The last thing he wanted to do on his very first day literally two hours after the last box had entered his apartment—was this. In no way was this at all what his plans for the evening had been, especially considering his apartment was a disaster, and he had to re-build his bedframe so he could sleep tonight.
He supposed he could just sleep on the mattress if it came down to it, because he didn’t want to bother his new neighbours and be known as that guy, but he would really much rather be setting everything up properly rather than be doing this.
“You know I have an apartment of boxes right now, right?” he demanded of the excited blonde dragging him along the stone path. “I could literally be putting my dishes away as we speak.”
“Don’t be such a grouch,” his best friend insisted, turning to grin over her shoulder. “How are you going to meet people otherwise?”
“The normal way,” he said dryly. “Speaking to them in the elevator, nodding to one another in the corridor, making idle chit chat while getting the mail.”
She snorted so hard it actually sounded painful to his ears. “Right. You. Idle chit chat. You can’t even chit chat with me, let alone a neighbour.”
He wished she was wrong, but he knew she wasn’t. Realistically, this was probably for the best, but he’d just spent the whole day moving and he didn’t want to be here right now.
Derek Hale had spent his entire life in the same house, out in the middle of the Preserve in Beacon Hills, California. It was a large house, some even calling it a mansion, and he loved it there. It was warm, and comforting, and inviting, and overall just a nice place to live. He enjoyed being close to his family, he loved spending time with his sisters, and the place was just... happy.
But Derek couldn’t live there anymore. Not because he didn’t want to, but because there was a point in his life where he had to accept that he couldn’t live the rest of his life in his old room with his parents down the corridor. It wasn’t unusual for Werewolves to stick close to home, to their packs, to their Alphas, but his two sisters had already long ago moved out, and even his younger brother had headed off to university and rented an apartment for himself and some friends, coming home only for the holidays.
Derek was the last one to leave, and he was twenty-eight. People—mostly Erica—had started insisting he had mommy issues. Not that this bothered him, he adored his mother, she was a wonderful woman, a terrific mom, and a fair Alpha. But still, even his parents had begun to hint that they thought he needed a place of his own.
He just didn’t do well with being alone, was the problem. He made poor life choices when he was alone, like the time he’d gotten involved with a woman almost twice his age in high school, and she ended up being a Hunter who’d almost murdered his entire family. Or the time he’d been living briefly with another woman and she ended up being a Darach and had been planning to use him and his two sisters as a sacrifice to cement her powers. Or the time he’d tried his hand with that really sexy guy who’d started coming into his workplace and he ended up being a Demon who was trying to take over Derek’s body because he was the next Alpha in line in his family.
Overall, not a great track record of being left unattended. It was why Derek was so anti-dating lately, because he didn’t really want to die before hitting thirty, that would be really terrible.
So, there had been a discussion. One he hadn’t even been involved in until well into the planning stages, and his family was lucky he’d actually agreed to it.
His best friend since basically birth, Erica Reyes, had bought an apartment with her husband, Vernon Boyd, that was part of a dual-building complex near the edge of the Preserve. It comprised of two large buildings that mirrored one another, with a large multi-purpose amenities area in between the two—including a gym, media room, large events hall and a library.
They’d moved in, all happy and in love, and had immediately adored the entire area. It was quiet, close to the forest—which was good for two Werewolves—had a lot of shops within walking distance, and the area was Supernatural-friendly.
After a year of living in the building, there were some concerns about replacing the roof—the buildings themselves were over thirty years old, but still in good repair, however some things needed doing. The increase in management fees for the two buildings led a lot of people to decide to sell and move out, because they didn’t want to have to increase the payments on a monthly basis despite the roof of one of the two buildings sorely needed an overhaul.
Basically, it was people in Infinity Two—the one Erica and Boyd lived in—not wanting to help finance the re-roofing of Infinity One. Which was ridiculous since they shared their overall reserve and both apartment buildings had paid to re-pave the road around the back of Infinity Two when it had begun to need work. So really, it was just people being greedy and self-centered because they didn’t want to pay into a reserve to help both buildings.
So, a number of apartments were planning to go on the market around the same time in Infinity One, some which had been renovated requesting higher sale prices, and others which hadn’t in the hopes of selling faster with the lower price.
As soon as Erica and Boyd realized there was an opening for Derek, they immediately told the Hale parents because, while Derek wouldn’t be living with anyone, at least he would be literally a thirty second walk from Erica and Boyd. All he’d have to do was walk through the garage to get from one building to the other, so he couldn’t make bad life choices if Erica was close enough to keep an eye on him.
It was also only a twenty-minute drive from his family home, and an additional ten for him to get into town where he worked. It was a good location for him, had friends closeby, and was a generally ideal situation for all involved.
When the apartments began going on the market, this was when they spoke to Derek. Of course, he was against it for a long time, but when the apartments started to get bought one after another, he realized he was running out of time and finally agreed to at least go to a few of the open houses.
He fell in love with two of the apartments, one being a Penthouse on the top floor, and another being a cozy little apartment on the second floor facing the forest, with a large patio that was on ground level because of the way the apartment had been built—it was on a hill so the forest-facing side had the second floor as the ‘ground’ floor, whereas the front-facing side had the first floor as the ‘ground’ floor, with units only on one side since the opposite side of the corridor would be underground. They used the opposite side for the storage lockers to avoid wasting space.
Derek was still ho-humming about the apartments when his realtor called to say the Penthouse had been sold. He didn’t want to lose out on the other apartment he’d liked, and it really was time for him to move, so he’d immediately put in an offer for the one on the second floor. There was a bit of a bidding war, since another couple had also been interested, but Derek ended up winning with some financial aid from his parents. Probably a bit of a cheat, but they wanted him out of the house anyway, so it worked out.
He gained possession in mid-November, and got to work getting the place cleaned up and a few things renovated. The apartment itself had already been re-done, with new, modern counters and fresh appliances, but the people who’d lived there before had closed off a part of the patio to have a sun room, and Derek much preferred having the open air outside.
After getting all the applicable approvals, having an inspector come in to review what was being done, and the contractor getting to work, the sunroom was gone and his patio had doubled. He knew in the long run it was a bad call, because it would lower the re-sale value given he’d taken space out from inside, but he didn’t care. With any luck he’d just live there forever.
But of course, because of the renovations, he was delayed moving in and his parents had agreed for him to stay only until the first of January, which meant when everything was finished and cleaned up—yeah, he really didn’t think the cleaning thing through—he was left with only two days to move.
He’d mostly packed up all his stuff, and he knew his parents wouldn’t actually kick him out, but he was supposed to be an adult now, so he wanted to keep his word. It was how he found himself renting a U-Haul on the thirtieth of December and asking as many friends as possible to help him move after work. He got a lot of things moved over, but since it was only a few hours and everyone had work the next day, they didn’t get it all done.
And so, today, on the thirty-first, Derek had actually asked his boss first thing in the morning for a half-day. It was a little dead, so it wasn’t a big deal, and he went home early to move some more boxes, his parents helping out.
His new furniture got delivered around seven, since he’d scheduled it for when he was out of work, and Boyd and Erica kept up the packing at his place so he could stick around to receive the furniture. By eight-thirty, his stuff was finally all in his apartment. It was a fucking mess, with boxes and furniture everywhere, but Derek had tomorrow off since it was a public holiday, and had actually already pre-emptively booked the rest of the week, so he had a few days to unpack and get settled.
Which was kind of what he wanted to do right now. Except because it was December thirty-first, it was New Year’s Eve, and the twin Infinity buildings were having a party in the large events hall for all the owners of the two buildings.
It was going from nine to eleven, so that people could come and go as they pleased if they had other plans, but it was a way for all the older building owners to mingle, and the new owners to meet their neighbours.
Which was why Erica was making him go, because she was positive Derek would meet no one if he didn’t at least try.
Boyd was already there, and Erica had gone to fetch Derek after her texts were ignored. In his defence, he’d been in the shower after a long day of moving, and had actually answered the door in a towel since he knew it could be no one else.
He was positive she’d steal his key and make herself a copy, before long.
“You don’t have to stay long,” Erica insisted, looping her arm through his and continuing to pull him along. “Just try to have some fun. Enjoy it. Meet new people. Who knows, you might finally meet someone who can stand that prickly personality of yours.”
Derek turned to give her an annoyed look but she grinned, waggled her eyebrows, and released him so they could climb a small flight of stairs to where the event hall was located. He followed behind her, feeling a little uncomfortable, and self-consciously looked back down at himself.
He hadn’t really been able to find anything nice to wear, so he was just in black jeans and a grey Henley. Erica actually had a dress on, complete with full hair and make-up. He knew she wasn’t going anywhere after, which meant she’d dressed up specifically for this party.
Probably just wanted to make all the men and women jealous of her good looks. Derek couldn’t fault her for that, she’d grown up being teased and had only really started to fill out when she went to university. She looked stunning now, not that Derek cared about how she looked, because she was his best friend, but he knew she cared so he always made a point to tell her when she looked nice.
Which he had, earlier, at his apartment, while she tore through all his stuff trying to find something suitable for him to wear.
When they reached the hall, the door was open, and Derek felt claustrophobic already seeing the plethora of people through the windows. The room wasn’t huge by any means, but it was definitely large enough to accommodate a few hundred people in relatively close proximity. It had floor to ceiling windows, so they could look out towards the forest, and a few tables set up by the far wall with some food and drinks.
Derek spotted Boyd almost right away, lingering by the edge and speaking to an older gentleman, both of them holding glasses of wine. He didn’t know why Boyd was bothering, since he couldn’t get drunk, but then again, Boyd wasn’t the type to get drunk anyway.
As soon as Derek followed Erica into the room, he was hit with a wall of heat, the bodies inside having heated up the room considerably despite the chill in the air outside. He tried not to immediately back out, because the smells and sounds were kind of overwhelming, and just followed Erica to the back where she was inspecting the food.
“Oh my God!” she blurted out, turning to someone at the table. “Did Meleni make these?” she demanded, pointing to a plate with only a few remaining light yellow-coloured puff balls.
The person she’d asked nodded and Erica hastily grabbed a plate, loading four of them onto it before holding it out to Derek in offering. He just cocked an eyebrow.
“These are pan de queso, it’s Brazilian, and is literally a ball of cheese. It’s fucking delicious.”
“We shouldn’t really be eating random food off a table,” Derek insisted. “It’s not safe.”
“This place is Supernatural-friendly,” another voice said, Derek turning to see a brunet wandering towards them with a kind smile and a beer in his hand. “We have a few cops in the building, some of which are Supernatural, as well as some retired officers. Nobody would move here if they didn’t support our kind.”
“Derek, this is Scott McCall,” Erica motioned him. “He’s president of the strata, and an Alpha Werewolf.”
“Good to meet you,” Derek said, shaking his hand.
“You’re Derek, right?” Scott offered another kind smile. “Erica and Boyd live two doors down from me. They’ve been talking about you for months, excited for you to move in. How’re you liking it?”
“Well, I literally just moved in right now,” he said, giving Erica a pointed look. She was just stuffing her face with the cheese balls. She hadn’t died yet, so maybe Derek would give them a try.
“I hope you like it here. It’s a fun community, everyone kind of knows everyone. Or we try to, anyway. And we have a whole bunch of Supernatural-friendly people whose professions are geared towards the protection of our kind, so as long as you don’t lose your head and start attacking anyone, you’ll be fine here.”
Derek didn’t know that he liked this guy. Just because he was already an Alpha didn’t make him better than Derek. He looked younger than him, Derek probably knew more about being an Alpha Werewolf than he did, and Derek wasn’t even an Alpha yet! He was just next in line for when his mother passed the torch, which he hoped was never.
He hadn’t been happy to discover that, out of five children, he was the lucky winner of being the pack’s next Alpha. Though technically only four of them qualified, given one of them... Well, given one of them.
Scott’s name was called from across the area and he turned to see who it was before nodding to Derek and Erica, excusing himself, and leaving. Derek immediately turned to snatch one of the cheese balls before Erica ate them all, and had to admit that they were pretty good.
Erica started dragging him around the room, introducing him to a few people she knew, and also making time to meet people she didn’t. Every time someone mentioned they were new to the building, she loudly and emphatically told them Derek was, too. She kept giving people his unit number, two-twelve, and telling them to drop in whenever to get to know him since they were all new and needed to stick together.
Derek didn’t really appreciate that, Erica knew perfectly well he didn’t like having strangers in his place. He also didn’t like being touched by people he didn’t know, and a lot of them kept reaching out to clap him on the shoulder or slap his arm. It was annoying and kind of stressful.
“So what do you do, Derek?” a woman asked, leaning into him and very clearly flirting. He leaned back, because he wasn’t exactly interested. She seemed kind of bitchy, in his opinion. She was new to the building, and had barely acknowledged Erica the entire time they’d been standing there, pretending Derek was the only one there making conversation.
“I work for the government,” he informed her.
“Oh,” she said slyly, with interest. “FBI? CIA?”
“The passport office,” he clarified. Why was it everyone always assumed he worked for one of the big boys? Was it because he worked out and looked like a tank? He could still work a desk job! He had enough excitement living life as a Werewolf, he didn’t need to work for a dangerous organization on top of that.
“Oh.” She seemed disappointed now, but he didn’t care. She’d just opened her mouth to say something else when Erica gasped.
“The doc’s here! Oh my God, Derek, you have to meet the doc! He’s your neighbour, and super cute, and very single!”
She grabbed his arm and started dragging him across the room, Derek rolling his eyes at her stupidity but following along anyway. Like he was going to be at all interested in some random guy because he happened to be single. She had the worst taste, and Derek could say that, because it had taken her years to finally realize she was in love with Boyd, who was both gorgeous and a sweetheart. Derek still made fun of her for it.
Derek was a little annoyed when they approached to see this ‘doc’ person was speaking with Scott the Alpha, but he tried not to let that show on his face or come out in his scent. He almost told Erica to forget it, because they shouldn’t interrupt, but she was already speaking.
“Doc! Doc, I want you to meet someone!”
The guy turned, a grin on his face, and seemed delighted to see Erica, holding one arm out since he had white wine in his other hand, and giving her a hug.
“Hey, Happy almost New Year!”
“Happy almost New Year,” she repeated with a grin, tugging on Derek harder to get him closer. “I want you to meet someone. This is—”
But the guy had already shifted his gaze to look at Derek, and the second their eyes met his entire face fell and he dropped the wine glass he was holding. His scent shifted instantly, shock and surprise, but also joy.
“Derek,” he said breathlessly, staring at him like he’d just seen a ghost.
“Oh, you’ve met?” Erica asked, smirking knowingly at Derek. Like she thought he’d gone for the first hot guy he’d seen in the building.
To be fair, he might’ve said hi to this guy if he’d seen him, because he was attractive. Almost as tall as Derek, with soft brown hair, strikingly bright honey-coloured eyes, a spattering of moles along his face and neck and an extremely toned upper body, given the tight shirt he was wearing. He wasn’t muscled like Derek, but he still obviously worked out and Derek got distracted by the cords of muscles along his biceps because damn. This guy was fucking cute.
But alas, he hadn’t met him yet, and he’d already kind of lost interest because he hated when people took one look at him and were interested in his appearance as opposed to who he was. And this ‘doc’ person had literally dropped a wine glass at being shocked by how hot he was so, hard pass.
“No,” Derek said when the other man just continued to gape at him. “We haven’t met. He probably just heard about me around the building.”
He frowned slightly in confusion when the man’s face shifted into something akin to hurt, and his scent soured. His gaze lowered and he stood there for a second before muttering he would find something to clean his mess up with, bending down to pick the wine glass off the carpet and then hurrying away.
Scott turned to give Derek an annoyed look, as if his friend being clumsy and upset was his fault, then moved to follow after him quickly.
“That was weird,” Erica said slowly, eying Derek. “What did you do to him?”
“What?” Derek rounded on her, offended. “Nothing. I’ve never even met him before.”
“Yeah, and he seemed upset to hear that.”
“He’s probably just like everyone else I’ve ever met,” Derek grumbled. “Interested in my looks instead of my personality.”
“What personality?” Erica teased, poking him in the cheek. “Well, he’s your neighbour so I’m sure you guys will run into each other every now and then.”
“What’s he do?” Derek asked, since she kept calling him ‘doc’ and he wanted to know what that was about.
“Oh, he’s actually a Supernatural-centred psychologist,” Erica said with a smile, the two of them moving through the bodies towards where Boyd was, still speaking to the same person he’d been conversing with since they arrived. “He works from home, so he soundproofed his apartment a couple years ago. Sometimes people come by, but he does a lot of Skype sessions, too. He’s really good, apparently one of the best in his field. He mostly focusses on newly turned Supernaturals, but offers his services to born ones, too.”
“Hm.” Derek didn’t know what else to say. “And everyone calls him doc?”
“Mostly, yeah.” She shrugged, the two of them stopping a little to the side of Boyd, so as not to interrupt him. “He’s got a super weird and long first name, and Scott’s his best friend and always introduces him to people as Dr. Stilinski with some huge sense of pride, so we all just call him either doc or Dr. Stilinski.”
“Oh, you met the doc?” Boyd said, having moved closer to them and evidently finished with his chat. “He’s a great guy, really friendly. He’s been amazing helping me out the past year pro-bono.”
“Really?” Derek was a little surprised to hear that, considering he knew therapists could be self-centered assholes. He’d had his fair share of psychologists over the years, and all of them were just interested in making a few bucks. He knew they weren’t all like that, but that was the perception Derek had because of personal experience.
So to hear that from Boyd made him change his opinion of the doc a little bit, because Boyd worked with at-risk Supernatural kids, and he’d been trying to get a good therapist on the roster for years. Hearing that his neighbour not only helped out, but did so for free was kind of a huge deal.
“You don’t seem impressed,” Boyd said slowly.
“Bad first impression,” Erica said with a sigh. “The doc saw Derek’s grumpy but gorgeous face and dropped his wine.”
“Oh. Yeah, he’s a little eccentric sometimes. Really energetic. Don’t let that deter you from getting to know him, he’s really a great guy.”
“Sure.” Derek turned to find the doc in the crowd, and caught him staring right back at him. He looked upset, like something was wrong, and he only kept eye contact with Derek for a few seconds before looking away, lips turning down slightly at the corners.
The guy was weird. Like, super weird. Derek really wasn’t sure what to make of him, so he just turned back to Boyd and Erica and let them continue to pull him around the room to meet new people.
He couldn’t wait to just go home.
Derek woke up at just past seven in the morning, having slept on his mattress because it was too late for him to build his frame the night before, given the noise bylaws required no excessive noise after ten at night.
Erica and Boyd had kept him out until midnight, so he wasn’t alone for New Year’s.
Groaning and rubbing at his face, he inhaled deeply, then climbed out of bed and headed into his en suite. It was a little disorienting, if he was honest, because he had an en suite. He was living alone. He didn’t have to worry about things like jerking off, or leaving dishes in the sink, or keeping his laundry in the dryer indefinitely.
It was amazing, but also terrifying, and he hoped he got used to it relatively quickly. Twenty-eight years with his parents made for some extremely disorienting times in his new apartment.
But, now that he was here, he was determined to enjoy it.
He brushed his teeth and relieved himself, then got dressed for the day. He opened his patio door, inhaling the fresh air deeply, and then kept it propped open with one of his boxes. It was cold outside, but Derek was a Werewolf and that didn’t really bother him, so he just went about opening boxes to see what was inside, figuring he could put clothes and dishes away before he started moving or building furniture.
He’d been working for a good half hour when he heard a knock. It hadn’t been at his door, and he listened intently, head tilted when he heard a door open.
“Good morning, Liam,” the doc’s voice said kindly. “Come on in.”
He heard the door close, and then silence. Even though he could hear everything happening in all the other apartments around him, he heard absolutely nothing from next door on his right, apartment two-ten. So what Erica had said about soundproofing had to be true, and he wondered if he’d had to do a lot of trial and error to get the place locked up tight that way.
Derek never would’ve listened in, though. No matter what, he’d have kept his ears to himself, but he knew not everyone was like that and he wondered how many thousands of dollars it had cost the man to soundproof his place to that degree.
Trying not to think on it too much, he went back to work, getting almost his entire kitchen unpacked within two hours. When he paused to grab himself a drink, his stomach growled something fierce and he rubbed at it briefly, trying to remember where the grocery store was.
He knew he could walk to it, but he couldn’t exactly remember which direction it was in. He pulled out his phone to text Erica, but she was probably too busy to remember she had a phone, what with being a nurse and all. Boyd he knew he wouldn’t get an answer from, given he never checked his phone at work, so he was out of luck.
Deciding he’d just wing it, Derek cleaned up a bit more, then grabbed his jacket, yanking it on and snatching his keys off the counter before heading out the door. He’d just exited his apartment when he saw movement beside him and turned.
Dr. Stilinski had just finished locking his door, and he stared at Derek like he was both hopeful and terrified at seeing him. He really didn’t get this guy at all.
“Good morning,” he said obediently, because this guy helped Boyd out and he didn’t want to cause problems.
“Hi, good morning,” Dr. Stilinski said almost excitedly, but when Derek just turned away to lock his door, he could practically feel the guy deflate and when he glanced back over at him, the doc looked disappointed and wandered away down the corridor.
Derek thought about it for only a second before hurrying to finish locking up and then rushing after him.
“Excuse me. Uh, doctor?”
He turned back to him, but he didn’t look hopeful this time, just sad. “Can I help you?”
“I was—actually, I’m hoping you can help me. I need to go to the store? Erica said it was within walking distance. How do I get there?”
“Oh. I’m headed there now.” It looked like he was re-thinking his next words, his mouth open as if about to speak but no words coming out. Eventually, he just let out a slow breath and nodded once. “I’ll, uh, I’ll bring you.”
They headed to the elevator together, Derek feeling like this was awkward. He didn’t know what was going on, because he’d originally thought that the doc was into his looks, but he shouldn’t have seemed so bummed at Derek going with him to the store if that was true.
He actually seemed to be radiating misery right now, and Derek had no idea why. He did his best not to inhale too close to him, not wanting to be overwhelmed by it, and they went down the elevator together.
The doc brought him around the back of the building, motioning a path through the forest and explaining that the store was on the other side in a small outlet that had various other shops. They walked in silence through the trees, and while Derek was fine with that, it was clear that the doc wasn’t. He kept shifting his weight awkwardly, scratching at his neck, rubbing his hands together. He just seemed agitated, and whenever Derek stepped a bit too close to him to avoid stepping in a mud patch, the doc would jerk away slightly, as if worried he was about to get attacked, or burned.
When it happened for the fifth time, Derek turned to him, a little annoyed. “I’m not going to hurt you, you know.”
“What?” The doc looked startled. “I know. You just don’t like being touched.”
Derek stared at him, almost walking right into dog shit. How the hell did this guy know that? It wasn’t like he and Derek had spoken last night, so to have him realize he didn’t like being touched was a little weird. Then again, he was a therapist or whatever so maybe something about how Derek held himself had made him realize that on his own through observation.
They walked on in silence for a while longer, taking a few turns in the path and Derek being sure to pay attention so he’d know how to get there on his own the next time.
“What’s your name, anyway?” Derek asked him, realizing he didn’t know his name at all. Erica kept calling him ‘the doc’ and eventually said ‘Dr. Stilinski,’ but he didn’t know his first name.
“Mieczyslaw Stilinski,” he informed him. He glanced over at Derek out of the corner of his eye. “People in the building usually call me ‘doc,’ but my best friend calls me Stiles.”
“I’ll stick with doc,” Derek informed him, turning to look behind them to make sure he still had a general idea of where they were heading. He definitely couldn’t pronounce that first name, and he’d already forgotten the other name. Not to mention the doc had literally just said his best friend called him that. Didn’t sound like an invitation to also call him that.
He realized the doc was deflating again and the air turned sour around them. This guy seemed a little... he didn’t know. Depressed, maybe? Considering his line of work, he needed to cheer up a little bit.
They made it through the forest and out on the other side, the doc pointing out all the stores as if Derek couldn’t see them. They crossed the street and walked into the outlet, the two of them heading for the grocery store. Once inside, the doc grabbed a basket, offered Derek a half-hearted smile, then disappeared.
Derek really didn’t get this guy, but he tried not to dwell on it. Being a therapist was probably a hard job, maybe he was just stressed and uninterested in having to hang around the new guy in the building. Either way, Derek didn’t let it bother him and he began walking through the store to buy himself groceries. He realized he probably should’ve driven, given the number of things he needed to buy, but for now he could just get the essentials and then come back later in the day with the car.
He was perusing the various breakfast cereals available when he heard the doc’s voice from a few aisles over, speaking softly.
“Mason? Okay, okay slow down. What happened? Okay. Okay, no problem. Yeah, I was just at the store, but I’ll head home. Come on by and I’ll be back in under ten minutes, promise. Do you need to stay on the phone? Okay, we can do that, I’m right here buddy.”
Derek saw him rush past the aisle he was in, hastily handing the basket to a store employee and saying he had to go and he was sorry for the trouble. Derek found that to be oddly considerate. He could’ve just abandoned the basket of food somewhere, but instead he’d handed it to an associate so they could put everything back.
And he was leaving the store like his ass was on fire to help whoever had been calling.
The guy was extremely kind, and super cute, but so, so weird.
For some reason, Derek felt like he was only weird around him.
It took Derek a good two months to fully settle into his new place. He’d unpacked everything and gotten himself organized in the first few days, but he still had trouble finding his way around places, and he was so used to his house that he often left his apartment with the keys but not the fob to enter the building. He ended up attaching it to the keys themselves, but it made them so bulky.
He ran into his neighbours every now and then, but mostly he tried to avoid them, since he wasn’t much of a people person. He saw the doc once in a while, but he actually tried to avoid him as much as possible, because he was just so weird.
He seemed like a great guy, and everyone he spoke to in the building—on the rare occasion that he did—always waxed poetic about his everything. He was cute, he was nice, he was considerate, he was caring, he was smart, and so on and so forth. Apparently he’d been living in the building longer than anyone else who currently lived there. No one was entirely sure when he’d moved in, the dates ranging from the building’s inception to when he was five years old.
Derek didn’t really get why everyone seemed to know him until he found out from Erica that a majority of the buildings’ Supernatural populace actually went to see him, and he was on the strata as Treasurer. Apparently he was a really good speaker at all the Annual General Meetings, and he was fair when it came to complaints between parties. A good negotiator.
Still, Derek himself tried to avoid him as much as possible. He was always really happy to see Derek, and then he’d deflate and his scent would turn sour. Which was unfortunate, because he had a nice scent when he was happy. Almost like a mix of lavender and vanilla. It was soothing.
But, Derek didn’t have time for him and his weirdness. He just got himself organized, and went about his life. Work was still as convenient as always to get to, and he and his sisters went to have dinner with their parents every Sunday.
All in all, he was relatively happy. He knew everyone had a little notebook with his life goals in it, with ‘new place’ officially checked off, which meant ‘partner’ was next on their list, but he was perfectly happy being on his own. No complaints. Nada. None.
Sighing to himself while walking into the elevator from the garage, Derek raked one hand through his hair and winced. It was pouring rain outside, one of the worst thunderstorms they’d had in years. He’d gotten drenched getting from his office building to his car, and felt like a drowned rat. At least he had underground parking at home, which was an improvement from his parents’ place.
When the elevator finally arrived, he stepped into it, dripping water behind him, and hit the second floor. The doors closed and he leaned back against the mirrored wall, thinking about dinner.
That was another thing that he missed about home. His mother used to make dinner for him all the time. Not that he didn’t know how to cook, he was just tired and lazy after a long day at work and he was finding it difficult to feel motivated to make anything. He’d probably just order in again, though he didn’t want to force anyone out into this weather, so maybe just some frozen pizza. He might have some Hot Pockets left.
The elevator had just passed the first floor, continuing upwards to reach his when there was a loud rumble and the elevator jerked violently. Derek almost fell over but managed to catch himself, looking around worriedly when the elevator stopped and the lights went out.
There was an ominous creak, and Derek felt his breath freeze in his lungs. What the fuck had just happened? Had the power gone out? What was the rumble?
Jesus, did the building get struck by lightning or something?!
He hurried forward to the controls, eyes adjusting to the darkness thanks to his lycanthropy, and looked over all the buttons. He hit the alarm one, but nothing happened. He just kept pressing on it before cursing and eying the doors, wondering if he should be trying to force them open.
Just when he’d moved forward to do that, the elevator jerked again, the lights turned on, and it finished its ascent to the second floor.
As soon as the doors opened, Derek practically jumped out of the elevator, not wanting it to close on him again or worse, break free from the cables and plummet down to the bottom. He might’ve been a Werewolf, but that would hurt him a lot.
Letting out a slow breath, he turned to start down the corridor, and frowned, because the walls were beige. The walls hadn’t been beige when he’d left, they’d been a deep grey colour, which complimented everyone’s white doors rather nicely. The beige and white clashed and he wondered if that was a decision made by the strata before he’d moved in.
He’d have voted to keep the grey, but whatever.
He started down the corridor, heading around the corner to go to his apartment, and froze in his steps.
There was a little boy sitting on the carpeted floor between his apartment and Dr. Stilinski’s. He had his knees drawn up to his chest, arms wrapped around them, and even from where he stood Derek could hear him quietly crying.
He didn’t know what to do, because the kid was just sitting there, and Derek would have to pass him to get to his apartment. But leaving him like that seemed wrong and he wondered if maybe he was waiting for Dr. Stilinski.
He seemed a little young for therapy, but maybe he was newly turned?
People came out of an apartment down the corridor behind Derek, and he realized how weird he must be just standing there, so he moved forward slowly, the kid still crying. He couldn’t have been older than twelve, all gangly limbs and oversized clothes. His head was buzzed and he looked kind of scrawny, like he didn’t know what muscles were.
Derek started to awkwardly pass him, pulling his keys out to go into his apartment, but before he did so, he paused and turned back to look at the kid.
He was crying so much, the salty scent of tears permeating the air, and he seemed so miserable. Derek kind of wanted to knock on Dr. Stilinski’s door to ask if he knew the kid was there and to hurry it up and get to him.
Against his better judgement, Derek inhaled deeply through his nose, then exhaled slowly out of his mouth before turning and bending down beside the kid.
“Hey,” he said quietly, the kid tensing. “Are you okay?”
He didn’t know what he’d been expecting, but surprisingly the kid actually shook his head without pulling it out of his arms. Derek glanced at the door then, wondering if he should be knocking.
“Are you here to see the doc?”
He got another head shake and let out a small sigh, putting one knee down so he was more comfortable and eying the kid.
“Do you want to talk about it? What’s going on?”
He wasn’t usually this kind to people, but this was just a kid, and he hated how upset he clearly was. Something about his scent was vaguely familiar, but he could barely focus on it given the misery overpowering everything else, and before he thought on it too much, the kid lifted his head and ran one hand across his snotty nose.
He was definitely in the ten to twelve range, with splotchy, chubby cheeks, red-rimmed light hazel eyes, and pale skin with some moles along his face and neck.
He was actually kind of adorable, despite the fact that he was clearly upset.
“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” he muttered, sniffing again and using the sleeve of his hoodie to wipe at his nose.
“You’re right,” Derek agreed. “Your parents are smart people. My name is Derek. I live in this building.”
“‘M Stiles,” the kid muttered.
That name sounded familiar, Derek feeling like he’d heard it before, but he couldn’t place it. Maybe it was one of the names he’d seen at work recently. He got to bear witness to all the horrible names parents gave their children at his job. Like Andrew Andrews. Who the fuck named their kid Andrew Andrews?!
“It’s nice to meet you, Stiles.” Derek shifted so he could sit on the floor beside him, frowning slightly when he realized the carpet looked different. Had they repainted the hallways and changed the carpets? They’d done that exceptionally fast if so. “What are you doing out here all by yourself?”
“My babysitter invited her boyfriend over,” he said with another sniff, fresh tears forming in his eyes while he rested his chin on his knees and stared at the opposite wall. “I’m not allowed in the apartment while they’re together.”
Derek frowned at this, wondering if the kid’s parents knew that the babysitter they’d hired kicked him out of the apartment to make out with her boyfriend. He guessed the kid lived across the hall, since there was an apartment between his and Dr. Stilinski’s on the other side, number two-eleven. He’d have to make a point to speak to his parents.
“That’s not a good thing. Did you tell her she wasn’t allowed to do that?”
Stiles just shrugged his little shoulders, tightening his hold on his knees. “I don’t care usually,” he admitted softly. “But my dad promised he’d be home today. He promised he was going to stay because today is important, but he didn’t. He went to work, and I’m here alone, and he was supposed to stay because it’s her birthday.”
“My mom’s!” Stiles’ voice was rising the more he spoke, fresh tears spilling over his lashes. “My mom’s birthday is today and he should be here, and he went to work, because someone called and there was an accident, and he had to go, but he was supposed to stay so we cou-could celebrate.”
Oh God, he was crying more, this was so outside Derek’s wheelhouse, he wasn’t sure what to do.
“Do you want me to call him? I can call your dad. What about your mom?”
“My mom’s dead!”
Oh. Oh! Oh God. Oh shit. The kid’s mother had died, and it was her birthday, and his father had gone to work while the babysitter had kicked Stiles out of the apartment to make out with her boyfriend, oh fuck!
“Hey. Hey, it’s okay.” Derek hesitantly reached out and patted his shoulder lightly, the kid crying into his knees once more, body-shaking sobs being wrenched out of him. He needed to distract him, but he was more likely to break the door down and ream the babysitter out for leaving Stiles like this out in the corridor. It was obvious he was extremely distraught, what had she been thinking?!
He wondered about knocking on the doc’s door, because obviously he would be much more suited to deal with this, but he wasn’t sure if he had a client in there, and he didn’t know how well Derek knocking to get help with a sobbing child would be received.
“Do you want me to call your dad? I can call him, explain what happened here.”
“He won’t answer,” Stiles cried into his knees.
“Of course he will.”
“He can’t. He’s busy.”
“What does he do?”
“He’s a police officer.”
Oh God! His dad definitely hadn’t wanted to leave his child alone like this on his dead mother’s birthday. Hell, he probably wanted to be home, as well, taking care of his son, remembering the good times with his wife, spending time with the only other person in the world who could possibly miss her as much as he did.
But it wasn’t like crime had a schedule. If his dad had gotten called into work, it was probably important. He knew that wouldn’t help Stiles right now, but hopefully one day he’d understand.
“I’m sorry your dad had to go,” he said quietly. “But you know he didn’t do it because he wanted to, right? He left to help make sure someone else’s mom was gonna be okay. He went out to help someone. I know it hurts, and you want him to come back, but he’ll be back really soon, I know it.”
Stiles turned then, unfolding slightly, and threw his arms around Derek’s middle. Derek tensed instantly, because he really didn’t like being touched, but the poor thing was crying and he wasn’t fucking heartless, so he just awkwardly patted his back while he cried.
He kept glancing uncertainly towards the doc’s door, frowning a little when he thought he heard giggling from inside. His hearing must’ve been off, it was probably coming from the kid’s apartment, considering what the babysitter was doing in there.
Stiles kept a tight hold on him, Derek rubbing his back uncomfortably, but the longer they stayed like that, the less weird it felt. He didn’t like it, but Stiles seemed to be calming down having someone there with him.
After a while, he sniffed and pulled away from Derek, rubbing at his nose with one hand. Derek had snot on his shirt, but he tried not to let that bother him. After all, one of his brothers had been like this when he was younger, too. He was about nine when Derek was seventeen and he’d always gotten stuck babysitting him so this was really no different. It was just someone else’s kid instead of his brother, that was all.
It was a bit hard to breathe though, sitting beside Stiles like he was, because the misery was just so overwhelming it was threatening to suffocate him. Derek wanted to try and take his mind off things, but he wasn’t a talker at the best of times, let alone right now when someone was having a crisis.
“My brother died,” he blurted out, not entirely meaning to.
Stiles turned to look at him, fresh tears on his face. He sniffed again, rubbing at his nose with his hoodie, and seemed to be waiting for Derek to continued.
It wasn’t exactly a story he wanted to share, but he supposed... Stiles really needed it. It had been hard for Derek with his brother, he couldn’t imagine the pain Stiles was going through after losing his mother.
“He was eight,” Derek said quietly, having to commit now. “He was out late one night, rushing to get home. He got hit by a car, the driver didn’t see him on his bike.” He turned to Stiles with a small smile. “I know how you feel. It’s hard, and it hurts. It will always hurt a little bit, but it will get easier.”
“How old were you?” Stiles asked, sniffing again, but he seemed to be calming down a little bit.
“Twelve. It’s been a long time since then, almost twenty years. It’s always going to be there, but I promise it gets easier.”
Stiles looked back across the hall, seeming to think. It was like he was trying to determine how he would be feeling in twenty years about his mother’s passing.
“Tell me about her,” Derek said. Stiles glanced at him. Derek tried for a smile, but wasn’t sure he succeeded entirely. “Your mom.”
“She died two years ago. Cancer.”
That wasn’t what Derek meant. “No, tell me about her. What was she like?”
Stiles shrugged his little shoulders, like he didn’t even know what to say about her. Derek wasn’t exactly the best conversationalist in the world, so he just kept trying to ask questions, but wasn’t sure he was making him feel better.
He really wasn’t cut out for this.
“How did you make it stop hurting?” Stiles finally asked when Derek had paused to try and think. “After he died. How did you stop it from hurting all the time?”
Derek sighed, thunking his head back against the wall. “I stayed distracted. Talked to my friends. Friends are really important, they help you a lot.” He turned to Stiles slightly, offering another awkward smile. “Do you have friends?”
“Just one,” he said miserably. “He lives really far away. When I grow up, I’m going to make lots of money and I’m going to buy the building and he’ll live with me always.”
Derek let out a small laugh at that. He remembered being like that as a child, too. Always thinking money solved all problems. It didn’t.
His brother’s death had hit all of them hard, his dad the hardest. Joel had been the second youngest, and the only human in an otherwise Werewolf-dominated household. His father really hadn’t taken it well, but he’d healed in time. They’d all healed in time.
Derek knew Stiles would eventually, too. If his mother had only passed away two years ago, the wound was still raw and fresh. And Stiles was still very young. While he was around the same age as Derek had been when his brother had died, it felt different having it be a sibling versus his mother.
He kind of wanted to call the kid’s dad and insist he come home. Stiles looked miserable, but at least Derek seemed to be distracting him a little bit. Not much, but a little.
“Have you had dinner yet?” Derek asked when he heard Stiles’ stomach let out a growl.
“No,” he said bitterly, pouting like a child. Which made sense, given he was one. “Bethany said I could only have dinner if I was good after her boyfriend left.”
Derek really needed to talk to the kid’s dad. “Do you want me to grab you something?”
“No,” Stiles insisted, still pouting, arms wrapping around his knees once more, chin resting on them.
“It’ll only take a second.” Derek wanted to take off his coat, anyway. He was exceptionally warm right then. “I think I have some raisin bread.”
He knew how sketchy this must be, a grown man offering raisin bread to a kid in the corridor, but it wasn’t like Derek was planning anything malicious. Still, no one else knew that. He wondered what the doc would say if he came out and saw this scene. Maybe he’d think Derek needed help or something.
Like he was only being kind to this kid because of his brother.
But that was ridiculous, because Derek had two younger brothers, and a younger sister. Joel had been the youngest, but Jared was now twenty, and Cora was twenty-five. Laura was the oldest at thirty-two, and somehow managed to be the most childish out of all of them.
Derek got to his feet, deciding he was going to get Stiles something to eat, and then pulled his keys from his pocket, moving over to his door so he could unlock it. He’d just about gotten the key in the lock when Stiles spoke.
“Why are you going into grandma Ito’s apartment?” he asked.
Derek turned to him, key sliding into the lock. “What do you mean?” He tried to turn it, but the key wasn’t budging. Maybe the lock was sticking again, it’d been doing that the past few days.
Stiles was staring at him like Derek was stupid.
Derek did not appreciate sass from a ten year old.
“That’s grandma Ito’s place.”
“No,” Derek said calmly, pulling the key out and then shoving it back in, wiggling it a little when it continued to refuse to unlock the door. “This is my place.”
“I think you’re on the wrong floor then, because that apartment belongs to grandma Ito.”
Derek pulled the key back out when it didn’t work, frowning a little. It actually didn’t feel like the key was sticking, it felt like it wasn’t working at all. Maybe Stiles was right?
But when Derek checked the apartment number, it was indeed his. Two-twelve. What the hell?
“This is Infinity One, right?” he asked, turning to Stiles. Derek knew it was, it had to be, because he’d parked his car in his spot and come up in the elevator. It was the right building, and he was definitely on the right floor.
“Yeah,” Stiles agreed.
“Yeah.” Stiles was giving him a look, like Derek was dumb.
He didn’t appreciate it.
Derek turned back to the door, staring at it for a long while. He realized he could hear giggling from the apartment next door, which wouldn’t have been weird, except it was coming from the doc’s door, and Derek knew his apartment was soundproof.
What the hell?
He checked the apartment number again, just to be sure he wasn’t hallucinating, then tried the key again, ignoring Stiles’ ever watchful gaze, the little boy shifting slightly like he couldn’t sit still.
At least he’d stopped crying, so that was a win.
Derek listened harder, trying to figure out if he was hearing the giggling from the doc’s apartment, but he realized a lack of sound from outside. Which made no sense, because it had been piss-pouring rain all evening.
He turned back to Stiles, who was playing with the edge of his sleeve, one of the strings from the hoodie he was wearing in his mouth, chewing on it. His eyes were still red-rimmed and watery, and his face was splotchy, but he seemed to have calmed down a bit, like Derek’s presence had distracted him enough to think about something other than his mother’s birthday.
“What happened to the storm?” Derek asked him.
Stiles frowned, the string falling from between his lips, end a little darker due to spit. “What storm?”
Derek tried not to lose his temper. “The thunderstorm.”
Stiles gave him another one of those looks. God, he was sassy for a brat. “Dad says we’ve been having a drought.”
Now he knew Stiles was confused, because what? It’d been raining almost all month. “A drought?” he echoed.
“You know, when there’s no rain?” Stiles asked slowly, as if thinking Derek didn’t know what ‘drought’ meant. He gave him a weird look and brought the string back to his mouth, chewing on it again while speaking through his teeth. “We haven’t had rain since last year.”
Derek felt like the world had just tipped sideways, because it’d been raining all month. They couldn’t possibly be having a drought right now. Except... the carpets had changed. And the walls had been painted. And Derek’s key didn’t work. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but it was only the beginning of March, and he knew they’d been getting a lot of rain, with more to come.
But he’d never seen Stiles around the floor before. He might not have spoken to all his neighbours, but he’d seen them around. The only people with kids on his floor were the ones across from the elevator, who had twin girls. No one else on the floor had kids, and he was sure he’d have known if a police officer was living on his floor, since Derek had a distrust of them ever since he’d been arrested by a speciesist officer when he was in high school and forced to sit alone in a cell at the precinct for two hours before the sheriff came in, outraged, and let him go after calling his parents to apologize profusely.
Derek knew about all the police officers in the two buildings. There wasn’t one on his floor.
It seemed crazy. Impossible. Completely insane. But slowly, Derek reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, tapping the home button with his thumb to turn the screen on.
For a few seconds, it was black, like his phone didn’t know what the fuck was going on. Then, it seemed to sync, and he stared at the home screen.
The time was right, or at least, it seemed accurate based on what time he’d left the garage at to head upstairs. And the date was right, too.
But the year was wrong.
And Derek knew it was not the year he was currently staring at, it was twenty-nineteen. He opened the weather app, his phone glitching a little, and it showed nothing but hot weather and sunshine, which was definitely abnormal for the March he’d just been living through.
What the hell?!
“Are you okay?” Stiles asked curiously, like he didn’t really care either way but found Derek to be strange.
“What’s the date?” he asked, despite staring right at it, his phone having synced with the satellites.
“March,” Stiles said slowly, as if Derek were thick, “fifth.”
“No, what year?” Derek demanded, looking back at Stiles.
He looked confused now, but said, “Two-thousand and five, like it’s been the whole year.”
This couldn’t be real. This was insane. This was fucking insane!
Derek hastily opened his web browser on his phone, the IOS wonky, like it was outdated.
Or too advanced.
He managed to get it open and typed in ‘today’s date’ in the header. It came back exactly as Stiles had said.
March fifth, two-thousand and five.
Fourteen years in the past.
Derek’s heart was thundering in his chest and he had no fucking idea what to do. How had he been thrown into the past like this? Was he stuck here?! What should he do? Should he go back to his parent’s place? Explain who he was, ask for advice? Maybe he should go see their Emissary? But would anyone even believe him? Fuck, Derek barely believed it himself!
Oh God, what even was happening?!
A thought occurred to him then, realizing the elevator had jolted when the building had presumably been struck by lightning. Was that it? Was that the cause?
Derek turned and flew back the way he’d come, ignoring Stiles’ confused sound at his hasty retreat. He reached the elevator and stabbed furiously at the down button, struggling to keep himself in control. He could feel his eyes beginning to bleed blue, his gums itching, like he was going to wolf out in his panic.
When the doors opened, he stepped inside, noting the lift looked different, but only just. Not enough for it to be obvious, but now that he was looking for the differences, they stood out.
Holy shit, this was actually happening, wasn’t it? What should he do?!
Oh a whim, he hit the parking garage. He didn’t know why, his car wouldn’t be there for him to drive to his parents’ place, but he had to do something before his brain exploded.
The elevator rumbled a little and Derek jerked when it jolted slightly before continuing its descent. When the doors opened again, he rushed out, almost slamming into someone, who let out a startled shout.
“You scared me,” the man said with a laugh, and Derek paused when he noticed the shoulders of his suit jacket were wet.
“Is it raining?” he asked.
“Like cats and dogs,” the man sighed, shaking his head. “One of the worst thunderstorms we’ve had in a while. I hope the reservoir doesn’t flood.”
The man disappeared into the elevator and Derek turned back to the parking lot. He exited the small alcove that housed the lift behind a secure door and when he rounded the corner, he paused when his car came into view.
It was parked exactly where he’d been parking since he’d moved in, still dripping water from the downpour outside. He could hear it, now. The rain hitting asphalt. The thunder booming overhead, rivalling his heartbeat in his chest.
What the fuck?
What the fuck?!
Had he imagined it?
Derek yanked his phone out of his pocket, tapping the home button to turn the screen on. There was a split second where it remained as two-thousand and five, and then it glitched out and returned to the correct year.
Without a second’s hesitation, Derek hurried to the large garage gate, walking through the smaller door on the side reserved for pedestrians. It slammed behind him while he hurried up the ramp, then turned left. The two Infinity buildings faced one another, so if he’d kept walking straight, he could’ve walked into the underground parkade for Infinity Two. But he didn’t have a fob, or a key, so he couldn’t enter it. Instead, he went up the ramp so he could buzz Boyd from the front door, rushing quickly towards it, rain soaking him through in seconds.
He didn’t care, because he was about two seconds away from losing his fucking mind. He knew living alone was a bad idea!
Reaching the intercom and under the relative safety of an awning, he buzzed his friend, heart still pounding in his chest. He was crazy. He had to be going crazy.
“It’s me, let me in.”
There was silence, then a click and Derek grabbed the door, almost wrenching it off the building but managing to refrain. He took the elevator up to their floor, struggling to remain calm, and when he exited it, Boyd was waiting at his apartment door, face impassive but gaze calculating. He could obviously tell Derek was stressed.
“Why are you wet?” Boyd asked slowly, as if uncertain he really wanted an answer.
“It’s raining,” Derek snapped, shoving past him into his apartment and dripping water all over his hardwood floor.
“It’s rained before,” Boyd said, shutting the door and eying him while Derek started pacing. “You usually bring an umbrella. Like a normal person.”
“Something weird just happened,” Derek said, ignoring Boyd’s comment and raking one hand through his hair in agitation. He could tell he was freaking Boyd out, because he was acting a little insane, but Derek felt insane! He felt completely insane!
“What?” Boyd asked, motioning for him to sit on one of the stools by the counter. Derek obeyed, feeling like he needed to sit down, and clenched his hands into fists on his thighs.
“I’m pretty sure I just travelled back in time.”
The look he got in response was not comforting, because Boyd looked seconds away from calling his mother. Derek forced him to pay attention, explaining that he’d been in the elevator, and that he was pretty sure lightning had struck the building and suddenly he was in Infinity One, except it didn’t look like Infinity One, and there was this kid he’d never seen before, and his door wouldn’t open, and his phone said it was a different year.
Boyd watched him attentively for a long while, and then without a word he pulled out his phone and scrolled through his contacts. Derek figured he was calling his parents, which was frustrating, but understandable.
Maybe he wasn’t ready to live alone, after all. Maybe he was completely insane.
“Hey Boyd,” a familiar voice chirped down the line.
“Hi doc,” he said, eyes still on Derek. “I have a weird question for you.”
“I love weird questions. Ask away!”
“You’ve been here for a long time. In the building, I mean. Were you in Infinity One back when the walls were beige, the carpet was patterned and there was a cop living on the second floor?”
There was a short pause on the other end. “Uh, yes? Why? I mean, I’m all for weird questions, but that one is particularly weird. Why are you asking?”
“No reason. Hey, thanks doc. Have a good night.”
“Okay? Night Boyd.”
Boyd hung up his phone, Derek staring at him with his heart pounding in his chest.
He’d figured he was crazy. That his entire experience was completely insane and he was having a mental breakdown. Honestly, he felt like he’d have preferred that, because finding out that he was actually not crazy and he had legitimately travelled through time was not comforting.
“I was hoping I was crazy,” he admitted.
“Me too,” Boyd said. “I called him expecting you to be crazy.”
Derek didn’t really want to go back to his place now. He was thoroughly freaked out, because while Supernaturals existed, and he was one of them, this shit was a little too weird for his liking. He’d actually travelled through time. Legitimately been hurtled back into the past.
He was not a fan of Terminator, this was not what he wanted to be doing with his life.
“How long were you there?” Boyd asked.
Derek shrugged helplessly, feeling a little numb. “Ten minutes? Maybe?”
“Do you know how you came back?”
He shook his head, because he had no fucking idea what was going on.
They were still there, staring at each other across the counter, when Erica came home and paused at the seriousness of the sight before her.
Derek slept on their couch.
His life fucking sucked.
He didn’t want to go home the next day, but he had work, as did his friends, so at half past five in the morning, when Boyd got up for work, Derek left their apartment to head home. The rain had stopped during the night, but the ground was still wet as he made his way across to his own building. When he reached it, he forfeited the elevator and took the stairs up instead.
Entering his apartment, he charged his phone while he took a shower, got dressed, and left the house.
He was pretty terrified to take the elevator down to the parking garage, but there was no other way to access it aside from going back outside and through the large garage door. But he was already running behind, and he worried about being late, so he walked into the lift when it arrived, hit the parking lot, and held his breath.
He exited in the garage, and everything looked normal. His car was exactly where it was meant to be, a few stray droplets still present from the day before, and he let out a relieved sigh.
Derek went to work, and tried not to think about his trip, figuring it was a one-time fluke from the lightning hitting the building. Everything was perfectly normal that day, and he did his job, got hit on more times than he could stomach, and then went to his parents’ place for a visit.
They didn’t mention his time travel, which meant Boyd hadn’t said anything to them and Derek was fine keeping that to himself. They hadn’t spoken about it much with Erica, either, so he wondered if Boyd thought this was just crazy enough that maybe having less people know was better.
That, or he didn’t fully believe him and thought the look of Infinity One Derek had described, as well as how it had actually looked, was just a coincidence.
Derek was fine with being a little crazy. He could chalk it up to stress.
His day was long and uneventful, and he was stuck in traffic on his way home, which was frustrating considering the size of their town. He finally made it back, grumpier than he’d been an hour ago, and positively famished. He was contemplating what to have for dinner while waiting for the elevator, thinking maybe pizza. He liked pizza.
When the lift arrived, he stepped into it and hit the second floor, still deliberating between pizza or having something on the barbecue when he jerked slightly, the elevator groaning. His heart lodged itself in his throat and he was seriously going to bitch out the property manager about the damn elevator. He doubted plummeting to the bottom of the shaft would kill him, but he’d still get badly injured and he didn’t want to spend time having to heal his wounds before he could pry himself out.
Thankfully, there was no plummeting to the bottom of the shaft, and Derek got his keys ready when the doors opened.
He froze, staring at the opposite wall.
Because it was beige.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” he muttered to himself, cautiously exiting the elevator and looking both ways down the corridor.
He hesitated, then slowly moved towards the corner, turning it and catching sight of a little boy sitting outside one of the doors with a textbook open in his lap. It was almost bigger than his lap was, Derek had no idea what he could possibly be studying with a book that size for his age.
Moving forward cautiously, eyes still on the boy, he looked around to be sure everything was actually the same as last time, and it was. He was in the past again.
Or crazy. Could he please be fucking crazy?!
“You’re back,” the boy said, Derek shifting his gaze back to him. “Are you on the wrong floor again?”
“What day is it?” he asked.
The boy looked like he was questioning Derek’s intelligence. Seriously, he was such a shit for a kid his age. Whatever age that was.
“March sixth. Twenty-four hours since yesterday.”
Huh. So Derek had spent twenty-four hours in his time, and then come back for the exact same amount of time having passed here. Maybe it was a time thing. He got home around the same time every day, maybe it was because of that and he would forever jump into the past a little after six on a daily basis.
Except it had been closer to five the day before, so what the actual fuck?
He didn’t know how to get back, and he couldn’t go into his apartment, so he just sighed and moved over to Stiles, leaning back against the wall beside him and looking down at the book he was reading.
It looked to be some kind of history textbook, but Derek didn’t remember reading something that daunting while in middle school. He figured maybe the kid was a huge history buff or something and didn’t comment on it.
He also realized he smelled weird. The day before, the misery had been so overwhelming that Derek couldn’t really get a feel for his base scent. Today, he could smell the faintest hint of vanilla, but it was so overpowered by another scent that he couldn’t even be sure about that.
Stiles smelled like medication. Very strongly. Like he took something repeatedly on a daily basis, so much so that it was masking his natural scent. Derek wondered if he was sick, but the medication didn’t have that usual chemical scent when it was something dire. More of an unpleasant chalky scent. Like asthma medicine, maybe.
“Your babysitter kick you out again?” Derek asked him.
“Yeah,” Stiles muttered, eyes still hyper-focussed on what he was reading.
“I thought you were going to tell your dad.”
“He’d have to find another sitter, and it’d be hard for him so I figured I could just deal with it.” He shrugged his little shoulders and Derek sighed, slowly sitting down so he was beside him, resting his arms on his knees and reading along with Stiles over his shoulder.
They were both silent for a long while, Derek kind of impressed with how focussed Stiles was on his textbook, but after a while he realized it was unnatural for a kid his age to be that engrossed. It had him thinking about the medication smell again and what he could be taking to make him so hyper-focussed.
While Derek didn’t really like the smell of medication, it was better than the misery from the day before. Even if he felt bad about him being sick.
“Are you sick?”
The words were out before he could stop himself. Stiles started violently, as if having forgotten Derek was even there, and turned to focus bright hazel eyes in his direction. He had phenomenal eyes, in Derek’s opinion. He was going to be such a lady killer when he grew up.
“What? No. I mean, yeah, I have a bit of a sniffle, but it’s nothing, probably just allergies. Not that I have allergies. Allergies are the worst, I know someone who’s allergic to peanuts, which means he can’t have peanut butter. That sounds like a horrible life, peanut butter is so good. Do you like peanut butter? I love it. I’d eat it all the time if I could, but my dad says it’s not healthy to have so much bread, so I usually just eat it off a spoon.”
Wow. Stiles could talk. Okay. Drastically different from yesterday.
Not that Derek minded, it was kind of cute and he liked that Stiles had such strong opinions about peanut butter. Derek thought peanut butter was pretty great, too. He was a fan of Reese’s cups.
Stiles continued babbling for a few more seconds about peanut butter, and then paused in the middle of a sentence, his face dropping.
“Sorry,” he muttered, looking a little put out. “I had a lot of Adderall.”
That explained the smell. “Do you have problems focussing?”
“ADHD,” Stiles confirmed. “My dad had a hard time figuring out how to get me to focus on one thing. Adderall helps a lot, but it makes my brain a little wonky. I don’t like taking it.”
“Maybe when you’re older, you can talk to your doctor about it,” Derek offered. “I’m sure there’s an alternative.”
Stiles shrugged, and both he and Derek paused when they heard a loud moan from one of the apartments. Derek realized that Stiles lived in the doc’s apartment, because the giggling had come from there both times he’d been around. It made sense, he supposed. He’d only thought it wasn’t Stiles’ place because he hadn’t known at the time that he was in the past. Now, he figured this must’ve been who lived there before the doc had moved in.
“You should really talk to your dad about the babysitter,” Derek insisted. “I don’t think he’d be happy to know you sit out in the corridor all the time.”
Stiles just shrugged, eyes returning to his book and bringing the string of his hoodie up so he was chewing on it. Derek wondered if it was a nervous thing, because he’d seen him do it both times he’d been around. Maybe Derek made him uncomfortable.
He didn’t seem uncomfortable though, and he was already back to being hyper-focussed on his textbook.
Derek looked around, still starving and kind of bored. He didn’t know how to get back, and had no idea what he was going to do if he was stuck there. Work would be pissed if he didn’t show up in the morning without so much as a cursory call.
“You can go home, you know,” Stiles said quietly, Derek turning back to him. “I’m used to being alone, you don’t have to stay here because you feel sorry for me.”
Derek frowned, not liking that tone. Stiles sounded sad, and his scent was shifting a little, Derek wanting desperately to ensure he didn’t go back to being as miserable as the day before.
“I don’t mind,” he said, not admitting it was because he had nowhere to go. At least Stiles was entertaining, if nothing else. “I don’t feel sorry for you. I just think you should talk to your dad.”
“He can’t do anything, and it’ll only make him worried if he has to find a new babysitter.”
“How old are you?” Derek asked.
Older than Derek thought, then. He supposed it made sense, Stiles was pretty well-spoken. Though to be fair, he was way better spoken than even most twelve year olds. And the book he was reading seemed extremely advanced. Maybe Stiles read a lot, Derek knew that was supposed to help with vocabulary. Cora used to read a lot and she’d always drop words Derek didn’t understand, which was embarrassing considering he was older than her.
His only saving grace was that Laura sometimes looked as confused as he did.
“I’m sure your dad can leave you home alone. Why does he want a babysitter?”
“I get into trouble a lot,” Stiles muttered. “I set the kitchen on fire making him breakfast for his birthday.”
Derek actually smiled at that, because he could honestly picture this kid trying to do something nice for his dad and inadvertently burning the building down. Thankfully, he didn’t succeed, though now Derek was curious if there was any indication of a fire in his apartment in the future.
“Try and talk to him,” Derek insisted. “You can just make things in the microwave on days where he’s not here. Better than sitting out in the corridor all the time.”
Stiles shrugged again, and they both turned when the door to Stiles’ apartment opened.
A buff guy exited, looking smug and pleased, heading down the corridor without so much as a glance at Stiles or Derek. A girl exited next, looking sated and smelling of sex. Derek scowled, wondering whose bed she used. He really felt like he needed to get this resolved for Stiles, this wasn’t okay.
“Who are you?” she asked rudely, eying Derek with interest.
“Too old for you,” he snapped. “You know his father doesn’t pay you to fuck in his apartment while his son sits in the corridor, right?”
“Whatever.” She rolled her eyes and motioned for Stiles to hurry up. “Get in here before I tell your dad you mouthed off at me.”
Stiles hastened to close his book and get to his feet, looking sad. Derek wondered if his babysitter always lied to his father to make Stiles look bad, and that only made him angrier. If he could figure out how to control his time travel, Derek was going to have words with the kid’s dad.
“Bye,” the girl sing-songed at Derek, winking, and then slammed the door.
Derek sat in the corridor for a few more minutes, unsure of what to do. He didn’t know how to get back, though he did acknowledge that the elevator to the garage seemed to be involved the two times he’d done this.
Getting to his feet, he wandered back down the corridor without really expecting much. Hitting the ‘down’ button, he waited for the lift to arrive, then stepped into it and hit the parkade. As the elevator descended, it jolted slightly, Derek thinking about that. When the doors opened, he stepped out and walked further into the garage, seeing his car.
Nothing was true without investigation, so he wanted to test this out a bit more, but he was still starving so he figured he could test it more a bit later.
He didn’t have the patience to wait on pizza or the barbecue, so he went back to his car and drove down the street to the diner. It was packed at this hour, which made sense since it was fairly popular, and he was considering going elsewhere when someone called his name.
“What are you doing?!” he heard another voice hiss urgently, but Derek had already spotted them.
Scott and the doc were sitting in a booth, menus in front of them like they had only just sat down. There was a gorgeous Asian woman beside Scott, his other arm wrapped around her shoulders, suggesting they were either dating or married.
“You can sit with us,” Scott said when Derek made no move to join them.
He hesitated, but figured it wasn’t a bad thing to make friendly with the President and Treasurer of the strata, not to mention Scott was an Alpha and he and Derek should really be getting to know each other. He just wasn’t really interested in spending dinner sitting with people he didn’t know.
But it beat having to wait for a table, and he didn’t want to go somewhere else. Also, it’d be rude to decline, and he couldn’t be rude or it might fuck things up for him in the building.
Resigning himself to being stuck beside the weirdo, Derek moved over to the table and sat down beside the doc, who moved a bit further into the booth so they weren’t touching. Derek found it both weird and oddly considerate, since he knew now that the doc was aware of his no-touch thing.
Derek didn’t mind people touching him when he knew them, but when he didn’t, he was a little more hesitant to it.
“How’s it going?” Scott asked with a brilliant smile. “How’re you settling in? I haven’t seen you since the day you moved in.”
“Good,” Derek said, taking the menu offered to him by the Asian woman.
“This is my fiancé, Kira.” Scott kissed her temple. “Kira, this is Derek. He’s new in Infinity One.”
“Oh, you’re the doc’s neighbour,” she said with a kind smile. “It’s nice to finally meet you. We hear about you a lot.”
The doc choked on his water, coughing a bit and giving her a look. “Seriously?”
“What?” Kira asked innocently. Derek felt like she was anything but innocent, and it reaffirmed his belief that the doc only thought he was attractive. Disappointing.
Derek perused the menu, ignoring the silent facial conversation happening between the other three. His eyes lingered on a few of the sandwiches, but none of them were what he wanted. They didn’t have his favourite one, so he just sighed and chose the closest thing, waiting on the waitress.
She came over a while later, the other three conversing easily now that the topic of the doc thinking Derek was hot was off the table. She asked Derek what he wanted to drink, and then took their orders.
Derek got to his, and the girl wrote it down before the doc spoke.
“Hey Hayden, you think you can alter that a bit?” the doc asked. “Add some tomato to it? And maybe mayonnaise instead of ranch sauce?”
“Sure,” she said, then paused. “Wait, this isn’t your order.” She looked at Derek. “Is that what you wanted?”
Derek didn’t know what to say, because that was actually exactly what he wanted. He’d been looking for a BLT on the menu, but the closest thing they had was a ranch chicken and bacon sandwich. Removing the ranch and adding tomato was almost exactly what he wanted, barring the chicken.
“I was looking for a BLT,” he said cautiously.
“Oh, we can do that.” She started writing again. “That’s not a problem, we’re fine customizing on sandwiches. And a BLT is easier than the ranch chicken sandwich. Do you still want the chicken, or a classic BLT?”
“Classic, if that’s possible.”
“Sure.” She smiled, taking their menus. “Coming right up.”
“Thanks.” Derek watched her walk away, then turned back to the doc, confused. “How did you know?”
“What?” he asked, chewing on the straw sticking out of his drink. It somehow reminded Derek of something, but he couldn’t place it, mind still working over how the doc had known about his desire for a BLT.
“How did you know I wanted a BLT?”
The chewing stopped and the doc looked scared for a second. The expression flitted across his face so fast though that Derek would’ve missed it if he hadn’t been staring at him so hard.
“Lucky guess,” he hedged, his body betraying him. His heart was pounding in his chest, he had sweat forming on his brow, and he smelled like he was anxious. To his credit, his expression and relaxed posture didn’t change in the slightest.
Somehow, he’d known that Derek liked BLTs. Which wouldn’t have been so weird, if not for the fact that Derek had never told him that. He’d never even bought bacon, lettuce or tomato in his presence. He didn’t think he’d ever even made one since moving in. How the hell had the doc known that?
“So,” Kira said loudly, clearly sensing the danger. “Derek. What do you do?”
Deciding he had time to investigate a weirdo like the doc, Derek figured it would be best to do so when his Alpha best friend wasn’t across the table so he focussed on Kira and answered her. The doc’s heart was still pounding something fierce, but he just went back to chewing on his straw, him and Scott having a silent conversation across the table with facial expressions.
Derek spoke to Kira about work for a bit, finding he liked her. She was calming, and had a very flowery natural scent, which he really liked. When they moved on to what she did, she told him she was a teacher, and Scott had piped in to ask about how things were going with the one kid she had who was having trouble at home.
The question reminded Derek of Stiles, sitting out in the corridor and being bullied by his babysitter while she had sex in his apartment. He frowned, wanting to do something, and turned to the doc then, who was watching Kira while she spoke, still chewing on his straw.
“Can I ask you something?”
The doc seemed startled, but thrilled. “Sure. Yeah, yes, of course, anything.”
The eagerness was a little offputting, but Derek continued anyway. “I have a situation. With a kid. I don’t know him very well, but there’s a problem for him with his babysitter and I want to tell his dad. I’m just worried about it because I don’t know how to explain how I met him, and I don’t like police officers, which his father happens to be. I also don’t want to overstep, but I’m worried about him. Any suggestions?”
Normally, he’d ask Boyd given he worked with at-risk kids, but Stiles wasn’t at-risk, and he wasn’t a Supernatural, so he figured asking a therapist for advice would be better. He wasn’t comfortable asking his mom without having to explain what all was going on with him.
Not like “Hey, I can suddenly time travel” was something to talk about over dinner.
The doc stared at him for a few seconds, then something seemed to click, like he’d just had an epiphany. He let out a startled laugh that had everyone at the table give him a weird look, then waved one hand dismissively at Scott and Kira, eyes still on Derek.
“You could write him a letter,” he offered, a hint of a smile. “Slip it under his door, if he lives close enough to you. If you do it late at night, it guarantees his father will see it and not the babysitter.”
That actually wasn’t even advice from a therapist, it was just common sense. Derek should’ve thought of that. He hummed in acknowledgement, then nodded and thanked him, turning to scowl down at the table with his arms crossed, trying to think of how best to word the letter.
He didn’t need to be weird about it. He could just say he’d been coming home from work the past few days and kept seeing Stiles in the corridor. He was a Werewolf, and he could hear the sex happening inside, and that maybe it would be best if he looked into a different babysitter.
Their meals arrived then, the four of them eating. Scott and Kira tried to keep him included in the conversation as much as possible, but he wasn’t much of a talker and the doc was almost silent beside him. It made things awkward.
When they were finished their dinner, Derek excused himself to use the bathroom. He’d only just entered a stall when he listened in on the conversation happening at the table, mostly just curious to know what they were talking about while he was out of earshot.
Well, almost out of earshot. Scott seemed to have forgotten he was an Alpha Werewolf, too, and his range was larger than a Beta’s.
“—les! I’m serious!”
“I can’t just tell him, Scotty,” the doc muttered, sounding dejected.
“Why not?” Kira asked gently.
“Because,” he said with a sigh, “he told me not to.”
“Dude, this is crazy. It’s Derek!” Derek wasn’t sure why Scott had said his name like that. “You have to tell him!”
“Just leave it alone, Scott,” the doc said, sounding miserable. “If he asked me not to say anything, it’s for a reason.” It sounded like Scott was going to say something else, but then the doc snapped, “Just drop it, okay?”
Derek wasn’t sure but he thought he might have left, angry footsteps exiting the establishment. He finished up in the bathroom, washing his hands and drying them before opening the door. He was right in the doc’s departure, because he reached the table to find the spot beside him empty and a twenty dollar bill by his plate.
“He had to go,” Kira said in explanation, then turned to Scott. “You should bring him some dessert.”
Scott sighed, like everything was a pain, but agreed. When the waitress came back, they asked for their bills, Scott asking for a chocolate peanut butter cheesecake slice to go. Once they’d all paid and Scott had the cheesecake, he hesitated before holding it out to Derek.
“Would you mind? He’s your neighbour.”
He wanted to say no, but it would honestly be stupid of him to do that. The doc lived right next door, and while he didn’t want to see him, something was obviously bothering him about Derek.
Besides, if he was nice to him, maybe he could get some help with Stiles.
He took the cheesecake before they split in the parking lot. Scott followed him all the way home, and they split off when they descended into the parkade, Scott turning right and Derek turning left.
Once he’d parked, he headed for the elevator, waiting for it to arrive before entering it. He’d only just started his ascent when the lift jerked, reminding him of what he’d been thinking about earlier. He waited for the doors to open, and when they did, beige walls greeted him.
Frowning in thought, he hit the parking button and waited while it descended once more. He was back in the garage and checking on his car in seconds.
It was there.
“Okay,” he said, realizing what was going on.
It was the elevator. Every time he went up or down the elevator, it moved him back and forth between past and present.
He went through the garage door and around to the front of the building to test that lift, but when he went up and down a few times, nothing happened. And he remembered that morning, when he’d gone down in the second elevator, that it hadn’t brought him to the future or anything.
Just to test it out, he exited the front lift and then headed across the building to the other elevator, entering it and hitting the parking garage button again.
As before, it opened on the present, his car where it always was. He went back up, and beige walls were there. Back down again, and when the doors opened, someone was waiting to get on. He wondered if it would work with someone else in the lift, so he stayed where he was and hit the second floor, his neighbour offering him a smile and hitting the fifth. They ascended in silence, and Derek noticed the elevator didn’t jolt.
It stopped on the second floor, and the walls were grey, like they usually were.
He was pretty sure he’d cracked this whole time travel thing. And it had only taken him one day. He was actually kind of proud of himself. How many other people could say they cracked time travel? Probably none!
Or, you know, maybe other people stuck in elevators during a storm when lightning struck their building, but that seemed fairly specific.
Exiting on his floor, he started to head to his apartment before remembering the cheesecake in his hands. He hesitated, then knocked on the doc’s door with a small sigh. He heard nothing from within, and figured he wasn’t home when the door finally opened. He’d forgotten his apartment was soundproof.
“Hi Derek,” he said, voice a little subdued. His eyes lowered to the cheesecake he was holding and Derek held it out to him.
“It’s from Scott.”
“Oh. Thanks.” He took it and let out a small scoff. “Peanut butter. He knows I can’t resist.”
Derek felt like peanut butter seemed to be a theme for the day.
“Have a good night.”
Derek headed for his apartment, gritting his teeth since he was positive the doc was staring at his ass, but he was surprised to hear the door click shut before he’d even taken two steps. He turned back to scowl at it, extremely confused.
He did not get that man at all.
Derek couldn’t sleep that night. He didn’t know why, but he was restless and feverish. He wondered if the full moon was looming, but it was still a week away, so he didn’t know why he felt so antsy.
After a while, he realized it was because of Stiles. He couldn’t stop thinking about how quickly he’d jerked to his feet after the threat from the babysitter. It infuriated him. Stiles seemed like a good kid, and he obviously cared a lot about his dad considering he didn’t want to tell him the problems he was going through since it would inconvenience him.
It took him another hour before Derek finally climbed out of bed, checking the time. It was just after two in the morning, which meant work was going to be stupendous. But, it was going to bother him all night, and since he now knew how to go back and forth between the past and the present, he figured he should just write that letter, like the doc had suggested.
He sat down at the island in his sweats, piece of paper lying flat on the quartz countertop and pen in his head. He didn’t really know how to word it, so he ended up rewriting it eight times before being satisfied. He was just worried Stiles’ father would think Derek was a predator after his son and trying to get the babysitter out of the way.
He re-read it a few times before being sure he was satisfied with it.
To Stiles’ father,
He doesn’t want to speak to you about this because he doesn’t want to cause you any inconvenience, but I believe you should know that the babysitter you’ve employed is not doing her job. I often see him out in the corridor while the babysitter is in the apartment fooling around with her boyfriend.
She also threatens to tell you lies to get him in trouble to make sure he does as she asks, likely because she knows she holds all the cards and you are more likely to believe a babysitter you were under the impression was doing her job than the son who almost burned down your kitchen.
He’s a great kid, and I hate to see him upset or emotionally abused like this. I strongly suggest speaking to him about the problems as I don’t think he’ll offer you any information without prompting.
A concerned neighbour.
He didn’t want to put his name, because he didn’t want the man to start looking around for the ‘Derek’ in the building. It was possible there was another Derek back in two-thousand and five, but he wouldn’t know what the kid’s dad was talking about.
This was safest.
Still in his sweats, Derek headed out into the corridor and locked his door. He went to the elevator, taking it down into the parkade. He didn’t bother stepping out, hitting the second floor again, and as soon as he reached it, the walls were beige.
He really had figured this out. He was proud of himself.
Walking through the corridor, he moved to Stiles’ apartment and bent down, pushing the letter under the door, making sure it was fully in the apartment before standing and heading back for the lift. He went to the parkade, back in his time, and realized he should’ve at least grabbed shoes since he now had to exit the garage to head for the front of the building so he could get back to his apartment.
He was walking into the lobby at the same moment the elevator doors opened. The doc was there, looking startled at seeing him. He also looked tired, like he’d just woken up, wearing plaid pyjama pants, a loose shirt and sandals.
“Hey,” he muttered, shuffling past Derek.
“Hi,” he said uncertainly, watching him go. “Where are you going?”
“A client,” he said easily without looking back, waving one hand in a ‘don’t worry about it’ way.
Derek wondered if he should tell him he wasn’t wearing real clothes, but he just stood there and watched him leave the building. It made sense a few moments later, because the doc rushed across the way and disappeared into Infinity Two. Evidently someone was having a crisis, and since they lived close enough, it looked like he was visiting instead of having the conversation on the phone.
The guy was so weird. Because that was extremely considerate, and Derek was a little annoyed that his opinion of him kept fluctuating. He was cute, and kind, and seemed extremely smart given how young he was, but he always acted flustered or upset or just plain weird around Derek.
Maybe he couldn’t handle attractive people? Derek didn’t know.
He went back up to his apartment, realizing the doc hadn’t commented on Derek’s own state of undress, given he’d clearly come from outside in nothing but his sweats. Then again, the doc had gone out in his pyjamas, and he wasn’t a Werewolf, so he’d probably frozen getting from one building to another. Not that Derek hadn’t been cold, but still.
He hesitated when he entered his apartment, then figured he was still too awake to try and sleep so he went to his computer.
He opened a new browser and typed “M. Stilinski,” honestly not sure he’d get any hits.
Surprisingly, he did. There were a few articles about Mieczyslaw Stilinski from Beacon Hills, California. He was praised as one of the best Supernatural therapists in the country, and Derek read a few articles about what he’d been doing over the last few years.
They were fairly quiet on his personal life, and most didn’t even reference where he went to school. The few that did were vague, only stating the school’s name and his major, nothing else. He’d also published a few papers, mostly on abuse towards Werewolves and the dangers to Alphas. Derek assumed that had to do with his best friend.
He wondered if the doc had a girlfriend, but when he tried finding him on Facebook so he could snoop a bit, there was no one coming up with that name. He assumed he didn’t have one, which made sense, since his brother Jared didn’t have one, either.
Figuring he’d snooped enough for one night, he went back to bed, knowing work was going to be a bitch tomorrow but trying his best to sleep anyway.
The doc was super freaking weird, but he also seemed like a great person. Derek was going to try to be less of a dick to him.
But only just.
Derek had no idea why he headed for the elevator when he got home the next day. He was exhausted after only getting a few hours of sleep, he wanted food, and he had plans with Boyd and Erica in two hours. He really needed to get to his apartment and take a nap, but he still went to the lift in the parkade anyway.
He supposed a part of him wanted to know if Stiles was actually in his apartment today. So he entered the elevator and hit the second floor. It jolted, but he was accustomed to it now, still pleased with himself for having figured everything out.
When the doors opened, he could hear loud banging and frowned.
“I know you’re in there, you little shit! What the fuck did you say to him?! He called my mom, you fucking worthless piece of crap!”
Derek recognized the voice and he instantly got defensive, hurrying around the corner and seeing the crazy babysitter banging on Stiles’ door. She looked livid, and it was clear that his letter had worked because Stiles was nowhere to be seen.
He moved over to her while she continued banging on the door, voice dropping dangerously.
“Is there a problem?”
She seemed startled, turning to him, and then scowled like she remembered him.
“None of your business, weirdo. Get the fuck out of here.”
“I think you’re the one who needs to ‘get the fuck out of here,’” Derek informed her coldly. “Before his father finds out you dropped by.”
She seemed startled, and then her face twisted in anger. “It was you! You told his dad!”
“You weren’t getting paid to relegate his son to the corridor while you had a good time in the apartment.”
She slapped him. It was so startling that Derek momentarily lost control, eyes flashing blue and a rumble sliding up his chest. The girl stumbled back a few steps, horrified, and then turned and ran away. There was another set of stairs down the corridor, and she disappeared through them, clearly distressed.
Looked like this area wasn’t Supernatural-friendly back in two-thousand and five.
There was shuffling on the other side of the door, and then a lock clicked. It opened just a touch, Derek turning and seeing Stiles peeking out through the gap. He opened it further and grinned when he saw it was Derek.
“Hi Stiles.” Derek smiled a little. “Are you okay?”
He nodded, still grinning. “My dad’s letting me stay home alone now.” He puffed his chest out proudly. “As long as I don’t use the stove, and I do all my homework, he said it’s fine for me to be by myself. It’s a little lonely, but it’s better than Bethany being here.” He made a face. “Did you scare her away?”
“I did,” Derek said.
“Cool. Thank you! How’d you do that? Did you hit her? I heard a slap.”
Derek let out a small laugh. “No, she hit me.”
“Oh. But then she left?”
Derek hesitated, then let his eyes flash blue and Stiles’ jaw dropped. Derek felt like maybe he’d made a mistake letting that cat out of the bag, but Stiles was in front of him instantly, door shutting behind him, grabbing at Derek’s shirt to tug his face down so he could get a better look.
“Oh my God, you’re a Werewolf?! That’s so cool! Werewolves are awesome, I love them! They’re so neat and fun and they can heal and everything! Do you guys go into heat? I read somewhere that animals go into heat, so does that happen to you, too? Do you really live in a pack? Are you in a pack? Can you turn into a wolf? How long have you been a Werewolf? Were you born, or were you bitten? Did it hurt becoming a Werewolf? Do you run around in the woods on the full moon? Is it true that you can feel the full moon no matter where you are? Do you howl at the moon when it’s full?”
Derek was a little overwhelmed by all the questions, and the smell of medication wafting off Stiles was making his stomach turn. Stiles seemed to notice, hands on both sides of Derek’s face since he’d managed to tug him down.
“Are you okay?”
“I don’t really like being touched.”
Stiles dropped his hands immediately, slapping at his forehead hard enough to make Derek wince. “Sorry. Dad always says I suck at personal space. I just got excited. Werewolves are so cool!”
It was weird hearing a kid talk about how cool he was, and it made him smile a little bit. Most kids were scared of him, probably because their parents were. This suggested that Stiles’ father was someone who didn’t discriminate, which was really nice to know. He’d love to meet the man sometime.
“Why are your eyes blue?” Stiles asked. “I thought they were meant to be gold, or red, so why are they blue?”
“I’ve got the Alpha gene,” Derek explained. “But I’m still a Beta. Until my Alpha passes on her spark to me, my eyes will be blue. Once she does, hers will turn gold and mine will turn red.”
“That’s so cool!” Stiles clapped his hands a few times, bouncing on his feet. “Can you tell me more?” Stiles turned and pushed open his apartment door, motioning him inside.
Derek didn’t move, because that made him uncomfortable. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to spend more time with Stiles. He actually liked him, he was a cute kid, and funny, and really curious, which he found endearing. But they’d really only known one another for two days, and Derek was twenty-eight compared to this twelve year old kid. Stepping into his apartment made him feel a little bit like a predator.
“You shouldn’t invite strangers into your apartment, Stiles,” he insisted.
“But you’re not a stranger,” he said, sounding confused. “You’re Derek.”
“Still.” He offered him a small smile. “You shouldn’t.”
Stiles thought for a moment, then made a sound of excitement and disappeared through the door, letting it shut behind him. Derek just cocked an eyebrow, listening to him putter around inside, then the door opened again. He was grinning once more, bending down and wedging a door stopper near the base of it.
He straightened, seeming proud of himself. “There. Now we can talk, and you don’t have to come into my house.”
Derek couldn’t help the small laugh, but he appreciated that Stiles wanted to keep talking to him. The kid turned to head back to the kitchen, Derek craning his neck slightly to see further into the place, curious. It looked like a mirror image of his, except the patio was a bit smaller. That made sense, since Derek had expanded it a bit.
“Do you want a sandwich?” Stiles asked from the kitchen. “I’m only allowed to make sandwiches.”
“Okay.” Stiles finished up in the kitchen, out of sight, and then came back to the door, dragging a small footstool with him. He sat down on it, taking a bite out of a crustless sandwich. It smelled like peanut butter and strawberry jam, which made sense since he’d been praising peanut butter the day before. “Tell me more.”
Derek chuckled, but leaned against the jamb, trying to think. He figured he could start with the questions Stiles had asked, explaining that Werewolves did not go into heat, they did indeed live in packs, he was a born wolf, and he could turn into a wolf eventually, but he hadn’t learned how yet.
He was nothing if not a procrastinator.
Stiles was listening attentively, eyes wide and awed while he continued to eat his sandwich. He had jam on his cheek and peanut butter on his lips, not to mention all the crumbs in his lap, but Derek still thought he was fucking adorable. He really wanted to protect this kid, make sure he grew up happy and strong.
Stiles kept asking him questions, curious about anything and everything. Some questions were a little inappropriate for a twelve year old, so he steered clear of those—seriously, how did he even know about knotting?!—and others were just basic things he was obviously curious about.
By the time Derek checked the time on his phone, he realized over an hour and a half had passed, and he had to head home so he could eat and meet Boyd and Erica.
“I’m gonna have to go,” he said, watching Stiles deflate a little. “I have plans with friends.”
“Oh.” Stiles looked down at his lap, brushing some crumbs off it. “Okay.”
He hesitated, then bent down a little, crouching in front of Stiles, who was still sitting on the footstool on the other side of the threshold. “I can come back tomorrow,” he said. “We can talk more about Werewolves.”
Stiles perked up instantly, grinning and nodding enthusiastically. Derek smiled and stood, waiting for Stiles to move back into the apartment. Once he’d taken the doorstopper off, he waved at Derek, said he’d see him tomorrow, then shut the door. Derek waited to be sure he’d locked it before heading for the elevator.
Ironic, when he really thought about it, that he had a friend in the building, and it happened to be a twelve year old kid from two-thousand and five.
Erica was probably going to laugh herself unconscious if she ever found out.
Derek went to see Stiles almost every day after work. He always confirmed he’d come back the next day, if that was what Stiles wanted, and he always said a very enthusiastic yes unless his dad was going to be home. Derek wanted to meet the man who’d raised such an energetic and kind child, but from the way Stiles spoke about him, it sounded like they didn’t get to spend much time together.
He didn’t want to impose and steal some of Stiles’ precious father-son bonding time, so on those days he just went to bug Boyd and Erica.
They ended up telling Erica about his time travelling, and while she wasn’t sure she believed him at first, she took it in stride. Derek figured he should do something to prove it, but he wasn’t exactly sure what. He didn’t care whether they believed him or not, anyway. He liked spending time with Stiles, he reminded him of his two brothers. Except way less annoying, but Derek was biassed.
And Stiles was always really curious about the Supernatural, asking Derek a million and one questions, always eating a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich. One day, Derek went home before visiting Stiles, figuring he could stay longer if he ate something. For solidarity purposes, he made himself the same sandwich as Stiles, keeping the crust on, and then went to see him.
Stiles was always already waiting at his door, sitting on the stool with it propped open. He seemed delighted when Derek pulled his sandwich out of a ziploc bag and began to eat it with him.
“You like peanut butter!”
“I do,” Derek said with a smile.
“Does it get stuck to your roof of your mouth and make you do weird faces like it does dogs?”
Derek snorted. “Does it make you do that?”
Stiles thought about it, then said, “Sometimes.”
“Then it’s not a Werewolf thing, is it?”
“I guess not.” Stiles took another huge bite of his sandwich. “What’s your favourite sandwich? Mine is peanut butter and strawberry jam.”
“I never would’ve guessed,” Derek teased, ripping the crust off one side of the sandwich and putting it into his mouth. “I like BLTs. Bacon, lettuce, tomato.”
“I know what a BLT is.” Stiles rolled his eyes, his whole head going with it. Derek smiled a little. He was so damn dramatic. “Tomatoes are gross,” he insisted, making a face. “They’re so squishy.”
“They’re a little squishy,” Derek agreed. “But with bacon and lettuce, they’re delicious.”
“I’m not allowed to have bacon in the house,” Stiles said miserably.
“My dad. He’s sick.”
Derek’s stomach dropped. Stiles’ mother had already passed away, fuck, was his father deathly ill, too?!
“Sick how?” he asked, trying not to betray how concerned he was.
“His heart doesn’t work right. He can’t have a lot of foods. My mom,” his scent soured at the mention of her, sadness creeping in, but he pushed forward, “she used to watch what he ate for him, making sure he didn’t have bad stuff. Now I have to do that, so it means I can’t have things sometimes or else they’re in the house and my dad will eat them, too.”
“How about I make you a BLT tomorrow?” Derek offered. “I can make it at home before I come here.”
Stiles looked so fucking pleased that it made Derek’s heart melt. He couldn’t help but wonder if this was what Joel would’ve been like if he hadn’t died. He’d always been an energetic and fun kid, and Derek wondered if he’d have been like Stiles if he’d reached the age of twelve.
Not wanting to let his brain go in a sad direction, he instead asked Stiles how school was going and found out that he was being bullied. It was like he couldn’t catch a break, and Derek hated that he was always miserable, even though he had a really happy disposition.
“Actually, are you good at math?” Stiles asked, perking up. “I can’t get one of the questions in my math homework.”
“I’m not great, but I’ll give it a shot.” Derek doubted grade six or seven math was going to be beyond his ability, but he didn’t want to sound condescending. Stiles found it hard because he was still learning, he’d get there eventually.
Stiles stood and hurried away, rubbing his hands on his pants, likely to rid them of peanut butter. Derek waited for him to come back, and when he did, he frowned a little at the book in his hands. It looked fairly thick for the grade he was in, and he was even more startled when Stiles sat back down and flipped it over, revealing the cover before opening it to whatever problem he was struggling with.
Did that actually say pre-calculus on it? What?
“It’s this one,” he turned the book around and pointed at it before handing it over to Derek.
He took it slowly, uncertainly, and saved the page with one finger before closing the book to check the front. It definitely said pre-calculus. Derek did some quick math in his head to figure out how old he’d have been back in two-thousand and five, and realized he would’ve been fifteen. He didn’t remember doing pre-calculus at fifteen years old!
“Is this actually pre-calc?” he asked, flipping it back to the applicable page.
Stiles sighed and nodded. “Yeah. My dad’s making me take it. He says math is important.”
“Why are you learning pre-calculus at your age?” Derek asked, confused.
It was Stiles’ turn to look confused. “Because it’s part of my math class.”
“Why would they be teaching you pre-calc in a grade six math class?” He was guessing on the grade, but either way, what the fuck?
“I’m not in grade six,” Stiles insisted, looking a little hurt. “I’m in grade eleven.”
Derek stared at him. “Grade eleven?”
Another short pause. “How old are you again?”
Holy shit, apparently this was why Stiles was so well-spoken and seemed so smart. He actually was smart! He was five grades above the one he should’ve been in at his age! No wonder he’d been reading that massive history book the second time Derek had ever seen him, it was probably homework!
“You must be really smart,” he said, Stiles preening at the words.
“Yup! It’s cool because I’ll be done school faster than my best friend, but I hate it because we don’t see each other at school. And the big kids are mean to me a lot. They don’t like having me around, and I don’t have any friends except some of the teachers. Except Mr. Harris.” Stiles scowled. “I hate Mr. Harris. He’s always picking on me, and I hate Chemistry. I don’t ever get the answers right when he puts me on the spot, but I got ninety-seven on my last exam so he can suck my dick!”
“Hey!” Derek scowled at him. “Language, young man.”
Stiles blushed, as if embarrassed at being reprimanded. “Sorry.”
Derek opened the book again to look over the question, feeling a little less confident, now. He wasn’t exactly a math whiz, and he hadn’t touched a calculus book since his first year of university. Still, he read over the question and together, he and Stiles managed to get through the problem. It took a while, which was embarrassing, but Stiles didn’t act like he was better than Derek. He just seemed happy to have someone there to help him with his homework, which made Derek sad.
When it was nearing seven, Derek figured he should head home. He had work in the morning, and Stiles needed to finish his math homework or his dad would be disappointed. So he bid him farewell, then went to the elevator. He headed into the parkade, the jolt confirming he’d returned to his own time, and when the doors opened, he almost walked right into someone.
“Oh man, sorry!” the doc hastily backed up two steps, having been standing right at the door.
“No problem.” Derek let his eyes rake over him appreciatively. He was wearing workout clothes, suggesting he’d been at the shared Infinity gym. It was faster getting to and from the gym from the parkade, since the ramp out of the parking garage was right beside the entrance to the gym. Explained why the doc had come back this way instead of going through the front door.
Besides, this elevator was closer to their apartment, unfortunately for Derek, since he couldn’t go up it anymore without ending up in the past.
He exited the lift, holding the door for the doc, who entered it gratefully.
He’d stopped looking excited whenever he saw Derek. Actually, Derek was fairly certain he was avoiding him, since he didn’t see him around as much anymore. Even now, he was avoiding Derek’s eye, walking into the lift and hitting the button for the second floor.
Derek stood watching him until the doors closed, and right before they did, the doc blurted out, “You have peanut butter in your beard.”
Then the doors shut.
Derek reached up and realized he did, in fact, have peanut butter in his beard.
Wiping at his face with his hand, he headed out into the parkade so he could go up the ramp and head to the front door. He’d have to remember to stop at the store after work to get some bacon for tomorrow.
“So, Derek. How are things in your new place?”
Derek paused in eating his food, because he recognized that tone. That was a dangerous tone to be hearing, especially coming from the person who was using it. It was the tone of someone who knew he’d been keeping secrets, and was going to back him into a corner to admit what he was hiding.
He turned to shoot a glare at Boyd, but he was politely eating his soup, avoiding all eye contact. Erica wasn’t though, and her grin suggested she was excited for the entertainment that would surely follow.
It was the day after the full moon, and his mother always had a pack dinner since everyone was still relatively on edge and being close to their Alpha was helpful. The whole pack was there excluding his brother, who was away at university and couldn’t very well fly back across the country once a month for pack dinners.
He wondered who’d betrayed him between Erica and Boyd, and figured it depended on the reasoning. Boyd only would’ve betrayed him if he was worried about him. Erica would’ve done it for shits and giggles, but she didn’t seem in a shits and giggles mood today.
That meant it was probably Boyd. To be fair, Derek had been spending a fair amount of time with Stiles, talking about him constantly. He was probably worried Derek was using him as a substitute for Joel, which hurt a lot, but he could see where he was coming from.
“They’re fine,” he said cautiously. “I’m getting used to living alone.”
“That’s good,” Talia said with a smile, spearing some asparagus on the tines of her fork. “Make any new friends?”
Derek shot another look at Boyd, who was still resolutely looking at his bowl.
“I’m helping someone,” he said.
“Yes, it’s been mentioned.” Talia placed her fork on her plate and folded her hands together, eying him. “What’s his name? Stiles?”
Well, that was definitely Boyd then, because Erica didn’t know his name.
“You think I’m crazy,” Derek surmised, because the look she gave him suggested that she didn’t care about him helping a kid. If anything, she’d normally be happy to hear it. But everyone thought he was crazy and, to be fair, he couldn’t exactly blame them.
Derek could travel back to the past, anyone would think that was insane, even in a world where Supernatural creatures existed. Sure, there was magic, but some laws could not be broken, and time travel was one of them.
At least, Derek used to think so, anyway.
“I’m concerned,” Talia admitted. “After Joel passed, you were very adamant about him still being here. I think the change in scenery might have triggered something.”
“Triggered,” Derek said coldly. “You think I’m insane and that I’m pretending I’m travelling back in time.”
“It’s oddly convenient that nobody can travel with you,” she said. It was something Derek had told Boyd when he’d discovered the secret for his time travel.
He wanted to be mad at Boyd. He wanted to yell at him for having gone behind his back like this. But it was hard to be mad at someone who was doing something because they cared. Derek knew he only had his best interest at heart, but still.
“I’m not crazy, Stiles is real,” Derek insisted. “You think I have enough of an imagination to make this up?”
“Derek, no one thinks you’re crazy,” his father said calmly. “We just want to make sure you’re not projecting. When your brother—it was difficult for all of us. But you and Joel were close, it affected you a great deal. We just want to make sure you’re okay.”
“I’m fine,” Derek snapped.
“Boyd was telling us about a therapist in the building. Dr. Stilinski?” Talia said, glancing at Boyd for confirmation.
Derek’s stomach dropped. Oh God, they wanted him to see the doc. No fucking way was Derek going to do that, he wasn’t crazy! He didn’t need to see anyone! Stiles was fucking real!
“What if I could prove it?” Derek asked quickly. “What if I could, I don’t know, do something that proved it was real?”
Talia watched him for a moment, then inclined her head. “Time travel is impossible, Derek. There have been many studies about it, and it cannot be done.”
“But if I can prove it?” Derek asked.
She watched him for a moment. “If you can prove it, then we won’t speak of this again.”
He nodded in thanks, then spent the rest of the dinner trying to think. He didn’t have any ideas on how to prove it, but he knew there had to be something. He could carve something into a tree. But that wouldn’t work, because God only knew if the tree would still be there after fourteen years.
And anything he could think of in the building was probably going to disappear somehow because of renovations. After all, the entire second floor used to have beige walls and a horrible carpet. Now it looked modern and beautiful. He had no idea what he could do.
“I believe you.”
Derek started, having been sitting on the couch after dinner, the rest of the pack chatting and joking with one another while a random food show played on the television. He turned to Laura, who offered him a small smile.
“I know what we went through was hard, but you’re not the kind of person to lose your head like that.” She shrugged. “What happened when we were younger was different. We were all grieving in our own way, yours was just denial. I think if you say you can travel back in time and you’ve befriended this kid, I believe you.”
“Thanks Laura.” He looked back down at his hands, clenched together, still trying to think.
“What’s he like?” He glanced back at her and she smiled a little. “We only know the basics. Mom didn’t elaborate too much.”
“Smart,” Derek said. “Really smart. He’s got ADHD, so his scent is terrible because of his medication, but he’s a happy kid. Kind, honest. A little too trusting, but I’m trying to teach him not to let strange older men into his house.”
Laura let out a small laugh. “You’re like a big brother, then.”
“I had a lot of practice,” he said, giving her a look. She used to always bail on babysitting duty, so Derek was the one getting shafted taking care of Cora and Jared. And Joel, back when he’d still been alive.
Laura just grinned at him, nudging his shoulder. “So, what’s the plan? To prove it’s real, I mean.”
“I don’t know yet,” he said, scowling at the ground again. “I’m trying to think about what I can do, but the building goes through so many changes, it’s going to be impossible to prove.”
“What about asking that doc guy about it? I thought Boyd said he’s been living there for years.”
“I don’t know where he lived in the building before he moved in next door, though.” Derek honestly didn’t even know if the doc even lived in Infinity One back when Stiles was around. For all he knew, the doc had lived in a penthouse in Infinity Two back then. He might know what the walls and carpets in the buildings looked like, but Derek doubted he remembered anything about the various renovations that went on.
“Can’t hurt to check,” Laura insisted.
He shrugged, figuring he had time, but he noticed Boyd had his phone out and was texting something. It was almost twenty minutes later before he stood to move to the couch Derek and Laura were still sitting on, and handed over his phone.
It was open on text messages, the contact being ‘The Doc,’ which meant he’d been texting with him. He’d probably talked about Derek being crazy to him, too.
Sorry to bug you with this, but I have a weird question.
I know you’ve lived in the building for a long time.
Were you living in the Infinity buildings back in 2005?
my parents bought into it way early on
kind of jealous of everyone i knew growing up with houses
but i love this place now
can’t imagine ever leaving
How well do you know the buildings?
in what sense?
the year they redid the carpets was the worst
they had to re-level the floors and it was so freaking loud for MONTHS
whyfore doth thou asketh?
Is there anything in the buildings they didn’t renovate?
Something that would be exactly the same between then and now?
you ask the WEIRDEST questions my man
lemme think on it
they were meant to remodel the stairs in 2012
but it cost too much and they weren’t in disrepair so the board voted it down
all the stairwells are the same between now and 2005
why do you ask?
Don’t worry about it. Just a question.
You still free tomorrow for my case?
yeah man drop in whenever
Derek stopped reading, because they’d moved onto actual work things and he didn’t want to pry into anything he shouldn’t know. He handed the phone back to Boyd, nodding in thanks.
The stairwells. Perfect. He could pry up one of the carpets in the corner and carve something into the concrete.
He and the rest of the pack remained for a few more hours, then headed out. Derek followed Boyd and Erica all the way back to their place, splitting off in the parkade. He’d parked his car, still thinking about everything, and noticed Boyd and Erica coming out of the other garage through the small pedestrian door. He moved to open the one on his side, letting them in.
“We figured you’d want to do it now,” Erica said. “This is still insane but, whatever.”
“Sorry,” Boyd said quietly, admitting to being the traitor.
“You were worried,” Derek said, trying to keep the coldness from his tone. “I get it. But I’m not crazy.”
“And maybe you can prove it, now.” Boyd and Erica moved with him towards the elevator, asking him what he was thinking. He told them his idea while they went up, and they all decided the safest way to ensure he wasn’t lying or trying to trick them was for him to choose a spot now while they were all together, have them wait there, and then Derek could go back to two-thousand and five and do what he needed to do.
He ended up telling Boyd to choose the area, so they went into the stairwell and Boyd went up to the third floor, pointing at the corner of the fourth step. He waited there while Erica walked Derek back down to the elevator. He got in, but before the doors closed, he pulled his phone out, using his foot to stop the door. He went to his camera function, selected video, and hoped the time travel wouldn’t cut it off.
Aiming it up at Erica, he started it. She cocked an eyebrow at him.
“Sorry, I don’t do pornos.”
“Hot,” he said sarcastically. “Just figured I’d see if this works. My phone usually glitches when I get there, but maybe we can do this. We’ll see.”
She shrugged, then saluted him when the doors slid shut.
He went down to the garage, and the second the doors opened, he hit the second floor again, camera aimed at the doors. When the lift began ascending once more, it jolted and Derek glanced at the video. It was still going, which was good.
The elevator stopped on the second floor and the doors opened. There was a man on the other side with garbage in one hand. He started at seeing Derek, and he hastily lowered the video, not wanting to record someone without their permission.
“You startled me, son.” The guy smiled, moving aside so Derek could exit.
“Sorry,” he said.
“Don’t worry about it.” He patted Derek’s shoulder once while passing him to head into the elevator. “Have a good night.”
The man smiled at him again while the doors closed and Derek frowned, feeling like he looked familiar. Probably someone he’d seen around the building.
It occurred to him he was still recording and he brought the camera up again. Thankfully it was still going, and while his initial desire was to have the walls showing the second the doors opened, he knew enough of beige had come up with the angle, and he’d spent a few seconds aimed at the floor with the different carpet anyway.
“So, carpet,” he said quietly to the video, aiming it down, then at the walls while he walked. “And walls. Not the same.”
He rounded the corner, almost expecting to see Stiles, but it was past eight on a weekend, and he knew his dad was home tonight. Apparently it was taco night and they were going to watch some movies together. Derek hoped he was having a good time, and listened in while he passed his door, just to see.
He frowned when he heard nothing playing, but someone was doing the dishes so maybe their movie was paused. He didn’t worry about it, he just headed for the stairs at the end of the corridor. Once he was in the stairwell, he went up to the third floor and went to the step Boyd had pointed out.
Apologizing silently for the vandalism, he flicked his claws out and used them to pull the carpet from the step, recording as he went. He aimed the camera down at the area he’d uncovered, then used one claw to carve his initials into the concrete beneath it. He also carved ‘B+E’ for good measure, then pushed the carpet back into place, patting it down and trying to wedge it back how it was supposed to be.
It wasn’t perfect, but the doc had insisted the stairs hadn’t been renovated, so he better not have been lying.
Heading back down, he exited back into the corridor and moved towards the elevator. He realized belatedly he probably could’ve just taken it from the third floor, but he didn’t want to tempt fate into fucking things up. What if taking it from the third floor down had him hurtle into the future?
He could hear nothing from Stiles’ apartment when he passed it, but didn’t let that bother him. He was sure everything was fine.
He waited for the elevator, and lowered his phone quickly when the doors opened and the same man as before exited. He started at seeing Derek again, then laughed, shaking his head.
“Sorry,” he said, moving aside so he and Derek could switch spots. “My kid’s got me watching jump-scare movies.”
“It’s okay. Have a good night.”
“You too.” The man waved as the elevator doors closed, and it wasn’t until the descent started that it occurred to Derek maybe that was Stiles’ father. It had been silent in the apartment, and this man was watching movies with his kid. Maybe Stiles was doing the dishes while his dad took out the trash, a movie paused on the screen while they did their chores.
He was a little disappointed to think he might’ve missed out on officially meeting the man who’d raised someone like Stiles, but he tried not to dwell on it.
When he reached the parkade, he stepped out, pleased the camera was still going. He aimed at his car while he passed it, then exited the garage, heading up the ramp. He found Erica waiting for him at the front door of the building, and he aimed the camera up at her once more.
“Still not interested in pornos?”
“I’ve known you since we were six, don’t make me vomit.”
“We were four, and you had a crush on me,” Derek reminded her.
“Like I said, don’t make me vomit.”
He offered her a small smile and they headed inside, Erica hitting the up button. Derek wanted to keep recording until they reached Boyd and revealed whether or not he was insane.
When the doors opened, Derek almost walked right into someone, who jumped in surprise.
“Whoa! You startled me!”
“Sorry,” Derek said, moving aside so the doc could exit, one hand rubbing at his chest. “I seem to be doing that a lot tonight.”
He got a weird look for that, the doc still rubbing his chest, but then he turned his gaze on Erica. “Your husband is weird, by the way.”
“I’ll be sure to let him know,” she said with a smile. “Heading to Scott’s?”
“Yeah, it’s game night. I spilled beer on my pants, and the jerk wouldn’t let me borrow a pair of his because I live next door.” The doc rolled his eyes. It occurred to Derek that he’d never heard him swear before. Even now, he was saying things like ‘jerk’ instead of ‘dick,’ which was moreso what Derek would’ve expected from someone his age. “Solidarity right there.”
“You can’t share clothes with Werewolves, doc. It means something different to us.”
“Yeah, yeah.” He waved one hand. “I know that, trust me. Still, he’s my best bro, you figure he’d make an exception.”
“Well, have fun. Kick his ass for the slight.”
“I plan to.” The doc grinned, waving at them, and headed out of the building.
The second the door shut, Derek blurted out, “God he smells good.”
“Right?” Erica said with a laugh, the two of them entering the lift. “Boyd and I talk about it all the time. I think it’s because he has a lot of Were patients, so he tries to make himself smell nice. Keeps people calm, you know?” She hit the second floor and they went up together.
“I’m pretty sure that’s his base scent,” Derek insisted. “I can’t smell anything artificial on him.”
“Oh?” Erica was surprised. “Well, your Alpha nose would know better than mine.”
Derek rolled his eyes, but said nothing else, the doors opening. The two of them headed for the stairs, the camera still going, and when they climbed to the third floor, Boyd was waiting for them.
“You do it?” he asked.
Derek nodded. “I carved my initials, as well as B plus E for good measure.” He climbed a few steps past them so he could get a better angle with the camera, aimed right at the spot Boyd had pointed out.
Boyd hesitated for a moment, as if honestly unsure whether or not he wanted to know, but he eventually bent down and used his claws to carefully pry the carpet free. The resistence he met made Derek a little nervous, because why was it so hard when he’d ripped it free? Then again, it’d been fourteen years, so maybe the glue had re-stuck.
Eventually, he got the carpet’s corner free and peeled it back. He froze, Derek angling the camera better and holding his breath since he couldn’t see well yet. Once he got a clear shot, he let out a slow breath.
“Not crazy,” he said quietly.
Boyd and Erica stared at the initials, then looked up at Derek.
“This is impossible,” Erica insisted.
“Trust me, that’s what I said.” Derek stopped the video, figuring he’d show it to his parents when he saw them next. “But I’m seriously jumping back in time when I go up the elevator alone from the garage.”
“Have you ever tried going to another floor?” Boyd asked.
“I don’t really want to risk it. I visit Stiles because he’s lonely, but that’s it. I’m not planning on tempting fate on this.”
“Maybe there’s a reason,” Erica said with a frown. “Maybe you both needed each other at the time, and that fate bitch you mentioned pushed you together.”
Derek shrugged, opening his text messages. “Whatever it is, I just want to help him. He’s a good kid, and I want to be there for him. He seems a little lonely.”
“You’re lonely, too,” Boyd said quietly.
Derek didn’t look at him, or say anything. He just opened his messages with Laura.
Thanks for believing me.
u lack imagination it was impossible 4 u 2 b lying
glad ur not psycho bb bro <3
The pack never brought it up again.
“This is a terrible idea,” Derek grumbled to himself while standing outside the doc’s door. He knew he was there, because he’d heard him come home from wherever he’d been almost an hour ago, and he hadn’t re-emerged yet.
He didn’t even want to be here, except Stiles was having a lot of problems at school with bullies, and he was starting to get depressed. Derek had been hanging out with him for the past three months, and the steady decline of his enthusiasm was a little concerning.
He’d tried talking to Boyd about it, and he’d helped as much as he could, but Boyd had admitted this was a bit outside his field. And of course, the only person whose field this was happened to live next door to him. And was weird.
Though the last few encounters he’d had with the doc had been all right. He’d stopped looking excited at the sight of Derek, but he’d also stopped smelling sad. He was kind of almost normal.
Still, he didn’t want to have to do this. It felt weird, talking to him about someone like this.
Derek had no problem seeing psychologists, he’d had some after Joel’s death, but this felt different. Because he wasn’t going to talk about himself, he was going to talk about someone else. And he wanted advice on how to help them.
He was still standing there when the door opened, the doc jumping in fright at the sight of him.
“Man, Derek.” He rubbed at his chest with a wince. “Warn a guy. What are you doing lurking outside my door like this?”
Derek said nothing for a moment, and the doc actually almost looked hopeful. Realizing he didn’t want him to think he was looking for a date, he hastily said, “Can we talk? Inside?”
The doc seemed startled, but then checked the time on his phone. “Sure. I have a bit of time.”
“It won’t take long.”
The doc moved aside and motioned into his unit. Derek stepped inside, feeling weird.
The place looked different and the same as Stiles’. It was weird, because Derek knew what it had looked like back in two-thousand and five, and while a lot of things were the same—colours, flooring, layout—others had changed.
Stiles’ place, from what Derek could see through the open door, had a couch and television at the end where the living room was, complete with side tables and a basket of magazines. The doc’s living room opened up with shelves of books, a desk, and two comfortable leather couches. His television was on the opposite wall, not visible from the door, and it looked like the light fixtures had been changed.
The door closed behind him, the doc moving into the living room and taking a seat on one of the couches, motioning the other. Derek moved to sit down, feeling uncomfortable. This entire situation felt weird.
He looked around a bit more, and saw an amazing wolf statue sitting on one of the doc’s shelves. It was made out of glass, a wolf howling up at an invisible moon. It was actually really nice, and seemed to be the only decor in the entire place.
“Before we start,” the doc said, making Derek look back at him, “are you here for a chat, or a session?”
“A bit of both,” Derek admitted uncomfortably. “Um, I can—how much are sessions?”
The doc waved one hand. “Don’t worry about it. Pro-bono.”
“You seem to do a lot of work pro-bono,” Derek informed him. “How do you make a living?”
“Papers, mostly. Events. And I charge people, just, you know, not when they look like they’d rather be anywhere else.” He smiled slightly, getting comfortable in his seat. He didn’t pick up anything to write with though, so Derek figured maybe he took notes at the end when the clients were gone.
“I needed your help with something,” he said slowly. “Boyd was trying to help, but it’s not... I’m just worried.”
“Worried about what?” the doc asked when Derek didn’t elaborate.
“There’s this kid,” he said, choosing his words carefully. “I met him a few months ago. We’ve been chatting a lot, I’m kind of... mentoring him?” That wasn’t right. “I’m trying to help him, you know, grow. Kind of like the Big Brother program, you know? I want to be there for him.”
The doc’s face went completely emotionless at this, which was a startling thing for Derek to witness. It also seemed like he’d somehow cut off his scents, which... seemed impossible. But Derek inhaled deeply, and realized he really had. All he could smell was his usual base scent, like the doc had mastered the ability to shut down so completely that Werewolves couldn’t pull chemosignals from him to gage his emotional state.
He’d heard it was possible, but he’d never had someone do it before. He was thoroughly impressed, though also confused about why him mentoring a kid had the doc shut down.
Unless he thought he was being a predator.
“I’m not—I just want to help him out. He’s a good kid, and I want him to be okay.” Derek felt like this was a horrible mistake. Jesus, what did the doc think of him?
“Why isn’t he okay?” His voice sounded normal, so Derek thought maybe it was him misunderstanding. Maybe the doc shut down for all his clients, regardless of what was being discussed. Probably more professional.
“He gets bullied at school a lot,” Derek said, feeling really uncomfortable talking to the doc about Stiles. “He’s really smart, skipped a lot of grades. People push him around, make him feel like a weirdo. It didn’t seem to bother him too much before, but I think it’s been getting worse. I think he feels like a freak.”
“Hm.” The doc watched him for a few seconds. “Have you told him that he isn’t?”
“I try, but I don’t think it works very well. I’m just... looking for some help. What can I do to help him?”
It seemed like a longshot that the doc would even have any advice for him, but after a moment of silent staring, he said, “Give him a hobby.”
Derek frowned. “What?”
“The thing about people who are too smart for their own good is that they jump around a lot and tend to run their mouth. Coupled with being a kid, not to mention possible attention issues, it might be beneficial to give him something to focus on. Help him find an interest in something, and nurture it.”
Derek thought about it for a little bit. “He seems to really like Werewolves.”
“Help him focus on that. High schoolers can be terribly cruel, and they’ll bully him no matter what, but if you help him find something to keep his attention, he’ll probably be too engrossed in what he’s doing during breaks at school to give the bullies any thought. Just keep him distracted. If it gets worse, maybe consider speaking to his parents.”
“I don’t think it’s bad enough for that,” Derek said. He knew he couldn’t protect Stiles from everything, and based on what he’d been saying, it sounded more like name-calling than anything else. That would suck for someone in high school, but it probably wouldn’t crush them as badly as it was a twelve year old.
Cora used to be bullied in middle school and she’d come home crying about it. Things had escalated in high school until she’d put her foot down and almost mauled a guy who’d trashed her car for being a Werewolf. Derek knew how terrible kids could be, but he was thankful that the bullying in Stiles’ case seemed to be mostly verbal.
That didn’t make it better, but it was harder to punish kids for saying bad things, as much as Derek wished he could. He also knew bullying wasn’t as heavily looked into back in two-thousand and five. Now there was a lot more focus and care, people took bullying more seriously regardless of how small the action. Two-thousand and five might as well have been a millennium ago.
“He’s a strong kid,” Derek said softly. “I think I can help him, if he lets me. Thanks doc.”
“He’s really lucky to have you, you know,” he said softly, a bit of his scents coming back. “You have no idea how much of a difference one kind person can make.”
Derek thought that was an odd thing to say, but he appreciated it all the same. He nodded in thanks again, then got to his feet. The doc walked him to the door, but Derek turned back before leaving.
“I really don’t mind paying for the session.”
“This wasn’t a session,” the doc insisted, smiling a little. “Trust me, this one is definitely free, given the subject.”
Derek frowned. “What does that mean?”
“You’ll understand one day.” The doc smiled, but it looked a little sad. “Goodbye Derek.” He shut the door.
It didn’t occur to Derek until after he’d entered his apartment that the doc had been on his way out when he’d been waiting for him.
Something about their conversation had made him cancel his plans.
“This is so awesome!” Stiles insisted excitedly, flipping through the pages of the book Derek had given him. “Wow! It has so much! I love Werewolves! Thanks Derek!”
“You’re welcome.” Derek couldn’t help but smile, rubbing one hand obnoxiously over Stiles’ buzzed head. He got a few slaps at his hand for that, Stiles scowling at him and pouting a little bit.
“I’m not a kid, you know.”
“You are literally the exact definition of a kid,” Derek informed him. “I thought you were supposed to be smart.”
“Asshole,” Stiles insisted, sticking his tongue out.
“Hey,” Derek reprimanded, pointing a finger at him. “What did I say about swearing?”
“Sorry,” Stiles said, looking sheepish. “I won’t swear anymore, scout’s honour.” He held up his hand and Derek smiled, ruffling his hair again, despite that being why Stiles had ended up swearing in the first place.
“Just remember that swearing makes you seem uneducated. Only assholes like me swear. Smart kids like you should know better.”
“I’ll try harder not to swear,” Stiles promised, still flipping through the book, clearly engrossed. “Being a Werewolf must be so amazing. I wish I was a Werewolf.” Stiles sighed sadly. “People would be nicer to me if I was.”
“That’s not true,” Derek said softly, and Stiles glanced up at him. “People aren’t all like you. They don’t like Werewolves. They’re afraid of us. They can get really mean.”
“Really?” Stiles frowned. “Why? Werewolves are awesome.”
“They’re different.” Derek tried to think of the best way to explain it. “You like X-Men, right? Mutants and all that?”
“Of course!” Stiles perked up. “It’d be awesome to have those powers!”
“But people in the comics, normal people, they’re not all like that, are they?”
“You can say prejudiced, I know what it means.” Stiles rolled his eyes. “People don’t like what they don’t understand. But we understand Werewolves, so why don’t some people like them?”
“Do you care if someone is homosexual?”
“No,” Stiles said, confused.
“But some people do, right?”
“I guess, but those people are dumb.”
“It’s the same thing with Werewolves. If it’s different, there’s a class of people who won’t like it. Racism, homophobia, sexism, all of those things are tied together. It’s called speciesism for us. It’s really bad for born wolves, but worse for bitten ones.”
Stiles looked uncomfortable now. “Really? Why?”
“Because for bitten ones, sometimes they’ve never experienced anything against them as a person. And suddenly being bitten changes everything. And it’s not easy, turning into a Werewolf. There’s a lot of problems that come with it. People don’t know how to handle it, and if you’re a human who was turned, and you’re not with your Alpha during the first full moon, it’s a lot. Most bitten wolves don’t survive their first year. It’s too much for them.”
The horror on Stiles’ face made Derek feel like maybe he shouldn’t be talking about the suicide rate of bitten wolves with a twelve year old.
“Can I help change that?” Stiles asked quietly. “What can I do?”
“Be there for them. If you know someone, or you meet someone who’s a bitten wolf, just make sure you’re supportive.”
“I’m gonna learn everything about Werewolves!” Stiles proclaimed. “And Chimeras! And all other Supernaturals! I will be a Supernatural God of knowledge!”
Derek laughed a little. “That’s the spirit.”
“Are you gonna bring me more books?” Stiles asked, hugging his newest one against his chest. “I really like learning about this stuff, but I need more. Can you lend me some about problems?”
“Those might be a bit too advanced for you.” Derek knew he had some, but they had things like the Hunters War and the Wolfsbane plague. Not exactly light reading for a kid. “Maybe when you’re older.”
“I’m gonna be thirteen soon!” Stiles said this as a bargaining chip, but then his entire face lit up. “Hey! You should come to my birthday! It’s next week, it’ll be really fun!”
Derek felt his chest ache, because he could see how much Stiles wanted him to go. But he didn’t think it would be a good idea. As much as he wanted to spend time with him, have him excited and feel appreciated, Derek knew he was already fucking with time by coming here almost every day. He didn’t think he should be interacting with too many people, even though he still really wanted to meet Stiles’ dad.
“I’m really sorry, Stiles, but I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said quietly.
The way Stiles’ face dropped almost broke his heart. “Why not? Don’t you want to come?”
“I do,” he said. “I really do, Stiles. But—well, it’s complicated. Maybe I’ll tell you about it someday.”
He still looked sad, which Derek hated.
“Tell you what,” Derek said, moving a bit closer. “How about I come by earlier on your birthday. I’ll bring you a cake. And a present.”
Stiles was still disappointed, but he seemed a little happier at that. “A cake? Will you make it?”
“I’ll make it.”
“Chocolate and peanut butter?”
“I’m sure I can figure that out,” Derek said, realizing he’d have to call Laura. She was the baker in the house, he was sure she could help him out. “What day is your birthday?”
“June twentieth,” Stiles said, puffing out his chest, like it was something to be proud of. It was kind of adorable. “Next Thursday.”
“I will be here at four pm sharp with a cake and a present.” Derek would take that day off. He’d have to in order to make the cake, and he wanted Stiles to feel like people cared about him. He was sure his dad and the best friend he talked about sometimes would be around, but he didn’t seem to have many other people. Derek wanted to make sure he knew he was amazing.
Stiles was going to go far in life, that was for sure.
“Okay.” He grinned. “When’s your birthday?”
“That’s so close to mine!”
Derek laughed. “I guess.”
“I can make you a cake, too!”
“You can’t use the stove.”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “My dad can help me. I can’t make a real cake all by myself, it would taste gross. Maybe Grandma Ito can help me, too. She likes baking. What kind of cake do you like?”
Derek thought about it. “I don’t know. Cheesecake is pretty tasty. Maple cheesecake.”
Stiles’ face dropped. “I don’t know how to make that.”
It was hard to resist laughing, he looked so distraught. Stiles was so adorable.
“Worry about it in August.” Derek checked the time on his phone. “I should go, I have plans with some friends. Your dad in tomorrow?”
“No,” Stiles said, deflating a bit. “Will you come?”
“You know I will.” Derek smiled. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Stiles beamed at him. “Bye Derek!”
He moved the stool back away from the door, shut it, and then locked it. Derek headed for the lift, hitting the down button, and thought about Stiles’ birthday.
He had no idea what to get a twelve year old like Stiles. It wasn’t like he was enough of a kid that Derek could buy him a game console or anything, he was way too smart to be interested in that. Besides, any game consoles Derek tried to buy him might not work in two-thousand and five. Books were the obvious choice, but he was kind of already doing that, what with him helping Stiles with his new hobby, which was going on three days now. He was devouring the books faster than Derek could find them, at this point.
He was heading through the parkade and up the ramp back to the building, still thinking, when he saw the doc up ahead. He had groceries in his hands and was fiddling with his keys, probably trying to find the right one to get the door open.
Derek jogged up behind him and tapped his shoulder so he could pass him and get the door open for him. The doc startled so much he actually dropped his keys, but thankfully not his groceries.
“Man!” He shook his head. “Stop startling me like that, not cool. You trying to give me a heart attack?”
“Sorry.” Derek smiled a little, amused.
“No you’re not,” the doc insisted with a fake glare while Derek picked up his keys and handed them back. He got the door open and motioned the doc in, then followed him.
Things had been less weird the past few days. Ever since he’d spoken to the doc in his apartment, whenever they ran into each other, he was always smiling. A change from before, which Derek appreciated.
Now that he was less weird, and friendlier, he understood why everyone liked him so much. He just had this energy about him that pulled people in, and Derek loved it. Not to mention his scent was intoxicating, and he was extremely attractive. He could get lost forever in the doc’s eyes without ever caring if he never found his way out. They were such a light honey colour, so different from anything else he’d ever seen. Almost like Stiles’, actually, but a bit brighter.
The thought tickled his brain for a bit, but before he could latch onto what it meant, he remembered the wolf statue in the doc’s apartment.
“Hey, where did you get the wolf?”
The doc turned to him, confused. “I’m sorry?”
“The wolf statue. The one on your shelf. Where did you get it?”
The other man stared at him for a long while, his heart beginning to pound in his chest. Derek frowned, wondering why his body was reacting like that to Derek’s question, and he opened his mouth to answer.
No sound came out for a long while, the doc closing it once more, letting out a small sigh, and looking away from Derek.
The elevator doors opened and he stepped out, muttering, “I got it as a gift. From a friend. Someone really important to me.”
Damn. He probably had no idea where it had come from then, and while Derek wanted to press a little bit, the doc’s reaction made him feel like maybe this friend was someone he didn’t speak to anymore. Maybe he’d lost them. He didn’t want to pry, so he just sighed and followed after him. They said their goodbyes at their doors, the doc disappearing into his apartment.
Derek went into his own, and changed out of his work clothes before getting dinner ready. He sat down on his couch, turning the TV on with his plate of food on the arm rest, and pulled his computer over. He browsed a few food sites, trying to find a good chocolate and peanut butter cake recipe. All he could really find were brownies, but he figured that could be close enough.
He bookmarked a few of them, making note to call Laura about it later, and then went about trying to find a present.
Derek really had his heart set on that wolf statue, so he tried to describe it as best as he could into Google, and was pleasantly surprised to find it was for sale on Amazon. There were eight of them in stock, and it looked like it was a woman in Sweden who did glasswork who was selling them. She had various figurines up on her page and he scrolled through them with interest after adding one of the wolves to his cart. It looked like she’d been doing this for years, because there were comments on her page from back in the late nineties.
Paying for his order and wincing at the shipping since he had to put a rush on it, he pulled his phone out to text Laura to ask if she was free to help him on the twentieth with Stiles’ cake. She replied that she could make it work, and he thanked her before setting a reminder to book the day off when he got into work tomorrow.
He was excited for Stiles. He hoped he liked his present.
“No, you’re supposed to swirl the knife in it. Swirl!”
“I’m swirling!” Derek snapped, holding the butter knife in one hand and using it to create a pattern in the brownie batter with the spots of melted peanut butter.
“No, stop, you’re ruining it!” Laura hip-checked him aside, trying to wrestle the knife from his hand, but he snarled at her and flashed his eyes. She flashed her own gold ones back, hip-checked him again, and managed to pry the knife from his hand.
“I’m supposed to do it!” Derek insisted. “I told him I’d be making it!”
“What are you, four?” Laura rolled her eyes, swirling the knife through the batter and, admittedly, doing a better job than him. “You pretty much made the entire thing, I’m just helping you to ensure you don’t ruin all your own hard work.” She pulled the knife out, nodded in satisfaction, then stuck the end into her mouth, licking off the chocolate and peanut butter mix. “Perfect. Now into the oven.”
Derek opened it, Laura bending down with the pan and putting it on the middle rack. Once it was closed, he checked how long it had to cook for, then set a timer on the microwave and his phone so it wouldn’t burn. It was almost three, so he was short on time to make his four pm deadline.
He had a birthday card ready, something wolfy and cheesy, as well as the wrapped gift. All he needed now was the promised ‘cake’ baking in the oven in a foil pan and he’d be set to go.
“Thanks for helping with this,” Derek said, grabbing two Cokes out of the fridge and handing one to Laura.
“No problem. I think it’s nice.” She tapped the top twice before popping the tab, taking a large sip and then leaning forward on the counter, watching him with the can held in both hands. “You’re probably really changing his life, you know.”
Derek felt the words hit him, his stomach bottoming out, but before he could insist he didn’t mean any harm, Laura rolled her eyes.
“I meant in a good way, Derek. The things you talk about with us at dinner, it’s really great. You’re helping him a lot, and it sounds like you showed up when he needed you the most. Like a fairy godmother.” She smirked, taking another sip of her drink.
Derek rolled his eyes, opening his own can and draining half of it, wincing at the burn of the fizz in his throat. “I just worry one day this’ll all stop. What if I go in the elevator and it’s just... an elevator? I don’t want him to think I abandoned him.”
“Maybe you should tell him,” she said softly. “The truth, I mean.”
“No way. He’ll think I’m crazy, and I don’t want to lose him.”
It was crazy how attached he was to this kid, but he was just... Stiles was so amazing. And wonderful. And Derek really liked being able to help him find his place in the world. He liked that Stiles found him cool for being a Werewolf, and was now more determined than ever to make sure he helped Werewolves specifically when he grew up.
It made Derek wonder where he was now. Who Stiles was, what he was doing. Did he remember Derek? If they met on the street, would Derek recognize him? Would Stiles recognize him? After all, Derek wouldn’t have aged between then and now, he’d probably give the guy a heart attack.
He wanted to ask Stiles for his last name so he could look him up, but that felt weird. Not to mention he always ragged on him for not letting strangers in his house, being mindful of who he trusted and all that. It’d be contradictory if he suddenly asked him for his last name. Besides, Derek felt like he might obsess if he ever found him in this time.
Though he liked to think Stiles would say something to him. Then again, that might be weird. Derek wondered if maybe he had and he’d just forgotten. What if a few years ago some rando on the street had yelled his name and been all excited, but Derek had just run away because he’d had no idea who it was? He didn’t remember that happening, but he supposed there was no way for present Stiles to know when Derek would have travelled back in time, if he ever figured that out at all.
He didn’t dwell on it, the chances of him meeting Stiles in the present were slim. Depressing, when he thought about it, because he really wanted to check in on him. But he’d live.
Moving around the counter, Derek turned on the television and he and Laura sat watching TV until the brownies were done. Once they were out of the oven, Laura got some peanut butter into a ziploc bag and cut the end off before handing it to Derek so he could write out ‘Happy Birthday Stiles’ on the top.
Satisfied with how it looked, Derek stepped back and smiled. His sister hugged him from the side and he wrapped one arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer and kissing her head.
“He’s gonna love it. You did a great job, baby bro.”
“You remember Jared’s younger than me, right?” He sighed. “Can’t I be little bro?”
“Nope. Forever baby to me.” She laughed and poked him in the cheek before pulling away. “Speaking of babies though, I should head home to mine.” She moved to grab her purse, throwing the strap over her shoulder while digging out her keys. “This was fun. We should hang out more. I feel like I never see you anymore.”
“I don’t live at home anymore,” he reminded her. “You’re welcome to drop by anytime.” He made a mental note to visit her more, too. He’d kind of been neglecting his family lately because of Stiles, and living close to Erica and Boyd. He was sure his parents were glad he was doing well, but he should probably still visit more.
Also, it was kind of sad that his closest friend right now barring Erica and Boyd was a smartass twelve year old from the past.
“Good luck with Stiles.” She kissed his cheek. “Let me know how it goes.”
“Sure. Bye Laura. And thanks.”
Waving over her shoulder, she left the apartment. Derek looked down at the brownies, hoping Stiles liked them. He checked the time, and realized he should head out. It was still early, but he didn’t want to be late and he needed to shower and change since he was going out with coworkers at five-thirty.
Figures the one day he’d booked off from work was the day they all decided to grab drinks after work.
At least he’d gotten an invite, despite not really wanting to go. He tried to make the effort though so he branched out a little bit.
Once he’d gotten himself cleaned up and organized, he shoved his car keys into his pocket, and then juggled the present and brownies, the card tucked safely between his hand and the foil pan the brownies were in.
Leaving his apartment, he managed to lock his door without dropping anything, heading for the elevator as the doc was coming down the corridor.
He froze when he saw Derek, and what he was holding, and then a brilliant grin crossed his features. Derek had no idea why, but he just nodded hello to him.
“That looks amazing,” the doc said while they passed each other. “Did you make that?”
“Yeah,” he said, feeling a little embarrassed and hoping the doc wouldn’t ask who it was for. “I promised I would.”
“Well it looks amazing. And I’m sure it’ll taste amazing, too. I mean, who doesn’t love peanut butter, right?”
“Right.” Derek sure hoped it was good, he honestly had no idea. “Um, plans for the night?”
“Going to my dad’s with Scott and Kira. Having a small party.”
“What’s the occasion?”
The doc just beamed at him even more, the smile familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. “Oh, nothing special. But hey, you have fun okay? He’s gonna love that.”
Derek was in the elevator on his way down before realizing the doc totally knew who the brownies were for. He hadn’t said as much, but ending with ‘he’s gonna love that’ made it seem pretty obvious the doc knew Derek had made this for the kid he’d been speaking to him about in their conversation the past week.
He tried not to feel embarrassed about it. It wasn’t embarrassing. Stiles was important to him, and he wanted him to be happy on his birthday.
He hit the second floor again when he reached the parkade, going back up and being mindful of what he was holding for when the elevator jerked. When the doors opened again, he headed quickly to Stiles’ door, and smiled when he rounded the corner to find him standing in the corridor, practically bounding on his feet.
“Happy birthday,” he called, Stiles beaming at him.
“Thanks Derek!” He raced forward, pounding footsteps loud against the carpet and probably bothering everyone on the floor below, but Derek didn’t tell him to slow down. He was thrilled to see Stiles so happy.
“Wow! You made this?” Stiles was looking at the brownies with awe. “It looks so good! And you even wrote me a message! You’re so awesome, Derek!”
“It’s your birthday, you’re the awesome one.” It felt so cheesy to say, but Derek used to be cheesy with his younger brothers and Cora, so he could stomach some cheese for Stiles, too. “Here. I got you something.”
He held the present out, then fished the card out from under the foil pan, holding it out as well. Stiles tore into the card first, laughing loudly at the ridiculousness of it, and then opened his present. His eyes lit up like Christmas had come early, and he very carefully pulled the wolf from the box it was in.
“Wow,” he breathed, awed. “This is so amazing! Derek, thank you! You’re the best!”
“You’re welcome.” He smiled and saw Stiles about to lunge for him but he stopped himself. “What’s wrong?”
“I was gonna hug you, but you don’t like being touched,” he said.
Derek smiled and reached out with his free arm, pulling Stiles into a strong hug. He was startled at first, but then wrapped his free hand around Derek as well, hugging him tightly.
“I don’t like people I don’t know touching me,” Derek said softly. “But you’re my friend, so you can hug me whenever you want.”
“Thanks Derek,” Stiles said, voice tight. “This is the best birthday. I wish my mom was here to make it perfect.”
Derek let out a small sigh, tightening his hold. “Me too. I’m sorry, Stiles. But your dad is going to spoil you rotten, and your best friend is coming by, too. You’re gonna have a great time with them. And hopefully a stomach ache after eating this whole tin of peanut butter brownies all by yourself.”
Stiles let out a wet laugh and pulled away, using his sleeve to wipe at the tears on his face. He was still smiling though, so that was the important thing.
“Thanks Derek. I’m really glad I met you.”
“I’m glad I met you too, buddy.” Derek ruffled his hair, then wrapped one arm around his shoulder, pulling him into his side and walking back to his door with him. “Let’s get you back inside. Is your dad home?”
“He went to pick up dinner. I’m letting him have a burger, but only today, because he’s been good all week and it’s my birthday, and he should celebrate it, too.”
“I’m sure he’s happy it’s your birthday regardless of whether or not he gets the burger.” Derek let Stiles go so he could push open his door for him. He didn’t want him to drop the wolf.
Stiles hurried into the apartment, setting the wolf down on the counter and staring at it again in awe. Then he rushed back to the door and took the brownies from Derek.
“Did you try them?”
“I didn’t, no.”
“Have a piece with me!” Stiles insisted, hurrying back to the kitchen and dropping the brownies on the end of the counter. He disappeared from sight for a second, Derek holding the door open, and when he reemerged with a knife, that made him extremely nervous.
Stiles was twelve, and super smart, he obviously knew how to use a knife. But still, Derek was nervous about him cutting himself on his birthday.
He broke his no-entering-the-apartment rule and hurried forward, taking the knife from Stiles before he could cut into the brownies—or his hand.
“Let me do that,” he said, sticking the tip of the knife against one edge and beginning to cut.
“You’re in my apartment!” Stiles said, smiling brilliantly.
“Just this once,” Derek insisted, turning to smile at Stiles. “Don’t let it happen again.”
Stiles rolled his eyes while Derek pulled the knife out to cut another line, figuring he could just cut the whole pan into squares.
“I’ve known you for like, ever. You’re allowed in the apartment. Even dad says so.”
Derek paused, looking at him in surprise. “You talk to your dad about me?”
“Of course. Why?”
He smiled, somehow extremely happy to know Stiles liked him so much that he talked about him to his dad. He supposed it made sense, considering they saw one another pretty much daily, and had been for the past few months. Still, it was nice to hear.
He told Stiles to grab two plates, and then used the knife to get two pieces out before setting it into the sink. Stiles had already crammed half of the brownie into his mouth by the time Derek picked his up.
Stiles let out a loud, appreciative sound and ran on the spot before shoving the rest of the brownie into his mouth, barely able to chew because he had too much in there. Derek laughed, taking a bite of his own, and then nodded. He was pleasantly surprised, it had come out fairly well. It had a weird aftertaste, but he figured that was the peanut butter. Still, it was tasty.
“Oh my God, it’s so fucking good.”
“Hey!” Derek insisted, giving him a look. “What did I say?”
“Sorry, sorry.” Stiles laughed, rubbing the back of his head. “It’s my birthday?”
“I don’t care, none of that.” Derek looked around and then moved over to an empty bowl sitting on the counter. Once he confirmed it was clean, he set it on the edge and gave Stiles a look. “This is going to be your swear bowl. Every time you say a swear word, you have to put one dollar into the bowl.”
Stiles’ face fell. “But my allowance is small, that’s so much money!”
“Then you better not swear,” Derek said, smiling a little. “Tell you what, I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll have my own swear bowl at home, too. By the end of next week, I’ll bring it here and whoever swore the least gets all the money.”
“But I’m already behind by a dollar!” Stiles insisted.
“We’ll start right now.” Derek smiled. “You get a pass on the one you just used. It is your birthday.”
Stiles beamed at him, and Derek let out a startled sound when he rushed him again, wrapping his arms around his middle, hugging him tightly.
“Thanks for being my friend, Derek.”
“Sure thing.” Derek smiled, hugging him back. “I should go, though. I’m not supposed to be in your apartment.”
Stiles pulled away and they headed back for the door. Derek exited the apartment, wished him a happy birthday again, and then went to the lift, pulling his car keys out. He felt really good, he was so glad that Stiles was excited and happy. He deserved only good things, he was such a great kid.
When the doors opened, there was a man ready to exit. He smiled pleasantly at Derek while passing him, and Derek glanced down and saw two takeout bags. When the man passed him, he turned on a whim and despite knowing he shouldn’t since it could alter time, he spoke.
“Are you Stiles’ father?”
The man started, turning back to him, then smiled. “You must be Derek. It’s good to finally meet you, son.” He held one hand out, Derek shaking it. “Stiles talks about you all the time.”
“He’s a great kid,” Derek agreed.
“Thank you, by the way. For telling me about the babysitter. I know you didn’t sign the note, but Stiles said he knows it was you. I was already considering letting him stay home alone, but I didn’t know if he was ready.”
“He’s been doing okay though?” Derek asked. “He getting his homework done?”
“He’s been doing great,” the man said, smiling fondly. “And honestly, I think I have a lot to thank you for. He’s been different the past few weeks. I know he was having problems at school, but lately he’s been so engrossed in those books you got him that he seems happier. I’m thinking of having him change schools for the twelfth grade, but I don’t know if it’ll make a difference.”
“Kids are assholes,” Derek agreed, then winced. “Damn. I just lost a dollar.” Stiles’ father gave him a weird look and he laughed. “I just started a swear bowl deal with Stiles. Trying to make him stop swearing.”
“Swear bowl?” He seemed amused.
“I didn’t see a jar, the bowl was easier.” He laughed. “I don’t want him picking up bad habits, so I said I’d do it too. One dollar per swear word, and whoever swears the least in a week gets the pool.”
The older man smiled fondly at Derek, clapping him on the shoulder. “You’re a great guy, Derek. Good influence.”
“I have a lot of younger siblings.” Derek shrugged. “But I shouldn’t keep you. I hope you both have a great evening.”
“Thanks. You have a good night, too.” He waved one hand and Derek disappeared into the elevator, heading down to the garage, the lift jolting to let him know he’d returned to his own time.
It bothered him the entire drive out to meet his coworkers.
Stiles’ father was seriously familiar.
Derek slouched further on the couch, remote in one hand and boxed macaroni and cheese sitting in a bowl on the arm rest. There was nothing fun to watch on TV, it was kind of annoyingly boring. Erica and Boyd were having date night, his family were all doing things, and Stiles’ father was home so he didn’t want to go bother him.
It was sad, really. So sad. He had no other people to hang out with. Sure, he had the pack, mostly, but they all had lives outside the pack so right now, he had no one. He was just a sad, pathetic man sitting at home watching nothing because there was nothing on TV. He felt like he didn’t ever used to feel like this living with his parents, but then again, they were almost always home so when they went out, it was something of a relief.
It was so weird being bored because he was alone.
He heard a door open in the corridor, still scowling at the TV, and a few seconds later there was a light knock on his door. He turned to frown at it, getting to his feet, and heard a voice on the other side.
“See, Scotty? He’s not there, can’t do it, sorry. Oh well, such a shame, guess we’ll just—”
Derek opened his door, the doc on the other side. He jumped at the abrupt action, almost dropping the phone he was holding. He looked adorably betrayed, like Derek opening his door had somehow completely derailed his plans. It was kind of cute.
“Hi doc,” he said, leaning against the jamb and crossing his arms, one foot holding the door open. “How’re you?”
The doc stared at him for a few seconds, then muttered that he would call Scott back before hanging up. He let out a small sigh and rubbed the back of his head. “You’re probably busy and everything, so no pressure, and it’s totally cool if you don’t want to because, honestly, I wouldn’t want to, either. I mean, you’ve probably always got plans going on, hell you’re probably ready to leave the house right now, so it’s not like you need any help with going out to do stuff. Your calendar probably looks worse than mine when I’m working and—”
“Doc?” Derek asked, a little amused. “What is it?”
He snapped his teeth together, letting out a slow breath. “Right. So. Okay. Um, Spider-Man: Far From Home just came out, and we have a group of friends who usually go see movies together and since the live-action Lion King came out a few weeks ago as well, we bought tickets for both so we could do a double-feature movie night at the theatre. One of our group just bailed, and we’ve been trying to find a replacement but no dice. I texted Boyd to ask if he wanted to come and he said that he was busy but to ask you. But you probably don’t want to come, that’s weird, right? Like, super weird, why would you want to hang out with us, that’s just—”
“I’ll come.” It beat staying home alone all night. And he wanted to see those two movies anyway.
The look on the doc’s face was priceless.
“Sure. I’m interested in those movies.”
“Oh.” He looked startled. Happy, but startled. “Cool. Okay, yeah. Um. Let’s uh, yeah. We’re leaving in about ten minutes. Is that enough time?”
“Sure. I’ll meet you out here in ten.”
The doc smiled, seeming pleasantly surprised, and moved back to his apartment while confirming they’d meet back in ten minutes. Derek closed his door and quickly went to change, since he was wearing loose sweats and a muscle shirt. He tugged on some dark jeans and a Henley, knowing the theatre would be cooler despite that not really bothering him. He looked good in Henleys, anyway.
And for some reason, he wanted to look good. Probably because of the doc. Since he stopped being so weird, Derek had started really getting interested. He was cute, and apparently single, so that was awesome.
He scarfed down his dinner in record time, leaving the bowl in the sink and then moving to the door with his keys. The doc was already waiting for him in the corridor, texting on his phone. He smiled when Derek exited and they went to the elevator together. Scott was waiting for them in the parkade and they piled into the doc’s Jeep. It looked old, probably older than him, but it was roomy and comfortable, and the doc obviously took good care of it.
They reached the theatre in town relatively quickly, Derek listening to Scott and the doc banter in the front seats. They were an odd pair, if he was honest. He was glad they made it work, but their relationship seemed a little strange. Probably mostly because all Scott seemed to talk about was his fiancé, and the doc spoke about pretty much everything else, including the rise in coffee prices, the economic state of the United Kingdom, and the adverse effects of cheese—for some reason.
He was just so smart, and he had an interest in almost everything. Derek felt like he could sit and listen to him talk for hours, which was a weird feeling to have. But something about him was just... it pulled him in. It was warm and familiar, like hanging out with his pack.
Derek started at the thought, because it was strange to think of someone else as pack, and even moreso when they were human. Not that humans couldn’t be in packs, but it was still weird.
They arrived at the theatre, climbing out of the Jeep, and when the doc slammed his door, he hit his hand, the sound making Derek’s bones ache, and then let out a sharp cry.
“Motherf—udgemonkey!” He’d almost sworn, Derek was impressed he’d refrained.
Scott just laughed, like an asshole. “Dude, I can’t believe you still won’t swear. You’re twenty-seven, let loose a little.”
“No,” the doc turned to scowl at Scott while they headed for the door, still shaking out his hand. “I promised I wouldn’t, I’m keeping my word, no matter how old I am!”
“You’re such a loser.”
The doc stuck his tongue out at Scott, Derek following them into the theatre where they were presumably meeting other people. It was kind of nice that the doc had a no swearing policy, it made him seem more mature, somehow. Even when he said things like ‘motherfudgemonkey.’
It reminded Derek of his own deal with Stiles. Who’d creamed him this past week.
They were continuing their no swearing bowl deal on a weekly basis, and every Monday Derek would bring his bowl to Stiles’ place. Stiles only had two or three dollars in his, but Derek always had at least twenty-five, because he swore a hell of a lot. But he was proud that Stiles seemed to be diminishing in his swearing, and he knew he wasn’t lying about how much he was swearing. He could see Derek swore a lot more than him, so he had no reason to pretend.
Derek was kind of looking forward to the day he’d show up and there would be no dollars in Stiles’ bowl. He didn’t know why, he just really wanted to help him not get into the habit of swearing.
“Hey guys!” the doc called loudly, snapping Derek back to the present.
He glanced up and saw them approaching another group of three, Scott and the doc smiling and hugging the girl while nodding to the two other men.
“Guys, this is Derek,” Scott said, motioning him. “He’s the doc’s neighbour. Derek, this is Isaac, Liam and Allison.”
The two men watched him with interest and Derek noticed Allison’s eyes skirt from him to the doc. He frowned, but figured maybe he’d spoken to them all about how attractive he found Derek. He hated having people react to his looks like this.
“Have you eaten?” the doc asked him.
“Had some mac’n’cheese before we left.”
“Well, you’re a Werewolf, I’m sure you can eat more!” He motioned for Derek to follow him and he did, though he sighed about it like it was a huge inconvenience.
They stood in line at the concession stand, the doc ordering a large popcorn with extra butter, some Twizzlers, and a Coke. The others were in the lineups around them, obviously all trying to get their food at the same time so they could head in.
Once the doc had everything, he shoved the Twizzlers into his hoodie pocket, grabbed the drink and popcorn, and he and Derek moved off to the side to wait on the others before heading into the theatre.
“You can have some of my popcorn,” he told Derek while they eased into their seats. “Trust me, good movies always need popcorn.”
“Thanks.” Derek really hoped the doc wasn’t looking into his acceptance of this invitation as a date or anything. He did help himself to popcorn though.
The first movie was Spider-Man 2, since they’d gotten a later show on The Lion King to avoid having too many kids. It was a good movie, entertaining as Marvel movies often were, and Tom Holland was amazing in it.
Derek had just turned to reach for more popcorn when he caught sight of the doc chewing on a Twizzler. He stared at him for an exceptionally long time, because the way he was chewing on it was so strikingly familiar that it bothered him. He felt like he recognized the side-mouth chewing with something hanging out of it, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
The doc seemed to sense him watching and turned to look at him, then jerked his head towards the screen in a, “You’re missing this” sort of way.
Derek obediently turned back to the screen, but the Twizzler chewing bothered him all through the movie, and the next one, and up until he finally went to bed later that night.
By morning, he’d forgotten about it.
When Derek opened his eyes on August ninth, he couldn’t help the ridiculous smile trying to take over his face. Because it was his birthday, and Stiles was out of school now, and he was looking forward to the cheesecake he’d promised to make him.
He had no delusions of it being any good, considering he was twelve—wait, thirteen, but still. It was the thought that counted, so he was excited about it.
Stiles’ dad was working the morning shift today, which worked out for Derek’s schedule because he had dinner with the pack tonight so it meant he could spend the morning with Stiles until his father came home, and then head out for dinner and leave Stiles and his dad together for the evening.
He quickly showered and had some breakfast, always enjoying having a day off work, and then got dressed so he could head out to see Stiles. He winced when he passed his swear bowl, because he’d been playing video games with Erica the other night, and nothing brought out the swear words like a few rounds of MarioKart. There had to be thirty or forty dollars in there.
He sure hoped Stiles was using the money for a good cause. Like his college fund.
Grabbing his keys, Derek opened his door and stepped out, closing it behind him. He went to lock it, but paused when he noticed a small, flat box right beside his door against the wall, with a card on top. Frowning, he bent down to grab them both, going back into his apartment and shutting the door. He moved to the counter and picked up the card, but eased open the box first.
There was a cake inside. It looked amazing, and he could tell it was homemade, which meant a lot to him. It had a chocolate mirror glaze overtop, making it look almost professional, and he actually grabbed a fork so he could dig into it, taking a bite to see what flavour it was.
Maple cheesecake. He loved cheesecake, and while his favourites tended to fluctuate, he admitted maple was his current hankering of cheesecake flavours.
Tearing open the card while licking his lips, he smiled at the cheesy wolf pun, and flipped it open.
Then he frowned, because all it said was the card’s punchline, and neat print spelling out ‘Happy Birthday Derek.’
He didn’t recognize the handwriting. Whoever this was obviously knew it was his birthday, and since the cake was homemade, it limited the number of people it could be from, given who he knew in his life who could bake. But the handwriting didn’t belong to Boyd, Laura, or his mother. So that kind of ruled them all out.
He figured he’d think on it, because he wanted to thank whoever it was. Putting the cheesecake in the fridge, he left the house again, locking his door in time for the doc to wander down the corridor with some groceries in both hands. The doc smiled at him brightly.
“Good morning! How are you today?”
“I’m good,” he said, offering a smile back. “Just heading out to see a friend. How are you?”
“I’m fine. Getting groceries before my first client.” He held up one hand of bags, emphasizing his point.
“I hope your day goes well,” Derek said, passing him.
“Thanks, you too!”
Derek paused when he heard the doc unlocking his door and turned back to him. “Hey doc?”
“Did you see anyone at my door earlier? Like, someone lingering outside or dropping something off?”
He got a small smile in response. “No, Derek. I didn’t see anyone.” Derek didn’t understand the emphasis on the word ‘see’ but he dropped it. “Why do you ask?”
“Oh, I just—someone left me a cake outside my door. Just curious who it was.”
“Is it your birthday?” the doc asked with a smile, then said, “Happy Birthday, Derek.” before he could even confirm it.
“Thank you.” Derek nodded once. “I won’t keep you. Have a good day.”
“You too! I hope you enjoy all the various cakes you get!”
Derek smiled, knowing he had one cake he was definitely looking forward to.
He headed for the elevator, hitting the parkade button and then waited while it descended.
It only occurred to him once he was going down in the elevator that he shouldn’t have just tried the cheesecake like he had without knowing who it was from. To be fair, he’d thought he did know, assuming it was Boyd or his sister, but hadn’t realized it wasn’t until the card.
He felt fine though, so there was nothing dangerous in the cheesecake, and he knew he’d gotten a lot more mellow living here. Everyone really was supportive of Supernaturals in this area, it was a great place to live in. He could understand why Erica and Boyd had settled here to start their family—still a work in progress. Hell, it explained Scott and his fiancé, too. She wasn’t entirely human herself, that much Derek’s nose had told him, but he wasn’t sure what she was.
Once the doors opened in the garage, he almost sighed because there was someone there, so he exited and let them on. Once it was gone, he hit the ‘up’ button again, waiting for it to come back, and by the time it finally did, someone else had shown up and stood beside him waiting for it.
Figured the one day he was over-eager to see Stiles was the one day he took forever to get there.
He went back up in the lift with the new person, and when they got off on the third floor, he hit the parkade button again and went back down. Thankfully there was no one there this time, and when he went back up to the second floor, he was in the past.
Hurrying out of the elevator, he went quickly to Stiles’ apartment and knocked on the door.
He heard nothing at first, which was confusing. He frowned, wondering if maybe he was on the wrong floor, but nope. He was at the right place. He knocked again, and this time he heard shuffling. It was slow and lazy, and when he listened hard, he could hear a heartbeat from inside. It started out slow and eventually began beating a little faster.
A few seconds later, the door opened, and a half-asleep Stiles stared up at him before his eyes widened. Derek had obviously woken him up, oops.
“Derek! Happy birthday!” He launched himself at Derek’s middle, hugging him tightly. Derek laughed and hugged him back, patting him a few times.
“Thanks Stiles. Sorry I woke you up.”
“That’s okay. Grandma Ito was trying to help me all night, so I slept in.” He grabbed Derek’s hand and tugged him into the apartment.
Derek wanted to resist, but it was hard when even the kid’s father hadn’t shown any concern for him hanging around. And it was his birthday, so he allowed it, shutting the door behind himself but leaving it unlocked.
Stiles hurried into the kitchen, still dragging Derek along, and then pulled open the fridge. He released Derek so he could grab at the cheesecake, and Derek tried not to laugh. It looked terrible, with cracks and a few burned parts, and it looked like it was going to stick to the pan when they tried to take it out, but that didn’t matter.
Because Stiles had made this for him, and that felt so, so amazing.
“Ta-dah!” Stiles said proudly, holding it out to Derek. “I know it doesn’t look great, but I tried my best, and it was my first one ever. So next year I’ll be better! I’ll practice and practice until I become a cheesecake God!”
“I’m sure it’s delicious, Stiles.” Derek took it and set it on the counter. He was going to find a knife so they could dig in but when he turned, Stiles was shoving a bowl of batter at him.
“Dad helped me make pancake batter for you! He said it was fine as long as you were the only one touching the stove, so I’m sorry I can’t make you breakfast, but maybe next year!”
“Maybe,” Derek said with a fond smile. He ruffled Stiles’ short hair, earning a scowl and a slap to his hand, and moved past him to the stove.
Stiles had to pull out all the items he needed—pan, spatula, ladle, butter—but eventually he had everything and he got to work on the first pancake. Stiles was banging around behind him, pulling out plates and cutlery, grabbing syrup from the fridge, and he even pulled out some peanut butter from the panty—this kid seriously loved peanut butter.
Stiles was his official pancake inspector, in that he stood at Derek’s elbow and watched to make sure every pancake had the perfect golden brown colour before he let Derek take it off the pan. He made six in total, figuring three for Stiles was more than enough, and three for himself so he had room for the cheesecake, which he’d told Stiles to put back in the fridge.
They sat at the counter eating their pancakes, Stiles covering his in peanut butter before drowning them in syrup. Derek ended up being able to try it since Stiles got full halfway through the third one, and Derek finished it off. It wasn’t bad, but he’d stick to the usual butter and syrup combo.
“Cheesecake!” Stiles said, clapping his hands together once.
“You’re too full for cheesecake, we’ll wait.”
“I want you to try it though!”
“I will. But let’s digest a bit and maybe do some dishes?”
Stiles grumbled about it, but obediently stood to do that. Derek put him on drying duty, which he seemed happy about because apparently his dad always got drying duty. They washed all the dishes, and Derek made sure to cover the batter before putting it back in the fridge, figuring maybe Stiles and his father could have pancakes tomorrow morning, as well.
Once they were done, Stiles told Derek to wait in the kitchen, then raced for his room. Honestly, Derek was kind of curious to know what a kid like Stiles’ room looked like, but he obediently stayed put until Stiles raced back out. He was holding a crudely wrapped box, and Derek couldn’t stop feeling overwhelmed at how much work Stiles had put into his birthday for him. He was only thirteen, and he’d worked so hard to make a cheesecake, get him some pancakes, and he’d bought and wrapped him a gift. It was amazing, and touching, and Derek loved this little guy.
“Thanks Stiles. You didn’t have to get me anything.”
“I wanted to!” He beamed at Derek, and motioned for him to open it.
Derek did, unwrapping it carefully so he didn’t tear the paper—he didn’t know why, he kind of just wanted to save it. Once the box was unwrapped, he pulled open the top and reached in to grab what was inside. He ended up holding a Superman figurine, the man of steel appearing to be mid-flight, one arm extended and the other folded near his side.
Stiles shifted nervously, like now that the present was out, he didn’t know if Derek would like it.
“You never talked about Superman,” Stiles said quietly, “but when I saw it, it reminded me of you. Because you’re my Superman, and I wanted you to remember that every day.”
That was probably the nicest thing anyone had ever said to him in his life, and Derek reached out to hug Stiles tightly with one arm, the other hand still holding the figurine.
“Thank you, Stiles. That—it means a lot to me. That you think that. I love it, thank you.”
“I got you a card, too!” Stiles wiggled free and grabbed it off the counter, where Derek had dropped it.
Laughing, Derek took it and opened it. The card was another funny wolf one—people had a sense of humour with him, apparently—and when he opened it, he honestly hadn’t known what he was expecting.
Stiles’ handwriting was atrocious. His spelling was impeccable, which made sense considering his brilliant brain, but his handwriting was so bad he could barely read it, which had him laughing.
“You need to work on your penmanship,” he informed Stiles, hugging him once more. “But thank you. You’re the best, Stiles.”
He beamed at him, then again asked to eat the cake. Derek insisted they should wait, and they went to watch some TV, Derek turning on the Food Network. Stiles kept commenting on all the food and how he wanted to eat everything, and then he asked Derek about how living alone was and if he got to eat whatever he wanted.
“I do,” Derek confirmed. “But I have to be careful. Eating everything you want is great, but you need to make sure you take care of your body. I try and go to the gym as often as I can, because working out and staying healthy is important.”
“Is that why you eat what you want but you’re not fat?” Stiles asked curiously.
Derek laughed, because that was a little blunt. “Not really. I mean, it helps, but you need to take care of yourself. Having pancakes and cheesecake today is fine, it’s my birthday, but you need to make sure you balance the foods you eat. Vegetables are important, so don’t fight your dad on them when he makes you eat them. Do you do any sports?”
Stiles shook his head, deflating a little. “I can’t. Coach says it’s not fair to me because the other kids are all older and bigger.”
“Can you join a community team? What about if you and your best friend found a sport you like and join it together?”
Stiles seemed to think about it, nodding. “That could be fun. I’d get to see him more. And I like swimming.”
“Swimming is great exercise.”
“Biking is good, too. And when you’re old enough to join a gym, you can bike indoors.”
“Huh.” Stiles frowned for a second, then grinned. “Can I get a six-pack?”
“Maybe. If you work out enough. But working out shouldn’t be about getting a six-pack, it should be about staying healthy.” Derek pointed a finger at him. “Don’t ever let someone tell you that having a six-pack equals being healthy. Just work out to stay in shape, but I’m sure you’ll look amazing either way when you grow up.”
“Really?” Stiles pouted a little. “Everyone says I’m weird-looking and gangly.”
“Everyone’s weird-looking and gangly when they’re a teenager,” Derek insisted, nudging him lightly. “I was, too. You’ll grow up and feel more confident about yourself. Just don’t let other people dictate what being good looking is.”
“Okay.” Stiles sighed. He was silent for only a moment, then turned back to Derek. “Cake?”
“You really want that cake, don’t you?”
“I just want you to try it.”
Derek shook his head, smiling a little, but obediently stood to cut them both some cake. He figured he’d just grab Stiles an extra small piece since he was definitely still full. Besides, it seemed like it was mostly Derek he wanted to watch eat the cake, so he probably wouldn’t care.
Cutting out two pieces, he had to wrestle them out of the pan—just as he predicted—but they survived the battle somehow. He brought them both over to the couch, handing Stiles the smaller piece and sitting down with his own. Stiles watched him attentively while Derek took a bite.
As bad as it had looked, it was actually surprisingly tasty. Maybe a little too heavy on the vanilla flavouring, and definitely needing more sugar to offset the cream cheese, but it was pretty good. And it was made with love, which was what really mattered.
“This is delicious,” he told Stiles, who beamed like he was trying to rival the sun in brightness.
“Really? You like it?”
“I do. You did an amazing job for your first try.” Derek was actually supremely impressed. Cheesecake was not easy to make, even for an adult. And while Stiles had had help from his neighbour, if they weren’t a baker, the outcome was ridiculously impressive.
“Thanks for this, Stiles. This has been an amazing birthday so far.”
“You’re welcome!” Stiles smiled brightly, shovelling bites of cheesecake into his mouth. “Cheesecake is really good. Would taste better with peanut butter though.”
“They make peanut butter cheesecakes,” Derek told him.
Stiles looked so excited by this prospect that Derek had to remind him cheesecake was unhealthy and he would have to remember to start going to a gym and join a sports team.
He ended up leaving around two, since he couldn’t get calls of texts in the past and he was sure his family and pack were wondering where he was. He brought home his cheesecake and present, setting the Superman figurine onto his bookshelf so he could see it whenever he exited his room. It made his chest warm at the realization that Stiles felt like Derek was his very own Superman.
He went to dinner with his family and pack, joked and laughed with everyone, and asked around about the cheesecake from that morning but, as predicted, none of them had done it so it remained a mystery.
When Derek went to bed that night, he couldn’t help but wonder if present Stiles had remembered today was his birthday, and if he still thought of Derek as his own personal Superman.
Derek was going to kill his mother. Like, straight up murder her. Because this was low, even for her. He’d trusted her, he thought she loved him, and this was just—it was such a betrayal. He was going to yell at her when he got himself out of this.
“So, what do you do, Derek?” the woman across from him asked, taking a sip of her wine.
She’d introduced herself as Braeden. She was gorgeous, and seemed nice enough, but Derek was pissed beyond all reason about this entire evening because he’d been set up!
His mother had called to say she wanted to spend some time with him, and that she’d booked a dinner at one of the fancier restaurants in town so he had to dress nice. He’d shown up expecting an evening with his mother, and had sat down in time to receive a text from her saying she wasn’t coming and she’d sent along a substitute.
Of course, he’d thought it was one of his sisters, but then this woman had been led to his table and he realized it was a blind date.
His mother had set him up on a blind date without telling him!
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to date, he just—it wasn’t a priority for him right now. He wanted to really connect with someone before he dated them. He didn’t want to date just because he was now twenty-nine and single, and he knew a blind date wasn’t going to get him where he wanted relationship-wise.
Sure, the woman seemed like a good fit for him, but she was kind of... mellow. A little boring, maybe? Derek had spent the past six months around energetic people like Stiles and the doc, not to mention growing up with Erica, Cora and Laura. The calmest person in his life was Boyd, and while he appreciated the serenity of his presence, he felt like if he was going to date someone, he wanted them to be a bit more... exciting.
Someone who pushed limits and went outside the box. He didn’t want to spend his life sitting in stuffy restaurants talking about the stock market and sipping wine that tasted like dirt.
He felt bad about how clipped his replies were to her, because it wasn’t her fault he’d been tricked into this, but they had no chemistry. She was nice, and he was sure she would make someone happy one day, but she didn’t seem particularly interested in him, either.
He figured he’d stay for ten minutes and then leave. Ten minutes was acceptable blind date etiquette, right? He could survive ten minutes.
Except ten minutes later, they still hadn’t gotten their food order in and Derek had resigned himself to a horrible evening when a shadow fell over them. He turned and started at seeing the doc, who was smiling at Braeden like he knew her.
Derek realized, a little surprised, that he did when he spoke.
“Hey Braeden. How’s it going?”
“Super,” she said with a kind smile. “This is Derek.”
“Oh, I actually know. He’s my neighbour.”
“Really?” She let out a small laugh. “Small world.”
“Yup. I’ll also save you both from this disaster since I could feel the tension from across the restaurant.” The doc turned to Derek. “Braeden is a lesbian and her mother is trying to ‘turn her straight’ so she keeps going on dates to placate her mom and avoid ruining their relationship.” He looked over at Braeden. “Derek looks like he was tricked into this date and seems ready to leap out of his seat at any second.”
Braeden burst out laughing at that, causing a few people to turn and look at them.
“Shit! I was trying to figure out how to cut this short.” She turned to smile at Derek. “If you didn’t want to be here either, we both should’ve just said so from the get-go. But really, you made my night, I’ll pay for the drinks.” She motioned for a waiter to come over and Derek just stared at her.
He couldn’t believe the doc had figured out neither of them wanted to be there from across the restaurant. Well, the Braeden side had obviously helped, but still.
Turning to the doc, he said a very emphatic, “Thank you!”
“No problem.” He hesitated, then motioned behind him. “Actually, I was about to head out. I don’t like any of the food here, but it was Lydia’s birthday so I couldn’t bail. Did you wanna grab a bite?”
Derek didn’t feel like cooking, and he was already out of the house, so he might as well. “Sure.”
The waiter had arrived while they were talking, Braeden paying for their drinks before getting to her feet. She kissed the doc’s cheek, saying she’d see him later, then shook Derek’s hand and said it was great to meet him before leaving so fast she almost ran out of the place.
Derek was so relieved he had no words, so he just followed the doc outside. They’d both brought their cars, so they agreed to just meet at the diner they’d last eaten at. Once there, they headed inside together and were led to a booth.
Knowing he could get a BLT, Derek just perused the appetizers before ordering some mozzarella sticks and a BLT. The doc got a burger with a milkshake, then smiled at Derek once the waitress had left.
“Sorry if I misread the situation, but you looked kind of miserable.”
“I was definitely miserable,” he confirmed. “My mom tricked me by saying she wanted to have dinner with me. I showed up to Braeden. She seems nice, but I’m just... I don’t think we were a good fit.”
The doc nodded, smiling at the waitress in thanks when she set his drink down and pulling it closer, playing with the straw a bit. “People get on my case about being single, too,” he admitted. “My dad is worried I’m going to wait forever for someone I’ll never have.”
Derek frowned. “Is there someone you like?” He knew it was kind of a bold question to ask, but he and the doc had never really had a conversation before. Not one like this, anyway, where Derek wasn’t asking him for advice with a now-thirteen year old.
“It’s complicated,” the doc said with a sigh. “We were really close once, but things—people change. I don’t think he’ll ever think of me that way.”
It took a few seconds for him to realize the doc had said he. So he was, at the very least, bisexual.
“You seem like you’d be a great person to be with,” Derek said honestly. He assumed maybe the guy the doc was referring to was Scott. They’d been best friends for a long time, as far as Derek could tell, so maybe now that he had a fiancé, the doc was realizing it would never happen.
“Thanks.” He kept playing with his straw, looking down into his milkshake. “What about you? People say you’re the most eligible bachelor in the building. Not looking to settle down?”
“I guess I’m waiting on the right person,” he admitted. “I never really thought about it much before, but I guess... I don’t know. I just don’t want to be bored, I guess.”
The doc laughed at that, like Derek finding dating boring was amusing. Derek supposed he could understand, he just didn’t know if he could be with someone who wasn’t always keeping him on his toes. He wanted to be with someone who kept things exciting, who kept his mind engaged.
The two of them kept chatting while they waited for their food, and Derek realized that the doc could talk. He’d been around him a few times, so he knew he was chatty, but he’d had no idea how chatty. His brain seemed to jump around from topic to topic, but it was always interesting and, as Derek had thought while going to the movies a few weeks back, he felt like he could sit there and listen to him for hours.
And he sort of kind of did. They’d long ago eaten their dinners and were just sitting there chatting, a finished plate of peanut butter cheesecake by the doc’s elbow while he regaled Derek on the various similarities between myths in China, Greece, Rome and North America. Why he knew this, Derek had no idea, but it was actually really interesting.
Eventually, they both felt like they’d overstayed their welcome, and they ended up leaving the diner, but only so they could keep chatting beside their cars. The doc was so interesting that Derek almost didn’t want the evening to end, but they both had work in the morning, and the doc had already received two text messages from Scott asking where he was because he was actually supposed to be playing baseball right now.
“Sorry,” the doc said, shoving his phone back into his pocket after having texted Scott. “I really should go.”
“Yeah, sorry I kept you.” Derek motioned for him to leave. “This was great, though. Thanks for saving me from a dull evening.”
“Any time you need a save, you know where to find me.” The doc climbed into the Jeep, but before he shut the door, Derek spoke.
“Can we do this again? You know, sometime? Whenever you’re free?”
The look he got made his chest ache, because the doc looked so happy it almost hurt. “Yeah. Yeah, Derek, I’d-I’d really like that.”
“Great.” Derek smiled. “Have fun at baseball.”
“Gotta stay fit and healthy,” he agreed, closing his door and waving once before backing out and driving off. Derek watched the Jeep disappear, unable to fully understand why things felt so easy with the doc. Now that he’d spent some time with him, it just felt natural. Comfortable. Like they’d been friends for years and were just getting reacquainted.
Derek actually felt like he wouldn’t mind spending more time with the doc. Things were easy with him, and he was really enjoyable to be around now.
Maybe there was something there, even if Derek didn’t fully understand what it was yet.
Derek was in a foul mood. A horrible mood. Because work had been shit, and there was a problem with one of the machines so he and another coworker had been forced to stay late, which meant he was late getting home, which meant he was late going to see Stiles.
He knew Stiles didn’t always expect him, but he hadn’t once not gone on a day where his dad wasn’t around, and he wasn’t about to start now! So even though he was starving and grumpy as fuck, Derek still took the elevator up from the parkade and walked purposefully to Stiles’ door, knocking loudly.
He hadn’t meant to knock so hard, and he sensed the hesitation on the other side, Stiles only opening the door a crack before realizing it was Derek and frowning, opening it further.
“Why are you so grumpy?”
“Bad day,” he muttered. “Sorry. And sorry I’m late.”
Stiles just shrugged, moving back into the apartment to get the stool, since Derek still didn’t like being in there with him. It was just an older brother thing, he didn’t like it when people were around his younger siblings when they’d all been younger, so he preferred to stay out in the corridor as they’d been doing for months now.
“What happened?” Stiles asked, sitting down and scowling. “Was someone mean to you because you’re a Werewolf?”
“No, nothing like that.” Derek felt his bad mood beginning to dissipate just at those words. Because Stiles was so considerate and caring and he swore whoever got this kid when he grew up was going to be the luckiest person in the world.
Derek was kind of jealous of them. He really wished he could meet present-Stiles, if only to make sure he was being treated right.
“Work was just shit.”
“Hah!” Stiles pointed a finger at him and Derek let out a groan, pulling his wallet out and sighing.
“I don’t have any bills right now, I’ll be sure to add it to my bowl when I get some.”
“My bowl is empty,” Stiles informed him proudly, chest puffing out. “I’ve been really good this week.”
Derek smiled, feeling most of his bad mood disappear. “That’s amazing, Stiles. You’re much more cultured than me, that’s for sure.”
“Can I swear when I’m your age?”
“You shouldn’t,” Derek insisted. “What did I say about people who swear?”
“They sound uneducated,” Stiles said with a sigh.
“And what are you?”
“That’s right.” Derek nodded, pleased with Stiles’ progress. He knew he couldn’t stop him from swearing when he grew up, but a part of him hoped he didn’t end up with a mouth like Derek. There was nothing wrong with swearing, he just didn’t like it coming out of people’s mouths when they were little.
He’d had a fair few fights with Laura when he was younger and swearing, and it had turned into a veritable battle when Cora and Jared had started, he and Laura forming a united front to try and stop them. Jared was pretty good now, he only swore every now and then. Cora’s favourite word seemed to be ‘fuck’ and she used it almost as often as most people used the word ‘okay.’
“What happened that made your day so bad?” Stiles asked.
Derek smiled, starting to tell him a bit about his day, when the elevator down the corridor dinged and he heard someone let out a small chuckle.
“You can go inside, you know,” a familiar voice said, and Derek turned to find Stiles’ father heading down the corridor with a takeout bag in one hand.
Derek had actually forgotten the man was a police officer, and he frowned when he found him even more familiar than the last time he’d seen him. He could’ve sworn he’d seen this man in his uniform before, but he couldn’t place it.
“I tell him that all the time, but he won’t come in,” Stiles insisted with a roll of his eyes, but Derek was still staring at the man coming closer.
When he was close enough to read his nametag, Derek realized with a start that it was sheriff Stilinski. He didn’t seem to be sheriff yet, and Derek didn’t remember when he’d become sheriff, but this was definitely sheriff Stilinski.
And then he froze, because this was sheriff Stilinski. And he was Stiles’ father.
And Derek knew another Stilinski in the present.
His head whipped around to look at Stiles, eyes wide and brain working a mile a minute.
Holy fucking shit!
“Your last name is Stilinski?” he blurted out, staring at Stiles like he couldn’t believe his eyes. “As in Dr. Stilinski?”
Stiles perked up. “Oh, doctor! I like that! I wanna be a doctor!” He grinned at his dad. “I could be a great doctor! But not like Melissa, I don’t want to do that. But you can be a doctor without being a doctor, right? Like, Dr. Phil is a doctor, but he doesn’t work in a hospital.”
“Sure, kiddo.” His dad passed him, kissing his head. “You’d make a great doctor.”
“What do you think, Derek?” Stiles turned to him, beaming, but the smile slid off his face, probably at whatever expression Derek had on his. “Are you okay?”
“I gotta go,” Derek said, feeling like he might be in shock. “I have to—I’ll see you later. I just... bye Stiles.”
“Bye?” Stiles sounded confused, but Derek just turned and raced back to the elevator, stabbing the ‘down’ button. When the doors opened immediately, he pressed the parking lot button repeatedly until the doors closed, his mind racing.
The first time he’d met the doc, he’d known his name. He’d dropped his wine. He’d reacted like he couldn’t believe his eyes. And for months after Derek had moved in, the doc had looked so hopeful every time Derek spoke to him, and then sad, like Derek was a disappointment for some reason.
And he chewed on things out of the corner of his mouth. His straw, the Twizzlers. He chewed them. And he liked peanut butter! He ate peanut butter cheesecakes! And he was—Jesus fucking Christ, he was a therapist! He was a doctor! For Supernaturals!
And he didn’t swear! And he played baseball and went to the gym to stay fit and healthy! And he had a wolf figurine on his fucking shelf!
Derek couldn’t believe it. He’d spent so much time avoiding the doc in the beginning that by the time he was close enough to Stiles to have realized things about the doc, he’d pushed it so far out of his mind that he’d been blind. And how could he possibly have assumed Stiles would never have moved?! How could he have known that, after fourteen years, Stiles would’ve stayed exactly where he was, living in the same apartment he’d been in as a child?!
Jesus Christ, everyone said he’d been living in the building the longest, why had Derek never thought to ask him if he knew who used to live in his apartment?! Or where the doc himself lived all those years he’d been living in Infinity One?!
He was stupid! He was so, so stupid!
Derek practically raced out of the garage, slamming through the pedestrian door so hard he felt like he might have accidentally broken it. He didn’t pay it any mind though, hurrying up the ramp and then bolting for the front door. Once he got it open, he went straight for the stairs, because the elevator would take too long.
Throwing open the stairwell door, he raced all the way to the other end of the corridor, rounding the corner and stopping in front of the doc’s door. He raised his hand, and then began knocking urgently on the door.
He had to be home. The doc had to be home, or Derek was going to lose his fucking mind!
He was still banging on the door when the lock clicked and it was pulled open quickly, the doc standing there looking concerned.
“Derek,” he said, surprised. “Is everything okay? What’s going on?”
Derek stared at him, feeling like someone had punched him in the gut. How had he never noticed? He had the same eyes. Those fucking eyes that Derek had known would be bright and intelligent and suck people in. He had the same moles along his face and neck, and fuck, the doc had told him his best friend didn’t call him by his name! He called him by a nickname! He called him—
“Hi Stiles,” he said breathlessly.
The doc looked startled for a second, and then a smile so bright took over his face it almost hurt to look at it. His eyes watered and he let out a small laugh. “Hi Derek. It’s been a while. But you came back, just like you promised.”
Derek surged forward and wrapped his arms around him, hugging him so tightly he was sure he was hurting him, but Stiles didn’t seem to mind. He hugged him back just as tightly, face buried against his shoulder. Derek was pretty sure he was crying, but he couldn’t begin to imagine how hard this must’ve been for him.
Seeing Derek again after however many years, having him not know who he was. Fuck, Derek had even been avoiding him for a few months after moving in. God, this was insane, he couldn’t fucking believe this.
He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, his scent so overwhelming he could hardly stand it. And he was mad about the medication he’d taken as a child, because it was the main reason Derek had never put it together. Everyone’s scent was different, but the Adderall had masked his natural scent and Derek hadn’t known. He hadn’t known!
“I’m sorry,” Derek said softly, still hugging him tightly. “I’m sorry it took me so long to come back.”
Stiles tightened his grip, hands clenching the material of Derek’s shirt. He said nothing, which was a first. Derek almost wanted to laugh because holy fuck, this was Stiles! This was the kid he’d been spending months with after work, and he’d grown up so much, and he looked so good, and he was successful and smart and happy and perfect! God, he’d grown up so, so perfect!
“Can we talk?” Derek asked after they’d stood there hugging for an exceptionally long time. “Can we please talk? I just—I really need to talk to you.”
“Yeah, Derek.” Stiles laughed, pulling away and wiping at his face with his sleeve. It was such a Stiles thing to do, Derek could hardly stand it. “Yeah, we can talk. Come on in. Have you eaten?”
“I’ll make something.”
Derek followed him inside and shut the door. He moved right up behind him in the kitchen, mostly because he couldn’t stand being away from him because it was Stiles and he was here, and this was crazy!
Stiles had been opening the pantry to pull something out, and he walked right into Derek when he turned around, because he was literally right on his ass.
“I remember you not liking being touched,” Stiles insisted with a small laugh, pushing one hand against Derek’s chest to get him to back up a few steps so he could reach the fridge.
“Only when I don’t know the person,” Derek replied softly.
Stiles smiled again, pulling open the fridge and rooting around in it. “I wasn’t really planning on making anything big tonight, I had a can of soup but only the one. In the spirit of things, PB&J?” he asked, pulling out some strawberry jam.
Derek actually laughed. He couldn’t help it. “Sounds perfect.”
Derek stayed close while Stiles made their sandwiches, noting that he still cut the crust off, and layered more peanut butter on his than he did on Derek’s. He handed over a plate with the sandwich on it, and then motioned the living room, the two of them going to sit. Derek took the same couch as Stiles, angling himself slightly so they were facing each other.
Stiles bit into his sandwich and smiled a little. Evidently he was more used to this than Derek was. Which made sense, considering he’d had almost nine months to get accustomed to seeing him again.
“Did you know?” Derek asked, not making any move to eat his sandwich. “Did you know I was travelling through time?”
Stiles licked peanut butter off his thumb and shook his head. “Not at first. When I saw you at the party, I thought you’d finally come back like you’d promised. But then you said you didn’t know who I was, and I thought maybe you’d forgotten me. But when you asked me at the diner about how to help that kid with a terrible babysitter, I started putting the pieces together then. It also helped that you hadn’t aged a day since I last saw you, and every time we spoke you had something new that I remembered so I clued in pretty fast.” He frowned. “How did you do it, anyway? The time travel, I mean. I thought it was one of those magic laws that no one had cracked yet.”
Derek let out a snort, finally picking up his sandwich. “Apparently no other Werewolf has been stuck in an elevator after the building got struck by lightning.”
Stiles’ eyebrows shot up. “For real? That’s how you do it? You use the elevator?”
Derek explained the logistics of his wonky time travel, about how it only worked in the one lift, and how he had to be alone for it to happen otherwise he just remained in the present. Stiles listened attentively, seeming fascinated, and Derek still couldn’t believe he hadn’t realized it was him. Now that he knew, it made him feel stupid, but he hadn’t spent a lot of time with the doc overall.
It explained why he’d felt so comfortable and natural with him their last outing, though. Because he was talking to Stiles, and Derek had always felt comfortable talking to Stiles.
When the plates were collected and put in the sink, a thought occurred to him and he frowned at Stiles. “The cheesecake,” he said, Stiles wiping his hands on a towel and looking up at him. “On my birthday. That was you.”
He nodded. “Yeah. I had fourteen years to perfect it.” He grinned. “I’m a cheesecake God now.”
Derek let out a short laugh, shaking his head. He didn’t know when he last saw Stiles in the past, seeing as how he hadn’t been thinking about when to stop his visits, but he knew he eventually stopped. If Stiles said he’d promised to come back, and he looked the same as he had the last time Stiles had seen him, then obviously he didn’t keep going there forever.
“How come you never told me?” Derek asked when Stiles came back to join him on the couch. “Why didn’t you ever say anything?”
Stiles shrugged one shoulder, bringing his knees up onto the couch and hugging them against his chest, back resting on the armrest so he was fully facing Derek.
“You asked me not to. The last time I saw you, you said you had to go away for a while, and that you’d come back. You said you would be confused, and you might not remember me, but that I had to be patient. That I had to wait for you. So I did.” He shrugged again. “When I realized you’d gone back in time all those years ago, I assumed you’d figure it out eventually. So I just waited like you asked.”
Derek could only assume that he hadn’t had this conversation with past-Stiles yet. Made sense, considering he’d probably only have it with him the last time he saw him. It was sad to realize he’d left Stiles behind him for so many years. He’d probably been lonely, waiting for Derek to come back, wondering what he’d done wrong to make him leave.
Derek couldn’t even imagine how hurt Stiles had been when he’d finally seen him again, only for Derek not to have any idea who he was. He knew he was fixing that now, and it was understandable, but still. His chest ached for him.
“I never forgot you,” Stiles said quietly, Derek’s eyes returning to his face. “Even after everything. I never forgot you. You have no idea how much you helped me.”
“Your very own Superman,” Derek teased with a half smile.
Stiles laughed, the sound so light and full of joy it was amazing to hear. “Yeah. Being a kid in high school was hard, but you made it tolerable. You helped me a lot, and you’re actually the reason I ended up in this field.” He motioned around his apartment distractedly. “Our conversations about how Supernaturals always suffered hit me really hard, and I wanted to help. And then when I was sixteen, Scott got bitten and I realized more than ever how important it was to be there for people who had no one else. His mom was great, and he had a lot of support from all sides, but not everyone is that lucky. So I got more involved in rights groups and started a club at university and then... I don’t know. I guess this was the natural progression for me. So I got my schooling done and here I am. Because of you.”
“Because of you,” Derek corrected. “You did all the heavy lifting. I just gave you an idea to focus on. And I did that because you told me to.” Derek frowned. “Is that why you told me to do that? Because the idea I gave you culminated into this?”
“Kind of?” Stiles laughed. “You know, it’s kind of funny, when you really think about it. You’re the reason I became a therapist, but you were coming to me to ask for help with me. So basically, I was helping you help me help you turn me into a therapist for Supernaturals.”
Derek let out a laugh. “Time travel is weird.”
“It’s so weird,” Stiles agreed, shaking his head. “But I’m glad it happened. I’m really glad I met you, Derek.”
“I’m really glad I met you, too,” Derek admitted. It was still weird, realizing he was speaking to an adult-version of Stiles. He was so similar, and yet so different. “I think you saved me, too. A little bit.”
“You were lonely,” Stiles said quietly.
Derek nodded, shifting on the couch so he was angled more in Stiles’ direction. “Yeah. I’m not great with people. And I guess... I guess a part of me was still thinking about a part of my life I’d missed out on. With Joel. I guess I just wanted to feel like I was making a difference in someone’s life by helping them be the best they could be.”
Stiles smiled, resting his chin on his knees. “Well, it worked. Though I still get teased for not swearing, but an old friend told me it makes you sound uneducated.”
Derek laughed, shaking his head. “Trust me, I had no idea how much I swore until I made us start that swear bowl!”
“That money was useful, it helped me buy your birthday present.”
Derek laughed harder at that, unable to believe this was actually happening. God, he was talking to Stiles. He felt so good right now, he felt like he could breathe. Because he’d been wondering for months if Stiles was okay, how he was doing, if he was successful and happy, and he was. God, he was so good right now, it was amazing for Derek to realize.
“So how did this happen?” Derek asked, motioning the apartment. “You staying here, I mean.”
Stiles shrugged, glancing around. “Dad and Scott’s mom started dating behind our backs when Scott was in high school and I was doing my Masters in university. When they finally told us, dad was gonna sell the place and move in with Melissa. She owns a house up the road. I freaked out, because—I don’t know. This was where we lived with my mom. This was where I met you. I asked him not to sell it, I told him I wanted to keep it. He ended up moving in with Melissa and renting the apartment out for a few years. When I came home from uni, I took out a mortgage once I had enough credit and I bought it from him. Worked out for me, considering my neighbour.”
“I still can’t believe any of this,” Derek admitted. “I can’t believe it’s you.”
“I can’t believe it’s you,” Stiles insisted with a laugh. “Oh man, dad’s gonna freak when he sees you!”
“What did you tell him?” Derek asked curiously. “About why I left.”
“Just what you said. That you had to go away, but you’d be back.”
“Hm. But you didn’t tell him I was back?”
Derek frowned. “You told Scott though, didn’t you? About me. About how I was the Derek from your childhood.”
He nodded, letting out a small sigh. “The night of the New Year’s party, he knew something was wrong. He wouldn’t let it go, so I went back to his place afterwards and told Kira and Scott about everything. Once I realized you were travelling through time, I told them about that, too. Most of my friends knew about the Derek from my childhood, because I never shut up about you, so everyone who’s given you weird looks is doing it because they know you’re a time traveller.”
Derek laughed, shaking his head, and opened his mouth to say something when his phone rang. He almost wanted to ignore it, but Stiles’ gaze had dropped, waiting expectantly for him to get it, so he did. He figured he’d tell whoever it was he’d call them back, because he didn’t want to waste another second with Stiles. Not now. Not when they were both adults and talking and catching up and fuck, it was Stiles!
Boyd’s name flashed on his screen and he answered the call, putting the phone to his ear.
“Hey Boyd. Sorry, can’t talk, met adult Stiles, call you back later.”
“What?!” he heard Erica’s voice screech in the background but he pulled the phone away and hung up.
Stiles just burst out laughing, shaking his head and leaning over to shove at Derek’s shoulder. “That’s just mean, you know that, right? They’re probably gonna race over here and bang on your door.”
“Why would they think I’m home if I’m with Stiles?” Derek asked, amused. “They don’t know you’re Stiles any more than I did.”
“True.” Stiles smiled.
Derek still couldn’t believe this was real. He had so much he wanted to talk about. He wanted to find out about everything in between the last time Derek had spoken to him up until right now. He wanted to know everything.
But that was okay, because they had time.
They literally had all the time in the world.
When Derek stepped off the elevator to beige walls and horrendous carpets, he turned the corner and smiled when he saw thirteen year old Stiles standing nervously in the corridor. He looked worried, but also a bit happy, because Derek was there.
“I didn’t know if you were coming today,” Stiles admitted quietly, very different from his usual energetic self. “I was worried. You left yesterday and I thought you wouldn’t come back.”
“Sorry I scared you.” Derek reached him and pulled him into a hug. “I just had to go. Something came up.”
“But it’s okay?”
“Yeah. It’s okay. Everything is perfect.” Derek pulled away and bent down a little so they were closer to eye level. He’d been thinking about this a lot since knocking on the doc’s door the day before, because he knew that he had to let Stiles grow up on his own. Find his own path. He’d nudged him in the right direction, and he’d been there for him when he needed him most, but Derek wanted to get to know the Stiles in his own time.
He wanted to meet him all over again, spend time with him, enjoy living in the present instead of clinging to the past. He wasn’t losing Stiles, anyway. Not really. He’d never see this younger Stiles again, but he got to live with the knowledge that he’d made a difference in his life, and that was the most important thing.
“Hey, can we talk?” he asked softly. “Inside?”
Stiles looked startled, but he obediently turned and opened the door, Derek following him in. They went to sit on the couch, Derek letting out a small sigh and turning to look at Stiles. He looked so worried, it was kind of heartbreaking. And Derek knew this was going to hurt him, but he would be all right. He would heal.
He knew he would, because he had proof of it.
“Stiles, I care about you a lot. You’re a really important person in my life, and the past few months with you have been really fun. I’m really glad I met you.”
“Okay,” Stiles said in a small voice.
“I have to go away for a while,” Derek said, and the panic on Stiles’ face broke his heart a little. “It’s not forever. It’ll feel like it, but I promise it’s not. I just—have some things I need to do, so I can’t come back to visit you again for a long time.”
“How long?” he asked, sounding distressed. “Where are you going? Did I do something wrong?”
“No. Stiles, this isn’t—it’s about me. It’s something I have to do. You’re amazing, and you’re going to continue to be amazing, and I promise you, I promise, you’ll see me again. It’ll be a while from now, but you’ll see me again.” He smiled a little. “Can you do something for me?”
Stiles nodded emphatically, though his eyes were watering and wow, this was much harder than Derek had thought it would be.
“The next time you see me, I’m going to be a little confused. I might not recognize you.”
“Why not?” Stiles asked.
“It’s complicated. But I need you to promise me you’ll be patient, okay? I need you to promise you’re not going to talk to me about all these months of us hanging out. I promise I’ll come back, and we’ll be friends again, but it’s going to take me a long time to remember that. It’s going to take time for me to remember that you and I are friends. Can you promise me you won’t say anything?”
Stiles looked confused, and uncertain, but he nodded, sniffing and using his shirt sleeve to wipe at his face. “Okay. I promise.”
“Thank you.” Derek smiled and held open one arm. “Come here.”
Stiles shifted over and threw his arms around Derek’s middle. Derek hugged him back tightly, able to smell the pain and misery over Stiles’ usual medication scent. He closed his eyes, holding him close.
He knew it wasn’t forever, but knowing what he did now made the hurt the doc had felt so much more potent. Seeing him again after fourteen years had probably almost killed him, and he’d likely had so many questions. Of course, some he’d discovered on his own while waiting for Derek, but others they’d spoken about last night.
And Derek wanted to spend more time with him. He wanted to learn about the Stiles in his present, the one who was still so smart, and so amazing. Kind, considerate, loyal. The Stiles who’d come over to ask him to a movie, and interrupted an uncomfortable blind date.
The Stiles who laughed with his whole body, and helped kids for free when they were having problems. The Stiles who’d grown up to be more than Derek ever could’ve imagined.
“You’re amazing, Stiles. Never forget that. No matter what anyone says, no matter what they try and make you believe, you remember that you’re amazing. And that you mean everything to me. And I promise when I see you again, I’ll remind you of it, and I’ll make sure you believe that every day when we meet again.”
“Okay,” Stiles said, voice muffled in Derek’s shirt.
“Be good to your dad, okay? He works hard because he loves you. Make sure you stay fit and healthy, don’t eat junk just because you can, and don’t swear. It makes you seem—”
“Uneducated,” Stiles finished, face still buried in his shirt.
“Yeah. Uneducated.” He sighed and held him a moment longer, then gently pulled away, forcing Stiles to let him go. He was wiping at his face with his shirt again, and Derek hated seeing him so miserable.
“You promise you’ll come back?” Stiles asked.
“I promise.” Derek was happy to know he was keeping that promise. “I’ll come back.”
Stiles nodded sadly and Derek got to his feet. Stiles followed him all the way to the door and Derek smiled at him when he opened it.
“Don’t forget me, okay?” He smiled. “I’ll never forget you.”
Stiles nodded, sniffed again, and Derek shut the door. He waited until he heard Stiles lock it, then went to the elevator for the last time. It was weird, going down and feeling the jolt, and knowing he was never going to be doing this again. Not on purpose, anyway, but he was going to work hard never to go back there.
He’d been lonely, and Stiles had been lonely, so they were a good pair. But Stiles had to learn to stand on his own two feet, and Derek didn’t want to inadvertently hold him back. And Derek was in a good place now. He had adult Stiles right next door, and he wanted to know everything about him.
Derek went out the pedestrian door in the garage, then headed up the ramp and towards the front of the building. When he reached the second floor, he walked down the corridor until he reached the doc’s door, knocking on it and waiting. He didn’t know if he had a client or not, but he hoped he didn’t since he’d hate to interrupt.
After a few seconds, the lock clicked, sounding exactly like it had moment ago, except this one was going the other way. And it felt so good to see him when the door opened that Derek couldn’t help smiling.
Stiles smiled too. “Hey Derek.”
“Hi Stiles.” He let out a slow breath. “I was wondering, are you free tonight? I’d really like to go out for dinner and catch up on the past fourteen years. My treat.”
The brilliant smile he got in return made his heart melt, because this was definitely someone he was going to keep in his life as long as he could have him. And in any way he could have him.
“I’d love that.”
“Great. Six work?”
“Six is awesome.”
Derek nodded, said he’d come knock on his door then, and went home. When he shut his apartment door, he looked around at everything, feeling happy and glad everyone had made him move out of his parents’ house.
He had no idea where life was leading him next, but he did know that he and his neighbour were going to have an interesting few weeks of getting to know one another again.
Derek couldn’t wait.
He didn’t want to miss even one second with Stiles, regardless of how old he was.
Because what Derek had told him was true. He cared a lot about Stiles. More than he did a lot of other people.
He was thrilled to have him in his life, and he was never letting him go.