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Echoes

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Someone has deleted half the numbers in Stiles's phone. He doesn't notice until he takes it out to text Scott, and finds his phonebook half the size it should be.

"Damn it, Scott." How many times did he need to tell him that technology needed to be seduced, and not bludgeoned into submission. He has no idea when Scott managed it either. The last time Stiles saw him he was perfectly happy using his own phone to text unimaginative declarations of love to Lydia. He knows half the missing numbers without having to check, slotting them back into his phonebook in quick taps, but he's going to have to snag the rest off Derek's phone.

Derek's already late. He said he'd meet Stiles just off the road, but the place is cold and empty, fog curling slowly at head height. Stiles doesn't know how long he's been waiting - he can't quite remember when he got here.

Stiles gives it another ten minutes and then phones the house, but the number just rings and rings - and that really makes no sense, because the house is never empty. There's always someone near the phone, usually Peter, because he can never resist the opportunity to mess with whoever's on the other end. Unless they're too far away to hear it - and the only reasons he can think of for that are all bad, so that isn't comforting at all. Stiles frowns at the phone for a second, and then hangs up and bites at his thumbnail. If something happened and no one told him then he's going to be pissed. Falling out of the loop sucks, he's told people to keep him in the loop. Because he worries, it's a thing, that he does.

He waits another five minutes, and then decides he'll just meet Derek at the house. It's not that far, and contrary to what his phone seems to think the Hale house is never empty. He'll probably meet someone on the way, or they'll meet him. Or possibly fake-attack him, which never gets old, really. Because Stiles is rubbish at knowing when he's being hunted.

He doesn't get that far before Derek finds him, and Stiles is always impressed how he can go from not being there to just suddenly taking up all the space - sometimes Stiles thinks he does it for his benefit. Laura's exactly the same. No, actually Laura's worse, and she knows it. She revels in it.

Stiles grins at Derek, but all he gets back is a sort of gloomy stare.

"What are you doing here?" Derek stamps towards him, and he doesn't look happy at all, mouth fixed in a tight line.

"You were supposed to meet me," Stiles reminds him. "I waited for like twenty minutes. I was worried because you're not normally late unless something horrible is happening, but you didn't text me and - ok, that's a very angry face you're wearing, so I guess you're still mad at me."

"What are you talking about?" Derek says, and, yeah, he's definitely still mad because he's still wearing the scowl from earlier. It looks like it's been there the whole time. He continues crunching through the leaves towards him, and Stiles relaxes the closer he gets.

"Did Laura phone you? She said she was going to talk to you, about the thing."

Derek comes to a complete stop and stiffens. Stiles knows that mentioning her isn't really fair, Laura always takes his side, but that's because Laura is awesome. Stiles doesn't think it's just that though, Derek looks - he looks kind of awful in general. Well, as awful as Derek is capable of looking anyway.

"Are you ok?" Stiles asks quietly. "You don't look ok."

Derek's a line of tension, angry and strangely brittle.

"Hey, come on, talk to me." Stiles steps a little closer and tugs the leather of Derek's jacket straight. But that doesn't even get him a smile, if anything Derek's mouth gets even thinner. "Hey, I said I was sorry and I meant it. I know you have a right to be mad about it, but it's not you. I'm just waiting for the right moment, you're kind of a huge, werewolf-y thing to spring on a parent, and hello, Sheriff."

He shifts his feet and leans forward, presses his mouth to Derek's, and he knows they've been fighting but he's not expecting Derek to catch his elbows and physically shove him back a step. He does it hard enough that Stiles's feet slide on the ground, and Derek's fingers are suddenly bruise-tight on his arms.

"What the hell are you doing?" Derek says, stiff and angry.

"Ok," Stiles says uncertainly. Because, what the hell? "You're obviously madder at me than I thought."

"Did you hit your head?" Derek asks, but it sounds more like a threat than a question, and Stiles officially has no idea what's going on, none at all.

"Did I what? No, no Derek, I didn't hit my head. My God, your mom's right you know, you tend to overreact to things."

Derek looks like Stiles has punched him in the stomach, and the rest of what he was going to say just trails off. Derek looks like he wants to hit him, and sure he can be angry when he needs to be, but Derek has never, never looked at Stiles like that. Before he can react to it, Derek catches Stiles's arm, fingers dug in too hard, more than human hard, and then he drags him - he physically drags him through the leaves - and Stiles is too stunned to do anything for a second. Before he's pulling against the hold, shaking him off and stepping back, breath heaving in his chest. Because Derek doesn't do this, he doesn't use his strength against him, not like this, and it's scaring the crap out of him.

"What the hell are you doing, have you gone insane?"

"No, but I think maybe you have." Derek twists Stiles around, and doesn't even catch him when he stumbles, but he ends up facing Derek's house and he can't breathe, he cannot breathe.

"Oh my God."

Stiles takes a breath, feels it grate all the way down his throat. Because the Hale house is - the Hale house is a burnt-out wreck. It's a half-collapsed collection of charred wood and ruin, and it looks like it's been that way for years. But Stiles knows that it hasn't, because he was there yesterday. He was there, he was standing in the kitchen drinking orange juice. He feels like he's choking, heart in his throat. "Oh my God. What happened? What's going on?"

He turns back to Derek, and he isn't looking at Stiles like he's gone mad any more. He looks pale and awful.

"Derek, what happened?" Stiles asks, thick and soft and fractured. "Why does it look like that? Why does it look like it's been that way for years. I was here yesterday - how did - what the hell is going on?" He's shaking, nails dug into his own palms. This isn't real. This can't be real.

Derek doesn't answer, he shakes his head, walks far enough away that Stiles can't hear him, and then calls Scott.

Not that it matters because Stiles can't look away from the house. From the ruin of the house. It looks brittle, skeletal, the burns smeared over with age and foliage, and nothing makes sense, nothing at all. The house is gone, the house is - empty. He's shaking, and he can feel it, because this is a place where people died. This is a place where people burned to death. People. Oh my God, this is not happening, this is not happening.

"Derek, where is everyone?" Stiles asks. But Derek doesn't answer, he just looks at him, in a way that makes Stiles want to flinch away.

He doesn't say another word until Scott stumbles out of the trees, looking like he'd run the whole way.

Which is - impossible.

Unless. Scott's a werewolf. Oh God. Scott's a werewolf. Only, Stiles saw him six hours ago and that is not possible. When did Scott get bitten?

"Stiles." Scott gets half way to him, and then looks at Derek. "Derek said there was something wrong with you."

"You're a werewolf," Stiles says numbly. "When the fuck did that happen? I saw you six hours ago. Jesus, Scott."

"I told you," Derek says, like Stiles has just confirmed everything.

"There is nothing wrong with me," Stiles grates out. "But I'm starting to think there's something wrong with everything else. Why is the house burnt? Where is everyone - and will someone please stop looking at me like I've grown a second head and tell me something?"

Scott frowns at Derek.

"Something must have happened to him, everything he knows is wrong." There's so much underneath the anger in Derek's voice, Stiles can feel it, even though he's holding it too tightly to see.

"Like hell it is," Stiles says fiercely. "You're the one who's been replaced by a pod person. Call Laura, her number's in my phone." Stiles tosses Scott his phone, but he doesn't even attempt to catch it. He just lets it hit him and fall, staring at Stiles with a horrified sort of confusion. He does finally crouch to pick it up, scrolls through Stiles's phonebook.

"Oh my God - Derek - Derek, do you recognise that number?" Scott asks, and he looks so awkward about holding the phone out for Derek to see.

Whatever Scott shows him - Derek's face does something painful, and Stiles has never seen anything like it before. He hopes he never has to see it again

"Yeah," Derek says quietly. "That's our old number." He steps back then, folds himself away. He's not looking at Stiles any more.

"What's your name?" Scott asks carefully.

Stiles glares at him. "Scott, what the hell?"

"Stiles, please just answer the question."

He does, he answers all the questions Scott asks, when he was born, where he went to school, who his friends were, the last two years of his life, something about Chris and Allison Argent - who Stiles has never heard of. It's like they genuinely think he's suffered some sort of terrible head trauma. But Stiles knows he hasn't, knows that he's barely seen anyone all morning. But the house - he doesn't understand why the house looks like that. He doesn't understand why - when Scott got bitten.

Some of his answers make Scott frown and look helplessly at Derek, whose mouth is getting tighter and tighter. Stiles hadn't even known Derek could look like that. It's freaking him the hell out, and he tries to slip his hand into Derek's without thinking about it - but Derek jerks away from the contact, shoves his hands into his pockets instead. Scott catches the movement, and his face - his face tells Stiles exactly what Derek's body language has been doing since he got here. That he isn't supposed to be doing that. He isn't supposed to be touching him. That maybe people don't touch Derek, at all.

"This is a hallucination, right?" Stiles says thinly. "The same thing that happened last Summer with the witches, where they made Jackson think he was a zombie, and we had to drive all over town looking for him."

They're both looking at him like they have no idea what he's talking about. Like they have no idea who he is any more.

"Come on, seriously, this really isn't funny." Stiles can feel cold sweat crawling across the back of his neck, because clearly something is very wrong, something is wrong and he has a horrible feeling that it's him.

"I think we should take you home," Scott says, and his eyes are moving between Stiles and Derek. He steps forward and wraps a hand round Stiles's arm. "Come on man, I'll take you home, we'll sort this out."

Stiles wants to protest, he wants to stay and demand they tell him what's going on, but he gets the feeling things will only get worse. Though he's not sure there is anything worse than what he's thinking.

"Yeah," Stiles hears himself say. "That might be a good idea." Because he kind of needs to see something familiar.

His mom got off shift an hour ago, she should be back from the station by now.