sees the bed, all big white sheet and fluff and you lace your fingers through him.

His eyes are wide and warm and it feels right as you draw him into you, the last step in the dance you’ve been doing with him, and kiss him.

It feels like lazy afternoons and sharp conversations, and waking up in a sunbeam and fighting for your life and you wonder if it’s like this, when you kiss someone you care about, or if it’s just how kissing Stiles will be.

Then he drags his teeth over your bottom lip and you groan, and stop thinking altogether, as you fall, that last little bit, with him.

*

When he fucks you open with his fingers, his mouth pressing nonsense words into your thigh, you sob, and claw into your mattress, your hips shifting and writhing, fucking yourself on his long goddamn fingers , and it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t feel wrong it doesn’t make shame curdle sour and sickening in his gut.

When Stiles slides into you, gasping your name like you are every good thing he’s ever had, could ever have, you sob into his neck, cling as he fucks you like you’re precious, like you matter .

“That’s it, babe,” he croons, thrusting steady and even and driving you out of your goddamn mind. You can feel your eyes burning and your fangs lengthen and he kisses you like that, careful, so careful that when he knicks his tongue and a drop of blood slips into the kiss, you know it’s intentional.

You moan and come, his blood in your mouth as he fucks you, his hands holding you steady.

*

Everything changes, after that.

And nothing.

Nothing at all changes.

He is close and bright and happy.

And you are.

You are happy.