Derek is eight years old when a boy appears suddenly in his yard - the wind shifts and he can smell him, under the stench of human blood, and when he slowly turns around there's a teenage boy standing at the edge of his yard, naked and trying to shield himself behind a tree, and he's covered in blood.
"Oh my god," the boy says, when he sees Derek staring at him with wide, horrified eyes, and then, "Fuck."
The boy vanishes into thin air.
Derek stares at the space where he was for two long seconds. He screams for his dad.
He lands in the woods, knees and palms slipping against the mud, and Stiles breathes until his lungs can fill with air properly, until his stomach stops churning, and then gets to his feet, toes squelching a little in the leafmould.
It's dark, and still, and silent, and there is nothing on the trees that stretch out in every direction to tell him where he is - until the clouds shift, and silvery light floods the forest floor, and Stiles lifts his chin to look up at the full moon.
"Oh my god," he whines, and waits for something to howl ominously in the distance. On the positive side, he can now see the arrow etched into the largest tree, all stark edges in the moonlight, that points towards the Hale house. It's - okay, it's a risk, but there's always the chance he's landed in a blissful werewolf-free time for Beacon Hills, and maybe if he's really lucky either the Hales or Derek's pack will be somewhere off in the other side of the woods, either chained up or working on their team building skills, whatever, and Stiles can just slip in and grab a blanket and chill until he gets the call back home.
Blind and endless optimism. It's the only way to get through these long, cold nights.
He jogs, the cold clinging to his skin and it's not like he needs to be silent when there are creatures lurking that can smell him from a mile away. The Hale house looms through the trees, a lopsided shadow that stays still, and silent, and completely lacking in furious werewolves as Stiles slows to a cautious trudge, trying to guess the year by the state of decay but the shadows are too deep to see, and since he's not one to look the gift of continued dignity in the mouth Stiles heads straight for the suitcase he's got stashed under the remains of the back porch, and finds the jeans and ratty black sweatshirt he only put in there a month ago, so. That's hopeful, and Stiles is almost ready to settle down for an easy night when there are there are noises coming from around the front of the house, sharp and painful, and it's possible he left his self-preservation instinct back somewhere around when he discovered attractive werewolves were a thing, because Stiles immediately goes running towards it.
There are bodies when he rounds the corner, Erica and Boyd and Issac and Scott sprawled out and bloody on the forest floor, not moving, and there's another Stiles, wild-eyed and bloody, clutching a limp Derek to his chest like he's something to hold on to.
"What the hell," Stiles says, because what the hell, and the other Stiles looks at him like he's the worst thing that could happen right now.
"Get over here," he says, after a long pause and Stiles does, because this is a future Stiles (he's older, cheekbones sharper and eyes darker, even under the blood) and he usually knows what's going on. "Give me your shirt," he says, and when Stiles hesitates the other one rolls his eyes. "You're leaving in, like, two minutes. Hand it over before I have to pull it out the mud."
Stiles pulls it off, and hands it over. Older Stiles balls it up as tight as possible and presses it against the blood-stained mess that is Derek's back, and ignores Stiles completely. Derek makes a small, whimpering noise.
"The hell is going on?" Stiles manages to say, as he watches the blood ooze out of the gashes down Derek's arm. He can't- he can't even look over the other Stiles's shoulder, because he knows who's lying there and there's only so much he can deal with right now.
Other Stiles glances up at him, and then - "Press down here," he says, gesturing to Derek's back, and when Stiles eventually does, reaching out with hands that aren't shaking, the older Stiles slips away and goes to check on Scott like he's read his mind, and, oh- "This the third time I've been through this," older Stiles says with a glance back, as he leans over Scott and rolls him onto his side. "And Scott's okay, just unconscious."
Stiles breathes, and shifts his hands as blood seeps over his palms. "Thanks," he says, and suddenly other Stiles is running towards him, and there's that tug and he's going--
--and he's back on the floor on his bedroom in the middle of the afternoon and his hands are slick with blood.
This is what Stiles knows - he's always entirely by himself when he travels, nothing comes with him, but he tests it. He can scratch things into his skin. Ink wouldn't hold, but scars do. Blood sticks. Smell lingers. He can focus sometimes, choose where he wants to go if he concentrates hard enough, but the ADHD doesn't help, and sometimes he's scattered to the wind and sometimes he's so focused that the tug comes and he stays because he has work to do.
His dad teaches him to start a campfire with whatever he has to hand, how to set a rabbit trap with string and how to slip into a store without being noticed to grab clothes and food whatever he needs to stay safe, Stiles.
His mom teaches him to pick locks and lie, because she's had to deal with this long before there was even a name for it, and she knows better than anyone how to survive.
She shows him how to read someone, how to tell the difference between a person who just wanted to help and a person who didn't see you as a person. They don't tell his dad about that - the sheriff can imagine the dangers, knows far too well what happens to vulnerable people in strange places, but they don't want him to worry. She tries to teach him how to read the situation, to play pretend so a naked child running around doesn't get noticed, or is noticed enough that he'll be okay. He knows how to scream and kick and bite, but mostly he's learnt how to hide, and plan, and sometimes he makes lists of every place he goes, and bugs his older self for every place he can remember whenever they cross paths, helplessly stumbling through time, but it's never enough to stop him from landing, cold and shaking, in places he doesn't recognise.
When he really learns to control it, he practices making that feeling, that tug, work for him; move in the way he wants, pulling it until his vision starts to blur and then pushing it back down. It's exhausting, and it doesn't always work, and there are still times when he's ripped out of his life without warning, but - he has more control, even if it still means he can't stop anything else.
"Dude," Stiles says, when his hands are clean and Scott has picked up his phone. "We have a massive problem."
"What the hell," Scott says, when he's sitting on Stiles's bed, and then, "We have to tell Derek."
"And explain that I saw a future version of myself hunched over his probably dead body? I don't know how to explain that to me. I didn't explain that to me, because future self is continuing his awesome tradition of telling me nothing," Stiles groans, sinking low in his desk chair.
Scott laughs, because he's a terrible friend who has hung out with future Stiles more often than he has. "We kind of owe him," Scott says, and Stiles elects to ignore that with an unhappy noise, low in his throat.
"No, but, I don't how to explain this. What if I just blurt out, like, 'I travel through time and space and it's not voluntary and I basically never end up where I would like to be so yes, I am basically the TARDIS, it's as awesome as it sounds. By the way I think you're going to die horribly?'" He snorts, grimacing. "Chrono-displacement isn't exactly common."
"And werewolves are?" Scott deadpans.
"Apparently!" Stiles says, jumping up. "Although they'll be getting a lot rarer very soon if we don't figure out what was going on."
"Okay," Scott says, his smile falling sharply, and Stiles crashes down on the bed next to him. "We don't have to tell Derek everything, but - it's not like he won't accept that you've got a superpower too."
"How is this my life," Stiles says, to the ceiling.
When he's five he goes to kindergarten for the first time, and he knows his mom is worried so he gives her his biggest grin and runs into the room. He looks back and she's still standing by the door, watching him with that small smile she does.
"Stiles!" a kid he's never seen before shouts, and barrels into him. "You're here!"
"What?" Stiles says, and this kid, all messy hair and huge dark eyes, gasps.
"Oh, cool, you don't know me yet! I'm Scott," he says, and hugs him.
"What?" Stiles asks again, and Scott laughs.
"You turned up in my garden, like, a month ago. You said you were from the future," he shrugs, and Stiles realises he is in so much trouble.
"You can't tell anyone," he hisses, and Scott's eyes widen.
"Well, duh, you have superpowers, of course that should be a secret," Scott whispers back, and pulls him straight over to the dinosaur toys, and Stiles decides that Scott is the greatest friend in the world.
Stiles lasts a day before it's unbearable - he's never seen himself look so terrified, a future version of him ashen pale under his own blood, and the way he was holding Derek - he doesn't know how to deal with it, even before he stamps down the quiet, hopeful thing that tries to uncurl in the back of his mind, and so he grabs Scott and heads for the Hale house.
"I have something to tell you," Stiles announces, when Derek appears in the doorway and doesn't even step out onto the front porch, holding on to the door like he's ready to slam it.
"Not now, Stiles," he says, and takes a step back.
"You're going to die horribly!" Stiles exclaims, and then clutches a fist in front of his mouth because that's obviously the best opening he can come up with, and Derek freezes. Scott clears his throat. "But I'm not sure when, and I can't tell you how I know this but maybe you should avoid, like, having any little werewolf meetings in the next month or so. Because you all might die. Horribly," he adds, in case Derek missed that part.
Derek just stares at him for a long, silent moment. "That's incredibly helpful, Stiles, thank you," he eventually says, and shuts the door.
"You're welcome!" Stiles calls after him, and turns to Scott. "I don't think he believed me."
"I didn't believe you, to be honest," Scott says. "Even though your heartbeat is so steady right now, dude, I am impressed."
"You always know how to make it creepy. Thanks, man."
"I thought I told you this is private property," Derek freaking Hale says, and Stiles stares at him, mouth open.
"What," he says, and Derek Hale, who Stiles hasn't seen since his house burnt down like ten years ago and he and his sister took off somewhere, Derek Hale who Stiles was pretty sure he'd never see again and who has apparently grown up to be ridiculously hot - Derek stares at him like he's mentally deficient. "Er, yeah, sorry? I- I forgot. I have a routine, which involves running here naked and then picking up my clothes and then running away again, but apparently you're here now, so I'll get right on with that and never come back again."
"Naked running?" is apparently what Derek picks up from that.
"It's a thing," Stiles insists, and Derek has seriously weird issues because Stiles has been standing here with just his hands covering his junk and Derek hasn't batted an eyelid. His eyes never dip below Stiles's face, and when he's not glaring straight into his soul he's staring off into the woods like some kind of pensive lumberjack. Stiles knows he's not exactly much to look at but really, is just a stray peek too much to ask?
"My stuff is under the porch- yeah," Stiles says, as Derek leaps down the stairs like the weirdo he apparently is and grabs the bag without even having to look for it, shoving it at Stiles in a rough bastketball toss so he has quickly whip his hands up to catch it.
"Hey, if you wanted a dickshot you should have just said," Stiles shouts when he's caught it and recovered, but the front door is already shut.
And then for two weeks it's pretty much quiet, as far as Stile's life can ever be quiet. He focuses on the forest when he gets that tug low in his gut, but he always lands on empty sunny days when the woods are silent and he just wanders, climbs trees and tries to scratch notes into his arms.
He doesn't exactly forget about it, because no, but he knows future Stiles looked more terrified than he's ever seen him, and he's actually considering admitting this whole time travelling thing to Derek just so he can explain, maybe figure something out, a plan – even though it's not like he has this thing because it's useful or anything, he just gets the previews of all the terrible things he gets to look forward to.
He lands right outside the Hale house once, grey mid-morning light filtering through the trees and the ground is soaked deep red, long tracks in the mud like something large (and with legs, parallel lines deep in the dirt) has been dragged through, and Stiles can't hear anything but there's red up the steps to the porch and a handprint on the doorframe. He doesn't move, doesn't even try to find clothes - just stares, and breathes, and follows the tracks with his eyes like words on a page until he's snapped back home.
He oftens ends up in the forest that surrounds Beacon Hills when he travels, even when he's small, because there are no rumours of wolves in the woods and his mom begs him to think of the trees when that tug comes. They're known to be surprisingly safe (people get lost sometimes, but they're always found whole and well and maybe shaking a little from the strange animal noises, but somehow they always ended up back on the road and no one believes them when they say howling, and they convince themselves of that too) - that's why his mom moved here, why she chose to raise a child which would probably have the same disorder as her, for the endless woods where they can disappear from time into, where they can wait out the strangeness of their disorder, and no one knows.
They are huge and dark and scary for a five year old, but for Stiles that's the second best part of this whole thing that only he and his mom can do. He runs around, and sometimes he finds the road and gets taken back home before his chromosomes do it for him. There are jokes about the Stilinski's wild child of a son, but most of the time he comes back without much more than a few scratches from trying to climb trees.
When he's older, when the Hales have long gone and the house is left to smoulder and sink and finally hunch in on itself, it's half collapsed and no one in their right mind would go in there and so of course Stiles makes a beeline for it when he first realises where he is. By the time he's nine he's taught himself how to orientate himself in the woods, placing careful piles of stones for landmarks and scratching arrows into trees that he sees from young, thin things to study towering trees, his arrow scarred forever into the bark, always pointing towards the Hale house. He starts to stash clothes there; old shirts from his wardrobe and things his dad hands him with a proud look, because Stiles is looking out for himself, and hell, his amazing time-travelling kid might actually be okay.
But - he doesn't always stay in Beacon Hills, even when he tries to. Sometimes, when he can feel the pull and he just doesn't want to go so he doesn't think and he's dropped in the middle of Moscow, or a city he doesn't recognise where the streetlamps are lit with gas, or a lake where the ice cracks underneath him and he falls and he's drowning in cold burning darkness, seconds stretching on to infinity until suddenly there's a pull and he's throwing up water on his bedroom floor. He learns to concentrate, after that.
The worst thing is, it wasn't even planned. Stiles's ugly excuse for a conscience rears up and demands that he try again, and Scott insists on coming because Derek's acting weirder than usual, and when they drive up to the Hale house there's something going on - Issac's there, hauling cracked and blackened floorboards out of the upstairs windows, and apparently Derek is cleaning house.
Cleaning house involves a lot of dragging large, unrecognisably burnt things out the back to burn them even more.
"You having a party without us?" Erica says when she and Boyd show up, while Stiles is still leaning against the Jeep and Scott is giving Issac a hand.
"Therapy," she intones, when Stiles just stares at Derek hauling a couch out the front door, dusk falling in long blue shadows. "Working through the anger." Derek glares, but she gives him the I fought a pack of Alphas for you look, and he moves on a with scowl.
Stiles is ready to leave, forget giving them any possible information about potential catastrophic bloody massacres, when the pack looks at their pile of stuff to burn and realises that none of them have the means or ability to set it on fire. Turns out Stiles can actually get something burning with just two sticks of wood and a rock.
"You know how to start a campfire," Derek says flatly, eyebrows raised, and Stiles waves him off with a pssh.
"Yeah, I was a freaking boy scout. I could rig us up a tent and catch rainwater too with this waxed canvas I always carry around with me."
"I thought your dad-" Scott starts, but then Stiles flashes a look at him over the flames, eyes wide, and Scott stares for a second before he shuts his mouth. He shoots Stiles a grin instead.
"It's so cute when you're all telepathic," Erica coos, looking viciously delighted, and Derek crosses his arms and frowns at all of them.
It's turning out to be so downright pleasant that Stiles is surprised at his own surprise when it all goes to hell.
"Aw, look at this, everyone together," Erica beams, when they're inside what must have used to be the front room, the walls still black but it's empty, cleared and suddenly feeling more what might have been a home. It takes Stiles a second but then he's whipping his head up to look at Scott, eyes wide and oh fuck, no, not now-
Something crashes through the window, and explodes, and Stiles is falling and falling and falling--
he lands in the woods behind the hale house, the sun high and blinding and it takes a moment for his head to stop ringing, blinking until he can see again, and when he does he wishes he couldn't because there's the house, the garden perfect and a little kid that looks a lot like Derek staring at him from the back porch. Stiles swears, and then the ringing in his ears turns into banging and he's going--
he lands in his mom's hospital room, and she turns her head sleepily and reaches out for him and oh, sweetheart, and he's falling--
he lands, and this feels a lot like his life flashing before his eyes--
he travels back, and back, and back, and the lake swallows him up.
College would be a lot easier if the entire werewolf population of Beacon Hills
didn't have his number on speed dial. He thumbs ignore next to Derek's name on
the screen and kicks down the guilt just as easily, because Derek knows he needs
to study for this test, has listened to his rant about the complexity of mythology
and history enough to start mockingly quoting it back at him (which, yeah, Stiles
is totally secretly proud of that), and Stiles flips back to his textbook with a
huff of determined concentration.
His phone beeps. He snatches it up immediately.
good luck, it says, which isn't actually that unusual since Derek finally learned
that caring about other people again wasn't a Bad Thing, but something about it
makes Stiles stop, and pause. There's a tension low in his spine which feels like
a warning, the prelude to a episode that Stiles just does not have the time to deal
with right now, and he knows he's maybe a little too stressed for safety - maybe he
should go for a run, or give in and call Derek and work it out another way, and
that's the thought that catches him when suddenly the tension turns into a tug
that snaps and he's gone-
- he lands on blackened floorboards and he flips sharply, arching onto his back, trying to breathe. The ceiling looks familiar, and when he rolls onto his side there's a pile of his clothes, a purple hoodie and dark jeans he hasn't worn in years and he can't quite place it, this dark room with nothing but silence. He gets dressed and swears when the clouds shifts and moonlight floods into the room, empty of anything, obviously some point before Derek even knows about him - and then he remembers, the floor still scattered with muddy footprints, and fuck-
He runs out the front door of the Hale house and there's everyone, unconscious and bleeding on the ground and he doesn't even think, just heads straight for Derek, lying a little way in front of everyone like he was the last to fall.
"No," Derek says, when he sees him. He can barely open his eyes, lips lined with blood but he still fixes his eyes on his as Stiles runs up and slides to his knees next to him. "No, you're not him," Derek says, and tries to move away, or attack, or anything - he catches the heel of his palm against Stiles's nose and even drugged out on wolfsbane it's enough to make it crack.
"Motherfucker," Stiles says, sprawling back on his ass as Derek just watches, drained, but he's back up and at Derek's side without even wiping the blood off his mouth. "It's me. You don't even - no, of course," he says, as Derek narrows his eyes, because it's tonight. "You don't even know why there's three of me, oh my god, this is ridiculous."
Derek tries to glare at him but passes out instead, and Stiles is running around the side of the house, the version of him that has no idea what's going on, and he stumbles onto the scene with gasping breaths to find himself, wild-eyed and bloody, clutching Derek to his chest and staring him down defiantly.
"What the hell," other him says, and Stiles doesn't have time for this.
"Get over here and give me your shirt," he says, holding his hand out and tightening his lips when the other one doesn't do it immediately, too busy being horrified to be of any use. "You're leaving in, like, two minutes. Hand it over before I have to pull it out the mud," he sighs, and finally he listens. Stiles bundles it up, presses it against the wound, ignores the way Derek whimpers with the worst sound he's ever heard. Younger Stiles is staring at him, and he has no idea what to tell him so he's going to pretend he isn't there.
"The hell is going on?" the other one says, small and scared and like he's not really expecting an answer, so he's not going to give him one.
"Press down here," he says, moving his hands to the side of the makeshift gauze so the other one can get his hands over it, give him something to do while he goes to see that Scott really is okay, that nothing has changed since the last time he was here. "This the third time I've been through this," he says, on autopilot as he checks Scott's pulse, listens to his breathing, swipes his thumb over Scott's blood-slick knuckles and thinks about the last time he saw Scott, playing for his college lacrosse team. "And Scott's okay, just unconscious."
"Thanks," younger Stiles says, so openly relieved that Stiles winces, and then he remembers that this is the last thing he saw and he's on his feet again and running as the other Stiles rips away, and Derek slumps onto his back with a wet thump.
Derek groans, and Stiles grabs his shoulders, moves to haul him into his lap even as Derek reaches for him - presses a hand against his cheek, and then it slips down to his neck as he tries to hold on, his fingers cold and tacky with drying blood against his skin.
Weeks after Scott and Stiles find Laura's body, after Derek starts to work his way into his life without his permission, Stiles flashes out and finds himself in an alleyway in New York.
He has no idea what's happening, no idea why he's there of all places when he was pretty sure he was trying to figure out what the deal with the Hale family is, so - he kind of has no choice but to wait this out, and dumpster dives until he has jeans that smell gross and a plaid shirt that's mostly holes and a newspaper says 12th august, 2006, and he has no idea what to do with that. The street is burning hot against the bare soles of his feet, and he's able to swipe flip-flops from outside a souvenir shop and has to start running before he can make note of the name, because he was totally going to send them the money in about five years time. His dad has Opinions about felonies.
There's nothing better to do than walk - the sun is high and bright and he sticks to the shadows as best he can because he knows he looks homeless and suspicious and the best thing he can do is just try to look like he's got somewhere to be. A few blocks from where he landed he passes a coffee shop where there's a girl coming out with two cups and Stiles stops, frozen in the middle of the street with people shoving past him, because he knows her, there's something horribly familiar about the tilt of her jaw but Stiles can't place it. She seems to stop and - sniff the air?
And then she turns to look right at him, and snarls.
There's a second where Stiles thinks about running, because oh god - but she's across the street and bearing down on him before he can think and suddenly he recognises Laura Hale, and his eyes flick to the seating outside the coffee shop, scanning the faces until there's Derek sitting alone and oblivious and scowling at the pigeons, and Stiles is maybe freaking the hell out but there is a pretty girl looming over him and she's dead and this is his life, so. She seems to have some kind of power which means everyone walks around her instead of shoving past like they're doing to Stiles.
"You smell like pack," she says. "No, no - like, Beacon Hills. Who the fuck are you?"
"Um," Stiles says, and waits for the familiar tug but mostly he just feels hungry. "I know you're a werewolf," he says, because that's the only thing that comes to mind and the shock kind of works because she pulls back and stares at him, and then stares at the way his eyes keep flicking to her brother.
"You're one of those, aren't you? The time travellers," Laura says, and she's frowning but there's something almost like a smile tugging at the corner of her lips, like she's found a fascinating new puzzle to play with. Stiles thinks he probably shouldn't say that out loud, and chews his lip.
"I prefer chrono-displaced," Stiles says, and makes a point to look up the street, look anywhere but at Derek.
"I've read about you," she says, and then, "Is this about my brother?"
Stiles really doesn't know what to say to that, so he shakes his head and Laura looks entirely unconvinced. "Oh my god, you're stalking him," she says, too loud and Derek starts to turn and there's a burning low in Stiles's gut, so he turns and runs and is lost in the back alleys when he finally snaps back to Beacon Hills.
"You're not Stiles," Derek says again, barely more than a whisper. "You smell wrong," and Stiles kind of wants to take offence to that but it's the middle of finals and he lives in a dorm room that always smells faintly of damp, he's allowed to be a bit off.
"That is a conversation we need to have," Stiles admits, and Derek closes his eyes but his breathing stays steady. And, because what the hell, it's not like Derek isn't going to find out soon - "Is now a good time to mention that I sometimes travel in time?"
Derek opens his eyes. "What the fuck, Stiles," he says.
"Chrono-displacement," Stiles says. "And I really should be studying for my Eastern Mythology final right now but I'm stuck here, so please, ask away while you bleed on me."
Derek licks his lips, goes quiet for such a long time that Stiles sighs and looks off into the woods, and for the first time wonders if whatever did this is still out there. "I've heard of that," Derek says, quietly, drawing Stiles back with a snap. "Laura told me about it," he adds, and Stiles laughs.
"Of course," he says, and before Derek can ask what that even means he adds, "I met her," and Derek freezes, tense but not shaking in his arms, so Stiles talks. "In New York, like, a few years ago, it's depends on how you're counting. You were there but you didn't see me," Stiles says, staring up at the stars, and Derek's tension seems to jump into his own spine.
"What. What did she say?" Derek asks, halting and quiet, like he can't help but let the words spill out.
"She told me to stay the fuck away from you or she would rip my spine out. With her teeth."
Despite himself, Derek snorts, and Stiles looks down at him. "Hey, look at you, laughing at my jokes and everything," Stiles grins, and smooths his thumb over the corner of Derek's mouth, casual and intimate and there's his hand on Derek's cheek, fingers curling lightly around his jaw. Derek just stares at him, looking like he would bolt if he had full control of his legs.
"Oh my god," Stiles laughs, and pulls his hand back. "I can't believe I actually forgot how constipated you are about this. I'm going to go grab something from my Jeep, stay right there, don't faint on me," Stiles says, and carefully shifts Derek off his lap before jumping up and jogging over to his car, still parked a little way from the house and looking untouched. Derek pushes himself up onto his elbows, grimacing horribly but he gets high enough to watch Stiles go, to keep an eye of this kid who is Stiles but is so different, not the one he knows and yet this one touches his face like it's no big deal.
Stiles comes back with a drawstring bag full of bandages and antiseptic and strange herbs in pouches, and he mixes it together with a bottle of vodka that Derek pretends he doesn't see because there's a part of him that will never not think 'sheriff's kid' when he looks at Stiles, and then Stiles is pushing the bottle against his mouth and saying drink, and Derek does.
"Antidote," Stiles says, belatedly. "To the wolfsbane."
- and Derek realises he trusts him, this Stiles who isn't quite Stiles, and that's possibly the most terrifying thing that's happened all night.
"How do you know all this?" he asks, a background question to everything racing through his mind right now but, okay, focus on the important things.
"You taught me, and I stash useful things in the Jeep whenever I get the chance," Stiles says, like it's obvious as he tugs a roll of gauze and bandages out of his bag, and Derek is so confused, in the kind of way where he knows the answer but really doesn't want to.
"In the future," he says, before he can stop himself.
"Well, yeah, for you," Stiles clarifies, and then he presses down on the gouges in his arm and Derek passes out again. Stiles moves him so he's lying on his back, as comfortable as he can make him without having the strength to pick up one hundred and eighty pounds of werewolf and drag him into the house. He can't stop himself from just watching Derek for a minute, self-indulgent as hell but he's earned it, before he tends to the rest of them, gives them the antidote and desperately hopes that the other him, the one that should be in this right here, right now, gets back soon. There's a low tug in his stomach and for the moment it's a warning, it's a test of how good he's got at holding on and controlling this thing, but still - he waits, because he's not leaving Derek alone, but it's starting to feel like his bones are on fire.
- and then there's him, landing in the mud with his palms slipping against as he heaves up water, choking on air until he remembers how to breathe.
"Oh my god, finally," Stiles says, and jerks out of existence, and Stiles stops shaking enough to look up to see Derek staring at him, in a pool of his own blood that looks almost black in the moonlight.
Derek says, "You can travel in time," like it's the most obvious thing in the world.
When Stiles is eleven he's in the middle of a fight with Scott and the tug comes and his breath goes - and then he's on the floor on his own bedroom, and an older version of him glances down at him, and sighs.
"Wanna play Mario Kart?" he says, and eleven year old Stiles nods, and sniffs, and older Stiles, who's fourteen and has better things to do than hang out with this kid, rolls his eyes and pulls a sweatshirt out of his closet that's way too big for him.
"Scott's an idiot," Stiles says, when they're down in the front room and the game's loading up. Older Stiles hums his agreement. "He said Lydia would never like me."
"Ten year plan, buddy," he says, and Stiles pouts.
"But that's forever, and I haven't been that far," he sighs.
"Neither have I," Stiles shrugs, "but I met twenty-one, and he just laughed when I mentioned Lydia, so I don't know what to do with that."
"Future me is a dick," Stiles says.
"Yeah," Older Stiles says, and then, "Hey."
"It's no big deal," Stiles says, insistent, like something's weighing down on his shoulders that he just wants to shrug off. He's pulled on his own clothes, still warm from his own bodyheat from two years in the future, and he's still shaking. He shoves his hands under his armpits.
"No big deal," Derek echoes, deadpan.
"Yeah, you know, my best friend grows fangs every full moon, I occasionally time travel, my reading for what's normal is kind of massively screwed so yeah, it's not something I spend much time worrying about. Bigger things going on, you know," he finishes, and draws in on himself, somehow looking so much smaller than the one who could mix a wolfsbane antidote in the dark and Derek... Derek doesn't know what to say to that, but he really wishes he did, so he tentatively reaches out and curls a hand around Stiles's wrist instead. Stiles lets him, in the sense that he doesn't pull away but he doesn't look at it either.
"So, other me patched you up, huh?" Stiles says, fixing his eyes on Derek's arm instead. The bandage is spotted red but it's not spreading, and Derek's hand is burning hot against his skin.
"We're lucky he- you turned up," Derek says, soft, and Stiles hums vaguely. "What?"
"This travelling thing - I can control it, a bit," he says, and Derek runs that through his head.
"You came here on purpose?" Derek says, and then pulls back, dropping Stiles's wrist like he knows the answer.
"Hey," Stiles says, a little sharply. "My life does not revolve around you. Like, I focus on the woods all the time because it's convenient, seriously, so every time we've met - and yeah, every time I've shown up here naked, guess what."
Derek frowns at the ground for a moment, and then, "I remember you."
"I'm kind of unforgettable," Stiles says lightly, and Derek shakes his head.
"No, I mean, not one of those times. I had no idea if it was real and you were covered in blood but - yeah, it was definitely you."
Stiles's brain crashes to a halt - and then he laughs, and wipes a hand across his face. "I think that just happened for me," he admits. "Or I really hope it did, because if I have to flash you when you're just a kid again, I - I don't even know what I'll do, oh my god-"
"You're okay," Derek says, and he sounds so relieved.
"Hey, it's not like it happens often. I'm totally blaming turning up in your childhood as a side effect of the trauma of being caught up in your crap. Again. Because apparently this is my life," Stiles says, and Derek is just looking at him, eyes skimming over his face as though he's seeing him for the first time.
"Oh," Stiles says, and then, because he's pretty sure he just had a near-death experience, adds, "We could. This could be - I mean, we should give this thing a go because, no, really, life is short and until very recently yours was getting shorter, like, by the pint." Which is kind of a dumb thing to say now that the bleeding has almost stopped, that useful werewolf healing thing finally coming in to play as the antidote works, but still. It's a good point.
Derek blinks, and opens his mouth like he's going to say something that will shut this down entirely, and Stiles kisses him.
"I didn't want any future version of me getting to do that first," he says, and then, "Oh my god, that's what that fucker never told me about."
"What," Derek says, like he's not really listening, and he's staring at Stiles's mouth.
"No, no, this is awesome! Future me never tells me anything important!"
Stiles kisses him again, and somewhere in the background Scott wakes up with a groan, and then a stoic whoo because he's a true friend.
(when Stiles is twenty seven he finds himself landing in the woods outside the
Hale house, behind a team of hunters with grenades laced with wolfsbane and
crossbows with silver-tipped bolts, and they've got the pack drugged out and
bleeding on the ground but they don't know these woods like Stiles does. There's
three of them, all turned towards the house, their weapons loose at their sides,
because they have the arrogance to think these woods aren't protected.
Derek's still conscious, just, eyes red and fangs out but he's on his hands and
knees and he can barely raise his head - and he's enough of a distraction for
Stiles to sneak up behind the guy in the center of the group. Stiles takes out
one with a branch and then another before he can even turn around, and Stiles
hates a lot of things about the way he travels but there's something to be said
for the surprise element of being attacked by a naked guy.
"Get the fuck out of here," he says, and he must look fucking terrifying because
the last guy just flees, dropping his crossbow and disappearing down the track
as fast as he can run.
Derek's passed out by the time he turns around again, and Stiles takes a step
towards him and something tugs sharply -
-- and he's back on the floor of his bedroom, in the middle of the night, and he
doesn't wait for Derek to wake up before he's kissing him like he's drowning.
"You owe me so hard," Stiles gasps, when Derek murmurs sleepily, kissing him until Derek
wakes up properly and gets with the program, and pulls him down on to the bed.)