It was nearly impossible to sleep anymore. He kept having visions of doors opening and closing, then there was the screams. Finally giving up, he got out of bed and opened his window so he could slip out onto the roof.
The fading hadn’t stopped, and his chest was gone, hands outlined but not solid. It didn’t seem like it would take a whole lot longer, a few days maybe, a week.
When he’d first seen Derek he thought he might strengthen, but Derek hadn’t really looked at him. Stiles was hiding a little, but he wasn’t difficult to find. Somehow though, they hadn’t really spoken. He had no more strength. Probably it didn’t matter.
“Well hello there Stiles,” a familiar, albeit creepy, voice said from the ground under his roof, interrupting his thoughts. Stiles almost fell off when he flailed.
“Creepy Uncle Peter,” Stiles squeaked. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“I was just wondering about something. How are you feeling?” Peter was looking up at him with the familiar smirk.
Stiles narrowed his eyes. “I’m fine, thank you.”
“Really? You seem… a little transparent right now, and I’m reading your heart on your sleeve.”
“No,” Stiles shook his head. Just the thought that Peter might know what was going on with him was unnerving. “I’m fine. Peachy, with a side of keen. Go away.”
There was a moment of silence while Peter looked at him, but he finally nodded and turned to leave. “I’m on your side Stiles,” he said. “You’re really quite unique and I would hate for anything to happen to you.”
“Yeah. Okay.” Like Stiles was a thing, instead of a person. He shivered as he watched Peter walk away.
The moment he was gone, Stiles went back to his room and closed the window firmly. It didn’t make any sense for Peter to be able to see him fading. He’d noticed that it was only people who cared about him that could tell, and Peter only cared about himself.
“There’s my favorite nephew,” Peter said as he walked into the loft. Derek was sitting down on the ground, looking around the room and the mess that had been made of it. Sauntering in as though he owned the place, because Peter was nothing if not flashy, he looked around and smirked. “I’m surprised you haven’t cleaned this up. It’s been a whole day already.”
“What do you want?” Derek asked, voice weary. His eyes found Peter’s and he looked for all the world like he didn’t want to deal with anything Peter might say.
“I wanted to know if you knew what was wrong with Stiles,” Peter asked as he watched Derek closely, but all he saw was confusion as Derek’s brows furrowed and his eyes narrowed.
“There’s nothing wrong with Stiles,” Derek said and Peter snorted.
“Please,” he waved a hand elegantly in the air. “Haven’t you noticed the way the boy is fading away?”
“He isn’t fading away. If anything his body is healthier than I’ve ever seen him.” Derek stood up and crossed his arms.
“That isn’t what I’m talking about, and you know it.” Peter took a deep breath and allowed his eyes to travel the room even as he paid very close attention to Derek. Sometimes pretending to not have any real stock in a conversation loosened his nephew’s tongue.
“No, I don’t. Please, Uncle,” and Derek sneered the word so well that Peter felt a small sense of pride at being able to pull that from his nephew. “Tell me what you mean.”
“I mean the literal fading the boy is doing. I’m guessing he’s going to be gone by the time his head is translucent. I wonder…” Peter tapped a finger on his lips and finally turned back to Derek. “Will he fade from our memory or will he just die?”
“I don’t have time for your games right now,” Derek said. He started walking away and Peter’s eyes widened. Could Derek actually *not* see what was going on with Stiles?
Peter reached out and grabbed Derek’s arm before he could pass him by. “You honestly don’t know?” he asked in surprise. “You, Derek, don’t know what’s happening to your favorite human?”
“He’s *not* my favorite human!” Derek snapped.
“No?” Peter let Derek go and smirked. “Well then, maybe that explains it. Perhaps only people who care about Stiles can see.”
“See *what*!?” Derek’s eyes flashed blue and Peter laughed.
“Oh, that doesn’t work on me, you know that. Especially now that you’re a beta yourself.” Peter decided that, for now, he wasn’t going to tell Derek anything. “Figure it out on your own.”
With an abrupt turn, Peter walked back to the loft doors and out, hearing his nephew grumbling behind him. He had thought that Derek was close with the little brat, certainly closer than Peter was, but maybe he was wrong on that assumption.
“Derek? Can I… can I have a word?” Scott asked as his heart pounded hard and fast in his chest. He wasn’t going to betray Stiles, he promised he wouldn’t, but he had to know something. Something personal and it had to be now. If he waited it could be too late.
Derek frowned but waved his hand lightly and nodded. “Shoot.”
“How… um…” Scott swallowed because he had to be so careful to not say anything that might give away what was going on, but he still needed to know.
Even knowing he had to say something, Scott couldn’t figure out how to phrase it. He took so long that Derek frowned and said, “Spit it out Scott.”
“HowdoyoufeelaboutStiles?” he asked all in one quick breath. Scott felt more confident as an Alpha, felt stronger and more certain. It was just, when it came to emotional stuff he was still confused a lot of the time, still making mistakes and learning from them. Well, he *was* only seventeen.
Brows furrowing, Derek managed to choke out, “What?”
Clearing his throat, Scott took a deep breath and tried to steady himself. “How… do you feel… about Stiles?” he finally got out. Saying it slowly made the words easier to understand. For some reason it was easier to say them too, maybe because he’d already said them one. Even if that once had been a rush.
“He’s… um… fine?” Derek asked.
“Oh.” Scott nodded, feeling his heart squeeze painfully. “Right. Um, yeah, sorry for bothering you.” Why would he even think that Derek might have feelings for Stiles anyway? He wanted to just… blurt out all the problems, everything that was going wrong, scaring him, but he couldn’t. And his best friend was going to die because of it. “I’ll go,” he mumbled and turned away from Derek. He wasn’t going to cry, not now, in front of Derek, who could possibly save Stiles but who wouldn’t ever know.
A warm hand settled on his shoulder. “Wait. What’s going on?” Derek asked, and Scott closed his eyes tightly.
“Nothing,” he whispered and he knew Derek wouldn’t believe him. Derek could probably *smell* the sadness wafting off of him.
“Peter said something about Stiles the other day. Something about him… fading away? What did he mean? If anyone knows, you do.”
“Oh, um,” Scott cleared his throat again and swallowed the tears. He stood up straight, adopting confidence he didn’t feel. “I have no idea.”
“You haven’t forgotten I can hear lies, right?”
“Yeah, well, I can’t tell you,” Scott snapped. “Sorry, I made a promise.” He took a step away and felt Derek’s hand fall off of his shoulder. “Thanks for your time anyway.” He had to get out of here before he made a fool of himself.
“Yeah. Well… I didn’t do anything.”
“You answered my question,” Scott said. His heart stuttered and he gasped in a breath. “That’s all I needed.”
Then he bolted, ran out of the room, passed by Peter as he came into the loft and didn’t even stop to apologize for bumping into the older man. He just ran, shifted, ran some more. Tears fell as he pounded through the woods, and he wanted to tip his head back and howl, but if he did that someone might find him, so he just ran, and ran and ran.
He was going to lose Stiles because of Derek Hale. Somehow that felt incredibly unfair.
Walking into his bedroom was like walking into a cage. His father was going to have him watched now that he was sleepwalking and sleep calling people. Whatever was going on with him, it hurt him to his core. In light of this recent freak out, maybe it would be better if he quickened the trip.
Falling onto the bed, that never made him feel rested anymore, he lay back and stared at the ceiling. Maybe he was going insane. Surely it would be better to end things before this went on any further. He could take a bunch of pills? No, that wasn’t likely to work. Cutting himself would be painful, he didn’t think that was a better way and his father had all the guns locked up tightly. Even Stiles didn’t have a key. Oh, but he could probably pick the lock these days.
Determined, he was about to stand when there was a loud knock on his window. Screaming and falling off the bed, he flailed himself up to look out into the darkness, eyes wide and heart hammering in his chest.
“I didn’t mean to scare you,” Derek’s voice came from the window, which was now open, and Stiles clutched at his night shirt, heart trying to fly out of his throat. His brow was furrowed as he looked Stiles over.
“Holy fuck! What the hell dude? I thought… I think… Christ!” His brain wasn’t capable of higher function and each huge breath in tasted kind of cinnamony.
“Sorry.” Derek frowned and then motioned to the room. “Can I come in?”
“Yeah,” Stiles nodded. As he tried to stand up without falling, he wondered briefly if he was too young to die of a heart attack. “Sure, whatever. What’s up?” The words should have been nonchalant, but given that he was still swallowing his pounding heart they sounded more like a squeak.
Derek stepped into the room and then closed the window behind him. “I wanted to see how you were doing. I thought… no one wanted to let you go, but I guess…” he trailed off and Stiles shook his head.
“Naw, I… I don’t like be watched over. You know? It’s kind of creepy.” Which was why seeing Derek around the high school all the time had been bizarre and weird. Now of course, he wanted to see Derek all the time.
“You just had a really traumatic night,” Derek said. “You… don’t you want to be close to someone right now?”
‘Yes!’ Stiles thought and his face flushed. Looking away from Derek he shrugged. “No, it’s fine.” He could *feel* his heart stutter on the lie. “I mean I’ll be okay.” It hiccuped again and when could Stiles figure out when he was lying? That was weird.
“Stiles,” Derek said, and he took a step closer to Stiles. “I… it’s just that… Look, I know this was hard for you, but you have friends, you can lean on them.”
“You know what, I’m going to pretend that everything is fine and you’re going to go away.” He looked up at Derek and held that green gaze. There was no way he was going to get what he wanted, which was Derek holding him close and helping him through this. He was *certain* Derek wasn’t interested in being that kind of friend. Only Derek was suddenly right in front of him, pulling him close, putting a hand on Stiles’ head.
“You’re so stupid, you know that?” Derek whispered, his other arm wrapping around Stiles’ waist. A small whimper left Stiles as he brought his own arms up and clutched at Derek, fists grabbing the back of Derek’s jacket and holding on for dear life.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Stiles whispered into Derek’s chest, and he closed his eyes, trying not to cry. God he didn’t want to cry anymore.
“I’m talking about running around and scaring the shit out of all of us and then trying to relax in your room when even I can tell you don’t want to be alone.” Derek’s fingers began to lightly thread through Stiles’ hair and Stiles choked on a sob. All thoughts of killing himself left him as he borrowed Derek’s strength.
“I’m sorry,” Stiles whispered, but he wasn’t even sure what he was apologizing for. The cinnamony scent was coming from Derek and as Stiles breathed it in, it washed over him, grounded him.
“Don’t do it again.”
“I can’t promise that.” He really couldn’t. Everything was out of his hands, and he wasn’t sure how he was going to make it through. No, scratch that, he knew he wouldn’t.
“I know. I wish you could.”
Time passed, Stiles couldn’t even tell how much, but when Derek finally began to move away, Stiles made another whimper and clutched tightly to Derek. “No, please… can you… would you…” Derek wouldn’t stay. Stiles knew that, but he wanted him to. Wanted him to so badly that he thought he’d give almost anything for it to happen.
“Okay.” Derek stopped pulling away but bent down and pulled Stiles into his arms, carrying him to the bed. He stretched out on the mattress and pulled Stiles against him, holding Stiles close and running one hand down his back. “It’s okay. I’m here Stiles, you’re going to be fine.”
Stiles didn’t want to sleep. Everything was perfect right now, Derek’s heart beating in his ear, arms around him and no judgement from Derek the whole time. The problem was, he was exhausted, and finally he simply couldn’t stay awake.
In the morning he was alone, but the bed was still warm and Derek had left a note on the bed for him.
I know something is wrong, but I don’t know what, and no one will tell me. Please… I’d really like to help. If you’d let me.
Stiles curled up around the note and let the pain and anguish inside come out. Derek was worried about him, but Stiles couldn’t tell him what was going on. This friendship they’d been growing was wonderful, and maybe in time it would have become something more. He didn’t have time though. That was his curse.
“I’m going to do it,” Stiles said to Deaton. His face was still sore from crying, but he was fairly certain now that he was doing the right thing. He had only been thinking about himself this whole time, he hadn’t thought of Derek at all. Now he was consumed with wondering what Derek would do if he died, how he would fee, if he would mourn. Sure, they weren’t together romantically, but they were friends, at least somewhat, and Stiles didn’t want Derek to have any more pain weighing him down. All of the people who loved Stiles would be angry with Derek for not doing something, even though Stiles had told them not to be. He would hate to hate Derek, to take what they were building together and lose it all, but wouldn’t that be better than dying and leaving Derek in even more agony?
“Are you sure? Once you get started, you can’t take this decision back.” Deaton crossed his arms and looked closely at Stiles.
“I’m sure.” He had spent all day thinking about it. “But… please, would you give this letter to Derek?” Stiles asked, passing a thick envelope to Deaton. It had taken him hours to get the letter right, to say everything he wanted to say, to explain what he was doing, and why, hoping that Derek would understand in the long run. Deaton took it and nodded.
“Of course Stiles. Is there anyone else you’ve written a letter to?” Deaton’s voice was gentle, kind, and instead of it soothing Stiles, like he figured it was supposed to do, it annoyed him. This wasn’t a kind or gentle decision. It was hard and painful.
“Naw, he’s the only one… who would… you know, who’s going to see a real change in me. Scott can explain the rest to the others. It’ll be fine.” That wasn’t true. If only he had more time, but he didn’t, and maybe this wasn’t the right thing to do. It wasn’t like he could see the future and make an informed decision. And this decision was terrifying, altering a part of himself so he could live.
Wondering how he was going to behave once he forgot his love for Derek, he began to wish he could see both sides of this decision at the same time. It would make choosing the right path easier. But life didn’t work that way, and Stiles knew that more than anyone else did. It was hard, brutal and unforgiving. He had to make his decisions, stick with them, and move forward.
“We’ll have to start this tonight, you know that right? Sooner the better. Especially since you’ve almost faded away.” Deaton put the letter on the table and turned away from Stiles to begin preparing something.
“Yeah. I know. Moonrise, right?” Stiles asked.
“That’s right. Be here on time.” Deaton glanced once more at Stiles. “You have to be here on time Stiles. Or this won’t work.”
“I’ll be early.”
“What the hell is wrong with Stiles?” Derek snapped as soon as Scott opened his door.
Scott’s brows furrowed and he stepped back so Derek could enter the house. “Derek,” Scott said with a calm voice that Derek could hear was just barely in control. “Please, come in.”
Stepping across the threshold, he turned instantly to Scott. “I mean it Scott. What the hell is going on with him?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Scott said. He closed the door and crossed his arms. Whatever was going on behind those warm brown eyes Derek had no idea, because even though Scott’s heart was hammering in his chest, his face was unreadable.
“Yes you do. He was fine when I came back, but now he’s… he’s nearly invisible! What’s going on?” Derek had noticed it in the morning when he’d woken up and saw that his hand was floating in mid air, the solid form of Stiles’ hips and waist simply gone. He almost couldn’t feel the other boy, even though he knew he was there. The whole thing was disturbing.
Scott’s eyes narrowed. “You can see that now? Interesting. Well the rest of us have been watching him fade away for months. It’s none of your concern though, Stiles has strictly forbidden me to say anything to you about it.”
“Why?” Derek asked, feeling the need to scramble around. He was desperate to fix things, to make Stiles come back and be real again. When a person faded it never meant good things, and he was just starting to get a feel for how Stiles worked. How *they* worked together.
Shaking his head, Scott pursed his lips and waved at the door. “I think you should leave. I… I want to tell you, but Stiles will kill me if I do.”
“Then why don’t you tell me?” a smooth voice said from behind Scott and Derek glanced over to see Uncle Peter in the hallway.
Scott whipped around and stared at Peter. “How did you get in my house?” he asked.
“Peter!” Derek snapped. “Are you following me?” He’d felt someone behind him most of the walk to Scott’s house, but it didn’t make sense.
“If you promised Stiles not to tell Derek, did you promise not to tell me?” Peter asked, walking down the hallway with a smirk on his face.
“No. Why would I promise that?” Scott asked.
“Then why don’t you tell me what’s going on? I promise I won’t tell,” Peter said.
Scott looked back at Derek, then at Peter, then finally nodded. “Stiles was cursed by Jennifer to fade away so she could suck his love for someone and use it to fuel her plans. If he forgets his love entirely or if the love is returned or something, we’re not sure, then he’ll be saved, but he doesn’t want to forget what he feels and the other person doesn’t feel the same way for him.”
Derek felt his stomach drop. “Who does he love?” he asked quickly. Why wouldn’t they tell him this?
Both his Uncle Peter and Scott turned to look at him. The twin raised eyebrows was unnerving, and Derek wanted to shake them to make them answer him.
Only then the other shoe dropped. He remembered the way Stiles clung to him, the way they’d been texting for a long time, how Stiles seemed to seek him out to annoy specifically. It had been there all the time, the answer to the longing in his own heart, if only he hadn’t been so blind to see it. “Shit,” he whispered. “Shit, it’s me, isn’t it? Why didn’t he just *tell* me?”
“He didn’t want to force you into a relationship you didn’t want,” Scott said.
“He wouldn’t want to hurt you,” Peter murmured. “Stupid boy has had it bad for you for over a year now Derek, couldn’t you tell?”
“I…” Derek looked away and at the ground. His heart was pounding loudly in his ears and his stomach was clenching painfully. In all this time, he hadn’t wanted to admit the feelings he was beginning to have for Stiles. It wasn’t right, he was an adult, Stiles was still a minor, it all seemed so much like time repeating itself. “It’s not like… I mean I knew about… but that was just… it wasn’t…” He knew about the lust, sexual desire was something he could smell a mile away, but he didn’t realize it faded into something more.
“It’s real,” Scott snapped. “It’s so real I just want to strangle him sometimes. Why would loving someone hurt so badly? I mean, my best friend is literally going to die because he doesn’t even want to ask you how you feel and he doesn’t want to make you do something just to keep him alive.”
“That’s why you asked me… the other day,” Derek said as he connected a few dots in his mind. He looked back up at Scott, who was rolling his eyes.
“You need to go to him,” Peter said. He took several steps towards Derek, eyes bright, boring into him. “You need to tell him how you feel.”
“How *you* feel?” Scott asked as he looked between Peter and Derek.
“Yes, you are aware that Derek loves Stiles too, aren’t you?” Peter asked. Derek couldn’t keep looking at Peter, he couldn’t stand to see those eyes, eyes that seemed to go right through him.
“I can’t,” Derek whispered. The very thought of making that mistake, of crossing that line and ruining everything was holding him still, rooted to the spot.
“If it’s about Kate,” Scott said. “Stiles knows, and that’s one of the reasons why he doesn’t want to do this to you.”
“It’s not…” Derek started, but he couldn’t finish. It was partly because of Kate. More that he never seemed to make the right choices and that could easily kill Stiles. Only he was killing Stiles right now wasn’t he?
“If it’s about Jennifer, it was technically his love you were falling for, so really you’ve been in love with him for a long time,” Peter said.
“Would you two stop interrupting me?” Derek snapped. “It’s not that!” It was that Derek broke everything he touched and he didn’t want to ruin Stiles.
“Then what is it?” Scott asked but there was a chirp and he reached for his phone. A second later, his heart started pounding violently and Derek could smell the distress. “Shit, no, Derek, you have to go to him. NOW!” He reached out and pushed Derek down the stairs. “He’s at Deaton’s, he’s going to do it now. You need to go right now. If you care about him at all, please, please don’t let him do this!”
“Do what?” Derek asked, stumbling down the stairs because of Scott’s frantic movements.
“He’s going to forget,” Scott said loudly. “You can’t let him do that!”
“I’ll make sure he get’s there,” Peter said as he linked arms with Derek and began dragging him away. Only Derek wasn’t sure that was what he wanted to do.
“What if that’s best?” Derek asked, and both of them paused, staring at him like he was crazy. “Look, being around me, being close, it’s… dangerous. If he forgets, maybe it’ll be better for him.”
“He’s always going to be around me,” Scott said slowly. He narrowed his eyes. “And if you let him forget his love because you’re too scared to deal with your own feelings then I’m going to either kill you, or I’m going to make your life a living hell by bringing him around you all the time, just so you can wallow in the realization that he’s lost to you forever.”
Derek’s eyes widened as he heard the threat in Scott’s voice. “You wouldn’t - “ he began, but Scott’s eyes flashed red.
“I *do*. Stiles is my best friend and I’ve watched him for months as he faded away because of his love for you. I swear, I’ll make your life miserable.”
“Don’t worry,” Peter said. “He’ll get there.” Then Derek, still stunned by Scott’s threat, was tossed into his car. The passenger’s seat, which was probably good because he wasn’t sure he could drive even if he needed to.
“Scott wants me to reconsider,” Stiles said with a small laugh. “Really?” Scott had been the biggest advocator *for* him forgetting for so long that the he almost thought the text was a joke.
“Why?” Deaton asked, mixing a few things in front of Stiles.
“I don’t know.” He tapped out a message. “I guess he thinks that maybe this is a bad idea.” Stiles was beginning to feel like his emotions were strung both ways pulling at him from the inside out. To go left or right was always the question but each time he made a decision Scott was on the other side.
“Do you think this is a bad idea?” Deaton asked as unhelpful as ever.
“No,” Stiles said, but he couldn’t tell if he was lying or not. He reached for the vial. “Is it time?”
Deaton looked at his watch and nodded. “You have five minutes. You have to drink it in that time.”
Picking up the swirling mass of dark purple trapped in glass, Stiles held it up to the moonlight streaming in the room. “To new memories,” he said.
“Don’t!” Derek’s voice called out as he dashed into the room.
Stiles turned and blinked at him in confusion, almost tipping the liquid down his throat. Derek was over in a second, wrenching the vial away from Stiles and pulling him into his arms. Stiles could hear it shattering on the ground.
“What?” Stiles asked, voice muffled in the leather jacket pressed against his cheek. “Dude, you spilled my drink!” It was hard to feel angry when Derek was right there, holding him tight.
“It’s a terrible idea, you can’t do it. God Stiles, why didn’t you say anything?” Derek asked. A hand reached under Stiles chin and tilted his head up so he could look into sad green eyes.
“What my nephew is trying to say is that he cares for you too,” Peter said from somewhere behind Stiles.
“What?” Stiles asked. It couldn’t be true, this couldn’t be happening to him.
“I… I don’t want you to forget what you feel. Especially not when I feel the same way.” The words weren’t even really registering, as Stiles watched Derek’s eyes go from pain to care to a strange kind of hopelessness. “I love you,” he finally whispered, and Stiles heard that.
Then there was stubble rasping against his cheeks and warm lips pressed against his and it felt so wonderful. Stiles melted into the arms, his own reaching up to wrap around the body pressed close, fingers clutching the jacket. He moaned into the mouth, closed his eyes and just, allowed the feelings to wash over him.
“Shall we go?” he heard Deaton say softly.
“I was thinking of waiting to make sure Stiles becomes solid,” Peter’s voice said in amusement.
“We’re going,” Deaton said more firmly, and when Derek’s hands slipped under his shirt, Stiles was very glad that Deaton could make Peter move.
“This wasn’t the most comfortable place to do this,” Derek said as he ran fingers down Stiles’ bare arm.
“No,” Stiles agreed, feeling so real and alive. It was amazing.
“Next time, a bed,” Derek suggested.
Kissing soft skin that was under his cheek, Stiles nodded. “A bed, then a counter, then maybe the couch. We should do this in the shower, and across the kitchen floor. Against a wall, another bed, possibly under a table at a restaurant. I want all the positions Derek, all the ways. Can you do that?” Stiles lifted his face to look at Derek, who’s eyes were glowing blue.
“Yes,” Derek hissed. “I want all the positions, all the ways. Forever.”
“There’s no such thing as forever,” Stiles said sadly. Now he knew that. “But.. I think for the rest of our lives is close enough.”
“Always,” Derek amended. Then he pulled Stiles down and kissed him again.
It was beautiful. It was perfect. It was living.