Today is Stiles’s eighteenth birthday. It should be a time of joy and celebration, and John and Stiles did manage a pretty enjoyable birthday breakfast, but things have been going sideways ever since. At the moment, Stiles ought to be on his way to his party at the Hale house, John ought to be on his way to work, and they both ought to be cheerful and optimistic. So of course—leave it to the Stilinskis—they are instead lurking around the kitchen making themselves miserable.
John’s been fighting to hold himself together until after his shift, when he can go drinking with the adult Hales and discuss the fact that his son will never reach eighteen and he is all kinds of fucked up about it, but he can’t let on a hint of that to his new Stiles, because this Stiles already blames himself for…well. Everything, apparently. Not that John’s silence is stopping Stiles from feeling the weight of his stolen body more than usual in any case. Plus there seems to be something else going on with him that’s making him anxious and guilty.
John wonders, gloomily, if every anniversary is going to turn out this way. Christmas, for God’s sake. How awful is Christmas going to be now that everybody knows everything? He doesn’t even want to think about it.
“Alright,” he sighs, resigned to being an adult about this. “What about this party is making you miserable in particular?”
Stiles gives him a wide-eyed, shocked look, like he’d expected John to ignore his pain. The other John must’ve been a disaster on par with his Stiles to let that belief persist, Christ. But he’d have had to be, wouldn’t he?
“Well?” John demands.
“Uhh.” Stiles fidgets, looks away, looks back, and then visibly decides to hell with it. “So I basically promised Laura that I’d jump Derek at this party tonight, since I’m legal and all, but now I’m thinking about it, and it’s a terrible idea.”
John knows he’s the one who asked Stiles for this information, but he didn’t expect to be so immediately punished for asking. “Oh. Because…you’re not interested?”
“No, I’m totally interested. I am so interested. You don’t even want to know how interested I am.”
Well, that much is true. “Then you’re worried he’s not interested?”
“No, I know he’s interested. Remember? I cheat.”
John tries very, very hard not to remember, because it means Stiles knows what he’s feeling all the time, too, and that is such an uncomfortable thing to think about.
“Sorry,” Stiles says, grimacing, which—case in point.
John decides to let that go for now. They have more immediate problems.
“I have no idea what you’re worried about, son,” he sighs. “Once you have mutual interest, the worst is over. Plus, his family likes you, and I like him, so there’s no problem at the family level. Finally, and importantly, no matter what happens, this almost certainly won’t kill you, so…from what I understand, that gives it points over most of the rest of your life until now.”
“Argh, you don’t get it!” Stiles insists, flailing. John can’t argue that. He doesn’t get it. At all. “At least if I die, I’m dead.” Stiles pauses, thinking that through. “Uh, in theory, anyway. But if this goes south? I have to live with it.”
It would be so nice if John could fool himself into believing that Stiles was just being an overdramatic teenager right now. But no. He’s dead serious. And speaking from experience, which is worse. “You’ve lived with much worse things than a rejection,” John says, determined. “Which you’re telling me won’t happen anyway. I feel like there’s a huge part of the problem I’m missing here, Stiles. What are you afraid of?”
Stiles looks away, fidgeting restlessly with a dishtowel. “Right, okay. I don’t. I don’t have a lot of experience with things like this going my way.” He picks up the dishtowel, shakes it out, refolds it. “Okay, no experience. Zero experience, do you get what I’m saying? None.”
John blinks in surprise. “Didn’t you and Heather have a…thing? Because my Stiles and Heather had a thing. Briefly.”
Stiles laughs and rubs his face with his hands, muttering something that sounds like fuck my life. Now doesn’t seem like the moment to call him out on his language. “We almost had a thing,” Stiles tells him. “She suggested it, I agreed, I left her alone in the room for a minute, and…then she got abducted and murdered. Or ritually sacrificed, actually. It wasn’t a great start, Dad.”
John feels a moment of sharp sympathy for his other universe self, who had to deal with this while it was ongoing.
“No Lydia Martin, then?” he presses on, refusing to be sidetracked by murder. “Because you seem surprisingly close.”
“Oh, there was a thing with Lydia, sort of, not really,” Stiles says dismissively, shrugging. “But that wasn’t—that was only kissing, and she was mostly just trying to distract me from…horrible…other stuff. It wasn’t really…Lydia used sex as a distraction, you know, habitually. Not this Lydia; my Lydia. I’d say it was unhealthy, but our odds of surviving were always seriously bad, so. What’s unhealthy in the face of that, right? Any distraction is a good distraction, at that point.”
Stiles really has a gift for making you sorry you asked the question.
“There was almost a thing with Cora, too,” Stiles muses. “But she died. See, that’s the thing, Dad. They’re all dead. Everybody I kiss dies. Tell me that doesn’t worry you.”
“Well.” John isn’t sure that what he’s about to say is exactly comforting, but his Stiles always responded to brutal truth better than he did to comfort. He imagines this Stiles is the same. “The people you didn’t kiss died, too, didn’t they? Everybody died. So you may as well go for it. Either we’ll all die wholesale or we won’t. Doesn’t seem like kissing comes into it.”
Stiles stares at him incredulously. “Thanks, Dad,” he says eventually. “I mean, don’t soften the blow or anything. Tell it like it is, I can take it.”
“I know you can, son,” John says fondly.
“I feel like the people I kissed died first, though. Wait. No, they didn’t. Or at least, there isn’t much of a pattern. They died scattered throughout.”
John nods. “See? Go for it. Get the guy.”
Stiles side-eyes him. “This is the weirdest advice I’ve ever gotten from a Dad. Just so you know.”
John imagines it is. He does realize he’s encouraging his barely legal son to have sex with an older man, but he maintains that Stiles is unique, and also that sleeping with Derek Hale would be the most emotionally healthy thing the kid’s done in years, so he’s standing by this call.
“Well, you’re a weird kid,” is all he says, rubbing a hand over Stiles’s hair. “Just be brave, Stiles. You’ve always been brave.”
“Wow. That was totally you telling me that all I need to do is be myself, but it sounded smarter and less clichéd.”
“Get the hell out of here before I drag you out by the ear.”
“Going! Totally going. Jeez, parents these days are so aggressive.”
John watches Stiles scurry out to the Jeep, and hopes the Hales still have plenty of booze by the time he gets off-shift and joins them.
* * *
The Hales have gone all-out with the decorations, Stiles sees. Their ridiculously cozy poster-home now also looks like the most inviting, fun, sparkly-light laden party spot in the world. Talia and Kevin are presiding over a table full of food, which includes an inexplicable number of Stiles’s favorite things. Thea’s monopolizing the punch. Various Hales and Stiles-friends are wandering around chatting. Even Isaac is here. Even Boyd is here, whoa. And Stiles is happy to see all of them, but wouldn’t have dared burden the Hales by inviting half of them.
And they did all of this for him. God.
Luckily the first person who spots him is Scott. Scott is fantastic. Scott is a stress-free friend. Bless his existence.
“Happy birthday!” Scott says, happy and uncomplicated and expectation-free. “You’re late to your own party, dude. What’s that about?”
“I was having a meltdown at Dad,” Stiles explains.
Scott blinks at him. “…Meltdown over what?”
“Over the way everyone I’ve ever kissed died.”
“Whoa.” Scott says, wide-eyed. “That sucks, man.”
Jesus, Stiles loves Scott. “I’ll get over it sometime,” he decides. Because he has to, right? Eventually his brain has to get tired of torturing him with this.
“You should eat something,” Scott tells him, which is weirdly adorable.
“Yeah? I see it’s all my favorite stuff over there, which is weird, because I definitely haven’t listed off my favorite foods to the Hales.”
“Mom told them,” Scott explains. “She said she wanted you to have a good party, but she didn’t want to come herself because of all the frankly bizarre adults you hang around with.”
“Huh.” Did…did throwing Isaac at Melissa actually make her like Stiles more? Because last time she didn’t get this soft on him until after the whole nogitsune thing. He doesn’t get it, but he’s happy about it. Melissa likes him, apparently, and there’s a whole table full of his favorite foods. Thus emotionally fortified, Stiles feels brave enough to face the rest of his party.
Of course, the very first people who catch his eye are Lydia and Heather, standing on the porch together and chatting like old friends. Heather, who knows all of his embarrassing childhood stories, and Lydia, who will shamelessly and gleefully use those stories against him. This is not the crisis he expected to be facing today, but it’s definitely a crisis.
“Scott,” Stiles says, confused and distraught. “Did you introduce Heather to Lydia?”
Scott shakes his head in sympathetic horror. “Wasn’t me, dude. I would never. I don’t even know Heather, really. I mean, I met her one time last year before she dragged other you into the basement and molested you, but it wasn’t a real introduction, you know?”
“Then who introduced them? Who would do that to me?”
“I think they just randomly got to talking.”
“So the universe did that to me. Of course it did.”
“Wait,” Scott says with a look of awful realization. “My Stiles…Heather was his first kiss, and you said…was Heather your first kiss?”
“She sure was, Scott.”
“Heather died?” Scott screeches, causing several conversations to stop and all of the werewolves and many of the humans to turn and stare.
“Don’t talk about death on your birthday!” yells Thea from over by the punch. Several other people call out, “Happy birthday!” in slightly worried voices.
Stiles sighs. So much for Scott being the stress-free friend. At this rate, Derek is going to be the least alarming part of the party. Well, to be fair, he was always going to be the least alarming part of the party—that’s the charm of this version of Derek. It’s Stiles’s issues regarding romance that are alarming, not Derek himself.
But romance is still not as alarming as explaining Heather’s hideous death to Scott in earshot of a dozen nosy werewolves, so Stiles slaps a hand over Scott’s face and shoves until Scott backs away flailing. That done, he marches over to snag food from the Alpha Hales, then goes off to say hi to everybody who came to his party. And then he’s just gonna have to find Derek and face the music.
* * *
It takes Stiles much longer than it should have—and way more gentle mockery from Hales than necessary—to find Derek. (At least Philip just smiled encouragingly, and the twins and Erica restricted themselves to laughing at him, but Thea. Someone needs to do something about what Thea thinks it’s okay to discuss in public. And also prevent her from shoving unsolicited condoms into people’s pockets, because dear God.)
Derek turns out to be hiding in the kitchen, which ought to have been Stiles’s first guess. This Derek may be more well-adjusted than his Derek, but that doesn’t mean the guy’s an extrovert. Hiding in a kitchen during a social event with the excuse that he’s preparing food and thus making himself useful is, yeah, a quintessential Derek move.
Stiles stands in the doorway and studies his favorite werewolf, now that he’s allowed. It’s honestly hard to force himself to do it, he’s been policing his very thoughts for so long. Because Derek…goddamn, he should not be allowed to be that attractive, for one thing. And then he’s this unfair combination of physically kickass and emotionally in need of protection that gets to Stiles on basically every level. Plus, here’s a man who will, without question, head across town to Stiles’s place at three in the morning because Stiles is freaking out. A man who seems to find Stiles’s many and varied weirdnesses not just tolerable, but charming. A man who, bonus, comes attached to an awesome family, like he wasn’t awesome enough on his own. All that and he’s a good cook.
This Derek is straight-up too good to be true, and in theory, at least, Stiles can have him. All the evidence points that way. Derek Hale can totally belong to Stiles Stilinski.
Stiles just isn’t sure he can do that to Derek. Because Derek may be awesome on every level, but Stiles is a hot mess. If this goes well, they end up sharing a bed, right? Which means that at some point, inevitably, Stiles is going to wake up from a nightmare and try to kill Derek, and that’s just…no one deals well with that, right? Having loved ones accidentally try to kill them? Stiles sure didn’t deal with it well. Nobody should be expected to deal with it well. Does Derek understand what he’s getting into, here? Stiles very much doubts it.
Plus there’s the thing where everyone Stiles kisses dies. Can’t forget about that. Although Dad makes a strong point—everyone Stiles knows dies. So that’s. Comforting?
“I can smell you panicking from here,” Derek grumbles over a plate of cookies fresh from the oven, ugh, why is he perfect? “Why are you panicking?”
“I am a sack full of issues wrapped in an enigma, that’s why,” Stiles tells him.
Derek sighs, long and loud. “Here,” he says, waving a plate of cookies at Stiles in exasperation. “Eat something.”
* * *
Derek should have known better than to trust Laura ever, but especially when she claimed that Stiles would want to celebrate being legal by immediately molesting him. He was a fool to believe that anything at all about Stiles Stilinski could ever be that easy.
So far this evening, Derek has observed from afar as Stiles arrived, panicked, talked about his dead first kiss, wandered around chatting nervously with everyone and twice as nervously with Nana Thea, found Derek in the kitchen, and then panicked harder.
Somehow it doesn’t seem like this story has a sexy ending. But then again, it’s dangerous to make assumptions about Stiles.
At least he’s eating Derek’s cookies with every sign of enthusiasm, and has even momentarily stopped panicking. At least Derek was able to give him something he wanted on his birthday.
“Sorry for freaking out,” Stiles says after about three cookies.
He is actually apologizing to Derek for being traumatized. Derek needs an adult. Unfortunately, there’s only Peter, lurking in the living room and shamelessly eavesdropping, so…no adults available. “Freak out as much as you want,” Derek says, resigned to his life being like this. “It’s your party.”
“…I can cry if I want to?” Stiles says, grinning and smelling happy.
Derek smiles back, relieved.
But of course Laura has to take this moment to finally show up, barge into the living room with the teacher she’s dating, and ruin everything. Really ruin everything, because Stiles’s panic returns with a vengeance—he abruptly sounds likely to have a heart attack.
“Oh my God,” he hisses, clutching at Derek’s arm and hyperventilating. “Oh. My. God. Is that really—like is that Laura’s friend or is that seriously who she’s dating?”
“That’s…seriously who she’s dating,” Derek tells him, bewildered and concerned about his heart rate.
“Oh my—but that’s. No, I can’t even tell you, it’s too…but I have to tell somebody. Who can I tell? Who do I not care about weirding out? Who can I—oh! I’ll be right back, I just have to, I have a thing.”
And he takes off out of the kitchen like a shot, grabs Peter by the arm, and drags him right past Laura and out the back door. Peter allows himself to be dragged with a bemused smile.
Yeah. Definitely not what Derek had been led to expect from the evening.
He looks curiously at Laura’s date, but can’t see anything about her that would bring on such an extreme reaction. She’s beautiful, and she seems nice enough, if a little uncomfortable surrounded by strangers and former students. But Stiles must’ve known her under unhappy circumstances in his world.
And now Laura’s steering her Derek’s way with great determination. Help.
“What was that?” Laura demands, her girlfriend smiling in polite confusion at her side.
“What was what?” Derek asks, stalling, like that isn’t an exercise in futility.
“Stiles, Derek. Stiles fleeing the scene. What was that about?”
“He’s Stiles. How am I supposed to know?”
Laura heaves a sigh, but it’s not like she can argue with that. “Anyway,” she says. “I was hoping to introduce her to both of you at once, but—this is my girlfriend, Jennifer Blake.”
“Nice to meet you,” Derek says.
Jennifer smiles at Derek. She’s endearingly nervous and generally adorable, but she must be smart and vicious, too, or she wouldn’t have held Laura’s attention for five minutes. Derek nods at Laura—a good choice kind of nod. Laura beams back at him, so that’s a win.
Now if only Derek’s choice hadn’t gone bolting out into the backyard with Peter.
* * *
“I thought the plan was to drag Derek away at this party,” Peter complains, laughing.
“Jesus, did Laura tell everyone?” Stiles demands.
“After you announced to everyone at dinner that she was mooning over a teacher? Yes,” Peter tells him. “Yes, she did.”
Stiles freezes in horror, apparently working through the implications of that. Then he shakes his head and dismisses it. “Whatever, I’m not even thinking about that right now, my brain will just—explode all over the place. No, but I have to tell you things, and you can’t tell anybody because it would be so awkward. But oh my God I have to tell somebody.”
Peter can already tell he’s going to love this conversation. “Go on.”
“Did you meet Laura’s girlfriend?”
“Briefly. She seems lovely.”
“She sure does.”
“You knew her before.”
“Yeah, I did. She was my English teacher, she was murderously insane due to circumstances which thankfully don’t apply here, and she killed the first person I ever kissed. She’s a frigging death omen is what she is, and it just proves my point that—anyway! That’s not where I was going with this. Where I was going with this is: she was all of that and also…dating Derek.”
Peter blinks. And then the hilarity of it hits him and he feels an evil smile spread across his face.
“Right?” Stiles gasps, clutching his sleeve. “That woman is Hale-sexual. I mean, okay, I kind of suspected that might be a thing, but this is like, this is proof! Holy shit, is she dating a Hale in every universe ever? Has some version of her dated every single Hale? Wait, wait, does this mean all Hales are attracted to her?”
“Are you of all people in a position to judge?” Peter asks, amused.
“…Not…really? But at least it’s not just me now!”
“Hm. So Laura’s girlfriend, as you knew her, was a murderously insane English teacher who was dating Derek. How did that turn out?”
“Badly, it ended badly, everything always ended badly. Don’t harsh my squee, Peter.”
“Harsh your squee,” Peter repeats incredulously.
“You heard me. But yeah, she was kind of a complete—oh! She’s an emissary! Or…she was? I don’t even, like. Maybe we should check on that. Because in my world, she was running around ritually sacrificing people because her alpha mauled her and left her for dead. Enough to make anyone weird, you know? You can’t say anything. You pulled a very similar trick.”
“I would never judge a person for engaging in some light torture and righteous maiming,” Peter insists, hand over his heart. He graciously ignores Stiles’s dramatic eyeroll. “Who was her alpha?”
“Kali…something. You know an alpha named Kali?”
“…Yeeeees. I know one who’s currently imprisoned by the Council for crimes against werekind, or some such thing.”
“Huh. So Kali got arrested this time and Ms. Blake bailed, no maiming…I guess it could happen. What with no Gerard.”
“Conversations with you are always so instructive, Stiles.”
“But if she just bailed, why would she change her name again?” Stiles barrels on, rudely ignoring Peter’s implied question. “And her face, too. People don’t just go around getting extensive plastic surgery for kicks, Peter. That shit costs money. Unless she did it with magic, which is how she did it last time. When you do it that way, it doesn’t cost money, it just costs human lives. Bad scene, Peter. Bad scene.”
“What was your version of Kali doing while Jennifer was ritually sacrificing people?” Peter asks, intrigued by the sheer depths of absurdity that made up Stiles’s original world.
“She ran off with Deucalion to all be murder alphas together. Ms. Blake didn’t take that well, gotta say. Well. That and the mauling, obviously.”
“Deucalion.” The name sounds vaguely familiar. “Isn’t he that hippy, sunshine, world peace alpha? I seem to remember him wandering around a few years ago, asking why we can’t all just get along. He’s a catastrophe.”
Stiles buries his face in his hands. His shoulders are shaking, but Peter can’t tell if he’s laughing, crying, or just generally hysterical.
“Not that I’m not delighted with these insights into your previous world and my family’s questionable taste in romantic partners,” Peter says, “but you did abruptly flee Derek’s presence, and the poor boy has expectations. Are you going to break my nephew’s heart, Stiles? Because if you are, I need to take my wife and children and go on vacation until the storm of angst blows over.”
“Hah. Right. For all that you guys say you love him, you sure are eager to inflict me on him. What the hell is that about?” Stiles demands, suddenly…angry.
And not just angry. He’s afraid, Peter realizes. And this isn’t a fit of romantic nerves—he’s genuinely terrified.
Trauma. Of course. Peter would ask what happened, but it’s all of a piece with Stiles, isn’t it? He’ll just assume something involving death and dismemberment and move on from there.
“Well, Stiles, that’s because, even though you made a catastrophic mess of your home world, you seem to have learned from the experience. You’ve been nothing but useful to us, and we’d like to continue taking advantage of you.”
Stiles stares for a long, uncomfortable moment. “Thanks, Peter,” he says eventually. “That makes me feel loved.”
“Oh, you’re quite welcome, Stiles,” Peter assures him.
“Where is your keeper, anyway?”
Peter blinks. “Keeper?”
“Yeah, Felicia. Also your children. You know. The only ones preventing you from becoming the Creepy Uncle Peter I used to know.”
Peter smiles, bemused at the idea of Felicia, a quietly but intensely spiteful and vengeful wolf, being considered the keeper of anyone’s sanity. It’s even funnier because it’s so demonstrably true. “Felicia disapproves of this many people in her home, so she’s hiding upstairs with the children. Who are at an age when too many strangers causes them to become overexcited and potentially bite someone.”
“Oh.” Stiles nods. “Fair enough. Well, I’m glad you came to my party, anyway. You’re like all the best parts of Creepy Uncle Peter and none of the creepy ones. Well. Not very many of the creepy ones. So, like. Good job.”
Well. That was certainly damning with faint praise. “A life lesson, perhaps,” Peter points out, trying not to be offended. “After all, your Peter let the horrible things that happened to him control the rest of his life, and you see what came of that.”
Stiles rolls his eyes. “Are you accusing me of being like Creepy Uncle Peter?”
“I’m telling you to be better,” Peter says.
“Takes a lot of nerve,” Stiles informs him.
Peter beams at him. “I do have nerve.”
Stiles laughs and gives him that one. “Yeah, okay. Okay. I can do this.”
“It really shouldn’t be too challenging for you.”
“Hah, right. Dad says I’m brave.”
Peter puts a comforting hand on Stiles’s shoulder, and is impressed when he only flinches a little. “Stiles,” he says earnestly, “you have the kind of courage that, in the right light or from certain angles, looks exactly like insanity.”
“…Thanks?” Stiles tries.
“Just tell yourself he’ll kill you if the relationship goes wrong. It might help.”
Stiles’s eyes narrow as he considers that. “Oh my God,” he says slowly. “It actually might.”
Peter pats his shoulder and pushes him toward the house. “There’s something broken in your head, Stilinski,” he murmurs reassuringly. “You might as well embrace it.”
* * *
Laura had been hoping to catch Stiles and introduce him to Jen before he made off with Derek, and that will teach her to try to plan around Stiles Stilinski, because the little weirdo fled the entire house at the sight of her.
Well, at least she got to introduce Derek to Jen, and Derek clearly approves, so that’s nice. He and Jen are even having a borderline normal English nerd conversation when Stiles comes staggering back in, looking like he’s been pushed. Which—given that he was out back with Uncle Peter—he probably was. But he keeps coming toward them under his own steam, even if it’s obviously taking a lot of courage for him to do it.
“Hey—hey! You must be Laura’s girlfriend.” Stiles grins desperately. Laura wonders how he knew Jen in his old life, because he obviously did, and it was obviously not a happy relationship. “Nice to meet you!”
Jen, meanwhile, is still smiling, but the smile is turning dubious. “I taught your English class sophomore year, Stiles,” she says.
“Ah.” He blinks. “Laura didn’t explain…? Um, it’s complicated.”
“No.” Jen’s staring in bewilderment now. “It really isn’t.”
“Hey, Laura, you should tell her about, you know. The thing.”
By ‘the thing’ does he mean…werewolves? His own freaky interdimensional history? The supernatural in general? How the hell does he know Jennifer?
Wow, Laura really needs to talk to Jen, apparently.
“Stiles,” Laura snaps. “Leave.”
“Already gone!” he insists, throwing up his hands and scurrying toward Derek. “But you know…Ms. Blake. She’s…Deaton-like. If you see what I’m saying. She knows things. Things. Also that’s not her real name. And I think you should ask her about Kali. Okay, bye.”
“Get back here,” Jen says sharply. “How do you know any of that? I left that behind.”
So Jen is apparently an emissary. Well that’s. Honestly, that makes life a whole lot simpler, thanks, Stiles. And wow, this is a side of Jen that Laura has definitely not seen before. Interesting. And worrying. Okay, and definitely also sexy. Jen looks like she’s thinking about ripping Stiles’s throat out with her teeth, and it’s very hot. Laura’s too gay for this.
“How’d you change your face?” Stiles asks belligerently, which, what?
“Plastic surgery,” Jen answers, incredulous. “How did you think? And why do you know this?”
“Laura should explain,” Stiles hedges, the miserable little weasel.
“Laura seems to be a completely innocent bystander here,” Jen counters, and is she…? She is. She’s edging between Laura and Stiles. She’s protecting Laura from Stiles. Maybe Laura shouldn’t be finding that quite so ridiculously endearing, given how unnecessary it is and also how little she apparently knows about Jen, but it can’t be helped. “I think you should explain.”
Stiles waves his hands around. “It’s, there was this whole alternate universe thing. I don’t have the strength of character to go into it again. I’m not the Stiles you knew, and I used to know another version of you. A shady, murdering version of you. I’m just double-checking, okay? You’d do the same.”
Jen scowls. “You’re claiming to be from an alternate universe?”
“Why is that weird to you?” Stiles demands. “You hang out with werewolves. You’re magic. You chat with mystical trees. What could possibly seem weird to you at this point?”
“Someone claiming to be from an alternate universe,” Jen says coldly. “Obviously.”
“He’s proven pretty definitively that he is from an alternate universe, actually,” Laura puts in apologetically, feeling like it’s her alpha-material duty to keep this conversation from coming to blows. “I know it sounds insane. And did, uh…did you know we were werewolves?”
Jen loses a lot of her anger and starts looking awkward instead. “Um. I mean…yes?”
“And you didn’t think to mention that you were an emissary?”
Jen’s really miserable now. “Well, it was. The thing is, I. I was a really good emissary. And I didn’t…there were rumors that you were next in line to be alpha, and my last alpha…Kali. She.” Jen blows out a breath in frustration and steels herself. “I thought she loved me, but it turned out she was only using me for my power. Manipulating me. God, I made it so easy for her. And then she became more and more violent and cruel and erratic, so…I did a little bit of one-woman witness protection, and changed my name and face and home and job. And that’s why, that’s…I didn’t want you to know I had any power at all. I wanted to see if you would love me just, just for myself. I should have told you by now, I know, but. I was…”
She was afraid. Because what had happened once could certainly happen again. God, why do multiple people Laura loves have such incredibly, unfairly fucked up life stories?
Well, at least Stiles has given her experience in how to react to this kind of thing, and that experience tells her further discussion should wait for later. For now, she just seizes Jen in a gentle hug. “I don’t give a shit if you never do magic again in your life,” she says firmly.
Terrifyingly, this causes Jen to hide her face in Laura’s shoulder and start crying. Jesus, she’s terrible alpha material. How did she never notice her own girlfriend carrying this much pain around?
She throws Stiles a desperate look over Jen’s shoulder, but Stiles throws his hands up helplessly, and doesn’t look prepared to provide emotional support at all. Which makes sense, Laura supposes, if he and Jen were arch-enemies in his last universe. But it’s not helpful.
“Peter says Kali’s in prison?” Stiles tries.
Jen freezes. She smells like fear, hope, relief, and grief, all together, all at once. Because what do you feel when someone you loved betrays you and then is punished, but not by you? Just by the wheels of justice, moving too slow?
“I’m going to send Stiles away before he makes you cry again,” Laura decides.
Jen nods silently against her shoulder, so Laura imperiously gestures for Stiles to get lost. Which he seems happy to do—having broken it, he clearly has no interest in buying it. He grabs Derek and hares right back out into the yard again.
If Laura were in the mood to be fair, she would concede that Stiles didn’t actually break anything—he just alerted them to things that were already broken. But she’s in no mood to be fair. She came to this party to make fun of Stiles’s love life, and instead she’s having to painstakingly reexamine her own. It’s not what she signed up for and she’s not going to forgive it.
She’s also pretty sure this means Nana Thea’s going to win all the bets about this party, which really is the final insult.
* * *
“So, wow, that was awkward,” Stiles announces once they’re safely outdoors and a reasonable distance from Laura. “Let’s never speak of that again.”
“Laura’s absolutely going to make you speak about that again,” Derek points out, which is so true it causes Stiles near-physical pain. Ugh, possible murderers, making his birthday party uncomfortable.
Well. More uncomfortable than Stiles was already making it, anyway.
But seriously, does Ms. Blake have some kind of problem with birthday parties? Because she totally murdered Heather at her birthday party, too. Heather, Stiles’s first kiss, who died horribly, but who is nonetheless currently out front gossiping with Lydia.
Christ, his life is weird.
Hey, but seeing Ms. Blake again has done this much: at least he can pat himself on the back that, even at his absolute worst, he’s still a better relationship prospect than Jennifer Blake, Murder Version. And he’s a better prospect than Kate Argent, too!
Of course, this version of Derek has only ever had a few wholesome romances that ended for benign, normal reasons. Nobody even died. Stiles interrogated Thea pretty thoroughly about this, and it’s somehow actually true: nobody this Derek’s dated ever turned evil or died. So that’s. Intimidating.
And of course Derek can smell this emotional mess on Stiles, because now he’s all cautious and uncertain and faintly wounded, because Stiles is, fuck, Stiles is totally jerking him around! Stiles’s bizarre hangups are already hurting Derek’s fragile heart and Stiles can feel it happening.
Okay. Stiles is going to have to, at the very least, communicate that absolutely none of his issues are Derek’s fault, or the poor guy’s going to get a complex. Stiles will have given this Derek his very first romance-related complex. He’d never forgive himself for that, and none of the other Hales would ever forgive him, either.
“Right. I know I’ve been a mess this whole party, but it’s not because I don’t want to kiss you. I’d like to kiss you very much,” Stiles announces, deciding that obfuscating isn’t going to help anyone here.
And he’s right, too: Derek’s tentatively hopeful now, if also deeply confused, but confused is an acceptable Derek emotion. Wow, Stiles is seriously choosing to sacrifice Derek’s safety for his happiness here, isn’t he?
Aaaand he’s just going in circles with this now. Even though at this point, he’s definitely picked the ‘murder Derek with kisses’ option. He just doesn’t want to admit it to himself. Fuck.
* * *
Derek doesn’t know why he continues to try to work out what Stiles is thinking. Surely he’s learned by now that the only way to survive is to go with the flow. Which, in this case, is taking the form of Stiles throwing down an I-want-to-kiss-you gauntlet out of nowhere. And that would be great, except that he did it with a feral look in his eye while standing two yards away from Derek.
“…That’s what Laura claimed,” Derek says, just going with it.
“Right! Laura, very chatty. She told you I was planning to jump you and you showed up anyway, so I’m guessing you’re not totally opposed,” Stiles says, oddly businesslike.
“I’m not opposed at all.” Derek is still baffled, but that’s normal. “I’m in favor, even.”
“There are things you should know, though. You should be informed. Informed consent.”
Derek waves Stiles on. He’ll get the hang of this fatalism thing yet.
“So. Okay. Everybody I’ve ever kissed died horribly. And I mean, I get that correlation does not necessarily equal causation, but you still start worrying about causation after a while, right? My dad’s the sheriff, and he says three times is a pattern. There’s a pattern, Derek, of me kissing people to death. Whether it’s technically my fault or not, the pattern is there.”
Yes, Derek has heard this fun fact several times since Stiles showed up, since he seems determined to tell absolutely everyone, and has apparently forgotten which rooms are soundproofed. It occurs to Derek that he’s going to have to logically defend his right to a relationship with Stiles due to questions of survivability. Of course he is.
“You have no data points in this universe,” he points out.
“Well, I don’t want you to be the first data point to die of the kissing disease, so no, bad argument, try again.”
“Stiles,” Derek sighs, exhausted. “You don’t have to kiss me. Take as long as you need. If this is going to make you miserable, just…don’t do it.”
Stiles shrieks, throws his hands up into the air, and cries, “Stop being so goddamn perfect all the time! It’s incredibly stressful!”
“…Giving up on a relationship in despair is perfect?” Derek asks, bemused.
“Stand up for yourself!” Stiles demands irrationally. “Don’t worry about my crazy! Worry about me kissing you to death!”
“The whole idea of you kissing me to death literally is your crazy,” Derek yells back, knowing that yelling at someone as distraught as Stiles is not helpful, but unable to stop himself from doing it.
Or, who knows, maybe yelling was exactly the right thing to do, because Stiles stops arguing, lunges toward him, and hauls him into a kiss with no warning. Given the abruptness of it all, Derek’s expecting the kiss to feel like an attack—until their lips meet, and everything slows down. The kiss is careful, sweet, gentle. Vulnerable. Nothing that Derek expected, but perfect all the same. It’s a long, breathless time before Stiles pulls back, giving Derek’s lower lip a last, thoughtful lick.
They stare at each other, Derek, at least, stunned and happy and still worried about Stiles’s mental wellbeing.
“So,” Stiles says abruptly, “obviously we should have sex.”
Derek throws his head back and laughs.
* * *
Peter wishes he were more surprised to be getting a phone call from Stiles at five o’clock in the morning the morning after the party, but as it is, he’s mostly just resigned. After all, Stiles generally calls Derek when he’s panicking, but if he’s panicking about Derek, his options become limited.
“I’m going to kill that boy,” mutters Felicia, who knew this was coming, too, but is not as philosophical about it.
“Now, now, Stiles loves us,” Peter chides her gently, reaching for his phone. “In his own alarmingly dysfunctional way. Where would we be without him?”
“Asleep,” Felicia insists.
“Stiles!” Peter says brightly into the phone. “How thoroughly unexpected to hear from you.”
“Okay, so the people I kiss, they all die. It’s a whole thing,” Stiles mutters, low and deranged. “But Peter, what if I also have sex with them? I know everybody said it would be fine and whatever, but like, I put my mouth all over him. What if something awful happens to him? What if it’s worse than death?!”
Peter struggles not to laugh and Felicia buries her head under her pillow with a groan.
“Is he fine now, Stiles?”
“They’re always fine at first! Sometimes they’re fine for months! What do I do?!”
Peter knows it’s wrong to be amused by Stiles’s very serious trauma, and yet here he is, and he doesn’t even feel bad about it. (Possibly Stiles shouldn’t have mentioned all the madness and cannibalism Peter’s other self got up to. Now he feels that as long as he hasn’t sunk that low, he’s a model citizen.)
“Stiles,” Peter says firmly, “you’re being irrational, and you know you’re being irrational, and yet you called me anyway. Which means you’re going to get my best attempt at comfort now, and you brought it on yourself.”
“Oh no,” Stiles whispers.
“Oh yes. Because Stiles—you’ve already put your mouth all over him. He’s as kissed as he’s going to get. If you’re cursed, you’ve already cursed him, and there’s nothing left to do now but get all the mileage you can out of him before his expiration date. Make the most of your time!”
There is a very long silence. And then a tiny, almost awed voice says, “You are the worst person in the world.”
“Pleasant dreams, Stiles,” Peter says fondly, and hangs up without waiting for a response. “Young love,” he sighs, turning his phone off altogether, just in case. “So beautiful.”
And then he snuggles up to his snickering wife and goes back to sleep.