Chapter 1: Part I: Cruel Endings
Derek is fifteen when he dies. He's fifteen, and he's in love with Kate who's beautiful and mysterious and older than him and smells like fun and the promise of a good time, and he doesn't know what's happening until he wakes up in the burnt-out husk of the Hale house and realizes he's standing on top of his own shriveled, blackened, stinking corpse.
He smells the stomach-rolling evidence of an entire family burnt away, smells strangers yelling both inside and outside the house—fire men, police officers, humans—and he knows he's dead, he knows, but that doesn't stop him from stumbling out of the room his body is in (the living room, he was watching She's All That with Laura and Aunt Kelsie) to the foyer. He whimpers at the steaming walls, at the patches of roof that are already starting to sag, at the patches of roof that are completely gone. The front door is open, and he tries to step through it, tries to get out, to stop choking on the horrid stench of death and burning, but something stops him.
… And then he smells the mountain ash, sees it, a dark line against the edge of the doorframe outside on the porch. He smells hunters before he looks outside, before he sees the police car marked detective and the humans milling around in the front yard wearing bulky blue jackets with "CFI" emblazoned in bright yellow letters across their backs.
He realizes that he's stuck here, in this house, with his family, all of them dead, all of them corpses, and he howls in fear and anger and desperation and something that's too painful, too all-encompassing, too real to be sadness. He sobs and screams and tries to bang at the wall but his arm and hands keep passing through it. He doesn't stop though, until it gets dark, and he's suddenly so exhausted—so tired.
Eventually, something, he doesn't know what—maybe it's a ghost thing—pulls him up the stairs and down the hall to his room.
Half of his wall is missing, burnt to a crisp and disintegrated. His furniture is all black lumps that are just suggestions of what they once were—a desk, a bookshelf, a large soft chair he had stolen from Laura's room, his bed. Outside there are stars in the sky and if he tries he can hear the sounds of the preserve at night. Animals. The wind whistling through the trees.
Derek crawls onto his bed, curls up as best he can, hiding his nose against his arm even though, technically, neither his nose nor his arm are actually there. He doesn't fall asleep—he can't, he realizes, because he's a ghost—but time passes, and, for the most part, he tries not to be aware of it.
Being dead—being a ghost—is confusing at first, is frustrating. He watches, numb, as workers clear out the bodies of him and his family, as investigators talk in low voices amidst the destruction. There's yellow caution tape across the door and the mountain ash is still there. Burned into the wood so he can never leave; never escape.
He finds out Kate killed him sometime later, after the investigators stop coming. He finds out when she drives up to his tomb in the SUV he lost his virginity in and gets out grinning, coming to stand just in front of the porch, and a man, old, white-haired, who smells like wolfsbane and sickness, comes to stand next to her.
"Kind of sad," she says, "that none of them lived, dad. Anti-climactic this way."
"Meh," the old man says, and Derek watches the look of disgust manifest itself on his face. "They're gone, Kate. You did good."
She did good, Derek thinks. Good.
His death had been a good thing. The pain that he had felt—he can't remember all of it, but he remembers some; he remembers the screams, the panic as he tried to claw his way towards somewhere less scorchingly hot, remembers the split-second of relief just before he lost consciousness—had been good. Right. Something to be proud of.
He howls, shifts even though it doesn't do anything, prowls around the house—the prison—trying to reach out, to touch something, to destroy something, but his hands never make contact, pass through all the solid surfaces, and when he collapses—just inside the front door—he doesn't move for a couple of years.
Derek's a ghost, so time passes differently, and he only realizes that things are changing when he's not surrounded by walls anymore, but by dirt and loud voices, the sound of machinery and a radio set to the oldies station. Bohemian Rhapsody is playing; mom loves—loved—this song.
He has to watch, powerless, as another house is built around him. It's different—no basement, no large entrance foyer, smaller, with three rooms instead of five, nothing that reminds him of the place he had been alive in last—and it makes him angry. He gets angry enough that for the first time, when he punches out at a wall, his fist connects.
And it hurts.
It hurts so good, and he does it again. He scratches at the walls, pulls up the planks on the stairs and on the floor, dents the furniture that has appeared almost overnight, snarls over the sound of the TV that keeps turning on and off.
He screams at the first couple who move in while they try to sleep, stands over their bed and rages. When they leave, he howls at the family of five who move in next. The wife cooks omelets like his dad used to, with too many onions and too little salt, and he throws the pan across the room, upends the kitchen until he can't do anything except disappear in exhaustion. The woman who comes after disappears the first night, after he uses her paint to decorate the walls. It's a coincidence that the paint is red, but he figures it makes for a nice ambiance; blood red paint in a haunted house.
He's alone for a while after that.
Then the other guy comes.
"I knew this place was haunted," Stiles says. "I knew it."
Bad enough that dad bought the stupid house without even consulting him first, changed jobs, changed counties, without so much as a sit-down discussion, but now he's living in a haunted house. That's just great. That's just… fucking peachy. The one place Stiles usually feels normal, and now… now it's not so normal anymore.
The ghost—a guy, maybe a year younger than him, dark-hair, sharp cheekbones, sharp nose, gawky, although he might just look gawky because his eyes right now are comically wide and surprised—is standing over his bed (the mattress, really, because Stiles hasn't actually built his bed yet) looking down at him.
Stiles is fine with ghosts—he's used to them—but he's not fine with the way the ghosts' eyes are suddenly glowing an electric blue, or the way his hands are sprouting claws, or the way his fucking teeth are turning sharp and pointed and…
"You're a fucking werewolf?" Stiles asks. He almost yells it, but then he remembers it's the middle of the night, dad is asleep in the room down the hall, and the last time Stiles had brought up the whole seeing-ghosts thing, he had been seven and dad had said something about him being creative with his imaginary friends, so he wrangles his voice in at the last moment and it comes out as a yelp.
He shouldn't be surprised; ghosts exist, why not werewolves? He doesn't know what to do with a werewolf ghost, though. He's used to human ones. He's used to… the elderly. There are lots of old ones. Angry ones. Sick ones. The ones that just stare at him and never say a fucking word. He's used to them. He has no choice except to be used to them, since he's seen them since before he even realized what he was fucking seeing.
(He didn't see his mom, though, when she died, which makes him… happy, if that's the right word for it. Means she moved on, means she didn't leave anything behind unfinished. Means she—damn it. He was going somewhere with this, he was—right, he's never seen a ghost like this. Has never seen them change form, or snarl.)
"Dude." Stiles sits up in bed, nudges the ghost's ankle with his foot, and watches, fascinated, as he stumbles backward, turns into a wolf—a fucking wolf—and crouches in the corner next to Stiles's half-built bookshelf, growling loud and terrified, making these weird little whines at the back of his throat. "Oh my god," Stiles says. He doesn't need this. He really doesn't. He has school tomorrow, and… and other stuff. So he definitely doesn't need this. "Are you serious right now?"
He flops back down on the mattress, stares up at the ceiling. He wonders how much discipline it would take to just go back to sleep and ignore the wolf—the fucking ghost werewolf, and why do things always escalate so quickly with him? Why?—in the corner of his room.
Probably a lot. Probably too much. Stiles has so little self-discipline it's practically turned into an art-form. He sits back up, almost on auto-pilot, and looks at the wolf.
Ghost are always… luminescent. In the dark, they're brighter, their auras a distinct greenish hue. In the day they fade a bit, into something muted and hazy. When they talk—and god do some ghosts talk—their voices echo slightly, almost mournfully, like there's a feedback loop somewhere in the middle that's not functioning properly.
"Stiles," he says, eventually. "I'm Stiles. Not my real name, but fuck, I don't even think I pronounce my real name correctly." He's doing this more to calm himself down then calm the ghost. The ghost can go fuck itself. He hasn't had a panic attack in five years, not since he saw the ghost on the side of the street that, from the back, had looked almost exactly like his mother. He's not going to have one now. "I see ghosts. I've seen them all my life. You're not that special, bud. You might get furry and snarl, but you're just a ghost. You can't hurt me."
Actually, it can. Hurt him, that is. But maybe it doesn't know that. He's met a couple of ghosts who didn't know what they were capable of; maybe this one is the same.
"I'm going to find out who you are," he says. "I'm going to find out who you are, why you're here, and then I'm going to get ri—I mean I'm going to help you. All-right, wolf-boy? So just…" —he flops back down on his mattress, inhales deep, and closes his eyes— "so just leave me the fuck alone for a couple of days, and I'll get back to you when I can."
And then, eventually, he manages to go to sleep.
Stiles meets Scott the next day—his first at Beacon Hills High (Home of the Cyclones!)—because Scott sits in front of Stiles in English with Miss Heintz and Economics with Mr. Finstock, and next to him in Chemistry with Mr. Harris. It's a beautiful friendship waiting to happen, and by the end of the week, Stiles is sure that they're long-lost brothers.
In addition to his apparent bro-chemistry with Scott, Stiles knows the following:
Nothing about wolf-boy, the dead wonder, because, truthfully, he just… hasn't looked him up. Usually, he's all over this shit, but there's a difference when the ghost is actually in your house, as compared to when they're just... somewhere else. Somewhere that you can get away from. Stiles hasn't seen him in five days, since the initial incident, and a small part of him is hoping that it was all just a nightmare (he gets those; it comes with the territory). The larger part of him is just stubbornly refusing to think about any of it. Ignoring things until they go away; Stiles is a master at it.
(He's aware that this is the opposite of what other people would be doing in his situation, but then again, other people don't have to deal with seeing ghosts on a regular basis.)
There are four ghosts residing on the Beacon Hills High campus, which is low for a school of its size. The first, a janitor next to the Chemistry room, mops at the same spot day in and day out. The second, a girl in a collared top and poodle skirt, hangs out on the front stoop and pops bubble gum whenever Stiles catches her eye. The third, a guy in MC Hammer pants and a gaudy aloha shirt, leans up against the water fountain in the cafeteria and just… stares. The fourth, an as-of-yet unseen creepy fuckface, keeps banging the pipes down in the boiler room and screaming about how it burns. Stiles doesn't want to know what it is.
Outside of campus, the strange lack of ghosts continues. There's a couple at the four-way intersection in the middle of town (there are always ghosts at four-way intersections, and they're always bloody and in the mood to make potholes and fuck with traffic). There's an old ghost outside of the gas station who stands right by the door and hits it against people's elbows when they try to walk past. That's it. That's all the ghosts that Stiles has seen after a week.
The entire population of Beacon Hills High itself exists in some kind of weird grey area in between reality and the netherworld, where lacrosse is the Sport of the Gods and teachers get away with being semi-abusive dickwads (cough, motherfucking Harris, cough). The cafeteria, actually, is arranged so that the lacrosse jocks, their girlfriends, and their girlfriend's friends all sit in the largest table in the middle of the room. From there, popularity decreases with proximity to the walls. It's all very fascinating, from an anthropological perspective.
"—So, guy with the blonde hair and cheekbones is Jackson Whittemore," Scott is saying, then makes a sharp noise when Stiles starts looking behind him at the center table. "No! Don't turn around. Cheekbones is Jackson Whittemore. Guy with the nose next to him is Danny Mahealani. Red-head is Lydia Martin. Then… Greenberg, and—" Scott sighs, looks down at his plate full of what is apparently supposed to be spaghetti, but looks more… biological. "Allison Argent. The pretty girl with the… with the smile is Allison Argent."
Stiles blinks. "Allison Argent who's in English, Chemistry, and Economics with us? The one you're always—" Scott cuts him off with a glare, and Stiles holds his hands up, palms out. "The one you're always not looking at."
"It's that obvious, huh?" Scott asks, and Stiles takes a bite of his apple as he nods.
"What's wrong with asking her out?" Stiles asks. "You're hot."
"I like girls," Scott says, raising his eyebrow at him. Stiles doesn't know what he's supposed to do with that information. "And, I don't know. She's kind of new… it's just weird."
"You should ask her out," Stiles says, and when Scott just sighs, gives him an unimpressed look, he adds, "eventually. You should ask her out eventually, when and if you choose to."
"Are you really this emotionally mature, or are you just bullshitting me?" Scott asks, and ahh this, this is why Stiles is pretty sure they're destined for a bromance og the ages.
"I'm bullshitting you dude, I have no game whatsoever," Stiles says. He turns around then, even as Scott protests, and takes a look at the table. It's crowded, and every single person there looks like they could be in some CW series; even more so than the rest of the student body, who all seem to be ridiculously fucking good looking. Like there's something in the water. Or air. Or whatever.
A movement catches Stiles's eye, and he looks to see that MC Hammer pants ghost has moved from his usual station at the water fountain and is walking towards the popular table. He doesn't look like he has any particular goal in mind—the fucker has his hands in his ghostly pockets and is whistling, for fuck's sake—but it's still weird. Ghosts like… they like routine. And MC Hammer pants never moves during lunch hour.
"Dude," Scott says from behind him. "Stop looking. They're going to see you or something." Stiles starts to turn back, because truthfully, it's not his problem anyway; he hasn't talked to MC Hammer pants yet, and he'd like to wait at least another couple of weeks before he has to start the whole "helping-ghosts-cross over" thing. Get acclimated to Beacon Hills and all of its weirdness.
(Get acclimated to having a ghost in his house.)
Anyway, the ghost… okay, the ghost is stopping now, and staring, and Stiles tries to see what he's staring at, and… and fuck, meets the eyes of one of the people at the popular table. The red-head. The one with shrewd eyes and a calculating tilt to her eyebrows and a face that makes Stiles flush hot and feel like his tongue is tangled all wrong in his mouth. Slowly—carefully—Lydia's eyes (Scott said her name was Lydia, right?) go from Stiles, to the ghost, to Stiles, then back to the ghost, and… and holy fuck.
Stiles is pretty sure that Lydia Martin sees ghosts.
"Stiles!" Scott yelps, and Stiles turns the rest of the way around on autopilot. And then glances back, and yeah, she's looking at him. Fuck. "Stiles."
"Yeah, yeah, sorry dude," Stiles says, taking a large bite of his apple, unsure how to process whatever just happened. He's never met another one before. Not one that wasn't a fraud, at least.
The rest of the school day is essentially a waste, because he's trying to figure out if he should approach Lydia, or if Lydia is going to approach him, or if both of them are going to ignore the other, or… whatever. He can't be bothered to pay attention to Harris waxing fucking eloquent about his superiority and shit, so he just… doesn't.
What makes his day even better is that when Stiles gets home that afternoon—he rushes out of last period as soon as the bell rings, because whatever happens with what he's decided to call the "Lydia Situation," he just doesn't want it to happen today—wolf-boy is snarling at him from the kitchen.
He's standing on top of the kitchen counter, which is just rude, and the entire contents of the kitchen cabinets are stacked in poltergeist-worthy piles on the floor and counter tops. None of it makes sense, which is par for the course when it comes to ghosts, but it doesn't surprise Stiles. Pisses him off, sure, but doesn't surprise him.
"Dude," Stiles says—sighs, really, because he doesn't need this shit, is so far from needing this shit in his life it should be law—and drops his backpack on the floor, kicks the door closed behind him and then kicks his shoes off just because. Good thing Dad's not back for… for a couple of hours. Stiles is safe at least until six, maybe even longer if dad stays late. "Are you throwing a tantrum right now? Is that what this is? Because I've gotta say, you could've at least been a litt—fuck!"
He dodges a bread knife—a fucking bread knife— as it zooms at his head, winces as it clatters against the wall behind him, and then suddenly wolf boy is right in front of him, snarling in his face, his ghostly mouth open wide showing ghostly teeth that are too sharp to have been human when the dude was alive.
"Get out," wolf-boy says, and sure, his voice makes Stiles's heartbeat go up—it's echoing around the room unnaturally, bouncing off the walls and crackling in his ears—but it's… higher than Stiles had been expecting. A normal voice, for a normal guy that, when he was alive, just happened to turn into a wolf once in a while. Right.
He sounds scared, the ghost. Sounds desperate; his voice is frayed, raw, panicked. It's a tone of voice that Stiles has gotten used to, but it's getting to him now, making him think before he speaks.
"I can help you," he says. "I can—"
"I don't what your help," the boy snarls. Stiles is really tired of thinking of him in terms of epithets. "I want you to get out of my house."
"Not your house, dude," Stiles says, keeps his voice level, even though he's kind of terrified, and steps around him—kicks his bag over next to the island in the middle of the kitchen so he doesn't trip over it—and starts cleaning up the stacks of plates, pots, pans, and cutlery from the floor. Mostly so he can calm down.
The ghost just watches, his hands clenched at his sides in fists, vibrating—literally vibrating; he looks like those hologram messages in Star Wars, with the blips and the fade outs and everything—with some intense emotion. Anger, probably. Stiles is going to guess he's an angry ghost. The type that throws shit around first and asks questions later (like bread knives). Stiles tries not to think about what made him angry; the dude is fifteen, sixteen at most, and he shouldn't even be dead, not to mention angrily dead.
"It is—it… it was," wolf-boy snarls, and he's up in Stiles's face again, except this time he's not snarling. He looks… he looks frustrated. His eyes are roving over Stiles's face, his lips pursed, his eyebrows furrowed like he doesn't know what's happening. He's actually kind of cute, in a decidedly-dead way. "Why aren't you afraid? How can you see me? How can you—" he pauses, clears his throat, and Stiles is suddenly fascinated by the way his eyes catch the light. Even transparent, they're this fascinating blend of… of fuck, Stiles doesn't really know what color to call it. "—how can you touch me? Are you a hunter? Are you here to exorcise me?"
"Woah, ease up on the questions there, bud." Stiles takes a step back, concentrates on lifting a stack of plates to the top cabinet—their previous home, before wolf-boy had his little tantrum, or… whatever it was. A plea for attention, maybe. "Shouldn't it be, like, the reverse? You the all-knowing ghost? Me the innocent human that's going to be slashed in the middle of the night? Possessed? Pulled through a wall to live as your slave for eternity? Crap, I didn't even know werewolves existed before I saw you go all wolfy. And the only kind of hunter I know about is on Supernatural."
"I—" Stiles can't see him, but he can practically feel the confusion and frustration emanating off him. "I was killed by hunters," he finally says, and Stiles's stomach drops. Not because of the whole murder thing—Stiles is used to murdered ghosts—but because this is it; the start. This is where Stiles gets sucked in again, where he gets obsessed for no reason other than it just feels right, just feels like something he needs, like some kind of obsession, until the ghost does what it hasn't crossed over yet to do, and moves on.
For fuck's sake, he's only sixteen. He shouldn't have to do this.
Stiles bends down to start shoving pots back in the cabinet next to the stove. "That sucks, dude," he says, completely aware that it more than sucks.
"They burnt down the house," wolf-boy says next, and suddenly his presence here makes a whole lot more sense. "My whole family was inside. We all… died. They killed all of us."
God, talk about a fucking downer.
Stiles sits down on the floor where he's crouching, slides around so that his back is facing the cabinet. The ghost is standing where Stiles left him, glaring down at the stack of plates next to his feet.
"I… fuck," Stiles says, rubs at the back of his head, at a loss, really, at what else to say. Sorry is… sorry would definitely be an understatement. "I… that sucks. Were they… no one else is here?"
"Just me," the ghost says, his voice cracking halfway through. He turns, walks until his ghostly feet—they're bare, and god that twists at something in Stiles's gut, that he was killed when he wasn't wearing shoes, when he was defenseless, at home, with family—are almost touching Stiles's. Their eyes meet, and then the kitchenware stacked on the floor and countertops starts levitating, zooms, too quick for Stiles to follow, back into the kitchen cabinets until everything looks… good. Looks natural. Looks like there isn't a poltergeist—angry wolf dude—in the house.
Stiles grins and stands, holds out his hand in an awkward attempt at… at what he doesn't know. A truce?
"Stiles," he says. The ghost blinks him, looks down at his outstretched hand, then back up. There's a pause—a long one—and Stiles is just starting to wonder if he had misread the atmosphere; if this wasn't them getting to know each other. Maybe the ghost is still in the "leave now or I will kill you" phase.
"Derek," the ghost says, drawing out the word. Slowly, his hand comes up, like he's afraid, like he—oh, like he hasn't touched anyone since he had died. That makes sense.
"Huh?" Stiles asks. The ghost… the ghost smirks, and it's the first sign of humor—of an emotion other than anger or confusion or sadness that he's seen from him—and it's kind of a trip, for some reason.
"My name," the ghost says. "It's Derek. Derek Hale."
Then his fingers are skimming along Stiles's palm, and Stiles doesn't imagine the sharp intake of breath—the involuntary sound of surprise—or the way Derek doesn't shake his hand as much as hold it, turn it over, squeeze like he's trying to remember what touching is.
"You haven't met anyone else," Stiles says. "Haven't met anyone you could touch? Before this?"
Derek looks up at that, from where his eyes have been glued to their hands, and slowly, he shakes his head. "No," he says, "no one."
Stiles's hand is warm. It's firm underneath his. A heavy weight that feels so alive that it makes Derek want to keep touching it and never let go. He realizes, for the first time in… in however long it's been since he died, that he really hates being dead. That the one thing he wants, more than anything, is to be alive again. Is to be able to feel like this again.
It's so cruel that the one thing he wants more than life is life, and it's the one thing he can never have again.
"What are you?" he asks before he can stop himself, because he—Stiles—is a mystery. He makes Derek angry, for some reason. Not the kind of anger he's gotten used to over the years, but something different, something like confusion and frustration and… and curiosity. He doesn't want to scare Stiles—he doesn't want him to go away—he wants... Derek doesn't know what he wants, just knows that it's sudden and intense.
"I'm, uh, human?" Stiles says, and Derek grins, tries to stop when Stiles just stares at him, openly fascinated. It's not because he's a ghost—Derek isn't the first ghost Stiles has seen, apparently—but something else that's making him stare. It's unnerving.
Derek has never really been comfortable with people looking at him. When he was alive, it was more a matter of staying under the radar, of blending in and trying to look as inconspicuously human as possible. And when you're dead… when you're dead even if you do want someone to look at you, they can't.
Until now, that is.
"Humans don't see ghosts," Derek tries again. "Humans can't do this," he says, squeezes Stiles's hand for emphasis. And god, it's so warm, so solid, so real.
"I do," Stiles says. "I'm human, dude… just, I've always been able to see… uh, your kind. Ghosts, I guess. It's a thing."
"A thing," Derek says, feeling twelve, suddenly. He lets go of Stiles's hand, even though everything in him is screaming to just hold on, and takes a couple steps back. "That's stupid. You don't know anything else about it? What you're called? There has to be a name. You're not a witch, or a—"
"A witch?!" Stiles's voice goes squeaky, and his face contorts into an expression of comical horror. "Witches exist?"
"You suck at this," Derek says, after a pause, because it takes him that long to realize that Stiles really is clueless. He flashes his eyes, grows his fangs—it's easier, as a ghost, for some reason, to shift, maybe because he actually doesn't have a body—and snorts when Stiles just looks at him, unimpressed.
He's never met a human who wasn't afraid of monsters. He was only alive for fifteen years, but it had been drilled into him since he could understand words to never do this in front of someone not werewolf. He doesn't understand why Stiles isn't more freaked out; he doesn't understand why he's not scared.
He wonders what else Stiles has seen, to make him react like this.
"I'm awesome at this, dude." Stiles moves, open the fridge, gets out a… a fucking Capri Sun pouch, and damn it, Derek is suddenly reminded of tussles Laura and he had used to get in over the last one. How Laura usually won. "Back at my old school I took care of this asshole who almost… almost—" Stiles cuts himself off with a grimace, and Derek smells the regret and anger coming off of him—it's heady, being able to smell a human, to smell the chemical reactions under his skin, parse them out as emotion—and Derek realizes, even as he takes an instinctual sniff, that it's the first time it's happened since he died.
"What?" Derek asks, curious. He takes a step forward, wants to touch—put a hand on Stiles's shoulder, or… or somewhere—then remembers that this is the first time they've actually talked. Had a conversation. It would be weird.
… Derek has been watching Stiles for the last three days. He hadn't meant to, after that first time, after Stiles had woken up and ruined any plans Derek had of haunting him, but something pulled him out of the daze he usually kept himself in during the day, and he started to just… watch.
He doesn't really know what he thinks about him—them, really, because he's watched the dad too—yet, but he does know that Stiles's reaction to his lone attempt at haunting has made him curious.
And he can touch him. There has to be something to that. Has to be. It's too amazing for there not to be anything.
"The reason we moved." Stiles looks down, narrows his eyes as he punctures the Capri Sun pouch with his straw. "I was caught on the high school campus after hours. Whole big," —he waves his hand around in a vague gesture—" whole big drama there. I sent the ghost away, but I was, um… I had a couple of bruises. Couldn't blame it on the ghost, so…"
"Your dad, he's a deputy," Derek says, trying to work past the sudden anger that comes from the thought of Stiles bruised. He knows it's not his place, knows it's exceedingly fucking dangerous to think like that, but he's attached now. Terrifyingly attached, because suddenly knowing someone who can see him—who can talk to him—is like getting a gift he always wanted.
He might… he might have a friend?
"Yup," Stiles says. He starts walking, picks up the bag he had kicked against the kitchen island after Derek's… fine, after his tantrum. It had been a tantrum, sure.
He has them. He's allowed to. He's dead.
Derek follows, and then they're in Stiles's room. It's more like a room now—less boxes, more furniture, more stuff that reminds him of all the things he had lost in the fire—than what it was before. Makes him feel… out of place. And that makes him angry, because this is his house, and—
"Calm down, wolf-boy—"
"My name is not wolf-boy," Derek snarls, goes to disappear, except then Stiles snorts out a derisive laugh, throws himself down on the chair at his desk and turns his laptop on. It's a nice laptop. Derek wishes he could go on it, wishes he could remember what it was like to have fun. He takes a step closer, then another.
"I'm going to look you up," Stiles says, when Derek is standing next to him. "Is that okay?"
"I—" Derek doesn't know why Stiles is asking him. It wouldn't matter either way, would it? "That's fine. Are you—are you actually… I don't need your help. There's nothing you can do to help."
Stiles looks up at him for a while—the way the light is hitting his eyes make him look supernatural, makes the brown in his eyes turn honey-gold—and then he shrugs, turns to the computer.
"Derek Hale, right?" Stiles asks, types it in to Google, his fingers long and… distracting.
"If you were from here, you wouldn't have to look me up," Derek says, before he can stop himself. "We were, uh…"
"The town loonies?" Stiles grins up at him. "Did people think you were in a cult?"
"No," Derek says. "They liked us. I mean, they liked… my family. We were respected. My dad was thinking of running for mayor."
"Oh," Stiles says, then turns to his screen. "You can sit down, you know. Or, I mean… can you?"
"I can… sit, yes. Why the fuck wouldn't I be able to sit?" Derek goes over to Stiles's bed—smells like Stiles and something else, probably his old house—and sits. He's always thought it was weird that he can do this, and yet to pick something up he has to concentrate until he swears it actually hurts.
There's silence, and when Derek looks over, he sees Stiles looking at his computer, eyebrows furrowed, his mouth open in… something; disgust, surprise, anger. He's reading an article, and Derek can't make himself read the words; doesn't want to. Instead, he lays back down on Stiles's bed, fascinated by the familiarity of the smells that surround him—teenage boy, mostly, and it's kind of amazing that he had missed that—and watches the way his arm almost completely disappears if held up in direct sunlight.
He wonders if Stiles could find a way to help him get outside. There has to be a way, after all this time. The mountain ash has had to have at least lost some of its power.
"Mountain ash," Derek says, and when Stiles makes a noise to show he's listening, Derek continues. "The hunters—" he's not going to mention her yet. He can barely think about her without wanting to destroy something. "—put a line of mountain ash around the house. We can't cross mountain ash, so…"
"So you were trapped insi—wait are you still trapped inside?" Stilees swivels in his chair, and when Derek looks at him, his eyes are wide and disbelieving. Derek nods.
"It was… no one ever really taught me what you need to do to break it. I mean, in theory I know, but…" Derek takes a deep breath. "Maybe you could help me. With that."
"Y—yeah, dude," Stiles says. "Yeah, I could help you with that. Fuck, this is messed up."
"It is," Derek agrees. "Really fucking messed up."
Stiles doesn't know how to help Derek. Okay, no, he knows how, in theory. Derek explained the whole belief thing tied to mountain ash, but there isn't any mountain ash that's actually visible around the house. The—and god, Stiles can't believe he's going to say this—the spell is burnt into the ground, into the soil itself, into the foundation and the ash that's underneath all the modern construction (which is, admittedly, a depressing thought).
Even after that, Stiles doesn't know what else Derek needs so he can move on. Is it a vengeance type of deal? Stiles would kind of like to get vengeance for him, if only because he thinks, if he words it right, he could get Dad to re-open the arson case that no one had been able to solve six years ago.
Except… Derek disappeared when Stiles asked him if he knew the hunters who killed him. His face when Stiles had asked had been closed off and petulant, guilty and sad—so sad—and Stiles isn't looking forward to the big reveal, whenever—if—Derek opens up to tell him exactly what happened.
It's probably going to be horrible.
So, Stiles gets used to hanging around in his room with a ghost fairly quickly—by the next day, when he wakes up and Derek is sitting in his soft chair, looking out the window, the morning sun hitting his transparent face, he's pretty well-adjusted—and tries his hand at researching mountain ash and spells online. It doesn't go well, because as good of an algorithm as Google employs, it doesn't adjust for fake magic versus real magic.
He manages to avoid Lydia Martin for another day before she practically forces him to be her partner in English for an exercise in poem analysis. Everything he reads makes Stiles think about werewolves and moutain ash and vengeance, and he manages to ignore her thinly veiled attempts at broaching the subject of ghosts by concentrating on about a million things other than her. Well, her words, at least. He can't help but notice the way her hair catches the light, or the shiny pinkness of her lips, or… uh, or other assets.
He looks around them forty minutes into the period, sees that both Scott and douchebag Whittemore—it's a recent nickname, ever since the dude attempted to trip him in the hall (didn't work; Stiles has gotten to be a pro at dodging things)—are staring at them, and grimaces.
"Pay attention," Lydia suddenly hisses in his ear, and kicks his shin hard enough that he recoils, rubs at the sore spot. She's wearing heels, and they hurt. What type of sixteen-year-old girl wears heels to high school? It's just… painful, for all parties.
"Ow?" he says. "What the hell?"
"Are you, or are you not," Lydia asks, lips pursed, eyes narrowed, "a Mediator?"
"What the fuck is a Mediator?" Stiles leans forward, does his best to convey his irritation in a whisper. "And no, no I'm not. Could we—"
"We finished ten minutes ago, Stiles." Lydia leans forward as well, eyes him suspiciously. "You are, though. I know you are."
"George, the ghost in the cafeteria, with the, hmm, unfortunate taste in pants?" Lydia says, and his face must give something away, because she leans back, looking disgustingly satisfied. "I knew it."
"It's not like it was hard to figure out," Stiles says, and her face gets pinched. "And what did you call it? A Mediator?"
"You…" she blinks, clears her throat. "You didn't know you were a Mediator?"
"I've seen gho—" Stiles clears his throat, leans in closer and lowers his voice. "I've seen ghosts all my life, I just didn't know what it was called."
"Oh," Lydia says, sounds—and looks—disappointed. "Do you expect me to teach you this or something?"
"I…" Stiles rears back, confused. "I never asked you to—I've got stuff to—"
"How many have you guided?" Lydia interrupts, leaning forward to make up for the space lost. Stiles hears a snort, looks over to see Scott grinning over at Whittemore, who's… who's glaring over at them. "To the After?"
"Is that what it's called?" Stiles asks. She gives him a look, and he shrugs. "Two dozen? Around there. Not all of them wanted to leave."
Lydia snorts. "Why do you think George is still here? He likes it, and I can't exorcise him if he's not harming anyone…"
"What about…" Stiles doesn't really know Lydia; isn't sure he wants to. She's beautiful, smart, but there's something about her that seems dangerous. That makes him think it would be easy to get obsessed (Stiles gets obsessed over things, sometimes. It may or may not be the ADHD). He's not going to tell her about Derek yet. He doesn't even know if this—whatever Lydia wants, for whatever reason she's been sending him pointed looks for the last two days—is going to turn into something that would make it okay for him to talk about Derek.
He doesn't want to talk about Derek. It feels like Stiles would be betraying him if he did.
"What about what?" Lydia asks, tapping her pen against her lip, leaning back and looking around like she just now remembered they're in public.
"The one in the boiler room?"
"Oh." Lydia's face contorts into something hard. "Her."
"So," Stiles says, "I'm guessing we don't go near the boiler room."
"No," Lydia says. "I wouldn't. Not unless you like dodging fire balls."
"… can't say that I do," Stiles says.
Lydia snorts, and Stiles thinks their conversation is over, even looks back down at his notebook and the erroneously highlighted poem handout he has next to it, only then Lydia's phone slides onto his desk and he looks back up.
"Give me your number," Lydia whispers. "You want to learn more, right?"
"I—" Does he? He doesn't know, but he's not going to deny that it would be nice to at least have someone to talk to. About things. Ghostly things. Things that usually he just talks to himself about. Stiles shrugs, eventually, and plugs his number in, ignoring as Whittemore starts hissing Lydia's name from across the room.
"Ignore him," Lydia whispers. "He's just worried we're flirting."
Ouch. When Stiles looks at Lydia's face, she's watching him with an expression that he doesn't know how to parse. Satisfied, victorious, dangerous… it's something along those lines. Something that says 'you don't have a chance.'
"Yeah." Stiles puts his name in, hands the phone back to her, and sighs. It's not like he was flirting with her. It's not like Stiles could flirt with her if he wanted to. He's smart—he knows he's smart, sometimes too smart for his own good—not relationship-savvy (the opposite of relationship-savvy, actually). "No worries there."
"Oh, so you're gay?" Lydia asks, raising an eyebrow, and Stiles blinks.
"No," he says. "I'm—" Stiles doesn't really know what he is, to be honest. He's kind of getting pissed that everyone keeps asking, whether it's in the context of him being human or not or making him find out of he likes girls or guys or both or everything.
He's sixteen, for fuck's sake. If everyone could lay off until he's actually grown into his body to start expecting so much from him, that would be great.
"I mean,"—Lydia clears her throat, fidgets in her seat, changes her posture until she seems… smaller— "it doesn't matter. None of my business. Just… I have a boyfriend, is what I'm saying. That I love."
Stiles opens his mouth, confused as to how this topic came up, but then Miss Heintz tells the class to turn in what they've done so far and go back to their seats, and Stiles, grateful for the opportunity to escape, does just that.
When class ends ten minutes later, Scott grabs his arm and forces him out of the room, somehow managing to pull him as far as the end of the corridor before the bell has even stopped ringing.
"Dude," Scott whispers, low and conspiratorial, "since when have you known Lydia Martin?"
Why, Stiles wonders, is he italicizing the Martin? Is there another Lydia at Beacon Hills? Is—never mind. "Uh, we just have a, uh… we have pre-calc together, so…"
"Oh, right," Scott says, then punches him in the shoulder. "I thought you said you didn't have any game!"
"I…" Stiles sighs; he doesn't, he really doesn't. And really, what would he do if he did? Have game, that is. It would be kind of fucking hard to bring someone back to his room since he's sharing it with one of the dead. Not that… not that Derek is bad company. The past two days have been kind of fun, actually.
He thinks that maybe Derek is a friend. He's aware of how fucking ridiculous that is, to have a ghost—the ghost of a werewolf that was burned alive, trapped in his own house—as a friend. But hey, there you go. It's happening. Stiles shouldn't be surprised; he once held a conversation with a dude that had half of his face torn off by a speeding bus, so…
"You… what?" Scott punches him again, starts pushing him towards the cafeteria, because… oh right, it's lunch.
"No game. I don't have game," Stiles remembers to say. "I am completely gameless. I don't attract romantic prospects, I repel them. My—"
"Did she say anything about Allison?" Scott interrupts, and Stiles silently thanks him.
"Allison?" Stiles pretends to think about it. "No."
MC Hammer pants—George—is watching some girl drink from the water fountain when they walk in the cafeteria.
"Then what were you two whispering about?" Scott asks, after they've braved the lines and are sitting at their usual table. There's a new doodle on Stiles's bench—a dick with angel wings, which… Stiles doesn't get the symbolism behind that—and between that and his intense need to ignore George, he's distracted enough that Scott throws a fry (a suggestion of a fry; calling these things fries is an insult to the fry) at his head to get his attention.
"Calculus," Stiles says. "Very difficult stuff. Very boring."
"Yeah yeah," Scott says, narrows his eyes at him, and Stiles does his best to look innocent, and not like he sees ghosts on a regular basis. It doesn't work, because Scott just keeps glaring at him. "You know, they say Jackson and Lydia are going to break up in, like—"
"It's not that," Stiles interrupts. "Definitely not that."
"Seriously, dude," Stiles says, "it was just calculus."
"You're a shitty liar, but it's cool," Scott says with a shrug. "I'll get it out of you eventually."
The Lacrosse team enters the cafeteria then—Stiles knows because they announce their arrival with raucous laughter and bright red letter jackets—and he hunches down as much as he can, avoids eye contact because… for fuck's sake he's been here less than a week.
He doesn't need, in any particular order; pitiful ghosts sharing his sleeping space, dangerous red-heads, and/or the threat of jock boyfriends.
He really doesn't; this move was supposed to calm things down, not make things… more. Just more.
"You want to come over to my house after school?" Scott asks. "I got the new CoD."
"Y—yeah dude," Stiles says. "That sounds awesome. I can drive."
Deputy Stilinski is as interesting as his son. Not in… not in the same ways, but when he's home and Stiles isn't—like right now, even though Derek knows that school should be over by now; Stiles should be home—he can be an entertaining watch.
He's not—it's different, with him, and not just because Stilinski can't actually see Derek, and Stiles can. It's a… it's an adult thing. Derek doesn't understand why Stilinski does half the things he does; why he looks sad around the eyes, why he's always exhausted, why when he looks at Stiles (Derek has only seen it once, but it's memorable) he looks lost and confused and… and frustrated.
Derek remembers when Laura had looked at him like that. She looked at him like she didn't know what to do with him. Like she didn't understand him. Stilinski looks at Stiles like that though, although… maybe it's less pronounced than it was with Laura and him.
Stilinski is at the kitchen table, and Derek is standing next to him, looking over the files he has spread out over the surface. It's not a case; just paperwork. Derek lost interest in the details thirty minutes ago, but he still watches Stilinski because… because he can.
He's never watched any of the other people who lived in this house. He haunted them, yeah, but he never watched them. The Stilinskis are different, though.
Stiles is different. Stiles can see him. Stiles can touch him.
There has to be something to that, something that will make the weight that Derek didn't even know he felt—the horrible dull ache of loss and guilt and shame that's been all he's lived (hah) with for the past six years go away.
He really hopes there's something to that.
Stilinski has a lot of the same mannerisms as Stiles. Or, well, Stiles has a lot of the same mannerisms as his dad. The way he scratches the back of his head when he's frustrated; the way he squints his eyes when he's concentrating; the way he hunches over a problem, picks at it; the way his hands are always moving, deft fingers—
Derek stops, because he hadn't even realized he was paying that much attention to Stiles's fingers.
Then he remembers that Stiles is the first person he's interacted with—the first person he's talked to, listened to, touched—in six years, and it doesn't surprise him as much.
He wonders if he and Stiles would be friends if they were actually at school together. Derek… Derek didn't have many friends at school. And Stiles... well he smells like other people, so Derek is assuming he does.
There's a buzzing sound, and Derek snarls before he thinks about it, then freezes as Stilinski looks up, straight at him, confused for a second, then picks up his phone from the table.
"Stiles," he says, and Derek slinks back, retreats to the kitchen door so he can still watch, can still hear, but it's just less… dangerous. Feels less dangerous.
"Dad, I'm at Scott's house right now. I'll be back home in a couple of hours, just a heads—"
"I'm home now, it's fine," Stilinski says, leans back in his chair and runs a hand over his hair. "I'll make dinner tonight. Sound good?"
"You're home? Did something happen?" On the other side of the line, Stiles sounds different. There's not, like, a sub-level of sarcasm to his voice, which is what happens whenever he talks to Derek. He sounds genuine. Worried.
"No, no, I'm good, kid. I've got the weekend night shift so the Sheriff gave me the rest of today off."
"Cool, cool," Stiles says. On this side, Stilinski grins.
"Is this the McCall kid you were talking about? Scott?"
"Yeah, yeah, Scott McCall," Stiles says. "We're just hanging out, doing homework—he's got the new CoD."
"Right, good, just no sneaking into the high school tonight, no getting yourself beat up," Stilinski says. "Or any other night, for that matter."
"One time, dad. One time," Stiles says, and there's a story behind that. Stilinski sounds like he's joking, but his expression says otherwise. Maybe it has to do with the ghost Stiles was talking about earlier. His bruises.
"One time is more than enough, Stiles."
Derek is curious. He hasn't been this curious in a while. It's unnerving.
Stilinski hangs up on Stiles after bit, sinking down in his chair and rubbing his hand over his face. He looks around once—looks right through Derek in the process—then rests his elbow on the table and starts working again.
Derek doesn't watch so much as… hang out. He stands there, because it's not like he has anything better to do, until he hears Stiles's jeep pull in the drive-way, and then he goes to Stiles's room to wait for him so it doesn't seem like Derek's been waiting for him, watching his dad for the past however many hours.
Derek is a ghost, yeah, and he hasn't interacted with anyone in five years outside of smearing red paint all over their walls and making loud noises, yeah, but that doesn't meant he doesn't know when something is too much.
He's fifteen—has been fifteen for six years—and he knows shit like that.
(Derek wishes he wasn't fifteen, wishes he was twenty one. Wishes he wasn't here, but at college. Wishes his parents were alive. Wishes he never met Kate. Wishes she never killed his family. Wishes he was alive. Wishes he wasn't dead.)
He hears Stiles coming up the stairs, inhales through his nose and smells school and sweat and chips and… someone else. A friend from school—Scott.
Derek figures it's a ghost-thing to be envious of that.
"Hey dude," Stiles says when he walks in the door, throws his bag on his bed. "So we're room-mates now? This is your domain as much as mine? Should I get bunkb—"
"I'm not allowed to be in here? Technically it was my room first," Derek says. It wasn't his room first; his room was on the other side of the house. This was probably Laura's room.
"You're allowed to be in here!" Stiles says, like it insults him that Derek would think otherwise.
"Good," Derek says, watches as Stiles starts grabbing books out of his bag—chemistry and calculus and history and other shit that Derek never thought he would miss so much—and brings them over to his desk. "Have you found a way to break the… uh, the barrier?"
That's not what he meant to ask, damn it.
"Leaving so soon, Der-Bear?" Stiles asks, then, as Derek blinks, wide-eyed, Stiles seems to realize what he just said. His face goes white, then red, and his arms come out in front of him. "I mean. Sorry, I didn't—"
"No, no," Derek says before he thinks about it. "It's cool. Nicknames are cool. I never had a nickname before."
Not outside of the family. Laura used to call him Der-Der. Mom and dad used to call him Der.
"Oh, well, that sucks," Stiles says, scratching at the back of his head.
"Yeah," Derek says. He watches as Stiles hesitates for a second, then goes over to plop down at his desk. "It's kind of weird," Derek says, after they've been silent for a couple of minutes.
"What's weird? Seeing ghosts? Being a ghost?" Stiles asks, leaning back in his chair and smiling.
"You being older than me," Derek says, and Stiles's face falls.
"Right," he says. "You're supposed to be twenty-one."
"But I'm fifteen," Derek says, not knowing why he suddenly feels like talking about this. Maybe because he can, now.
"So you're both younger and older than me," Stiles says. "Yeah, that's weird."
Derek nods. "It is," he says. He doesn't feel twenty one. He feels fifteen. He wonders, idly, as he mulls over that, what Stiles sees when he looks at him. He lanky, he knows, and his limbs are too long for his body, his face too long for everything, and his stupid ears stick out strangely.
People—girls, mostly—used to talk about him at school, though, used to say he was hot. Hot enough to get the attention of an older woman, hot enough to—Derek sighs, stands up and walks over to the window to distract himself.
Stiles doesn't know yet, about the whole Kate thing. Stiles doesn't know a lot of stuff. Derek has yet to decide if he's ever going to tell him. Maybe if Stiles tells him why he moved here—to Beacon Hills, to this house—in the first place.
"I don't know about the mountain ash," Stiles says, after a while, and Derek pretends he didn't feel Stiles looking at him the whole time neither of them were talking. "All the stuff on the Internet just keeps talking about belief and all that—like you said—but it seems too simple, you know?"
"It does seem too simple," Derek agrees, "but that's all I've got."
"Yeah," Stiles says, shrugging. "I'll try this weekend—tomorrow—does that seem good? Just… not when dad's home."
Derek nods, tries not to think about what it would be like to step outside. Even if it worked, what would he do? He would still be dead, would still be tied to this place.
"I really want it to work," Stiles says. "I want to help you, dude."
"Help me?" Derek asks, goes to stand in front of the pile of books Stiles has on his desk. He tries to open up the one on top—chemistry, and he hated chemistry—but his fingers pass through the pages. "It's not like—"
"You need help," Stiles says, and he's so serious when he says it that Derek has to look up, has to see his face. He's serious—looks serious, smells serious, feels serious—and Derek doesn't really know how he feels about that. Helping him means that he's going to… fuck, what do they call it? Move on or some shit like that.
Derek doesn't know if he fucking wants to move on. He doesn't know if he wants to stay here, though, either.
"Is this what you do?" Derek asks, instead of just saying yes. "Help wayward ghosts find a home?"
"Pretty much," Stiles says, shrugs again. "I mean, it's either that or live with you fuckers breathing down my neck."
"Funny, very funny," Derek says, walks over to collapse on Stiles's bed. It's nice, lying on it. If he concentrates he swears he can feel the softness of the sheets under him. "You can try," he says, a little later, once he's heard Stiles's desk chair creak and the fan in his laptop start to whirr. "To help me, I mean. That would be fine."
Chapter 2: Part II: The Bittersweet Middle
guess what the last part's gonna be called
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"All right… okay," Stiles says. He doesn't know what he's doing. He's crouched at the front door—it's open, Derek is standing just inside, his toes hitting up against the invisible barrier between him and the porch—trying in vain to look for something to focus on. There's nothing here—no glowing line of delineation, no black shadow, no heavy air—just new (newish) wood. Stiles doesn't know how he's expected to believe something away if there's nothing to look at in the first place. "Yeah, I have no idea what I'm doing."
"Neither do I," Derek says, and even though Stiles is looking—glaring—down at the ground, he can feel Derek's shrug.
"Yeah, well, of the two of us, I think you're the one that should," he says.
"I—" Derek sighs, just as Stiles runs his hand, for the fiftieth fucking time, over the smooth wood at his feet, still expecting to find… something. "We never really needed to. Not… us. My mom knew a lot; she was the Alpha of our pack. My dad. The adults."
"Oh," Stiles says, looks up at Derek, then down again, not sure how to respond to that. "So I'm going to just go ahead and, uh, give it a go. Is there going to be some… some sign that it works?"
"I don't know," Derek says.
"Okay then." Stiles tries not to sound too annoyed. Doesn't work.
Stiles closes his eyes because it just seems like the right thing to do. He clenches his hands into fists, squeezes until his fingernails dig into the soft flesh of his palms. He breathes in slow, breathes out just as slowly. Seconds tick by as Stiles tries to concentrate, as he tries to will the mountain ash—the spell—away. He feels something, almost like a tugging from the direction of the house, but as quickly as it takes him by surprise, gets a hold of him, it's gone. It affects him enough, though, that he opens his eyes, realizes that he's holding his breath, and lets out a loud huff of air.
"I think I—" he starts, looks up at Derek (Stiles's vision is slightly blurry, and Derek is standing in direct sunlight, so he looks like a faint outline of himself). "I think that almost worked," he says. He doesn't add that he thinks it's kind of awesome that I almost worked.
Derek doesn't say anything, but his eyes do widen, and he crouches down, sits cross-legged on the floor. "Why?"
"I felt something," Stiles says. "I think it'll work. Just…" he trails off, closes his eyes again.
He's going over to Scott's later—his house is nice, silent, normal—and they're going to veg out in front of the TV and have a gaming marathon, but for now he needs to concentrate on this. He has a vested interest in getting Derek happy—okay, happier—and Stiles doesn't know anything else he can do, at least not right now, not when they're still at the awkward friends stage, not when all he knows about Derek's death is what he's read online, to help him.
The last time he made a ghost pass over when it didn't want to, he had broken his hand and his jaw, and dad had moved counties. He figures that if he tries that with Derek—not that he would, because Derek isn't haunting a high school gym and pushing kids off bleachers—it would go far worse.
… right, concentrate.
He breathes in, breathes out, clenches his teeth against the buzzing thoughts that threaten to overwhelm him and prove this whole attempt an exercise in futility. He feels that tugging again, grits his teeth when it gets more, gets stronger, gets slightly—only slightly—unpleasant. It's actually kind of anticlimactic when the tugging just… stops.
He opens his eyes, looks down, hoping to see some kind of evidence that it worked—maybe like a light or uh, a disturbance in the atmosphere—but there's nothing. Just pre-stained wood and a couple of leaves that the wind keeps blowing around his feet.
"Try," Stiles says, aware that his voice is breathless; he's excited, sue him. He looks at Derek, who hasn't moved, hasn't gotten up, is just staring at him like he's not sure what to do. "I think it worked," he says. "There was like… a tugging."
"A tugging," Derek croaks. He lifts his hand up from where it's in his lap, starts to reach out, but stops just before the tips of his fingers cross the threshold. Stiles gets impatient—suddenly it's imperative that Derek be outside right this second—surges forward and grabs Derek's wrist. He pulls, and Derek falls flat on his stomach, his upper half on the porch, his lower half still inside.
"Holy crap," Stiles says. "It worked."
Derek makes a broken noise in the back of his throat, and his hand—the one that Stiles is still holding—scrambles to grab at Stiles's wrist, squeezes back as he crawls the rest of the way out onto the porch.
"I, uh—" Derek says, clearing his throat when his voice cracks. He stands, pulls Stiles to stand with him—Stiles doesn't think he's actually paying attention, that he actually knows he's still gripping at Stiles's wrist a little too hard—and walks down the front steps and onto the driveway. "Oh," he says. "Could I—"
"Yeah dude, you're a free agent," Stiles says, resting his free arm across Derek's shoulders because he can, because there's no one around to look at the weird kid half-hugging air. "Go do your wolfy one-with-nature thing."
Derek looks at him like he wants to say something but can't find the words, and then he nods, and walks the rest of the way down the driveway, across the manicured front lawn, through the fence that surrounds the property, and into the woods. Stiles watches him go, half-expecting him to wolf out, start running, but he doesn't. Derek walks, slowly, stiffly, into the woods until Stiles can't see him anymore.
Then he goes inside, grabs his keys from his desk, and goes over to Scott's.
Stiles stays longer than he expected—it's seven when he heads home, and he's full of junk-food, his brain addled from so many hours staring at the television screen—and the house is dark and empty when he unlocks the front door.
The weekend passes by too quickly, but Stiles manages to finish his homework, organize his porn folder, spend five hours on Wikipedia, and somehow get roped into a documentary on Netflix about ballet.
He doesn't see Derek until he's getting ready for school on Monday morning. Stiles is in his boxers, rifling through the top drawer of his dresser looking for a clean shirt, and when he finds one he turns around, and Derek is sitting on his unmade bed, staring.
"Uh," Stiles says, pressing his shirt against his chest because… fuck he doesn't know why. "Hey. Had fun?"
"There aren't a lot of ghosts here," Derek says, and Stiles tries to ignore the way Derek's eyes are roving down his chest, his stomach, his legs, tries to ignore the tingles that run down his skin as a result. Doesn't work, but he tries. "The forest is nice."
"You should try the school," Stiles says. He pulls the shirt over his head and walks over to his closet to find a pair of jeans. "There are a couple there—our age, too. Well, not the janitor. Not the boiler-room one either…"
"I want you to help me," Derek says, after Stiles trails off, finds a pair of jeans and starts stepping into them. "I want Ka—I want the person who killed my family to go to jail."
Stiles stops trying to button himself up, looks up to see that Derek isn't staring at him anymore, is glaring out the window, suddenly looking older than fifteen, suddenly looking angry, all hard lines and narrowed eyes. Idly, Stiles thinks older Derek would be hot. Hotter than fifteen-year-old Derek, and fifteen year old Derek is… distracting.
"Okay," Stiles says, because what else would he say? 'No, sorry. I think you should stay here and (not) live an eternity of anger and sadness?'
Even so, Derek looks at him in surprise. "That's it?" he asks. "You're going to help me?"
"Well, I mean, right now I have to go to school," Stiles says. "But yeah. I'll help you. Maybe I can get it so my dad re-opens the arson case, point him in the right direction, if you—"
"Yeah," Derek interrupts. "I'll… I need to tell you what happened, don't I? I can't—I don't remember a lot of the details."
Stiles's chest clenches, and he has to try hard to stop from wincing. "No, no, if you don't want to, you shouldn't, dude, I mean—"
"I'll tell you," Derek says, and his voice doesn't leave room for argument. He laughs then, grins at Stiles. "I'll tell you, if you tell me why your dad doesn't like you in schools after-hours."
Stiles grimaces at that. "Caught that line of tension, huh?"
"It has to do with the ghost you—?"
"Exorcised, yeah," Stiles says. He goes over, starts throwing his books in his bag. "Are you going to be here after school?"
"Yeah," Derek says, and Stiles turns to go. "Thank you," he says, just as Stiles is opening the door. Stiles looks back, gives him a smile and a thumbs up, and then goes downstairs.
He tries to act as nonchalant as possible, but shit if he's suddenly worried and anxious. He feels like he needs to do something right now, like he needs to find whoever killed Derek and make them confess, make them regret what they did. But he can't, because he's a sixteen year old dude with responsibilities like school and homework and friends.
So school sucks, is what Stiles is saying. He keeps seeing Derek's face—hopeful and angry and sad, so fucking sad—and keeps trying to think of ways to get the files for the Hale arson case. Then at lunch, the sucky nature of the day is expounded upon when Lydia and Allison come over (from… wherever they've been; Stiles hadn't seen them at The Table) and sit down on either side of him. Scott freezes up, starts blinking, and Stiles looks over at Lydia, who's looking back at him with raised eyebrows.
"More calculus stuff?" he asks, pointedly, and she pauses for bit, then tilts her head.
"Among other things," she says, and Stiles doesn't know how she makes that sound so foreboding. "This is Allison, by the way. Allison Argent."
Stiles turns, grins at the way Scott and Allison are sneaking glances at each other when the other one isn't looking. "Hey, Allison, you're in a couple of classes with me and Scott, right?"
"Right," Allison says.
"I'm Scott," Scott says, and suddenly he doesn't look dopey at all. The fucker looks… the fucker looks like he has game, damn it.
"Yeah," Allison says, and pushes a lock of hair behind her ear, smiles. "I know."
Oh for fuck's sake. Stiles turns to Lydia, raises an eyebrow. "Are you setting my bro up with yours?" he whispers.
"I have no idea why she's been so obsessed with him," Lydia whispers back. "One time—one time—he gives her a pen, and suddenly none of the Lacrosse players are good enough."
"Scott's a man among men," Stiles says. "Also Lacrosse players are never good enough."
Next to them, Allison and Scott start talking about trig class. Stiles tunes them out, leans closer to Lydia.
"I need to talk to you about, uh…"
"About calculus?" Lydia finishes, sweetly, her eyes flashing.
"Yeah, calculus," Stiles says. "I don't get a couple of problems."
He's not going to tell her about Derek. That would feel like betrayal. He just… he needs to know if there's anything that she knows that he doesn't. He needs to know if there's any way that he can help Derek that he doesn't already know about. Lydia had insinuated, earlier, that there was more to this Mediator stuff than just talking to ghosts. Stiles needs to know what that "more" is.
"We can work on them tomorrow," Lydia says. "I've got a student council meeting tonight, so…"
"Yeah, sounds good," Stiles says. It works out better that way; then he'll have had time to talk to Derek, get the full (or fuller?) story. Tell him about Lydia, which… which Stiles is hoping will go over well.
"My house?" Lydia asks, and Stiles nods.
"Yeah, I need the address, though, so…"
"I'll text you," Lydia says, like she's imparting some kind of gift on him, which… if he was into her, it probably would be. Then she stands, waving a goodbye at Allison as she does, red nails flashing in the light, and saunters over to the Lacrosse table. She passes George on the way and smiles at him; George smiles back.
When lunch ends, Scott gives Stiles a look that can only be described as love and walks off to trig with Allison. Stiles goes through the last two periods waiting for school to end so he can get home.
Halfway through his last period, Lydia sends him her address, and then class is over, and Stiles drives home a little more quickly than he should, considering that his dad is a deputy and he's expected to follow traffic laws with more rigor than the average citizen.
Derek is standing at the end of the private drive that leads to their house when he gets there, and he waves when Stiles turns, walks over and just kind of… moves until he's sitting in the passenger seat next to him.
"That was cool," Stiles says. "Have you ever seen the Ma—"
"Yeah, with the twins," Derek says. He turns his head, grins at him. "That's what I was going for."
"Show off." Stiles keeps his attention on the twisting road, but he can feel Derek smile.
"Give me a break," Derek says. "I haven't been able to show off in a while."
"Low blow, Der, low blow," Stiles says. Derek laughs, is still chuckling when Stiles turns the car off in the driveway. "I, uh," Stiles says, suddenly, thinking, in a kind of panicked haze, that with something like this, it's better to just… get it out there as soon as possible. "There's another person who sees ghosts—another Mediator, that's what she calls them—at my school."
Derek's expression closes off. "Wha—?"
"I'm not going to tell her about you," Stiles says in a rush. "Not unless you want me to, but uh, I'm going to her house after school tomorrow to ask a couple of questions about the whole… Mediator gig."
Stiles gets out of the Jeep and pulls his bag out from the space behind the front seat. When he straightens, Derek is standing behind him.
"You're doing… fine," Derek says. "You're doing fine as it is."
Okay, good; he's calm. That's good. "I have no idea what I'm doing," Stiles tells him, walking up the porch steps. "She does. I just… she seems to know more about this stuff than I do—I don't know how, but she does—and I figure the more I know, the better I can help you."
"Get rid of me, you mean," Derek says, and Stiles stops, turns to face him. Derek's teeth are sharp—werewolf sharp—and his eyes are glowing. Which means that he's not calm. Not calm whatsoever.
"You want to stay here?" Stiles asks. He manages to keep his voice level, but his heartbeat is loud enough that even if Derek wasn't a werewolf he could probably hear it. Derek glances at his chest, then back up at his face, and his fangs recede a bit. "You want to stay here forever? Or do you want me to find the asshole that killed you and your family and make their life a living hell? It's not about getting rid of you—although I fucking will if you start getting violent, wolf boy—it's about getting… fuck this is corny… it's about getting even. It's about… I don't know, I don't feel right if I just let it go. It's like a buzzing under my skin. It's just… it's something I need to do."
Derek blinks, and Stiles uses the silence to unlock the front door and walk inside, kick his shoes off and trudge up the stairs.
"I don't want to stay," Derek says, ten minutes later, after Stiles has dropped his bag on his bed and is sitting, staring at his blank computer screen, at his desk. Stiles turns to see him standing in Stiles's open doorway, one hand scratching awkwardly at the back of his head. "I think if you help me get her—get them, the whole family—it will help. I just, uh… who's the girl who knows about ghosts?"
Stiles processes that it was a family that killed Derek well enough, considering that it was a fucking family that killed Derek, but it still takes him a minute or two to reply. By then, Derek has crossed the room and is sitting on Stiles's bed—he likes the bed—looking uncomfortable. "Lydia Martin. You know her… of her?" he says.
"No." Derek shakes his head slowly. "I don't. I—"
"You've never been able to leave the house," Stiles finishes. Derek nods.
"Yeah," he says.
"You know I won't tell her about you if you don't want me to," Stiles says, clears his throat for no reason. "You can trust me."
Derek looks at him, his eyes roving over Stiles's face for a bit, dipping down to his chest, his arms, his feet, and then he nods. "Yeah, okay," he says.
In 8th grade, Derek had gone on his first and only date—he refuses to think of what he did with Kate as dates—with Lana, who was a human, short, with bright, blonde hair and golden brown eyes and a way of snorting at everything Derek said that had made him… want.
Okay, he had been fourteen; everything had made him want. Technically, he's only fifteen now, and everything should still make him want, but being a ghost doesn't really facilitate things like arousal.
… Except now it is. Except now he's looking at Stiles, who, apparently, decided to place his desk where the sun shines in through the window at just the right angle to make his eyes look like dark honey, make his lips shine and his eyelashes cast delicate shadows on his face and… and holy fuck this can't be happening.
"Hunters are supposed to have a code," Derek says, looks down at the floor because Stiles is just looking at him, heart-rate slightly elevated like it always is around Derek, his expression expectant. "None of them fucking follow it."
Stiles snorts at that. "Right," he says. "So it's more like what you would call guidelines?"
Derek grins. "Was that a—"
"Pirates of the Caribbean reference?" Stiles asks. "Yes. Continue."
"They hunt us for what we are," Derek continues, after he remembers what they were talking about. "They hunt us because we're the fucking monsters and they're the humans, so they automatically think we deserve to die. And then they kill us. No code, no mercy, just..." Derek clears his throat, because suddenly his voice is raw. "Just... cull us."
"Shit," Stiles hisses. Derek looks up, chokes out a laugh at the panicked expression on his face. "No, dude, I'm not good at this part. I'm not good at"—Stiles waves a hand at him, even as he gets up from his chair, comes to sit next to Derek on the bed—"comforting."
Derek takes a deep breath, and fists his hands in his lap. He glances over at Stiles, who's looking at him like he doesn't know what to do, and lets out another laugh. "It's cool," he says. "I'm good."
"No, dude, you're not," Stiles says.
"Right," Derek says, doesn't bother denying it. "Her name was Kate. She seduced me"—Derek pauses as Stiles swears under his breath, takes a subtle inhale through his nose and smells anger and hatred, and for some reason, that makes it easier to continue—"to get to my family. She found… found out when we were all going to be home, and then she burned it down with us inside."
"How—?" Stiles starts, then cuts himself off and shakes his head. "Doesn't matter," he says. "You—" this time when Stiles stops talking, it's with a snarl. He looks away, and this time Derek smells sadness that's not his own, and it kind of makes him… sadistically happy. That someone could still be sad for him.
"I want her—" dead, Derek's mind supplies— "to get caught. I want her in jail, or… or something. Her whole family. An old guy came with her to the house, after… after everything was done. After the police stopped coming, and he told her"—Derek squints as he tries to remember what the man had looked like—"he told her she had done good. He was old, white, balding, smelled sick like he was going to die soon."
"And her?" Stiles asks.
"Blonde," Derek says. "Old… older. She was twenty-two, when—"
"Fucking Christ, dude," Stiles interrupts. "That's statutory rape."
Derek looks down at his lap, nods his head, knowing that if he had blood, his cheeks and ears and neck would be turning red right now. As it is he wants to start mumbling, maybe duck out of the room as elegantly as possible and beat himself up (metaphorically) for a couple of hours.
"I'll get her," Stiles says, suddenly. "We'll get her. I'm the son of a fucking cop, dude. This is just… I've seen some shit, but shit, dude."
"Yeah," Derek can't help but agree. "I don't know her last name—she never told me. If you could find a picture of her I might be able to point her out. Or… she drove a black SUV."
"All right," Stiles says. He gets up and starts pacing, rubbing at the back of his head, narrowing his eyes and staring at nothing as he thinks. "Okay, okay. So, I need the files for the case. None of the stuff I've been able to find online has said anything about any suspects being investigated."
"Right," Derek says, slightly amused already. "I could help with tha—"
"Would they be paper files?" Stiles asks. "They're old, so our best bet is that they're in storage. At my dad's old station, they used to—"
"Why'd you move?" Derek asks, suddenly, because this can wait. It's not like Derek doesn't have time. Stiles freezes, looks down at him, and damn it, he's standing in front of the window, silhouetted against the late afternoon sun, and Derek wonders what he had done to deserve the worst fucking love-life ever to have existed.
God, it's weird to joke about shit like that, but apparently he can, now.
"At my old school"—Stiles starts talking at the same time he starts pacing again—"there was this ghost. Poltergeist, really. Wasn't there before. Just kind of appeared. Nasty fucker; old, like, dude, I'm telling you, old as balls. Colonial era old. And evil. He hurt a lot of kids in the gym—broken arms, bruised ribs, almost crushed a girl by making the bleachers retract when she was under them—so I tried the usual way, and it didn't work. And then, I, uh… exorcised it."
"Like…" Derek isn't sure what exorcism actually entails. Stiles scrunches his nose up.
"Like that's something that I do," he says. "It's not a spell or anything. It's just… I didn't even know I could. It happened accidentally. I got beat up pretty good, and since no one's in the know about ghosts, it was assumed that I had been involved in a, uh, a gang fight."
"Oh," Derek says. "Bruises?"
"A broken hand," Stiles say after a bit. "Cracked jaw. I looked like shit. And yeah, bruises dude. Bruises everywhere."
"When I was alive," Derek says, because he doesn't know what else to say, "I could've taken the pain away. Werewolves can do that."
"Yeah?" Stiles grins. "Like go all Nurse Betty and heal me?"
"No," Derek says. He lifts his hand up, stares at it. "It just takes the pain away. Or it did."
"Well," Stiles looks at him for a bit. "That's cool. Because I swear… having a broken hand? Not fun. Not fun at all."
It takes a while for Derek to get that, and then he doesn't know whether to laugh or go crawl somewhere dark and silent so he won't think about how that makes him think of Stiles's hand against his skin, against his dick. The noises he would make while doing it…
"The arson file," Derek prompts, clearing his throat.
"Right," Stiles says. He gets up, grabs his computer, and then walks back to sit next to Derek, Stiles's side up against his. (Derek doesn't know if that's purposeful or not, but he doesn't say anything). "Arson file. I'm thinking it will be on the database—"
"Not physical records?" Derek asks. "It was six years ago."
"Naah, they have both—physical and digital—I just think the digital's the easier to get. We just need someone who's good with computers. I mean, I could do it, if I had a couple hours to spare."
"Okay," Derek says. He watches as Stiles brings up a note pad on his desktop, starts making a to-do list, and can't stop from laughing.
"Hey, organization is key here, dude," Stiles defends himself. "So, files. If that gives us any leads, we go from there?"
"And then?" Derek asks.
"And then we make her life so difficult," Stiles says, and suddenly he smells hard and his face is pinched and angry, "that she turns herself in to get away from us."
"Oh," Derek says.
"We're going to the vet's office. Follow me in your jeep," is the first thing Lydia says when she greets him at her front door. She already has her purse in hand, and uses it to shove him out of the way when she passes by, walks down the porch steps to her Toyota.
Stiles takes a moment to let his brain play catch up, and by then she's already sitting in the driver's seat, putting her sunglasses on with the help of the rear-view mirror. Stiles gets in his jeep and pulls out onto the road, dialing Lydia's cell as he does so—because seriously, the vet?
"Why?" he asks, when she picks up.
"The vet is the one who helped me," Lydia answers. "He's good. He'll help."
"Couldn't you have just told me to go to the vet's in the—"
"—And miss out on your face? Please, Stiles," Lydia says. "I've helped the majority of the ghosts in this town crossover. You're like a new project."
"I feel like you're objectifying my awesome powers," Stiles says.
"I have the same powers as you do. Actually I'm better at this than you are, " Lydia says. There's a pause, and when Lydia speaks again, she's laughing. "But I am. Plus, Jackson—my boyfriend, captain of the Lacrosse team?"
"Yeah, giant douchebag, I know him," Stiles says. Lydia drives like a fucking maniac. They're still in the suburbs—the nice suburbs, the ones that scream upper-middle class—and she's going at least forty in a twenty five.
"He's only a douchebag fifty—fifty-five percent of the time," Lydia says. "The rest he's in bed and not talking that much. Anyway, he's dying of jealousy."
"Well, uh," Stiles says, not sure if this is any of his business, not sure if he wants to know this. "Good for you, I guess."
"Hmm, most of the time, it is," Lydia says, then clears her throat. "So you live on the old Hale property, right?"
Stiles panics for a good second before he answers. "Uh, yeah," he says, feigning nonchalance. Derek hadn't said anything else about Lydia—either yesterday (because they had ended up watching Dude, Where's My Car instead of getting any work done on the whole vengeance plan) or today (because Derek had been AWOL)—and Stiles is hesitant to let Lydia in on the secret. For… for purely pragmatic reasons, of course. "The old house… uh, burned down, right? I heard about that."
"A-huh," Lydia says. In front of Stiles, her car rolls to a stop at a red light. "Suspected cult sacrifice, right? I remember everyone talking for months about that."
"… yeah," Stiles says. The light turns, and Lydia starts driving. She's quiet for a bit, long enough that they leave the suburbs and turn into a part of town that Stiles hasn't been to yet.
"Would kind of expect a couple of ghosts to come out of something like that," Lydia says carefully, just as they're turning onto a side street from the main road, and Stiles's grip on the steering wheel tightens.
"Would you?" Stiles asks, clears his throat. "I haven't noticed anything. If there are any, they're keeping to themselves."
"Ghosts don't keep to themselves," Lydia snorts out. "They're nosy, pushy—" she makes a noise, self-deprecating and humorless, in the back of her throat, and then turns into the parking lot of Beacon Hills Animal Clinic.
At most, it had been a seven-minute drive, and Stiles is already terrified. He parks a couple of cars away from Lydia, walks over with his hands in his pockets and waits for her to get out, eying the suspicious scratch on her bumper as he does. Definitely fingernail marks.
"Are those, uh—?" He points at the scratches, and Lydia just laughs.
"Jackson's great-great-great Aunt didn't like me getting invited to the family winter cottage" she says, then her eyes harden. "We have an understanding now, though."
"Right," Stiles says. She gives him a pursed-lip smile, puts a hand on her hip and the rings on her fingers glint in the sun for a second.
"Deaton's going to be fine—I already called him and told him we'd be coming by."
"Deaton? Is that the vet?" Stiles asks as Lydia starts walking and he falls in line behind her.
"Yes," she says, and then they're at the door. She opens it, and inside is a typical vet's waiting room—plastic chairs, pressed wood coffee table with an array of pet-centric magazines on top, a TV in the corner set to Animal Planet; the usual. Behind the counter is an elderly woman in glasses, and she doesn't even look up as Lydia walks past her and into the back.
Dr. Deaton is in his office, and he does look up when they enter, leans back in his chair and folds his hands in his laps and just stares. Mostly at Stiles.
"You must be Stiles," he says, and his voice is calm and zen-like and exactly what Stiles was expecting it to be. Lydia grins and goes to sit over in one of the chairs in front of his desk, and after a moment, Stiles sits in the one next to her. "I'm Dr. Deaton. You can call me Alan, if it makes you more comfortable."
"Yeah," he says, looking back and forth between them. "So Lydia told me that you could tell me more about… this?"
"You mean being a Mediator?" Deaton asks. He turns to his computer, slides his finger along the mousepad, eyes still on Stiles. "Lydia told me that you're relatively in the dark about the whole thing."
Stiles shrugs. "It's not like I didn't look it up. I just never found anything that was worth following up on."
"Then you've been looking in the wrong corners of the Internet," Deaton jokes. He starts typing, glances from his screen to Stiles. "Give me your e-mail, and I'll send you some informational websites and forums, so that—"
"—There are websites. There's a forum?" Stiles gets out, and Lydia honest-to-god guffaws. He turns to her. "You could've just told me there's a fu—I mean a frickin' forum?"
"Nope," Lydia says. "This is too much fun/"
Stiles grumbles, but writes his e-mail down on the piece of paper Deaton shoves at him, then leans back in his chair, feeling out of place and overwhelmed, as Deaton sends him the e-mail. His phone beeps in his pocket to let him know when it's sent, and then Deaton is just staring at him.
"How many ghosts have you helped, Stiles?" Deaton asks, finally. Stiles shrugs.
"A couple dozen," he says. Exactly twenty-four. He remembers every single one of them. Their faces, their eyes, the way they looked right before they crossed over
"And that's all you've done? No traveling to the After? No time-shifting? No—"
"Excuse me?" Stiles is pretty sure he didn't hear that right. Next to him, Lydia starts giggling. Deaton blinks.
"I'll take that as a no," Deaton says. He stops typing, turns until he's facing Stiles directly, his hands folded in front of him on the desk. "Being a Mediator is more than just seeing and talking to ghosts, Stiles. You're a direct connection to the After—some call it the Great Beyond, I prefer the less foreboding term—and as such—"
"I can channel Dr. Who?" Stiles asks, incredulous. Now would be a good time to leave, he thinks. Before they bring out the tin foil hats. Or pull a knife on him; demand a blood sacrifice.
"He's not lying, Stiles," Lydia says. He turns to look at her, and she shrugs. "I've never done it, but plenty of others have. You've seen ghosts your entire life and you're getting finicky about inter-dimensional travel? Hon, I've done the math, and it actually makes more sense that you would think."
Stiles looks at Deaton again, who nods. "The websites I've sent you should explain it better than I ever could, Stiles," he says.
"It's not even similar to Dr. Who," Lydia adds, inspecting her nails. "Completely different mechanism, really. Dr. Who is all about the space-time continuum and all that, and this is more of… what would you call it, Alan, a back-door? A cheat code?"
"An apt description," Deaton shrugs.
"We have a direct line of contact with the 4th dimension—although that label is so asking for misinterpretation—through the ghosts that we see. Ghosts are really just fragments of energy, left over when someone dies"—Lydia waves her hand around as she searches for the right words—"and we… we have the ability to exploit that energy for our own means."
"So… you've… gone to the After? Gone back in time? Can we go forward in time?" Stiles asks, after a little bit, when he thinks he's managed to grasp the concept.
"No, to all of that," Lydia says. She looks at Deaton. "It's difficult—there's someone who did, over in Carmel. Sarah… Sally… Sofia?"
"Susannah, I believe her name is," Deaton says. "Shifted back 150 years; the largest time jump ever recorded, actually."
Stiles is too overwhelmed to actually interpret any of this. "So, wait," he says, "You're a Mediator, too?"
"Me? Oh no," Deaton says. He gestures at the office around him, grinning. "I'm a veterinarian."
"Plus, it's not like you're actually going to use it, anyway," Lydia says. "Sally…Suzie—whatever her name is—used it to save her boyfriend from dying."
"… 150 years ago?" Stiles asks, wondering how the hell the logistics of that worked out.
"Apparently," Deaton says. "But like Ms. Martin said; there are rare occasions where time-shifting is needed, or even accepted. I prefer to think of it as a side-effect to the real reason that individuals like you and Lydia exist."
"Which is?" Stiles asks.
"To help people who can't help themselves," Deaton says.
Stiles squints between him and Lydia. "So we're ghost superheroes?"
"Maybe me," Lydia says, sweetly. "I doubt you've ever done a sendover harder than an old lady with a scratchy back."
"I don't… I don't even know what that means," Stiles says. "And I have. My dad and I moved here because—"
"You were suspended from your old high school for a month before you came here," Deaton says, and of course—of course—there's a hacker involved. How else could Deaton know that? Stiles has kept it pretty much quiet.
"I don't even want to know how you know that," Stiles says. This visit, he thinks, is getting a little too personal for his liking. But they're both staring at him expectantly, and he's learned more about himself in the last five minutes than he has in the last sixteen years, so he supposes he owes them at least a little bit. "I exorcised a nasty fucker in the gym. He broke my hand, cracked my jaw, bruised me up. I was suspected of affiliating with gang members. Since my dad's a deputy…" Stiles shrugs. "That really doesn't leave a good impression, community-wise."
"Amateur mistake," Lydia says, after a moment.
"Wow, really?" Stiles says. "Thanks."
Lydia shrugs—tilts her chin and purses her lips, looks up at the ceiling like she's saying that it's not her fault she's so amazing and flawless—and Stiles resists the urge to snarl.
"You're living on old Hale property, aren't you, Stiles?" Deaton asks, suddenly, and Stiles is sure it's more than curiosity in his expression. "Talia was a dear friend of mine."
"Talia?" Stiles asks, feigning ignorance. He feels like he's being interrogated. He probably is; Stiles tends to trust his gut feelings.
"Mrs. Hale," Deaton says. "The entire Hale family was somewhat of a cornerstone in Beacon Hills, Stiles. Things haven't been the same since the fire."
"Yeah," Stiles says. "The… the arson case." Maybe there's an opportunity here?
"Have you noticed any ghosts in your house, Stiles?" Deaton asks.
"Nope," and Stiles thinks he sounds convincing. At least… convincing enough. "If any of the Hales are, uh, haunting me… they're not showing themselves."
"Right," Deaton says, leans back in his chair just as Lydia's phone rings.
"Well," Stiles says, standing. "This was, uh… enlightening."
"It was," Deaton says. "You'll be sure to e-mail me with questions if you have any? Or come by; my doors are always open."
"Right," Stiles says, patting his pockets to make sure he has everything. Lydia is typing something on her phone, looking angry. "Just your friendly neighborhood veterinarian, huh?"
"Exactly," Deaton says. Stiles grins, shakes his head, and opens the office door. He's just passing by the front desk—the old lady, Greta, according to her name tag, is playing Solitaire—when the front door opens and Scott walks in.
Because that makes sense. For fuck's sake.
Scott just stares at him for a second, frozen, his stance matching Stiles's—surprised, confused—and then he raises an eyebrow and just seems to… relax. Which bodes ill for Stiles, probably. That's the same stance Dad has when he's about to make Stiles's life difficult.
"Calculus?" Scott says, and Stiles is confused until a hand—delicate, nails painted red—lands on his shoulder and squeezes.
"Scott," Lydia says. "Wasn't expecting you in today."
"I work here, Lydia," Scott says.
Right. Of course. Stiles hadn't known that. Why hadn't Stiles known that?
God this town is fucking weird. And fuck he's screwed. Damn it.
Derek is sitting in Stiles's desk chair, watching Star Trek—the 2009 version that Stiles had sat him down to watch before he left for Lydia's—when Stiles bursts in the door and moans his way over to his bed, flopping down and starfishing out on the mattress, muttering something about weird towns and horrifying coincidences.
"You, uh, okay?" he asks. (A small part of him wants to wait for Stiles to talk, because the movie is good. A larger part is hoping that Stiles didn't rat him out to Lydia. And an even larger part is trying not to look at the skin of Stiles's back, where his t-shirt has ridden up around his waist.)
"No," Stiles says, his voice muffled by his comforter. "I am surrounded by intimidating supernatural… people—not you, god I can practically feel the pout—and people who don't tell their friends where they work. Shit. Time travel. It's fucking ridic—"
"I thought you were going to see that girl"—Lydia, his mind provides in a growl for absolutely no reason— "to talk about… stuff."
"Eloquently put," Stiles mutters. "Turns out I'm a Mediator."
He says it like it's a joke, so Derek laughs, even though he doesn't really understand. Stiles smells like exhaustion and confusion and something else that Derek doesn't recognize. "And?" he prompts.
"And I…" Stiles trails off, sits up suddenly and looks at him, his eyes wide in some sort of revelation. "Crap," he breathes. Derek abandons Stiles's computer, walks over to stand next to his bed and tries not to let the nervousness show on his face too much.
"I, uh," Stiles says. "I can… apparently, in theory… in theory I can travel through time? Among other things."
Derek freezes, even more confused. He watches as Stiles scrambles up, pauses the movie on his laptop and opens his e-mail.
It takes Derek a second or three to make the connection, and when it does happen, he hates the sudden tingle of hope that comes along with understanding what exactly Stiles is saying. Because Stiles isn't saying anything about going back in time for him—that's all in Derek's head. Stiles could be… he could be saying anything. It's not like Derek hasn't noticed the boxes in the attic, full of women's clothes, and the pictures in Stilinski's room with three people, instead of two, and the delicate urn on the living room mantle that smells slightly of ash and bone.
If what Stiles is saying is true—if he can go back in time—it would make more sense for him to travel back for someone else, someone not Derek, someone important.
Then again, why would he tell Derek if he wasn't going to help him? Was it just a slip of the tongue? If so, it was cruel.
Derek feels the shift in his eyes and hands, bites the inside of his cheek to keep the useless whimper that's threatening to work it's way out of his throat at bay. He walks over, leans against the edge of Stiles's desk and crosses his arms over his chest to hide his claws, watching Stiles as he reads from whatever he's found on the Internet.
"What, uh," Derek says, finally, after maybe three minutes that to him, feel tense and awkward. "What does that mean?"
Stiles stops and looks up at him, and there must be something on his face, because Stiles's expression goes blank for a second, and he smells like regret… maybe frustration.
"It means I think I can help you," he says.
"You don't—that's not—" Derek is finding it hard to get the words out of his mouth. If he still breathed, he might have trouble with that, as well. "You would do that for—"
"Woah, woah, dude," Stiles stands up, lays what Derek assumes are supposed to be comforting hands on his shoulders. It's not really comforting, because it's Stiles touching him, and every time Stiles touches him, a little voice hisses in the back of his head that he's the only one that can do that because Derek is dead. "Calm down. You're going wolfy."
"I just don't understand why you would—"
"It's not that big of—no, fuck it, it is kind of a big deal, isn't it?" Stiles takes a step back, suddenly awkward. "I mean, I don't even know how to do it—if I can do it—but something about it just seems right."
"I don't know what that means," Derek says.
Stiles looks at him for a while, narrowing his eyes. "You know that feeling," he starts, "when something is out of place? Like, say you have to have your room look a certain way before you sleep, and if it's not, you can't? This is… like that."
"And if this works out…" Stiles sits back down, stares at his laptop screen. "If it turns out this is possible… it would be good."
He's not saying something, but Derek can guess what he's thinking. Or Derek can guess what he hopes Stiles is thinking.
If Stiles goes back in time—and god, Derek realizes that he's going to go back alone—there may be a possibility that Derek might get more than he ever thought possible. His family back. His life back. Justice.
"Do this," Derek says, "instead of searching for Kate, you mean. Instead of making her pay now."
Stiles looks up, and after a beat, nods. "Are you asking a question, or do you think it's a good idea?"
"… both?" Derek asks, lets out a laugh and scratches at the back of his head, suddenly giddy. "I just… you don't know what you're offering, Stiles. This is—"
"I know exactly what I'm offering," Stiles interrupts. "I just don't know if I'm capable of following through with it."
"Right," Derek says. "Yeah, there's… there's that." It's silent for a while, and Derek looks out the window, around the room, anywhere, really, but down at Stiles.
"How about," Stiles says, finally, his voice quiet, "we try this out first. And I swear, Derek, I will try. I might… I might have to get help from Lydia, from Deaton—they know more about this than I do—and I'll try. But if it doesn't work out… I'll find Kate, whoever she is. I'll get the case re-opened, and I'll get you your vengeance."
If Derek was a romantic—he is, he just likes to fool himself—he would think of that as some kind of declaration. A declaration of… of something. Because what Stiles is willing to do for him is more than anyone—save his family—has ever offered.
"Why?" Derek asks, before he can help himself, and if his voice is a little raw… he forgives himself for it. "Why are you willing to do this for me? When there… there are other people you should want to help first?"
Stiles blinks up at him for a bit, and then his face drains of color. "You mean my mom?" he asks, and Derek nods.
"Yeah," he says.
"I don't know if I could," Stiles answers, slowly. He looks at the screen, points at it with a steady finger. "I haven't read a lot, but what I have says that Mediators can only travel back to events that coincide with ghosts—that the only reason they travel back is to help those that have died before their time, or to get information or… or something…"
"Mom,"—he clears his throat—" Mom was in a coma for three months before she went," Stiles says, and the smell of sadness—old and rotten, deeper than anything Derek has smelled before, at least from Stiles—permeates the room. "She was never a ghost. She didn't—doesn't—have unfinished business."
"Oh," Derek says.
Stiles grins after a while. "Yeah, oh, Der."
"What else happened… at Lydia's?" Derek asks, when Stiles has turned back to the computer, is biting at his bottom lip while he reads the words on screen.
"Met Deaton—zen-like vet, and, oh—do you know him? He said he… knew your mother."
Derek has to think for a while before he can answer. "No," he says. "but if he was involved in the supernatural… my mother knew of him."
"Yeah," Stiles says. "I was getting major interrogation vibes from him."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean they were really interested in where I lived," Stiles says. He looks up, and must see something on Derek's face—suspicion, maybe—because he shrugs. "Yeah, I don't know. I'm not planning on telling them about you, so no worries, bud."
"I'm not worried," Derek says. He walks over to the bed, swinging his arms to get rid of the sudden nervous energy, and sits.
"Good to know," Stiles says. "I'm gonna be reading for a while, and then I'll tell you what I find?"
"Sounds good," Derek says. He watches as Stiles nods, turns back and rests his chin on his hand. "I'm gonna, uh…" he needs to get out. Get away. See something other than the back of Stiles's head. "I'm gonna go into the preserve."
There's a Mediator in Florida who travels to the After regularly to talk with her dead ex-husband. She has sores on her arms and legs and sometimes forgets if she's actually alive, but she says it's fine. She says it's worth it.
There's a homicide detective in New York who went back a year last week. He solved a triple-homicide, got a promotion, and is going to the Bahamas to celebrate.
There's a professor in South Dakota who posts weekly discussion threads about the differences seen in ghosts that come from various cultures and religions. Apparently there are a lot of problems with foreign Mediators going on vacation and fucking up a sendover.
There's a lady in Louisiana who deals exclusively with cursed spirits.
There aren't a lot of mentions of werewolves. But… but they are mentioned. When Stiles does a search, he finds ten queries, dating back as far back as three years ago. There are other creatures too—other shifters, ancient spirits that sound more like bad monsters from horror movies than real life.
But, uh, apparently it is. Real life. This is Stiles's life… or, or what it could be like. He's not sure how he feels about that.
The actual mechanism that allows Mediators to go to the After; to shift through time (it's called time-shifting by those in the know; Stiles thinks that sounds even cornier than time travel, but whatever) seems like what Stiles experienced on the porch earlier, with the mountain ash. It's a tugging; body chemistry combined with weird-ass mathematics that Stiles doesn't exactly understanding and science that he doesn't even try to and the apparently insanely strong will to make something work.
It's heady, knowing what he's capable of. Terrifying and heady and more than a bit fucking overwhelming.
Stiles doesn't sleep a lot that when he finally does go to bed at three in the morning. He knows he should; he really should. It's fucking Tuesday. There's a quiz in Economics tomorrow, a shitload of busywork in his other classes, and the normal school socializing thing to do.
Oh god, he has to deal with Scott tomorrow. Not that… fuck, he shouldn't be dreading Scott. Scott's awesome. It's having to come up with an excuse as to why he was at the vet with Lydia when he had no business there that's making him dread tomorrow.
It's not like he can just tell him. He's never told anyone before. He's pretty sure he knows how they would react—disbelief, anger, maybe a little fear. He doesn't want Scott to stop liking him; Scott's a cool dude. He's probably the closest friend Stiles has had… ever. And that's after knowing him for how long? A month?
Back at the vet, Stiles had managed to make a hasty exit, but he doesn't know what he's going to do tomorrow.
He sleeps fitfully, and thinks that maybe, Derek comes back at around four, sits in the chair next to his window so that the moon shines down on him and makes his eyes glow. It's that or Stiles dreams it. He's pretty sure he doesn't dream it, though, because when he wakes up, Derek is still there, still sitting, still watching him.
"Thas' creepy," he greets, half asleep, and Derek grins.
"You're drooling," he says, and at that, Stiles shoots up, wipes at his mouth and takes a moment to adjust to consciousness, then gets up to find something to wear. When he looks at his phone, he sees he has forty minutes to get to school, which is… not impossible.
"Yeah yeah, I don't even—"
"Stiles!" Dad calls from downstairs, and Stiles laughs at the sudden wince on Derek's face. "You awake yet? I'm headed in!"
"I'm up, I'm up." Stiles walks over to his dresser, finds a T-shirt that doesn't stink and a pair of jeans that are probably clean, and starts changing right there (there's a nagging at the back of his head the entire time he's pulling his clothes on, something like embarrassment and another feeling, something warmer and darker and lower in his stomach that he tries hard to ignore).
"Did you…" Derek clears his throat. "Did you find anything interesting, yesterday?"
"Tons, dude, tons," Stiles says, walking over to his desk to grab his bag and shove the books he needs inside. "I'll tell you after school, maybe? Ahh, and I'll, uh, put on the rest of the movie you were watching, huh?"
"I'm not a dog, asshole," Derek says, following Stiles when he walks out of his room and goes to the bathroom to wash his face and brush his teeth. "I don't need to be entertained."
"Aww, poor wittle ba—"
"Stiles, who are you talking to?" Dad interrupts, standing at the top of the stairs, and Stiles grins, turns on the sink, and starts washing his face.
"Who do you think, dad? Me. It's a, uh, a daily pep talk thing."
"Right," Dad says. "Are you planning on going anywhere tonight? Or can I expect you for dinner?"
"Nope, I'll be here when you get back from work. With steamed vegetables. And, uh, other assorted healthy and—"
"Oh come on, that's not even—"
"What!? It's early, Dad. You've got to give me some time to come up with stuff to annoy you."
"How about you stop while you're ahead and I order Chinese on the way home?" Dad asks, and Stiles's grin gets even wider.
"Well, I mean—"
"I'll get vegetables?" Dad offers.
"Good with me, then," Stiles says. Derek's leaning up against the bathroom door, looking perturbed. Stiles doesn't know why; maybe it's a family thing? Maybe he thinks it's a little weird that even standing right in front of Dad, he's still invisible?
Stiles thinks it's kind of weird. Sometimes—when he and Derek are just talking—he forgets that Derek's dead.
(He knows that Derek probably lost consciousness before he was burned alive. But he had to have been in pain before then, had to have healed his burns and then watched his skin boil up time after time, had to have been screaming and begging for someone to help… and that makes Stiles angry.)
Dad looks between the empty doorway and him for a second, narrows his eyes, then shrugs. "All right, don't do anything I wouldn't do."
"Like go to school?" Stiles can't help but crack, and Dad gives him an unamused grin before taking the steps down two at a time.
Stiles washes his face and brushes his teeth, punches Derek in the shoulder as a parting gift, and leaves the house to the sound of Derek laughing.
School sucks. Not for the usual reasons, though. Or, well, not only for the usual reasons. It sucks because Scott's in most of his classes, and in the rare cases that Scott's not there, Lydia's there, or even Jackson or Allison. And sometimes all of them are there, and really, Allison isn't bad because she's actually a distraction for Scott, but the others are.
Scott keeps looking at him, all… all perturbed, and shit.
Lydia keeps tapping her pencil against her chin and pursing her lips, eying him up and down like he's disappointing her. And maybe he is; Stiles doesn't know why, though.
Jackson's glare keeps going between Lydia and Stiles doing this thing with the lower half of his face that makes it look like he has severe constipation.
Stiles thinks it's a testament to his genius that he doesn't just turn in a blank piece of paper for the quiz in Econ. Or maybe he works well under pressure.
Whatever. The important thing is that Scott is adorably concerned, Lydia is being judgemental, and Jackson is being a (surprisingly hands-off, although Stiles suspects Lydia has something to do with that) jealous boyfriend.
Add to that Stiles's ghostly problem (a problem that is… becoming larger, and uh, more complicated, because now Derek's not just a ghost, but more… he's just more) and his life could be the pilot of a TV show. Or a book. Maybe a movie, eventually.
Stiles gets distracted for ten minutes trying to figure out who would play him, and whether there would be a romantic sub-plot (who is he kidding; of course there would be a romantic sub-plot) and make-out scenes, and then somehow it's lunch, and Scott is herding him towards the outside courtyard—stoner territory usually—saying something about it being a beautiful day and they should take advantage of it, and then pushing him down at one of the tables.
"Stiles," he says, "are you dating Lydia Martin? Because dude, one, that's kind of awesome, but two, it's kind of dickish, and I don't know if—"
"No!" Stiles gets out of his daze just in time to cut Scott off. "No. I swear dude, I'm not dating Lydia Martin. We're friends."
"With Dr. Deaton?" Scott asks, and Stiles rubs a hand over his face, sighs.
"He's a cool dude?" Stiles offers, and Scott grins.
"He is cool. Kind of zen-master… mysterious zen-master."
"Yoda, except taller. Also not an alien," Stiles agrees, wishing he had something to drink or eat so he could feign distraction. Scott laughs, nodding, and keeps nodding for a while, even as he narrows his eyes at Stiles.
"There are rumors about Lydia," he says, eventually, and Stiles blinks. "I mean, aside from the usual high school stuff."
"Right, aside from that," Stiles says, not sure that he likes where this is going.
"She, uh… she's smart. And… so are you," Scott says. He clears his throat, and yeah, Stiles doesn't like where this is going. "Are you guys, uh, making drugs?"
"Seriously," Stiles says, and Scott throws his hands out and shrugs.
"What!? Dude, suddenly you're all sneaky and shit and she's like on your ass—not, stop picturing that—but seriously, every time Lydia and Jackson are in class it's like Lydia's glaring at you and Jackson is glaring at Lydia and you and it's freakin' me out, man!"
"Do you seriously think I look like drug-trafficking material?" Stiles is genuinely curious. "My dad is a deputy. Knowing my luck, he's going to be the Sheriff in, like, three years and be even more smug about it!"
"I don't know," Scott deflates. "I mean, it worked on Breaking Bad."
"And Lydia is ridiculously amazing at chemistry," Stiles agrees, but then shakes his head. "But… no, dude. I swear, there's no Breaking Bad, no nothing happening."
Scott just stares.
"Okay, there's stuff happening, but if I told you…" Stiles grimaces at the slip-up, but doesn't feel as bad as he would, considering. Scott's cool, he might—
"You don't have to tell me now," Scott says, and oh man, Stiles would kiss him if he didn't think about Derek every time he thought about kissing. "Just, like… I like having you as a friend. So, you know, tell me later."
"You're so emotionally mature. Now I know why Allison finds you irresistible," Stiles says, clutching his hands to his chest and sniffing for good measure. When Scott laughs, kicks at his shin hard underneath the table, he knows it's good.
School's marginally better after that, if only because there's one less person that's focused on him. Makes it feel like Scott's on his side, even if he get this look on his face sometimes that makes Stiles rush to change the topic or distract him.
Stiles still doesn't pay as much attention to the actual lessons as he should. He's just—he's distracted. Because he knows what he needs to do with the whole travel-back-in-time-to-save-your-werewolf-roommate thing; he spent all of last night reading everything he could fucking find, so of course he knows. Theoretically, Stiles knows what to do—it's a belief thing, it's a personal thing, everyone does it differently, some people need talismans, some people need portals, others just need space—he just doesn't know how he's going to get from not doing it, to doing it (and then there's the part after, the part where he's going to have to actually stop the hunters who killed the Hales)
It's going to require work; he knows that, too. And time. And luck.
And he really wishes that he could just maybe take a week or two off from school and concentrate on this until he's done, but he can't, because, among other important reasons, Dad will probably think of some horrendously creative punishment for him if he gets caught.
So he doesn't concentrate. He just sits at his desk and doodles in his notebook and waits for school to be over so he can at least get started.
And he does; Stiles does get started. That night, after dinner, he sits in the middle of his room on the floor, and he closes his eyes, because that's what one of the threads on time-shifting had said to do. So he closes his eyes, and he tries to concentrate, but his ADHD makes it impossible to block everything out. He gives up after an hour and watches Super 8 with Derek, the both of them leaning up against the headboard of Stiles's bed.
He's too busy noticing the way Derek is plastered all along his left side though, their limbs overlapping, solid and as real as anything Stiles has felt, and the way Derek is absentmindedly rubbing his foot along Stiles's calf, the way he glances over at Stiles every once in a while to pay attention to the movie, though.
On Thursday, Stiles goes to Scott's for dinner and realizes, as he's listening to Miss McCall talk about the latest batch of med school interns (and getting a second serving of her lasagna), that it had been stupid to think that meditating would work with him. Stiles isn't a meditation kind of guy, so when he goes home around nine, after kicking Scott's ass at Mario Kart, he starts pacing.
He closes his eyes, ignores Derek's judgmental eyebrow, and walks the fifteen-foot strip of floor between the dresser next to his door and the window.
An hour in, he feels a tug, a sharp pain in his chest, and from where he's sitting on Stiles's bed, Derek whines.
Friday he doesn't take his second Adderall after school, because it makes him feel like he's pushing through molasses when he does, and the feeling is worse when he tries to time-shift, and he paces for hours, eyes closed, fingers rubbing at his temples, taking a break every ten minutes to check back on the forum to see if something new has come up.
The tugging is stronger this time, and he feels a sharp pain all over his body; thousands of little needles pricking at his skin, twisting at his organs just hard enough for him to gasp, and then it's over, and he's too exhausted to do anything else.
So he doesn't, just collapses on his bed and takes a nap, wakes up at two am covered in a blanket with Derek staring at him from his usual place at Stiles's desk.
They fight about what to watch on Netflix for ten minutes, then get caught up in Youtube videos about abandoned amusement parks. Stiles falls asleep on Derek's shoulder and wakes up in the same exact spot the next (late) morning. Which isn't weird and embarrassing and doesn't make his cheeks flush bright red. Not at all.
He realizes, a little abruptly, on Sunday, that Derek is kind of beautiful. The thing is… okay the thing is that Stiles knew he was good-looking, knew in some strange way that he was attracted to him, but it…it's different now. Derek's eyes are fascinating, even slightly transparent as they are, slightly muted. His fingers are long and tapered and when they touch Stiles—and they do, a lot, because Derek is a tactile dude—they press down and rub back and forth, almost as if Derek is telling himself that this is still real, that he can still touch.
Derek's head hasn't grown into his ears yet, and Stiles keeps having to stop himself from touching them, pulling at them, maybe cracking a couple of jokes about Thumper. And then there's his teeth, the two front ones that Stiles can't stop looking at, for some reason. Or maybe he just likes it when Derek smiles.
Anyway, there are a lot of little things about Derek that stand out to Stiles—things he wants to pick at, things he wants to examine and get to know better —and it really doesn't help his concentration to be aware of those things, especially when Derek is always there, always with him, always watching him with this look that's like half disbelief and half… fuck it looks like Derek is smitten with him.
And that in itself is terrifying.
Derek doesn't like what Stiles smells like when he does the pacing thing. The… fuck the time-shifting thing. His scent gets distant, fades in and out, gets heavier and mixed with something old and powerful. He smells like pain, and that's probably what Derek hates the most.
He tried to help with it once—laid a hand on Stiles's arm, just to see what it did—and nothing happened. He concentrated, willed the pain to travel up his arm, but then… nothing. No black lines. No pain. Just… nothing. He didn't tell Stiles about it, because Stiles would probably say something to make it feel better, make it feel all right.
Derek doesn't want it to feel right because it's not right. He's supposed to be able to help. He's supposed to be the stronger one. He hates being so weak.
Derek wants to be alive again, and as the days go by, he starts thinking that maybe it's more of a possibility than an impossibility. Stiles wants to help—wants to help him, and if Derek wasn't already obsessed with him, that would probably do it—and he's doing so much, and all Derek can do is watch and try not to look too much like he knows that increasingly, Stiles has started smelling like… like consideration when he looks at him. Like want.
That part makes Derek nervous, for a myriad of reasons, but mostly because he's a ghost and a werewolf, and Stiles is a human, and even if Stiles pulls this off, is it even guaranteed that they're going to meet, that Derek is going to remember Stiles?
He has to remember Stiles. That has to happen. There's no way he's letting himself forget.
… How could he forget?
"Dude," Stiles says, stops pacing to look at Derek. "I can hear you thinking. Could you, I don't know, stop?"
"You want me to stop thinking," Derek says.
"Or, uh, think quietly," Stiles says, shrugging. He brings his arms up behind his head and stretches, and of course—of course—the motion makes his shirt ride up, exposes hip bones and a happy trail and Derek hadn't even known he was into hip bones and happy trails but apparently… apparently he is. Because all he wants to do is lick, damn it.
"Don't you need a break?" Derek asks. "You smell like—"
"—I took a shower. I don't stink, fuck you."
"You smell like you're tired," Derek finishes, grinning when Stiles deflates and walks over to fall back on his bed.
"Yeah, well," Stiles says, "you smell like an ass."
Derek rolls his eyes and leans back as far as he can in the chair, stares up at the ceiling and listens to the way Stiles's heart beats slower and slower. He thinks, maybe, that Stiles is going to go to sleep or something, just like that, with his feet still on the floor and his arms hanging off either side of the bed, but then ten minutes later he does this… thing, like a whole body flail and starts pacing again.
"I figure," Stiles says, when he looks at Derek, shaking out his arms, "the pain is supposed to tell you you're closer to, uh, I guess shifting. So… it's been getting more painful, and that means that I'm closer to cracking it."
"What happens when you do crack it?" Derek asks, definitely not staring at Stiles's ass as he walks away. He never knew he had a thing for sweat pants before now, but… but he does. "What happens if you accidentally crack it?"
Stiles scrunches his nose up while he thinks. "Uh, I don't think I could accidentally crack it. It's like a… uh, it's like—nope, not saying it. It's just… you know it's coming. There's no way you could do it without knowing you're, uh, doing it." He laughs nervously, and Derek doesn't imagine the sudden flush in his cheeks, or the scent of… it might be embarrassment, might be arousal, Derek can't really tell the—oh, he's talking about, uh orgasms. Right.
Derek clears his throat. "Oh," he says.
"Yeah," Stiles says, rubbing at the center of his chest, almost nervously. He starts walking again. "Oh."
Derek watches him, like he usually does, because there's something mesmerizing about the way Stiles starts muttering random things as he walks. Stuff about school, and Derek, and how he has to clean his room and make dinner and plug his phone in because it's already low on battery because of some game he was playing the other day. Derek doesn't know what else he could do, really, except watch Stiles.
Because: he keeps fucking licking his lips, his hands keep gesturing at… at things, his eyelashes, his legs, the way he rolls his shoulders every couple of laps, the way he stretches his neck out like it's bothering him, his eyes (when they're open), the way he lets out exaggerated sighs, the way the right side of his face ticks when the pain starts getting too much, the moles that dot his skin, the—
He only stops watching because Stiles has stopped moving, is staring down at him with wide eyes and a slightly parted mouth.
"What are you, uh," —he licks his lips, and it's only then that Derek notices how fast his heart is beating— "Why do you look at me like that?"
Derek blinks, looks down at the ground as he grimaces. "I—" he says, then shrugs. "You're just kind of… tough not to look at?"
He looks back up, and Stiles is still there, has gotten closer actually, and Derek glances at his lips before he realizes that might not be the best idea. Stiles smells like curiosity and… and attraction, and all Derek has to do, in theory, is reach out, grab his wrist and pull him in, and—
Stiles grins. "That's as bad as those definitions in the dictionary that aren't definitions. Like, 'sailing' is 'to sail' or—"
Derek grabs his wrist, and then… and then he freezes, starts panicking because he can't take what he just did back. He looks up, and Stiles's face and neck are an even brighter red, now, and he's clearing his throat behind a closed fist.
"Uh," Derek says, eloquently. He tries to swallow his nerves and moves his thumb so it's resting over Stiles's pulse. "I'm not sure why I—"
Stiles leans down then, and Derek has been this close to Stiles before, sure—Stiles's bed is small, and they side-by-side to watch movies on his laptop—but not like this. Not when Derek can't stop looking away.
Stiles licks his lips, and Derek lets out a noise. A half whimper half snarl thing, and Stiles's eyes widen for a second, and then—well, fuck, and then Derek pulls him the rest of the way, so that Stiles has to catch himself on the top of the chair with one hand, and kisses him.
As kisses go, it's… well Derek likes it, even though he's in so much of a hurry to get Stiles's mouth on his that he knocks his forehead against Stiles's nose on the way there. There's a lot of teeth at first, and Derek can't decide if he wants to tilt his head left or right, and Stiles, after the second or two it takes for him to catch up, is too busy laughing to actually get serious, but… it's good.
Because it's a kiss.
And the next one is even better, when Stiles stops laughing. He moves his hands to either side of Derek's head, gets his fingers in Derek's hair, mutters something against his lips that Derek doesn't pay attention to because he's too freaked out—too excited, too ecstatic, too amazed—that he's being kissed. That he's kissing.
This is what a kiss should be like, he thinks, as he puts his hand on the back of Stiles's neck, pulls him forward because he can't get enough of how he tastes like life. It's nice that it's awkward, that their mouths don't quite fit together yet. He likes that Stiles is more enthusiastic than him, less nervous. He likes that Stiles's hands are going everywhere because he doesn't know where to put them.
"This is… new," Stiles murmurs when he stops kissing because… right, because he has to breathe.
"Is it?" Derek asks, and Stiles laughs, knocks their foreheads together when he nods.
"Kind of weird, too," Stiles adds, and Derek is about to tense up, ask him what he means (even though he knows what he means, because shit, it's not like Derek forgets he's dead a lot) when Stiles's hand skims down his neck soft enough that it makes Derek shiver.
"Yeah, weird," Derek says. "Sure." He would say something witty, if he could think of anything. Except Stiles is biting at his bottom lip again, and Derek's right there, fucking centimeters away, so close he can feel Stiles's breath against his skin. "Weird is relative, though."
Stiles laughs. "Agree," he says, and Derek kisses him again.
Oh man oh man, so that took longer than expected! Real life has been kickin' my ass these days, guys, but no fear! Everything is getting better, and I'm already 2K into part III!
Beta'ed by the lovely Qhuinn.
Chapter 3: Bright Beginnings
Alternative titles to Part III
- Pete and Repete were in a boat. Pete fell off. Who's left?
- Player Died. Try Again?
- THE Beginning
- The Start
- Full Circle
- The ciiiiiiiirrccllle of liiiiiiiiffeee booo baa beeeeee booo boo beeeee (Don't front. You know what song this is) (I always forget the lyrics) (the parantheses aren't in the title) (maybe I should take a nap)
... yeah, you get the idea.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Okay, so the kissing becomes a thing. No, it becomes more than a thing. It becomes, like, a complication. A problem? A… situation? An addiction. It becomes an addiction, and Stiles is fine with that. After that first kiss (or, well, first couple of kisses… okay the first group of kisses that turn into heavy breathing that turn into them laughing all over each other) it becomes terrifyingly easy to ignore that Derek is dead, that underneath all of the… the kissing and the touches and the laughter there's this, uh, maw of inevitability.
Because this is going to end two ways, as far as Stiles can tell; he goes back in time, he makes it so that the fire never happened, and Derek gets to grow up, moves away, meets someone else, forgets him, or Stiles finds out that he's one of the rare Mediators who can't time-shift at all, and he's stuck getting vengeance for Derek so he can leave. Permanently. So he can rest in peace. So he can be irrevocably fucking dead.
Stiles doesn't like that second option. He doesn't like it so much that he kind of just… doesn't think about it (Stiles is good at ignoring things he doesn't want to think about). He has to go back in time. He has to save the Hales, because even if (when) Derek forgets him, even if the shift means they never speak again, even if it turns out he never sees what Derek looks like when he grows into his limbs, Stiles wants him to live so much.
It's kind of corny—scary? Creepy? Abnormal?—how much Stiles wants Derek to live. He's sixteen years old; he's not supposed to feel so strongly about something like this. He should be, like, bemoaning the state of education or worrying about his extracurriculars or complaining about how he's going to have to get a summer job to help pay for some upkeep on his jeep. Then again, he sees ghosts, so weird is relative, right? That's what Derek said.
"You know I was alive when Firefly was on, right?" Derek is giving him a look. The judgmental one. With the flared nostrils. It's adorable. His legs are tangled with Stiles's though, as both of them lean against the headboard of Stiles's bed, so that makes the adorableness slightly… hotter?
Should Stiles feel weird about being attracted to ghost? Should he feel weird about being attracted to a fifteen-year old ghost? Should he feel weird about being attracted to a fifteen-year-old ghost who is actually supposed to be twenty one?
Fuck, this is confusing.
"Yeah, but did you watch it with me?" Stiles asks. He shifts so that his laptop is resting lower, over his knees, and scratches at his chin, grins as Derek rolls his eyes.
"I watched it with my sister," Derek says. "Laura. She was into Jayne."
"Odd? Laura was odd," Derek says.
Stiles wasn't going to say odd, but hey, he'll run with it. "So it runs in the family?"
"Yeah," Derek says, raises an eyebrow at him. "Pretty much."
"Wow, wow, dude, so sassy, really, you should put a warning on that—"
Derek kisses him to shut him up, lingers to angle his face into the curve of Stiles's neck—Stiles hates and loves when he does that, because it tickles, and it also fulfills the whole stereotypical wolf thing, and if Stiles loves anything, it's fulfilled stereotypes—and mutters something too low for Stiles to hear.
"Huh?" he asks, his voice… breathier, than usual.
"I was twelve when I watched it. I still remember the plot," Derek says.
"Dude you're not exactly fifteen any—ow, I can feel that, asshole," Stiles rubs at the place on his jaw where Derek bit, glares when he grins, teeth sharp and glinting in the light of the laptop.
"Why else would I do it?"
"Right," Stiles says, swallowing.
Derek says stuff like that. It's been a week since the initial kiss, a week of kisses and touching—because Derek doesn't just touch, now, he… plasters himself to Stiles, half over him almost, lays perfectly still next to him when Stiles goes to bed and probably stares at him the whole night (there are allusions that Stiles could make to a certain YA supernatural romance book trilogy, but he's assuming that Derek has never heard of Twilight, and he doesn't want to be the one to introduce him)—and Stiles is both used to it, and… not used to it.
Because for fuck's sake, he's sixteen. In bed. With a guy he likes. Who's plastered up against him, their legs tangled together, Derek's face smashed into Stiles's shoulder and it's all way too fucking domestic.
And yet it's not domestic enough, because Stiles wants more.
It's not like all they've been doing is sitting on Stiles's bed, or in the middle of the room on the floor, or up against the wall underneath the window, watching movies, playing games, talking about stupid shit that Stiles doesn't really remember the specifics of. As much as Stiles wants to do all of that, only that, and as much as he knows Derek wants to, there's still other shit that he needs to do.
Like try to figure out how to shift through time so he can save Derek in the first place.
Like school. Which has been… interesting. Actually, no, no it hasn't. It's been boring and anxiety-inducing because the six and some hours Stiles spends in class could be spent with Derek.
So, the week had passed relatively quickly, and yet, not quickly enough, is what Stiles is saying. The weekend passes by quicker, because of essays and Stiles sleeping a lot to make up for his lack of sleep during the week, and suddenly it's six am on Monday morning and Stiles is sitting in his desk chair, wondering how—and why—the hell he's awake.
"You're staring," Derek says. Stiles startles, almost tips over, and Derek, the fucker, laughs.
"I'm thinking, asshole," Stiles says.
"Why are you even awake? Didn't you say you were allergic to getting up before seven or something?"
"I don't even remember when I said that, but it sounds like me," Stiles says, slouching back and closing his eyes.
"I think you said it on Friday?" Derek asks, like he's trying to remember as well. He's still on the bed, star-fished out, his stare alternating between the ceiling and Stiles. "I don't remember."
"I think I'm so tired I can't sleep," Stiles says.
"If you need a break from—"
"I didn't say it to have you give me a solution, fucker," Stiles groans, "And I can feel you rolling your eyes, ghost-boy."
"I'm not rolling my eyes," Derek says, which is a lie.
"Lies," Stiles says. He stretches until he hears his back crack, and when he stands up, Derek is looking at him with that that face that means he wants. It's a nice face, and Stiles has to wonder what it would look like on an older Derek.
(Stiles thinks it kind of fucking sucks that they can't do more than kiss and touch. Like… he wants sexy times. A lot of sexy times. Sans clothes… but the one time Stiles tried to push Derek's shirt up, there was nothing under it. Which, again, sucks.)
He trudges over, throws himself down next to Derek and shoves his face into his pillow. There's a pause, and then Derek kisses the back of his neck, the skin behind his ears. He kisses down his jaw and his shoulder and then shoves his face against Stiles's arm and stays there, one hand skimming up and down Stiles's back in slow patterns.
Like Stiles was saying; tactile.
(Stiles likes it.)
He stays there until seven-forty, mostly because while Derek doesn't necessarily have a temperature to him, he's kind of a comforting weight that makes Stiles want to just… stay.
So he stays until he has to rush out the door and speed a little to get to school on time. Which is what he usually does, actually.
By the time he parks the Jeep in the student parking lot, it's 8:15 am, and there's no one outside. He doesn't rush, though—chemistry is first period today, and really, fuck chemistry. The ghost with the poodle skirt is sitting on the top step, and as he approaches, she grins, leans back on her elbows and—
Stiles turns around (the ghost pops her gum behind him), and sees Allison clamoring out of an SUV, with who he's assuming is her sister or her mom leaning out the front passenger seat window and grinning at him. Stiles waves, wondering if he should go meet Allison or wait for her to come to him, or—right, meet her half way it is.
"Sleep late?" Stiles asks. She grins, points behind her with her thumb.
"My aunt drove in last night, and we were talking—have you seen Scott today?" She seems excited.
"Nah, I just got here," Stiles says. Her aunt's watching him, twirling a finger in her hair—blonde, and lately, Stiles has become increasingly suspicious of anyone blonde—and her grin is, like, predatory.
She looks like she's thirty-ish.
She… she's blonde. She—no, that can't be right. That's not… that's too much of a fucking coincidence. That… but there's an SUV, and…
"Is that… your aunt Kate? The one you were talking about?" Allison never talked about an aunt Kate. Stiles just… needs to know.
"I talked about her?" Allison asks, frowning. "I don't even remember that."
"It was in the morning," Stiles manages to croak out. "I don't even know why I remember." He adjusts his backpack on his shoulder and swallows, suddenly unable to do anything, most of all think, as the SUV pulls away from the curb, and starts making it's way out of the parking lot.
"Wait, were you checking out my Aunt? You know she's twenty-eight, right?"
"I wasn't… checking her out," Stiles says. He feels dirty just thinking about it. He has to… he has to tell Derek.
No, no he doesn't—he shouldn't tell Derek. Derek will want to see her; he'll do something stupid. And Kate; Kate's dangerous.
Holy… holy shit, Allison is dangerous.
Stiles needs to talk to Deaton.
"Stiles, you're frozen," Allison says; she sounds amused.
"I just realized I forgot my, uh… a thing. I forgot a thing," he croaks, clearing his throat, and when she just looks at him, blinking, he walks past her, already trying to wrestle his keys out of his pocket.
He waits until he's sitting in his jeep to freak out. "Holy shit," he breathes. "Holy fucking shit."
He grips at the steering wheel, trying to calm down enough so he can think about it. Because… because, okay, Kate. Kate Argent. The woman who seduced, raped, and then killed Derek, is in town. Is the aunt of his best friend's girlfriend.
That makes sense.
This doesn't… this doesn't mean anything, though. Not yet. It just means that if Stiles fails to stop her (and it's good, he realizes, that he knows what she looks like now, that he knows her last fucking name, and holy fuck, Argent is silver in French and how had he missed that?) it's going to be easier to bring her to justice.
Yeah, okay, this is a good thi—
"Holy shit!" Stiles shrieks when someone starts pounding on his window, only calms down when he looks and sees that it's Lydia. Fucking of course it's Lydia.
"Stiles," she says, then looks at him expectantly. "Are you going to let me in or not?"
"In the—right, sure, " Stiles says, leans over to unlock the passenger side door. Lydia purses her lips at him, opens the door, and climbs in.
"It stinks in here," she says, already rolling the window down. "Allison said you looked like you saw a ghost. Did you exorcise one of the school ghosts? I didn't see Anne—"
"Poodle skirt," Lydia says. Her eyes narrow. "With the annoying bubble gum."
"Right, no, I didn't exorcise Anne," he says.
"Interesting," Lydia says, raising an eyebrow at him. "Are you going to tell me who you did exorcise, then?"
"I didn't exorcise anyone!" Stiles hisses.
"Then why are you so freaked out?" Lydia asks.
Stiles freezes because… he can't tell her, right? It's not like it would do anything. He has to go to Deaton, and shit, it's not like she would even believe him in the first place. He's in love with a werewolf ghost… who lives in his room. And the woman who killed him is her best friend's sister, and—
"Derek Hale," he blurts out, and damn it, damn it, he doesn't even care if Derek gets pissed at him for this. He needs help. They both need help.
"… is dead?" Lydia crosses her legs, suddenly looking interested.
"Is a ghost," Stiles says, "who lives in my house, and—"
"—if you needed me to help your exorcis—"
"No! No, fuck, it's not like that," Stiles snarls, the panic at the thought of Derek exorcised making it hard to speak. "I need to help him. I need, shit—"
"Words, Stiles," Lydia says, slowly. "They're useful."
"Okay, okay." Stiles takes a minute to hash out what he's going to say. "Derek Hale was a werewolf—the Hales were werewolves." He pauses and waits to see how Lydia reacts; she shrugs.
"Yes, Deaton told me. And?"
"And Kate Argent, Allison's aunt, who just dropped her off today, was the one that burned the Hale family alive."
That makes Lydia freeze. Her eyes go wide, and she rears back, her hands clutching at the straps of her purse.
"But," she says, "Deaton told me they had a truce. That's why no one suspected them! Chris told him he had nothing to do with it!"
"I don't understa—"
"How do you know Kate did it!?"
"It was a pretty safe assumption before," Stiles says, narrowing his eyes, "but now it's kind of even more so. They had a truce? Because that's not the type of truce I'm used to, Lydia, and how do you know about this?"
"Deaton was Mrs. Hale's," —Lydia waves her hand around—"her advisor or something, I don't know. He's like a wise village shaman except without the… shaman part, or the village part. He told me they had a truce—the Argents are supposed to follow a code!"
"Is Allison involved? Is that why you—?"
"No, she doesn't know anything yet," Lydia says, shaking her head. Her eyes glaze over as she thinks, and then, abruptly, she turns to him. "Why are you telling me this now? What does it have to do with… who, Derek?"
"I need to save hi—them," Stiles says, knowing it's true as he says it. "It's that feeling. This isn't right, Lydia. It's not what was supposed to happen. You know the feeling, right?"
"Yes," Lydia says slowly. "You want to… you're going to time-shift."
"Fucking exactly," Stiles says, deflates because he's suddenly relieved. "I just—I just found out that it was Kate Argent who killed them. Derek didn't even know her last name, Lydia. He didn't know it was an Argent; he thought—thinks—it was rogue hunters."
"It was a rogue hunter," Lydia says. "Just one a little closer to home. So you're going to time-shift? Today?"
"Toda—no, I mean, I was going to go talk to Deaton about it," Stiles says, blinks when Lydia shakes her head.
"Not a good idea; he'll tell you not to do it," she says.
"What do you mean, he'll tell me not to do it? That's what we do," Stiles says. "We help people. We right wrongs. Wasn't that what his big speech was about?"
"Deaton isn't a Mediator," Lydia says. "He understands us more than most, yes, but he doesn't know what it feels like when you can't do something that you know you need to do. He's going to tell you that you're letting your emotions get the better of you, that if you go back in time you might change history in horrible and unexpected ways—that won't happen; it's been disproven—and that Derek is dead and the only way you can help him is by getting Kate sent to jail."
"Oh," Stiles says.
"But we're not going to Deaton," Lydia says, "because he's got a full schedule today."
"Oh… okay," Stiles says.
"Instead, we're going back to your house, and you're going to go back in time and save your lover-boy—"
"He's not my—"
"Please," Lydia says, holding up a hand, "you practically reek of angsty ghost love. God, it's like that Sally, Sara—"
"Susannah," Stiles corrects.
"—it's like her all over again."
"It's kind of different," Stiles argues, and when Lydia just looks at him, raises her eyebrows as slowly as possible, blushes. "He's not, we're not—"
"Drive, please," Lydia says.
So Stiles drives. Or he attempts to drive, but he only gets to the school gates before something crashes into his door. Scott. Scott crashes into his door and starts pounding on the window, looking around like he's a robber about to break into a jewelry store, and Stiles wonders what horrible thing he had done in a past life to deserve this.
"For fucks sake," Stiles yells, already opening the door. "Dude, my jeep did what to you? Nothing! It did nothing!"
"Let me in, I'm going with!" Scott says, already clamoring over him and into the backseat and, uh… okay?
"Scott, I don't think—"
"Let him come," Lydia says. "If anyone will believe us, it's him."
Stiles closes his door and starts driving, mostly because he's just… numb about the whole thing. So what if Scott thinks he's crazy. He's going to go back in time anyway, right?
"So… you are drug dealers?" Scott asks, once they're off campus.
"We see dead people," Lydia says, and Scott laughs at first, but eventually, when neither Stiles nor Lydia say anything, goes silent.
"As in…?" he asks, eventually.
"As in ghosts," Lydia says, "Spirits? Phantoms? Apparitions? Spooks? We see them."
It's silent the rest of the drive to Stiles's house.
"You're… less intimidating than I thought you would be," Lydia says, and Derek snarls at her from his corner. She turns to Stiles—Stiles, who brought her here, who brought the other one, Scott, here too—and grins. "I think wolf boy is angry at you, Stiles."
"Yes, I got that, Lydia, thank you very much for your input," Stiles says. He's looking at Derek—Derek can feel his stare, but he won't look at him, can't, because… he doesn't know why, actually. It's nothing as serious as betrayal. Maybe it's envy. Jealousy. Something that he can't really place and might just be an amalgamation of all of them.
"So there's a ghost in here," Scott, who's hovering next to Stiles's door, swinging his hands back and forth and looking uncomfortable, says. "And he's… angry. And a werewolf."
"Dude, it's not as crazy as it—"
"Exactly," Lydia says. "You're handling this well, Scott."
"I don't actually think he's handling it," Stiles says. He sighs, and then Derek hears him walking over. Stiles crouches in front of him, moves until Derek couldn't avoid looking at him if he tried. "I had to," he whispers. "I found her. I panicked."
"You…" he whispers back, confused at first. "You what?"
"Kate," Stiles says. Behind him, Lydia crosses her arms and rolls her eyes. "Kate Argent. She's in town. I'm going back today."
"She was an Argent," is all Derek can say, and something in his stomach squirms, wicked and dark, up into his throat. Derek knows about the Argents. He… there was a fucking truce. "They—we had a truce. I thought… I didn't think it was them. I didn't know."
"I don't know why she's back in town," Stiles says. He reaches out, lays a hand on Derek's shoulder; Derek lets him, even leans into it.
"How did you—?"
"She was... dropping someone off," Stiles says. He turns around. "Do you have a picture, Lydia? Just to uh, make sure?"
"Probably stuff on Allison's Facebook," Lydia says, and walks over to Stiles's computer.
"Allison as in my girlfriend, Allison?" Scott frowns. Stiles's hand, still on Derek's shoulder, squeezes, and he leans closer. "What does Allison have to do with this?"
"Scott didn't know," he whispers, low enough that Scott doesn't hear. "Allison didn't either."
"Your girlfriend is part of a family of hunters," Lydia says, already looking at pictures on Stiles's computer. "They hunt… large game. Mostly werewolves."
"Guys, I know I said in the car that I believe you, but this—"
"Stiles, get wolf boy to do a trick. Scratch the walls. Do the poltergeist thing," Lydia interrupts. "Also here, look"
Derek snarls, just because Lydia grates him the wrong way, but stills when she turns around in the desk chair, laptop in her lap, and there's a picture of Kate on the screen.
He whimpers, and the look in her eyes is… victorious. Stiles grabs at his hand, but he shakes it off, stands up and walks closer to look. He's not so secretly satisfied when Lydia tenses, and underneath her perfume he smells just the slightest hint of fear, but maybe that's just because he needs to find something to cling to, desperately, so he doesn't start tearing down the walls around them.
"Guys, uh, if you're making drugs you can just tell me? I won't turn you in," Scott says, and Derek tamps down on all the memories that are threatening to come back at the sight of her, and walks over to Scott. He reaches past Scott's shoulder, concentrates, and gauges five claw marks into the wall next to his head, slowly, haltingly, wincing at the oddity of not feeling anything at all, even as his fingers come into contact with the wood.
There's a strangled scream, and then Scott is rushing through him—Derek shivers at the feeling, has to fight to keep himself from disappearing—to back up against the wall on the opposite side of the room, eyes wide, heart rate elevated.
"Yup," Stiles says, sighing. He scratches at his chin, and Derek turns to look at the laptop screen, his gaze drawn to it involuntarily. She looks older, weathered, and now the brightness in her eyes looks like insanity, rather than excitement, rather than, what had he thought the first time he saw her? Rather than the promise of a good time.
Derek is suddenly scared, and he's glad that no one else in the room can smell it.
"So what does this mean?" he asks, has to clear his throat to keep his voice from cracking.
"It means Stiles is going back today," Lydia answers, like it's that simple. Derek snarls at her again, just because, and all he gets in response is a raised eyebrow.
"You don't need to go today," he tells Stiles, "you haven't even—"
"He's going today," Lydia says, and her voice is different, softer. "It feels right."
Derek looks over at Stiles; he's glaring at the floor, hands fisted at his hips, smelling of confusion. He looks overwhelmed, or maybe Derek is just projecting.
"Stiles?" he asks, not really sure what he's asking except he needs Stiles to look him in the eye.
"What do you mean it feels right? And going back to where?" Scott, apparently, has recovered. He's still leaning up against the opposite wall, though, still tense and stiff.
"People who see ghosts," Lydia says, after no one else says anything, "can do… a lot of stuff, Scott. Including time travel."
"Fucking… are you serious?"
"Do I need to get Derek to show you—?"
"No! That's awesome, is what I'm saying," Scott interrupts. "Don't, uh, no offense… Derek. Just, stay calm."
Stiles laughs, but the sound is hollow.
"So are you going to go back?" Lydia asks. "Or are we just going to play hooky today?"
"Going back," Stiles grits out. He hasn't looked at Derek since the conversation began; Derek doesn't like it. He's starting to smell like he's in pain, which means he's already—
"You're—we need to plan," he says, panicked, walking over, putting a hand on Stile's shoulder so he looks up.
He looks up, his jaw clenched. He's thinking, because his gaze is flitting around, never landing on any feature of Derek's for more than second, his nose scrunched up in thought.
(Derek thinks he looks pretty fucking beautiful, but he can't say anything, because definitely not the time.)
"Tell me something about your family only you would know," Stiles says, finally. Lydia, at the desk, snorts.
"Stiles, you don't need—" Derek panics, because what if it doesn't work? What if this is the last time he sees Stiles? What if he forgets? What if, instead of helping, Stiles is caught in the middle? What if he dies?
"Laura liked Jayne," Stiles interrupts, his hands clenched at his sides so hard Derek can see the vibrations running up his arms from the tension. The smell of pain, of something old and supernatural, intensifies.
It might not be anything, but the air around Stiles is starting to look different. Misplaced. Like an asphalt road on a hot day. Derek gulps, grabs at Stiles's shoulders, grips them as he steps closer just so he can feel his body heat, just to reassure himself that Stiles is okay.
He wants to know what Stiles is thinking that's making it like this. That's making it so intense.
The room is silent for a while, and it's awkward—Derek is aware of it being awkward, of Lydia watching him and of Scott watching Stiles—but he can't look away as Stiles's breathing gets harsher, more shallow, as his eyes glaze over and his face twists in pain. He starts pacing—just three steps this way, three steps back—in short neurotic movements, shaking out his hands and muttering half-realized sentences under his breath.
"Mom's a horrible cook," Derek says, in a rush. Trying hard to remember something—anything—that could help Stiles and coming up blank. "Dad… dad was the one that broke the china tea set she got from grandma, but he blamed it on the wind. Uh, I can't think of—"
"They'll trust me?" Stiles asks, and now he's gasping, and Derek doesn't understand at first. He stops pacing, comes to a stop in front of Derek, staring at him with bright eyes that are wide and bloodshot, the air vibrating around him and it's wrong. This is too— "Derek, they'll believe me, right?"
"Yes, yes," Derek says. He watches, horrified, as Stiles's nose starts bleeding. "Your nose, Stiles—"
"I'm fine," Stiles snarls, brings a shaking hand up to wipe the blood away. "Shit."
"Stiles," Lydia—Derek had forgotten about her—stands. "I don't think this is—"
"I ca—can't stop it," Stiles gasps. He closes his eyes, brings his hands up to grasp at Derek's arms. He mumbles something, breathes in shakily, and then he's choking, the air is rippling, everything is bright light and hot. There's a split second delay—Derek can't look anywhere but at Stiles's face, scrunched up in obvious pain, his skin pale, tears leaking out from the corners of his eyes—then there's a dull roar, a popping and crackling that sounds apocalyptic, and Derek is thrown back against Stiles's dresser.
He's up, standing, in seconds, but Stiles is, fuck, he's already gone. The room is a mess; the furniture pushed up against the walls, in some cases in broken pieces, from the blast—walls that are suddenly singed with dust and smoke. The air is shimmering, hot and acrid. Scott, on the other side of the room, is helping Lydia up from under the desk chair.
"That was… " Lydia says, her voice only slightly shaky. "That was a little more exciting than I thought it would be."
"Shouldn't something be happening?" Scott asks. He's looking at the spot where Stiles was standing with furrowed eyebrows, rubbing at his wrist.
"I don't know," Lydia says, brushing off her jeans. "I've never shifted before."
"So he went back in time," Scott says. "To save… Derek. Who's still in the room? As a ghost?"
Lydia looks at Derek; Derek looks away. "Yeah, they've got a whole love-across-the-grave thing going on."
"I feel like I should be panicking right now." Scott starts pacing.
"Derek, are you feeling anything?" Lydia asks. Derek shrugs, walks over to where Stiles had been standing and stares down at his feet.
Everything goes dark.
Stiles is still nauseous, still confused, still in a lot of fucking pain, thank you very much, when a disembodied hand—his vision is swimming, so everything is made up of blurry shapes, and he knows it's not technically a disembodied hand, but it sure looks that way—grabs at the collar of his shirt, pulls him up from where he's, apparently, lying prone on a wooden floor, and slams him up against a wall… hard.
Something snarls, and in the little part of Stiles's brain that's not panicking, he knows he did it. He fucking traveled through time, and now all he—
"Who the fuck are you?" It's a girl's voice, deep and dangerous, raspy almost, tinged with a slight lisp that means there's a pair of elongated teeth in the way of her tongue.
The little part of Stiles that's not panicking gets smaller—becomes infinitesimal, really—and even as his vision clears a bit, and he sees the blurry outlines of sharp cheekbones and striking brown eyes and features shifted to look wolfish and monstrous, his throat starts to close up. She snarls and, vaguely, past the roaring in his ears, he hears the sound of multiple pairs of feet stomping on wood—running up the stairs, he realizes, and oh shit, he's going to meet the Hale family, and he has to save them, has to—
"Who are you!?" The girl—Laura?—snarls again, gets a hand around his throat and squeezes for emphasis. He chokes, brings his hands up to grab at her wrists, terrified because he feels practically feeble in comparison to her supernatural strength. He can't have a panic attack now; it's not the fucking time.
"Der—" he starts to cough out, but she squeezes, and he suddenly can't find the breath to even say Derek's name. "Sto—"
She snarls, and then the door—to her room, he realizes; he's in her room—slams open, and suddenly there are a lot of raised voices and snarling and chuffs and movement and finally, finally, her hand is pulled away from his throat.
Stiles collapses against the wall, crouching and closing his eyes, ignoring the presence of another person—another wolf—standing right in front of him, and the others that he knows are behind whoever it is, because the room is full (of shapes, at the moment, because his vision is still blurry) and his heart is beating fast, fast enough that they all have to know he's terrified. He just… he needs to calm down. He has to fucking breathe.
Something drips down his chin, and he wipes at it, cursing when he sees blood.
There's a rustle of fabric, and a woman—he knows because there's dark, long hair, high cheekbones, and perfume that smells like gardenias—crouches down in front of him.
"You smell like the supernatural," she says, and even though her tone is harsh, it's less terrifying than the one before. Maybe because she's not shifted. "So I'm going to assume you know who and what we are, and you're obviously terrified, so I'm going to assume that you're not here to harm us, even though you just appeared out of nowhere in the middle of my daughter's room."
Stiles leans his head back against the wall, squeezes his eyes shut as he rubs at them. He should've prepared for this more, but even if he hadn't come back today, he knows he wouldn't have. Stiles sucks at planning. Always has. And this is what he gets to work with, so he just needs to calm down; he just needs to talk.
(It'd be nice if his vision got better and his nose stopped bleeding, though.)
"Are you—" he croaks, clearing his throat. "You're Talia Hale?"
Snarls meet his statement. If Stiles was less terrified, he would roll his eyes.
"That would be me, yes," the woman—Talia… Mrs. Hale, holy shit, Derek's mom—replies, sounding almost bemused.
Stiles nods. He cracks open one eye, slumps down in relief as the woman in front of him starts taking shape, turning from a collection of colored blobs and angles into… Mrs. Hale. He takes a deep breath in, then out, and glances behind her.
There are at least six others in the room; Stiles doesn't see Derek. A lot of them, though, have the same dark coloring, the same eyes, and are half-shifted, their teeth pulled back in exaggerated snarls as they look down at him.
"This is going to sound fucking ridiculous," he says, when he can talk without gasping for breath. "but I'm from the future."
"The future," Talia says, just as one of the wolves behind her snarls, takes a step forward like he's going to attack.
"I'm a Mediator," Stiles says, eyes on the man. He's seen him before, he just—the pictures. From the articles about the fire online. "You're Peter Hale. You all—Christ, I should've prepared more for this. I… you need to listen, okay? Is Derek here?"
"You see ghosts," Talia says, and now her voice is softer, stilted, like she knows. She swallows audibly, and Stiles hopes she understands so he doesn't have to explain everything. His head is pounding, and now that there's less terror, now that he's not as afraid, everything aches. "You're only supposed to travel back in to—"
"Right, yes, exactly," Stiles says. He eases himself up, wiping at his nose with the back of his hand, then wiping the blood off on his jeans. The wolves behind Mrs. Hale are silent now, confused. "You can hear when I lie, right? Derek told me."
"You know my son?"
Stiles swallows. "In the future," he says, "as a ghost. I just—where is he?"
"Downstairs," Talia whispers. She grabs his arm, squeezes hard enough to bruise. "What do you mean? Why are you here? Who are you?"
"The Argents," he says, "are… fuck, coming to kill you, are going to surround the house with wolfsbane, trap you inside, and… burn you, burn the house down. I need to see Derek, I need—"
All of them start yelling at once. It's too loud, and Stiles doesn't even try to pay attention, just closes his eyes and concentrates on the almost soothing pounding in his head.
Yeah, so, he definitely should've thought this through more.
Or at least made a tentative plan. As it is, nothing is going to get done, and Stiles doesn't even know what time it is, or if the Argents are going to attack in days, or hours, or minutes, or—
"Peter, check the perimeter," Talia says, and even though she's not yelling, is actually speaking low enough that Stiles has to strain to hear her, everyone else in the room stops talking.
"Tal, this is ridic—"
"Peter, check the perimeter." Talia lets go of Stiles's arm and turns around. "He's not lying—you can hear that—and he doesn't smell right. Laura, you said he just appeared?"
"You heard it, didn't you, Mom? There was a pop, and then some dude fell from the sky, I don't think, though—"
"Just go," Talia says. "Glenn, get everyone down in the basement, they'll be sa—"
"No!" The articles on the fire had said four bodies were found in the basement. "Don't go in the basement, get outside." He straightens and takes a step away from the wall, wipes at his nose with his sleeve one last time—the bleeding is slower, now, barely there. "You… You shouldn't go in the basement. That ends… badly."
"Okay," Talia says, slowly, "then get everyone outside."
"—to see Derek? Yes, you said that already." Talia says. She turns to look at the others, who still haven't moved. "Peter, Glenn, go."
They leave, and then Mrs. Hale grabs his wrist and starts pushing him out of the room. There are paintings all along the walls of the hall, landscapes and portraits, a couple of photos, and a wooden cabinet at the end that looks worn and antique; a family heirloom. The stairs are wider, the ceilings higher, and the house feels warm. If it wasn't for the pounding of feet and the raised voices, the tension that is palpable in the air, the Hale house would be… well, it would be pleasant.
But it's not pleasant, because seriously, the circumstances suck.
"How far did you come?"
"Si—six years," Stiles says, just as Talia starts herding him down the stairs.
"And Derek was the only one that was a ghost? Who killed us? Why?" Talia asks, her voice tense, words clipped and terse. Even so, Stiles is kind of amazed that she believes him so readily.
"I—" Stiles clears his throat. "Derek was the only ghost. And it's Kate Argent. Kate—"
"—the daughter?" Talia snarls, and then they're turning a corner. It smells like cinnamon down here, and the TV is on, with bad 90s music acting as a soundtrack to—holy shit, She's All That, and—
"I hear something, Tali!" There's a shout, loud enough that even Stiles hears even though he can't see whoever shouts it, and as if on cue, the sound of yelling—of snarls and panicked howls, of bodies slamming against bodies—comes from outside the house, from somewhere that sounds terrifyingly close, and then, maybe they're separate, maybe not, but from farther away; from the woods. Talia grabs his arm and pulls him, running at a sprint, towards the front door.
They pass a living room on the way out, and there's Derek, standing in front of a couch, eyes wide and fists clenched, half wolfed out and frozen from fear, and oh god, he's beautiful and alive and—
And Talia is pulling Stiles towards the front door, and it would be funny, how he's just being pulled around, how everything is fuzzy and numb and how he just feels terrified and disconnected and out of touch, like he's in the middle of a dream—a nightmare, really—except it's not.
It's really not.
She pulls him towards the door, then out, and suddenly everything is just… noise. That's nothing new, really, but it's different, when he's outside, when Stiles can hear gunshots, when he can see, just at the tree line, less than a fourth of a mile away, a flurry of movement that is definitely violent.
Talia squeezes his wrist, hard, once, and then she lets go and shifts until she's twice his size, all dark fur and glowing red eyes. She howls, her teeth glinting sharp and deadly in the moonlight, and the noise sends shivers up his spine. Then she's gone, sprinting towards the fray.
Stiles hears the sound of flesh being rendered, of screams, of… fuck, he doesn't know; it just sounds violent. He's frozen to the spot, and he can't see anything except the rare beam of a flashlight or the glinting of eyes, dark silhouettes and flashes as guns fire.
He's so caught up in watching—or trying to watch—the fight, or the… the whatever it is (Stiles wants to say battle, but really, even for something this horrifying, that's a little over the top) that he doesn't see the second group of hunters—three women, two men, his panicked mind supplies, hastily, even as he starts backing towards the still-open front door—until they're ten feet away from the porch, and one of their guns catches the light shining through the front windows.
Stiles scrambles the rest of the way, manages to get inside and slam the door closed just as he hears the sound of boots pounding against wooden stairs. With hands that won't stop shaking, he locks the door—and sure, that won't really do anything if they really want to get in, but shit, it makes him feel better—and slides the deadbolt firmly in place.
And then someone shoots him.
Just… just like that. Someone shoots him.
It's not really painful, more like a sudden pinching in his side, but that's probably more the adrenaline than anything else. And it's not like someone shoots him so much as someone shoots at him—the bullet piercing through the thick wood of the door—and manages (because he's the idiot who's still plastered against it) to hit him.
So yeah, he gets shot at, from behind a door, and the bullet grazes him on his right side, and it's only the pain that gets his head clear, only the sick feeling of too much blood seeping out of his fucking skin that gets him moving, gets him falling forward to crawl away from door on his stomach. More shots ring out, because suddenly Stiles's life is a fucking action movie that he wants no part of, and bits of shrapnel—wood, bullets, whatever—start flying everywhere.
"Fucking—fuck," Stiles sputters. What else do you say, when you're being shot at? He gets to the open archway that leads to the living room just as something explodes behind him—sounds like the porch, or the door, or something—and he scrambles to his feet, gets around the corner just as people start yelling… again.
A hand grabs at his neck, and he's all ready to struggle, maybe lash out, but then he turns, and it's Derek, wide-eyed and terrified, but shit, at least he looks like he's thinking. Which… really, is more than Stiles is doing at the moment.
"Derek," Stiles hisses, already letting himself be pulled along to… somewhere. He doesn't know where. "Aren't you—"
"How the fuck do you know my name?" Derek hisses back, and the hand on his neck squeezes hard, pushes him back against the wall. Something hard and sharp pokes at his injured side, and his head bangs against the wood, and he might whimper. Might. "I've never fucking seen you before in my life. And you—you're bleeding."
"That's what happens when you get shot," Stiles snarls, pushes him away because he's sick of hurting. In the foyer, there's a bang, and instinctively, Stiles crouches, his head hitting up against Derek's as he does the same thing.
"Fucking—" Derek hisses, and then starts pulling him again, keeping a hand on the back of his neck so Stiles stays low to the ground, as they move. "Who the fuck are they?"
"Argents," Stiles says, just as they turn the corner to the… the kitchen, where there's, fuck, a door. God, Stiles just wants out of here.
"We have a truce with the Argents, why would they—" Derek pulls the door off its hinges, which seems to surprise him, because he stops and looks at it.
"Kate Argent," Stiles says, pushes past him. They're at the back of the house, and out here, there's only dark woods and—
"Who the fuck do you mean, Kate, that's not—" Derek's voice is high-pitched; panicked. Stiles turns, and this time it's him who pulls at Derek's arm. He's over the threshold—and something lifts in Stiles's stomach at that—and then they're running. Stiles doesn't know where; he assumes Derek knows.
Or maybe they're just running from the explosions behind them, or the gunfire, or the snarls and howls that haven't gotten any softer, any less abrasive, in however long Stiles has been in this hell. Everything is confusing again. Or, fuck, when has anything not been confusing? It's just that now, the confusion feels different—feels like sluggishness, like pain, like distraction. It feels like the kind of confusion that comes from being shot in the fucking side.
He's still bleeding, and the pain makes his run lopsided, slower than it would be, but at least he's still running, even though every breath feels like goddamned lava.
"What do you mean?" Derek asks, once they can't hear anything except the forest around them. Derek isn't breathless, looks like he's fine, from a physical standpoint, save for the terror in his eyes. "What did you mean when you said Kate Argent?"
"I mean the—" Crap. Stiles doesn't think he's going to be able to make this not sound horrible. "I mean Kate, the girl you're seeing—blonde, smiles a lot, older—" he has to break off so he can gulp a few much-needed breaths in, clutching at the wound on his side for a moment. "She's an Argent, and she wants to kill you. Where the fuck are we going!?"
"She's not an Argent, she's not, she—" Derek stops short, and Stiles crashes into him—he's warm, slightly sweaty, and he's alive—unable to stop himself from letting out an embarrassing high pitched squeak as he does so.
"She is," Stiles gasps out, leaning down to put his hands on his knees. "Listen, dude, I know you—"
"You don't know me. I've never met you in—"
"—in your fucking life, yes I got that when you spit it in my face, but I know you when you're dead, you fucking… assfuck," Stiles hisses, and even past the roaring in his ears, Stiles can hear Derek gulp. "Yeah, you know I'm not lying, right? I know you as a ghost. And guess who killed you? Or,"—he closes his eyes, takes a deep breath in, and lets himself relax for a just a second, "—guess who didn't kill you tonight?"
"That's not what happened. She's from out of town. She isn't an Argent. And even if she was, we have a truce." Derek's eyes are glowing an intense blue, and his hands are fisted at his sides, and it pisses Stiles the fuck off.
"The Derek I know," he says, "burned to death with his family. Kate got close to him to find out when everyone would be in the house, and then she—" Derek has him up against the nearest tree in seconds, fangs out, face shifted into something wolfish, his arm pressing down on Stiles's neck and restricting the air-flow.
"That's not what happened," he says, slowly, dangerously, and it has Stiles's pulse ratcheting up even more.
"She wouldn't do that!" Derek snarls, but this time his voice cracks and his expression falters, his eyes not quite meeting Stiles's. "You—you're wrong!"
"Your dad broke your mom's china," Stiles says, grasping for something, anything, that will get Derek's arm off his fucking windpipe. "He blamed it on the wind. And, uh, Laura, she likes Jayne, and shit, Derek I'm not lying. I know you!"
Apparently that's the wrong thing to say, because Derek doesn't take his arm away. If anything it presses down harder, and Stiles brings his hands up, baring his teeth in annoyance as he tries to pry it off.
No dice, apparently, because even though Derek is a year younger than him, even though he's like, two inches shorter and lankier than him, he's a werewolf with super-strength and no injuries what-so-fucking ever, so yup, the arm stays.
"You might be from the future," Derek says, leaning closer, "but you don't know if it was Kate. You don't know her. All right?"
Well shit, Stiles thinks, this version of Derek is kind of a dick. But… well okay, no, he's not. He's in denial, and Stiles hadn't actually brought any concrete evidence with him to convince Derek otherwise. This is probably how Stiles would react, if some dude from the future came and told him his hot, older girlfriend had only become his girlfriend to kill his family.
… Right. So, perspective. Stiles just has to, uh, remember it.
"Okay, okay dude, just, your arm—can't breathe," Stiles says, calmly. Or, well, somewhat calmly, considering that he can't breathe and has a gash! From a bullet! In his side. Derek blinks, then, and steps back.
"Okay," Derek says. "The… you're still bleeding."
"Wow, great deductive skills, Lassie, why don't you—"
There's a pop—a gunshot—and Derek whines out a guttural, surprised noise, and falls, hard, to his knees. Stiles is frozen for maybe a second, random shit flying through his head (like why he doesn't hear any footsteps, or rustling, or voices, or anything) and then he moves, grabs Derek's right arm—there's a bullet wound in the other one—and starts running.
And that… that's when the rustling starts. The noises. The easily recognizable sound of boots crunching over fallen leaves. Stiles is going to have a panic attack soon, or he's going to bleed out, or whoever shot Derek is going to get close enough to be able to shoot at them again, or some—
"Back to the house," Derek wheezes, suddenly, maybe a thousand years into running (it feels like a thousands years… feels like more than a thousand years). "Mom. We need to get to mom and the others."
"—Isn't that where the shot came from? Isn't that where we've been running from?!" Stiles hisses. Even so, he turns, starts running back towards the house. Derek seems to be recovering quickly, although the wound on his arm is turning black. Which is probably not good.
"Yes," Derek snarls, and speeds up. "You can stay here; I'm going."
Stiles follows, heart pounding, adrenaline pushing his senses into overdrive. Whoever is chasing them is closing in, coming from the right, flashlight beams visible, the sound of their breathing loud enough that even Stiles hears it. There's more than one person chasing them, and from the way their footfalls keep getting louder and louder, they're catching up.
Stiles feels hunted. He feels trapped and in way over his head and he kind of just wants to sit down, maybe take a nap, watch a movie—
There's a whooshing noise, and an arrow embeds itself in the tree nearest Stiles. He abandons any thoughts of napping, and just concentrates on keeping Derek in sight. Which is hard, because Derek is running, fast and silent and determined.
And god, Stiles really hopes he doesn't bleed out before this shit ends.
The howling starts up again, or, they get close enough that Stiles can hear the howling again, because he's pretty sure it never stopped. Derek speeds up, an angry snarl ripping from his throat.
When the house comes into view, Stiles can see that there's smoke—but only smoke, not fire—pouring out of the kitchen windows. The door is blasted off its hinges, the porch half collapsed. In the yard, there's still a fight going on, over on the other side, next to a couple of abandoned SUVs that Stiles is going to bet belonged to the hunters. There are more werewolves not fighting, though, then fighting. Stiles spots Talia—wolfed out, standing on her hind legs, a good six and a half feet of supernatural muscle and glowing red eyes—standing in the middle, staring down at three hunters kneeling, their hands tied, at her feet.
One of them has long blonde hair, and Stiles stops, suddenly feeling… lighter. He sits down right there on the grass, ignoring the pain in his side and his back and his head and… fucking everywhere, and just breathes.
Derek runs up to Talia, takes one look at the woman kneeling in front of her—at Kate—and freezes. Stiles can't really hear what they're saying, but Talia lays a hand on Derek's shoulder, squeezes it, and Derek starts shaking his head, eyes wide and on Kate—who's laughing now, head thrown back, features visible in the moonlight and in the glow that's coming from the lights on in the house—and takes a step back.
Behind Stiles, the hunters that had been chasing them burst out of the trees, and a group of werewolves is on them in seconds. Stiles only pays them enough attention to figure out of he's going to need to move—no, it turns out—and goes back to watching Derek.
Because he's alive, because right now, he looks wrecked, heartbroken, betrayed, angry, in pain, embarrassed… just, he looks like hell, but still, he's alive. Stiles did that. Stiles saved him. As small of a part as he played, Stiles was at least a part of it. And okay, not to blow his own whistle, but he hadn't just saved Derek.
There's Talia, and Laura, and Peter, and uh… the rest of the family, whose names Stiles can't remember and will probably never find out anyway. All of them are going to live, and that… that's pretty fucking awesome.
What's not awesome is that Stiles is feeling sluggish; exhausted. He's tired and scared and strung out, and he doesn't think he's even been here a fucking hour, but it feels like it's been centuries. The wound on his torso has stopped hurting, which is probably a bad sign.
He's probably lost a lot of blood.
Stiles groans, flops down to the ground, glaring up at the night sky. He can't really see the stars because of all the smoke coming from the kitchen, and it's not really peaceful because there are still lots of loud… just, lots of loud noises, because Stiles can't fucking concentrate on any one of them, so they all coalesce into just… noise, and the ground is vibrating from all the movement around him, but hey, it's kind of nice, just to lay in the grass, since it's slightly damp and cools his skin where it's red hot and feverish.
Stiles is pretty sure he's not going to die; he just needs to time-shift back, and then have Lydia take him to the doctor. Right. No problem.
Just… after he manages to find the energy to actually do that, which is easier said than done. Because really, all he wants to do is close his eyes, take a—
—crap he never told them his name.
Derek doesn't die when he's fifteen. He almost dies, but some guy drops down into Laura's room from the fucking future and saves his life. Saves his family. Gets shot (he gets shot too, but the guy's human… so he can't just have Deaton pull it out and put some wolfsbane on the wound so it heals) and then disappears in an explosion of light and heavy-smelling ash before Derek—or anyone, actually—can even find out his fucking name.
The first few months after the fire—after everything gets out; that he was seeing Kate, that they had sex, that he thought (he really thought) she liked him, that she used him to get to his family, his fucking family—are rough. He wants to die, a couple of times, just to get rid of the heavy numbness that makes it a feat to get out of bed, that's made him start to panic when he thinks about going out in public, with humans. He wants to die because he's ashamed—so fucking ashamed—and scared, because how, how, is he going to keep on living when he knows what could've happened?
Everyone treats him differently after that. Like a child. Like he's going to break. Like he's a liability. Which he is, because out of everyone, he was the one that was fucking idiotic enough to let a wannabe murderer get close enough to ruin his life. He doesn't talk much, and he knows, vaguely, that he's depressed—clinically, probably—but he can't get himself to let go of it. The feeling of shame, of embarrassment, of an overwhelming numbness that sinks into his very fucking bones.
They make him talk in court, though, because that was the deal—the Argents let them handle Kate and Gerard and their accomplices, let them put them in prison, let Dad's connections speed up the process so that they're gone before the year ends, but only if the court says they're guilty. Only if they do it the human way. So Derek talks, tells them how Kate approached him, how she had sex with him in the backseat of her fucking SUV, how she asked him about his family and when they were all going to be home. He tells them everything, because he might as well, because it's not like he's going to be able to like himself any less than he already does.
He talks, and the jury finds them guilty of all charges, and for the first time, Derek can breathe.
It takes months, but shit, he can finally breathe.
He starts noticing small things that have changed since the almost-fire. The blueprint for the gate and property walls that Mom is working on with a local construction company lying on the kitchen table. The kitchen itself, which was remodeled within a week of everything, is larger and airier, and has the side-by-side fridge Dad always wanted. There are runes carved into the wood of the newly rebuilt porch that smell like an unfamiliar type of wood.
Laura's hair is shorter.
Peter has gotten more tactile with Aunt Carol, which is saying a lot, because he was a goddamned leech before. Everyone has gotten closer—pulled together by sheer terror and panic, probably; Derek thinks he read that somewhere, that crises bring people together—except him.
(He feels like an outlier.)
Derek finally notices how obsessed everyone else is about the guy, the Mediator, how they talk about him in low whispers at night, their tones almost reverent. They don't even know his name, and they… it's like they love him. They talk to Deaton about finding him, about thanking him, but there's no way, Deaton says, not if they don't know his name.
And even then, he says, if they approach him, that could change something. Could make it so he never comes back in the first place.
Derek is glad, because Derek is pretty sure he kind of hates him. Everything about him. His eyes. His voice. His ugly upturned nose. The moles that dot his face. Derek hates the way he couldn't wash off the smell of his blood for the first two weeks after… everything, no matter how many fucking showers he took. Hates how sometimes he feels a phantom hand gripping his wrist.
He hates that, apparently, the guy knows him—knew him—and Derek doesn't even know his fucking name.
He goes back to school, eventually, and it's as horrible as he expects. The teachers talk to him in voices that are supposed to be soothing, but all he can focus on is how they smell, cloyingly, like pity and sympathy, and Derek hates that. The students, for the most part, ignore him. Which is good; Derek actually likes that.
They make him go to therapy. Dad drives him to a witch with a PhD in Forensic Psychology who lives over in Sunny Grove. He waits for an hour at the local Starbucks while Derek sits in her living room and watches her watching him.
Eventually, Derek starts talking because he can't stand her staring at him anymore.
He talks about… the usual stuff. And it helps. Fuck. It really helps.
Five months after (should he come up with a special dating term? Like Before Kate, B.K., and After Kate, A.K?), the dreams start.
At first, he thinks it's just another nightmare—another memory of that night, the one he's re-lived hundreds of times already in his sleep—but then it changes, and for the first time, instead of being about Kate or Laura or anyone else, it's about him. About the guy. About his face, and how it had looked when he said Derek's name.
It's a dream, but it's… not, because that happened, because Derek remembers it. Because it actually happened. Because even though he was dreaming it, he could feel everything, could hear and smell everything.
He keeps having them.
At first, they're just these vignettes of that night. Close-ups of the guy (the Guy?) of things that Derek had missed because he was too preoccupied with staying alive. How he had looked at Derek, mostly, and the way he talked, and these… these feelings that Derek knows, somehow, are his. The Guy's, too. Confusion. Fear. Happiness? Relief.
Then he has a dream where he's standing on top of a counter in the middle of a kitchen that's not his, staring down at the Guy, plates and pots and Tupperware stacked in unnatural piles all around him. He looks down, and his hands are see-through, his body transparent and weightless. He freaks out; wakes up with an aborted gasp that has Laura rushing into his room and demanding to know what happened.
He tells her; she tells everyone else. They take him to Deaton, and he says, in that irking monotone voice, that Derek is remembering what happened in the other timeline.
"He's remembering what it was like to be dead?" Mom hisses, voice lowering into a snarl.
"He's filling in the blank spaces," Deaton corrects, which… that fucking doesn't make sense.
There are bad dreams. The ones where he's staring down at a blackened corpse—he knows it's his—and the ones where he's stuck, standing in the doorway of a burned out house, watching Kate and her father—Gerard—talk about his death. There are ones where he spreads red paint on the walls and screams at whoever he can whenever he can. There are the ones where there are no visuals, just complete blackness, but he feels this utter and endless emptiness, cold and horrible and terrifying.
There are good dreams, and all of them involve the Guy. Or, they're not good at first. They're confusing, because Derek watches him—the Guy—and then he watches the Guy's dad, and they talk, yeah, but he never gets their fucking names. He can't really concentrate on what they're saying, either.
He dreams about the Guy breaking a mountain ash barrier for him—the barrier that had kept his ghost from leaving the house—and then he dreams about walking through the forest for hours, days even, too stunned to even think about shifting.
He dreams about watching him sleep, which at first, is creepy and embarrassing (because seriously), but then it just keeps happening and it turns into… something else. Something he looks forward to, something that makes his days—which are getting better, but could still use some… happiness—better. Derek stops hating his upturned nose, stops hating the way, in his dreams, the Guy's mouth never fucking closes, stops hating his eyes. His moles. His laugh.
He starts liking them. Whatever.
He dreams about the day he goes back (comes back?) in bits and pieces, in looks that last forever and tense words and the presence of two other people that, for some fucking reason, get names—Scott, the guy, and Lydia, the girl, who can see him, who's another Mediator (he tells Mom about the names; she finds a Lydia Martin in the same town, approaches her parents and lets them in on the big supernatural secret… it goes better than everyone had hoped, but Lydia, ten years old and precocious as shit, doesn't know anyone with a buzzed head. Scott McCall is a human, and his parents are going through a nasty separation, so Mom says to wait to tell him).
He gets the feeling that he and...the guy were more than friends, from the looks they gave each other, from the touches and the glances. From the way he feels when he dreams about it.
He dreams about their first kiss—and god, that's corny as shit—the day after he turns seventeen. Wakes up with a boner and comes to the memory of soft lips and a crooked grin and goddamnit he wants to find out his fucking name. Wants to see him in the fucking flesh; wants him to be real, and here, and with Derek.
He dreams about the kisses after, and the touching, the sleeping, the grim determination that the Guy had to shift back in time, to save him.
Derek thinks that, maybe, they were kind of in love. He doesn't know if he likes the idea, yet. He doesn't know if, despite all the evidence, he'll ever be able to trust the Guy if he meets him. No, fuck that, when he meets him. Eventually, fucking eventually, he'll find out his name. And when he finds out his name, they'll find him.
The dreams start repeating, start getting vague and fuzzy around the edges, and then three weeks before he's due to leave for Berkeley, after he comes home from swimming laps in the gym's pool for two hours, Derek dreams about the night they first met, again, when the Guy sat up in bed and glared at him, and he… he gets a name.
Stiles—which isn't a fucking name—who names their kid Stiles?—Stilinski.
He only freaks out a little, and then he runs downstairs and tells the only person in the house, Laura. She freaks out a lot, and then an hour later Mom and Dad are sitting at the kitchen table across from him and the room smells like excitement.
There are no Stilinskis in Beacon Hills. Uncle Peter has to get a P.I. friend to track them down, three counties to the north. Mom says it's him, because the P.I. takes pictures, but Stilinski is a Deputy, and Stiles (not his real name, apparently) is fourteen, so they don't tell Derek the details, lest he… fuck, Derek doesn't know. It's not like he would drive up there and sit in front of his house and—
Okay if he knew his address, maybe he would.
Dad uses his connections to get Stilinski transferred to Beacon Hills
Derek shouldn't feel as petulant about them telling him to wait to see him as he does, but shit, he just… wants to see him. Then again, it turns out that every time he even starts typing Stilinski into Google he almost hyperventilates because of… something. Terror, probably. In the end, he just goes down to Berkeley and concentrates on his course load.
For what, he doesn't know.
No, he does; Deaton says that Stiles is going to turn up where he disappeared. So they're waiting for Stiles—the Stiles that knows about all of this (his Stiles)—to replace the Stiles that doesn't. Which… doesn't make sense to Derek, but apparently, it happens.
Or it's supposed to happen; no one is sure.
It happens when Derek is in a meeting with his advisor. It's March. He has fucking finals to start studying for, papers to start writing, and social settings to avoid and ignore, no matter how desperately his roommates try to get him to go, and then Laura calls.
He answers because Laura almost never calls… anyone. She texts, so if she's calling, it's something big.
"Hey Der-Bear," she greets when he picks up, smiling an apology at Professor Kendall.
"Lars," he answers, because she hates it as much as he hates fucking Der-Bear.
"Guess who just dropped onto our front yard? From the sky? And is now bleeding all over the kitchen table while we wait for an ambulance?"
Something Derek's stomach swoops. His world shrinks down to the size of the phone in his hand. "Laura, if you're fucking with me—"
"Why would I fuck with you about this?" Laura asks, suddenly serious "I'm looking down at him right now, and he—"
"Why is he still there, then?" Derek hisses, and Professor Kendall blinks at him. He stands. "Professor, I, uh—there's a family emergency. Can I reschedule, or—?" He's out the door before he can get a confirmation.
Professor Kendall's office is on the fourth floor, and he would jump, if it were later, and there was no one else on campus. But it's not later. It's fucking noon, and there are people, and he wants to run—
"Ambulance, Derek, don't you think that's a good idea? He's stable—he's actually talking to Mom."
"He's talking?" Derek asks, dodging a gaggle of freshmen that are taking up the entire fucking corridor, biting his bottom lip hard enough to draw blood so he doesn't snarl at them. "What's he—"
"Oh, ambulance is here," Laura interrupts, almost in a goddamned sing-song, and sure enough, Derek hears a siren on the other end. Derek hates her. He hates her so much. "Should I take a picture so you can prepare yourself, Der-Bear? So you can stroke your phone's screen and—"
Derek hangs up. It's a ten-minute walk to his apartment and a two-hour drive to Beacon Hills.
If he speeds he can make it in an hour and fifty minutes.
"This is so fucking confusing," Stiles groans, for about the fiftieth time. Because it is. Because suddenly he's two people; the Stiles that grew up in another town (the one that moved here less than two fucking months ago, met Lydia, met Stiles, met Derek as a fucking ghost in his room, went back in time); and the Stiles that moved here two years ago, with a newly elected Sheriff as a father and a two year friendship with Scott and Lydia, the Stiles that knew about the Hales but never actually saw them.
God, he's confused.
"Eventually," Deaton says. He's standing next to the hospital bed Stiles is half-sitting up in. "Eventually you'll start forgetting the unimportant parts of the other Stiles. The ones that don't matter. It'll get less confusing then."
"And you're saying my dad knows? That Mrs. Hale—"
"Talia, dear," Talia says, from the chair on the other side of the bed. She has shorter hair than she did last night, or, uh, six years ago. The pixie cut accentuates her cheekbones and makes her look, like, twenty-five. She's smiling at him, dressed in a black pinstripe suit, her hand resting against his side. "Please call me Talia."
"So you and my dad are… friends?" Stiles asks, but he knows it's true even as he asks because… shit yeah, Dad knows, because two years ago, Talia showed up at their front door while they were still moving in and introduced herself by telling Dad that Stiles really did see ghosts.
Then there was the whole werewolf reveal, which Stiles remembers both of them taking well, considering.
"I'm pretty sure you're remembering it right now, Stiles," Talia says, grinning.
"And you never told me I would be—"
"It may have been… detrimental if you found out what was going to happen," Deaton interrupts.
Stiles groans, slumps back into the pillows and closes his eyes. "This is so confusing," he says again.
Two hours ago, he was lying in the middle of the Hale's front yard, staring up at the sky, bleeding out, head pounding, and now he's here. He still hurts everywhere, but, uh, well, things are definitely different. Dad—Dad the Sheriff—is in the cafeteria, getting coffee for Mrs—for Talia. Laura is with him. Laura is a fucking Deputy. A Deputy.
It's in the middle of the day, and Stiles knows—he doesn't know how he knows—that Lydia and Scott are in school, in English, actually, because it's a little past lunch time already, that one of the Hales—Peter's daughter, Laura's niece—is in his grade, and, holy shit, is always staring at him.
He knows that Derek is at Berkeley, majoring in architecture.
He knows that, since he's moved here, he and Lydia have helped about ninety percent of the ghosts in Beacon Hills pass on. The fucker in the boiler room is still there, though. She likes to be difficult.
He knows… he knows a lot of shit. Too much shit. It's overwhelming.
"So Kate—" he starts.
"Is in prison, as is her father," Talia says, voice hard. "Thanks to you."
"Yeah, yup." Stiles nods. "Well that's good. Since that was the whole reason, I uh—"
"Derek dreamed about you," Talia says, and Stiles turns red, which was probably her intent. "About what you did for him while he was a… while he was in the other timeline."
"Right, right," Stiles says. Derek… wouldn't tell his mom about the kisses, right? About all the… all the other stuff? That would be stupid. They don't even know each other. Not really.
"This isn't a small thing you did, Stiles," Deaton says, just as Dad and Laura come back in the room. Dad, who's a fucking Sheriff. With a Sheriff's badge.
"Would you stop staring at the badge, son?" Dad asks, ahh, and at least his put-upon sighs are still the same.
"Dad, you're a Sheriff, though," Stiles says. "Sheriff Stilinski. It's like it was meant to be."
"This is a time thing, isn't it?" Dad asks.
"It's similar to amnesia, I would thi—" Deaton breaks off as the door opens, except it's Ms. McCall, who… also knows. Or… yeah no, she knows.
He feels like he's in the middle of a conspiracy of adults, and it's terrifying.
"Melissa, would you say it's like amnesia?" Deaton asks. Ms. McCall looks at him for a moment, then shrugs, walking over to check on the IV in Stiles's arm and his vitals on the machine beeping at his side.
"I guess," she says eventually, "although instead of no memories he has two sets of them?"
"Exactly," Deaton says.
"God, this is trippy," Stiles mutters under his breath, and both Talia and Laura laugh.
"At least it's not confusing anymore?" Laura asks, and Stiles makes a face at her, even before he realizes that they… they do this. This is what they do. He remembers making faces at Laura, remembers trying to sneak past her to get to Dad's office, remembers annoying her until she snarls at him, remembers—
"No, still confusing," Stiles decides, leaning his head back to stare up at the ceiling, watching out of the corner of his eye as Ms. McCall raises an eyebrow at him, adjusts the pillows behind his head.
It would be nice if he wasn't the center of attention any more. That would be nice.
"Talia, you should go; talk to Matt," Dad says, and Stiles knows that Matt is Mr. Hale; is the mayor of Beacon Hills; is human. "I'll watch over the idiot."
"Oh no, I'm waiting," Talia says, and Laura cracks up. "I've been wanting to see this for years. You have no idea how much I've been wanting to see this."
"See what?" Stiles asks.
"The reunion," Laura all but purrs, and that fucking tone… that's a tone of someone who knows. Stiles ignores the pain in his side and brings his hands up to rub at his face, frustrated and tired and… yeah, and fucking confused. Ms. McCall makes a noise of protest, and goes to write something on his chart.
"You mean, uh…" Stiles trails off.
"I'll leave," Deaton says, clapping a hand on Stiles's shoulder. "You'll come see me after you've recovered a bit?"
"He will," Dad answers for him.
"Right, um, I will," Stiles says, and Deaton nods, walks out of the room.
"So Derek, your son," Dad says to Talia, "is the ghost who was living in my son's bedroom. For months, apparently."
Talia looks positively gleeful. "Yes," she says.
"Stiles will be ready to go home in a couple of hours," Melissa interrupts. "I can get Dr. Mahealani to sign the release forms."
"He shouldn't stay the night?" Dad asks. "He got shot." His face stills at that, even as he says it, and he moves forward, claps a hand over Stiles's shoulder. "So he shouldn't… stay?"
"He got grazed," Melissa says, in a voice Stiles recognizes as the one she uses for flighty patients and even flightier family-of-patients. "He's good to go, unless there's the possibility he's going to go back in time and face a group of rogue hunters again. Stiles? Are you planning on doing that?"
"No, not that I know of," Stiles says.
"Then I'll go start the paperwork," she says, and then, just as she pulls open the door, "Scott's probably going to come over tonight after dinner. Is that okay?"
"That's fine," Dad says, before Stiles. "I'm surprised you managed to keep him in school this long."
Melissa grins. "Ways, Sheriff. I have ways."
The room is silent for a bit after she leaves, and then Dad clears his throat. "So Derek, your son, my kid's room, for months."
Talia grins. "Practically roommates."
"You could've just told me this two years ago," Dad says, taking a sip of his coffee. "And I could've, I don't know, prepared him or something."
"Would've changed something, probably," Talia says with a shrug. "And everything is good now, Sheriff. Your son's a hero; my son's alive. I'm alive. The people who need to be in prison are in prison. Peachy, if I may say so."
Dad takes another sip of his coffee, probably slurping so loudly just to be obnoxious, and Stiles sighs. "You're not allowed to ground me, I was—"
Talia and Laura freeze, and their sudden alertness is noticeable enough that Stiles stops and Dad puts a hand where his gun would be, if he weren't off duty.
"Stiles," Talia says. She leans forward, until her face is inches from his and her hand is gripping at his forearm a little too hard. "You came back in time to save my son, to save all of us," she whispers, low enough that Dad couldn't hear if he wanted to. "Derek dreamed about you for six years—I don't know the specifics, but I know him—so I know what this is. If you use any of this—any of it—to hurt him, to use him, I'm going to make you wish you could travel back to get away from me. All right, hon?"
Her eyes flash red, and he—Stiles doesn't know, at first, the reason for the sudden urgency. He tries to think of an answer, past the sudden nervousness, but before he can even open his mouth, the door creaks open, this time slow and unsteady, and a man walks in.
Derek. Derek walks in.
Of course Stiles recognizes him, of course. He still has the same ears, and the same… the same everything. Except, uh, he's older. He's… he's twenty-one, and he's wearing a goddamned leather jacket, and his hair is all styled and shit. Stiles has never actually met this Derek, despite Dad's apparent friendship with Mrs. Hale, only seen pictures of him, but he's looking at Stiles with wide eyes, rubbing at his thighs in a nervous, unsure gesture that Stiles recognizes from the other Derek, the dead one… and…
And fuck, he's alive, and he's beautiful.
He's… here, leaning back on his elbows in the bed in the middle of the room, heart pounding, smelling of surprise, and he's finally real. Derek only notices the others in the room because he can smell them, can feel their amusement, in the case of Laura and Mom, and the hesitancy, from Sheriff Stilinski, but he's just driven for two hours, and he's exhausted. All he can really concentrate on is Stiles.
Who's real. Finally.
It's terrifying, and exhilarating, and… weird. Because Stiles is a sixteen year old guy. Derek shouldn't owe him his life; he shouldn't have these memories of him. He shouldn't already feel like he knows him.
But he does, and it's real, and—
And he's twenty-fucking-one but he feels fifteen.
"Oh," Stiles says, "so that's why."
Derek is confused, which overrides his terror and makes it so he can close the door behind him and start the long trek (six steps) to stand at the foot of the bed next to Laura.
"Yes," Mom says, pats Stiles on the shoulder, although her eyes are still on him. She's biting the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing, and damn it, so is Laura. "I have good hearing, Stiles."
That's a threat; that's definitely a threat.
"Right, yeah, the werewolf thing, sure," Stiles says. He clears his throat, and Derek really should say something. He really should, except he doesn't know what to say. It's annoying.
"You're… uh," Derek says. "Hi."
"Wow, this is so beautiful," Laura comments. "Really, your way with words Derek, is—"
"Fuc—Frick off, Laura," he snarls, and the Sheriff starts laughing.
"Oh man, I'm going to get a refill," he says. "Deputy, come get a coffee refill with me."
"I'll come with as well," Mom says. "I can always eavesdrop on them from outside the room."
"I don't understand how any of you are adults," Stiles says as the Sheriff starts pulling Laura out the door. "Except Deaton, I guess, but he's—"
Mom punches Derek's shoulder when she walks past, raises her eyebrows at him in a gesture that probably means something like 'get your head in the game,' or 'your oratory skills are lacking,' or 'he's adorable and I will definitely be listening in.'
One of those, or all of them.
Derek watches them go, still aware of the other heartbeat in the room and the way Stiles is staring at him, still propped up on his elbows.
"Dude," Stiles says, eventually, "you… grew into the ears."
Derek turns back to him, holding his hands at his sides so he doesn't cover the ears in question. "I don't—" he says.
"This is awkward, isn't it?" Stiles interrupts, squinting his eyes at him and using one arm to gesture between them. It's all very Stiles, and it's all very fucking familiar, even though it's… not. "I know two versions of you, and you… you, uh, dreamed about me, apparently."
"Yeah," Derek says. At least someone gets it. He sits down in the chair that Mom had just been in. "You look better than you did that, uh, night."
Not as good as when he—no, not going there. Not yet.
"I am apparently… averse to time travel, as Deaton puts it," Stiles explains. "And also I got shot. So—"
"Yes you did." Derek remembers the smell of his blood vividly. It's almost as bad as the phantom smell he gets sometimes, during a particularly bad dream, of burning wood and flesh. He winces, picks at the fraying denim of his jeans.
"So you're at Berkeley, huh?" Stiles asks. When Derek looks up, he's arranging himself to sit up straighter, wincing as he crosses his legs in front of him, his fingers fiddling with the edges of one of his pillows. Suddenly, he looks young. Unsure of himself. Not the… not whatever Derek has been picturing him as for the last six years.
Something unattainable and mysterious. Something, literally, out of his fucking dreams.
For fucks sake.
"I was never able to say thank you," Derek says, instead of answering him, "that night. So… thank you."
Stiles takes a little while to react to that, but when he does, he grins. "You were kind of a dick."
Derek winces. "Right, about that—"
"Perfectly understandable, though, dude. Considering the, uh,"—Stiles grimaces—"considering the circumstances."
"Yeah, the circumstances," Derek says. He needs this to stop being so awkward. He needs this Stiles to be the one he knows.
He needs to stop sounding like a fucking idiot.
"Did they leave us alone to talk about anything in particular?" Stiles asks, suddenly. "Or was it more of a… a general thing?"
"I dreamed about everything. I mean, I—I remember everything," Derek tells him, because apparently he's still a fucking idiot.
"Everything, huh?" Stiles asks, and he sounds calm, a little curious, but he's suddenly not meeting Derek's eyes and his hands are gripping at the pillow harder. He smells like something bitter and tangy; embarrassment. Derek concentrates on that, concentrates on the idea that this is as weird for Stiles as it is for him, and forgets to be nervous.
"Everything," Derek says, "I feel like I know you but I don't know you."
"Took the words right out of my mouth, man," Stiles agrees, laughing. He scratches at the back of his head, and Derek has seen that gesture so many times (in his dreams) that he has to laugh.
"Good to know," Derek says. He nods, and Stiles nods, scratches at the underside of his elbow this time, and Derek really shouldn't be doing this—he should let Stiles adjust, give him time to figure out what's real and what's not, give him time to heal—but he's a selfish guy, and Stiles is… fuck, he's Stiles, and his eyes are that same goddamned gold that haunt Derek… a lot, in various situations. "So we should hang out some time," he says, clearing his throat.
Stiles starts blinking, and he very audibly swallows. Derek pretends he doesn't know why.
"Uh, yeah, sure," he says. "I mean, I won't be much fun with the whole injury thing, but we could, uh, play some games. You could meet Sco—"
"I meant go out," Derek interrupts, before he can overanalyze it. This is Stiles. The Stiles who he kissed (who kissed him), the Stiles who… his fifteen-year-old (ghost) self fell in love with. He wants this. A lot. "Like on a date."
Stiles blushes, his eyes going wide. Oh god, and Derek wants to kiss, or—he wants to touch. He can touch, right? It wouldn't be too awkward. Or it would—will be—is—as Derek reaches forward, rests his hand on the bed so that his fingers are just brushing up against Stiles's hand. It's awkward, definitely, but he doesn't care, because Stiles is warm. He's solid, and he's here, and he's real.
"Oh," Stiles says, clearing his throat and using his hand—the other one, not the one that Derek is touching, the one that both of them are staring at—to wipe at his nose. "I, uh—you want to? On a date? With me?"
Derek grins and looks up at him. "No, I was fucking with you."
"Wow, yeah, so you're into the sarcasm, huh?" Stiles says, voice a little rough. Derek shrugs, freezing when Stiles moves his hand so his fingers are threaded with Derek's. So that they're holding hands. It shouldn't feel like anything big, but it does, even more so when Stiles grins at him, tightening his grip.
There's something familiar about that, and Derek remembers another time they held hands, when Derek was still a ghost, throwing tantrums in Stiles's kitchen. He had been amazed by how warm Stiles was then, amazed by the feel of touching someone just for the sake of touching. Now, though, it's more like he's amazed at the feeling because it's Stiles he's touching. It's Stiles's hand that he's holding, and it makes him far too happy and far too nervous at the same time.
"I'm into sarcasm, yeah," Derek says.
So, Stiles is freaking out. Which is allowed, at least he thinks it is, because he has a date. With Derek. Who's a werewolf. Who was dead, but is now alive.
He's also kind of amazing. Stiles suspects that even without their… uh, past, he would be freaking out.
Thus, Stiles is decidedly in the freak-out stage. He's sitting on the porch of his house (he lives two streets down from Scott and ten miles from the Hale house) waiting for Derek— Derek, who's alive and is made up of sarcasm and deadpan humor and a not-so-secret affinity for leather—to pick him up.
For dinner. And a movie.
For a fucking date.
As far as dates go—as far as potential relationships go—Stiles figures that, so far, this is the weirdest way to meet, like… ever.
It's been two weeks since… everything. Two weeks since he got out of the hospital, two weeks since he's even seen a ghost. For that first week, he was holed up in his room per Dad's orders, sleeping off his pain meds. Scott came over a lot, as did Lydia. They didn't really talk about much except school stuff, which was—is—fine by Stiles, because he couldn't hold an intelligible conversation until last Saturday, when his prescription ran out.
He went back to school after a week, went over to the Hale house for a, uh, dinner. Laura had called it the 'thanks for traveling back in time so we all didn't die in a fire' celebratory feast. Derek had been there, had sat next to him at the table, had grabbed his hand during dessert and kept it there for a good half hour.
But this is their first date.
A lot of the stuff from the other time (Stiles doesn't know what else to call it) is starting to fade away, just like Deaton had said it would. Unimportant shit like homework assignments and meals and everything. But Derek… Derek isn't.
Which—Stiles doesn't know what that says about him, about them, but he likes it.
It feels… weird and natural all at once, and Stiles doesn't really want to think about it as anything more than that, yet.
(he also wants in Derek's pants, but, hey, patience, apparently.)
When Derek pulls up in his Camaro (and Stiles is sitting on so many jokes about that), Stiles is still freaking out, but less than before. Now it's more a matter of "oh god I seriously hope I don't fall on my ass or cough in his mouth when (if?) he kisses me" more than "oh god I'm going on a date with a werewolf who I met six years ago when he was a ghost."
… less well-adjusted people would probably be catatonic by now.
Stiles watches Derek lope up the front walk, hands in his pockets, a small grin on his face. Derek plops himself down on the step next to him before Stiles can get up, close enough that their sides touch.
Tactile. He's still tactile.
"I'm late," Derek tells him. "I'm not always late."
"I never said you were, dude?" Stiles says. "I'm friends with Scott. He runs on Scott-time, which is thirty to forty-five minutes behind actual time."
"That's adorable, really," Derek says, voice dry. "The bromance thing you've got going on with Scotty McScotterson."
"Scotty… McScotterson? Wow, no Derek, that's adorable," Stiles says. "Nicknames for my best bro. Adorable."
"I'm a werewolf," Derek points out, "I'm not adorable."
"Agree to disagree," Stiles says. This is flirting. They're flirting, right? "I saw you when you were a wee lad of fifteen and shorter than me."
"We're the same height," Derek says, glaring at him in what is probably annoyance. Even so, he's edging closer. And—huh…
It's one in the afternoon on a Saturday. Dad is at some human resources meeting at the station, had told Stiles not to do anything that would make their neighbors think he was even weirder than they already did, but… but Stiles doesn't care, really.
(and hey, Dad was elected in spite of his weirdness, so maybe he's on to something.)
Because he can't look away from Derek's eyes, which are, as promised, even more mesmerizing now that they're not slightly transparent. Because Derek is edging closer, for fucks sake, with his eyes on Stiles's lips. And Stiles might be horribly inexperienced in this, but he knows what want looks like on Derek. And he knows what want feels like.
Except now, if he kisses Derek, he's actually going to be kissing him, and not some… mass of intense energy that is a suggestion of Derek. There's going to be teeth and tongue and the wet warmth of Derek's mouth on his, and the weight of Derek's hand on… wherever he decides to put it. And Stiles… fuck, right, fine.
He leans forward the last inch or two between them and presses his lips to Derek's, and yup, they're warm and, actually, slightly dry. Chapped, even. But they're real, and the sound that Derek makes—surprise, humor—is even more so.
It turns out that Derek puts one hand on Stiles's knee and brings the other to rest at the back of his neck. The leather of his jacket brushes against Stiles's arm, bunches under his hands when he grabs at it to keep Derek in place. The kiss turns into two, three, four, all of them dry and almost searching… hesitant, and Stiles keeps his eyes closed, so he doesn't know if Derek is looking at him or grinning or… something.
And it's nice. It's really nice. It's more than nice. It's—
Stiles isn't sure which of them turn the kiss into something else. Might be him, might be Derek. Who knows, who cares? What's important is that one moment, it's tentative, strange even, and then the next Derek is pressing into his mouth, tongue wet and hot against his, stubble rasping against Stiles's jaw, little hums of something—pleasure, satisfaction, arousal—vibrating in the back of his throat and holy crap it's fucking awesome.
"So," Stiles manages to rasp out, when he pulls away so he can breathe, resting his forehead against Derek's and using the downtime to stare at his lips—swollen, red, wet, hot, "dinner and a movie, huh?"
Derek's hand travels up, slowly, until he's gripping at the back of Stiles's head, fingers kneading in the hair that Stiles is trying to grow out…"Yeah, dinner and a movie."
"Is that part of the werewolf courtship ritual? Or are you waiting for that part?" Stiles asks.
"You'll know when I start doing werewolf shit, Stiles," Derek says, flashing his fangs. Stiles doesn't know whether to roll his eyes or bite at the corner of Derek's lip.
He does both.
"That's fucking corny," he says. "But I'm cool with it. There's not, like, uh… weird kinky shit, right?"
"I—" Derek blushes—blushes—the fucker. "Jesus Christ, Stiles, no. Whatever you're thinking, no."
"Cool," Stiles says, kisses him again (because he can, obviously). He stands, even though he would be fine with just sitting here and getting more acquainted with Derek's mouth, and kicks at Derek's calf. "Dinner and a movie. Come on, before Mrs. Pindle calls my dad and tells him we're making out on my front porch in broad day light."
Derek balks, starts sniffing the air surreptitiously as he gets up and wipes the dust off his jeans. "I don't smell anyone."
"Yeah, that's cool. And weird. Do you smell all emotions?" Stiles asks, already walking towards Derek's car. If he does, then… shit.
"You don't smell the emotion, you smell the body chemistry, and only if you concentrate," Derek says, closer than Stiles expected. "You practically exude sarcasm all the time, so that's not hard—"
"But you're into sarcasm," Stiles says, pulling the passenger side door open. Eventually, he's going to fucking drive the thing. Maybe get Derek drunk. Can werewolves get drunk? Huh.
"So I'm like goddamned catnip."
"I'm not happy about it," Derek says, and lies. Obviously a lie.
"Sure, dude," Stiles says as he sits, fiddles with the seatbelt until it clicks into place. Derek walks around to the driver's side, and Stiles waits until he puts the key in the ignition before he speaks again. "We should make out in the movie theatre. That's proper date behavior, right?"
Derek looks over at him, blinking. "Okay?" he offers.
"Cool," Stiles says, leans back in the seat. "Looking forward to it."
Wow, so it's done! IT'S DONE.
.. it's... done...
I'm going to go lay down now. Maybe stare at my ceiling and think about existence and the meaning of life and all that jazz.
OH, and a big fuckin' bear hug to the lovely SleepyStrawberries for proof-reading and giving my ego a much needed boost. YOU ROCK YOU TRILINGUAL LITTLE PORN-WRITING MUFFIN.
Also, I am notorious for overlooking the most obvious of things, so if you see anything that doesn't make sense or seems out of place (or is a typo, UGH) please feel free to point it out!