Actions

Work Header

Misfire

Chapter Text

PODFIC

Streaming Audio

(or on a mobile, tap MP3 below)


Length

4 hours and 10 minutes


Downloads

  • MP3 (230 MB)
  • M4B with chapter breaks (228 MB)
  • ZIP (For older devices - Story divided into 2 MP3s
    228 MB)
  • (right click and Save As)

    Cover art by newgrange

     

    PART ONE

     

    in time of daffodils(who know
    the goal of living is to grow)
    forgetting why,remember how

     

     

    A hot mouth slants over Stiles’, hands gripping hard at his hips. He lifts his hands to cup Derek’s jaw and gives himself over to it, just yields, knowing Derek needs it, is still battling the terror he can’t yet control. This is their third round for the night, and he can tell by the fine tremor in Derek’s body that the alpha isn’t doing well.

    “Babe,” Stiles leans into the kiss, “It’s okay, I’m here.”

    Derek’s hands tighten, hard enough that there’ll be bruises tomorrow.

    Stiles won’t poke at them with pride like he usually does. He can’t be proud of anything to do with this – with the way Derek is broken open on the inside with fear and remembered loss, and is just -just barely- functioning. What they’re doing right now is the emotional equivalent of papering tissue over the hole in the Titanic.

    “A misfire, a fucking misfire,” Derek chokes out, “Stiles.”

    “Ssh, I know,” he soothes, and when Derek’s head drops to his collarbone he presses soft kisses onto the inky black hair, “I know, I know.” And he fucking does. He can’t quite shake the cold, can still feel the ice that had appeared in his belly the moment he turned and saw the shotgun already levelled at him, finger already squeezing the trigger.

    Fuck, he’d thought, a fucking shotgun gets me, after all this? And even though he’d been already in motion, too experienced by now to freeze, he’d known - same as Derek had - that it was all too late. Over Derek’s roar from the other side of the clearing, over Scott’s sharp NO, the hunter’s finger had finished curling in anyway, and Stiles had waited for the flare of pain to hit and-

    Nothing. Just a soft click and a look of stunned confusion on the other guy’s face in the second before Stiles took him down.

    Damage done, though. Because now here was Derek, hours and hours later, still stuck in a loop of could have lost you how would I what if you almost gone can’t lose you too-

    Stiles closes his eyes against the sudden sting and wraps his arms around Derek, squeezing with everything he has. This is why Derek resisted so long, kept Stiles at arm’s length for years even though strangers on the street could see he was hopelessly gone for the alpha. It had been a near-death experience just like this that had finally punched through, sheer terror accomplishing what friendship and flirting and loyalty couldn’t.

    He can’t be sorry that he loves Derek, that Derek loves him, he can’t be. But he knows the fact of it is a gaping wound for the alpha, that there are times he just breaks under the strain, and this is one of those times. Derek is barely here now in all honesty, just huffing out broken breaths against Stiles’ skin and mumbling names he never says outside of nightmares, names Stiles has seen on gravestones in the Hale family plot.

    Some losses you don’t get over.

     

    * * *

     

    Derek is passed out from exhaustion in their bed when a soft knock interrupts breakfast, and Stiles checks the hallway camera feed on his iPad, because... paranoia for the win, that’s why. Stiles blinks once, twice.

    Huh. This is... different.

    Last night’s almost-became-a-human-sacrifice scowls at Stiles as he pulls the door open. “Hi,” he says, sullen.

    “Uh, hi,” Stiles says, voice rising, body tense. “Did you. Uh. Forget something?”

    “I have to thank you,” he says, not sounding too thrilled about it.

    “O...kay,” Stiles says, confused. Because the dude really sounds like I have a gun to my head have to thank you. “You’re welcome, I guess. How did you find out where we li-”

    “No,” he says, frowning darkly, “I mean I have to offer reparation.”

    “Uh, no,” Stiles says. “You really don’t.” His spidey-sense is tingling now, this is seriously weird because this kid was in no state to follow them home last night and it’s not like the pack hands out business cards in the middle of disposing of bodies. Last night they hadn’t even exchanged names. So how does the guy come to be standing here now? “Trust me, its fine.”

    He starts to step back, a redistribution of weight only, and then an older woman, a really fucking beautiful older woman -Stiles can’t even help the way his mouth gapes open when he catches sight of her- just suddenly looms up over the guy’s shoulder and hisses something at him.

    The guy flinches. “Then you do it,” he snaps at her.

    The woman gives him such a glare that Stiles is already opening his mouth to apologise, just from the general air of pissed-off-Mom she’s radiating, and then she turns toward Stiles.

    “You saved my son’s life,” she says. Her left eye twitches a little with an implied and I love him even though he’s an annoying little shit. “A debt lies between us.”

    “No, no ma’am, it’s really fine,” Stiles says, waving that away and wondering where the fuck Derek the perpetual lurker is when Stiles actually wants the alpha to come and rescue him by using his incredible powers of rudeness. Stiles just can’t be rude to a Mom. It’s like, a thing.

    “The debt must be repaid,” she says, and it has the weight of a vow. The words resonate through him, ringing through his ribcage and the bones of his jaw, and Stiles loses his breath and maybe his grip on reality because she draws herself upright and where there had once stood a supermodel-level MILF in a polka dotted dress now there is Galadriel’s much hotter older sister, a Presence of unmistakable power in their ordinary, smells-vaguely-of-Thai-takeout hallway.

    “Oh shit,” Stiles says. His hand tightens on the door but he knows damn well that’s not going to help him much against power like this.

     

     

    Sure enough, a second later he’s in some kind of glade in the woods, possibly woods in another Realm because there had been heavy summer rain pelting against the windows in Beacon Hills, and where Stiles is standing right now the ground is dry and vaguely autumnal.

    Magic might also explain why strangers at the door hadn’t awakened Derek.

    “There is no need for alarm,” She says, and only then does Stiles realize he’s panting, drawing in audible breaths, already at the on-ramp for an awesome panic attack, and Her voice is really messing with his head. “I mean you no harm, young mortal.”

    “Right,” Stiles gasps, and tries really hard to get control of himself, because he doesn’t want to piss Her off. “Sorry. Just, uh. Wasn’t expecting...” he waves a hand, “this.”

    “The debt must be repaid,” She repeats.

    “You uh,” Stiles swallows, “you know we do this stuff all the time, right? For mortals, and I mean- we don’t even get a thank you card. Don’t expect one.” There had been brownies, once, though. Awesome, fudgy brownies. Do the Fae bake, Stiles wonders? He would go for cheesecake instead of a magical kidnapping every time. Not that anyone is asking Stiles’ opinion on this.

    "The Queen of the Fae cannot leave a debt unacknowledged,” victim-from-last-night says from behind his mother, sounding bored.

    Stiles shoots him a venomous look, because if he had just been a hapless college student none of this would be happening. Plus, he looks ridiculous in his emo ensemble now that Stiles knows what he is. His mother’s floor-length robes and the faint glimmer of light in Her hair really matches the whole non-human, multifaceted eye thing She has going on. Queen of the Fae. Oh my fuck.

    “But I-”

    “My power is sufficient to grant you the wish dearest to your heart,” She says, and Stiles stops short, hands cupped around the back of his head to lessen the vibration so he can think.

    “Dearest to my...” he eyes Her. “Uh. What exactly -”

    “The thoughts you dare not speak, the secret wishes you make in the night.” Stiles just stares at Her and She adds thoughtfully, “Your mate’s suffering is more distressing to you than your own.”

    He freezes.

    “My... Derek,” he manages hoarsely. “You mean you- no. No way. You can’t-”

    “Even time itself bends to the will of the Queen,” emo Fae kid says, still bored. He’s actually examining his black nail polish, the little shit.

    “That’s- not possible.” The Queen stares at him, and Stiles swallows again. “You can’t – you can do that?”

    She inclines Her head.

    Stiles swallows. He’s panting again, he realizes, heart racing at the thought. “I uh. Give me a minute. I need to- I need to think.”

    “Of course.”

    Stiles winces because he’s dropped his hands which means her voice explodes through his head again. And then he’s back in his doorway staring at empty space, heart still thundering like he’s been running for his life.

    He lets his legs go out from under him. Well, lets is overstating it, it’s more like his legs withdraw consent and suddenly Stiles is no longer standing up. Once he’s slumped in the doorway he stares into the distance and turns it all over in his head.

    Changing the past. It shouldn’t be possible. But if there’s one thing they’ve learned since high school, it’s that almost anything, apparently, is possible.

    Give Derek back the life Kate stole from him. The family she burned.

    Stiles swallows, drops his head into his hands and tries to think it through.

    The Hale pack survives. Peter never goes crazy, never bites Scott. The Argents don’t have any reason to return to Beacon Hills, Jackson never becomes the kanima, the alpha pack- well. Hmm.

    Maybe the alpha pack never comes to Beacon Hills. Maybe they do. But if they do, they’d likely face a large, established pack, not an inexperienced alpha and a bunch of terrified teenagers. Beacon Hills was stable, once upon a time. Stiles remembers all the years where Dad’s job had been way less dangerous. There had been a lot of quiet years before Peter’s rampage and even earlier, when the Hales were alive. Surely it can be that way again?

    Things can go wrong with that scenario, Stiles knows. There’s always the risk that other bad things could happen. But.

    In the other room Derek turns over and makes a tiny, pained noise. It’s his brother’s name. His nine-year old brother who never got to be ten. Surely saving the lives of children is worth it?

    Stiles shoves to his feet and staggers toward their bed. Once he’s there, biting his lip and staring down at Derek, he can’t avoid thinking about the other, undeniable change, and it feels like a stone is lodged in his gut.

    Stiles will never know Derek. The chances of them meeting, of forming any kind of connection at all are- astronomical. Same hometown doesn’t really mean a lot in the grand scheme of things.

    Derek will be out of high school a year after Stiles starts. Derek will be working, or at college, when Stiles is an adolescent. By the time Stiles goes to college, Derek’s adult life will be established, and the odds of anything bringing them together...

    He clenches his fists so hard that his nails cut instantly into the palm of his hands.

    Stiles can’t let that change anything. He can’t be that selfish. He crouches, leans in close and kisses Derek’s downturned mouth. “I love you,” he says, and Derek’s eyes flicker open.

    “Stiles?”

    “I love you so much I’d do anything for you, you know that?” Stiles chokes out, and runs a finger down the curve of one perfect cheekbone.

    Derek is blinking awake. “Stiles?” he says again, muzzily. “You okay?” He pushes upright, sheet pooling at his waist.

    “Nope,” Stiles says, trying for a smile. None of this will matter anyway, this relationship won’t ever have existed. His heart twists up and he can’t breathe for the thought of it.

    Derek, bringing Stiles consolation donuts when he’d dislocated his shoulder and missed senior prom. Derek, reluctantly admitting he couldn’t imagine a life without Stiles. Derek, laughing helplessly during the credits of Despicable Me 2.

    None of it will ever happen and he can’t breathe.

    “What’s-”

    “It’s okay,” he soothes automatically. He manages one huge gasping breath. “I’m going to fix it, Derek. Give back what she took.”

    Derek reaches out to clutch at him, and misses. They both stare down blankly at his hand. That just – that doesn’t happen. Derek’s control of his body is absolute. He tries again, and makes no contact.

    “Stiles?” Derek asks, panicked, and Stiles takes a deep breath. This is the same thing as Derek not waking, earlier. It’s Fae magic, putting Stiles beyond the alpha’s reach in every way.

    “You have decided, then,” that voice comes from behind and Stiles winces, watches Derek cringe away from the noise. He can only imagine the pain Her voice causes in Derek’s more sensitive ears.

    Stiles slides back, off the bed, to stand. He’s crying, and he doesn’t bother trying to hide it. Crying is the only sensible reaction here – he’s terrified of a thousand different things and he’s losing something most people never even find. “I love you,” he tells Derek one more time, voice breaking.

    “Stiles,” the alpha cries out, eyes full of terror as he lunges forward, and it seems so unfair, for that image to be the last glimpse of Derek Stiles gets in this life.

     

     

    Chapter Text

     

    PART TWO

     

    in time of lilacs who proclaim
    the aim of waking is to dream,
    remember so(forgetting seem)

     

     

    Sooo... time travel.

    Trippy.

    The Beacon Hills of Stiles’ childhood forms around him, whoosh, and he’s blinking in the unexpected sunlight, trying not to feel like he has I’M FROM THE FUTURE, YO! written all over his face. He ducks around the back of the local library to pull himself together, out of sight.

    It’s a long time before he can shake off that last glimpse of Derek, but after a while Stiles sets his mouth in a firm line and swipes away the tears. He takes a moment to be thankful he’d gotten out of his pajamas that morning and is actually wearing both pants and shoes. Small victories. The main thing, now, is to focus on doing things, and not think about what he’s left behind. He takes a deep breath and starts walking.

    The first thing, obviously, is to figure out exactly when he has landed. He can’t remember the precise date of the Hale fire, Derek has always gotten quiet and haunted over a period of weeks, like remembering the lead-up is as painful as they day itself. A newspaper on a park bench tells Stiles it’s a Tuesday in early October 2005, so he’s only a week or so from zero hour. It’s mid-morning, so Present!Stiles will be at elementary school, and Present!Dad is most likely at work, slowly pulling himself together from the loss of his wife the year before. Stiles carefully directs his mind away from that thought, too.

    Stiles should have known, really. Because he spends about three minutes walking around town, trying to get his head around the weird familiar-not familiar feel of it all and figure out his first move. And then he turns, glances across the street, and there is Peter. Fucking. Hale.

    Peter.

    Stiles’ heart does that stupid bam-thump thing that is completely freaking pointless, and then he takes a deep breath and just-

    “Peter Hale,” Stiles says at normal volume, trying really hard not to remember the murderous history between the two of them - because this version of Peter has, far as Stiles knows, never attempted to murder anybody. “I know you can hear me.”

    The ‘wolf is pretty good at faking. His lashes flicker just slightly, but there’s no interruption to his walking gait. Stiles reaches into his pocket for his phone, but he keeps his eyes on Peter, who has paused at the kerb and turned casually toward Stiles. His face is open and mildly curious – young, too, which is weird. There’s no trace of the insanity Stiles can never forget. No acknowledgement of Stiles’ words, either.

    Stiles swallows and remembers to raise his phone to his ear so that he doesn’t look like a crazy person. In the back of his head he wonders if the phone will even work in this time. 2005... he can’t really remember, but he doesn’t think touchscreens were too common back then. Best not to show off what he has in his hand, then. “I, uh. I need to speak with Talia Hale.”

    Which gets Peter moving, weaving through traffic and straight toward Stiles.

    Oh crap. Stiles takes one half-step back and lowers his voice, “I need to speak with your alpha.”

    Peter’s eyes harden and he appears at Stiles’ side, managing to loom without getting too close. “I’m sorry-” he begins, smooth as butter, brow crinkling in a great facsimile of confusion.

    “Yeah, I know,” Stiles breaks in, shoving his phone back into his pocket. “You don’t know me, you don’t trust me, and how the hell do I know about you guys, or who your alpha is. I’ll explain everything, I swear, but I don’t know how much time I have, so I really just – I need for you to listen to me, and believe me when I tell you that my only priority is the wellbeing of the Hale pack.”

    Peter is narrow-eyed now. “Really,” he says.

    “Yes,” Stiles retorts. He swallows, overwhelmed suddenly by the realization of what he’s about to lose. “Yes, really. I’m telling the truth and you know it.”

    “You reek of another alpha,” Peter says, “you-” And then he stops, blinking.

    “Oh crap,” Stiles says faintly. He’d showered this morning but considering last night’s activities, and the fact that he’s been living with Derek for over two years, of course there’ll be a scent residue. You couldn’t take care of that along with the bam!poof time travel? he projects silently but vigorously toward his benefactor, just in case She’s hanging around and observing. “I really should have thought of that.”

    Still, maybe it will work in his favour. Stiles leans forward. “I smell like what, exactly? Or should I say, who?”

    How do you know my nephew?” Peter demands, and twists a hand in the front of Stiles’ shirt, jerking him closer.

    “Hey, uh, not in the middle of the street, huh?” Stiles manages, heart racing out of control because this is Peter, and the expression on his face right now is a lot closer to murder-y than Stiles is comfortable with. Still, it’s nice to know Peter used to channel his issues into protectiveness for his pack, rather than general mayhem and revenge.

    Peter’s eyes travel over Stiles’ face, measuring and thoughtful, even as his hand loosens its grip. “You’re afraid of me,” he says, matter-of-fact.

    “Uh, yeah?” Stiles replies, shrugging. “Obviously. I’m a puny human and you’re a- lot stronger than me,” he manages at the last minute not to say werewolf on a public street.

    “What’s your name?”

    “Uh. Stiles.”

    Peter raises a disdainful brow.

    “Not a lie,” Stiles points out. “You’d know if it was. That is, actually, my name.” The only one he’ll answer to, anyway.

    “You know a lot about us, Stiles,” Peter says, thoughtful.

    Stiles sighs. “Yeah. I do. And I know this is, like, way out of left field, me asking to meet the alpha, probably there’s etiquette I should be following but I swear to you, it’s necessary. And I don’t know how much time I have.” The irony of that statement is not lost on Stiles.

     

     

    Peter makes a phone call. He keeps a watchful eye on Stiles the whole time, but Stiles just keeps his eyes turned toward the Main Street traffic. It’s occurring to him, suddenly, that she is here, somewhere. Grocery shopping, maybe. Constructing pipe bombs in a shady warehouse, possibly.

    Making out with Derek, maybe.

    Stiles swallows hard and scrubs a hand over his mouth. His stomach is churning at the thought of it, possessiveness and anger and a ridiculous betrayal underneath it all. But this isn’t his Derek and he has to remember that. He gave up his right to those feelings.

    “Are you all right, Stiles?” Peter is at his side and he hadn’t even noticed. Funny how the thought of Kate Argent, alive and in the flesh, on the verge of mass murder, makes Peter seem like a fluffy bunny by comparison.

    “A little stressed,” Stiles admits. “Worried.”

    “About?”

    “About an imminent threat to- the Hale pack,” Stiles says, and gives Peter a hard stare. He’d almost said my pack. “Is she prepared to meet with me?”

    “She is,” Peter allows, and Stiles feels his outermost layer of fear loosen slightly. “Shall we go?”

    Stiles falls into step at the beta’s side, only now noticing that Peter is carrying a carton of wine. It’s so innocuous; he can’t help the brief grin. “Sorry to interrupt your shopping,” he says. “You planning a party or something?”

    “Simply stocking up,” Peter says lightly. “I’ve never seen the point of denying myself my favourite indulgences.”

    Stiles nods once, but the word conjures up the burnt-out house in his mind, the wine racks he’d seen in the cellar, and the tunnels the Hales had relied on for escape. It sours the small feeling of achievement, and he turns his head away from Peter quickly, hands clenching in his pockets.

    He has to get this right. He has to.

    “Are we, uh,” he begins, “going to your house?” He really hopes not.

    “Do you have some objection to that location?” Peter, of course, can’t fucking answer a simple question.

    Stiles sighs and shakes his head, no. S’not like he could explain his reaction to the house.

    “But no,” Peter says then, because he’s an asshole. “I’m not about to take an unannounced stranger to our den.”

    Stiles sighs, nods and doesn’t bother asking any more questions.

    They make the drive in silence, though Stiles is under no illusions that Peter is done with his questions. He sighs and rolls his head back and forth on the very nice leather of the car seats. “Go ahead and ask,” Stiles says. “Honestly, I could use the distraction.”

    “You’re very distressed,” Peter observes.

    That’s a pretty good technique, actually. Lots of people will just bite at a comment like that and spill all their beans. No cop’s kid worth their salt is going to fall for it, though.

    “Yep,” he says, and pops the ‘p’ just to be a little shit. “I’m about to unmake my entire life,” he says, and lets Peter make of that what he will.

    “How do you come to smell so strongly of my nephew, Stiles,” Peter asks. There’s a faint hint of teeth there, and Stiles remembers all over again that the Derek they’re discussing is fifteen, maybe sixteen. Yeah. That’s not a good look for Stiles, who’s clearly all grown up.

    “I’ve never caught even a trace of you on Derek, which really isn’t possible considering how deeply entwined his scent-”

    “It’ll all make sense, I promise,” Stiles says as calmly as he can.

    “Who is the other alpha I can scent on you,” Peter continues, as if Stiles hadn’t spoken.

    “I’ll tell you and Talia at the same time,” Stiles replies, and closes his eyes. “I honestly don’t have it in me to do this twice.”

     

    * * *

     

    The neutral location? Is Deaton’s. Stiles shakes his head. He should have fucking known.

    When he gets out of the car, Peter is watching him narrowly. “You’re familiar with this place?”

    “I grew up in Beacon Hills, dude,” Stiles says, and shrugs.

    “Then you know Alan?”

    “He’s not going to recognize me, if that’s what you’re asking,” Stiles deflects automatically. He’d almost forgotten how to play this game, after years of being unthinkingly honest with Derek and the rest of the pack. But there’s a small, petty part of him that’s enjoying not giving Peter the answers he wants. “I know who he is and what role he plays.”

    “Derek told you that?”

    Stiles shakes his head. “Not Derek, no.”

    Peter’s eyes are glowing in annoyance, and then a slender, beautiful woman with short-cropped hair appears in the doorway. “Let’s do this inside, Peter,” she says, and Stiles just stares for a few moments because-

    Talia Hale. Derek’s mom. He swallows and takes a few shambling steps forward.

    “Alpha Hale,” he manages, when he’s only a few yards away. “I, uh. Nice to meet you. Sorry if I’m doing this all wrong. I’m Stiles.”

    Talia is obviously running through the scents Stiles carries with him, though she’s a lot more subtle about it than any other wolf Stiles has ever seen. Her eyes don’t even flare, which is nice, because she has Derek’s eyes – well, Derek has her eyes, obviously – and Stiles is just staring at them, overwhelmed for a moment with homesickness and the cowardly wish to not do this.

    Whatever scent Stiles is projecting obviously disarms her enough that she steps back to let him in. “Stiles,” she says, carefully calm, and her eyes flick over Stiles’ head, to Peter, for a half-second before she says, “It’s nice to meet you.”

    He moves inside, past her, and when he glances back the two wolves are ranged in front of the door, watching him. There are low sounds from one of the examining rooms, which maybe explains why the waiting area is empty, and after a moment he gets what they’re waiting for.

    “No tricks. I’m just a human,” he says with a soft smile, and flips up the mountain ash walk-thru. The defensive wards he knows are there remain inert as he passes them. “You want to go into the back room before some civilian shows up and makes this awkward?”

    He assumes they do, and heads on back. It doesn’t particularly hurt to let them know he’s familiar with the layout of Deaton’s, considering he’s about to tell them everything in a few minutes anyway, but he can imagine the confusion and paranoia they’re sifting through right now.

    When Stiles and Talia are seated on opposite sides of the small table, and Peter is comfortable looming in a corner behind Stiles – nice psychology there – he lays his hands flat on the stainless steel and stares down at them, taking a deep breath.

    “The answer to all of your questions,” Stiles says, “is that I’m from the future.”

     

    * * *

     

    After about an hour of talking, and after Deaton takes a quick break from his patients to do some basic magical tests on Stiles that prove he truly is just human, Talia sighs and says, “You might as well come back to the house. We can’t camp out here all day, and the kids will be getting home from school soon.”

    Peter gives her a protesting look, but doesn’t argue with his alpha in front of an outsider – boy, had it taken Stiles forever to learn that – and so they go for an uncomfortable drive to the Hale house. Talia drives on ahead in a sporty little convertible, and Stiles gets a sudden burst of memory from childhood of seeing that car parked outside the Beacon Hills Pharmacy. That’s right, Stiles remembers - Derek’s father, Anthony Hale, had been the town pharmacist. Talia had run the business side of things.

    Stiles rides with Peter, but when Stiles tries a few questions the older man barely answers. After getting a good look at the beta’s face, it seems only fair to let the guy process things a little.

    Talia had admitted that Derek has been secretive of late, but the leap Stiles wants her to make is a leap too far, apparently. She also wants to talk things over with Anthony, who is in Los Angeles for a conference, and pressing an alpha when her mind is made up seems like the quickest way for Stiles to screw up everything. He tries to ignore the tick-tock at the back of his head.

    And then they’re pulling up on a neatly-gravelled driveway beside the Hale house, and Stiles can’t fight back the wave of memories. He tries hard not to look around too much as he follows Talia inside, walking on gleaming floorboards past the stairs and into a library-slash-study on the left.

    He blinks, a little shocked, as Peter pauses in a doorway to wrap a short, curvaceous brunette in his arms and scent her neck. The gesture is an automatic greeting for one’s mate, a reflex Stiles has been on the receiving end of more times than he can count and the thought comes out of nowhere, as does the stab of pain at knowing that he’ll never have that again.

    The woman murmurs something and Peter smiles, so tender it hurts to watch. Stiles glances away a beat too late, and catches Peter’s suspicious glare, so when the woman – Catrin, it turns out from Talia’s murmured greeting – comes in a few minutes later bearing a plate of sandwiches he is careful to be polite but not too interested when he thanks her.

    It’s a struggle to eat, sitting in this room and knowing that if he fails, the woman who just made him lunch, and the woman to his left, will be nothing but dust and ashes in a matter of days or weeks.

    So he lays down his sandwich and just jumps back in. “I know I must sound insane,” Stiles says. “And I – that’s okay, I don’t really care what you think of me. You don’t even have to believe me. Just- just look into Derek’s extracurricular activities and make your own judgement. And, and,” he swallows, “Maybe fireproof the place a little? Buy some extra fire extinguishers or something?”

    Talia and Peter both shift slightly, and Stiles has spent enough years around ‘wolves to know they’re hearing sounds beyond his range, so he stops immediately. And then.

    And then.

    “Mom?”

    Derek appears in the doorway. Behind him someone is thundering down the hall and up the stairs, and there’s a high-pitched, “Hey Mom,” which could only be from David, the youngest Hale.

    But Derek. Teenaged, lanky, painfully awkward Derek, is standing in the doorway, a backpack slung over one shoulder.

    “Derek,” Talia says, and smiles just slightly. Damn, she is good, because there is only the vaguest hint of what Stiles has been saying in her voice or on her face. “Your uncle and I are just in the middle of something,” Derek’s eyes flick to Stiles’ face, utterly uninterested in this random stranger, and shit, Stiles realizes with a jolt, he must look old to this Derek, who is a cripplingly young fifteen. Or, fuck, he probably doesn’t look too old, because that bitch Kate Argent-

    Instead, compared to her, Stiles probably just looks pasty and skinny and boring. And wow, is that the wrong thing to focus on, Stiles. Jeez this situation is fucked up.

    “Hello,” Derek says, perfunctory but polite. His ears are- they’re ridiculous. Stiles fucking loves Derek’s stupid, sticky-out ears and the grief is a relentless wave sweeping him under, stealing his breath.

    “Hey,” Stiles manages, and he knows his heart is hammering all out of proportion, which is going to draw attention from all the ‘wolves in the room, “I’m, uh. John,” he chokes out.

    Derek nods once, and eyes Stiles curiously, then glances back to Talia. “I’m um. Going out later,” he says, and wow, Derek’s timing is just consistently terrible, isn’t it, no matter what universe they’re in. He couldn’t have backed up Stiles’ story any better if he’d planned it. “Won’t be home for dinner.”

    There’s a tiny pause before Talia says, “That’s fine, honey. Your father’s flight was delayed, so he probably won’t be home tonight either.”

    Derek glances in Stiles’ direction again, still curious, but he backs out of the room with another quick nod when Peter starts forward.

    Stiles drops his head, hands white-knuckled on the arm of his chair, and just tries to fucking breathe.

    Peter, in a shocking display of mercy, crosses to the door and closes it carefully, then just stands and waits silently, like Talia, for Stiles to get his shit together. It takes far too long.

    When his breathing has evened out some, Stiles runs his hand over his face to scrub away the worst traces and says in a whisper, “Do you have pen and paper?” The odds of Derek -or anyone else in the house, for that matter- listening in are long. Doesn’t matter. Stiles isn’t about to risk anyone overhearing anything. Changing the future is risky enough without fucking it up by accident.

    Peter moves around the room and deposits a large notebook and a mechanical pencil on the coffee table in front of Stiles. He stands to the left, Talia still seated on Stiles’ right, and they watch as Stiles writes:

    Don’t rely on the tunnels for escape. She knew about them .

    Peter tenses slightly at that. It’s a little more in the way of proof, Stiles knows, considering very few people outside the pack would know the tunnels exist. It must also be a punch to the gut to think of escape from the family home ever being necessary. Double-punch to think of it being necessary and then impossible. The den transformed into a trap – the very idea is anathema.

    She used wolfsbane or mountain ash or both, I think? No-one who was inside escaped...

    This isn’t exactly the time for going into the whole insane-Peter story.

    Talia’s hands flex and when Stiles glances up her eyes are glowing red. He doesn’t flinch – years of living with an alpha have kind of made him immune – but wow, is she pissed.

    Stiles swallows and throws down his pencil.

    “If we don’t follow your advice...” Peter begins, and Stiles twists to meet his eyes. “What, exactly, will you do, John?

    Stiles isn’t intimidated by the standover tactics. “Whatever I have to,” he says, and carefully doesn’t think about how far he knows he would go. There’s a contingency in the back of his head, unacknowledged but still there, all the same.

    Peter, amazingly, looks as though he’s staring straight at that contingency. The ‘wolf’s eyes glow eerie blue at him, and Stiles feels his panic settle a little. He can’t get a good read on Talia, her control is immaculate and he has very little knowledge of her character. He has no idea what she will do, whether she believes him even a little.

    Peter, though. Stiles has the feeling Peter will find a way to act on this, no matter what. Something – Stiles’ helpless reaction to Derek’s presence, maybe? – has convinced the beta that Kate Argent is a genuine threat to the pack.

    “Thank you, Stiles,” Talia finally says, all careful politeness. “I appreciate you bringing this to me.”

    Stiles lets himself smile faintly. She doesn’t believe him. But he’s stirred up her protective instincts and her curiosity. She’s going to check on her baby boy, just in case.

    It’s enough, and he’s oddly winded at realizing he might have actually done it.

    He’s stopped the Hale fire.

     

    * * *

     

    It’s not until he goes to leave the house that Stiles realizes he has no idea what’s next for him. The Fae Queen hadn’t exactly said, so, I’ll be back to pick you up in three days, meet me at the old Town Hall, or anything so helpful. What She had actually said was your destiny is in your own hands now.

    Ugh. He should get her together with Deaton and they could have an enigma-off.

    Point being, Stiles has no idea where to go. His wallet and phone made the trip with him, but unless she’s an extremely computer savvy Fae Queen his accounts won’t exist yet, he’s pretty sure, so his cards won’t work. Fuck. He’s technically homeless.

    “Shit,” he mutters.

    Peter glances sideways at Stiles as they climb into the car.

    “I just, uh, realized none of my cards will work, and I can’t exactly show up at my house...”

    “The pack will put you up,” Peter says remotely.

    O-kay. Stiles watches as Peter takes a dirt road through the woods instead of turning for the highway.

    “When you say put me up-” Stiles begins.

    “You’ll be perfectly safe,” Peter says.

    Right. What he means is, You’ll be just where I put you, Stiles is pretty sure. He shrugs. He can’t exactly argue, considering his one and only other option is to approach Deaton. Yeah, all told, he’d rather be near the pack.

    They don’t drive for long, six minutes or so, and then they’re pulling up in front of a small cottage in the middle of the woods. Stiles stares at it, almost hidden by the close-knit trees, and says, “Huh.”

    “You don’t know this place?”

    Stiles shrugs. “Never seen it.” Then he frowns. He should have known about it, though, right? He turns that over in his head, and then says slowly, “There was a forest fire, in ’09, that went through some of the Preserve. Maybe this was destroyed? Either that, or Derek didn’t know about it.”

    “Only the alpha and their second are aware of this place at any one time,” Peter remarks casually. “It was warded by a Hale ancestor back in the late 19th century.”

    Huh. “Yeah. Derek didn’t exactly get a handover when he became alpha,” Stiles murmurs.

    Peter doesn’t reply to that, just gets out of the car and goes to the trunk for something, which turns out, hilariously, to be a small stack of Tupperware and some milk. Then he keys open the door and ushers Stiles inside. He goes over and turns on the fridge, shutting the door carefully, and turns the faucet for a half-second to check there’s running water.

    It’s clean, and neat, and small. One door in the left hand wall which is, Stiles seriously hopes, a bathroom, and the rest of the space is a combined kitchen/dining/living/sleeping area. The door, he notes, locks from the inside and the outside. Handy, and not at all sinister, he thinks wryly.

    “Okay,” he says after a long moment. “Thanks.”

    Peter’s brows flick up. “No argument?”

    “If some random dude showed up at my pack’s place and started spinning a tale like this? I’d be at least this paranoid, possibly more.” Now Peter’s amused. “You’re not torturing me for information, so in my experience- this is downright friendly.”

    “You’d torture someone for information, Stiles?” Peter asks, silky.

    Stiles swallows and looks away. “I had to, once,” he says, very soft and shaky. It’s not one of his favourite memories. “They’d taken Derek,” he adds simply. “I didn’t like it, but I didn’t hesitate either.”

    There’s a long silence, then Peter gestures toward the Tupperware he’d set down on the kitchen counter and says, “My mate has provided.”

    It’s an oddly formal sounding statement, and Stiles hesitates for a second, then says, “Please, uh... give her my thanks.”

    Peter nods once. He turns for the door and Stiles ambles after, hands in his pockets. He’s not nervous about being locked in, but he wouldn’t mind a last breath of fresh air, either. Peter seems in no hurry to leave, all of a sudden.

    “How did you come to be here?” Peter asks. His hands are in his pockets, casual as you please. “It takes some serious magical power to escape the chains of time itself. And while you’re obviously no ordinary human, I’m not sensing anything like that level of ambition from you.”

    “Ambition?” Stiles snorts. “No. Uh. That’s not.” He takes a deep breath, “That’s not what drives me.”

    Peter just waits.

    “I, uh.” He rubs his head, suddenly sheepish. He has a pretty good idea how this is going to go. “I accidentally did a favour for a Fae.”

    “A Fae?” Peter spits, and Stiles doesn’t have to be a ‘wolf to know his hackles are up. That’s why he’d avoided this part of the explanation, earlier. Belatedly, he thinks, this might also be why Talia hadn’t really believed him. ‘Because magic’ isn’t exactly the most convincing evidence.

    “Yep, and believe me, I know it’s the dumbest thing in the universe to get involved with the Fae. Dumber-than-a-land-war-in-Asia kind of dumb. But.”

    “But you did it anyway.”

    “Well, not on purpose.” Stiles shakes his head. “I uh, me and Derek, we. We intervened in a ritual sacrifice type thing, thought the victim was just some emo moron acting out against his middle class upbringing or something.”

    1. He said Derek’s name and didn’t break down. Stiles allows himself an extra breath for good behaviour.

    “Turns out, he was an emo moron acting out against his mother, the Queen of the Fae.”

    “You did a favour for the Queen of the Fae,” Peter says, disbelieving.

    “By complete fucking accident,” Stiles agrees. “I almost soiled myself when she showed me her true face- Christ on a bicycle. But she was... insistent, I guess you could say. I saved her only child, yadda yadda. The debt must be repaid, etc etc.” He’s never going to forget that phrase.

    “And this was your choice?”

    Stiles doesn’t speak for a long time. Then he lets out a long, slow breath. “My Mom. She died – well, about a year ago, in this time.” He swallows. “But that was – it was cancer, y’know? Just... the natural, fucked up, totally unfair order of things. Fuckin’ circle of life or whatever, bite me. But. I’ve read enough lore to know that when you try to circumvent the natural order... well. It doesn’t go so well for anyone.” He takes one deliberate breath, in and out. “I thought about it, though, not gonna lie.”

    Peter says nothing.

    “But murder? Mass murder? Of children?” Stiles shakes his head, “If anything deserves a loophole, I mean. That has got to be worth stopping. Even if my heart explodes the next day or whatever... being able to give Derek back his entire family-”

    There’s a long silence. Peter is watching him narrowly. Finally, he says, “No-one is that selfless.”

    Stiles snorts. Ah, Peter. Don’t ever change, he thinks wryly.

    “You’re right. But it’s really not selfless. Because the Hale fire? Fucked up a lot more lives than Derek’s. My best friend, Scott, for a start. He got bitten,” Stiles swallows, “by a rogue alpha our sophomore year. Then hunters came to town and there were shenanigans aplenty in good old Beacon Hills. People died. Random citizens, some of them, friends of mine as well. My Dad lost his job because the town was just utter fucking chaos. I had to lie to him every second of every day. He stopped trusting me, and we’ve never been the same since. I got kidnapped and beaten up so many times, Jesus, it felt like a weekly event.”

    “So yeah. There’s maybe something in it for me as well,” Stiles says slowly. He turns his eyes in the general direction of Beacon Hills. Somewhere out there, Talia is following Derek to a rendezvous with Kate. Events are in motion. History is changing.

    Peter doesn’t reply. But he stays there, shoulder to shoulder with Stiles, while they wait.

     

    * * *

     

    Once night falls, Peter leaves and Stiles is locked inside. He’s antsy, mind jumping around like a hyperactive frog – what is happening, right now, across town – what will the Hales do – what other catastrophe might occur in place of the fire-

    So he’s almost relieved when he gets the barest warning of sound and then the door is thrown open and Talia is just there, red eyes glowing in the dark. She stalks forward, clearly meaning to convey a threat, and Stiles’ heart begins to beat faster, a natural response to stimulus.

    He’s not surprised, though. He’s pissed off enough just thinking about what Kate must have done – was doing – with kid Derek. Having to hear it? Then add in the feelings of a mother, and add a little alpha to super-charge things.

    Yeah. He’s not surprised she’s pissed.

    “If you are truly the mate of an alpha,” Talia hisses, “then you must know what these can do.” And she raises her hands, claws extended.

    Stiles nods once. “Yeah,” he says. He’d wondered if she’d demand it back at the house, actually. They’d taken a lot on faith, from a total stranger. If Stiles were some kind of sociopath that lied without a blip of his heart, he could do a lot of damage to this pack. They’re way too complacent.

    He turns in his seat and leans forward, baring the back of his neck. He hears a shocked intake of breath. What, had she thought he’d resist?

    “I don’t think you understand quite how far I’m prepared to go for this, Alpha Hale,” Stiles says without moving. “But this might put us on the same page. Just-”

    There’s silence. “What,” she growls, suddenly much closer.

    He glances back at her, heart suddenly racing. “Promise me,” he says thickly. “Swear to me you’ll never share these memories with your Derek.”

    She stares down at him, red-eyed and skirting the edges of homicidal.

    “He has just, this infinite capacity for self-loathing,” Stiles says thickly. “And there’s no point to this if you’re just going to let him carry all this shit all over again. He can’t know-”

    “I so swear,” she grits out. “On the lives of my children. I’ll never share these memories with Derek.”

    He lets his head drop, nodding, and then her left hand is curling over his shoulder, to hold him still, claws still extended. Stiles side-eyes them, and says, “Uh, there’s some sex stuff in there though, that you might wanna-”

    Her claws sink into the soft skin of his neck while he’s still speaking and so, of course, those sex memories are the first things she sees. Derek, half-wolfed out, gripping Stiles like he’s the only solid thing left in the universe, mumbling pleas and threats and promises, undone with the idea of losing Stiles, too. Then it shifts to Derek, in the grip of a nightmare, calling for his lost pack.

    She makes a soft sound, grieving, and Stiles swallows and tries to give her what she needs in order to believe. To understand. He focuses on the Hale house from his early adolescence, how it had been the creepy haunted house of Beacon Hills. Damn it, though, because that image skips sideways to the memory of a red-eyed Peter, burning on the lawn with Kate Argent’s blood still on his claws, and Stiles tries valiantly to get that under control but Talia seems to be driving now and they skip through most of the early Peter stuff, Scott’s bite, Lydia’s bite, the offer that Stiles rejected, and the hideous image of Derek, hanging in mid-air and fucking gushing blood, with Peter’s claws all the way through his chest.

    He takes a gasping breath because fuck, that’s some traumatic shit, okay, and then there’s Gerard and the fucking basement, and for the first time Stiles struggles under her grip because, just, no, and she skips away from that, merciful, getting a trace of Stiles’ misery at lying to Dad all the time and the way Dad had turned away, apathetic, after the suspension. She pushes forward just enough to get a glimpse of the alpha pack before she’s pulling back her claws and letting Stiles go.

    He stays where he is, cheek pressed to the table while he gasps for breath and tries to pop all of that shit back in its boxes so he doesn’t, ya know, end up rocking back and forth in the corner of the room. He grips his own knees, hard, ignoring the trickle of blood making its way around his neck, and when he’s steadier Stiles lifts his head, feeling vaguely exhausted.

    He takes a long breath as he straightens, keeping his heartbeat steady as he congratulates himself. There had been one thing he’d wanted to keep from Talia, and it felt like he’d done it. No Laura in any of those memories.

    There was no point letting anyone in this timeline know that Peter had killed his own niece, his alpha. It’d just be dickish to put that image in Talia’s head. She’ll probably assume Laura died in the fire, leaving Peter the alpha. Stiles lifts his head on a shaky breath.

    Talia is making coffee.

    “I take it black,” Stiles says hoarsely.

    “I know,” she says, and turns her head just enough for him to see the almost-smirk. It reminds him, like a punch to the gut, of Derek.

    “You have his eyes,” Stiles blurts. “Or, he has your eyes, I guess.”

    “I know,” she says again, softer. And this time she turns fully so their gazes can lock. For a moment there’s silence.

    “We can’t kill her,” Stiles says. “Well, you can’t.” Wolf killing a hunter... yeah, there’s your dystopian future, right there.

    “I know that, too,” Talia says, this time through a hint of fang.

    I could, though.” They watch one another. “In this timeline I’d be a random drifter, with no ID.” He’s pretty sure Dad wouldn’t recognise a face he’s never seen. Though probably it’d be smarter to do it in another jurisdiction, just in case.

    Stiles doesn’t try to pretend to himself that his contingency – that what he’s considering right now – is anything but cold-blooded murder. He is planning, theoretically, how to commit murder in order to achieve his ends. It’s no surprise to Stiles – he knows himself well enough to admit exactly how far he’s prepared to go for the ones he loves. At least his Dad would never know.

    “You’d spend the rest of your life in prison,” Talia observes. It’s not a no.

    “Worth it,” he shrugs. Besides, maybe he wouldn’t. The Queen might come back and poof him away. Or he could Shawshank it. And somewhere out there his young self would be living an actual life, without supernatural dramas, so...

    She sits down across the tiny table from Stiles and slides the coffee toward him.

    “I’m sorry you had to- see, or hear it, whatever it was,” Stiles offers. He does not want to know what Talia saw this evening.

    Her eyes glow briefly red again but she’s in control. “Anthony will be here soon,” is all the reply he gets. “I called him right after we spoke. But you’re correct, Stiles, we can’t kill her.”

    “Then what?” He wraps his hands around the mug, absorbing the warmth.

    “I have some ideas,” she says, and her face is suddenly very wolf-like, though she hasn’t shifted at all. But there’s alpha ruthlessness there that settles Stiles’ nerves. It’s good to, for once, have an ally that’s just as single-minded as he is.

     

    * * *

     

    “You’re sure this is necessary?” Stiles asks. He hadn’t anticipated this. He’d assumed some kind of supernatural showdown would ensue, would be the only way to contain such malevolence and ruthlessness. Then Stiles shakes his head. Kate Argent’s been like a bogey-man, this huge shadow in the back of all their lives for so long...

    “It’s an open-and-shut case of statutory rape and indecent dealing, Stiles,” Anthony explains again, probably more patiently than Stiles deserves. “Photographic evidence that they’ve met at the motel more than once-”

    “Yes, thank you,” Stiles returns testily. “I know what’s been happening and how often. I just- are you sure, I mean-” he sighs and spreads his hands. “Derek.”

    “He’s furious,” Anthony allows, “and embarrassed. But Talia and I have spoken to him, and he’ll give a truthful statement. And in a few months, or possibly a few years, he’ll understand. He might even be grateful. At the very least, he’ll have the knowledge that he prevented this from happening to another underage boy.”

    Then Peter smiles from the corner, cold and deadly. “Also, the hunter clans loathe attention from law enforcement. This will put a spotlight on Kate she will be helpless to deflect. There’ll be a Tribunal now, for certain.”

    Stiles just nods and turns to stare off into the distance. It’s smart, really. Make the hunter clans police themselves, keep the Hales out of it as much as possible.

    He takes a breath, working hard to keep it steady.

    Present!Dad is questioning Kate right now. Present!Dad was the one to doorknock the motel and catch them... in the act, so to speak. It’s weird, picturing that. Makes his chest ache, a little. He knows Dad will be awesome with Derek, he can’t not be awesome, he’s a Stilinski. But this iteration of Derek is so... open. So easily hurt.

    Stiles can’t help but remember he helped cause that.

     

    * * *

     

    “The Hawker family,” Deaton begins, “while not as old as the Argent family, have a great deal of history, and a reputation for strong devotion to the Code.”

    Stiles nods once, still pacing in circles around the examination room. “Great. Great. Awesome. Get them here, just,” he makes huge welcoming circles with his arms, “bring ‘em in, more the merrier. All the Code we can handle.”

    Peter cocks an eyebrow at him, bemused.

    “You understand you will not be permitted to bear witness at this hearing,” Deaton adds, “It would be unwise to muddy the waters with accusations of possible magical interference-”

    “Yep, yeah, I am totally on board with not being the star of this little show,” Stiles returns. “Anonymous informant, that’s me. Happy to disappear into the background.”

    Speaking of which, why hasn’t he? It’s been three weeks since he arrived, and so far there’s no sign of him going back to the future – that phrase is never gonna get old – or going poof and straight-up disappearing because his timeline no longer exists. It’s possible that he’s stuck here, actually. Stiles is sincerely starting to wonder if he should have read the fine print. Maybe he needs to think about looking for a job, getting fake papers. Moving to Tibet. He can only camp out in the Hale family bunker for so long.

    Peter exchanges a glance with Deaton that Stiles knows perfectly well expresses amusement at his expense, but he’s totally on board with that too. He’s still so young to both of them, even now he’s in his twenties, and he’s not at all interested in facing Gerard Argent at the Tribunal and rediscovering his pathetic inner sixteen year old in front of a bunch of witnesses.

    Plus – Kate? Yeah, she’s way too arrogant to keep a lid on things for longer than five minutes. Considering how pissed off she was at having her name and face placed on the national Sex Offender Register? No way she’s going to be able to hold it in side.

    She’ll crack, Stiles just knows it.

    “Just... watch out for Gerard,” he finally says. “That guy has evil mastermind written all over him. He’ll have a backup to his backup plan.”

    Deaton nods, placating, but it’s Peter who meets Stiles’ eyes. The ‘wolf has welcomed Stiles to an exceedingly odd degree. After that first day, Stiles must have passed some kind of unspoken test, because Peter has been an unwavering support, has asked endless questions about the future, has even let Stiles back away from talking about future!Peter in a way that suggests he understands his own nature well enough to guess how things went.

    And this Peter – with his mind intact? He’s a match for Gerard on his own. A Peter who is forewarned about the cancer and the Darach? He’s totally got this.

     

    * * *

     

    The day after the Tribunal banishes Kate Argent from hunter society the Fae Queen makes her return.

    Stiles is cleaning his teeth and almost suffers an embarrassing death by inhaling toothpaste when he meets her eyes in the bathroom mirror.

    “Freesus Prist,” he garbles out, hand to his heart. “You mrying to frill me?” Then he spits, with a great deal of unnecessary force, and lets his head drop forward while he catches his breath.

    “My apologies,” She says in that silvery voice. Yeah. She’s laughing her ass off on the inside, Stiles is pretty sure. Immortality probably means you have to take your laughs where you can.

    “So,” Stiles splashes water over his face and turns to face Her, his butt propped against the tiny bathroom sink. “Time I was leaving?” he manages to say it calmly, but he’s waaay panicked on the inside. What is going to happen to him now? Where can he even go?

    “The crisis has been averted,” She allows.

    “Yeah,” Stiles says slowly. He presses a hand to cup the back of his head, to stave off the inevitable headache. “Kate’s still alive, though.”

    “The task you set is complete, young mortal.” It’s a warning.

    He raises his free hand. “Yeah, I know,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of time to think of all the things I might have screwed up by doing this, I’m honestly not even tempted to try and fix anything else. I just... hope I haven’t caused anything too horrible. The Hales are alive, I know there’ll be that whole butterfly effect thing.” He hesitates, then tries for a winsome smile, “Don’t suppose you give me a hint?”

    “Your present self will face a different future,” She says, ignoring Stiles utterly.

    “Yeah,” he says, shorter this time. “So. I.” He swallows. “This me,” he gestures to his pajama-clad self. “I guess I... disappear?”

    “It would hardly be fair reparation for me to cause you to cease to exist,” She reproves.

    “Yeah, but. I mean. Scott never gets bitten, I never meet a grief-stricken Derek,” Stiles shrugs and swallows hard. “Figures I can’t turn out the same.”

    “You will return to the future, to the same date you left it,” She tells him. “Your present self will live out a new path. He will grow and age as normal, and when he reaches your current age, you will receive the sum total of his memories, and the two will become one.”

    Stiles stares at Her, blinking. He tries to reconcile that neat little prophecy into something that is actually going to take place entirely inside his own head. “You mean- wait. You mean I’ll still remember my old life, but I’ll have the new life’s memories as well?”

    She nods once, gracious.

    “It won’t drive him insane?” Peter asks from the doorway.

    “Good fucking CHRIST,” Stiles shouts, and bangs his elbow hard into the tiled wall as he flails in shock. “What the actual fuck, is there a fucking portal directly into my fucking bathroom, Jesus does no-one in this shitty timeline now how to fucking knock?

    Peter just cocks a sardonic brow at Stiles and turns his gaze back to the Queen.

    “It will not,” She says, as though Stiles’ little outburst had never happened.

    Stiles lets out a shaky breath. “Oh, well then. Great. Good. That’s uh.”

    “And do you decree that he must have no contact with our pack until the two timelines are merged, Majesty?” Peter asks, intent.

    “He may know only that which happens to him in the course of his daily life,” She returns, and Peter’s lips curve in a slow, satisfied smile.

    “And that daily life is unrestricted?”

    “What?” Stiles asks, confused.

    The Queen, however, seems pleased by whatever the hell She’s intuiting from Peter. “As long as his existence remains untouched by spellwork, there will be no repercussions.”

    “I have no fucking idea what either of you are talking about,” Stiles says flatly. The Queen turns her multifaceted eyes upon him and he gulps. “Your Majesty,” he adds hastily, and Peter snorts.

    “Will you allow us a farewell, great Queen?”

    She inclines her head. “Be brief.”

    And then She’s gone, that absence of Presence just happens without a poof or a sparkle or even a wave of the hand and Stiles takes in a deep breath.

    He glances over at Peter. “Two sets of memories,” he says, and grimaces. “I didn’t think of that.”

    “You’ll be fine,” Peter assures him. “If ever there was a mind that could keep track of two histories, it’s yours.”

    “Thanks for the implication that I’m a compulsive liar,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes, but he actually is touched, and Peter knows it. He licks his lips and takes a deep breath. “So.”

    Peter steps forward. “Our family owes a debt to you we can never repay,” he says, and Stiles feels himself flush. He’s already had an extremely embarrassing conversation with Talia and Anthony. All three of them had cried.

    “No, man-” he begins.

    “And I owe you something that cannot be measured,” Peter goes on. He stops, swallows and then says very evenly, “Catrin is pregnant.”

    Stiles freezes. Wide-eyed, he just stares at Peter. “Holy shit,” he manages, after a moment. “Holy shit, Peter-

    “My life is yours, Stiles Stilinski,” Peter says, and his eyes glow blue for a full second. “Second only to my alpha I am yours to command, in any way you see fit, as long as you live.”

    Stiles stares at him for a long time, reeling with how very much he had not ever predicted this. Then he says, “Okay. First and only command - on no account is any child of yours to be named after me.”

    Peter’s smile is wide and startled, and the last thing Stiles sees before a new world forms around him.

     

     

    Chapter Text

    PART THREE

    in time of roses(who amaze
    our now and here with paradise)
    forgetting if,remember yes

     

     

    The Merging of the Stiles-Hive-Mind is about as horrible as Stiles could have imagined it would be. The Queen poofs Stiles back to the present, but not to the apartment he and Derek had been sharing in Beacon Hills. He has about a half-second to look around at the unfamiliar surroundings, and then spends the next six hours on the floor of his apartment in Seattle, clutching his head and interfiling two wildly conflicting lives.

    Scott gets bitten and supernatural high jinks ensue, versus Stiles managing a two-year high school romance with Heather.

    Erica gets the bite, versus Erica shipped away for treatment, never seen again in Beacon Hills.

    Isaac gets the bite, versus Isaac’s fucked-up Dad beating him so severely in senior year he suffers permanent hearing loss in one ear.

    Alpha packs and two different supernatural wars versus some super-ordinary years of college.

    Scraping by as a barista in Beacon Hills versus graduating top of his class at the Police Academy.

    On top of that, there’s the Hale pack.

    Now Stiles understands what Peter was discussing with the Queen. The Hales seemed content to let life simmer along for a few years after Kate Argent was banned and exiled, and then, sometime early in junior high, Stiles had found himself slowly developing a friendship with the twins, and welcomed warmly into the Hale home whenever he felt like dropping by.

    Integrated!Stiles can recognize now that Talia and Peter had left things alone until Derek had graduated high school and left Beacon Hills for college. Afraid to muddy the waters, Stiles guesses, or possibly concerned that adolescent Stiles smelled a little too much like ‘John’, and that Derek would start asking awkward questions.

    Whatever their reason, they firmly adopted a bewildered but secretly thrilled Stiles, and his father, and he even, as ridiculous as it seems now, took Rachel Hale to prom during his and Heather’s brief two-month breakup, in junior year. He’s relieved to see that his and Rachel’s uh, physical interactions had been pretty chaste, and nothing to squick out grown-up Stiles, who is still, fuck his life, completely and utterly in love with a Derek who no longer exists.

    Derek Hale went away to college in Chicago while Stiles was still in high school. Derek comes home each year for Christmas and Thanksgiving, holidays which the Stilinskis have never been invited to share with the pack. The Hales don’t talk much about Derek, and adolescent Stiles had never had a reason to ask about him. He’s been a vague fact of the Hale family, but nothing of interest to Stiles, at all.

    A few weeks after Stiles’ eighteenth birthday Talia and Peter had given Stiles and his father The Talk, bringing them in on the werewolf secret, and they’ve been honorary pack members ever since.

    Stiles sighs and leans his head back against the front door of his apartment. His old-new apartment.

    He remembers signing the lease, remembers buying a rug to cover the huge-ass stain in the hallway. And yet. He’s seeing it today for the first time.

    And Derek. Derek he hasn’t seen at all, for at least nine years. Maybe more. Except for how he was living with him just a few weeks ago. Gah.

    Stiles reaches for his phone and glances at the contacts. He thumbs through the list, hits a number and waits.

    “Stiles?”

    “Hey, Peter,” he says. Peter Hale is in his phone list, and has a dedicated speed dial. Peter Hale on speed dial. What is his life.

    “Stiles,” Peter begins, then he stops, and his voice sharpens. “Stiles?”

    “Yup,” he says, and pops the ‘p’ for old times’ sake. “S’really me. All of me, or both of me, or what the fuck ever.”

    “Finally,” Peter breathes. “You’ve no idea how long we’ve waited for this.”

    “You sneaky bastard,” Stiles says with no heat. “You totally Stockholm Syndrome’d me. I can check out of the Hale pack any time I like, but I can never leave, huh?”

    “You can leave at any time, Stiles,” Peter says quietly, and Stiles immediately feels like shit. “Believe me, Talia and I spent many long nights after you’d been returned to your time, arguing over the morality of what we were going to do next. If your wish is to walk away from-”

    “Oh shut up,” Stiles says, and rubs a hand over his face. “Jeez, I just got this massive download of my alternate personal history, give a guy a break. As if there’s any timeline where I don’t want to be a valued member of a ‘wolf pack. I mean, I’ve got a lock on alpha’s favourite, right?” Which is suddenly a lot easier to understand.

    There had been a lot of confused feelings inside of teenaged Stiles at the clear indulgence Talia always offered him. She hadn’t replaced his Mom, no-one ever could, but. It had been nice, to have that. At least now he knew why.

    He can hear Peter’s smile when he says, “Well. You should still take the time to think it over. We ultimately concluded it would be... cruel, for you to suddenly inherit memories of a pack, and yet feel as though you’d been excluded from it. Especially if you were kept unaware of that other world’s existence. But it’s not without its complications, after all.”

    “Meaning Derek,” Stiles says.

    “Meaning Derek.”

    There’s a long silence, then Stiles sighs. “Okay. Well. I, uh. Have to go to work, apparently.” Yeah. That’s weird. He has the knowledge, all the codes and the training, memories of over two years on the job, but still. He’s a cop. Weird. That was a dream he’d let go of a long, long time ago.

    He can tell Peter is hiding a smile. “Yes.”

    “I’ll uh.” He flips through his brand new memories. “I have Tuesday to Thursday off next week. I’ll come down. See everyone.”

    “We’ll look forward to it,” Peter says, utterly sincere.

     

    * * *

     

    It only takes about a day of being... integrated for Stiles to realize he’s not really coping all that well.

    He’s distracted, which is stupid and downright dangerous on the job, and he can’t quite... feel anything right. He veers between the cynical, half-angry Stiles he’d been in his original life, and the fairly well-adjusted, much more even-keeled Stiles that grew up with the support of not only Dad and Scott, but an entire extended family of Hales. That support had really helped when Scott fell in love with a girl in senior year of college – not Allison, amazingly – and followed her to Vegas.

    Maybe he should be trying to shed the old Stiles. It had been a hard fucking life, no doubt, and he’s now armed for threats that are never going to arise. And yet- he can’t just let that go. He can’t.

    The one consistent lesson throughout that entire life had been that things can always, always get worse. And then, once you’d adjusted to the crappy reality of Erica being dead, or Allison becoming a cold-eyed killer, things could then get worse, again.

    He’s on the road to Beacon Hills Monday night, straight off shift, when it just comes to him, what he needs. And so when he pulls up at home, he hugs his Dad tighter than he has in years, sits the guy down with a brand new bottle of whiskey, and tells Dad everything

    They talk ‘til three in the morning. Stiles cries at times, shit, his Dad cries once or twice. There’s some shouting and some hands thrown up in defeat, and some narrow-eyed muttering about the Hale forced adoption but when it’s done-

    When it’s done?

    Stiles feels lighter and cleaner than he has in- heh. Well. In years.

    Or... since last week when he got his memories. Take your pick.

     

    * * *

     

    There’s a pack dinner. It starts ominously with some low-level muttering between his Dad and Talia and Anthony, but it smooths out by the time the lasagne and salad are dished onto plates. David is a lanky teenager now, the twins have started a restaurant three towns over, and Peter’s kids are sprouting up like weeds and strangling Unca Tiles! with hugs and demands for piggy-backs.

    After dinner David is assigned to watch the little kids in the backyard while everyone else clears the table and stacks the dishwasher. For some reason it’s the sight of the salad servers Stiles had bought Talia for her birthday four years ago that does it.

    “Oh my God,” Stiles says, laughing helplessly as a bunch of memories suddenly untangle themselves. Only Derek. “Only Derek could rebel against his family by becoming a fucking doctor.”

    “Yes,” Talia murmurs wryly, and exchanges a glance with Anthony. “We’re very proud.”

     

    * * *

     

    He takes a risk – well, not really, but it feels oddly risky – and heads to the bar where Isaac now works. The blonde eyes Stiles warily, but serves him without much acknowledgement beyond the kind of half-nod that covers all of the ways two people can be friends-in-law but not really, in a small town like Beacon Hills.

    “Isaac, right?” Stiles says, when there’s a lull and the bartender comes to rest nearby. “Isaac Lahey.”

    The blonde nods. The hearing loss isn’t particularly noticeable. He tilts his head slightly sometimes or changes the angle of his body, maybe to improve the clarity of sound or something, but apart from that there’s no visible sign of the night Mr Lahey slammed a toaster into Isaac’s head and apparently kicked him down the stairs after.

    Dad had really enjoyed taking that guy in.

    “Stiles,” he offers, just in case, and Isaac nods again.

    “Yeah,” he says after a moment. “I remember.”

    Stiles smiles. “Yeah. Benchwarmers united, huh.”

    Isaac’s lips twitch. He drags out a chopping board and knife, starts quartering lemons. After a moment he almost visibly seems to come to a decision, and asks, “How’s McCall?”

    Stiles shrugs. At the last minute he remembers to lower his beer away from his mouth in case Isaac lip-reads, “Still in Vegas. Still with Renee. He’s working at some boarding kennel place while he does his vet nursing training.”

    “Still all about the animals, huh.”

    Stiles grins. “Yeah. Soft spot for all creatures great and small, that’s our Scotty.”

    “Except for spiders,” Isaac adds softly, head dipping down to hide his smile.

    Stiles snorts his beer, “That’s right- shit, I forgot about that.” He grins happily at Isaac, flashing back to the memory of Scott, trapped in the showers after lacrosse by a marauding arachnid. “Good times.”

    Isaac shakes his head, fighting an all-out grin now. “I always wondered - how long would you have left him there?”

    “Eh,” Stiles bats that away with a careless hand, “not long enough for him to hyperventilate. Best friend duties are not to be shirked, but a guy can still have a little fun, right?”

    He takes another sip of beer and then flattens his hands on the bar mat. “Hey,” he says, a little nervous, but determined just the same, “You want to catch tomorrow’s lacrosse game at BHHS? For old times’ sake?”

    Isaac blinks at him, knife stopping mid-motion. “You and me?” he says, confused.

    “Yup.” Stiles doesn’t explain himself, doesn’t add anything. It took him years to learn, but that usually just leads to unfortunate babbling. He’s not sure this really makes sense, anyway.

    Boyd is long gone, God knows where. Erica too. Lydia never noticed Stiles’ existence, and is across the country cowing everyone at MIT into submission anyway. Honestly, Stiles doesn’t much care where Jackson is. But Isaac is here, and his life doesn’t look that great. It would be nice to reach out to the guy, considering Stiles knows there is great loyalty and heart in there. Maybe they could both use a friend.

    Then Isaac blinks a little, eyes Stiles with a kind of nervousness and he snorts, raises his hands. Good old Beacon Hills and the gossip treadmill. Stiles’ bisexuality clearly made the news at some point. “Not a date, dude,” he clarifies. “Just two guys hanging out, reliving their glory days.”

    Isaac’s brow lifts. “Glory days,” he says, with more than a hint of darkness.

    “If you haven’t started lying to yourself about your high school days yet, dude, it is definitely time to start,” Stiles adds. And yeah, he thinks suddenly. This does, actually makes sense. Isaac is probably the one person in town who might actually be able to match the anger, the cynicism, the capacity for rage and hate that Stiles can remember from his old life. He doesn’t want to live that way, but he can’t pretend he doesn’t have that inside him.

    There’s a long pause. “Point,” Isaac finally says dryly. Then, “Yeah, I guess.”

    “Awesome,” Stiles says, and pushes back from the bar. “Meet you there?”

    Isaac sends him a long, calculating look. Then he half-smiles. “Yeah,” he says, and his eyes crinkle a little at the corners. “Why not. See you tomorrow.”

    “Looking forward to it, dude.”

    “Don’t get too excited,” Isaac cautions as he starts for the door. “They’re playing St James.”

    Stiles winces. Trip down memory lane it is. Beacon Hills High is gonna get creamed.

     

    ***

     

    He stops by Peter’s place on his way back to Seattle at Catrin’s request. You don’t say no to that stuff. Catrin makes her own bread, okay? She fucking quilts. When a homemaker like that tells a single dude in his twenties to drop by, that single dude does so, unless he is a moron or has some kind of bizarre allergy to homemade pie.

    There’s an extra car parked outside when he gets there, though, a certain Deputy who’d been stuck on duty the night of the dinner.

    It takes one look for Stiles to figure it out.

    “Oh good Christ,” Stiles says, catching sight of Laura, who’s chin is actually god-damn wobbling. “You people are the least subtle of anyone ever. Seriously?”

    He glares at Peter, who seems unrepentant that he neglected to inform Stiles of this new development. Not that it would do much good to argue once Talia had decided that it was time to inform the alpha-elect of the near miss the pack had suffered, and Stiles’ role in saving all their lives.

    “Stiles,” Laura says, ignoring him completely except for the part where she surges forward and wraps her arms around him and crushes his ribs. He glares at Peter and Talia over her shoulder and they bite back identical smirks.

    The Hale pack, ladies and gentlemen.

    Stiles sighs and goes limp, waiting for Laura to be finished with her embarrassing display. Sometimes even the alpha’s favourite just has to suck it up, and submit.

     

     

    Chapter Text

    PART FOUR

     

    in time of all sweet things beyond
    whatever mind may comprehend,
    remember seek(forgetting find)

     

     

     

    Stiles stares down at his beer, rocks the bottle from side to side on the bar, wondering vaguely in the back of his head if he can be bothered to hit a club tonight. Maybe close his eyes and think of nothing much, just to get off with some random dude. He could call Devon and see if the guy’s ready to quit playing phone tag with the alleged girl of his dreams.

    He shrugs to himself and raises the bottle, eyes wandering around the room in stereotypical cop-style, but damn if there isn’t a reason for the stereotypes, which is that the job teaches you damn quick that situational awareness is a survival skill and not a luxury. He looks at the guy at the pool table for the tenth time, can’t help himself, god damn those shoulders just seem so fucking familiar, but he has to stop doing this, it’s been months since he got the memories back, and he can’t keep looking for Derek everywhere he-

    Derek circles the table, cue in hand, and lines up a shot.

    Stiles’ beer slips out of his fingers and drops straight down to the bar. The bottle bounces a little and rocks side to side but stays upright. He knows just how it feels.

    Derek leans over the green felt, lines up his shot and the cue slides smoothly through his braced fingers, sends the ball straight into the pocket judging by the smirk. He’s clean-shaven, and he looks so fucking young, even younger, somehow, than when Stiles first saw him in the woods.

    It’s not the years, it’s the attitude.

    Stiles swallows.

    Derek. Derek.

    The ‘wolf straightens from the shot, cocks a hip in probably-conscious flirtation, and Stiles watches, gut churning, as a pretty blonde drifts over to his side, says something that makes him grin and duck his head.

    Oh fuck. Fucking hell. Stiles straightens. How is this- he has to get out of here. He-

    Derek leans in to whisper something in the blonde’s ear and she laughs, it’s husky and sexy and sounds just like Kate fucking Argent had sounded, sneering at the Hawker family for their pathetic adherence to the code, for having basic fucking human decency.

    Stiles is going to throw up.

    He shoves back from the bar, too fast though, because he bumps into a couple behind him and the commotion catches Derek’s eye. He glances up, sees Stiles from over the blonde’s shoulder and Stiles sees the jolt that goes through the beta.

    Stiles freezes for a second, buffeted by the twin hits of being seen by Derek, and the emotional blowback of being in the same room as the other man after all this time. And then he realizes that Derek is looking at him not with simple recognition, or like he’s trying to place a familiar face from a long time ago. No, that’s- that’s suspicion, fear too, and to top it all off, a touch of horror.

    What the fu-

    Reeling, Stiles catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror behind the bar and it hits him all at once that it’s only been about seven months since he went back to stop the fire. Stiles looks just the fucking same today as he did then, and that was ten goddam years ago.

    No wonder Derek is staring at him like he’s something out of the Twilight Zone. Later on Stiles will appreciate the irony of that.

    Stiles swallows. There’s no real way to salvage this. He glances away from Derek and tries to calm his racing heart. He’ll leave, that’s all - and thank God, his legs actually start moving on command. He’ll just- he’ll go, and Derek will make his assumptions that Stiles is some kind of immortal magical monster, and-

    “John?”

    So much for situational fucking awareness, Stiles thinks wryly, so close to the door, so damn close.

    He turns. “Heeyy,” he says lamely. “Derek.” His throat catches on the ‘k’.

    The blonde is making her way to the ladies room, he can see over Derek’s shoulder. She’s not looking curiously in their direction, so Derek has, miracle of miracles, learned some subtlety over the years. Of course he’d have to, wouldn’t he? Can’t be easy being a werewolf and a doctor. The smells alone-

    “What are you doing here?”

    Ah, nostalgia. That gruff, suspicious tone, the narrow-eyed glare. Stiles is sixteen again.

    “I live here,” Stiles says, thinking rapidly, because woah. This is – his two worlds are really colliding, all of a sudden. And he should have realized this would happen at some point. Peter had tried to warn him, even. Dad is still the Sheriff in Beacon Hills, Stiles still goes home for holidays – eventually Derek was bound to run into him in that arena.

    He shrugs. Fuck it. Lying probably wouldn’t work anyway, stupid werewolves. “I’m with the Seattle PD,” he offers, and then adds, “And it’s Stiles. My name. Not John.”

    “You’re a cop?” Derek demands. His eyes flick up and down Stiles’ body and then he grits out, very low, “You smell human. So how is it possible that you haven’t aged a day since I was sixteen?”

    “I have aged,” Stiles says as calmly as he can. “You can see the Stilinski family albums if you’re really curious. But I was this age when I appeared in your timeline, very briefly. And then I was sent back to this time.” And congratulations to Stiles, because that’s pretty much the entire truth.

    Derek narrows his eyes, “You appeared in my timeline? What the fuck, you think you’re Doctor Who now?”

    Stiles lets out an unexpected bark of laughter. “Yeah, huh, timey-wimey. Uh no. It was... it was a spell. Cast by someone else. It, uh... put me back in Beacon Hills for a short while. Kinda confusing, considering I was attending elementary school at the same time.”

    “Time travel,” Derek says flatly.

    Stiles shrugs. “I know it sounds unlikely. Can’t do much about that, dude. It’s what happened. Your Mom knows- knew it then, actually. You could ask her-”

    “Wait- did you say Stiles?” Derek demands. “Cora and Rachel’s Stiles?

    He manages a weak smile and spreads his hands, “There’s only one-”

    “And now you just happen to be living in the same city as me-”

    “Wait, what? You live here? You’re not just... visiting?” Stiles feels himself sag against the bar, because, no. Fucking, just, no. He has a life here, and in the last few months he’s worked really fucking hard to carve out some kind of healthy headspace. And now this? “You’re not- medical conference or whatever?”

    Derek’s eyes narrow again. “How do you know-”

    Stiles rolls his eyes, “Dude, I know your family. They told me all about their son, the doctor. And I’ve been living here for over two years, okay, so if you’re trying to somehow call dibs on the city of Seattle, I’ve got news for you. Last I knew you were in San Francisco.”

    He folds his arms. Stupidly enough he feels a little better to be arguing with Derek. This is familiar, this he can do, if he just forgets about all the years after high school – first time around high school, fuck his life – and pretends this is kanima-era Derek or something.

    “This is a pretty big coincidence,” Derek hisses, looming a little closer.

    Shit, don’t do that, dude, Stiles thinks helplessly.

    Derek is apparently ignoring his attraction to men this time around -Peter’s never mentioned a boyfriend, ever- but if he keeps getting up in Stiles’ space like that? He’s going to get a pretty clear picture of Stiles’ sexual pecadillos, real quick.

    “Yeah, well. I was here first, so if anyone is concerned about stalking? Think I win that one, dude.”

    Oh my God. This is what Stiles has been reduced to – I was here first.

    Derek looks sincerely pissed at that, but they’re in a public place, so Stiles decides for once in his stupid life to do the smart thing. He bails.

    “Look. Seattle’s a big place. Chances of us running into each other again are pretty small. Let’s just – go our separate ways, and hope we don’t stage any more awkward reunions, okay? Or if you prefer, we can pretend we don’t know each other if we ever cross paths again. Happy?”

    He’s backing away even as he speaks, banking on Derek’s awareness that his girlfriend must be near to returning and that a few people are eyeing them with curiosity. Stiles reaches the door and practically throws himself through it, devastated and elated and hurt and angry and really, really wishing he’d had enough time before this shitshow to get good and fucking drunk.

     

    * * *

     

    Derek, pissed and confused, swiftly ends the date with a not very believable lie about getting an important phone call. He puts Lyssa in a cab and watches it pull away without much regret. She won’t be taking his calls again, he’s pretty sure. Derek doesn’t really give a shit right now.

    The scent of ‘Stiles’ is pretty clear, even on a city street, thank God for strong emotions. Derek half-jogs four blocks and then hesitates, pretty sure the guy turned a corner here, and it takes two tries before he finds the right one, catching older, layered traces of Stiles on the door of a neighbourhood deli which must be a habitual stop. Derek glances around, sees that most of the storefronts have apartments above, and decides to take a chance on dumb luck.

    He circles around to the narrow alleyway that runs behind the buildings and now that there’s almost no traffic, he can use his ears as well as his nose. At the far end of the block, he can smell Stiles on the trash can lids, and Derek leaps up onto the first level of the fire escape before he can ask himself what exactly am I doing?

    Inside he can hear Stiles gasping for air, mumbling to himself and for a moment Derek thinks the younger man has fallen, or been mugged, and he’s at the window before he realizes - it’s a panic attack.

    Derek blinks through the glass at him, at this rangy, fearless guy he’s seen twice now, once through the oblivious lens of a teenager – barely noticed him, just that he was slightly weird, with his too-fast heartbeat and the creepy way he’d stared at Derek – and now, tonight, when he’d radiated confidence and challenge.

    Derek’s still trying to reconcile the ‘old John’ that his teenage self had barely remembered with the Stiles he’d seen across the bar, younger than Derek by years, tall and slim-hipped and enticing. And now, that same guy is here, on his hands and knees next to his half-open apartment door, gasping for air and counting in choked off chunks that sound painful leaving Stiles’ throat.

    Derek reaches for the window, his instinct to help overriding every kind of commonsense. He gets his claws under the timber just as Stiles pushes back and manages to get half-upright, flings a hand out to press the front door shut and just... slumps, still gasping, but more slowly.

    Derek hesitates, poised in place to throw the window up. Only then does it strike him how freakin’ weird and invasive his own behaviour has been since he left the bar.

    How the fuck would he explain following Stiles home, and then breaking in via a freaking window? Derek couldn’t even explain it to himself. Especially considering their conversation tonight hadn’t exactly been... friendly.

    The two of them are basically strangers. They have one bizarre connection – Derek’s family – that means Stiles is privy to Derek’s most closely guarded secret. But that’s it.

    He slides carefully back from the window and sideways, shaking his head at himself. He’s acting like an utter lunatic. Inside he can hear Stiles moving, and then a familiar sound, the dial tone and then ringing from a phone. All right. Derek feels himself relax. Stiles is calling someone, a friend, a partner, whoever. He won’t be alo-

    “Hello?” the voice is thick, late-night hushed, and vaguely familiar.

    “Peter,” Stiles croaks out.

    Derek blinks. It can’t be. Not-

    “Stiles? Is that you?”

    Derek’s. Fucking. Uncle. John-slash-Stiles is calling Derek’s fucking uncle post panic-attack. Derek knows they know each other, but this is way beyond the bounds of simple friendship. What the hell is going on? Peter doesn’t even live in Seattle.

    “Yeah.” He can tell Stiles’ face is buried in something, or pressed against his knees, maybe. His voice is shaky and muffled and he lets out a long breath after the one word. “Shit. Sorry, I shouldn’t have-”

    “Don’t be ridiculous,” Peter says, and there’s soft sounds at the other end as he slides out of bed, murmurs something to Catrin, and then his voice comes through clearer. “Are you all right?” He sounds a lot more concerned about Stiles than he’s ever sounded about Derek, ever since-

    Well, ever since Kate, if Derek’s honest. Peter’s never looked at Derek the same way since. And Derek’s never known how, exactly, but this conversation is confirming all his suspicions that John was the one who let the cat out of the bag. There had just been something weird going on with that guy.

    And now he’s getting the fucking explanation of time-fucking-wimey and a late night call to Uncle Peter. Derek’s teeth grind in frustration.

    “Stiles, are you all right,” Peter repeats sharply when Stiles just pants and doesn’t answer.

    “N-not really,” he gasps. “No.”

    “What-”

    “Why didn’t – didn’t anyone tell me - Derek was livinginSeattle?” Stiles says. His voice is still shaky but underlying it, he’s pissed.

    Derek frowns. Why the fuck would John-who-doesn’t-get-any-older give a crap where Derek lives? Surely Derek’s the one who gets to be ticked off about a guy who stuck his nose into Derek’s business for no goddam reason-

    “Hell,” Peter sighs. There’s the sound of a door closing, “So you saw him then. I’m sorry, Stiles. Talia and I argued about it for months. She was convinced you’d never run into each other, and there was no point-”

    “He was on a fucking date, Peter,” Stiles grinds out, and he sounds raw and hoarse. “Another pretty fucking blonde with a husky laugh, Jesus Christ-”

    He chokes, then, and Derek is on his feet and crouched by the window ready to intervene before he can catch himself.

    “Stiles,” Peter says, so very gently that Derek blinks.

    “Is it-” he breaks off, gasping audibly.

    Fuck,” Stiles lets out a miserable-sounding sob. “Did I do that to him? Is he just endlessly dating a stream of blondes looking for - fucking, for her, for Kate?” He’s shouting by the end, a fist slammimg into the wall with her name and there’s such vitriol in the other man’s voice that Derek slides down to slump bonelessly on the fire escape, staring out into the dark.

    He’s not. That’s not...

    That’s not what I’m doing, Derek thinks, numb. He’s blindsided by the very idea. It had never even occurred to him- but. No.

    No. Just because Lyssa was blonde, with a sharp smile and a husky voice – he’d dated three brunettes in a row before that, all shapes and sizes, all different personalities. He hardly even thinks about Kate anymore, prefers not to remember what an idiot he’d been, the horrible embarrassment of the whole mess. I’m not, Derek thinks again, getting pissed off now, because what right does this asshole have to stir up-

    “Stiles,” Peter is saying, “listen to me. No. Derek’s fine. He’s not- caught in the past. I promise you. Stiles, I promise. There have been plenty of others, nothing like you’re describing. It’s all right.”

    “You swear?”

    “I swear.”

    This makes no fucking sense. Stiles sounds desperate, like the world is ending.

    There’s silence, then, for a long while, and the fast-thumping heartbeat inside the apartment begins to slow. Peter waits silently. Finally, Stiles sighs. “Plenty of others, huh?” It’s wry, with an underlying ache.

    There’s a small sound, like Peter is wincing. “Stiles-”

    “No, it’s okay,” he says. Then his voice turns soft and slow. “It’s fine, Peter. Really.”

    “It’s not fine,” Peter says.

    “Well,” and Derek can hear the shrug without looking, “not fine, maybe. But I knew it would be this way, going in, and I don’t regret it. Not for one second.”

    “You’ve never considered – trying?” Peter asks, soft and contemplative.

    Stiles snorts. “Yeah, cos that’d work. Me with a metric fuckton of baggage that he could never hope to understand, half of which I’d be subconsciously blaming him for.” He sighs, long and slow. Derek can hear the tiny thump of his head coming to rest on the wall. “Nope. This is how it has to be. And it’s–”

    A breathy almost-laugh. “Shit, Peter. It’s totally worth it. I mean.” There’s an audible swallow. “Not saying I enjoyed watching that tonight. Cos I’m all kinds of fucked up jealous about it, if I’m honest. But putting that aside? You should have seen him...”

    Derek frowns, leaning forward as if to catch a glimpse, just a glimpse, then catches himself and leans back before he’s caught peeping through a fucking window. He wants to see Stiles, it’s like a compulsion, but he wants to hear the next words more.

    There’s a soft, pained sound and then Stiles murmurs, “He was smiling, Christ, this soft, kinda smirky smile, nothing I’d ever seen before, not in all the years I knew him. And he laughed, just so easy. Like it didn’t cost him anything to be just, just enjoying the moment. Flirting, and relaxed, no weight dragging him down...”

    Not in all the years I knew him.

    There a long silence and then Stiles says softly, “I hardly recognized him, to be honest. So, no. I don’t think about trying, Peter. Honestly? We’d have nothing in common.” There’s a wry cynicism in Stiles’ voice now as he says, “I’m a fucked up veteran of a hundred supernatural wars. He’s a fucking doctor, for God’s sake, who probably thinks The Walking Dead is kind of creepy and actually trusts that when he loses his wallet, someone will return it with the cash still inside.”

    There’s silence for a long time, and then Peter says, “Do you need me to come up there?”

    “Oh my God,” Stiles says, “No, Jesus, you’re such a supernanny-”

    “I beg your pardon,” Peter begins, and Derek can picture exactly the expression on his face.

    He shoves up from where he’s been crouched on the fire escape and swings himself down to the ground before he can hear anything else. Because what he’s heard so far? Is about the most fucking confusing thing Derek’s encountered since Organic Chem in pre-Med.

    Not in all the years I knew him? If Stiles was talking about Derek, which it really seemed as if he was - what the hell could that possibly mean?

     

     

    * * *

     

     

    Chapter Text

    “God fucking damn it, Trisha,” the voice is hissing. “I do not want to be here. Why the fuck couldn’t you just drive me to-”

    “Because you’re still freaking bleeding, genius,” a woman hisses back. “What, I’m supposed to let my partner pass out from blood loss just because he’s some kind of princess who only wants his own doctor to give him some stitches?”

    “That’s not what-”

    “Officer Stil-Stilenski?”

    So Derek’s not going crazy. It really was a familiar voice coming from Curtain 3.

    “Uh, yeah,” Stiles says. He sounds wary.

    Derek makes a notation on the chart and musters up a reassuring smile for the fourteen year old currently waiting to be taken down to Radiology. She doesn’t look up from her phone, but her mother looks grateful to be seeing someone with medical training in their cubicle. Derek takes his time replacing the chart, listening to the comedy routine on the other side of the curtain.

    “Ma’am,” the first, female voice begins curtly. Stiles’ partner, obviously. “I’m afraid you need to-”
    “I just really wanted to apologize,” the second voice bursts in. “I’m so, so sorry you got hurt.”

    “Yeah,” Stiles says, and Derek can immediately picture the lift of his brows, “Well, that tends to happen when people start throwing beer bottles.”

    “I really- I’m just. I’m sorry.”

    “Ma’am, I need you to leave now,” Trisha says, and she sounds flat and cool. “My partner needs medical attention.”

    “Yeah, of course,” the apologizer says, cowed. “I’m just-”

    “You guys do that a lot?” Stiles breaks in. “Throw shit at each other to liven up the screaming matches?”

    Derek leaves the cubicle and crosses to the basin to wash his hands, tracking the conversation easily.

    “Uh,” the woman says.

    “Because that’s not exactly healthy,” Stiles says. “You know?”

    “We just. Uh. Get mad sometimes,” she replies defensively.

    “Everybody gets mad sometimes,” Stiles says. “My old boyfriend-” Derek can hear him swallow. “Jesus, did he have a temper.

    And he was built like- well. He could have done some real damage if he’d ever let go the way you guys did today. I mean he was powerful enough to accidentally kill someone, like, one-handed,” he adds, and Derek blinks because he knows how to translate that.

    Stiles had been involved with a ‘wolf. And judging by the strain in his voice when he mentions the guy, he’s not over it, not by a long shot.

    “But I knew I could trust him not to ever put me in harm’s way,” Stiles says, and his voice gets a little thready then. “That’s how I knew he was worth keeping. Can you say that, Miz Adams? That you feel safe?”

    There’s a long, telling pause.

    “If you can’t,” Stiles adds, softer, “then you guys either need to get some help, or you need to get outta there. Because your kid may just be a baby now, but one of these days she’s gonna have to watch one of those screaming matches. You want her to cop a bottle to the head by accident?”

    There’s a soft noise, a hitch of breath like the woman is crying.

    There’s a deep sigh, and then, “Come with me, ma’am,” Trisha says. There’s the sound of shuffling feet, and then Derek gets a glimpse of a tiny redhead tucked under the arm of an African American woman in uniform. He hesitates for a long time, then gives his head a shake and takes three steps forward into Curtain 3.

    Stiles glances up. “Oh Jesus,” he says, and closes his eyes. He’s pale, bloodied, and pressing a dressing to the left side of his head.

    “Guess Seattle’s not as small as you thought,” Derek says mildly enough, and manages to be fairly professional about nudging Stiles’ hand aside to lift the dressing. There’s a deep slice near Stiles’ hairline, the site already starting to swell.
    Stiles is biting his bottom lip, hard, and there’s colour appearing in his cheeks.

    “So, domestic dispute?” Derek begins, like he doesn’t already know. He checks Stiles’ eyes, equal and responsive, though concussion is still a concern with a gash that deep. He flips through the chart and sees one of the med students has done a fair job of getting a history. No nausea, confusion or memory loss, his vision isn’t compromised.

    As he reads Derek congratulates himself – in the half-depressed kind of way that comes with looking down the barrel of thirty – that it’s probably a sign of maturity that he’s managing not to overreact to seeing Stiles, when the man provokes such a confusing mass of questions.

    Stiles shrugs in answer to Derek’s conversational gambit.

    For a moment Derek’s tempted to probe a little about the guy, the ex, for some unknown reason, and then he regains his sense. With the initial blush draining away Stiles’ already pale skin is nearly translucent, and he’s obviously running on empty. Derek may be an insensitive ass, but he’s not that much of an ass.

    “I’ll need to stitch this,” Derek says, “and I’ll get you something for pain management for the next twenty four hours or so.”

    “Nah, it’s fine-” Stiles begins, an automatic response, and then he stops abruptly and their gazes lock.

    For one second Stiles looks like he’s been punched right in the solar plexus and Derek thinks, the werewolf ex. Stiles probably hadn’t used painkillers, not for years, if his SO was a ‘wolf who drained away the pain.

    Stiles swallows hard, still staring into Derek’s eyes and it’s Derek who drops his gaze first. In his peripheral vision he sees

    Stiles raise a shaking hand, press it to his mouth for a second before he manages to choke out, “Yeah, uh. That’d be. Thanks.”

    “I’ll be back in a second,” Derek says, pretending the moment never happened, and he rolls the stool to the curtain and leans his head out, searching. “Mahira,” he calls, and the nurse turns. He gives a jerk of the head and disappears back into the curtain area, knowing she’ll be there when he needs her.

    “So...” Derek says, snapping on gloves and gathering what he needs, “make any arrests?”

    Stiles shrugs, then winces. “Nah. Just the usual bullshit.”

    Derek gives a fatalistic nod and a shrug of his own. He knows.

    Cops. Doctors. Nurses and lawyers. They see it, all the fucking time. Too many drunken apologies and undeserved fifth, sixth, seventh chances. Cynicism isn’t exactly a choice in their line of work, it just happens, like the sore feet and the deep loathing for fucking bureaucracy.

    “Any kids involved?” Derek asks, just as Mahira slips into the curtain area, Stiles’ partner hot on her heels.

    “Baby in a crib,” Stiles replies, and he’s eyeing Derek warily. Yeah. Derek doesn’t know why he’s making casual conversation either. He doesn’t trust Stiles much, and he understands him even less. But Derek can’t discount the genuine affection he’d heard in that phone call to Peter.

    There’d been depth there, the familiarity of years. If Stiles was any kind of threat, Peter would have figured that out years ago, and it’s more than just Peter. Derek’s parents treat Stiles like family, Laura can’t stop singing his fucking praises.

    In his pettiest moments he wonders if they like Stiles more than they like Derek. Derek who maintains a careful distance from a pack that allows him that distance without argument.

    He’s not unwelcome at home, he knows that. But they don’t get in his face about why he doesn’t come home more often, either. For a moment he just stares down at his hands, skilled and careful, and wonders why one mistake, a teenager’s unthinking mistake, should have cost him so very dearly. Why his parents can’t let go of something that happened almost a decade ago. Fucking Kate.

    Derek draws a careful breath and lets go of it with the ease of long practise. He glances over at the other cop, jerks his chin at her in greeting.

    “Oh, uh. Derek, Dr Hale, I mean. This is my partner, Trisha. Derek’s uh, from my hometown, our families know each other.”

    “Doctor,” Trisha says, and her gaze is way too interested, flicking between Stiles’s face and Derek’s.

    “It’s a pleasure,” Derek says in the bland professional manner it took him many painful years to develop. “This is Mahira, steadiest hands in the Pacific North West.”

    She rolls her eyes at him and Stiles says, “Great. So she’s doing the stitching, right?”

    Mahira laughs at that one and hands Derek the local before circling the bed so she can shift the light and be ready to swab.

    “Dr Hale isn’t too bad,” she offers, smiling gently.

    “Ready?” he asks Stiles, and raises a brow.

    Stiles sighs and gingerly draws his hand away, the wound coming into clear view. “Ready,” he says, and swings his legs up onto the bed, closing his eyes as he lays his head down.

    “Lollipop at the end if you’re good,” Trisha tells him and the corner of Stiles’ mouth curls up.

    “You said you weren’t going to encourage my oral fixations anymore,” he says as Derek begins, hands steady, and Trisha claps a hand to her forehead and says, “Jesus, Stilinski, you’re a menace.”

    When he’s done Derek rolls the stool back a short distance and flicks the gloves off in two practiced motions. He updates the chart and starts into the wound care schtick on automatic, while Mahira applies a dressing. Stiles waves him away as he pushes back to upright, murmuring thanks to Mahira.

    “Not my first rodeo,” Stiles says with a weary smile, “believe me.”

    “Okay so you know you need to have someone wake you every few hours through the night,” Derek says, and Stiles nods, freezes for a half-second, then nods again, emphatically.

    “Uh, yep.”

    Derek raises a brow just as Trisha says, “Like who?”

    Stiles shoots her a pissed off look and she says, unmoved, “Don’t front with me, Stilinski. You just finished telling me Devon and Tia are drunk in Vegas right now, and I know Ruth’s working nights this week. Tom’s away or I’d come over-”

    “It’s fine,” Stiles says, though there’s tightness around his eyes. “I’ll figure something out.”

    “I’m off in an hour,” Derek hears himself say, and whatthefuck?

    There’s a moment’s silence as everyone else seems to ask themselves the same silent question.

    But no, really. What the actual fuck, Derek? He covers by rolling up the gloves and shooting them into a bin in the corner, avoiding the wide-eyed look Mahira is currently giving him. Shit.

    “You, uh,” Stiles says, and swallows audibly, “no, man, I mean, that’s kind of a big favour for a guy you hardly know. Hometown loyalty is nice, and all, but-”

    Derek glances up, determined to power through. Backing off now could only make this more awkward, and an even bigger deal for their fascinated audience. “Don’t make me call Uncle Peter,” he says, and Stiles freezes. “You have a couch, right?”

    “I... yes. I do. I do have a couch,” Stiles says.

    “So, no big deal. If your partner’s happy to take you home I’ll grab a change of clothes and be over around six.” Derek stands, mostly keen to get out of this cubicle and the people watching him with various degrees of curiosity, speculation and confusion.

    “Mahira’ll get you some pain meds before you leave and I’ll grab your cell number from the chart,” he adds, both for clarity and because he wants the two women currently having some kind of silent eyebrow conversation to know he does not have Stiles’ phone number.

     

    * * *

     

    “Stiles,” Derek says softly, leaning over. The younger man is flushed with sleep – not fever, Derek checked – and the soft curve of his mouth would be an invitation at any other time. Derek clears his throat and admonishes himself for being a fucking creeper. “Stiles,” he says again, a little louder, and leans forward to plant one knee on the mattress to take a closer look.

    “Mrhm,” he gets, low and slurred with sleep.

    Derek bites back a smile. “Stiles, hey,” he says, and puts a careful hand on the other man’s shoulder.

    Stiles rolls onto his side, closer to Derek. Before he can move, Stiles’ arm slides up, out of the covers and along the length of Derek’s calf, hand coming to grip firmly at the back of his knee. “Nrgh,” he says.

    “Jeez, come to bed, Der,” he breathes, and nuzzles his face against Derek’s thigh.

    Derek freezes in shock, staring down. Because those words had just... flowed off Stiles’ tongue, utterly natural, straight from the subconscious.

    “Stiles,” he manages to choke out, “do you... know where you are?” Derek takes a breath and tries to remember why he’s here. “Do you know who I am?”

    “Head wound,” Stiles mumbles without opening his eyes. “Usual bullshit with the hovering and the waking me the fuck up. The fuck is that about,” he grizzles. His hand tightens, a tiny tug. “C’mon, sourwolf. Come to bed.”

    Derek doesn’t move, just stares down at him for long, silent minutes. Stiles’ breathing evens out and he tips back into sleep without another word.

    Sourwolf. That’s not... no-one’s ever called Derek that. He thinks back to Stiles’ story about his ex. Okay, easy enough to get confused with another man hovering over Stiles in his bed, another wolf, even.

    But he’d said Der. Derek blinks, waiting for his heart to slow. Maybe he’d heard it wrong? Maybe the ex was a... Derryn? Or another Derek? The co-incidence was pretty strong, but not impossible.

    But then there was that phone call to Peter – in all the years I knew him – and it had really sounded like Stiles had been talking about all the years he’d known Derek, which wasn’t even fucking possible, because Derek would hardly miss that. Unless Stiles was some kind of shapeshifter- but no, because he smelled human.

    Derek stares down at Stiles, and after a few more minutes, sighs and gives in. He turns just enough to get his butt on the mattress, and Stiles’ hand never shifts from where it’s still firmly gripping the back of Derek’s knee. He can reach the remote from here, so he turns the TV to mute and watches people smile and try to sell him unnecessary kitchen appliances while he turns the questions over and over in his head.

    Nothing weird happens at the next check-in. Stiles wakes up all the way this time and shuffles off to the bathroom. He comes back and collapses onto the mattress without even looking at Derek, who slowly relaxes at being so completely ignored. He’s tempted to offer to take Stiles’ pain, but then he remembers the flash of pure agony on the younger man’s face at the reminder of his lost ‘wolf, and Derek just can’t. He heads back into the living room, grateful that the job has left him with the ability to cope with shitty sleep patterns.

    Stiles is sliding back into sleep easily enough, painkillers doing their job, and after the third time the dodgy couch springs jerk Derek awake, he shrugs and decides he’d rather doze sitting up on the edge of Stiles’ bed than try to stretch out on that fucking deathtrap of a couch.

     

    * * *

     

    The warm mouth moving over his skin has Derek moaning, low and deep. It’s been months since he got any action – one date since the Lyssa disaster, and it had gone precisely nowhere. He is horny as hell and Christ, that mouth knows what it’s doing. He can feel the movement as warm lips stretch into a smile against his skin.

    Derek forces his eyes half-open, enough blood left in his brain that he needs to situate himself and not just slide into sex when he’s not even sure where he is or who he’s with. For a moment he doesn’t recognise anything, and then he thinks Stiles and glances down at the hand that is sliding up his abs to his chest.

    “Ohh,” Derek manages. Fuck. This feels – it feels good, so good. He grinds back a little and gets a satisfying noise from Stiles that has Derek grinning into the pillow. His brain is still piecing things together, vague memories of why he’s here that seem so unimportant right now, and then Stiles slides down the bed a little, mouth working over the expanse of Derek’s back until he hits a spot just to the right of Derek’s spine, below the shoulder blade.

    There’s a half-second of anticipation and then Derek pushes the thought away. It’s not going to happen. Even Derek only discovered by accident-

    And then Stiles bites, right there in the sweet spot that seems to connect straight to the pleasure centre of Derek’s brain. He jerks like a fish on the line, heat flashing through every part of his body and his dick diamond-hard in half a second. The noise he makes would be embarrassing if he gave half a fuck, and he hears a smug laugh from Stiles, a soft “Every damn time,” that has Derek flushing all over and then he just- freezes.

    Every time.

    What.

    Every. Time?

    He rolls off the bed at ‘wolf speed and is on his feet, claws emerging on instinct. “What did you say?” he manages.

    Stiles is gaping at him, eyes hazy and confused, one hand still hovering over the spot on the bed where Derek had lain.

    “Whuh?”

    “What. Did you just say, Stiles?” Derek grinds out. He draws his claws back in with effort.

    “I- I sa-” Stiles begins, and begins to straighten. Then he freezes. Derek watches it all wash over his face, remembering the past few minutes. He sees the slack-jawed shock and the way Stiles pales when he jerks his eyes back up to meet Derek’s, outstretched hand retracting like it’s been electrified. “I-”

    But he doesn’t seem to have anything else to say. Derek straightens, thankful that the adrenaline response has taken care of his erection, at least, and he takes one more step toward the bed, knee brushing against the covers.

    “Every time, you said.” It’s not easy talking around his fangs, but he’s too fucking angry to draw them back in, especially since Stiles already knows what he is.

    “I-no,” Stiles begins, shaking his head. His heart is thundering, not that Derek needs the extra clue to know something huge is going on here. Stiles slides backwards on his hands and knees, fleeing from the angry ‘wolf in the room as best he can. “I didn’t mean-”

    “I think you fucking did, Stiles,” Derek presses, and he’s all the way back to human now because he needs to be able to talk through this confused what-the-fuckery. “Because there is no way you knew something like that, about my body, the first time out of the fucking gate. No. Possible. Way. So tell me what exactly,” and he’s roaring now, “the HELL is going on here.”

    Stiles scrambles off the bed and puts a hand out, catching hold of the wall for a half-second to steady himself . Derek’s eyes flick to the dressing taped just at his hairline, but Stiles is standing tall by the time he turns to fully face Derek, and there’s no sign of weakness there. This is the Stiles Derek met in the bar two months ago - slightly combative, smart-mouthed and unafraid.

    “You’re telling me you think we’ve made out before and you don’t remember it?” he begins. And oh, he is fucking accomplished at this, the words trip off that clever tongue, dancing around the real question, never quite lying but not giving Derek the truth, either.

    “Don’t try that bullshit with me,” Derek begins dangerously.

    “Look-”

    “I heard you,” Derek snarls, stepping closer, “I heard you talking to Peter, months ago. In all the years you knew me, you said. Except that you don’t know me, Stiles. And I don’t know you, John. We’ve met twice, for five fucking minutes at most.”

    “So then there’s no way-”

    “Except that my whole family won’t shut up about you,” Derek presses on, circling the bed. “Laura has fucking hearts in her eyes whenever your name is mentioned. You call my Uncle more than I do. My mother has a picture of you on the wall of her fucking study, mixed in with the rest of the pack. So what the fuck is that all about?”

    Stiles is pale, breathing rapidly. He backs away from Derek, bumps a stack of books propped up by the bed and they topple sideways, spilling all over the floor.

    “You show up in my life when I’m a teenager, and suddenly my world explodes,” Derek growls. “You going to tell me that’s unrelated? You just happen to have your little timey-wimey adventure right when everything went to shit for me?”

    “Went to shi- you are fucking kidding me,” Stiles grits out. His eyes turn dark and dangerous in a split-second and Derek actually takes a step back from that hard rage.

    “Don’t you fucking dare try to sell me that load of horseshit,” Stiles spits, goes toe-to-toe with an angry wolf without a single moment of hesitation. “Because the only thing that happened to you back then was that people stepped in to fucking save you from a life-ruining fucking mistake.”

    “And who, exactly, stepped in to save me, John?” Derek snarls. These are words he’s been choking back for years, finally seeing the light of day. “Was it a co-incidence that on the day you show up in my timeline,” he says mockingly, “my mother gets her detective hat on and follows me-”

    “-to a fucking skeevy motel where a fifteen year old virgin was being sexually co-erced by a fucking sociopath in her early twenties?” Stiles shouts back. “Yeah, I did that, I told her about Kate and it was the best fucking thing I ever did in my life, you asshole, so don’t you dare-”

    “Who the fuck are you to make decisions about my life? Who asked you to step in,” Derek roars, and punches a hand into the wall hard enough to leave a dent. “My family has never treated me the same since that day. You’re the one they rave about, oh Stiles graduated top of his class at the academy, Stiles rescues fucking abandoned kittens from burning buildings, I’ve been a fucking outsider in my own pack,” he storms forward, gets a flat hand on Stiles’ chest and shoves, “ ever since you showed up-”

    Derek catches himself, remembering all at once the injury, the difference in their respective strengths. He recoils, disgusted with himself, but it’s just in time to see the other man trip over the stack of disordered books at his feet. Stiles flings out a hand to catch himself and Derek lunges forward, both of them too late.

    Stiles tips sideways, swift and sudden, his head slamming into the door frame that leads to the tiny bathroom.

    The sharp cry of agony that bursts out of Stiles is horrible.

    It seems to go on forever, before it’s bitten off and turns into a long sobbing breath. Derek’s hands close around Stiles’ shirt and draw him forward, too late, too fucking late, Stiles’ white face makes that clear and Derek cups his chin gently, turns his head and winces when he sees the burst of fresh blood under the hours-old dressing.

    “Fuck,” he says softly, “oh fuck, Stiles, shit, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Derek is drawing him upright as he speaks, a litany of apologies and wishes and Stiles is silent and shaking throughout, just breathing harsh, sob-like breaths and not a word, not one, from Stiles. The long stream of useless words from Derek are the only sound in the room.

    It seems to take forever for Derek to get Stiles upright, the younger man keeps trying to curl up over his knees -an instinctive response to pain- and Derek is loathe to use any of his strength against someone he recently...

    Some doctor you are, Hale, he tells himself, disgusted. First do no harm, you spoiled, overgrown fucking child. In the back of his head a clinical voice is running through things automatically- no loss of consciousness, check for disorientation or memory loss, nausea...

    “Stiles,” he finally says, keeping his voice as soft as he can, “I’m going to lift you. Is that okay?”

    He can, at least, far too late, get some kind of agreement from Stiles about what Derek can and cannot do, whether he should even still be here.

    “Mm,” Stiles manages, not trying for words. He’s shaking.

    Derek gets in close, it’s unavoidable, and slides one arm under Stiles’ knees, the other around his back. He lifts him easily, cradled against his chest as Derek rises and turns, smooth as he can make it, and lays

    Stiles down on the rumpled sheets. As he straightens, drawing away from Stiles, Derek gets a fleeting glimpse of that wide, expressive mouth, teeth biting down hard, tears on his face.

    “Shit, Stiles, I’m sorry,” he begins.

    “No,” Stiles grits out. “Not your fault, not- not your fault.”

    Now that he has a better view of the wound, the amount of blood seeping out, Derek takes a calming breath and says, “Can I- Stiles, will you let me take your pain?” He’s done some damage, that’s for certain, but it looks like it’ll be on about the same scale as the original injury, and Stiles didn’t lose consciousness, which is the main thing, medically speaking.

    It could be worse.

    Could have been a lot, lot worse.

    “Mm,” Stiles makes that small sound again, eyes closed, and Derek lets out a sharp breath before he wraps a hand around one pale wrist and concentrates on drawing out the sharp daggers ramming their way into Stiles’ skull.

    “God,” Stiles slurs out. “God you have no idea how much I’ve missed that.”

    Derek lets out another relieved breath at that, at hearing actual words from Stiles’ mouth. He may not know the other man well, but he’s heard enough from Cora and Rachel to know that a silent Stiles is downright unnatural. And every word he speaks confirms that he knows where he is, who he’s with, that Derek’s a ‘wolf.

    “I’m calling the paramedics,” Derek says, drawing out his phone. He’s unprepared for the way Stiles’ entire body tenses.

    “No!”

    “Stiles-”

    “No.” He says, more firmly. “No.”

    “The wound’s reopened-”

    “I know. But no... paramedics.” A shaky breath, then those eyes open, and Derek’s arm just drops back to his side because he knows what that look means. Stiles is protecting Derek. Again.

    “St-”

    “Look bad f’both of us,” he manages, and Derek hesitates.

    Stiles is the best judge of his own situation, but- “It’ll look like I assaulted you,” Derek argues. “Because I did.”

    “Accident.” This comes out firmly.

    “That is no excuse for what I-”

    “Please.”

    That silences Derek. The please, coupled with the weariness beginning to show in Stiles’ voice. Pressing this is not helping the younger man’s pain. Derek can give him the medical attention he needs, stitch the wound closed again.

    “D’rek, please. Don’t want that. Won’ help. Please.”

    Derek bows his head.

    “Still a ...self-sacrificing idiot,” Stiles mumbles, very low.

    Derek glances up again, heart thudding hard. “Stiles?”

    “Jus... Peter. Call Peter. You stitch, Peter’ll fix v’rything else.”

    Derek bites back all the other words he wants to say. It isn’t fair to make Stiles argue in this state. “You’re an idiot,” Derek says softly instead, and gets up to find the kit he’d brought with him, just in case.

    Stiles is quiet and still when he returns, probably half-asleep, but Derek gives him a local anyway. When he peels back the dressing and blots away the fresh blood, he finds yesterday’s line of stitches mostly intact. The wound is split near one end, bisected by a new line of fresh blood, not as deep as the first, though there’ll probably be considerably more bruising considering Stiles’ own weight was behind the second hit. Derek swallows and curses his own quick temper as he pulls the edges of the wounds together, trying hard for perfection, for there to be no scar left behind to remind Stiles of this absolutely shitty twenty four hours.

     

    * * *

     

    “I’m sorry,” Stiles says some time later, ensconced on the couch instead of blood-stained sheets. “For, uh- before.”

    “You’re sorry,” Derek says flatly. Is this guy for real?

    “Um-”

    “You’re sorry. What the fuck do you have to be sorry about?”

    “For the uh, touching. Groping,” Stiles corrects, and his cheeks flush an enticing red. “With the, um, before. That was really not okay, I don’t blame you for freaking out, I mean. You’re not even gay.”

    Derek clenches his jaw against the flare of temper. “I didn’t ‘freak out’ because you’re a guy,” he says tightly, “I ‘freaked out’ because you played me like a fucking harp, which is absolutely not possible for someone who’s never even touched me before today. And what exactly makes you think you know anything at all about my sexuality?”

    Stiles’ eyes go wide and he stares at Derek, open mouthed. “Um. I.”

    “Let me guess,” Derek says, and his face does something that even from this side, he can tell could only be called a bitchface. “Uncle Peter.”

    Stiles bites his lip and glances away.

    Derek shakes his head. “Unbelievable,” he says, low. Then he takes a deep breath. Righteous anger may feel great, but he has to remember who the injured party truly is, here. And it’s sure as hell not Derek.

    “Well, Stiles,” he crosses his arms and leans back against the kitchen bench, “I sincerely apologize for not regaling my uncle with every single sexual experience I’ve ever had, so that you could be fully informed.” Stiles winces, and Derek is mean enough to enjoy the sight.

    “I have, in fact, had relationships with two guys that each lasted a few months, and I’m also more than familiar with the club scene. Let me see, what else? My parents are aware, and my brother and sisters, in case you’re concerned about that, too. I donate to the Trevor Project and before I moved to Seattle I volunteered at a free clinic for LGBTQ teens and homeless youth. Does that fully answer your question about my orientation? Is there anything else you’d like to know?”

    He’s still chewing on his lower lip. “Sorry,” Stiles says again, much more quietly.

    Derek sighs and scrubs a hand over his face. There’s a long silence, and then he says, “Look. Do you really think I don’t get that there’s something screwy going on here? I’m not an idiot. There is something going on with you and my family that everyone seems to know about but me.”

    Stiles swallows. “Uh.” It doesn’t take a genius to see he’s about to lie, and Derek isn’t being terribly fair, bringing this up now.

    Considering he’s the cause of Stiles’ headache, dropping it is the least he can do.

    Derek shakes his head, irritated. “Fine. Whatever.” He turns away to make coffee, and manages to keep enough self-control not to slam the mugs down on the counter, mindful of Stiles’ no doubt aching head.

    He can hear slow, hitched breathing from behind him, and Derek freezes in the act of opening the fridge when he realizes he can scent salty tears. He closes his eyes on the guilt and self-loathing that bubbles up in his chest. Fuck. Derek is officially the worst.

    He keeps his back to the living area as he works and does the only thing he can do to help, lets Stiles get himself under control. When the younger man is quiet again, he carries the two mugs over to the couch and hands Stiles his cup. He drags a tiny coffee table over until it’s within Stiles’ reach, and then drops into the only armchair.

    There’s quiet for a while – well, quiet as an inner city apartment gets, anyway – and Derek tries to let go of his irritation, since it’s not doing any good right now. He’ll think about this properly, later on. When he’s not surrounded by Stiles, who smells really goddam good now that he’s not covered in blood or oozing the odd chemical scent of painkillers.

    Derek eyes the younger man, stretched out on the couch under a – fuck, that’s one of Catrin’s handmade quilts. Everywhere he fucking looks there are more signs that Stiles is pack. Derek’s eyes wander back to Stiles’ tired face, the slight squint of his eyes.

    He gets up out of his chair and adjusts the window shade so that the room is plunged into semidarkness. He stays there for a long time, tracking the strong, regular beat of Stiles’ heart and staring at the apartments across the street. Finally, he sighs.

    “Tell me about your ‘wolf,” Derek says softly from the window.

    Stiles makes a soft, questioning noise over the rim of his mug.

    Derek turns, checking for distress, but Stiles looks calm, smells the same. He crosses back to his chair, hesitates, then says, “You still love him.”

    There’s silence, Stiles’ hand picking at a loose thread on the quilt, then his head moves once, a careful assent. Derek has to wonder, again, why the other ‘wolf is no longer on the scene.

    Stiles would never have left his mate. Derek knows that without understanding how he knows it. And he finds it hard to believe anyone would walk away from a heart like Stiles’ - as fierce and proud as any wolf.

    “So tell me about him.”

    Just as Derek says it he remembers Stiles saying I could trust him not to put me in harm’s way, and feels the sick guilt swell in his gut. Stiles had been safe with this other ‘wolf, the way he hadn’t been with Derek last night.

    Stiles takes a few steadying breaths. The words, when they come, are slow and careful. “He was. Kinda grumpy. Like, always made the worst possible impression.” His lips twist wryly. “It was a gift, honestly.”

    “I guess you saw through it, though,” Derek prompts after a while. “Right?”

    “Not for a long time,” Stiles replies softly. “But yeah, eventually.”

    “So... what was on the inside?”

    Stiles swallows. “He was, uh, really protective. He’d... lost a lot.” His voice drops low. “Lost his entire family, his pack. So when he let himself care again, it...”

    “It meant a lot?” Derek guesses. He doesn’t think too hard about the losing his whole pack thing. Sometimes it feels like that’s Derek’s situation, too. He’s lost them without actually having to grieve.

    Stiles presses his lips into a line and then nods, very carefully, once. He sets the coffee down on the table.

    Derek reaches out a tentative hand to hover over one pale wrist, and when Stiles doesn’t flinch away, he takes another little pulse of pain.

    “I was, like. Pretty obvious about things, I guess.” He makes a wry face at the ceiling. “Me, being unsubtle. Imagine that.”

    Derek bites back a smile.

    “And he wouldn’t make a move, gave me nothing at all, for months. Years, really. I thought it was Lyd- well. I thought it was yet another pointless crush that would never go anywhere, which was my particular teenaged speciality.”

    Derek takes a deep breath, lids drooping low as he soaks in the scent of Stiles, body boneless with weariness and memory.

    “And then?” he prompts.

    Stiles shrugs. “Then, uh. there was a – situation, you could say. I was um, nearly killed.” He swallows hard at that, but he pushes through, “and he...”

    When it’s clear he’s not going to finish, Derek pastes on a smile and says, “Trembling kisses in the rain?”

    Stiles snorts, then winces. “Hardly. More like... he got right up in my face and screamed at me about being more careful and then...” he shrugs.

    “You got right up in his face,” Derek guesses. He can’t picture Stiles doing anything else.

    Stiles smiles at that, broad and smug for a half-second. “Pretty much,” he admits. “And the rest is...” an odd look crosses his face. “The rest is history,” he murmurs, and there is a wave of such grief from him that Derek’s throat closes over. The silence goes on for a long time. It’s a surprise when Stiles breaks it, and Derek wonders if he’s ever really talked about this with anyone.

    “Once we were together he used to, like, lovingly stalk my Dad. I was never sure if it was to impress me somehow, or score points with Dad, or if it was a compulsion he couldn’t help, after losing his pack-” Stiles stops then, face pained, and seems to smooth it out by force of will.

    He starts again, voice soft and fond and slow, leaching out into the dark. “He actually volunteered twelve days at the Sheriff’s department so he could qualify for the intra-county softball match, because he’d been scouted for the minor leagues when he was younger and my Dad was moaning about how Beacon Hills hadn’t won a match in twenty-seven years.”

    Derek manages a smile at that. At least it wasn’t lacrosse. Fucking lacrosse. Derek had had to wait until college to play some ball, and he’d been pretty good, too. If pre-med hadn’t consumed him he might have even pursued it. For a while, anyway - not like a ‘wolf could go pro.

    “He had this incredibly dry sense of humor,” Stiles says suddenly. His thoughts seem a lot clearer when Derek keeps up with the pain management, or perhaps it’s simply that he has more energy to speak, so Derek just lets his fingers rest on Stiles’ arm, monitoring the levels. As long as Derek keeps an eye on things, there’s no real harm in keeping Stiles pain-free until he falls asleep.

    “Most people didn’t see that, either. I had friends who genuinely thought he was some kind of emotionless robot. They didn’t know he could recite whole speeches of Mulder from the X-Files, or that he had a childhood terror of LambChop.”

    Derek goes still. He fucking hates LambChop. That voice, ugh. And he’s a closet X-Files nut, something only his family knows.

    There’s a long silence. Stiles’ breathing slowly evens out. “I miss him so much, sometimes,” he says, voice thick. He breathing deepens, and he mumbles, “Miss you so fucking much.”

    Derek is still staring into space when Stiles finally succumbs all the way to sleep.

     

     

     

    Hours later there’s an unnecessary knock at the door, Derek is already pulling it open to admit Peter.

    “Is he all right?” his uncle asks, barely glancing at Derek.

    He steps aside and lets the older beta pass, watching as Peter crouches by Stiles’ couch, one hand hovering over the sleeping man’s shoulder.

    “Don’t wake him,” Derek breathes, before Peter can touch him and wake him. He closes the door very carefully. Stiles is a shockingly light sleeper. He reminds Derek of the homeless men and women he sometimes treats, who’ve learned that in every new noise there’s a possible threat, and display hyper-vigilance even in exhausted sleep.

    “And yes, he will be all right. He’ll be battling headaches for at least another day or so, which will interrupt his sleep, but there should be no long-term problems.”

    “It happened on duty?” Peter rises from his crouch and turns to look at Derek.

    Derek jerks his head and heads toward the window. He climbs through, onto the fire escape, waits for Peter and then closes the window carefully. “He wakes incredibly easily, and he needs the sleep,” Derek explains. Peter nods.

    “The initial injury happened at a domestic disturbance,” Derek says. “There was no-one to watch him, so I volunteered.”
    Peter just waits. He can probably smell Derek’s turmoil, knows there’s more to the story.

    “Then, early this morning... something happened. We argued. I shoved him,” Derek feels his shoulders hunch and crosses his arms, guilty. “He tripped and fell, hit his head again. It aggravated the wound.”

    Peter doesn’t move.

    “He. He wouldn’t let me call the paramedics,” Derek says, feeling like a child even as he says it. He wouldn’t let me. It’s a weak fucking argument, he knows it, the kind of stupid statement that tries Derek’s patience when he hears it at work. As if Stiles could have stopped him. As if there’s anything stopping Derek now. He’s just... weak. Scared. Grateful for the reprieve.

    There’s a pause, then Peter murmurs, “No. No, he wouldn’t want that.”

    Derek looks up, and Peter is staring out into the street, a strange look on his face. “Why not?” Derek demands. “Why would he protect me? He doesn’t even know me.” There’s a beat of silence and then Derek says, “None of this makes any fucking sense.”

    “I’m sure it’s extremely confusing,” Peter says in that remote way that means he doesn’t give a shit about Derek’s confusion.

    “But you’re not going to tell me anything, right?”

    Peter turns to regard Derek, tilts his head, measuring. “No,” he says finally, “No, I am not. Stiles has asked me to keep silent on this topic.”

    “And Stiles gets your loyalty before I do,” Derek says tightly, and it’s not a question.

    There’s silence. At least Peter does him the courtesy of not bullshitting about it.

    Then Derek shakes his head once, hard, jaw clenched. “Is this-“ he huffs out a breath and forces himself to say it. “All this time. I’m still being punished because she was an Argent?”

    Peter does nothing. Says nothing. Derek grits his teeth, but he can’t hold it back this time. The words just come spilling out.

    “I was fifteen years old and I made a mistake, Uncle Peter. A fucking horrible mistake, I admit. But I didn’t do it on purpose, I didn’t know who she was, I was an idiot kid- I would never deliberately endanger the pack. You must know that,” and by the end Derek isn’t angry, he’s pleading.

    “I do know that, Derek,” Peter says, and there’s compassion there, but underneath it’s just as unyielding and it’s like a knife to the ribs, the uncompromising wall between them.
    Derek closes his eyes, shakes his head and steps back. “Okay.” He takes a deep breath. “Okay, that’s – this is how things are.” He presses his lips together and tries to gather his thoughts enough to make an exit and go someplace where he’ll be able to think, without Stiles’ enticing scent consuming him.

    “I’ll – I’ll go now. Stiles doesn’t really need anything other than company, a lot of rest and a break from stress. I’ll contact his partner and let her know he needs another day’s leave on top of the two I already gave him, so tell Stiles not to worry about that. There’s medication for the pain, but he- he does better if you-”
    Peter nods once, slow, and Derek yanks the window up, eager to be gone now. He grabs his med kit and jacket from the table, and pauses at the door.

    “I’m sorry, Stiles,” he tells the man feigning sleep on the couch. “I’m truly sorry for hurting you. Take it easy and get some rest.”
    Derek nods to his Uncle and lets himself out.

     

     

    The door closes, and Peter doesn’t move. Stiles sighs again and wishes things were different. “He blames me,” he murmurs, just for Peter to hear. It’s not like Derek will be lurking in the hallway, listening. “He thinks that... he thinks me showing up in his life back in ’05 fucked everything up for him.” He can hear how incredulous he sounds, even to himself.

    “I’m sorry,” Peter murmurs. “Stiles, I’m sorry.”

    Stiles doesn’t move for a long time.

    When he does, he just rolls a little onto his back and doesn’t meet Peter’s eyes. He feels the couch cushion shift when the wolf sits next to Stiles’ hip, though.

    And then Stiles just sighs. “Peter,” he says, heartsick. “I want to go home.”

    A large hand comes to rest on his shoulder.

    Stiles’ face crumples and he puts a hand over his eyes. “Please. Take me home,” he says, and his voice cracks on the last word.

     

    Chapter Text

     

     

    PART FIVE

     

    and in a mystery to be
    (when time from time shall set us free)
    forgetting me,remember me

     

     

     

    Derek doesn’t really spend too long thinking about it. There’s no point stewing over whatever’s being kept from him, not without more information. Something’s not right, it’s really is as simple as that. It’s not even particularly about John/Stiles.

    Derek’s avoided home, avoided his family, for years, over this. He’d always assumed they were blaming him, secretly – rightly, his conscience whispers – for endangering their lives with his stupid teenage infatuation. There had been something in his mother’s face, his father’s voice, something in the way Peter watched him after Kate. And he’d been so angry and humiliated by turns that he’d just-

    It had been easier to stay away. And when they’d never tried to drag him back, he’d taken it as a sign. As just punishment for his transgressions.

    But now. He feels like he’s on the cusp of an answer. Something is changing. He’d stood there with his hand on the newly closed door and listened to Stiles, the broken-open sound of him saying He blames me, asking to go home, and Derek’s heart had leaped in his chest as if in answer.

    I want to go home, Stiles had said, and Derek had thought, Yeah. Me, too.

    He’d worked his shift that day, traded his next two shifts for an entire week of nights to that fucking vulture, Kowalski, and now he’s driving down the familiar narrow road to the house. He hasn’t called ahead, something is telling him to take that one slight advantage of seeing his family’s faces when they’re unprepared.

    So he parks the SUV in Laura’s spot at the side of the house, because their relationship has always been equal parts loyalty and spite, and he starts for the front door. It opens just as he hits the top step and his mother is there, a tiny frown wrinkling her forehead as she says, “Laura? Is something-”

    She stops mid-word and blinks, and Derek watches intently, sees the tiny lift at the corners of her mouth, hears the quick indrawn breath and then she says, “Derek? Honey-

    And he’s laughing, can’t help it, leaps forward and sweeps her into his arms and squeezes so hard she gasps, because he’d seen it, unmistakably. She was happy to see him, she’d lit up like a Christmas tree. Genuinely happy to see Derek, and he hasn’t felt sure of that for a really long fucking time.

    “Mom,” he croaks out against her shoulder, “I’ve missed you. So much.” And it’s all he can manage before his throat closes up.

    “Oh baby,” she says, and she’s crying too. “We’ve missed you, too.”

     

    * * *

     

    Derek makes his way through the woods without haste. He has a destination in mind, but he’s in no hurry to get there. His mind is still a jumble of confusion, all threaded through with that feeling of welcome, of belonging, of being truly part of the pack. He’d almost forgotten that feeling, and right now it’s over-riding everything else, no matter how important it might actually be in the grand scheme of things.

    When he gets close to the Sheriff’s house Derek slows and focuses on his hearing while he’s still concealed inside the treeline. There are a few small sounds inside the house, domestic and familiar, breakfast sounds. He waits, and waits, and finally he hears it, Stiles’ voice greeting his father, the Sheriff’s voice replying.

    They’re relaxed and easy with each other, close in a way that Derek automatically envies. The Sheriff’s voice is relaxed and matter-of-fact, but Derek can hear the concern underneath. He edges a little closer so he can get glimpses through the window, wondering what the Sheriff knows, what Stiles has told him.

    “...don’t have to go in, you know that.”

    “I’m fine, Dad,” Stiles says. He’s out of sight, eating cereal at the table, probably, judging by the clink of spoon on bowl. “I’ll come and meet you for lunch, but you don’t need to miss work. My headache’s gone-”

    “Really.”

    “Mostly gone,” Stiles amends. “I’ll be fine, really.”

    “Well I s’pose at least Scott’s not around to follow you into trouble,” the Sheriff says wryly. “Even the two of you can’t manage inter-state mayhem without some prior notice.”

    “Hey!” Stiles says, but Derek can hear the smile.

    There’s a pause, then. The Sheriff shifts and Derek gets a glimpse of him through the kitchen window. Now that his back is to Stiles he’s letting the worry show clear on his face. “I don’t want you to sit around brooding about things you can’t change, Stiles.”

    Silence. Then Stiles sighs. “I won’t, Dad,” he says.

    The Sheriff’s back must adequately convey the scepticism Derek can see on his face, because then Stiles says, “I’ll... try. I really will.”

    The Sheriff seems to accept that, because he changes the subject, half-turns away from the window and says, “You going to drop in on the pack?”

    “I guess,” Stiles says. “Probably not today, though. Might call Peter, later.”

    The Sheriff nods. He seems to weigh things up, then says softly, “Maybe you should talk to Talia about this whole-”

    “No, Dad,” Stiles replies, voice rising, “I told you, there’s no point.”

    “And as I told you,” the Sheriff says pointedly, “you’re not the only person involved, and there are other opinions to take into account. You did a wonderful, generous thing, kid, but that doesn’t mean you know what’s best for everybody.”

    There’s no reply, Derek’s pretty sure Stiles is giving a stubborn shrug to that. But Derek gives a slow blink. Was there anybody in Beacon Hills who wasn’t in on this secret?

    Stiles sighs and unashamedly changes the subject. “So listen, um. There’s something I’ve been meaning to, uh.”

    The Sheriff turns and crosses to what’s probably the coffee pot, judging by the scent now drifting through the window. When the Sheriff shifts, Derek catches a glimpse of Stiles in profile, though he’s watching the floor and scrubbing a hand over the back of his head as he says, “The Lieutenant took me aside the other day and-”

    “Everything okay?” the Sheriff says, turning quickly.

    “Yeah, uh, really great, actually,” he shoots a quick, slanting glance up at his father and says, “he uh, asked if I’m thinking about taking the exam at the end of the year, soon as I’m eligible.”

    “Detective?” the Sheriff says, a grin beginning to spread over the older man’s face. “In minimum time? You’re kidding, ah, son that’s-”

    “Yeah, I guess he liked the way I handled myself on the uh-”

    “That narcotics bust? He’d damn well better-”

    Stiles is rolling his eyes, but trying to contain his smile at the same time. It’s nice to see him happy and proud, for once. His and Derek’s interactions haven’t exactly been the stuff dreams are made of.

    Derek watches the Sheriff take his leave of Stiles, the first clear glimpse he’s had of the younger man as he wraps his arms around his father in an unselfconscious hug. A few minutes later the police cruiser backs out of the driveway and Derek waits.

    What he’s waiting for, he’s not sure.

    Until he gets it.

    Stiles moves around slowly in the kitchen, rinsing out dishes and putting away food, probably, cupboard doors opening and closing, water running. There’s the scent of coffee through the partly open window, and then the back door opens and Stiles emerges, mug in hand.

    He moves slowly – head hurting more than he admitted to his father, Derek thinks disapprovingly – and sinks down onto the wooden garden bench that’s set against the wall. There’s a bunched up blanket of some description at one end, and Stiles leans forward – again, slowly – deposits his mug on the timber deck, then swings his legs up onto the bench and drags the blanket up over himself.

    He doesn’t look terribly comfortable. The bench has no padding, for one thing, so Stiles’ back is resting against bare wood. But Stiles tilts the uninjured side of his head until it rests against the external wall of the house, and lets out a long, slow breath.

    For a moment there’s nothing. Then Derek sees the faint tremble in Stiles’ jaw and realizes he’s holding back some huge emotion, frantically trying to press it all down inside. His eyes are wet – he’s not crying, but he could, easily, and then he just closes his eyes and lets one hand fist in the blanket.

    Stiles doesn’t say a word. Not a tear falls. If anyone walked in on this scene – even a wolf, Derek realizes suddenly – they’d see an injured man getting some rest.

    Whoever Stiles really is? He’s someone who’s learned to hide. And he’s a hell of a lot better at camouflage than Derek, the born wolf.

    Derek eyes him thoughtfully, then fades silently back into the woods, and heads for home.

     

     

     

    The run home clears his head so that Derek has enough sense to eat some breakfast, and drive to the Stilinski house like a normal person. He tucks his offering under one arm and knocks, listens to the sounds of Stiles pacing slowly toward the door.

    Stiles drags the door open and his blank face freezes. He blinks in surprise at Derek, then blinks some more.

    “Hi,” Derek says. Belatedly he remembers that Stiles has no idea Derek drove home yesterday, because Stiles has been minding his own business and not lurking around Derek’s family home.

    Well, not this time, a snarky voice in the back of Derek’s head murmurs.

    “Derek,” he says blankly. “At my- front door.” There’s an odd inflection in his voice.

    “Hi,” Derek says again. There’s a pause, then he just keeps going, because Stiles is clearly going to need a little time to process... whatever it is that’s freaking him out. “I brought you something.”

    “You... brought me something.” It comes out slowly, like Stiles isn’t sure he’s hearing things right.

    “Yes,” Derek says, and takes a step forward. Stiles falls back automatically to let him in, and just as automatically, closes the door behind Derek and leads the way into the living room.

    “I didn’t know you were...”

    “Yeah,” Derek says. “Felt homesick.” He shrugs, “Came home.”

    Stiles nods, still more than a little stunned, Derek thinks. He looks shocky, actually, looks about as bad as he had an hour ago, on the back porch.

    “I’m uh. Sure your family was happy to see you.”

    Derek can feel the smile spread over his face unbidden. “Yeah,” he says, and it comes out a lot deeper and with more emotion behind it than he’d meant it to. “They really were.”

    Stiles blinks at him, seeming to emerge from the fog, and so Derek deflects. “Can we uh, go out back?”

    “Out back?” Stiles repeats. “The backyard, you mean?”

    Derek nods.

    “Sure,” Stiles says doubtfully, but leads the way, out through the kitchen Derek had caught glimpses of this morning, because he’s a freaking lurker lately. Ever since he met Stiles... huh. He’s going to have to watch that before it becomes a habit.

    Derek takes a long look around the backyard. It’s not exactly new to him, but he hasn’t seen it from this angle before, so... “Perfect,” he says, and makes for one huge tree that dominates the grassy area.

    He lays his package down on the grass and unrolls it, winds the rope around the tree and secures the knot with a few quick tugs. It’s nice not to have to hide his strength, he thinks absently. Then he strides back to the other end and wraps the other rope around the thick post of the back porch. He steps back, checks it for height, and gives a satisfied nod.

    “You brought me a hammock,” Stiles says haltingly.

    Derek nods again. “It’s mine,” he says, then thinks, duh. “I mean, I left it here when I went away to college. I haven’t used it in years.” That’s what comes from only visiting for Christmas and Thanksgiving, he thinks guiltily. Even a ‘wolf doesn’t relish lying around outside in the middle of winter.

    “Okay, but, why did you bring me a hammock?”

    “They’re good for relaxing,” Derek says, as if to a particularly slow child. “You still need to be resting. And... being outside is good for you,” he adds, uncomfortable. “Fresh air and all that.”

    Stiles is staring at him with a really odd look – well, it would be odd if Derek wasn’t starting to figure out what was behind that look.

    “I recommend a pillow, and a book,” Derek says. “But make sure get them before you get comfortable.”

    There’s a small smile playing around Stiles’ mouth. “Okay,” he says. “I, uh. I will. Do that.”

    “Because these are a real bitch to get in and out of,” Derek adds. “Until you’ve had some practise.”

    Stiles’ mouth twitches. “So you think I can be trusted to try it, though? I’m not the most graceful customer, I could hit my head ag-” he stops abruptly as they both remember the same thing at the same time.

    Derek can feel his face go flat and blank. He looks away.

    “Hey,” Stiles says. “Hey.”

    Derek shakes his head. He hasn’t confessed that part of things to his mother yet. Though Peter might have already told her.

    Stiles gives a tiny sigh, then says, “So. Maybe I should have a medical professional supervise my first foray into this hammock. Whaddya think?”

    Derek turns back to face Stiles, who is watching him with a faint smile, no trace of fear or blame anywhere. Stiles forgives so easily, and it gives Derek a little burst of shame to think how quickly he’d held a grudge against his family for small slights committed years ago. How long he’d held on to his self-righteous anger. Derek hadn’t ever realized that about himself, and it’s not a character flaw he admires.

    “Can’t hurt,” he says slowly, and thinks again, he forgives so easily. It makes Derek fear what else the man would forgive.

    “Let me get my book,” Stiles says, and disappears into the house. Derek tracks his footsteps up the stairs and into his bedroom. “You should pour yourself some coffee,” Stiles says in a slightly louder than conversational voice, like he knows Derek would be tracking his progress through the house.

    Derek blinks. It’s not something he’s ever had before, a ...friend who knew he was a ‘wolf. Everyone who knows his true nature is part of his pack, has known him his whole life. There’s an intoxicating kind of bubble of excitement in his chest at the thought of getting to know someone new, while already knowing he can trust them with his biggest secret.

    Derek takes a deep breath, goes inside and pours himself a coffee. There’s enough in the pot, so he opens a cupboard or two, finds a travel mug and pours the rest inside for Stiles. There’s no point being in a hammock without swinging, in Derek’s opinion, but there’s less chance of spillage with a lid. Then he ducks out to the car and retrieves his iPad, and a book.

    Stiles reappears with a book in one hand, and a pillow tucked under his other arm. Five minutes later he’s tucked into the hammock, head on the pillow, legs covered by the blanket from this morning. It’s just an old tartan thing, worn and threadbare, but from the way Stiles’ fingers run over it, Derek thinks it has some value, maybe connected to Stiles’ absent mother.

    Derek sits on the steps, an arms’ length from the hammock, sips his coffee and listens to the steady beat of Stiles’ heart while he thinks about the things he knows, the things he has mistakenly believed, for years.

    Stiles naps and reads, and Derek alternates between online journal articles on his iPad and working his way through The End of Poverty. Stiles’ own book is called Cod: A History of the Fish that Changed the World. Derek’s lips twitch every time he sees the cover, but Stiles swears it’s a page-turner.

    They eat a quiet lunch together – an array of deli sandwiches the Sheriff brings home, having apparently heard from Talia that Derek was visiting. Stiles harasses his father about the mayonnaise on his sandwich, which has the rhythm of an age-old argument, and Derek watches with a small smile, barely listening to the not on my watch speech Stiles is currently laying down.

    Over that first lunch Derek learns that Stiles is addicted to coffee and isn’t sure he actually wants the promotion to detective.

    “I kind of like the look of the K-9, unit, to be honest,” he says, shrugging. There’s mustard at the corner of his mouth, and Derek is trying not to stare or think... thoughts in front of Stiles’ father. “And... I think it might not be all that great to be the youngest detective in the precinct.” His father gives a philosophical kind of head-tilt on that one.

    Stiles swallows his food and adds, “I could specialise with the dogs for a while and try for detective later, I guess. It’s not like the chance is going to go away, and more experience can’t hurt.”

    “I think the K-9 thing would suit you,” Derek offers, for what it’s worth.

    Stiles glances up and offers a singularly sweet smile.

    “I agree,” the Sheriff says. “It’s not all sunshine and roses, but I can’t say I wouldn’t mind knowing you’re searching for missing persons rather than leveraging drug dealers against their suppliers or breaking up organized crime rings.” Then he mutters, almost under his breath, “You’ve seen enough dark stuff for a lifetime, kid.”

    Stiles freezes for a second, then says, “Uh. Yeah. The mean streets of Seattle.”

    He and his father exchange a glance full of hidden meaning. And then the Sheriff shakes his head and pushes back from the table. “Well, it’s back to the mean streets of Beacon Hills for me.”

    Derek says his own farewells and heads home for another long talk with his parents.

     

    * * *

     

    He comes back the next day.

    This time Derek brings last night’s leftovers - meatloaf and mashed potatoes - from home and lets the covered plates heat up slowly in the oven while they talk. He’s dragged a chair outside today, so that he can see Stiles’ face and hands while they talk. The other man is so animated it’s like missing half the conversation if you face the wrong way.

    Silence falls at the end of a summary of Sharktopus, a movie Derek is very, very committed to never watching, even as Stiles swears it’s so bad, it’s awesome.

    “I really am sorry, you know,” Derek finally says. He hadn’t known he was going to do this until the words were already out.

    “What for?” Stiles says, focusing bright eyes on Derek’s face. He raises his brows and gives Stiles an are you kidding me kind of look.

    “This?” he gestures to his head. “Man, you gotta let that go. It was an accident.”

    “Hitting your head was an accident,” Derek agrees. “And I never meant for that to happen. But Stiles, the shove was on purpose. And I shouldn’t have done it – not ever – but especially not when you were already hurt.”

    “Dude-” Stiles spreads his hands.

    “Don’t minimize this,” Derek snaps. “Just- don’t.”

    They stare at one another in silence.

    “I’m not just saying this because I’m stronger than you,” Derek says finally. “Do you get that? Pushing someone around in an argument like that – it’s not healthy. It’s not smart. It only leads to escalation. And it’s a thousand times worse because I have enough strength to really hurt you in a burst of temper.” He’s going to stop there, but in the interests of full disclosure he adds, “And I’m a thousand times more pissed off than usual because you keep playing it off like it’s nothing, like you’re used to being manhandled-”

    Stiles jolts and his eyes fly to Derek’s.

    Derek stares at him, openmouthed.

    After a long pause, Derek says carefully, “You said. At the hospital. You said you knew you were safe with ...him. That he would never put you in harm’s way. And I’ve been feeling totally shitty because I couldn’t even spend a few hours with you without splitting your fucking head open. But Stiles- if he was... pushing you around? That’s-”

    “Stop,” Stiles says abruptly. “Just. stop.”

    Derek does. He waits, and lets Stiles gather his thoughts.

    “I get what you’re saying,” he says slowly. He’s running a thumb along the fabric of his jeans as he speaks, eyes focused on it. “And... I agree. I’ve seen a lot of shit on the job, and you’re right. The small shit escalates, even when no-one particularly means it to.”

    He takes a long, shaky breath. “My- my ‘wolf,” he says and swallows hard. “When we first met, we. Didn’t hit it off, you could say. He thought I was an annoying little shit,” and a ghost of a smile touches Stiles’ face, “and there was some... yeah.” He scrubs a hand over his head, avoiding the wound on automatic.

    “Manhandling, I guess you’d call it. I specialised in antagonizing him, and he didn’t handle it well, especially because most of the time we were in real, actual danger. So I guess... my compass on this stuff is a little messed up? Because compared to-” And then he stops, clearly regathers, and Derek very, very badly wants to know what Stiles was going to say there.

    “But when we got together. Once we were... us. No, he didn’t. Never. Never,” Stiles says, “even though we still argued and stuff, he didn’t. He wouldn’t. It would have hurt him more than he could ever hurt me, because-”and his heart is beating harder now, faint scent of sadness stirring. He draws in a long, slow breath, and he is clearly not going to finish that sentence, not if Derek waits all day.

    “But I appreciate your concern,” Stiles finally says, formally.

    Derek lets that settle, turns it over in his head. He can fill in some of those blanks, and while some of it makes him feel better, the main point stands. Derek lost control, when Stiles’ other wolf never did.

    Maybe the simple fact is, no-one has really tested Derek’s temper until now, not in a personal setting. He’s avoided long-term relationships because it seemed simpler, because he had a secret he had no intention of sharing, and he hadn’t spent enough time around his family to ever get into a truly heated argument...

    Derek’s going to spend a lot of nights tossing and turning over this, and he’s never going to forgive himself for what he did in Stiles’ apartment that night. But for now, this is about Stiles. And Derek can simplify a lot of things for the younger man with some simple honesty.

    “You don’t have to worry so much about your secret, you know,” Derek finally says into the silence.

    Stiles freezes, then turns his head just enough to reveal one huge, wary eye over the edge of the hammock.

    “My mother.” Derek swallows. “She told me. Days ago, actually. About the Fae Queen, and what you did. About your old pack.” About me, he thinks, but he’s not ready for that stuff. Not yet.

    Stiles stares unblinking. Then, “What?” he says, hoarse. Long fingers curl around the hammock’s strings, gripping tight.

    “I asked her what was going on, and she told me. Said keeping the secret was hurting the pack. She said you’d travelled back in time to save all our lives, to protect us from-” he can’t help the way his voice falters, “-from Kate.”

    “But. But she promised me,” Stiles stammers. “She swore-”

    “She didn’t share her memories, or, the ones she took from you, I guess?” Derek clarifies. “She just... told me. What you did, all those years ago.” He slows, and adds, “Though, it wasn’t years ago for you, I guess.” This is really fucking confusing, Derek thinks, not for the first time.

    Stiles lets out a strangled laugh. “Fine print,” he mutters. “It’s always the fuckin’ fine print.”

    Derek shrugs. He doesn’t really know what Stiles means. The younger man’s heart starts to beat out of control, like the sound of that night from months ago when he’d seen Stiles crouched on the apartment floor, and he reaches out instinctively to wrap his hand around the other man’s forearm, trying to draw out the panic like he would draw out pain.

    “But you-” Stiles is babbling now, “you’ve been- you’ve been coming here, you brought the hammock, and, and the meatloaf, and-”

    “I’m still trying to figure it all out,” Derek says. “How I feel about it. What it... means, for me. For the pack. I’m kind of re-writing my personal history,” he says, and then a small grin sneaks up on him. “I guess you’d know all about that.”

    Stiles is gaping at him, but his heart is slowing.

    “But when I woke up yesterday I knew one thing for sure, out of all the other confusing shit. That you had saved my pack, my family, from something... something so horrible I can barely imagine it.”

    He stares over at Stiles and knows the other man doesn’t want to hear thanks. Not now.

    So Derek shrugs. “And the rest of it I can take the time to figure out. Later. And,” he takes a breath, “I hope there is a later, Stiles. Because I-” he falters. “I’d like to get to know you. The real you, or- all of you, I guess?”

    “How can you be-”

    He’s clearly barely hearing anything Derek is saying.

    “Mom said you were worried I’d spiral into depression, or something, if I ever found out.” Dumbass, Derek thinks with some affection.

    “You- you just, you’re just sitting there-

    “I’m not him,” Derek says simply. Stiles blinks, and his head jerks back a little.

    Derek looks down at his hand where it’s been resting on Stiles’ forearm. He waits, giving Stiles the chance to pull away. But the younger man is still, the way he is so rarely, and Derek’s darkly tanned hand remains where it is, splayed out over the milk-pale, tender length of Stiles’ inner forearm.

    He breathes in and out once, careful, then begins to slide his hand slowly along the soft skin as he speaks. Keeps his gaze locked on that pale, smooth expanse, tracking the faint pulse of blood beneath. “I’m not him,” he says again, more gently this time.

    “Y-yeah,” Stiles says faintly.

    “It’ll probably take some time for you to really get that, though,” Derek says. He’s been trying to imagine what it’s like for Stiles, to look at a face that’s so familiar and see- a stranger. “But- yeah, it’s important you understand that- I’m not him. I’ll never have his baggage, or his issues.” I have other issues, he thinks dryly, boy do I have other issues.

    Stiles nods dumbly.

    “But,” Derek risks a quick glance up, “I’d like us to be friends. If we can. Or- if you can, I guess. I know it’s not quite as simple as that, for you.”

    Stiles is staring down at their hands, like there’ll be an answer there. Just as Derek’s palm reaches Stiles’ wrist he moves, shifting enough to grip hard, long fingers wrapping around Derek’s hand.

    “I’d like that,” he says hoarsely. Then shakes his head. “My life,” he mutters, half to himself, and runs his free hand over his face. Derek lets the silence sit, watches and waits.

    Finally, Stiles drops his hand. “I guess... this time around - it’s my turn to be the fucked-up one,” he says, with a slanting half-smile.

    Derek smiles back. He doesn’t really get what Stiles means – which is half the problem, of course – but Peter had told him a little last night, enough to know that Stiles had been living in some kind of constant nightmare in his first timeline, that he likely has PTSD from the constant battles and threats. There’d been a kanima, which Derek had never even heard of until last night. And an alpha pack, apparently - Jesus. And that’s without counting the time-travel mind-fuck, and the still-healing broken heart.

    But Derek can be patient. He can listen. If his job has taught him anything, it’s that.

    Ironically, it’s probably one skill he has in this timeline that he apparently didn’t in the other. And he can try, at least, to understand some of the weight Stiles is carrying – a burden the younger man had earned in the defense of Derek’s pack, fixing Derek’s mistakes.

    “And after a while. Once we get to know each other,” Derek adds, because Stiles is pack, and that means total honesty, and there’s no way he can hide how strongly he’s attracted to this smart-mouthed, amber-eyed man. “Maybe... maybe then.”

    Stiles’ hand spasms on his at that.

    “Yeah,” Stiles says after a moment, eyes locked on Derek’s face. There’s a slow, incredulous grin spreading over his face. “I guess we-” Then he snickers helplessly, and his hand tightens around Derek’s. “I guess we have... time.”

    Derek groans and rolls his eyes. But then he smiles, unable to help himself. “Yeah,” he says. “There’s time.”

    And Stiles smiles at him, soft and somehow shy, fingers tightening around Derek’s as he relaxes into the hammock and the inevitable aftermath of panic – exhaustion – hits. It’s only another minute before he begins to drift off into sleep.

    Derek sits, and he waits, and he sifts through all the confusion he’s suddenly carrying, matching up a life he never lived and mistakes he nearly made. His mother had been light on detail as far as the other Derek’s relationship with Stiles, but it doesn’t take a genius to guess how Stiles had learned such familiarity with Derek’s body, why he’d sighed for Der in his sleep.

    He lets his eyes roam over the face that’s familiar both from memory and from the events of the past week. The pale skin and amber eyes are ordinary, and yet they conceal a whip-quick mind and a heart large enough to save Derek’s world entire.

    I could love him, he lets himself think for the first time. Stiles’ courage and his pain both call to the healer at Derek’s core. And the humour, the loyalty he’s already seen – he swallows hard, heart thudding at the thought that if he’s careful, if he’s lucky... He could have those to colour his days and fill his nights.

    I could love him. If I was brave enough to risk it.

    Stiles frowns a little in sleep and turns his head.

    He’s suffered so much, taken such a huge leap – all for a man who no longer exists. And yet. Parts of Derek must be the same, surely? It would be a huge leap of faith for Derek to risk opening himself to someone who might never fall out of love with... Derek. He gives a little shake of his head at the insanity of it all.

    He takes in one long breath, the uniqueness of Stiles filling up his senses, and the answer is all right there, in the familiarity and the newness.

    I could love him, Derek thinks with certainty, and in that instant something brushes against his mind, the faintest scent, a sound at the very edge of his hearing.

    A vibration running over his skin, a shift in the air- something Other.

    It speaks, and as he looks up, over Stiles’ sleeping form to the treeline at the edge of Beacon Hills Preserve, Derek could swear he hears-

    The debt has been repaid.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    in time of daffodils(who know
    the goal of living is to grow)
    forgetting why,remember how

    in time of lilacs who proclaim
    the aim of waking is to dream,
    remember so(forgetting seem)

    in time of roses(who amaze
    our now and here with paradise)
    forgetting if,remember yes

    in time of all sweet things beyond
    whatever mind may comprehend,
    remember seek(forgetting find)

    and in a mystery to be
    (when time from time shall set us free)
    forgetting me,remember me

    ee cummings