… Is anyone else wondering if this might be what Derek would’ve been like if there had been no Kate and no fire, if he’d just been allowed to grow up like a (mostly) normal person?
For real, though, can’t you imagine Stiles, like, accidentally getting shuttled to an alternate universe or something, where the fire never happened and all the Hales are still around, and Peter’s not crazy, and Derek is like this? And he’s trying to figure out how to get back to his own world, his own timeline, but he doesn’t know how. And after a while, he’s not sure he even wants to. Because it’s not like anyone would really miss him back home; Scott’s spending more and more time with Isaac now, and Stiles’s dad has always liked Scott better, he’ll take him under his wing and have the son he wishes he had, and maybe people will think it’s weird that he just suddenly disappeared but it’s not like he’ll be a hole in the heart of the town, or anything.
And meanwhile, in this world, people are flipping out over him because the Stiles that belongs here disappeared years and years ago, he’s presumed dead, but now apparently he’s back. Stiles’s mom is still alive (and you see, Stiles knew it, he knew there was some sort of cosmic balance thing that happened there, that if he’d died instead she wouldn’t have), and she and his dad are happy. And Derek Hale is like an actual approachable person, who is apparently convinced that Stiles is his mate, and is being ridiculously adorable about trying to woo him, and OH GOD HELP THERE’S NO WAY THIS CAN POSSIBLY END WELL.
WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING? WHO GAVE YOU THE RIGHT?
‘Cause see, it can’t end well. Not at all. Because the real Stiles, from this alternate universe, he’s still alive. He ran away because he got bit, he’s a werewolf. He was out of town visiting his grandparents in Wyoming and he got bit by some rogue pack, okay? And he kept his distance, disappeared off the grid and has been dealing with werewolf shenanigans elsewhere for years.
Then suddenly, he gets wind that there’s this OTHER STILES? He’s in his old life, taking it over, and no. Absolutely not. He didn’t stay away all these years just to have some shape shifter or changeling RUIN EVERYTHING and hurt his family. So he has to come back.
And he is totally dark!Stiles by this point. You know he is, with his bat and his claws and his talent for making the people who piss him off end up dead. And now he’s going back to Beacon Hills to deal with this doppelganger and of course he’s going to meet the Hales, who he never thought about before, and there’s this soft, kind, happy version of Derek just waiting to be eaten up by someone like dark!Stiles.
…I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING SOMEONE STOP ME THIS IS YOUR FAULT MEL.
ACTUAL PTERODACTYL NOISES, OMG YES, THAT ACTUALLY MAKES THINGS ABLE TO END WAY BETTER.
Because of course, Derek would step in to keep this rogue omega from killing his mate, and this is the closest human!Stiles has ever seen him get to the Derek he knows
and loves. And then there’s confusion, because werewolf!Stiles sure as HELL recognizes his mate when he sees him, and is even more hell-bent on killing the imposter now, who was going to take his mate. And Derek is adorably confused, because he’s getting the same feeling from both of them—more strongly from werewolf!Stiles, but that’s only to be expected, what with him being another wolf and all. Although he really doesn’t see why they can’t work this out where he gets to keep both of them, that really seems like the best possible solution. Meanwhile Stiles is proving who he is to his other self by relating stories about Scott from their childhood, because Scott is a freaking universal constant, recognizable no matter what the world around him may be.
And then human!Stiles is all forlorn, because he has to find a way back now. This isn’t his world, it isn’t his life, and it just figures that the version of him that gets the better deal won’t even appreciate it. And meanwhile Stiles has to go back to the world where he doesn’t even matter, where Derek barely tolerates him and everything is broken, and it’s just … it’s not fair. Because all the troubles of this world seem to have been concentrated on this other version of him, and he was never given that option—he’d willingly be broken himself if it meant his friends and family got to be better.
Plus he has to watch this nice, kind Derek who actually likes him fall in love with someone else, even if it’s just another him, and god, this whole thing just really, really SUCKS, and Stiles freaking hates faeries, okay? He’s gonna kick their ass when he gets back home.
Oh god, and by the time he does get home, when Stiles and Derek 2.0 help him track down what he needs to get back, he’s just ready to go. It physically aches to see them together, to see the way this Derek works so hard to make the other him happy, to fix all the things that are broken. God, and he can’t even THINK about the way Derek’s whole family pulled together to try to give werewolf Stiles stability and direction and *pack*. Why oh why can’t that be him?
But as much as it hurts to go back to a world where he doesn’t matter, he knows staying would eat him up from the inside out. And Derek doesn’t say anything, just gives him a reassuring smile because this guy isn’t actually capable of conceiving a world where things won’t work out. In his mind, bad things may happen but it’s still okay because family fixes it. Because this Derek’s always had a family and that’s his reality.
But the other Stiles knows, and he just says, “It helps if you can at least pretend to forget.”
He nods and swallows against the sick feeling rolling in his gut and his werewolf self steps back and Stiles unwraps the pendant they stole from the faeries and as soon as his skin touches the metal, he feels a tug behind his navel. He can’t help but think of apparition from Harry Potter and it makes him feel insane and grounded all at once. And then he’s standing in the middle of the forest alone. He’s home.
He was expecting a sort of Alice in Wonderland thing, if he’s being completely honest—go off on an epic adventure, get his heart broken, return harder and wiser and realize that he hasn’t been gone long enough for anyone to miss him. Certainly not long enough for them to have progressed into moving on. So it’s kind of a surprise when he gets home and realizes that he’s been gone for two months, the same amount of time he spent in the other world and okay sure, that makes sense, but it’s still a little bit weird. And even more unexpected is the fact that it takes about twenty minutes after his dad finally stops hugging him for practically every person he knows to show up at the house, wanting to see for themselves that he really is back.
Because the last anyone saw of him was when he and Scott found (what everyone later realized was) a faerie hoard, when they were yelling at each other about whose life was more fucked up. And Stiles knew that Scott won that one, that wasn’t even his point, his point is that Scott isn’t even letting him help anymore. He knows that Scott’s life is hard, and damn it, if Stiles could take everything back for him, if he could be the one whose life went to hell instead of the people he loves, he’d trade places with them in a heartbeat.
And okay, maybe he shouldn’t have said that while holding a faerie artifact, but hey. Hindsight, right?
So all anyone knows is that Stiles was talking about his life going to hell, and then he disappeared, and what if … what if that’s what actually happened? What if, for the past two months while they’ve been trying to find him and get him back, Stiles has been somewhere terrible, while there’s nothing they can do?
Stiles just thinks it makes a sick kind of sense. Scott in the other world never got bitten because Peter never went crazy, because there never was a fire. Derek’s happiness was almost incidental, which doesn’t seem fair, either. Almost as fair as the fact that Stiles is back with this broken version of him now, wondering if what happened before broke the part of him that was capable of loving Stiles.
That, he figures, would be just his luck.
He doesn’t get a chance to figure it out for a while, either. Because first there’s his dad who Stiles never could have imagined hurting this bad, who watches Stiles like he’s a ghost that might disappear again. And then there’s the way Scott looks at him like he’s a different person, and that hurts almost worse than anything else. Scott’s always been his constant, the one person who never treated him differently after his mom died.
So yeah, for about a month, that’s really all he has room for, trying to figure out how to make the two most important relationships in his life WORK again. He does like the other Stiles said. He pretends like he doesn’t remember, like every time he dreams he doesn’t see Derek’s smile and he doesn’t hear Derek’s laugh. He tries to convince himself that he doesn’t know what it looks like when Derek’s happy, when Derek’s safe and supported and loved. Most of all, he ignores the memory of what Derek looks like when he’s in love. With Stiles. A Stiles that’s not him.
It works until it doesn’t. It works until one day he finds himself in his jeep, driving out toward the Hale house. No one stays there anymore. Stiles doesn’t know how Derek’s managed to keep it from being condemned. But there it stands, a physical reminder of the difference between this world and the other, where Derek’s house had been bright and clean and whole, where it was filled with voice of people who cared about each other.
Stiles isn’t sure how long he sits there in his jeep, staring at the burned out shell of everything Stiles will never have, but he’s instantly aware when Derek shows up. He shivers and pulls his hoodie tight, but he doesn’t look over when Derek speaks.
“Scott called me. They’re trying not to panic, to give you your space, but maybe driving into the woods the first time you’re alone was a bad idea,” says Derek. It’s deceptively mild. Stiles can hear the underlying tension and disapproval.
“I just wanted to see it again,” says Stiles. He doesn’t know why he’s bothering. Derek doesn’t want him to open up about his time in the other world. How could he? It’s just a reminder of everything he lost. Still, Stiles finds himself asking, “Do you miss it? You must. I only knew it for a couple of months, and I miss it. It was your home.”
The hell of it is, Derek’s not even surprised by what Stiles says, just quietly answers, “I do.” When Stiles looks over at him, he shrugs. “When you came back, you smelled … different. Like me, but not like me. And like them.” He turns his attention back to the house. “Deaton said that the amulet you’d been holding was something to do with wish fulfillment, so I thought. Maybe.”
And Stiles is sorry, so sorry, because he didn’t mean to dredge all of that up for Derek again, but god, he just keeps making everything worse, doesn’t he? He came back because he thought it would hurt less, but all it means is that things are awful again for everyone around him. Maybe he should’ve stayed gone after all, moved somewhere else in that other world and let people here move on and forget.
Derek is getting angry now, because what the fuck is Stiles even on about? Forget him? Does he actually think that Scott, or his dad, or—or anyone would be able to just move on? They’d have punched a hole between dimensions if they’d been able to figure out how to do it, or where the hell Stiles had disappeared to. For two months they hardly slept, trying to get him back, trying to find out anything they could. Does he have any idea of the hole he left here while he was gone?
He gets it, okay? Things were better there, where he was. But Stiles is here; he belongs here, with … with his friends, and family, and the people who love him, even if this version of them isn’t what he wants.
And all Stiles can do is stare, because one, this is probably the longest he’s ever heard Derek talk all at once, and two … he can’t actually be saying what Stiles thinks he’s saying.
“You think I want them more than you guys?” asks Stiles. He doesn’t even wait for a response, just shakes his head in disbelief. “Oh god, it’s not THEM I want. It’s their happiness, I want it for you, and for my dad and Scott. You were all so HAPPY, you had everything. I just want — I just want you to HAVE that.”
“And what part of you being gone was ever supposed to give that to us?” Derek sounds hollowed out, gutted. He frowns. “Why do you think you’re keeping anyone — keeping ME from being happy?”
Stiles shrugs, looking away as he shakes his head. “The other me was gone for long time, didn’t come back until I showed up. It seemed to work out for everyone.”
Derek’s quiet for a long time until finally he says, “That’s stupid, Stiles. That doesn’t even make sense. It was a completely different world, you idiot. And I can promise you this: you being gone from ANY universe wouldn’t make it better.”
Stiles can feel his heart in his chest, hammering like it’s trying to escape and his hands ball into fists and he’s shaking his head before he even figures out what he’s denying. “That’s not — you can’t say things like that.”
“Why the hell not?”
“Because then I can’t forget.”
“Forget what?” snarls Derek, rapidly losing any semblance of patience.
“What it was like when you loved me,” says Stiles, and then he claps his hand over his mouth. He didn’t just say that. Oh god, why did he just say that. “I should go. I’m going to go.”
“You’re still an idiot,” says Derek, and Stile REALLY needs to leave now, but Derek’s opening the Jeep’s door and reaching to turn Stiles’ face toward him again. “You’re talking about it like it’s not still true.”
And finally, finally Stiles lets himself see, really see, and it’s better than anything he remembered from the other world. Because this is HIS Derek, his world and his life, and his Derek is looking at him like he MATTERS, like he matters more than everything else to boot.
And then Derek does something he never did in that other world, that Stiles never got to feel. Derek kisses him.
fangirling so hard rn.