There are things that Stiles remembers.
There are things that Stiles can’t forget.
Stiles starts getting out of the house more, if only to satisfy some tiny urge inside of himself that burns bright and bright and brighter each time Derek leaves for work and Stiles is left to brood underneath Derek’s sheets, watching his glowing skin grow more and more see-through until it finally evaporates. He starts with the neighborhood, which has grown about two and half times since he last walked around, and he watches all the little kids band around each other to play lacrosse with half-broken sticks and he passes by joggers and nannies with strollers and he accidentally leaves handprints on windows when he can’t help himself and peeks inside.
He stays away from dogs because, frankly, dogs tend to bark at him a lot, but he lets a stray cat come up and rub against his legs, and he wonders what it must look like to everybody else. He pulls his jacket tighter around himself self-consciously and then feels stupid, so he ducks down the next pathway and finds himself in the driveway of somebody with a really nice car. He brushes his fingertips across the handle and feels a thrum go through his body and he slides his hand all the way inside and it feels like it’s pulling him, like something is pulling him all the way through, so he goes. He sits in the driver’s seat and places his ghostly hands on the steering wheel and he smiles and looks in the rearview mirror and sees a boy with blue eyes staring back at him.
And, really, Stiles can’t help it if he screams.
Jackson’s really an asshole about it, too.
First, he growls, and then, when Stiles keeps flickering in and out of solidity, when he flashes back to the attic and then back to the car, Jackson just won’t stop laughing. “I though poltergeists were supposed to scare you, not the other way around,” he says, and Stiles can feel himself burning and burning, and he gets out of the car like a regular human just so he can have the satisfaction of slamming the door shut, and Jackson ends up following him, still laughing.
“I’m sorry,” Jackson says, breathlessly, as Stiles marches back the way he came, past the people who pause and look at Jackson talking to thin air, puzzled. “I’m sorry.”
Stiles doesn’t say anything, even when Jackson keeps following him, up the winding path through the woods, up and up and up towards the house.
“I’m Jackson,” he says, dismissively, like Stiles would actually care to find out who he is, even though there’s a small part (a really, really, really small part, he tells himself) that wonders why Jackson can see him, too, and why all of a sudden Stiles is surrounded by supernatural creatures when for years he’s been stuck in that house playing stupid practical jokes on people who uprooted his memories with new paint and appliances and furniture like they didn’t understand what history was and why it was so important. “What’s your name?”
Stiles wants to say none of your fucking business, but he doesn’t, if only because he really doesn’t trust himself to speak, and he can feel Jackson moving closer to him, can feel the heat coming off of his body as he slides closer and closer and Stiles can feel that thing inside of him that wants to move back towards him, that wants Jackson to take him in his arms and warm Stiles until he burns hotter than the center of the sun, can feel that thing inside of him that cries and cries and cries.
“C’mon,” Jackson says, and he places a hand on Stiles to stop him, and Stiles’ arm feels like it’s on fire, the same feeling when Derek touches him, and Stiles stops and turns around and looks at Jackson, looks him right in the eyes, watches as they burn bright and bright and brighter blue, just like Derek’s, and Stiles flickers once and then again and he honestly just can’t believe why this would be happening to him of all people or ghosts or whatever.
“You’re a werewolf,” Stiles says, even though it sounds stupid coming out of his mouth, and Jackson smiles and nods and his hand doesn’t move from Stiles’ arm. “Of course I would run into another one.”
And Jackson tilts his head like a curious dog and says, “Another one?”
Jackson lives at home with his parents, he says, sitting at Derek’s kitchen table. Stiles had made coffee with trembling, solid hands, careful not to spill, and had poured a cup for Jackson and then took the whole pot to his seat, hovering over the steam. Jackson looks at Stiles over the chipped mug and says, “They don’t know,” his hands pink and warm and inviting around the handle.
Stiles coughs and watches Jackson look around the kitchen, watches him catalogue the fridge magnets that Stiles had made Derek buy, watches him glance over the pasta sauce dotting the cold, stainless steel microwave, watches him stop at the plastic, yellow dog toy in the corner, something Stiles had jokingly stolen from one of the neighbors the night before a full moon and slipped into Derek’s dog cage in a fit of hysteria.
“Do you have a dog?” Jackson asks.
“Just Derek,” Stiles says, flippantly, and then immediately regrets it. “Don’t tell him I said that.”
Jackson laughs, but it’s soft and not very convincing, and Stiles takes in a deep breath and says, “So, are there more of you here, then?”
“One more,” Jackson says, and then clarifies. “That I know of, anyway.” He hugs the mug closer to his body and looks down at his hands and then looks back up at Stiles. “Lydia, my,” and here he pauses and Stiles guesses he wants to say girlfriend or mate or something equally as intimate, but he just shrugs instead.
“Derek came here to find a pack,” Stiles says, and his mouth is moving faster than his brain, like always, and his skin is flushing against the steam, flushing red and warm. “This was my old house. I died here. Derek wasn’t looking to adopt a ghost, though.” His lips keep moving and moving, and Jackson watches him with a careful, blank gaze. “It just kind of happened, I guess. Are you guys looking for an Alpha, too?”
Jackson fidgets, uncomfortably, and doesn’t look at Stiles. “We have one,” he says. “But he doesn’t live here.”
“Oh,” Stiles says, drawing out the sound. “Well, maybe Derek knows him. Maybe he can join you guys, too.” Stiles can feel himself grow more solid, can feel himself growing warmer, hotter, the trail of pink that moves up his ghostly arms. “You should meet Derek; he’s cool most of the time.”
Jackson looks back up at Stiles, and his blue eyes are burning right through him, burning brighter and brighter, and suddenly Stiles feels small and cold. “Are you, like, his mate?” Jackson asks, and there’s this curl of something on his mouth, something curious and maybe almost distasteful, and Stiles moves back and accidently jostles the coffee pot, or maybe doesn’t touch it at all, because it moves off of the table and hovers in the air for just a second, just for one second, before it crashes to the floor, wetting Jackson’s shoes.
“Shit,” Stiles says, and moves back, his feet not quite touching the floor, and Jackson stands up and there’s a growl that makes it out of his mouth, something dark and dangerous, and then Derek is there and he has his hand around Jackson’s throat, and he’s pushing him against the wall and Stiles wants to say something like fuck or no or maybe even Derek’s name, softly, disapprovingly, but there’s something that’s holding him back, and he’s not sure what it is.
“Who the fuck are you and what are you doing in my house,” Derek says, his bicep bulging where it strains with effort, his hand closing smaller and smaller around Jackson. Jackson gasps and struggles, but it’s clear that Derek is not as new to this whole werewolf thing as Jackson is, because Derek is stronger and faster and Jackson is not even close, and Derek shakes him hard enough that Jackson stills, his palms scrabbling up to Derek’s hand, his nails scratching until Derek starts to bleed.
Our house, Stiles wants to say, but he doesn’t. Instead, he says, “Derek,” but it’s small and harmless compared to the growls coming out of Derek’s mouth.
“Get to the attic, Stiles,” Derek says, and Jackson moves to free himself or something as equally stupid, but Derek pushes him back again, and Stiles hears the sharp crack of the wall, like something breaking inside of it, and he watches flecks of paint rain down and he watches Jackson’s face turn a dangerous shade of red.
Stiles says Derek’s name again, and this time it’s louder and this time he means it, and Derek turns to look at him without letting go of Jackson, and the lights are flickering wildly around them, flickering on and off, and the bulb in the overhead kitchen light crackles and then pops, and glass explodes everywhere. “Put him down,” Stiles says, and tries not to blink when the drawers start opening and closing, start coming out completely and shattering to the floor, wood and utensils and pieces of plastic flying everywhere.
Derek doesn’t, though, still looking at Stiles, his face halfway between human and wolf, almost completely gone, and Stiles feels the shudder that goes through him when the kitchen table suddenly leaps up and smashes against the other wall. “Put him,” Stiles says, slowly, menacingly. “Down.”
And Derek does.
And Jackson only looks at Stiles once before he flees, his wet shoes squeaking across the cluttered floor.
There are things that Stiles remembers, things that Stiles will never be able to forget, his father before the fire, his mother before she gave her life to a baby that breathed in once, twice, and then died in Stiles’ arms, the midwife lying her palms warm and flat on Stiles’ back, Stiles’ father and his grim, ashen face as he rested his forehead on the stiff, white shoulder of his mother.
He remembers the summer before he turned thirteen, when Scott took him to the lake and accidentally pushed him off of the edge into the water. His father had never taught him how to swim, and Stiles had floated for one moment, two moments, before he sank like a stone, his arms slipping silently beneath the surface, his eyes open and burning. It had been much more peaceful, much more serene than the fire, and maybe if he had gotten to choose, maybe he would have chosen to die that way, sinking and sinking and sinking so slowly that it never even hurt.
He remembers the day his father took him out to the meadow and taught him how to shoot with the rifle he always kept by the front door. Stiles’ mother had wrung her hands in a dishtowel and raised both of her eyebrows disapprovingly when Stiles had come back with scratches on the side of his face from when the rifle had kicked back, but when he grinned and showed her the bullet holes punched into his father’s lucky hat, she had started laughing and found it hard to stop.
He remembers the fire.
But, really, how could he forget?
Stiles feels more than sees Derek climb into the attic, and he listens to him crawl over the dusty boxes and loose floorboards and Stiles’ personal collection of stolen souvenirs, one from each of the tenants that had moved into his house and into his space and into his goddamn life. Stiles knows Derek can see him lying there in the dark, curled like a comma on the quilt his mother had knitted him the day before he was born, and he doesn’t say anything and he doesn’t move, and Derek fits himself in the space behind him, his arms slowly, hesitantly, moving around Stiles’ arms.
“I wanted to find you a pack,” Stiles says after a moment, his voice hoarse from some stupid ghost logic, even though he hasn’t really cried in over eighty years. “Is that dumb?”
“No,” Derek says, like it’s a fact, his mouth kissing the back of Stiles’ neck.
Stiles sighs, and he feels warm and solid, and the heat from Derek is searing, and Stiles wants so badly to just melt away right here. “Jackson said that he has an Alpha living somewhere else. I thought maybe you could meet him and he could take you in and you wouldn’t have to turn anybody.”
“It doesn’t work like that, Stiles,” Derek says. His hands are heavy on Stiles’ arms, heavy and heavy and heavy, and Stiles feels like he’s being weighted down in that lake again, like he’s sinking. “He’s not my Alpha. I can’t just join his pack.”
“Why not?” Stiles untangles himself and turns around, and Derek’s eyes are bright blue in the dark, and Derek leans down to lift Stiles’ jaw with his nose, to mouth the place where Stiles’ neck meets his shoulder. “Derek,” Stiles says, serious, and Derek bites down on Stiles’ skin, gentle, and Stiles grips Derek’s shirt, his fingers stretching out the cotton.
“There are things you don’t know about werewolves,” Derek says, his mouth wetting Stiles’ neck, his teeth biting down. “Things you won’t find on Wikipedia.”
“And this is one of them?” Stiles’ voice is a stupid mixture of arousal and something else, something more serious, and Derek either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care, his fingers creeping under Stiles’ shirt, his skin lighting up Stiles’ skin.
“Yes,” Derek says, and he kisses Stiles on the mouth, over and over and over, until Stiles feels dizzy and small and caught up in something that he won’t ever understand.
Stiles waits until Derek leaves for work the next day before he finds Jackson.
It’s easy, really, to follow Jackson from his house to the high school, walking with restless feet, careful not to bump into anybody or touch anything, and Stiles climbs up on one of the tables in the back of Jackson’s biology class and he watches the kids take out their papers and notebooks and suddenly, fiercely, he misses the homogenous mass of students he used to know. He misses the scent of chalk on his hands, he misses the feel of old books underneath his fingertips, and he closes his eyes and an image of a boy with dark hair and dark eyes comes to him, unbidden, and he knows it’s Scott, and he makes a noise low in his throat and when he opens them again, Jackson has turned around all the way in his seat and is staring at him, this frightened, incredulous look on his face.
Sorry, Stiles mouths, and shrugs, sheepishly.
At the sound of the bell, Jackson pulls him by his ghostly arm into an empty classroom, pulling down the tan shade to cover the window. “What are you doing here,” he growls, and Stiles can’t help but move back a little, away from Jackson’s heat.
“I wanted to apologize,” Stiles says, even though those aren’t the words he was practicing on his way over, the words he mouthed to himself over and over and over again. “Derek was an asshole to you, and I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”
Jackson looks at Stiles and his face is a mixture of confusion and anger, and the heat that’s radiating off of him is warming Stiles to the core, turning him pink and pinker, his skin lighting up. “Okay,” Jackson says, his voice a low, emotionless grumble. “Can I go now?”
“No,” Stiles says, and he puts his hand out like he might touch Jackson, but the look on Jackson’s face stops him cold. “Sorry,” Stiles says. Again, he doesn’t say. “I’m new to this whole werewolf thing and Derek says that I don’t know a lot of the rules, but how exactly am I supposed to learn anything when he never tells me or talks about his pack or anything?” His mouth is moving faster than his brain again and Jackson is just staring like he’s never seen a ghost with a hyperactive disorder before.
“He’s right,” Jackson says, leaning against the wall, his eyes bright blue in the dark room. “You don’t know any of the rules.”
Stiles looks at Jackson and Jackson looks at him and there’s this weird, intense feeling that’s hanging in the air and Stiles wants to run like he always wants to run, flickering from here to the attic in that way that he can without really explaining why or how or what, and Jackson’s eyes are bright and brighter and if Stiles didn’t know any better, he would think it might be Derek here with him, the heat from his arms and his chest and his mouth radiating sluggishly over him, burning and burning and burning until there’s nothing left. Stiles feels this urge that bubbles up and over him, this urge to move forward and catch Jackson’s mouth in a kiss, just pull his bottom lip out from its spot above his chin, just stretch out his mouth slow and slow and slower still.
Jackson coughs somewhere from a distance, somewhere away from Stiles’ weird daydream, and Stiles blushes warm and tight, and he shuffles back again, away from Jackson, but Jackson doesn’t even seem to notice.
And Stiles says, “I know I don’t. I know I’m not supposed to, because of your weird, secret pack or whatever. I know this is all supposed to be some clandestine shit, and I’m never supposed to find out about it, but that’s not fair.” Stiles feels himself growing more solid, growing stronger. “And I need your help.”
“With what?” Jackson looks skeptical, one of his eyebrows raising higher than the other.
And Stiles says, “I need you to teach me everything you know about werewolves.”