Actions

Work Header

This Misery Will Suffice

Chapter Text

Stiles had once thought that he would never live to graduate high school. With bad guys popping up out of the woodwork every time they put the previous bad guy down, he figured that he was going to be cut down before he had that chance. He had thought that he would die a painful death in the dark caverns of Eichen House, the Nogitsune or Theo or the Beast finally taking his will to live away. He had thought that there was no way that he got to live happily ever after, not after the life they had led since sophomore year of high school. He had thought that he didn’t deserve to. He was the reason that Scott had been bitten, and the reason that Erica, Boyd, Allison were dead. If they hadn’t gone out that night into the Preserve looking for Laura Hale’s body, it wouldn’t have led to so much evil flocking to Beacon Hills.

Without all that, though, he wouldn’t be where he was, 25 years old with a Master’s degree and a steady job working in his field, living with his boyfriend and their dog in a nice apartment together. He might have been happy, graduating high school with only Scott as a friend, moving to college and whatever came after that. But the life that he had led had led him to Derek Hale.

He never would have met and fallen in love with the surly sour wolf if he hadn’t dragged Scott out that night.

“Honey, I’m home,” Stiles called, shutting the door to their apartment and dropping his work bag onto the desk beside it. “Derek?”

Nacho was his only response as the dog came tearing through the living room at him, jumping up to set his big paws right on Stiles’ chest.

“Hey bud. Where’s your other dad, huh? He should be home by now.”

He scratched behind Nacho’s ridiculously large ears. Nacho was a pit bull-Saint Bernard mix that had been brought to Deaton and Scott’s clinic after being rescued about a year before. He had been extremely dehydrated, malnourished, and clearly had been beaten and neglected in his life. After they had cleared him of any health issues, they decided to put him up for adoption. Except, they didn’t have the facilities at the time to keep him at the clinic. Derek and Stiles had agreed to take Nacho home to foster him while Scott tried to find him a home, and after about three months of waiting for a forever home, Stiles had convinced Derek to adopt him.

“You’re such a good boy. Come on, I think it’s dinner time for you.”

He pushed Nacho to the ground gently and kicked off his shoes underneath the desk by the door. They lived in a small, one-bedroom apartment in the downtown of Beacon Hills, all of their stuff crammed into the small space. It was their own, though, small or not.

He led Nacho into the kitchen and laughed.

Derek, his big, scary, scruffy werewolf of a boyfriend, was covered in flour as he kneaded bread dough by hand. There was flour in his beard, and all over his signature Henley.

“Oh my god,” he said, pressing a hand into his stomach as he giggled. “You are so cute.”

“You weren’t supposed to be home yet,” Derek said in defense, holding up doughy hands. “I was gonna-”

“You’re making me a surprise dinner.”

“I am.”

Stiles strode around the counter and took his boyfriend by his floury beard, pulling him into a kiss. His lips tasted like sharp cheddar cheese.

“You’re making mac and cheese,” Stiles crowed. “You never make mac and cheese. You’re always so-”

“It clogs your arteries,” Derek replied. “But it’s a special occasion.”

“What is? Today?”

“Mmmm,” he hummed. “Go get changed. I think there’s a Mets game on.”

“What is this all about?”

“You’ll see,” Derek muttered. He turned Stiles with his floury hands, pushed him away, and smacked his ass playfully. “Go relax. We’ll talk when dinner’s done.”

“Okay.”

Stiles retreated into the living room, shrugging off his coat while Nacho followed, butt wiggling excitedly as he expected to be pet. He led them into the bedroom where he peeled off his dress shirt and slacks, tossing them into their hamper. He changed into a pair of Derek’s sweatpants- which he knew drove Derek crazy- and an old lacrosse warm-up, before heading out into the living room again. He flopped on their couch, switched the television on, and found the Mets game.

This was unexpected, coming home to Derek making Stiles’ favorite meal and being diverted to the living room for a Mets game.

Stiles was deliriously happy, though.

It was just all out of nowhere, although not unwelcome. He didn’t know Derek to be the surprise date kind of boyfriend, which was okay. Stiles didn’t need big romantic gestures, not when Derek crawled into bed with him every night. He got Derek Hale, the hottest, softest man in all of Beacon Hills, to come home to.

The Mets were, unsurprisingly, down by two in the bottom of the eighth when Derek came swinging out of the kitchen with two bowls of steaming mac and cheese and a glass of wine for each of them.

“Oh, and you broke into the wine,” Stiles cooed as Derek set the bowls on the coffee table in front of Stiles. “It must be a special occasion.”

“Do I have to have a reason to break out the wine for my favorite person?”

“No,” Stiles said. “But I suspect you have an ulterior motive anyway.”

Derek grinned, and Stiles’ heart melted.

“I would never,” he murmured, moving in to kiss Stiles gently. “Now come down here and eat with me.”

“I’ll eat something, alright,” Stiles replied, sliding into the spot between the table and the couch next to Derek.

“Stiles!”

“I’m joking. Partially.”

“Eat your food, you dork.”

Stiles picked up his fork and bumped into Derek playfully. He took a bite and moaned around it. Mac and cheese was something his mother used to make when he was little, when Stiles was upset, when the Sheriff- then just a deputy- was working too long hours and Stiles was missing his father. It was comforting, and it made an easy meal to make and to eat when he was working with a new family or before he had graduated and he was studying late into the night. Stiles remembered sitting at the kitchen table, watching his mother hum as she chopped the cheese and stirred the boiling pasta. Every time he had mac and cheese, really good mac and cheese, it transported him back to that seat while he watched his mother cook. He’d been trying to perfect her recipe since she had died, but it was never quite right.

“How did you figure it out?” he asked after finishing his first bite. “This is exactly-”

“I did what you didn’t think to do.”

“Clearly.”

“I asked your dad.”

“Oh.”

“So it’s good?”

“It’s perfect. It’s more than perfect. This is exactly how Mom used to make it.”

Derek tried to hide a pleased smile by taking a bite, but Stiles could see the small blush in his cheeks and the crinkle in his eyes. They’d been together long enough that Derek couldn’t hide from Stiles.

“So, what is my favorite bottle of wine and my favorite meal leading to? Are you- Are you going to propose? Is that what this is?”

“Do you want me to propose?” Derek asked, eyes down. He flicked his gaze cautiously to Stiles.

“I don’t- Are you?”

“Only if you say yes.”

“Derek.”

“Stiles, I love you. I want to live the rest of my life with you. I want to adopt dogs with you and live in a big house with all of you. I want to have dinner ready for you when you get home, and I want to surprise you when you’ve had a long week. I don’t want to be away from you. I want to be here for you to come home to, and if that includes you agreeing to marry me, then yes, I am asking you to marry me. But we don’t have to get married to be happy together. I’m only asking if you want i-”

“Yes!”

Derek’s eyebrows expressed the surprise that the rest of his face didn’t.

“Babe, absolutely.”

Stiles pushed the coffee table away and then climbed up into his lap. He pressed his hands flat against Derek’s cheeks, pursing his lips as Stiles kissed him.

“I absolutely want all of that. I want to adopt every dog and have a big house with you and have dinners with you and, and, just all of it. I want you, whatever way you will let me have you.”

Derek kissed him back, pushing Stiles’ hands of his cheeks and moving them down into their laps.

“There’s a ring, right?” Stiles asked, pulling away.

“Yeah, it’s,” Derek paused to wriggle his hand into his jeans and then back out. He opened his palm up and showed Stiles a sleek, silver band. “It’s not much. I didn’t want to get you anything flashy.”

“It’s perfect,” Stiles mumbled. “You had better put that ring on my finger right now.”

Derek grinned and took Stiles’ left hand, and slid the ring down his finger. It fit perfectly. Stiles admired it, turning it so it caught the light in all the right ways.

“Wait,” Stiles said, looking up. “You asked my dad for the recipe.”

“I did.”

“Did you tell him what you needed the recipe for?”

Derek blushed.

“Derek Hale, did you ask my dad for permission to marry me? I am not some maiden, you know!”

He hit Derek in the chest.

“I know, it’s just tradition.”

“What?”

“Werewolves, you know, territorial creatures. They like to stake a claim on what’s theirs, and if you intend on taking someone else’s family as your own family, you need to ask their permission.”

“That’s dumb.”

“I know. It’s just a thing. I’m sorry if it offends you.”

Stiles laughed, using Derek’s shoulders as an anchor.

“It doesn’t offend me, Derek. It’s cute as fuck. You and your werewolf manners, you’re such a gentleman. Meanwhile, I am fully human and I was raised by wolves.”

He laughed, tossing his chin up as he thought about it.

“I never would’ve thought about asking your family for their permission to take your hand in marriage, not once.”

“Well, I don’t have a lot of family to ask.”

“Who would I ask?”

“My alpha.”

“I have to ask Scott to marry you?” Stiles asked. “He’s going to laugh in my face.”

“Stiles, you don’t have to ask anyone-”

“I am going to, you know I am.”

“Stiles Stilinski, you will not.”

“Oh, now it’s a challenge.”

Derek picked Stiles up easily from his lap and dumped him onto the floor.

“Eat your food. There’s dessert waiting for you.”

“Is the dessert you in bed? If not, can we add that to the menu?”

“I’m sure the chef wouldn’t mind,” Derek grinned. “Eat your mac and cheese, Stiles.”

Chapter Text

Stiles woke up, and stretched. He wasn’t even that old, but his entire body ached and he felt more than a few joints crack. That’s what he got, he guessed, for sleeping on the pull-out couch in the living room.

“You can always come back home, sweetie. There’s more than enough room for you and Levi,” his mom would say every time he complained about the couch.

He got up, groaning and heading into the bedroom.

“Come on, little man,” he yawned. He flicked on the overhead light and sank beside his son’s bed. Levi was tucked deep into his covers, his BB-8 pillow hugged tight to his chest. His mop of brown hair stuck up against the pillow and his freckled face was relaxed, little mouth open while he let out tiny snores. This was the only time Stiles ever saw his son peaceful. “You gotta get up. Grandpa’s gonna stop by to take you to school.”

He nudged his five-year-old, and tickled his neck.

“Levi, wake up, baby.”

His mother always laughed when Stiles complained about waking Levi up, saying, “Yeah, well, you were the exact same way, Stiles.”

“No,” Levi grunted.

“That’s not really an option.”

“Noooooooooooooo.”

“You have one minute before I start a full body tickle!”

“No.”

“Then you better wake up, sleepy face.”

Levi grunted in return.

“I have to get ready for work, Levi. And you need to get ready for school. Don’t you want to go see Emily and Peyton?”

Levi rolled over and fixed sleepy, brown eyes on him. He grunted.

“No.”

“Well, that’s too bad.”

Stiles scooped his son up out of his bed and carried him out of the bedroom and into the bathroom. He deposited him on his feet by the tub and started the water for a shower. Levi groaned but pulled his pajama top over his head. Stiles dropped a kiss onto Levi’s forehead, which the sleepy five-year-old pushed him away for with an angry grumble.

“Yeah, yeah, you’re very grumpy, aren’t you? Take a shower, you grump.”

He left the bathroom, leaving the door open, and heading into their kitchen to make Levi’s breakfast which he would complain about. He loved the kid, honestly, because he was the light of Stiles’ life. Everything about Levi was great. He was smart, and funny, and he had a great imagination. He was all Stiles had left of Heather since she died before their son had even turned one.

He loved Levi with all that he had, loved being around him and listening to his stories, but he was such a grump. He hated that Stiles had to be gone working all the time, and Stiles hated that he had to spend so much time away from his son. He missed so many of Levi’s cradle lacrosse games because he was stuck working double shifts and afternoons that he was supposed to have off, someone always calling in from one job or the other.

“Dad!” Levi called.

Stiles popped up the toast and headed into the bathroom. His son stood on the bathmat, dripping like a drowned rat, towel wrapped around his torso.

“What’s up, bud?”

“I don’t have anything to wear.”

“Yes, you do. I did laundry yesterday.”

“No! Nothing I own is good enough!”

“Why’s that? It was fine yesterday.”

Levi suddenly turned a bright crimson, and Stiles knew. He knelt down so he was eye level.

“So, there’s a new kid in class, huh?”

“No!”

“You know better than to lie to me, bud.”

Levi frowned.

“Okay, there’s a new girl.”

“Is there? And what’s this new girl’s name?”

“May.”

“Is May cute?”

“Dad!”

Stiles grinned and tweaked his son’s nose.

“Come on, we’ll find you the snazziest thing you own. And after school, I’ll pick you up and we’ll buy you a brand new outfit, or two. How’s that sound?”

Levi nodded, then paused.

“Can we afford that?”

Stiles’ heart broke. He had never wanted his son to worry about money. He hadn’t been able to finish college, to get the degree he wanted, because he was taking care of his son while mourning his best friend’s death. He had to work two jobs and leave his son with babysitters and his grandparents far more often than he wanted to, and they lived in an apartment not really big enough for the both of them. They struggled for money, and Stiles thought that he’d been hiding it, but- he wasn’t raising a fool.

“It’ll be okay. I’ll make it work.”

“You don’t ha-”

“Buddy, leave that to me, okay? You look fresh for your crush, I’ll handle the adult side of this.”

Levi frowned.

“Come on, short stack.”

He herded his son into his bedroom, and they sorted through the disaster zone of Levi’s dresser and closet. They came up with one of Levi’s cleanest, least used shirts and a pair of his best skinny jeans.

“There, now you have something to wear to impress your lady.”

“You’re so embarrassing!” Levi cried, shoving Stiles away.

“We’ve reached that stage already, huh? I thought we would wait until at least you hit puberty.”

“Go take a shower!” Levi stated firmly, pointing towards the door. “I’ve got this.”

Stiles laughed.

“Breakfast is on the counter when you’re done, if you’re so adult to get it yourself.”

“Dad!”

Stiles headed back into the bathroom, shaking his head. His father was probably still laughing that Stiles’ son turned out to be just like him, how he was getting a taste of his own damn medicine.

“Lord help me,” he muttered, turning the water on. “Lord give me the strength.”

He got ready for work, working around a five year old with a sudden obsession with the mirror.

“Stiles? Is Levi ready?” the Sheriff called, opening the door to the apartment.

“Yeah.”

“Grandpa!” Levi cried at the same time, streaking through the living room and launching into Stiles’ father’s arms. The Sheriff laughed, swinging Levi around. “Do you like my clothes?”

Stiles tied his apron around his waist, watching his son and father interact. He clipped on his name tag and put on his shoes while Levi strutted for the Sheriff, puffing his chest up proudly. His son was the perfect mixture of Stiles and Heather, with Stiles’ brown hair but Heather’s curls, with Stiles’ nose but Heather’s blue eyes. Stiles had ended up being the carbon copy of his mother, and Heather her father. But their son was a good mix of them. He liked seeing Heather in his son, instead of staring into an odd funhouse mirror.

“You guys had better take off,” Stiles said.

“Daddy’s taking me shopping later!” Levi announced.

“He is? What for?”

“Levi likes a girl, and he wants to impress her.”

“Does he?”

The Sheriff got down on eye level with Levi.

“Is she law-abiding?”

“Grandpa!” Levi groaned. “Not you too!”

Stiles shrugged his jacket on and ruffled his son’s hair, pocketing his keys. The Sheriff caught Stiles’ arm.

“Do you have money to take him shopping?”

“It’s fine, Dad. I’ll manage.”

“You don’t have to just manage, Stiles.”

He pulled out his wallet from a pocket and started to rifle through it.

“Dad, no.”

“Take it,” the Sheriff insisted, holding out a small fold of bills.

“No, I can’t.”

“Stiles, don’t be stubborn. Take the money. You shouldn’t struggle because your son wants to impress someone.”

“We won’t. It’ll be fine.”

He pushed his father’s hand back, and opened the door.

“Levi, come say goodbye.”

Levi came running from his room, backpack on his shoulders. He slammed into Stiles’ legs and hugged him around the waist.

“I love you, Daddy.”

“Oh, buddy,” Stiles cooed, dropping down to hug Levi properly. “I love you, too. Have a great day at school, okay?”

“Okay!”

“Remember I’ll be picking you up today, okay?”

“Okay!”

“Okay, well, give me a kiss.”

He got a wet kiss smacked on his lips before he had to go.

“Stiles?” the Sheriff called.

“Yeah?”

“Drive safe.”

Stiles stopped and looked over his shoulder.

“I will.”

Chapter Text

Stiles decided to ask Scott anyway, despite the knowledge that he definitely would laugh in his face, because it was the proper thing to do- and because he liked teasing Derek. Mostly because of the teasing. He loved teasing Derek. He couldn’t wait to tell this story to Derek later, about how he actually asked his alpha for his hand in marriage.

“Hey Stiles, this is a surprise,” Scott said as Stiles walked into the vet clinic the next afternoon. “I thought you were gonna spend your day off with Derek.”

“Derek is actually what I came to talk to you about.”

“Is he being an ass again? Because I’ll talk to him if you want. I’m not afraid of him.”

“You are a little.”

“I am n-”

“But I appreciate the sentiment, bud.”

Scott snorted, and stood up from the desk. He tucked a chart into a plastic box tacked onto the exam room door before returning to lean against the other side.

“What’s this about, if Derek isn’t misbehaving?”

“Well, I was talking to him last night, and it turns out that if we want to get married, I need permission from his alpha.”

“What.”

Stiles grinned.

“Which part are we confused by?”

“All of it. The marriage. The permission. The alpha part.”

“Well, I want to marry him. He makes every part of my life better. According to werewolf tradition or something, I have to ask his alpha, that would be you, for permission to marry him. So, Alpha McCall, I would like t-”

“No.”

“You can’t tell me no, Scott.”

“I can. I’m not giving my permission.”

“And why is that?”

“Because I think it’s archaic.”

“It totally is!” Stiles agreed, cracking a smile. He was afraid that Scott meant that he didn’t approve of their marriage or their relationship in general. He was afraid the no actually meant no. Which was dumb, honestly. Scott was nothing but supportive.

“So you’re gonna ask him to marry you?”

“Well, no.”

“What do you mean?”

Stiles dug the ring out of his pocket and slid it onto his ring finger. He displayed it to Scott with a shit-eating grin.

“He already asked me. And I said yes.”

Scott’s eyes widened.

“Are you kidding me? All of this and you’re already engaged? You’re an asshole, Stiles. Congratulations, but you’re an asshole still.”

Stiles grinned.

“You’re the first person I told,” Stiles informed him. “So don’t say anything to your mom, because she might tell my dad and I want to be the one to tell him.”

“I won’t tell.”

“Good.”

“I’m so happy for you. So, how’d he do it?”

“He wasn’t subtle about it.”

“Not exactly a Derek trait.”

“He made Mom’s mac and cheese, and kicked me out to watch the Mets game. He got me a bottle of wine, and he was adorably insecure about the whole thing. He only asked me if I wanted him to, and if he knew I was gonna say yes. It was good. I wouldn’t have changed anything.”

“I’m glad you’re happy, Stiles. We’ve had- well, some rough times. You deserve everything that you and Derek have built together. You deserve your happiness.”

Stiles looked at his ring, and smiled.

“I’m so happy, Scott. I didn’t think that I would ever get this, you know? After everything I’ve done and everything that’s happened, I can’t believe that we’re here. We both have good jobs, and you and Kira are happy, and Derek and I are happy. We’re in good places. Finally. After fighting tooth and nail for this, I’m just-”

He shrugged.

“-It’s really good.”

“I get it. I can’t believe we’re here either.”

“If you’re going through hell,” Stiles said.

“What’s that?”

“Just something that Morrell told me once.”

He danced his fingers across the desk, watching his ring. He couldn’t believe that this was real. He half expected to wake up from this beautiful dream to find himself back in high school, fighting for his life. He never wanted to go back there. He never wanted to go through that again.

He’d had enough danger in his life.

“When are you going to tell your dad?”

“Tonight, I think. Derek’s at work all day, and my dad has the night off. I thought I might drop in, surprise him, drop the bomb on him.”

“It’s not really a bomb. We were all kind of expecting one of you to pop the question eventually. You’ve had a dog for a year, and you’ve lived together for longer, and you’ve been together for even longer than that. It’s about damn time, honestly.”

Stiles laughed.

“I know. We just don’t want to rush into anything. We want to make sure that we actually do want what is expected of us.”

“I get that. Sort of.”

“No, you don’t. You and Kira kind of jumped headlong into commitment and adulthood as soon as we graduated. You had an apartment, and you were engaged, and now you’re Mr. and Mrs. Yuki-McCall.”

“It’s McCall-Yukimura, but okay.”

“I know that. You get what I mean, though. You and Kira are Mr. and Mrs. Commitment so of course, compared to you, Derek and I would seem like we’re going at a snail’s pace.”

Scott laughed, and replied, “it’s Doctor and Mrs. Commitment.”

“It’s almost Doctor and Doctor, isn’t it? She’s graduating with her Doctorate soon, right?”

“In the spring!”

“That’s awesome, Scott. We should do something for her when it’s official. A party, or something.”

“She’d love that. We could get her friends from college, and the rest of the pack together! She’d love it.”

Stiles’ phone buzzed in his pocket.

From: Father Unit

If you’re coming over tonight, buy groceries. Melissa and I haven’t had time, and we have nothing.

Stiles rolled his eyes.

“I have to go, I guess. I have to go grocery shopping for dinner with Dad tonight.”

“Does your dad know what you wanna talk to him about?”

“I suspect he does, because Derek asked him for permission to ask me to marry him.”

“He did?”

Stiles nodded.

“He’s such a dork, but I’m, you know, getting married to him. I just want to be the one to tell my dad that I said yes before the news gets out and reaches him, and then he gets irritated with me for not telling him, and you know how my dad is.”

“Say hi to my mom, will you?”

“I will. See you later, bro.”

-&-

Stiles had their dinner ready by the time Melissa and then his dad got home.

“It smells great in here!” Melissa called to him, hanging up her purse and kicking off her shoes. “What did you make?”

“Fettuccini.”

“That’s not exactly on your father’s diet,” she said, walking into the kitchen. They had moved into a brand new house together after they got together, not wanting the memories of Claudia or Raphael to taint their new relationship. “How’d you manage? Or are you giving your father a pass because you have some good news?”

“I’m assuming he told you, then.”

She sank into a seat at the island with a grin.

“He did. And I’m assuming you’re here to tell us that you said yes.”

“I cannot confirm or deny that right now. What I can confirm is that I used low-fat ingredients, and there’s mushrooms and Brussel sprouts to make dinner.”

“Brussel sprouts, that’ll go over well with your father.”

“That’s why I paired it with the knowledge that he’s gonna have a son-in-law.”

Melissa nodded.

“Can I try some?” she asked, nodding to the pot.

Stiles grinned and twirled a fork in the noodles and stabbed a mushroom before handing the fork over to her. He pulled a bottle of red wine from the fridge and scoured through drawers until he found a corkscrew.

“I can’t believe that something Stiles made smells this good!” the Sheriff called. “It had better not be healthy.”

“It is,” Stiles and Melissa called like a promise.

“Goddamn it.”

“Language,” Stiles scolded.

“Hush, offspring.”

“Never, predecessor.”

His father came into the kitchen, walking over to kiss Melissa.

“When did my son become a spoiled brat who could talk to me like that?”

“You raised him like this.”

“I did, unfortunately.”

Stiles dished out three portions of the fettuccini, and poured three glasses of wine.

“Can you set the table, Dad?”

“I just got off a long shift at work an-”

“I’ll do it,” Melissa said, shoving the Sheriff playfully, “even though I, too, got off a long shift at work.”

Stiles got the garlic bread out of the oven where he left it to keep warm, and cut it into small slices.

“Carry these over to the table, will you?” Stiles asked his father, nodding to the glasses of wine.

“You’re so demanding.”

“Indeed, I am.”

His father grabbed the three glasses and carried them to the table while Stiles finished up plating their dinner. He balanced their plates on his arms, and carried them after him into the dining room.

“That doesn’t look half bad,” the Sheriff sinking into a seat while surveying the food in front of them. “What’d you do to it?”

“There may be Brussel sprouts in it,” Melissa said, dropping a napkin by each one of them and sitting on the other side of the Sheriff.

“There’s what in what?” the Sheriff asked, a frown taking over his features. He turned and gave Stiles an accusatory look. “Why did you do that?”

Stiles grinned.

“Because I’m evil that way.”

“Clearly.”

“Besides, it balances with the news that I have for you.”

“Oh, what’s that?” the Sheriff asked, trying- and failing- to feign ignorance, like he didn’t already know what Stiles was about to tell him.

“I’m sure you’ve put two and two together, but Derek asked me to marry him. And I said yes.”

Melissa grinned at Stiles.

“Congratulations. Derek’s a good kid,” the Sheriff said, nudging Stiles. “And despite what I thought originally, he makes you happy, and I’m supportive of anything that can do that.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Stiles said with a genuine smile. He hadn’t stopped smiling, honestly, since Derek had asked him. Even when he wasn’t smiling physically, everything else inside of him was vibrating with happiness. “Now, just eat your Brussel sprouts as a congratulations to me.”

Chapter Text

The day after Stiles took Levi out for his new clothes, he had to work both of his jobs. He got ready for work, lifted Levi up into his arms, and carried him to the Jeep without waking him. Loathingly, Stiles left him to finish sleeping in his room at his parents’ house, kissing his son goodbye before he even got to greet the day with him.

“I’ll be back to pick him up after work,” Stiles grumbled, taking the offered travel mug of coffee from his barely conscious father. He sat at the kitchen table, nursing his own extraordinarily large mug of black coffee, eyelids fighting to stay at even half-mast. “Thanks. See you later.”

With that, he left his childhood home and headed for his shitty, secondhand Jeep. He fucking hated that thing, hated it with a burning passion. It was stubborn, refusing to just die so he could justify getting a new car. It was stubborn, but so was he and he would drive that fucking thing until it wheezed out its last dying breath, and he was victorious.

On days like these, where Stiles had to work both of his jobs, it usually worked one way. He went to work, first opening and singlehandedly running the coffee shop until his manager arrived, and then working at the locally sourced food market, running the checkout register for a grumpy old lady who didn’t like anyone or anything.

“Stiles! How are you today?” a young mother of two who visited regularly asked him as she set her basket of fruit and vegetables on the counter in front of him. “How’s Levi?”

Her name was Veronica, and she had a daughter about Levi’s age who was in Levi’s grade but a different class. She came in every week to pick up a variety of fresh ingredients to supplement the boxed mac and cheese and frozen dinners that she had to feed her kids. She was really nice, and extremely chipper for being a young mother of two who was in the same predicament as Stiles.

“I’m alright. Levi’s good. He’s got a crush on a girl.”

“He does? That’s adorable!”

“Yeah, well, if he’s anything like me, it’s going to last a while.”

“How long is that?”

“Well, I’ll let you know when I get over my crush on a girl from third grade.”

She laughed, brushing her blonde hair behind her shoulder.

“That’s actually really cute, if a little sad.”

“I’m the master of cute, and sad.”

She laughed again, dropping her head so her hair fell in front of her face. She was cute, Stiles noticed that every week, with ivory skin so clear she looked like porcelain and big grey eyes, little freckles peppered across her cheeks and nose.

“Do you want anything else today? There’s apples on sale! They look really good and fresh.”

“No, if I bring apples home, my kids won’t eat anything else.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?”

“One would think, except that I am not kidding when I say that they won’t eat anything else. They will eat apples until they explode. I don’t know how I produced those weirdos, but I did. They’re weirdly obsessed, and I hate apples.”

“I can’t get Levi to eat anything vaguely healthy unless I threaten him. It’s all French toast and Club crackers. I’m pretty sure my parents even have to bribe him to eat dinner.”

Veronica’s phone brrrrp’d in her hand and she looked down.

Shit, I forgot I had to meet with a consultant today,” she groaned, pulling out her wallet and leafing through the bills to find two twenties. She handed them over and scooped up her bags. “Keep the change, Stiles. I’ve gotta go. See you next week?”

“I’ll probably, most definitely be here.”

“See you, then,” she said, and hurried away from him and out of the market. He sighed and rested back against the counter.

“No leaning,” the manager barked on her way past.

“Yes, ma’am,” Stiles replied, pushing himself up onto his already aching feet. He grabbed the one distraction he was allowed, a tired, old farmer’s almanac from beside the register and flipped to his favorite page. It was the forecast for the day that Levi was born, which was actually the day that Heather was supposed to be due originally before the doctors moved her due date around about three times.

He still remembered the day that Heather called him to give him the news. They were just kids, barely out of high school, and they had been dumb. One broken condom from one slightly drunken hook up, and their lives had changed. Heather had called him from her dorm room, in tears.

“Stiles, I’m pregnant,” she had sobbed.

Stiles, admittedly, hadn’t been sure what she had said the first time, and instead just hopped in his stupid Jeep and driven to her dorm for clarification. They considered all of the options together, but ultimately, the second they both heard Levi’s fast heartbeat on the ultrasound, they couldn’t do anything but keep him. Stiles and Heather dropped out of college together, got a nice apartment, picked up some jobs, and started their life together.

Levi was a name picked from a baby name book, because Stiles wasn’t passing on his grandfather’s name to a small, innocent, unsuspecting infant, and Heather didn’t have any family names she wanted to pass along.

Levi Anthony Stilinski was born in the middle of the day on September 23rd.

Heather died seven months later in a car crash, leaving Stiles alone with an infant, an apartment he couldn’t afford, and a need not to need his parents’ help.

“Stilinski,” one of the assistant managers, a much nicer lady closer to his age named Julia greeted him. “I brought you something.”

She held out a pack of chicken nuggets from the fast food restaurant across the street, and what looked like a trashy magazine.

“Go on your 15, and sit down. You’re making me tired just looking at you.”

Stiles rounded the counter to press a kiss into her cheek, and nap the offered items.

“You’re a godsend, Jules. You really are.”

He headed for the break room, which honestly wasn’t really a break room if you looked at it closely enough. It was small, barely enough room for the desk and the coatrack. He sank into the desk chair with his chicken nuggets and plopped the guilty pleasure trash magazine on top of the training computer’s keyboard, and relaxed.

Of course, which was when the overhead PA system kicked on with an ugly crackle.

STILES STILINSKI TO THE MANAGER’S OFFICE. STILES STILINSKI TO THE MANAGER’S OFFICE.”

He groaned, popped a nugget into his mouth whole, and headed for the manager’s office, located at the opposite end of the market from the breakroom. He found the general manager, the old lady who hated everything in the store from the customers to the workers to their products, sitting at her desk.

“The phone is for you,” she snapped. “What did I tell you about personal phone calls?”

“I’m sorry,” he replied, hunching over and taking the phone from her wrinkled, clawed hand. “Hello?”

“Oh! Finally! Mr. Stilinski, this is Principle Weatherby at Beacon Elementary. I’m calling about your son, Levi.”

-&-

Stiles had been on the other end of this meeting a lot growing up, sitting beside his dad or mom with his head hung down in shame of getting caught. He would peek at the principle’s face, then his parent’s to gauge how much trouble he was actually in. He loved doing the things that got him into trouble, but being in the seat after getting caught was not something he had enjoyed. His father’s face always looked vaguely disappointed, but he would shrug it off as they headed for the cruiser, telling him that he needed to be a better criminal. His mother’s was blank, neutral. She never yelled, but instead would tell him later that she wasn’t angry at him, but she was disappointed in him.

That wounded him more than the yelling might have.

He would prefer to be the child in this situation, he discovered, sitting in the adult sized chair beside his son, another parent and a child sitting in a second set of chairs to their left. The kid was twice the size of Levi, holding an ice pack to his face.

Levi didn’t have a scratch on him.

“We’re here because Levi and Joshua got into a fight today,” Principle Weatherby started. He was just the way that Stiles remembered him, in his grey suit and salt and pepper hair slicked back away from his face, leaving his beard to confront you first.

“Excuse me,” the other parent, a tiny woman who Stiles could probably knock over by breathing too hard, piped up. “From what I can tell, it was not a fight, but that boy viciously attacked my Joshua, and I will not stand for Joshua to be punished or even accused of violence when he clearly is not the one at fault her.”

“Mrs. Clifford, I’ve spoken with the boys personally, and I’ve talked with their teacher, and several students who witnessed the event. From all accounts, while Levi is the one who started the fight, Joshua was not entirely innocent in the first place. From what I understand, Joshua was teasing Levi, which caused Levi to strike out physically. Here at Beacon Elementary, we do not condone physical violence, nor do we tolerate verbal harassment. We have dec-”

“Well, if Levi was brought up in a nice, conventional home, maybe he wouldn’t strike other children!” Mrs. Clifford snapped, interrupting Principle Weatherby. Stiles looked up from where he was examining the laminate edge of Weatherby’s desk and turned to look at the woman. She was red with pent up anger, her bleached hair pulled into a serious ponytail.

“Mrs. Clifford, there’s no n-”

“A nice, conventional home,” Stiles repeated slowly.

“I know what you do with that sleazy Raeken kid, Mr. Stilinski, and there’s no way someone like you could raise a child right.”

Stiles wanted to behave, but he had landed in this office throughout his years at school for exactly this reason.

“And what do you mean by someone like me, Mrs. Clifford?”

“Let’s be ci-”

“You know what I mean, Mr. Stilinski.”

“I’m not sure I do. I am many things, you see,” he said. “I’m a single dad, for one, like Principle Weatherby here. But I’m assuming you’re not referring to that, are you?”

“You know what I’m referring to.”

“It’s not polite to discriminate or make assumptions about people based on their sexuality, Mrs. Clifford. No wonder your son was verbally harassing my son.”

“I want Joshua transferred out of that class,” Mrs. Clifford demanded, turning to Principle Weatherby who looked lost, and confused at the events unfolding in front of him. “I won’t have my son exposed to his kind of filth. I won’t have my son associating with a fag.”

Stiles rose to his feet, then.

“What did you say?”

“Mrs. Clifford, we do not tolerate hate spe-”

Mrs. Clifford, five foot even, stood as well, staring up at him with her nostrils flared.

“You heard me,” she snarled. “Sucking dick for Raeken doesn’t cause loss of hearing.”

He hadn’t dealt with many homophobes in his life, especially since he had the entire Sheriff’s department behind him. He wanted to punch her in her smug, hateful face, and then spit on her. He wanted to strike back for calling him, and his son, such an awful name. Stiles stepped back instead, and offered his hand to Levi who hopped off the chair to grab it.

“Principle Weatherby, I don’t want my son exposed to this. I’m taking him home for the day. I would like to make a request to transfer Levi out of any class where Joshua Clifford is in attendance, just to make sure they’re both safe.”

“I think that is best, Stiles. Will you stop by my office tomorrow at the start of the day?” Weatherby asked, rising to his feet as well.

“Of course. I’ll see you tomorrow. Come on, Lee. We’re going to get your stuff, and then we’re going home.”

-&-

Stiles sat Levi at the kitchen table with his homework open in front of him while he made lunch.

“What did Mrs. Clifford mean about,” Levi started to ask, but then frowned. “Was it mean?”

“You know that I like boys, right? You’ve seen Theo around, and we do couple things like Grandma and Grandpa do.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, some people don’t think that people of the same sex should be able to do couple things together.”

“What’s a sex?” Levi asked, setting down his pencil.

“Well, it’s whether you’re a girl or a boy, or in-between, depending. It’s your private parts, what’s hidden by your bathing suit.”

“Oh,” he said.

Stiles cut the crust from the sandwiches he made for them, and set them aside to check on the soup.

“So she doesn’t like Theo?” Levi asked.

“Well, probably, but she doesn’t like the idea of me and Theo together more than she doesn’t like Theo as a person.”

“Why?”

“Some people just don’t understand. They don’t understand that not everyone falls into nice little boxes, you know? They don’t get that it’s okay to be different, that different isn’t bad or scary. It’s just, it’s not wrong.”

“Okay.”

Stiles didn’t expect that to be the end of the conversation. His son was voraciously curious, and often about things that Stiles wasn’t really okay with telling him about, or about things that Stiles didn’t have the answers to.

“Dad?” Levi asked quietly as Stiles ladled out two bowls of chicken noodle soup.

“What’s up, bud?”

“What did Mrs. Clifford mean when she called me a bag?”

Stiles cringed, carrying Levi’s sandwich plate and soup bowl over to the table.

“She didn’t call you a bag, Levi,” he said carefully. “What she said, I never want you repeating, okay? It was a very hurtful name.”

“Okay, Daddy. I won’t say it.”

Stiles kissed Levi’s forehead.

“Now, let’s talk about what happened before Mrs. Clifford. What happened?”

“Joshua wasn’t picking on me, well, not only me! I told May that she looked very pretty today and then Joshua told me that only girls are nice to girls and that I shouldn’t talk to May and if I did then I had to be a girl. I don’t get it, why would being a girl be a bad thing. Girls are just as cool as boys!”

Stiles sat at the table with his own food, and listened.

“It made May sad, and I didn’t like May being sad, so I told Joshua to knock it off, and he didn’t, he just said that I was sticking up for a girl who didn’t deserve it, and that it made me, well, I think he called me the bad word that you told me not to say, but that’s not why I hit him. He called May a bad word, too, I think, because Miss Tracey made a noise, and May started to cry, so I hit him. And I know I shouldn’t have, because you told me that I shouldn’t ever hit somebody, not ever, but he just, he just, he deserved it, Daddy!”

His little cheeks were red, the little moles and freckles he’d inherited from Stiles standing out against the color, and he had tears in his eyes.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Stiles said, scooting his chair towards Levi. “Look, buddy, I’m not mad for what you did. I’m proud of you for standing up to Joshua, but you can’t hit people, even if you think they deserve it. Next time, if Joshua or anybody else is mean to you, I want you to walk away, okay? Just walk away, and tell the teacher or Miss Tracey if they’re being mean. It’s not worth getting sent to Weatherby’s office.”

“Bu-”

“No buts, okay? Just don’t hit people.”

Levi sighed, and picked up his sandwich. He took an angry little bite from it and then grumbled out an okay. Stiles watched him while eating his own sandwich. He was an odd little kid sometimes, grumpy when there was nothing to be grumpy about and a ray of sunshine when nothing went their way. He once cried on their way to the park because he didn’t want to see the grass, and he once made up an entire song about the Jeep breaking down on their way to school. He was odd, but Stiles was glad he had him. He was glad he was raising a kid that stood up for himself and his friends, and understood that being a girl wasn’t equivalent to being weak and that there was nothing wrong with same sex couples. He would get shit from his parents when they found out that Levi had given Joshua Clifford a black eye.

You should teach Levi that hitting doesn’t solve anything, they would say. How could he be such a brute?

That brute was the light of Stiles’ life, little punching fists of fury and all.

Chapter Text

“Stiles,” Derek called, popping his head out of the bathroom as Stiles walked in early the next morning, the clock glowing 6:06. He’d drank a little too much wine at the celebration with his dad and Melissa, and had decided to stay until he sobered. Then, he’d fallen asleep on the couch, clutching an empty wine bottle like a favorite toy. He’d sent a text, full of misspellings, to Derek to warn him that he would be late, if he came home at all. “That you, babe?”

Nacho was curled up at the end of their couch, tail thumping against the cushion while he refused to get up to greet him.

“Yeah, I’m here.”

“How’d you sleep?”

“I have a crick in my neck and my breath smells like fermented grapes.”

“I think you also have a wine stain on your mouth.”

Stiles scratched behind Nacho’s ears as he passed by the couch on the way to Derek.

“Do you have a hangover?”

“No, but I don’t feel great.”

“That’s probably from sleeping on the couch.”

“Probably. Can I get a kiss?”

“Not with that breath,” Derek teased, even as he pulled Stiles in to kiss him. “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” Stiles muttered. “How was your night?”

“Peaceful. I got a lot of reading done since my roommate was out partying like crazy. And I cleaned the bathroom.”

“You’re my favorite,” Stiles cooed. “That roommate sounds like a bum, and you’re my favorite.”

“Mmm, he’s great in bed, though.”

“Well, at least he has some perks.”

Derek laughed and nuzzled his jaw.

“I love you,” he murmured. “I love you so much.”

“I can’t wait to be Mr. Hale,” Stiles replied. “Or Mr. Stilinski. Or, do you want to hyphen our names? Stilinski-Hale?”

“Stiles, we can worry about that later. Right now, I want to cuddle with my fiancé before we disappear to work.”

“Okay.”

They made steaming mugs of coffee that warmed their hands and climbed onto the couch together to drink them, resting against each other with Nacho trying to crawl up into their laps. It was nice, Stiles thought, even as brief as it was. This was his family, the loves of his life, and this is what his life was going to be. He couldn’t be happier. This is what he wanted every morning, to just sit with his to-be husband and their dog. It didn’t matter how much time he got to spend with them, because he would always get to come home to them. Soon, though, Stiles got up to shower, and brushed the coffee-wine breath from his teeth, and headed for work.

Midday, between his cases, Stiles sent Derek a text.

To: Hotter Hale

I’m gonna be late to dinner, gonna see my mom after work

 

From: Hotter Hale

Okay be safe

 

To: Hotter Hale

I will. I love you.

After work, Stiles packed up his bag with his case files, called a goodbye to his coworkers left in the office, and headed out. He stopped by the local flower shop where Derek worked to pick up his mother’s favorite flowers.

“Hey,” Derek said, as if he was surprised to see him. “I didn’t think you were stopping by.”

“I needed to pick up flowers.”

“Right. Sorry. It’s been busy as hell here.”

“Why? It’s not Valentine’s Day or anything.”

“A lot of people fucking up their relationships, probably,” Derek replied. “It’s also a good time for anniversaries, I think.”

“Yeah, I guess. Do you have those white-”

“I’ll get a vase together for you.”

“God, I love you.”

Derek smiled and went to gather flowers from the greenhouse. Stiles examined cards set up by the register, cards for all occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, apologies, congratulations, and condolences. He remembered getting bundles and bundles of flowers delivered to the house after his mom’s death, from people all over the country whose lives had been touched by Claudia, all offering their condolences for their loss, all offering their sympathies, like flowers were going to bring Stiles’ mom back.

“Well, hello stranger,” Derek’s boss, an older lady with a greying ponytail, said as she came from the greenhouse. She pulled the gardening gloves from her hands and tossed them near the register. “I have missed your pretty face.”

“Hey Dot.”

“Did you bring me some good news to snack on?”

He laughed.

“Did Derek tell you that he proposed?”

“No, he did not! Let me see the ring!”

Stiles offered his hand to her and she seized it like a starving man and a hamburger. She nearly dragged him over the counter to pull his hand to her.

“How precious.”

“Can you not precious all over my ring?”

She laughed and turned his hand to watch the light play on it.

“Oh, god,” Derek groaned, following Dot out of the greenhouse. “I was trying to avoid her knowing.”

“Please, pumpkin, you can’t keep anything from me.”

“It’s true. Dot sees all,” Stiles agreed, drawing his hand away from her slowly. Derek set the vase of flowers in front of Stiles with a sincere smile. “I don’t know how a man so scruffy and burly can put such beautiful arrangements together.”

“Well, that’s because you’re looking at it through a gendered scope, assuming that men can’t work with flowers because they’re men,” Dot said. “Stop doing that, and you’ll understand.”

Stiles loved Dot.

“How much?” he asked instead.

“On the house,” Dot said.

“No. That’s not how this works. You’re a small business, and you deserve much more than whatever you’re going to charge me. How much?”

Dot smiled but rung him up. He was pretty sure that Dot wasn’t charging him the full price, but it was something.

“I’ll see you later, okay?” Stiles said, looking at Derek as he picked up the vase. “I promise I won’t be too late.”

“Take all the time you need.”

“Okay, I love you.”

“Love you, too,” Derek said with a grin. He smiled in returned before moving to kiss Derek lightly on the cheek, and left after saying goodbye to Dot. He belted the vase of flowers into the passenger seat of his car, and headed for the cemetery. It had been awhile since he had been to see her.

Her headstone was beautiful, sleek marble with delicate letterings spelling out her name, birth and death date, and the script “Always loving; always loved.” There was small solar powered lights stuck in the ground in front of it, always illuminating the stone.

“Hey Mom,” Stiles said, setting the vase down beside the solar lights, and kneeling in front of the grave. “It’s been a while, and I know you know that, but I just, I’ve been so busy with work that I haven’t really thought about it. That’s shitty, but I think that’s what you’d want from me. To move on? To live my life? I don’t know, but I have been, living, moving on. That’s what people always tell you, that the people you’ve lost want you to be happy and live your blah blah blah, whatever. I bet that you would just want me to be here, to congratulate me and tell me how much you love me, and to spoil the fuck out of Nacho. God, you would love him. And Derek. But you would prefer Nacho, because he’s a dog and I know how you are.”

He laughed to himself, resting his head in his hands.

“Dogs are always better than people, right? We’re engaged, Derek and I. He asked me a few days ago, and I’ve told Dad, and Melissa. I should’ve come to you first. You’re who I’ve always wanted to tell first when things happen in my life. When Derek kissed me for the first time, I wanted to run into your room like I used to when I was little. I wanted to crawl into your bed and tell you how I met this boy, and while our lives haven’t been great, he’s been there through all of it. I wanted to tell you about kissing him, and the first time we slept in the same bed, and the first time that Nacho crawled into bed with us. I want to share everything with you, but life took you away from me.

“But it gave me Derek. It took everything away from him, too, but I like to think that it gave me to him for a reason. I just, I think you’d like him, Mom. He’s a good guy. The best I’ve ever imagined. I’ve gone over this with you again and again, but I just can’t get over how good life has been to me recently. You’d like him. There’s sunshine in his soul, I swear. And there’s entire galaxies in his eyes. Literal galaxies. And, I guess this is the best part for you, he’s a werewolf, so he’s half wolf, which is kind of like a dog.”

He laughed.

“He’d kick my ass from here to you if he ever heard me say that. He hates dog jokes.”

He reached out and touched her name.

“He made your mac and cheese. I’ve been trying for fifteen years, and I never managed it. But he did it, and he did it for me. He made your mac and cheese perfectly. If that’s not a sign of a good man, I don’t know what is, Mom.”

Chapter Text

The first time Stiles felt  it, he was pressed against a brick wall, Theo's mouth hot against his neck. They should stop doing this, Stiles thought, looking over Theo’s shoulder at the alley wall.  This is why Mrs. Clifford knew about them, because they were careless. But Stiles could always blame that on Theo who was more than a little voyeuristic.  

“How was your day, honey?” Stiles asked, voice reedy as Theo playfully bit at his ear.  

“Better,” Theo answered, “now that you’re here.”  

“You’re just saying that because I give you orgasms.”  

Theo hummed his agreement.  

“Can’t blame  me. You’re very good at it.”  

Stiles agreed, letting Theo drag his mouth over his neck. It was all heat with Theo, friction and panting, trying to get off as soon as possible. Theo was impatient, wanted what he wanted right then, and he was going to take it. He was also really good at sex, and Stiles wasn’t complaining.   

He tipped his head back against the wall and moaned, Theo’s hand slipping into his jeans with practiced precision. They’d been hooking up for three years, perfecting the way they moved with each other, the way their hips met, the way they pushed and pulled against one another. They didn’t have to think.  

They didn’t think.  

They were carefree together.  

Careless.  

“Stiles, stop thinking,” Theo mumbled into his throat.   

He almost apologized, but instead let out a moan for Theo’s benefit.   

It was easy.  

Too easy sometimes.  

But he let it happen, let Theo drop his pants in the alleyway, let Theo slide home inside of him, let the heat of their bodies overwhelm him. They were so good at this, Stiles almost forgot about the stress of the day, the stress of his life, the stress of everything around him. Sex was like that, a way to release the bundle of nerves inside of his chest that were knotted so tightly it made it hard to breathe.   

He kissed Theo, sloppy and needy. They didn’t normally do that, but he needed something to do with his body, pressed against the wall, pinned by Theo’s body.    

The name came to his tongue on a wave of pleasure.  

“Derek,” he whispered, almost too quiet for even him to hear, drowned in Theo’s breathy moans. It startled him,  the gentle memory of a man he’d never known, his kiss soft and loving as they came together. Tears welled in the corners of his eyes , and he tipped his head back so Theo wouldn’t see. He didn’t want that relentless teasing to follow him, nor did he want Theo boasting about how he made Stiles cry from how good his dick was, especially when it had nothing to do with him.  

This was entirely about a man that Stiles loved with all of his being, whose storm grey eyes made his heart beat faster.  A man that Stiles had never met.  

After, he pulled his pants up and stumbled out of the alley without a word, without waiting for  Theo, heading for his Jeep.  

Choose .”  

The voice was not his own as it echoed  in his head. He pushed it aside, ignoring it willfully as he pulled himself up into the Jeep. The sun was starting to set , lighting the sky with orange and pink fire. He had to get to his  parents' house to pick up Levi or else  his parents would flip. He didn’t have the energy to deal with some  mystery man rattling around in the back of his mind.  

“Choose,” he said with a mocking tone, rolling his eyes. “I really need to get  more sleep.”  

 


 

That morning,  Stiles  had  laid his son gently on the couch at his parents’ house, Levi still asleep from his nap after school. He  had  smiled  to himself , smoothed back Levi’s hair, and kissed him on his forehead.   

“I’ll pick him up before bedtime,” he  had  assured his father. “Thanks for this, Dad.”  

“Stiles, if you and he nee-”  

“It’s fine. We don’t need to come home. I’m managing. I’ll see you around.”  

Sti -”  

“I’ll see you around.”  

He  had  left his parents’ house, the sun still high in the sky. Levi had gotten out of school half day for parent-teacher conferences, which Stiles had to go to the next day, but Levi had been exhausted that he had fallen asleep on the ride home. He hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep, Stiles had noticed, and it had been nearly impossible to wake him up that morning.   

He  had  shut the door with a little more force than necessary on his way out, jogging to the Jeep, and peeling away, tires squealing.   

He loved his parents, but they were just so overbearing sometimes.  They didn’t think he was doing a good job taking care of himself and Levi, which might be true but it was his life, and his son’s life, to fuck up. He  wasn’t going to let them dictate how he lived, just because they meant well.   

His mother had been so disappointed in him when he had brought them home the knowledge that they were going to be grandparents when Stiles was still a teenager. She hadn’t said it out loud, not the way that his father had yelled, but it was there in the way she looked at him. They had been so close. She had almost died when he was young, and he latched onto her after. They had been best friends, but there was something that dropped between them like a wall between them.  

“Hello?” he called into his parent’s house.   

“In here,” his mother called back from the office. He followed her voice through his childhood home and into the office. Levi and Claudia were sitting at the desk, Levi in Claudia’s lap while they colored. “Levi and I were just bringing color to the Cars world.”  

“Oh, that’s exciting.”  

“Daddy!”  

Levi pushed off of Claudia’s lap, and ran around the desk to throw a hug into Stiles’ legs. He was almost too big to pick up but Stiles lifted his son up easily onto his hip to hug him.  

“Hey kid. How was your afternoon?”  

“Good! We had broccoli!”  

“Oh, that’s exciting.”  

“It was gross!”  

“That’s my boy,” he said, kissing Levi’s cheek. Lovingly, Levi leaned into Stiles’ touch. It warmed his heart that his son loved him, and wanted to see him too. “Missed you, kid.”  

“Missed you.”  

“I’m  gonna  take him home. I have tomorrow off for his parent teacher conference, so I don’t need to drop him off.”  

“Stiles-” Claudia started to say. He shook his head.  

“I’ll see you soon, Mom.”  

He didn’t want to hear it. He left with his son before he had to.  

Chapter Text

When Stiles woke up  in the small hours of  the next morning, Derek was snoring quietly beside him, and for once  since they had started spending the night together , he was glad.  But he couldn’t remember why. Nacho was half on his legs, Stiles’ toes starting to tingle with Nacho’s weight, drool soaking the sheets, and he was content in this little safe space they’d created. He poked Derek awake and kissed his fiancé before he was fully awake.  

“What’s that for?” he asked, his voice thick with sleep.  

“I’m just really happy and I can’t believe how incredibly lucky I am to have you, and all of this.”  

“Stiles, it’s,” Derek paused to squint at the glaring red alarm clock at his side table, “four in the morning. Can’t your love wait  at least  until the sun is up?”  

“My love is always awake.”  

“Gross.”  

Stiles peppered his face with kisses.  

“Love you, Hale.”  

“Love you, too.”  

Stiles snuggled back into Derek.  

“I actually had this really weird drea,. It was stunningly realistic. I was with Theo of all people, and we were hooking up in an alley.”  

Derek opened his eyes and a small growl rumbled in his chest.  

“You’re having sex dreams about  Theo  Raeken ?”  

“I mean, not intentionally. But it was so much more than just a sex dream. It was like a whole, I  dunno , other life? There was sex involved, but there was just something else about it. My mom was alive, and I didn’t even like her. Like, I loved her, but I resented her, and I had a son with Heather.”  

“Bubble baths when you were four Heather?”  

“The same one.”  

“But Theo Raeken?”  

“Fuck if I know, man. It was just so weird, and that wasn’t the weird part.”  

“It was just a dream,” Derek reminded him gently.  

“Hey,” Stiles said, turning to face him. “You’re my guy, okay? Just you. Only you.”  

“I know. Me too.”  

They kissed in the dark of their bedroom.   

“I’m sorry I dream-cheated.”  

Derek laughed, and the stress of that dream melt awy.  

“If Theo ever thinks about touching you, I will rip his throat out.”  

“My  hero .”  

 


 

Stiles had a feeling he was late for something all day, that he was missing something. He checked his calendar at work for any meetings he may be overlooking, but nothing was there.   

To The Absolute Worst Group Chat I’ve Ever Been In  

Did I have plans with any of you fuckers?  

 

To:  The Absolute Worst Group Chat I’ve Ever Been In  

I absolutely cannot remember  

 

From: Lydia, The Absolute Worst Group Chat I’ve Ever Been In  

No  

 

From: Scotty, The Absolute Worst Group Chat I’ve Ever Been In  

Not me  

 

From: Cora,  The Absolute Worst Group Chat I’ve Ever Been In  

Nope  

 

From: Isaac, The Absolute Worst Group Chat I’ve Ever Been In  

Why would we have plans?  

 

From: Derek, The Absolute Worst Group Chat I’ve Ever Been In  

No  

 

To:  The Absolute Worst Group Chat I’ve Ever Been In  

I’m  gonna  check myself into Eichen House, I don’t know what I’m thinking  

 

To: The Absolute Worst Group Chat I’ve Ever Been In  

Too soon?  

 

From: Lydia, The Absolute Worst Group Chat I’ve Ever Been In  

Yeah, Stiles. Too soon.  

 

On his lunch break, he got in his car and drove to grab lunch from the café near the flower shop where Derek worked. He turned on the radio to the local news channel, and drove on autopilot, drumming his fingers against the wheel.   

“-Third murder in as many weeks, Tom. It seems like the Sheriff’s department is out of its depth here. The crime rate has been so low in the recent decades that it’s not a hard leap to make to say that the Sheriff’s department has become complacent. The killer has been taunting the Sheriff with messages left at the crime scene, but after three murders, the Sheriff still hasn’t managed to find a clue to who is committing these heinous crimes. In recent years, the Sheriff and his deputies have grown fat and useless in their comfort. If they were-”  

He slapped the radio dial to turn the news report off.  

Stiles hadn’t heard anything about a serial murderer, not from his father nor from the scanner he’d installed in the new car to keep track of those kinds of developments. If there was a new threat, he wanted to be prepared.  

He pulled up out front of the primary school, and parked.  

“What?” he said out loud, halfway through climbing out. “What the fuck?”  

Without thinking, he immediately dialed Lydia, because if anyone would understand, it was her.  

“Stiles, I’m in the middle of lecture,” she said in lieu of a greeting.  

“What did it feel like? When you were first discovering your abilities”  

“Terrifying. Confusing.”  

“Specifically when you’d get in the car and then get out to find a body.”  

“Did something happen? Did you  find  a dead body?”  

“Not exactly. But-”  

“What do you mean,  not exactly ? It’s a yes or a no question.”  

“No, I didn’t find a dead body. But I got in my car and then showed up at the elementary school.”  

“Okay?”  

“I was trying to go to the café.”  

“Stiles, it’s not the same thing. You drove on auto pilot. I was pulled towards the dead.”  

“It’s just really strange. I had this dream where I had a son in elementary school, and his parent-teacher conferences were today, and then, I get in my car to get coffee and end up driving to the elementary school? It seems too coincidental to me.”  

“Stiles, get some sleep. You’re hallucinating.”  

“Lydia, I’m not.”  

“Babe, I  gotta  go, but go talk to your boyfriend. Maybe he can make you feel better.”  

“Lydia-”  

“I gotta go!”  

She hung up, and Stiles was left staring up at the school, his heart aching for no reason.  

 


 

He didn’t tell Derek. He kept it to himself.   

Chapter Text

Levi woke him up incredibly early the next morning by noisily crawling onto the pull-out couch with him. 

“Daddy?” 

“Yeah? What’s-” 

“I don’t have school today!” 

“I know that, bud.” 

“Can we go to the park?” 

“It’s 5 in the morning, Levi,” Stiles grumbled into his pillow. 

“Well, not now!” Levi scoffed, as if he couldn’t believe his father would be so dumb. “Obviously.” 

Stiles had his eyes closed but he still could see the roll of Levi’s eyes. It was stunning how similar he was to Heather, how this small human being was growing up to be his own person with his own snark. This was payback, he assumed, for all of the times that he had mouthed off and misbehaved to his parents growing up. He had been a hyperactive little bastard and this was the universe's cruel joke. 

Joke’s on the universe, he thought, he loved Levi so much that even if he di everything Stiles had done, he’d never be sick of him. 

Stiles rolled over and pulled his son into his arms, pressing a kiss into his messy hair. Levi didn’t squirm out of his embrace, but instead snuggled back into him. 

“Yeah, after your parent-teacher conference, we’ll go wherever you want, Lee.” 

Levi hummed and balled Stiles' sleep shirt in his little fist. Stiles fell back asleep shortly after, listening to Levi’s quiet, even breathing. 

 

 


 

He dreamt of fathomless eyes, the sea after the storm crashing, shifting green and blue. He longed to see the face attached to those eyes, know the man behind the sadness swirling in the ever-changing irises. 

Reaching out towards the eyes was useless, and when he woke, he was shaking, his body soaked in cold sweat. Levi was watching cartoons by his feet, seemingly not bothered, munching on dry Cheerios straight out of the box. 

“What time is it, bud?” Stiles croaked out, his mouth and throat dry. Levi paused to look at the digital alarm on the entertainment stand. 

“7:58.” 

“Good job, Lee. You’re getting so good at that!” 

“What time is the thing?” Levi asked. 

“9:30. Do you know how much time is between now and then?” 

Levi paused and seemed to do the math in his head. 

“One and a half hours.” 

“That’s right. Good job!” 

“Can we get bagels?” Levi asked quietly, almost too afraid to ask. He wasn’t a dumb kid, he knew that Stiles struggled with finances despite the effort Stiles put into hiding it. “I’m hungry.” 

Stiles gave a pointed look at the box of Cheerios that Levi still had his hand buried inside. 

“This don’t count,” Levi said. 

“Doesn’t,” Stiles corrected. 

“This is just a snack.” 

“You sound like Grandpa.” 

“Grandpa said that I need all of the snacks I can eat because, because I’m a growing boy!” 

“And because he can cheat on his diet if he shares with you.” 

Levi looked at him, eyebrows furrowed.  

“Don’t worry about it. We can get bagels on the way to the conference.” 

Levi cheered and shoved another handful of Cheerios into his mouth. Stiles stood and stretched, his back realigning in a series of snaps and pops. He groaned, suddenly feeling the age in his bones, the stress in his joints.  

“Behave while I shower, Lee,” he said, heading towards their bathroom, grabbing his towel off the back of their kitchen chair. “Don’t hurt yourself or break anything.” 

He left the door open a crack while he showered, listening for any signs of trouble outside, but the shower passed without incident. It felt good, though, the warm spray loosening his muscles, relieving the ache in his body. He never wanted to leave the comfort of the water, but he finished rinsing himself and stepped out, wrapping the towel around his waist.  

“Time check,” he called, running a comb through his wild, too long hair. 

“8:35!” Levi answered. 

“Better get dressed, then,” he said, scrubbing a hand towel over his hair to dry it a little. “Don’t want to be late.” 

Stiles could hear Levi groaning and leaving the living room with stamping feet. He took a deep breath, staring up towards the heavens. 

“Heather, give me the strength not to throw your son into the Pacific Ocean.” 

Heather never responded, but he hadn’t done it yet. That was a win in his book. 

And in the eyes of Child Protective Services. 

There was a crash from outside the bathroom, a smashing of glass and a yelp. Stiles took a moment to listen to his son, the way that he started worrying quietly, muttering little no’s.  

“What happened?” Stiles asked, stepping out of the bathroom.  

“Nothing!” 

Levi was crouched over a shattered figurine, a porcelain fox that Heather had gotten as a gift from her grandmother while she was pregnant. Tears were gathered in the corner of Levi’s golden-brown eyes.  

“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” Stiles said, kneeling down and catching Levi’s hands as he tried to hold all the pieces at once. There were small nicks into the soft flesh of his little hands, starting to well with blood. Stiles took Levi’s hands, and shook the porcelain into his own. “It’s just a thing.” 

“I broke it! It was Mommy’s!” 

“That’s okay, Levi. It’s just a thing. It can be replaced.” 

“But it’s Mommy’s! You can’t replace this!” 

Stiles sat down and bundled Levi into his arms, holding him against his chest as Levi started to cry. His heart tugged, the grief in his son echoing his own. A flash of the hospital room where Claudia died came to his mind, her hand going slack in his, her last moment filled with confusion and pain. She wasted away, practically bones in her hospital bed. 

The moment startled Stiles. 

Claudia was alive.  

He had seen her the day before, holding his son in her lap, laughing and carefree. She wasn’t sick. She hadn’t ever been sick. She was alive. It startled him, but he kept himself focused on Levi and his grief, the quiet shake of his body against Stiles.  

“Oh, Lee. Oh, buddy. Mommy isn’t in things. Mommy is here with you, wherever you are, whenever you think of her. She’s looking after you, and she loves you very much.” 

“But-”  

He hiccupped and didn’t continue. 

“Tonight, we’ll go to her favorite place, and we’ll tell her everything that you’ve been learning, and I’ll tell you about her. How does that sound? That way you can feel closer to her, feel her presence.” 

Levi had been so young when Heather had died, barely walking. He didn’t have any memories of her, and Stiles tried to fill Levi’s life with stories of Heather, to make her feel real to him. It ached in his gut, deep rooted grief of his own, but he told Levi everything he wanted to know.  

“Okay,” Levi said, his voice sad, thick with his tears. “Do you think that she knows?” 

“Knows what?” 

“How much I love her?” 

“Oh, bubba. Of course, she does.  Of course , she does. She knows that you love her, and how deep your love goes, and when you think of her.” 

Levi burst into tears again. 

“I have to think of her all the time so she knows! I can’t do anything else!” 

“No, no, it’s okay.” 

Stiles was out of his depth, floundering for the right thing to say. He remembered in another flash his father pulling him away from his mother’s coffin at the funeral, reminding him that they were still together, that with everything they had lost, they still had each other.  

“Bub, look at me.” 

Levi sat back and looked at Stiles, tears dripping down his ruddy cheeks. 

“Mommy knows what’s in your heart. She knows that even when you’re not thinking of her, you love her. She knows that you have to live your life, and go about your day, but in the small moments before sleep, when you first wake up, when you see her photo, when you see her in your own reflection, that’s when she’s closest. That’s when you take a moment, remember Mommy, feel her love for you, and send your love to her. That’s Mommy’s time, okay? Even if everything Mommy owned broke all at once, she is still with you.” 

He kissed the palm of Levi’s hand.  

“She is always with you. You were her most prized possession. As long as you are safe, Mommy lives on.” 

 

 


 

The parent-teacher conference went fairly well. Stiles left Levi with the teacher’s aide watching kids on the playground, tears dried and belly full of a chocolate chip bagel and half of Stiles’ French toast bagel. Tears and grief apparently made Levi ravenous. It left Stiles shaky and unable to eat. 

The teacher, an older lady that Stiles had always known as Mrs. Mack, thought that Levi could use with a little more structure to his life, a set schedule, a firmer hand. Stiles tried to explain that he was a single parent working two unpredictable jobs, but the teacher waived him off as if that did not affect anything. She raved about Levi’s intelligence, his quick wit, his ability to solve problems, but it all came back to what Stiles had heard his entire life: he was hyperactive and had an inability to focus, which caused problems in class. He disrupted his fellow students, he was always talking, and wasn’t capable of sitting still. It concerned Mrs. Mack, and she insisted that he be monitored and possibly medicated if it continued. Stiles nodded, and willed his eyes to stay still, instead of rolling at the implication that something was wrong with Levi. His teachers growing up had treated him as if he were a problem, as if there was something broken in his brain. They hadn’t tried to understand him, understand the way his mind worked. They had shoved Ritalin and Adderall at him, practically forcing it down his throat in order to make him palatable.  

He would not do that to his son.  

“Thank you,” he said politely, rising and taking the folder of Levi’s projects with him. “I’ll think about what you said and I’ll let you know if I feel we need to follow up.” 

Mrs. Mack narrowed her eyes, but remained quiet. 

He collected Levi from the playground, dirt smudged into the knees of his jeans, the palms of his hands, bandaged up from that morning, dirty. There was even, somehow, mud spiking the front of his brown hair up. 

“How did you- I was- What happened?” 

Levi shrugged and gestured to the playground as if to tell him, “what happens on the playground stays on the playground, Dad.” 

“Come on. Let’s go to the park.” 

Levi cheered and raced to the Jeep ahead of him. He watched, wondering again if this is what his mother and father had felt, pride and concern warring inside their chests, like they couldn’t possibly protect him from the world, like the world was trying to fix something that wasn’t broken in him and they were helpless to stop it. Claudia’s face flashed in his mind again, on her last lucid day, sitting with him in the hospital, telling him to be a good boy, to be smart, to never stop being her good boy.  

Stiles swiped the unexpected tears from his eyes, climbing into the Jeep after Levi. 

His mother wasn’t dead. She was alive. She was healthy. Claudia had never been sick. This was real, and whatever he was thinking, that imaginary place where his mother had died, that wasn’t.  

But god, it felt so real, he couldn’t convince himself all the way that it hadn’t happened. 

Chapter Text

He was groggy when he woke up the next day, his face smashed in his pillow, drool smeared on his cheek. There was a moment where he wasn’t sure where he was, his mind hazy. He listened; the soft sleepy breaths of a body next to his almost lulled him back to sleep. He waited for the telltale sound of Levi waking, but nothing came. He turned over and found Derek’s slack expression staring back at him. The thought slipped from Stiles’ mind, and he pushed himself off the bed, looking at the alarm clock. He had to get ready for work, even though it felt like he hadn’t slept at all.   

Pressing a kiss into Derek’s temple, he stood and headed to the bathroom to shower. He couldn’t shake the feeling like he was missing something, that there was something that should be there but wasn’t. He had felt a familial tug when he woke up, but as he fully came to consciousness, it disappeared, turning to smoke in his mind.   

Ephemeral, that was the word for it.   

“Trying to sneak out on me?” Derek’s sleepy voice came just as the shower curtain slid open enough for Derek to step in with him. He pressed a kiss into Stiles’ shoulder, his body pressing along the line of Stiles’ back.   

“Never. Thought I’d get a head-start on you.”  

“Enjoy yourself?”  

“Much better now that you’re here.”  

Derek nipped the lobe of Stiles’ ear. He leaned back into his fiancé, unable to help himself from soaking in the comfort. It was still hard to believe that in the past 7 years Stiles had gone from hating and suspecting Derek to trusting and  loving  him. Pain, panic, fear of death, possession, it all changed how Stiles viewed his peers. He didn’t trust everyone, but Derek had saved his life more times that he could count.   

“Did you sleep well?”  

“Not really. Had a really weird dream.”  

“Call into work. Stay home with me.”  

“You know I can’t.”  

“I know you can’t.”  

“But tonight, we’re  gonna  nap for a several hours. Maybe eight. Maybe until the sun rises tomorrow morning.”  

“I think, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s just called sleeping.”  

Stiles shrugged.   

“Tomato, potato.”  

“That’s not – you know what? I love you.”  

Stiles tipped his head all the way back and Derek kissed him upside down.   

“Mmm, I’ve always wanted a proper Spiderman kiss.”  

“Maybe at our wedding, I’ll have Chris set up one of those traps that suspends you from a tree or something.”  

“You’re going to invite Chris to our wedding?”  

“Yeah. He’s saved our lives multiple times.”  

“I know that. I just sometimes forget how much we’ve all changed and grown, you know? You work at a flower shop, Scott’s a veterinarian in training, Lydia has several awards.”  

You’re  interning at the Sheriff’s station while finishing your graduate degree.”  

“Everything is so different. We’re adults. We all trust each other. Except for Theo because fuck  that  guy.”  

“But, yes, I am inviting Chris to our wedding.”  

“Cool, cool, cool. Tell him not to bring any guns.”  

“I don’t think he carries guns on him all the time, you know.”  

“I would not be so certain about that. I’ve seen where he can hide guns. It’s impressive. And terrifying. Like, I respect Chris Argent just for how bad ass Allison was, but I’ve seen that man do some shit that I didn’t even think was possible. And he’s my dad’s age! If my dad tried that shit, he’d probably break himself in half.”  

“I’m sure your father would disagree.”  

Stiles turned in Derek’s arms and rested his forehead against Derek’s. He loved how even they were. When they had met, Stiles was scrawny and shorter than Derek, but during his last growth spurt, had filled out so they looked each other in the eyes perfectly.   

“I still worry about him. It’s been years since the last bad guy attack, but that doesn’t eliminate the worry of normal bad guys. People still are capable of evil without supernatural powers. The  Nemeton  going dormant doesn’t stop normal human behavior. And he’s out there every day, risking his life for this county.”  

Derek held him and murmured sweet comforts into his wet skin.   

“Luckily,” Derek said finally, carding a hand through Stiles’ hair, “all of his deputies would burn down the world to keep him safe.”  

“Yeah, I know the feeling.”  

“Besides, once  you graduate, you’ll  be able to join the Sheriff Protection Department.”  

Stiles laughed, the sound unexpectedly bubbling up out of him.  

“Do you think I get a special badge for being his original protector? Like,  #1  Son   or something.”  

“Sure.”  

They fell quiet, just the pattering of the water against their skin  audible over the whir of the  overhead fan.  

“Hey,”  Stiles said. “I’m lucky to have you. I should say it more often because life could have been so much different.”  

A small  child's face with his eyes flashed before him, his back aching from the lumpy pull out couch he slept on, the strained relationship with his parents squeezing his heart. He remembered vaguely the call telling him that she had been  in a terrible accident on her way home from work, leaving him with a seven-month-old and a life he couldn’t afford on his coffee shop salary.  

He came back to Derek with a shake of his head.  

I’m glad we’re both alive.”  

Derek smiled and kissed him, and that other life melted away. Ephemeral.  

 

 


 

“Stiles,” his father poked at him, jostling him awake at his desk. “That’s the third time you’ve dozed off in an hour. Go home.”  

“I’m fine. I just need some coffee, I guess.”  

“You don’t even like coffee,” the Sheriff said.   

“I could do with some today.”  

He pulled up a chair from the nearby desk, empty while Leroy and  Vanders  were on patrol, and leaned towards him.  

‘You okay? Everything going good at home?”  

“Yeah, I’m deliriously happy,” he said, wiggling his ring finger at his father with a smile. “I just didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, I guess. It almost felt, I don’t know, like I didn’t sleep at all.”  

“If I tell you to go home, will you?”  

“Probably not.”  

He sighed heavily.   

“Stiles, if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re useless to me as a deputy.”  

“I’m not a deputy. I am an intern.”  

“Same thing,” his father said with a cheeky smile. “You’re just as important to the station.”  

“No,” Stiles said. “I’m not, but thanks for trying to make me feel included, Pops. Greatly appreciated.”  

“One last time, go home.”  

“I’ll be fine. Go do work.”  

The Sheriff pushed his borrowed chair back to the desk as he stood, rolling his shoulders and his eyes simultaneously.  

“If you change your mind, door is open.”  

“Yeah, yeah, and if it wasn’t, I know where your spare key is.”  

“Stiles. You’re inside the station.”  

“Using a key is not illegal.”  

The Sheriff left without another word, shaking his head. Stiles went back to his computer screen, scratching down a new figure to add to his study. He had been tracking crime statistics in Beacon County following new initiatives to find what was actually effective and creating change in their community based on facts and data points. It was a part of his Master’s thesis, and he found it actually interesting. He had tried to explain it to most of his friends, only Derek and Lydia had really understood and sounded interested.   

Later, Jordan Parrish walked past and set an iced coffee on his desk.  

“You’re making me tired just looking at you.”  

“I don’t drink coffee.”  

“Drink the coffee, Stiles, or I’m driving you home in the back of the patrol car.”  

Stiles drank the coffee. It was creamy and sweet with the hint of chocolate and bitter coffee. It didn’t really touch the exhaustion in his soul, but he hoped the sugar would just push him to 5 o’clock without incident. Stiles went through the day without noticing the time, autopiloting himself through the data collection. He clocked out when he was supposed to, called out a goodbye to his father without knowing if he was in the office, and headed for his car to go to class.  

From: Hotter Hale  

Going to the preserve for a run, will probably be back before  you’re  home  

 

To: Hotter Hale  

Drive safe  

Chapter Text

Levi was too quiet the next morning, sleeping in peacefully in his room, surrounded by his stuffed animals. Because Levi wasn’t climbing on him at the crack of dawn, Stiles slept heavily. He hadn’t slept well in weeks, it felt like, and he allowed himself to sink deeper into the sleep that finally found him.   

He woke up at noon, Levi’s face slack and  smushed  against Stiles’ pillow before him. Stiles took a moment to look at his son, how he was growing up right before his eyes. There were more edges to his face, the baby fat melting away as he grew. Stiles would never forget how small he had been, about the size of a large potato, but it was hard to believe how that large potato was now a fully formed being.  

Then, Stiles’ eyes found his phone buzzing on the side table, the screen filled with notifications.   

“Fuck!”  

Tha’s  a bad  wor ’,” Levi mumbled.   

"Yeah, and you shouldn't repeat it until you're one hundred."

Stiles flung himself out of bed and headed for the bathroom. He grabbed his phone on the way and scraped up a uniform from his pile of laundry, dialing the bakery where he was supposed to be at four hours before.  

“Wide Awake Coffee Shop,” his manager, James answered, his voice grumpy.  

“James! It’s Stiles!”  

“Jesus Christ, Stilinski, we thought you were dead or that Levi was hurt! What happened!”  

“I slept in?”  

“Stilinski.”  

“Is it too late to make it to work?”  

“I’ll give you this one pass. We got your shift covered. Don’t do it again.”  

“Are you sure?”  

“Don’t do it again, Stiles, or I will have to let you go.”  

“It won’t happen,” he promised.  

“Good. I have to go.”  

He hung up without another word. Stiles stopped and leaned over the couch, dropping his uniform back into the wash.   

“You want some breakfast, Lee?”  

“Yeah,” he said, sitting up, his eyes bleary still.   

“You feeling alright, bub?”  

“I’m just really sleepy.”  

He checked his phone just as a tapping came at his door.  

“Stiles! Open up!”  

“Come in, Dad,” Stiles called.  There was the sound of keys in the lock and then the  door opened and the Sheriff stepped in, dressed in his full uniform with his service pistol strapped to his hip. “We’re alright. We slept in.”  

“Your mom called saying that you didn’t drop Levi off with her this morning, and she checked with your manager and you weren’t there either, so she was worried.”  

“Yeah, yeah, we’re all fine. Levi is feeling sleepy this morning so didn’t wake me up when I slept past my alarm.”  

He shrugged.  

“We were just  gonna  make breakfast!” Levi said, curling up on the couch with Stiles’ comforter.   

“Shouldn’t you be getting to work?”   

“James covered my shift when I didn’t show up so I have the morning off.”  

The Sheriff sank into  chair  at the kitchen table  and gestured Levi over to him. Levi sleepily stumbled over to his grandfather, comforter dragging behind him and he climbed up into the Sheriff’s lap. Stiles started breakfast automatically, scrambling eggs and toasting bread, while watching his family together. The Sheriff spoke softly to Levi, too soft for Stiles to hear, but he watched them anyway. Levi tipped his head back and showed the Sheriff where he’d fallen on the playground and scraped up the underside of his chin, and the Sheriff showed Levi a scar on his forearm from where a bullet had grazed him on patrol years and years before.   

“Shouldn’t you be getting back to work?” Stiles asked, suddenly aware of his father in his small home.   

“They’ll let me know if they need me.”  

“Anything exciting happen in town recently?”  

“Well,” he started to say but paused, looking down at the five-year-old cuddled up against him. “Let’s just say, there was a break in behind the tavern, a series of  bad  break ins, actually, with some victims that didn’t make it to dinner.”  

The radio news segment he heard the other day came back to him, sitting in his car listen to the anchor tear apart his father and his deputies.   

“Oh! Any leads on the breaker-inner?”  

“No, they seem to be slippery.”  

Stiles nodded.  

“Heard somewhere that they’re leaving crumbs,” Stiles said.  

“Yeah, it’s getting real annoying.”  

He had his arms wrapped around Levi, his chin resting on top of Levi’s head. Stiles looked more like Claudia than he did John and Levi looked like Stiles, but somehow, Levi still had strong Stilinski features. John Stilinski, Sheriff of Beacon County, carrying a gun and a badge showing that he was in charge, wrapped himself around his grandson and melted.  

Stiles’ heart ached. He missed that. He missed his father’s hugs, his closeness, the touch and warmth of his family. The space pushing them apart was too large to leap across, the depths below too daunting to brave. Stiles could still feel the disappointment John carried in his chest, palpable and unavoidable, even though John adored Levi.   

There had been a bright future ahead of Stiles. He was going to get a degree, he hadn’t decided what yet, but he was going to join his father as a deputy. Or maybe he would have changed his mind and found a different path, but he would have had a degree. He could have done anything, but instead he had a five-year-old, a coffee   shop and a grocery store job, and he was unhappy every day.  

It was something he carried with him, too.   

“Something bothering you, kid?” his father asked as Stiles hurriedly scrape burning scrambled eggs from the pan. “You seem distracted.”  

“Just tired.”  

“You sure?”  

This is the part where Stiles could tell his father that he felt, a little, like he was losing his mind. He wanted to tell him that he felt like he was missing a piece of himself, but it wasn’t Heather-shaped. It was vague, a missing limb that he kept reaching for, waiting for it to hurt or tingle, waiting for it just appear before him.  It wasn’t just the man behind the eyes, though. It was a warm glow around him, around their friends and family, like a bond forged in fire holding them up, holding them together.  He wanted to tell the Sheriff that  he was so glad that they were here and alive together despite everything that had tried to kill them. He didn’t know where these feelings came from, somewhere deep inside of him, somewhere buried and raw.   

He kept his mouth shut and dished the helpings of breakfast out onto each individual plate.  

“I’m fine.”  

That was the end of their conversation.  

 


 

Stiles had two friends growing up, Heather and Scott.  When they graduated high school, Scott and Stiles promised they would never grow apart. Nothing would break up  ScottandStiles . They were best friends, brothers even. Nothing would damage their friendship.  

They had been wrong.  

The last time Stiles had seen Scott was at Levi’s fourth birthday party. It wasn’t that they had stopped being friends, but Scott was becoming a veterinarian, fallen in love with the practice of healing and caring for animals while working with Deaton in high school, and Stiles was a single parent. They texted each other a couple times a week, and shared memes to each other’s Facebook walls. It wasn’t the same, but it was something.   

He still knew Scott’s curved jawline and dopey smile even after all this time, and he recognized his best friend in front of the storefront at the grocery store.  The store was empty save for himself and Greta in the back room sorting stock , so he rounded his register and met Scott in the entrance, grabbing each other simultaneously for a tight,  settling hug. Stiles could not even begin to express how much he had missed  this, the affirmation of a best friend's presence after feeling lost and alone,  words escaping  him. He  buried his head into Scott’s shoulder and sighed.  

“Missed you, man,” he mumbled, suddenly tired even on his high.  

“Yeah, me too, man.”  

“Come on over, let’s talk.”  

Stiles led  Scott over to his register and they pulled themselves up onto the counter beside each other.  

It’s been too long. How’s life? How’s the degree?”  

“I finished up my bachelor’s and I’m  starting my grad work this  fall.  Deaton even said he has room for me as  a full vet and that he’s willing to  expand  to give me my own  exam room in the practice.”  

Stiles grinned at  him, genuinely pleased for him and the progress he’d made.   

“And how’s your love  life?”  

“I actually met someone.  Someone not Allison or Isaac.”  

“Oh! Spill the beans!”  

“Her name is Kira, she’s amazing. You’d love her.”  

Greta came out of the back room, then, a grimace on her face. Greta was an older woman, about his parents' age, and had worked at the store almost as long as it had been in town. She never  did anything but grimace, truth be told, but Stiles could tell by now that that was her Things Are Bad face.  

“Get your friend out of here and put a sign up on the door that we’re closed for the day. Then call  the Tanners.”  

The Tanners were the old couple that owned the store, and Stiles had only met them a handful of times since he got hired.  

The Tanners got called when Things Went Wrong.  

“Come by my apartment for dinner tonight and see Levi. He’s so big, you won’t believe it.”  

Scott agreed and headed out of the store. Stiles took a deep breath and started to make up a sign for the front door.  

 

 


 

“So, what even happened?” Scott asked at dinner, Levi attached to his side. They were sharing a chair, Scott shoved to the edge while Levi took up most of the chair. Levi didn’t want to let Uncle Scott  go.  Stiles couldn’t blame his son for it, as he felt the same. Scott felt like a constant, an anchor, holding his world in place. He hadn’t slept well in what seemed like weeks and when he did dream, some mystery man came to him like a  spect er  haunting him. But Scott was there no matter what, a safe space for when Stiles felt at his lowest. Even when Scott was miles away, when Stiles truly needed him, he was always on the other side of FaceTime with a crooked grin and a reassuring, “you’re doing great.”  

“A pipe burst destroying half of the dry stock and waterlogging the fruit and vegetables.  So, we had to haul a lot of stock out to the dumpster while the plumber fixed the pipe. It was kind of terrible, especially because the Tanners were so angry the entire time and it was at Greta and I, even though it really wasn’t our fault. We're gonna be closed for the next couple days while new stock is ordered and the store is cleaned up. They're not happy."

“That’s fucking dumb,” Scott said and then looked at Levi with a scowl, “don’t repeat that.”  

“Fuck,” Levi said defiantly. Scott looked at Stiles with wide, puppy dog eyes.  

“He does that. He didn’t learn that from you, Scotty, relax. Levi, don’t say that word. You have to earn that word.”  

“When can I say it?” Levi asked.  

“When you’re 16 and have a job.”  

Levi scowled.  

“Dumb.”  

“You’re on thin ice,” Stiles said, keeping eye contact with Levi. “Don’t test me, boy.”  

He rolled his eyes, unaffected.  

“I’m not kidding. You misbehave one more time, I’m  gonna  dangle you from a window.”  

Levi rolled his eyes harder, even turning his lips down to show his displeasure at Stiles’ attitude. Stiles was used to this expression; it was a very common expression in their house.   

“I love you guys,” Scott said, looking between the two of them.   

“It’s so good to have you here, Scott,” Stiles said, turning his attention back to his best friend. “It’s been way too long. I felt for a little bit there that I was losing my mind, but there’s something about you being around that just settles me. I don’t know, maybe it’s dumb. Maybe I’m putting too much on you, but I missed you a lot. You know, we were together for so long and then we were apart and I think I was just had withdrawal symptoms.”  

Scott laughed.  

“No, I know what you mean. I felt it, too.”  

“I’ve been off-kilter for a couple of weeks, I guess. I know we’ve been separated for a while, so I’m not sure why it happened recently, but I couldn’t sleep, and I’ve been hearing voices, I guess, and even when I’m with Theo, I’m thinking of other people.”  

Scott’s eyebrows shot up.  

“Oh. That’s,” he said, looking at Levi who wasn’t paying attention now that they weren’t talking about curses or any of his main interests. “Uhm. Weird.”  

“Levi, you’re excused,” Stiles said, Levi’s plate cleared as much as it was going to. Levi stood and without pause, dashed to his room. “Okay, I just need to talk to  someone  about this, because like I said, I’ve been going  crazy , Scott. So, I’m still with Theo, don’t even look at me like that, I know you don’t like him, but he’s good in more than just bed. Anyway, when I’m with Theo, I get this heart-ache, like I’m heart sick for someone I’ve never really met. He’s perfect, though, whoever this fucker is, you know? I miss him?”  

“That’s not normal.”  

“I know! I haven’t been sleeping, and I keep thinking of this guy. Maybe I’ve passed him, or I knew him in high school. He’s constantly on my mind. I want him near, and when I close my eyes, I can almost see him.”  

“Stiles, that’s not okay,” Scott said softly. “I think you should see a therapist.”  

“I don’t have health insurance or time for that. Plus, I think I just need a good night’s sleep. I don’t know. It doesn’t feel like it’s real, but also, not like it’s not real either.”  

Scott took a beat to plot out Stiles’ sentence before replying.  

“I don’t want you to end up in Eichen, that’s all. I’d be careful who you mention this to.”   

Stiles smiled.  

“No, I guess you’re right. I just miss you. It’ll be better now that you’re here.”  

“Yeah, man. Of course. I’m here for you, and Levi. You need anything, I’m here, bud. I’m not gonna let you lose your mind.”  

Chapter Text

The voice was loud that day,  chattering incessantly behind his thoughts.  He tried to keep them at  bay, focusing on  his work before him.  They came and went like the  tide.  

He didn’t say anything to anyone but  it reminded him more and more of-  

He didn’t want to say it to himself.  

The whispering,  the  edginess, jumping at loud noises , inability to concentrate , and the overwhelming  urge  to  give in to the voices to  stop them.  

To slip into the Void again.  

He took break an hour early, tucked himself away  in the handicapped  bathroom stall,  sinking to the floor in the corner,  and quietly cried to himself. Trying to keep his breathing steady and hopefully stop himself from slipping into a panic attack, he pictured Derek’s smile first thing in the morning, the weight of Nacho asleep on his legs, the sound of the pack laughing in the woods. He counted all the things he’s grateful for, all the times he’s scraped by alive with his friends at his side. He counted all of the kisses he’s shared with Derek, starting with the first rushed one years ago, before they were engaged, before they lived together, before they even really liked each other. That desperate kiss, Stiles holding Derek’s jaw, the blood on his hands smearing across Derek’s skin before they had parted and went their separate ways, Stiles after Lydia’s screams and Derek after Scott’s howls, had played in Stiles' mind on repeat. He had doubted it, had wondered at what it meant, if Derek actually felt the same way, if it had been just a heat of the moment gesture of  don’t die .  

He counted the times Derek said I love you when Stiles finally confronted him about the kiss.   

He counted the times  Stiles  kissed him in the quiet  of the empty loft,  breathing in Derek’s  scent.   

His breathing evened out, the  voice shrinking  away  for the moment. With unsteady hands,  he took out his cell phone and  dialed Derek.  

Stiles?”  he answered. Stiles never called early in the day. Sometimes, when he was  full  of energy and needed to blow off some steam from his  desk job, he’d call  Derek and hit on him until he agreed to meet at lunch for a quickie. Never before  10 AM, though. “You okay?”  

“I’m having a rough day,” Stiles answered with a crack in his voice. “I needed to hear   your voice.”  

“Well, you called the right  number. What would you like me to talk about? The wedding venue that an old lady  regular,  Dorys , told me about because the whole world knows that we’re engaged? She had pictures.  Kept talking about how we could have her tailor our suits and she’d be delighted to give  your  father  a discount for keeping the town safe.”  

Stiles laughed. The Sheriff had a fan club of older women batting their eyes at him , asking him for assistance, calling him for simple tasks since their husbands died or left.   

“Or, do you want me to tell you about how I  love you, and I’m proud of you, and when you get home tonight, I’ll show you how much I mean it?”  

“In graphic detail,” Stiles sighed.   

Well, I’d start with kissing you all over,” Derek said, his voice a sigh. Stiles smiled, listening to Derek’s voice hushed in the quiet of the bathroom. “I’d take off your jacket, and ease you into our bed.”  

“I like the sound of nap. That. Sorry.”  

“We could nap instead,” Derek laughed. “I’d take off your clothes, kissing every inch of your perfect skin along the way. I’d turn out all the lights, and draw the curtains, so it’s nice and dark in our room, and I’d climb into bed with you.”  

“With or without your clothes?” Stiles asked.  

“Without, of course. What do you take me for?”  

“I’m sorry for doubting you.”  

“We’d get under the covers, wrap around each other, and we’d take a nice long nap together. Sounds perfect to me.”  

“I can’t wait,” Stiles said, sighing now that his heartrate had calmed. “You’re my dream guy, you know that? It’s really hard to believe we’re here now, after everything we’ve been through, past hating each other, past being on opposite sides of a war. But, now, I can’t imagine what we were thinking.”  

“We were different people back then.”  

“That’s certainly true. You definitely wouldn’t have been caught snuggling a dog at night and working at a flower shop when we met.”  

“You were much mouthier.”  

“I’m just as mouthy, you just find it endearing now.”  

Derek hummed.  

“Okay, I’ve got a customer coming in. I love you.”  

“I’ll see you when I get home. I love you.”  

Stiles waited for the line disconnect first before he stood up from the bathroom floor. As soon as he was alone with his thoughts, the whispers returned.  

Choose. Levi. Derek. Make a choice. Choose. You must choose. If you don’t, you will lose them both.  

He sent a message to his dad.  

To: Daddy-O  

I don’t want you to worry, but I have to duck out for the day and go see Dr Michaels  

 

From: Daddy-O  

Ok I’ll put your time in   

 

From: Daddy-O  

Everything ok?  

 

To: Daddy-O  

Found a fun new trigger for panic attacks but yeah I’m okay Derek talked me down  

 

From: Daddy-O  

Ok call me when you get home  

 

 


 

Doctor Michaels was a sweet older woman who really didn’t want him to call her Doctor Michaels. She preferred Tilly, but Stiles had always felt weird calling her that. She was an old friend of  Deaton’s,  in that she knew about the supernatural world. In fact, she catered to the werewolves  and the like  in town specifically, although that was not listed on her website.   

Derek had seen her for a while following everything with Laura and Peter and Kate and every terrible thing  that  he’d been through since coming back to Beacon Hills. She had really helped him, Stiles could see that even then, and  ever since  he harbored less guilt and self- hatred  

“I didn’t expect to see you until next week, Stiles,” she said as he sank into her couch and grabbed the pillow to hug to his chest. “What’s going on?”  

“I haven’t been sleeping well. It feels like I go through an entire day in my dreams, and then when I wake up, I’m just as tired as I was when I went to bed. And I’ve tried everything for it.  Listening to podcasts. Over the counter sleep aids. I think I ever tried a few of Derek’s sleeping pills, although I know I shouldn’t have and it knocked me out for an entire Saturday pretty much. Just, nothing helps .  

“Well, tell me about it. What happens when you lay down to sleep at night?”  

“I don’t have a problem falling asleep. It’s just that in my dreams, I’m living this whole other life, it seems. It feels so real, and when I wake up, I almost expect to be there in that world. It takes me a few minutes to sort out who I actually am,  and where I am. In this other life, I’m alone except my kid. I hate my parents, Derek’s not in my life, and I have no friends. The loneliness feels so real, and it follows me into the day. It feels like a pit in my chest, open and hollow. And it hurts. I didn’t expect my loneliness to hurt that much, but it fucking does. And that’s terrifying in and of itself.”   

“Why do you think that  affects you  so much?”  

“No idea,” I said. “Probably because I'm always a little terrified that the rug is  gonna  get pulled out from underneath me, and it’ll all come crashing down, you know? Life has been good. There hasn’t been anything from the  Nemoton  in years, and Derek and I are building this life. We’re finally getting married.”  

“Oh, that’s right. I forgot to congratulate you two. Is there any chance that this has anything to do with that?”  

“I don’t have cold feet. I want to marry Derek. I do. I want that hyphenated Hale-Stilinski on my driver’s license, and I want to buy a house and start a little werewolf family with him. It’s not, it’s not cold feet.”  

Doctor Michaels  smiled gentle and tucked her legs up underneath her. He liked when she let her professional walls down just a bit to seem human. One of his really good sessions a few years before, Doctor Michaels had come in a little late, dressed for the gym with her hair up in a sloppy ponytail. She’d fallen into her chair and breathed heavily.  

“Sorry, Stiles, I’ve had one bitch of a day,” she’d said. “Where were we last time? Oh! Allison.”  

It had actually endeared her to him and kept him coming back even when he wanted to hide and say nothing at all. When the days were long and the peace seemed too good to be true, he could count on Doctor Tilly Michaels to be there and listen to his anxieties.   

“I actually think I’m starting to get some kind of sleep deprivation symptoms from it,” he said then before he could second guess himself.  

“Why’s that?” she asked.  

“I think I’m starting to hallucinate. Like, I’m hearing voices and for some reason, I was convinced I had to go to the primary school to pick up my child.”  

“You don’t have a child,” she reminded gently.  

“I know, that’s why I’m concerned myself,” he said. “Worst of all, today, these voices were so loud and I couldn’t think past them that they triggered a panic attack.”  

She hummed and set her notebook down on her side table.  

“Stiles, I’m going to prescribe something just to get you to sleep, a little more dose appropriate for you. I think you just need some good, heavy, dreamless sleep. I have my theories as to what is causing this, but I think the solution is just getting some rest.”  

“Doc, I’m not crazy, right?”  

She smiled, and it was warm. It reminded him of his mom and it flashed like pain across his heart.   

“No, Stiles. You just need to get some sleep.”     

 


 

That night, satiated after a slow, toe-curling, breath-stealing orgasm with Derek, Stiles popped one of his sleeping pills and prayed for a dreamless night.   

Chapter Text

Stiles panicked, which  was  never a good thing. When Stiles panicked, he did stupid things. Like, call up Theo and almost beg him to come over to his apartment while Levi was at school. He wasn’t proud of it, but he needed to feel something other than panic and fear. Theo was always willing to show up and fuck him as hard as he needed.   

It was the first time he had brought him back to his house, though.   

“Cute,” Theo said, his mouth hot on Stiles’ neck. “Kid isn’t home?”  

“Kid’s at school,” he answered, gasping. “Don’t worry. It’s just us.”  

“Voyeurism is not usually a problem for me,” Theo said, “but I draw the line at kids.”  

“God, I fucking hope so.”  

Theo nipped at his jaw to punish his sass. It wasn’t a punishment in the same way as others would imagine it to be, Stiles moaned into it, but he knew that it would leave a mark. Stiles had a rule normally that they didn’t leave marks where they could be seen, but Theo bent and played with that rule for his own pleasure. He wanted to mark Stiles. He wanted the world to know that  he  was fucking Stiles, that  he  was the one in possession of Stiles’ pleasure, the master of it, the provider.   

“Come on,” Stiles said, turning and dragging him towards the kitchen. “I don’t have a bed but you can fuck me against the counter.”  

“You don’t have a bed?” Theo asked, and Stiles tried not to find the briefest flash of concern in his voice. Stiles had been tempering his emotions and expectations for months, years, but sometimes, he just wanted Theo to care about him a little bit more than he did.   

“Tiny apartment. Kid gets the room. I get the couch. Not-”  

“Okay.”  

Theo followed Stiles into the kitchen and pressed him into the counter, drawing his shirt up over his head without pausing.   

“You need to be naked,” Theo said. “Get your clothes off.”  

Stiles fumbled with the button on his jeans, and Theo pulled him forward by his belt loops, grinding their hard cocks together. Stiles tipped his head back and let out a moan, glad to feel the pleasure coursing through him. It drowned out the fear.   

It felt so good.   

It was stronger than the anxiety, louder than the voices.   

“Give it to me,” Stiles muttered into Theo’s mouth, needy, hungry for more. He doubted that an orgasm would fix what ailed him, but he was always willing to try. “Fuck, Theo,  please .”  

“I like when you beg,” he growled into Stiles’ throat.   

It was the most Theo ever said about how he felt for Stiles. He would take it; it was all he had.  

“I need you,” Stiles said. “Right now.”  

“I’ll give it, be patient.”  

Stiles chuckled.  

“I’m not patient, you should know that.”   

“My favorite of your traits is how much you want me all the time.”  

“That’s not really a trait,” Stiles said but he worked at getting his own pants off nonetheless. “Unless you’re specifically calling me a cock slut and that’s your favorite trait.”  

Theo grinned.  

“I didn’t say it,” he muttered.   

“What? Not a big fan of my eyes or my wit, Raeken?”  

“I like your mouth,” he answered, which Stiles wasn’t surprised by. He couldn’t even be hurt by it. “Especially when you do that thing I like.”  

There was a wink there, even in the way Theo formed the sentence. Stiles, despite himself, loved the way he spoke, his voice, how it was distinctive enough that Stiles didn’t have to see him to know exactly what his face was doing. His voice stood by itself. He’d mapped out the curves and edges of Theo’s speech months into their whatever this was. He knew Theo, knew the way his voice sounded when he was angry, when he was sad, when he was on the edge of coming but trying to ride out their pleasure without falling off the edge. Theo was predictable in the way that made Stiles feel safe, because he could count on Theo to do exactly what was expected of him.  

Theo came when called, following the scent and sounds of a good, quick fuck.   

Theo never stayed longer than getting dressed.  

Theo preferred to hold Stiles up when they fucked, giving him the sense of control and power. Stiles let him, even though he’d prefer himself to have a bit more agency in it. There was a love letter in every time he gave up the reigns and was hoisted unceremoniously into the air.   

Theo wasn’t having sex with anyone else.  

That is the fact that kept Stiles coming back, hoping they’d commit to each other. They’d been sleeping together for years. Actual, literal  years . He’d only slept with Theo since they’d started, and Theo wasn’t the kind of guy not to brag. Theo didn’t care if Stiles knew he was fucking other people, but he wasn’t either way.   

They shouldn’t be doing this, not in Stiles’ kitchen, not in the middle of the day, not with the possibility of his father dropping by unannounced in the way he did. But Stiles was addicted. He needed the high, the fog, the distance from his life; he needed Theo to overload his system to the point where his mind didn’t matter. There was a point in sex where he stopped thinking, and he was entirely body.  

He wanted that.  

He wanted that so goddamn bad.  

He wanted that so goddamn bad that he let Theo fuck him without a condom, pressed into the fake wood of his cabinets, barely coherent as he wrapped himself around Theo.   

“Louder,” Theo demanded. “Let me here that wit.”  

“Thought you didn’t like my wit,” Stiles managed around a moan.  

“I just like your mouth more,” Theo answered, breathing hard as he moved ceaselessly inside of Stiles with practiced ease. “Put it to use and moan for me, baby.”  

Stiles was gone on that, hearing a pet name come out of Theo’s mouth. He tipped his head back, baring his throat for Theo. There was something that twinged in him, the gesture too vulnerable even for Theo. That was meant only for -  

He cut himself off and focused back on Theo. He had to, or this was all for naught.   

He couldn’t lose himself.  

Not here.  

He couldn’t.  

It was dumb, it was, that a little gesture sparked something in him and shattered what he was trying to build. Anger welled up in his and was washed out by the same voice, insistent, quiet, repetitive.  

Choose .  

Levi. Derek.   

Which will you choose?  

“No,” he whispered, and Theo stalled.  

“Excuse me?” Theo asked.  

Stiles shook his head.  

“Let me down,” he said and his voice was hoarse and harsh. To his credit, Theo released Stiles’ legs and set him down. “Leave.”  

“Stiles.”  

Leave .”  

There was something dark and powerful in his own voice and it might have scared him if he weren’t so scared of the voice inside his head already. Theo dressed without complaint, staring at Stiles as if he was suddenly a stranger.   

Choose.   

The voice stayed even as Theo left the apartment, Stiles the only one remaining. It didn’t matter. Where Stiles went, so did that wretched voice.  

Levi. Derek. Choose or risk them both. Who will you choose? Who is worthy of your love?   

Stiles sank onto the tile, closed his eyes, and screamed. But it didn’t drown out the voices.  

 


 

To: Dad  

I need you or Mom to pick up Levi for the night, I can’t  

 

From: Dad  

Why’s that?  

 

To: Dad  

Please do this and don’t ask me any questions  

 

From: Dad  

Okay  

 


 

 

Stiles drove until the Jeep broke down again on the side of the highway, and then he hiked to the nearest roadside motel. He paid in cash  so his father couldn’t trace his bank transactions  and when he got to the room, he pulled out  the  bottle of whiskey  he’d picked up on the way out of town .  

If sleep and sex weren’t the answer, he’d have to find a solution elsewhere.   

He drank straight from the bottle and hissed through the burn. It wouldn’t stop him. If he couldn’t get rid of the voices, he was going to numb his fear to them.  Any way that he could.   

Chapter Text

Stiles didn’t know where he was when he woke up. His mouth was cotton, his head was full of bees, and when he finally managed to crack open his eyes, he was in a hotel room he didn’t recognize. It was generic, a copy of a copy of a painting above the singular double bed in the center of the room. He was wearing the same pajamas he’d gone to bed in, curled up against Derek’s hard form, but his feet were filthy and bleeding.   

“What the fuck.”  

He was alone.  

The comforter was scratchy against his cheek, the room dark except for the square of light around the curtains on the window. He couldn’t even contemplate what was going on, just that he was bone weary and aching all over. If he breathed too hard, it felt like his chest was going to burst open. This must be what marathon runners feel.   

“What the fuck,” he repeated.  

No one answered; he was alone.   

Then,  choose .  

“Fuck, no. Please. I don’t know what you mean.”  

Sweet boy, you have to choose.    

“No.”  

Choose .  

“No, god. Please.”  

Choose, Stiles. Levi or Derek.  

“I don’t know. I can’t choose. I don’t know what you mean.”  

It’s simple. Make your choice. You are tearing yourself apart. You are tearing the world apart. You have to choose.   

“I won’t.”  

He lay in the bed, on his back, feet sore, almost hungover as if he’d gotten wasted the night before. The voices went quiet and his head cleared. He stared at the ceiling and breathed, centering himself in reality.   

Or what he imagined might still be reality.  

He had to call Derek.   

Or his dad.  

Or literally anyone.   

That was  reality  

He reached out and grabbed the phone off the cradle, dialing the number to the station. Even after cell phones, the Sheriff had insisted Stiles learn the station’s phone number.   

“Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Station,” Deputy Barnes answered.  

“Hey Barnes, it’s Stil-”  

“Sheriff! Stiles is on the phone!” Deputy Barnes called, barely removing the phone from his mouth and essentially shouting in Stiles’ ear.   

“Yikes, Barnes. Move the phone away from your face when you yell.”  

“You don’t get to tell me what to do, Stiles, you- yes, Sheriff, I’ll transfer him.”  

There was a moment of silence a s Barnes fumbled with working the phone transfer system a nd then the Sheriff was on the phone.  

“Stiles? Where are you? Derek said you weren’t home this morning and then you didn’t get to work.”  

“I don’t know,” Stiles answered. “I’m in a motel.”  

“Where?”  

Uhhh , let me look  really  quick. I don’t know how I got here, Dad. I just, I woke up here. I’m alone. I think I walked here. My feet are sore and there’s glass in my foot. But I just woke up in this room.”  

“It’s okay, kid. We’re going to find you. What’s the name of the motel?”  

Stiles found the complimentary stationary and read off the name.  

“Okay, that’s off the interstate. How did you get there?”  

“I honestly don’t know.”  

“Okay, stay where you are. I’m on my way. We’re going to have a talk when I get there but I’m glad you’re okay.”  

“Yeah. Me too.”  

“I love you, Stiles.”  

“I love you,” Stiles replied.   

 

 


 

The Sheriff wrapped him in a hug as soon as he arrived. Stiles sighed into it, safe, sound, and settled in his father’s arm s. When he was hurt or upset and inconsolable when he was young, his father would lift him up onto his hip and tuck his head into his shoulder. He would whisper soft stories into Stiles’ ear until he settled. He was a little too big for that now, but he still needed the comfort even at twenty-five.   

“It’s okay,” he said, whispering into Stiles’ hair. His body felt gross all over, grimy in a way that he hadn’t felt since Eichen house. “You’re safe. I’ve got you.”  

They stood in the doorway for a while until a car alarm rang out over the parking lot. Stiles stepped back and led the Sheriff over to the single bed.   

“Let me see your feet,” the Sheriff said gently. Stiles lifted his aching feet onto the bed, and the Sheriff inspected the bottom of his feet with gentle hands. “Jesus, you must have walked down the highway shoulder. You don’t remember anything? Did you do anything different before bed? Feel anything magical?”  

“Not a thing. I went to bed with Derek and woke up here. I took a sleeping pill that Doctor Michaels subscribed to me. That’s something different.”  

“A magical sleeping pill?”  

“No. Just, just a regular one.”  

“Hmmm. Might be a side effect of the pill. Sleep walking.”  

“Maybe. This is a really far away to sleep walk, though.”  

“Yeah. Let’s get this glass taken care of, bud.”  

The Sheriff’s quiet as he worked, carefully extracting the pieces of glass and stones.  

“Dad, I’m scared.”  

“It’s okay.”  

“No, it hasn’t been like this since, since the Nogitsune. I, I’m  scared  that it’s back.”  

“You defeated it before, and we can do it again.”  

“I nearly died before,” Stiles said, his voice weak and frail. “I don’t want- I can’t go through that. I can’t cause any more destruction in the world. I’m not strong enough, Dad. I-”  

“Stiles, we will make sure you are okay.”  

He shook his head.  

“I can’t, Dad. You don’t understand. I still get nightmares about losing control and the world going dark. Allison died because of me. I can’t do that again.”  

The Sheriff tucked Stiles under his arm like he used to when Stiles was a kid. He felt young and weak and stupid all at once.   

“I can’t.”  

“We’ll figure it out.”  

“Dad-”  

“Stiles, we will figure it out. You are okay. We will figure it out and fix whatever is going on. We will fix you. I promise. I will take care of you. I always have. I always will.”  

 

 


 

The Sheriff paid his tab at the motel and took him home to Derek who was pacing in the apartment.  

“Be good, I’ll be by later,” the Sheriff said. “Talk to your  fiancé  about this.”  

They hugged outside of the police cruiser, and Stiles tried not to cry into his father’s shoulder.   

“You will be okay. You’re safe now.”  

His father had wrapped up his feet with the motel hand towels which were scratchy and not particularly comfortable against his already scraped and sore feet. He walked on his toes to the elevator, and leaned against the wall as he waited for it. All he wanted was to be home. All he wanted was to hold Derek and cry about how scared he was and how all he wanted was to be safe.   

The elevator took forever, longer than he’d ever waited, and when it reached his floor, he almost collapsed in the hall. Finally, though, he knocked on the door, his keys nowhere to be found. He’d probably left them in the apartment on his way out, but Derek was waiting for him.  

Derek was warm as he wrapped Stiles up in a tight, protective hug. He smelled like home, like the organic tea tree body wash Derek ordered specifically online and the organic laundry detergent that Derek also insisted they get every time. Stiles buried his face into his neck and just breathed in.   

“I’ve got you. I’m so angry at you, but I’ve got you.”  

“I’m home,” Stiles muttered. “I’m home now.”  

“Yeah, you are.”  

Stiles tipped his head back and kissed Derek wherever he could. Derek grabbed his face tenderly, and connected their lips in a worried but loving kiss.   

“You worried me so much,” he said into the kiss.  

“I know, I’m sorry.”  

“Come here, I need to -”  

He inhaled deeply in the scent at Stiles’ neck and wrinkled his nose.  

“You fucking stink, holy shit. You did not smell like that last night.”  

“Yeah, I don’t-”  

“Come here. We’re taking you to the shower and washing off whatever that fucking smell is.”  

Stiles let himself be led, Derek’s hands undressing him slowly all the way to the bathroom.   

“Are those-” Derek asked, pausing undressing him to look down at his feet. “Are your feet wrapped in hand towels?”  

“Yeah,” Stiles answered. “I walked to this motel, on the highway, and woke up with a bunch of glass and stones in my feet.”  

“Oh, Stiles.”  

“It’s fine.”  

Derek shook his head and set Stiles down on the closed toilet seat lid. He knelt down in front of Stiles and smiled, kissing his bare knees. Derek carefully untied the towels and leeched away the pain, fingertips ghosting on his ankle. Stiles watched the black veins trail up Derek’s arms and disappear. The pain left and euphoria flooded in.   

“God, you are great, do you know that?”  

“I know,” Derek said cheekily. “What happened?”  

“I don’t know, I just woke up there.”  

There was a moment of palpable silence as Derek stared at him, gaze heavy.   

“And?” Derek asked.  

Stiles let himself sit in the moment, and could feel the creeping sensation of a voice whispering at his back.   

Choose. Derek or Levi. If you don’t, you doom the world .  

“I’m hearing voices.”  

Derek paused, taking his time to consider that.  

“You are what?”  

“It started a couple weeks ago when I started not sleeping well. I don’t quite remember when, it’s all a little hazy, but it’s been affecting me for a little while. I thought I was stressed about my project, or my classes, but I’m ahead of schedule. I thought it was about sleep, but I took a sleeping pill, and I’m still hearing them. I even fucking walked to the middle of nowhere while I was asleep. So, I don’t know what it was, or is. I just, I’m so fucking tired, Derek.”  

“The voices,” Derek said, steering him back.  

“Right. They’re asking me to choose.”  

“Choose? Choose what?”  

“Choose between you and this weird other life that I’m experiencing.”  

“What other- back up, hold on. Other life.”  

“Yeah, remember I had that sex dream about Theo Raeken?”  

“Yes, unfortunately.”  

“Well, that’s the other life. I have this child, he’s perfect, I love him. His name is Levi, he’s my son with Heather. My parents and I are estranged from each other, and my mom  is  alive. I’m fucking miserable and I’m in love with Theo  Raeken . But I have this little boy that I can’t, I can’t leave.”  

“Okay,” Derek said, listening carefully.  

So  it’s asking me to choose. You or him. And it’s impossible to choose between you and this little boy. And I don’t even know if this is real, or that is, or if I choose wrong, the world dies or something.”  

Derek searched his face, unblinking,  unflinching .  

“Derek, I don’t know what is going on. I don’t know if the world is breaking. I don’t know if  I’m  breaking. I don’t know if this is the  Nemeton  or if I’m just straight up losing my fucking mind.”  

Derek took his hands.  

“We can sort this out,” he said. “After you shower. Come on. Naked.”  

“Bossy.”  

Derek pulled him up onto his feet and he wasn’t bothered by his feet for the first time that day, too focused on Derek pushing his boxers off and onto the floor. Derek started up their shower and beckoned him towards it, pulling his own shirt up and over his head.   

“I know this is scary,” Derek said, pulling Stiles in by his hips. “I know you’re scared. Somewhere in all this funk smell here, I can smell your fear.”  

“Yeah.”  

“But I also know that you’re strong. You fought the Nogitsune. You run face to face into danger whenever you can, even when you’re, you know, breakable and human and- you know what I mean, don’t make that face. You’re perfect. I’m saying that you’re incredibly brave. You’re outrageously resilient. You keep going even when you are terrified, even when everything says you should be turning around. Whatever this thing is, whatever is happening, you are going to make it through.”  

Stiles rested his head in the center of Derek’s bare chest, sighing.  

“We will do what we have to in order to save you,” Derek said. And Stiles couldn’t even get the energy not to start crying. He wept into Derek’s skin, and Derek held him without question, without trying to comfort him. Sometimes, Stiles needed to just cry, and Derek let him. Derek always let him, and when he surfaced from his crying, Derek would kiss his tears and tell him he was alive, he was whole, and he was  real  

Stiles didn’t say it out loud.  

He couldn’t.  

He couldn’t make a choice between his child, and this sweet, wholesome man who helped him shower when he was weak, stood beside him when he was scared, let him cry on his shoulder and snot up his t-shirts. Derek. Levi. He asked himself.  

The voice echoed it.  

Derek. Levi  

“I don’t know what to do,” Stiles said, “But at least I have you.”  

“Always.”  

For now.  

Chapter Text

Stiles woke up hungover and aching on the floor of the hotel, his own vomit smeared across his cheek. He could smell the cigarette smoke ground into the carpet, the old, stale scent climbing up into his nostrils. The thought of how many dirty shoes and feet had walked across this floor turned his stomach, but there wasn’t much left in him to throw up. He could vaguely remember being doubled over the toilet bowl, projectile vomiting all of the whiskey he’d chugged back up.   

“Fuck me.”  

His voice felt like gravel in his throat.   

There was a force knocking on the door somewhere nearby. It rang and pounded in echoes through Stiles’ head, bouncing back and forth. He could almost track it like a DVD video logo around a TV screen.   

“Mr. Stilinski!”   

Stiles groaned and lifted his head.  

“Yeah,” Stiles called.  

“Open the door!”  

“Yeah.”  

He couldn’t move, uncomfortable, terribly weak, a knotting in his chest.   

“Open the door, Mr. Stilinski!”  

“Yeah,” Stiles repeated.  

There was a click, a beep, and the tiniest creak of the door on its hinges.  

“Okay, buddy, let’s go. Check out was an- what the fuck?”  

Stiles lifted his head and looked up at the manager of the motel and the local police department.   

“Looks like someone had a party for one,” one of the officers said. “We have a request from the Beacon County Sheriff to return him to Beacon Hills. Apparently, this is the Sheriff’s son.”  

“Huh, what a fuck-up.”  

Stiles cried into the scratchy hotel carpet, and let himself be lifted off the floor.  

Will you leave your son alone to oblivion Will you leave Derek to a broken-heart again, suffering in the void? Which life will you choose? Which Stiles do you want to be forever? This fuck up, vomit on your face, your child abandoned at home, your parents ashamed and angry, your world unravelling, trying to keep yourself tied to the world with infrequent orgasms with a boy who will never love you back? The fuck up who is terrified of everything, a murderer, a know-it-all, weak, nervous, panicked, who has lost everything, clinging desperately to his friendships as they slip away, gifted but lost, weepy, irrational and broken? Which Stiles do you kill? Which Stiles do you save? Do you save Derek, or do you save Levi?   

Who are you, Stiles?  

“I don’t know.”  

Who are you, boy?   

“I don’t know.”  

“God, this guy is a nutter. Do you hear him muttering to himself? What a weird fucker.”  

“I know he’s supposed to be taken to the Sheriff, but what if we take him over to Eichen and he can pick up his fucking nutjob of a kid there?”   

“I’m for it. Bill the Sheriff’s Office in Beacon County for this kid’s room fee.”   

Doesn’t matter where they take you, Stiles. The choice is coming. The choice has to be made .  

“Doesn’t matter,” Stiles muttered. “Take me away. Doesn’t matter.”  

He let himself be hauled out of the room, his shoes abandoned, his phone discarded. It didn’t matter. He was going crazy. The voices weren’t going to stop. He wasn’t going to make this choice. He remembered the Nemeton, the Nogitsune, Allison’s death, every fucked-up thing that had happened to him since sophomore year of high school when he had dragged Scott out into the woods in the middle of the night chasing a body and Peter Hale changed their lives forever. He didn’t want that life. But he remembered Derek. He remembered how it felt to touch Derek now. He remembered the way light sparkled in his hazel eyes, the way his beard scratched over Stiles’ skin as they kissed, the way Derek was gentle with him during sex until Stiles asked for it, the way Derek made sure Stiles came before letting his own orgasm take him, the way Derek’s hands felt on his hips when he pulled him close for a kiss after a long day, the way the ring Derek gave him glinted in the light and sparked a bonfire of affection and love in his chest. He remembered that. He remembered that life.   

But how could he choose that when he had a son? He had made a promise to Heather on the day Levi was born, when she was tired and weak from pushing, their son on her chest, his bare skin against hers. He had looked at them, had looked at that small child, his face scrunched up like an old man, his body covered in gunk, and had promised that nothing would come before Levi. Levi was perfect. He was smart, and he was kind, and when the world tried to push Levi, he pushed back. He asked questions. So many questions. He wanted to know how to make cotton candy, and what the difference between a turtle and tortoise was, and if he breathed in really really  really  deep, would he start to float. When he woke up in the morning, the sleepy toddle he did always reminded Stiles that he was growing up too fast but he was still  a kid . He was his kid. He was raising that. He had promised that Levi would come first.   

Levi had to come first.  

Levi.  

But Derek.   

Levi.  

Levi.  

Derek.  

The memories of his life, his  lives  flashed through his head.  

 Kissing Heather in her dorm and taking off their clothes slowly.   

Flash  

Kissing Derek desperate, afraid they were going to die.   

Flash  

Standing over his mother’s grave, his father’s hand on his shoulder, steadying him, reminding him he wasn’t alone.   

Flash  

Listening to his mother berate him for acting out in school  again  and not living up to his potential.   

Flash  

Rocking a sleeping Levi, waiting for Heather to come home, just for the Sheriff to come instead and break the news that Heather had died in a hit and run.   

Flash  

Donovan plummeting down, skewered on the scaffolding, his blood all over Stiles’ hands.   

Flash  

Levi screaming every night, his tiny infant heart aching for his mother to come home.   

Flash .  

Waking from the Nogitsune’s reign and seeing the wreckage he had caused.  

Flash .  

Walking Levi into the classroom on his first day of kindergarten, kissing him on the forehead, and telling him to have fun, be good, he loved him.  

Flash .  

Standing beside Scott, and Lydia, and Malia at graduation, aching that Allison couldn’t be there with them.  

Flash.  

The first time Levi smiled. The first time he laughed. The first time he said Dada. The first time he said I love you. The first time he came up to Stiles, buried his head in his chest, and told him that he was his best friend.  

Flash .  

Levi had to come first, but how could he possibly choose this decrepit existence when he had a full life with Derek? What kind of person gave up on love like that? What kind of person chose a man over his son?  

Flash  

Levi, asleep on his chest, one inconspicuous night, his favorite movie on in the background, while Stiles idling read in the living room, enjoying this quiet time with his son, unsullied by the outside world. Pressing a kiss into his son’s forehead, breathing in his scent, baby powder and berries like his shampoo. Levi nuzzled back into his chest in response. The soft moment filled Stiles’ heart, his soul, reminded him of when his father would wake him from a nightmare, he’s not even sure what life this memory exists in, and he would hold him tight and whisper that he was okay, and then he’d make chocolate chip pancakes in the morning for breakfast.   

Flash .  

 

 


 

When he resurfaced in reality, he was in a room he had hoped to never be in again. He was in Eichen House. He could tell before he even opened his eyes. It had a very distinctive smell, a stale odor that Stiles could still catch some days. This body had never been here. At least, he was pretty sure that this body had never been to Eichen House. It was getting so hard to tell. He doubted there was even a difference anymore. Did it matter that he had physically never been in this room if he remembered it? If he could feel the Nogitsune clawing at his back, waiting to slip back in? If his shoulder still tingled from the lightning scar running across it, even if his body had never felt that pain? Did it matter if he remembered intimately how it felt kissing Malia in that basement?   

He didn’t even know Malia Tate in this world. He wasn’t sure Malia existed in a world where  werecoyotes  and werewolves and kitsunes didn’t exist. Where were the Hales then if there were no werewolves for the Argents to hunt? Where was Derek in this world?  

Happy, he hoped.  

Living a full life being the Momma’s boy he was inside.  

Maybe he had a spouse and children, and he gardened in his spare time, and ran with his rescue dog through the Preserve, unafraid that an errant arrow was a misstep away.   

Stiles wondered what Talia Hale looked like, if she was kind, if she smiled the same way Derek did. He wanted to meet her. He hoped the universe had allowed Derek to keep his family in this reality, the way Stiles got to keep his own. Derek deserved that. He had been through so much, and maybe he was trauma-free in this world, but even then, Derek Hale deserved to rest, to go to sleep safe, to wake up safe, to feel at home and unthreatened in his own space. Stiles knew that Derek, even when he was relaxed in their apartment, was poised to attack and defend. He turned his head towards sounds that Stiles couldn’t even begin to hear, and paused in the middle of a sentence to catch a n   unfamiliar  scent. It was cute, but Stiles knew that it was a defense mechanism.  He knew that Derek wasn’t doing it consciously, but there was a part of him that was always awake, always vigilant. Even when he was lax in bed, draped on Stiles’ chest, there was a tightness to his muscles, coiled, prepared. Just in case.  

Stiles hoped that this reality that had been so cruel to him had spared Derek Hale.   

Somewhere, he hoped Derek was laughing, that  big  belly laugh that was so rare, that meant he was happy and free and wasn’t worried for a few minutes. He hoped Derek was sipping wine beside his friends around a nice firepit, laugh lines creasing around his beautiful eyes.   

He rose from the bed and checked himself. He was wearing plain sweatpants and a t-shirt. His phone and shoes were gone, his feet bare, and his body ached all over. Having slept through his hangover, he still felt the after effects. Beyond that, he had been man-handled by the officers and god knows who else since he’d been picked up at the motel. Checking his body, though, he found bruises on his limbs. Unsurprising. This body may have never been here in Eichen House, but he wasn’t unfamiliar with their methods. He wondered if  Brunski  existed here in this world, but he hoped that man was burning in hell in any world.   

“Fuck, I hate this place,” he said, resting his head back against the concrete wall. “Might rot in here, voices in my head. Hope that’s what you were going for.”  

We just want a choice, Stiles. This didn’t have to happen.  

“Yeah, that’s what I thought you’d say, you dumb fucking voice.”  

Just make a choice and this can go away.  

“Say, then, I choose this life; can you get me out of here first or would that be up to me?”  

There was no response.  

“Fuckers.”  

He flopped back on the bed, looking up at the ceiling. It was the same as the walls. It was the same as the floors. When he had been in here in high school with the Nogitsune, he’d spent a lot of time staring at the walls, the floors, the ceilings, trying to find the difference between them, but never finding. If he stared at them long enough, he could get lost, convinced he was on the walls, staring at the floors below him.   

And while he studied, he wondered. He wandered.   

Let himself follow wherever his thoughts go.   

It kept coming back to Derek. To Levi. Back to Derek. To Levi. His father. His mother. The sound of Scott’s laughter. The way Theo’s touch burned him but he wanted it to consume him all over. Derek in soft morning light in their bed, nuzzling in the pillow. Levi’s questions early in the morning before Stiles was even awake really. His father sipping coffee in the station, grinning at some dumb joke or gag the deputies had played on each other. The soft sound of his mother singing as she scrubbed shampoo through Levi’s hair.   

He hoped his father was coming for him.  

Had they even called him? Did he know that Stiles was okay and safe and  locked  in this  god forsaken fucking hellhole  

He hoped, and he waited.   

Would you like to make that choice now? Sitting in this cell? Alone? Scared? No one coming for you. Who will you choose ?  

“I choose for you to shut the fuck up.”  

Chapter Text

You can no longer hide. You can no longer put this off. I’m sorry, but you must choose. The time is now, Stiles. Come join me.   

The world flashed white, and he was standing in a long room he’d been in before. When Allison, Scott, and he had sacrificed themselves, they had woken here. When Lydia and Scott had drawn him from inside the Nogitsune's power, they had done so  here . An endless white room with no distinct features, just that it was forever in every direction.   

Stood before him was a young woman, smiling, her thick brown hair a mess but her green eyes sparkling. She was heavy set, solid, and when she spoke, it was light and airy, like wind through tree branches.  

“Welcome, Mr. Stilinski,” she said. “I have been waiting for you for a while. It’s nice to see you again.”  

“Again? Do I know you?”  

“Oh, of course. We have known each other for many years. You wouldn’t know me as this, granted, but it’s hard to speak when you have no mouth. I’m the  Nemeton .”  

She stuck her hand out eagerly to shake his. He took it and she grinned, shaking his hand with a little too much force like she was unfamiliar with her own strength, her own body. He imagined she might not if she were telling the truth.   

“You’re the  Nemeton ?” he asked, voice skeptical even as he tried to keep it even.   

“Yes! Well, I’m not, like, a person trapped within a tree. I’m more of the manifestation of the  Nemeton's  power, masquerading as a person. We have a lot to discuss and it is so hard to speak as a tree. Especially when you are just roots these days. You can’t even shake branches to sound like words.”  

“Okay, that’s weird.”  

“Would you prefer I appear as this?”  

She switched in the breath of half a second, her form becoming a tree stump, the one that had haunted his dreams since their first encounter. Then, she switched back, and she pushed her hair out of her face casually.  

“You know, I’m sorry,” she said then, waiving her hand and a couch appears behind both of them, facing each other. “I’m sorry that you’re the one who has to deal with this. I was limited in my choices, and you were the only one I knew could make the decision.”  

“What decision? Why me?”  

“Please, sit. I’ll tell you a story.”  

He sat, reluctantly, on the edge of the couch, tensed, ready to bolt. He’d sat through many a bad guy speech in his life, he knew that when they were done, there was always pain or proposition waiting for him. She smiled at him, her face warm and kind.  

“Once upon a time,” she said softly, and then chuckled at herself. “I used to be magnificent, you know. I was tall and thick and my roots spread wide through the forest. I felt the breeze in my boughs, and the rains in my leaves, and I was powerful. I was planted on the heart of a ley line convergence, so when I stretched out, I could feel all over the world. My family lay on similar convergences, and I could touch their edges with my own. I was worshipped, and gifts would be left at my roots from kind druids who sought my shelter and power. Then, just in my prime, at the height of my power, I was cut down, and my power was stripped away. I was left alone and dying in my grove, and no matter what the druids tried, they were unable to sustain me.”  

Her facial expressions were intense.   

“Then, Derek sacrificed his love at my roots, and I felt a glimmer of hope, a peak at what I’d once been. I was brought back by sacrifice, something the druids of old wouldn’t do. The  Darach  promised me life if I’d only share some of my power with her. When you, Scott, and Allison sacrificed yourselves, you connected yourselves to me forever. That darkness in your heart, that was my tether.”  

“Yeah, that fucking sucked.”  

“You were warned, Mr. Stilinski, of what the cost would be.”  

He nodded. That was true.   

“Let’s jump forward to last year, there was a rash of murders as a pack of undead werewolves descended on Beacon Hills.”  

Stiles remembered, terrified out of his mind, running through the Preserve with a gun, ready to shoot at whatever appeared in the dark, praying that Derek was around the next tree to protect him.   

“The solution to, more or less, plug me with a magical salve was clever. I was impressed, but the aftereffects have been disastrous.”  

“What do you mean?”  

“Would you like to see?” she asked. “I can show you.”  

She reached out her hand, palm side up, offering to him. He sighed, considering slapping her hand away, but reached out in return to take her hand.   

“Let me see, I guess.”  

They are pulled from the white void into an unfathomable star cluster surrounded by  unseeable  darkness. Stiles stood on nothing, and the  Nemeton  stood beside him, smiling as always, her hands gripped his.   

“This is the Outer Realm, as I know it to be called. It lies between the universes, connecting them. This is where the power of your world comes from, how Scott gained his power as True Alpha, how werewolves became in the first place, how there are infinite ley lines tracing the globe. The ley lines are weak points in the barrier between your world and this realm. There are less ley lines in your other world, with Levi.”  

Levi’s name broke Stiles’ wonder.  

“Levi.”  

“Yes, your son. There are less ley lines in that world with him. There are no werewolves, or druids, or magic. But your son is his own magic, isn’t he?”  

Stiles nodded without thinking. He didn’t have to; he knew what she meant deep in his soul. Even the half of him that wasn’t Levi’s father knew what she meant.  

“The plug that you placed in the heart of my roots caused the schism in the barrier, disconnecting me from this realm, and causing that-” she said, turning to face them the other direction. Before them, wide and shattered, the cluster of stars was broken. It spider-webbed out from a single collision point, like broken glass. The space between the cracks, Stiles could see peaks at an ever-shifting landscape.  

 “So, we destroyed the world by saving Beacon Hills.”  

“Something along those lines,” she agreed. “Let us return.”  

When she drew her hand away, they returned with a flash to the white void. Stiles had to take a moment to adjust, his body protesting loudly from the sudden change.  

“Sorry. Humans are so delicate, I forget.”  

“It’s okay. I’m good. So, we broke the world. How do we fix it?”  

“This is where you come in, Stiles. I had a little bit of say in how the world can be mended. I connected you with yourself through that shatter, linking your  consciousnesses . The world can be saved, but only through the sacrifice of another.”  

“Fuck,” he whispered at once, realizing what she meant. The voices, they were her, begging him to make a choice. “Why me?”  

“When you sacrificed yourself to me, you tethered yourself to me. Not many people have done that. Allison, unfortunately, doesn’t exist in both lands to make the choice, and Scott, well, his life isn’t much different between each world, is it? The True Alpha wouldn’t make the choice, he would fight, he would find another way, but there is no other way.”  

“So, I don’t have any choice in this, I have to give up the love of my life, or my son.”  

“I’m so sorry.”  

He shook his head.  

“That seems just about right, though. I am in a loving relationship and am deliriously happy with Derek, and Levi is a smart, loving boy, and of course I can’t be happy with both.”  

“I’m sorry, Stiles. I wish it didn’t have to be this way.”  

“Yeah, me too,” Stiles said. “How can I make this choice?”  

“I do not know. I have no attachments, no feelings, no duties. I do not know, but you must.”  

“If I don’t?”  

“That shatter will destroy the world, and everything attached to it, the Outer Realm, the Levi world, the Derek world. Nothing will be left.”  

Stiles hung his head and scrubbed a hand through his hair. He felt powerless. How was he supposed to make this choice? How could he? But he had to in order to save the world.   

“How much time do I have?” he asked.  

“You must choose here.”   

“I can’t even say goodbye?”   

She shook her head.  

I don’t have the time or power to  bring someone in with  us. You must decide  here and now who you choose to be with. I’m sorry it has to be this way.”  

“You keep saying that word but I’m not sure  you  actually  know what it means to feel sorry.”  

She paused for a moment and shrugged.  

If I choose, will I remember the life  that  I left?”  

“No, it will be  like it never existed,  its  pieces used to patch together the world. You might get senses of déjà vu, but at the end of the day, you won’t remember it.”  

“That’s a small mercy,” he said, “I guess.”   

“I’m  sorr -” she cut herself off and grimaced before she finished. “I wish I could have told you what would have happened, but I wasn’t sure what it would have done. I had theories, from all my years, but again, no mouth.”   

“Yeah, I imagine that would hinder some things.”  

She nodded.  

“How can you expect this of me?”  

There was no response.   

“I don’t know. I’m unbelievably in love with Derek but I can’t leave my child. Levi comes first. I’ve fought so hard to be happy.”  

“You have.”  

“I don’t understand why this is my responsibility, why after everything that I’ve done for this fucking town, for the world, I have to give up my happiness to save it again. I’m so fucking done with this life. Beacon Hills is fucking greedy. It never is satisfied. It takes everything. Allison, and my mom, and Heather in every fucking universe, and Erica, and Boyd – the entire Hale family. It takes  everything !”   

He wanted to punch something, someone, but there was nothing except for the  Nemeton . He picked up a pillow from the plush couch she’d materialized for them, and chucked it hard into the void. It disappeared and reappeared onto the couch beside him.   

“Fuck.”  

He doubled over and tried not to let the burning in his eyes turn to tears. The tears came anyway without his permission, dripping down his cheeks.   

“Stiles,” her voice came again, softer, gentler, the weight of the world in her words.  

“I know. I just, I can’t willingly destroy an entire world.”  

“You must choose. Look around you.”  

He raised his eyes towards her, and then the void around them. It wasn’t endless as it had been before, but there wasn’t an end either. His eyes were drawn, pulled, towards the edges of his vision. There were breaks and cracks in the surface, spidering out just like the shatter from the Outer Realm.   

“This world is dying, Stiles. You must choose. Derek or Levi, Stiles. Make the choice.”  

He scrubbed a hand over his face, wiping the tears away.  

“I choose-”  

Stiles had to catch his breath, unable to say it. It was unfathomable.   

“I choose Levi,” he said, feeling his heart and soul split in jagged pieces down into his core. He could feel Derek’s eyes slipping away from him, the smile, the kisses, the hugs, the sleepy morning breath on his face, the way his beautiful mouth formed Stiles’ name, the laugh he’d been so scared to share. “I choose Levi every time.”  

The Nemeton nodded.  

“It is done.”  

And then, the world flashed white again. And then, he was falling. And then, the world was gone.  

Chapter Text

When Stiles woke, he wasn’t in Eichen House where he’d fallen asleep. Instead, he was in a warm hospital bed, the monitor beside him beeping steady with his heartbeat. He was alone, but he could hear the sounds of nurses and doctors outside his door, and very faintly, his father talking angrily. His heart seized at that, and his breath caught in his chest. His father was going to be pissed.   

He’d run away. He’d drank himself into oblivion. He’d  abandoned Levi . Why had he done that? What was wrong with him? He’d sworn that Levi would come first, and then he’d- what? Panicked and ran away? What was his problem? His son was more important than anything, he should have asked for help. He should’ve gone to his parents and told them that he was in over his head.  

“Dad?” he called out, pushing the edging panic away. He just wanted his father. He wanted his father to hold him and t o t ell him that he was sorry. “Daddy!”  

The Sheriff appeared in the doorway and smiled softly.  

“Stiles, you’re awake.”  

He came up to Stiles’ bedside and wrapped him up in a hug, sighing contentedly.  

“I’m so sorry, Daddy. I didn’t, I didn’t know what I was doing. I shouldn’t have – I needed help. I didn’t know how to ask. I should have just called, but I didn’t know how to ask,” Stiles said, voice breaking. The Sheriff held him a bit tighter, burying his face into Stiles’ shoulder.   

“I’ve got you now,” the Sheriff said.   

“I’m sorry. I was stupid. I don’t deserve you, or Mom, or Levi. I fucked up.”  

“That’s okay.”   

“No, it’s not.”  

“You’re okay, Stiles. You’re alive. You can fix everything  that happened because y ou are alive and whole and  home .”  

Stiles nodded and cried, and the Sheriff just held him. When he resurfaced from his own wallowing, the Sheriff let go and pulled a chair up to his bedside.  

“Okay, what happened?”  

“I don’t even know. I’ve been slowly spiraling over the past couple of weeks, and I think I haven’t been taking care of myself. I haven’t been sleeping. I’ve barely been eating. I’ve been, and I don’t want to tell you this as much as you don’t want to hear it, but I’ve been hooking up with Theo  Raeken  and last night, it all just broke.”  

“Theo Raeken? Really?”  

“I know. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’ve been over-working  with two jobs just to stay afloat and keep the roof over our heads,  and  I’m  getting absolutely nowhere. I don’t feel like I’m working towards anything ,   just working so I can afford to keep going to work,  and it’s dragging me down.  I didn’t realize how much that it hurt until I couldn’t see a way out of this cycle.  I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I did what I thought would numb it, which was terrible for everyone involved , and I didn’t care what happened to me, if I ever came home, if I ever woke up.  

“I know,” the Sheriff said, patting his thigh.   

“Is Levi okay?”   

“He’s okay. Confused about why his dad didn’t come home, but he’s okay.”  

“Okay,” Stiles said, nodding.  “That’s good. I’m glad. If  anything  happened to him-”  

“We got him. He has the best support in the world. And so do you. We’re here for you too.”  

“I know. I should have seen that before, and I was just being pig-headed and stubborn – a Stilinski trait, really – but I know it now. I’m going to be  better,  I promise. For you, for Mom, for Levi. And for myself. I owe myself that, I think.”  

The Sheriff nodded.   

“You’re right.”  

“I should move back home for a little while, if that’s still an option for me, just while I figure out what to do  and what I’m going to do going forward. I can’t keep burning myself out like this, I need to get a better job or a degree, but I can’t do either of those if I’m struggling to pay rent, so I know I’m an adult but-  

“You’re always welcome home, Stiles, you don’t even have to ask.”  

 

 


 

Stiles walked proudly into the grocery store and straight up the till where the Tanners were chatting idly.  

“Hi,” he said, leaning up against the counter beside them. “I’d like to quit. Permanently.”  

The Sheriff  had taken Stiles back to his apartment for a shower and to pack up a bag for himself and Levi following his release from the hospital. The officers that had brought Stiles to Eichen and then the orderlies at the institution had roughed him up a little and hadn’t tended to his over-drinking, so Stiles had to just stay overnight at the hospital for observation. Then, he’d gone home to his childhood home, back to his childhood room, back to his mom and dad, back to where everything went wrong.   

Levi was overjoyed for him to be back, vaulting off the back of the couch when Stiles walked into the house, shouting at the top of his perfect little lungs. Stiles scooped him up in a big hug, buried his face into Levi’s neck, and breathed.  

No matter what happened next, happened last, happened ever, he got to come home to this perfect little boy with the heart of gold and the head in the clouds. He got to be the dad to Levi Anthony Stilinski. No matter where life took him now, at the very least and most, he was Levi’s dad forever.  

“Okay,” Claudia said, bringing their attention back to the matter at hand, the three of them at the breakfast table, Levi asleep in his room upstairs. They each had a small glass of wine, but Stiles left his untouched. “What do you want to do, Stiles?”  

It led to Stiles walking into the grocery store and smiling at his bosses.  

“Excuse me?”  

“I’m putting in my two-minute notice. I’m sorry to do this,” he said, but he didn’t mean it. “I hit rock bottom this week and I don’t know if I can keep going here, so instead of killing myself at 25, I am going to take care of myself and my child. I want to thank you for the opportunity that you’ve given me but this place has given me so much anxiety that I never hope to come here again.”  

“Mr. Stilinski,” Mr. Tanner started to say.  

“That’s all I came to say. Here’s my smock. Have a nice day, Mr. Tanner.”  

He turned, and Stiles Stilinski held his head high, grinning, as he walked out of that store.   

 

 


 

“Large mocha- loca  cappuccino for Fitz,” Stiles called out, checking the order as he stepped up to the counter. He liked his job, even when it sucked, even when customers were grumpy, even when customers snapped at him and made him remake the same drink three times because they could taste the  caramel  they swore he put in there. “And a large cold brew with an espresso shot with vanilla sweet cream for Simmons?”  

He handed them to a sweet couple in almost matching sweaters who smiled at him easily. He liked customers like them. They were the good part of his day, that and the old ladies that clucked at him about fixing his hair and straightening his apron.  

“Thanks for coming, remember to stay Wide Awake,” Stiles said.   

“Hey Stilinski, can you come in the office really quick?”  

Stiles followed the sound of James’ tired voice into the manager’s office.  

“Is this the part where you fire me?” Stiles asked, dropping into the seat opposite James. “Because, I  gotta  say, wish you’d done it this morning so I could go back to sleep.”  

“I’m not firing you, Stiles.”  

“Well, that’s a damn shame.”  

“You’re lucky that I like you or else I would fire you for your smart mouth.”  

“Yeah, what a travesty.”  

James rolled his eyes.   

“Will you just let me say the thing that I called you in here to say, Stilinski?”  

“Yes, yes, please go on.”  

“My wife is pregnant.”  

“That’s awesome! I’m not the father, am I?”  

James let out a long, slow breath, exasperated and measured.   

“No, but I’m going out on paternal leave closer to the birth so my wife and I can prepare. That means I’m going to have to find a replacement manager for that time. I was wondering if you would want to start the training.”  

“What happens when you come back?” Stiles asked, tentatively. “I get demoted?”  

“No, we’re  gonna  need you around even after. I think you’re exactly what this place needs. You exceed all expectations every review, you’re great with customers, you’re great with the machines, you’re even great with Greta, who hates everyone. On top of that, I know that you quit the grocery store and need to make rent, plus you’re always asking questions, the right questions to make this place better. Wide Awake is lucky to have you as a barista. We’d be honored to have you as a manager.”  

Stiles was nodding before he even finished.   

“Yeah. Yes. Absolutely. I would love to. I love learning. Teach me. I will be your padawan.”  

James took a beat, blew out a breath, and said, “it’s going to be a long three months.”  

 

 


 

  To: Theo  

We need to talk  

 

To: Theo  

Meet me at the park   

 

From: Theo   

OK  

 

When Theo pulled up, Stiles had practiced what he was going to say for twelve and a half hours, from the night before when he’d decided that this was for the best. Theo wasn’t ever going to feel the same about him and he couldn’t keep wasting time hoping that he would. It wasn’t fair to him, or Theo, or the person Stiles was trying to become. He couldn’t become a good and reliable father if he was following Theo around hoping that this time, this orgasm, this meaningless hook-up would make Theo fall in love with him. He wasn’t going to chase that anymore.  

Still, though, when Theo stepped from the car, Stiles’ mouth went dry.  

“Hey,” Theo said, stepping onto the grass and sinking onto the park bench Stiles had chosen. From here, he could see the whole park and the parking lot, enough of a view to keep an eye on Levi and nervously watch for Theo’s arrival. Levi was attempting to do cartwheels with Abby, a girl from his class, and failing adorably, giggling as they landed on their butts over and over.   

“Hey, glad you came,” Stiles said, resting his hands in his sweatshirt pockets to keep them from fidgeting. He hoped he didn’t come off as nervous as he felt. His entire stomach had twisted up and was a few moments away from cartwheeling itself out of Stiles’ mouth. “I didn’t think I should do this over text.”  

“What? Hook up in a park? We shouldn’t do that in person either,” Theo said, but Stiles could see the deflection in his eyes.   

“Theo, I don’t want to do this anymore. It’s exhausting. I just lost my fucking mind over the weekend, and you were a part of that. I was losing pieces of myself and fucking you doesn’t make me feel good, make me feel  anything  except shame.”  

“Well, that’s not my fault.”  

“That’s not – that's not what I’m saying. It’s not about you for once, Theo. My breakdown wasn’t about you, but being with you wasn’t helping. I’ve been trying to mask this unpleasant ball of emotion that’s been brewing by using you and this whatever it is, and it’s not working. I can’t pretend it’s good for me anymore, and I don’t want to do it. As much as I love orgasms, it’s not worth it. It’s just – you're not worth it, Theo, and that’s such a shitty thing to say, but I can’t prioritize you anymore when you’re literally using me for sex and nothing else. Sex isn’t worth my mental health. That’s what I’m saying.”  

Theo’s face is hard, solemn and shut off in a way Stiles isn’t used to. Even when he’s just there for sex, no talking, no banter, just fast and hard fucking in an alley somewhere, his face wasn’t hard.  

“You think you can dump me?” Theo growled.   

“Yes.”  

“You’re not worth anything, Stiles, you’re not-”  

“Fuck off with your indignant bitterness, Theo. It’s not interesting. It’s not original. You’re not clever. Just let it happen, man.”  

Theo sucked his teeth and shook his head.  

“You’ll be back.”  

“Yeah, maybe, but right now, I want you to leave.”  

Theo stood, anger coursing through his movement, and started to walk away. He stopped and turned back; Stiles schooled his face, even as his heart raced in his chest.   

“I’m going to be the best you’ve ever had.”  

“God, I hope not. You’re not as good as you think you are.”  

“At least I’m not impossible to please.”  

Stiles shrugged.  

“Well, that’s not your problem anymore, is it?”  

He winked sarcastically at Theo and turned to look at Levi, cartwheeling carefree across the park with Abby beside him, giggling so loud it echoed endlessly around them. It was good, free, the  Stilinskis  boys together and happy for the first time in years. Stiles smiled. That was the truth of it, that he was happy after so long. He breathed in the fresh air, tipped his head back and sighed.  

“Excuse me,” a small voice came from nearby. “Can you help me?”  

Stiles turned and looked towards the little girl by the end of the bench. She looked to be about the same age as Levi, small even for her age, thick black hair put up in a pristine ballerina bun, bright brown eyes sparkling with tears, and her lower lip was quivering.  

“Hi, sweetie. What’s your name?”  

“Jemma,” she whimpered.  

“Okay, well, my name is Stiles. What’s wrong?”  

“I can’t find my daddy. He was right here. I was playing over on the jungle gym and when I got off, he was gone. He said he would be here when I was done.”  

“Okay. Let’s see if we can find him.”  

He stood and took Jemma’s hand.   

“He’s really tall, and he likes baseball, and he doesn’t like pineapples on his pizza,” Jemma said, and Stiles had to bite back his laugh.    

“Okay. What’s his name?”  

“Oh,” she said softly. “It’s Daddy.”  

“Right,” Stiles replied. “Of course.”  

“I don’t see him,” she said as they walked towards the middle of the park, her voice starting to waver in the same way Levi’s did when he was about to cry. “I don’t see him anywhere.”  

“Hey, hey, it’s okay. We’ll find him.” He spoke softly, touching her shoulder with just the tips of his fingers. “How about this? I’ll put you up on my shoulders so you can see so far in any direction. That way you’ll spot him first.”  

She nodded, and Stiles kneeled down beside her. Carefully, he helped Jemma up onto his shoulders, and stood back up slowly to not jostle her. She was so light, even smaller than Levi who wasn’t super big either, but she barely felt like she was there at all. He kept his hands near her ankles just in case she lost  balance  

“I’m going to get my son first so we can have another set of eyes to look for your dad. His name is Levi, he’s your age. Is that okay?”  

“Yeah.”  

“Levi,” Stiles called. “Come here, bud.  I need your help.”  

Stiles could see the heavy sigh in Levi’s shoulders as he landed beside Abby again, hearing his father call his name. He trudged over to Stiles but smiled at them when he saw Jemma.  

“Lee, this is Jemma. She’s missing her dad. Can you help us find him?”  

 “Yeah!” Levi said excitedly. “I’m good at looking!”  

“Okay, where do you want to look first, Jemma?”  

“Over by the playground!”  

“Sure thing, bud. Let’s go to the playground.”  

Levi runs forward, head swiveling wildly back and forth to help look. Stiles doubts that that is effective but he really just didn’t want to leave Levi alone near the parking lot and put himself in Jemma’s father’s situation as well.  

“Do you see him?” Stiles asked.  

“No,” Jemma said, voice so small he barely heard it. “Wait. What’s that?”  

He looked up at her to follow her finger where she was pointing. There was a figure on the other side of the jungle gym, tall with dark hair, ducking to look under a platform.   

“Does that look like your daddy?”  

“I think so!”  

Stiles walked quickly towards the playground, Jemma bouncing on his shoulders excitedly.  

“Daddy!” she yelled.  

The figure stood up and looked towards her. Stiles easily lifted Jemma up off his shoulders and set her on the ground, her feet going before she even touched down and she sped off towards her father. Levi followed because he didn’t like being left out, and Stiles followed because his son was running towards a stranger. He liked Jemma, but he just got his life together, he wasn’t going to let some strange man ruin that.  

“Oh! Jemma! There you are!”  

Stiles looked up at the voice, and saw the most beautiful man he’d ever seen. He was tall, and dark haired, with beautiful ocean eyes, his features relaxing as Jemma launched herself into his arms.  

“Daddy!”  

Levi stood nearby, watching while he vibrated in his spot. Stiles reached out and set his hand on Levi’s shoulder.  

“Chill, Lee.”  

The man looked up from where he’d buried his face in Jemma’s shoulder, breathing her in. Stiles knew that feeling. Stiles recognized and nodded at the man, tugging Levi back towards him.  

“Thank you. I stepped away for a second to take a call and when I turned back, she was gone,” he said, his breathing ragged but returning. “Thank you for bringing her back.”  

“Yeah, no problem. I’d want someone to help Levi.”  

The man’s eyes flicked down Stiles’ body and then over to Levi and back. Jemma looked at Levi, and Levi looked at Jemma, and all at once, they both took off towards the playground together without a word to one another.  

“Levi,” Stiles tried and then waved at him, giving up. “Okay. Whatever. Don’t die.”  

“Honestly, though,” the man said, stepping closer to Stiles and putting his hand on Stiles’ arm. “Thank you. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if anything happened to her, especially after her mom died.”  

“Yeah, I know the feeling,” Stiles said, looking over at Levi, trying to do a cartwheel and stumbling. Jemma laughed and did a perfect cartwheel, and then proceeded to walk Levi through how to do one successfully.   

“I’m Derek,” the man said, smiling at him.   

“Stiles.”  

“It’s nice to meet you.”  

Stiles couldn’t help his own smile. Something about this man felt familiar, like they’d met before.  

“Yeah,” Stiles said, and he had to catch his breath, looking into these beautiful eyes felt like coming home, “likewise.”