Derek Hale at sixteen was generally happy. He got saddled with his little cousins, sure, but all in all, he was happy.

He was good at swimming-really, he could be good at every sport, but something about the water soothed him, gave him a calm nothing else did.

It was just after a trip to the pool that he saw Kate Argent for the first time. Stiles could tell because Derek always looked happy; like he was just faintly glowing, even all the years later, after all the hell that had been Derek's life had gone down. Stiles smiled, almost breathless as Derek walked towards him, black hair awfully fluffy, just slightly wavy and shining, still damp. Derek probably had panties being thrown at him, really. Stiles himself felt an aborted wave of want. But that wasn't what he'd just time travelled for. "Hey, excuse me." Stiles stepped forward, completely at ease and totally casual. Derek startled slightly-a knee-jerk reaction to a teacher calling out on a student, even when they hadn't even gotten to the classroom yet. "Could you show me to World History, room-"

"Oh, 405? Yeah, actually...that's where I'm headed." Derek straightened, and it knocked Stiles through a loop that Derek was actually a little shorter than him yet. But Kate Argent was coming towards them, and Stiles had a job to do.

"So, you enjoy history?" Derek wrinkled his nose a little, and Stiles bobbed his head once, "Well, with any luck, the subject matter will be better with a fresh pair of eyes." Kate passed, still watching Derek, and Derek was too busy guiding him into the school to notice.

"Mr. Munroe is a little...dry." Derek offered.

"Mmm, well: I am juicy and tender, no marination necessary." Stiles quipped, and Derek turned his head to look at him again while Kate tried a second pass and was ignored.

"You're really a teacher?"

Stiles grinned, he did actually get that question a lot, though Lydia claimed he'd grown into himself. "Yeah. Don't worry, though, I get it a lot. Mr. Stiles Stilinski; pleasure to meet you." ...And he probably should have just lied, there, but he barely managed to contain his wince after it came out of his mouth. He'd have to be more careful from then on.

"Oh, um...Derek Hale. Is your name really Stiles Stilinski?"

"Pretty much." Stiles pulled a grin, struggling slightly with his bag before Derek took it from him, letting him unlock the door to the classroom and carrying it inside. "Feel like being the Igor to my Frankenstein?"

"You're pale enough to pass as Dracula, but I have too much self-respect to be Renfield." Derek quipped, and Stiles snorted into laughter.

"Well, I'm more of a werewolf person myself. But there aren't a whole lot of pop culture werewolves other than Jack Nicolson."

"Ew. That movie was horrible." Derek made a face, and Stiles laughed, but he could see the sneaking suspicion in Derek's eyes, and knew he needed to draw away from letting Derek know anything at all was weird about the new history teacher.

So, true to form, he let himself be a weird as he possibly could. "Well, whaddaya say? Feel up to being my minion? I could be persuaded to award extra credit if you do well enough."

Derek's face lit up slightly, and Stiles fist-pumped inwardly, because bribery works, don't let anyone tell you otherwise, "Uh...sure."

"I'll only be subbing for about a month, and since that month is October, we are going to work on some myths, legends, and origins of superstitions."

"That...that sounds really cool. Mr. Munroe was just having us read out of the text…"

"Where'd you stop off at?" Stiles starts lifting things out of his box of tricks, and Derek leans against a desk, a picture of athleticism and good genes. Puberty was good to Derek-of-fucking-course it was.

"Um, we were talking about the early years of America…" Derek caught up Stiles's favourite coffee mug; something Erica made him for Christmas one year. The image of a wolfsbane flower hovered above a triskele that had come to symbolize their pack. Mostly, she'd made it in celebration of kicking Alpha Pack ass, but Stiles knew the wolfsbane was more because he'd ended up being so very, very pivotal as a human with the pack. Derek traced the image of the triskele, and Stiles had a hard moment of wondering if Derek has that image on his back already. Derek looked up and his eyes remained clear of suspicion, but grew warm and really rather...fond.

"Munroe was aware this was world history, right?" Stiles groaned acerbically, and Derek flashed a small smile, ducking his head and letting his body move just slightly, and it might've been silent, but Stiles was pretty sure he'd just made Derek Hale laugh. "'S okay, though, I guess. We can talk about the myths from where the settlers came from and how they affected the way they worked here."

Derek nodded, seriousness falling back into place on his features, "What about the myths and legends here?"

"Oh hell yes! And I think a good horror story about Beacon Hills would be good for Halloween itself." Maybe the tale of Jillian Cryer, an accused witch who haunts town hall every fifty years, looking for her lover. Stiles himself had seen her kill two aids and a electorate candidate after the mayor had been thrown through the front windows of the hall so violently he was practically shredded.

He'd also been the one to put her down.

But, better yet would be the wards their ancestors had carved into the forest, keeping more evil at bay than anything they'd ever come up against. But that would only really work if he could figure out a way to tell the story of what happened when the wards were broken, because that was why he was here.

Derek and he fell into a comfortable silence he'd learned to live with in his own time, learning the difference between Derek's comfortable lack of a thing to say and his dark, brooding silences that were best broken. Derek looked up at him after a while, and Stiles grinned in reflex, Derek's grin in return kind of astonishing, and he could feel a wicked edge come out in his own smile. "You trying to give all of us nightmares on Halloween?"

"Oh, I trust you'd be able to protect any cheerleaders that happen to fall in your lap." Stiles hummed sarcastically, the corner of his mouth ticking upwards. Derek actually kind of scowled a little, and Stiles took notice, pulling himself out of the text Derek handed him that Munroe had apparently been using to mislead the masses. Stiles gazed up at Derek over the top of his black-rimmed reading glasses, a question on his face, but Derek was withdrawing from him, backing away slightly. "You'll have to be my trial audience for stories, see which one is weird and scary enough." Stiles tells him, leaning forward on his desk and setting the book down, giving Derek his complete attention in a way that implied he was bored with the book and he'd rather talk to Derek. It was really very true. "Goblins give you the heebie-jeebies?"

Derek's brow wrinkled for a moment, and Stiles had a flash of the look Derek had shot him years ago when he was in senior year of high school himself and there were actually goblins in a rockier area of the forest, stealing gold and killing anyone that got in their way. It's kind of a happy memory now. "Goblins are ridiculous."

Stiles snorted, remembering Derek getting between him and the hunched, decayed creature and the look of those nasty, infected teeth marks that left a scar for almost a week. They had not been quite so ridiculous then, but, yes, they were fairly ridiculous, "Mmm, ghouls? Sprites? Imps? Will o' the Wisps?" Derek pulled a very confused face, and Stiles sighed, "Will o' the Wisps were deranged spirits of those that were killed alone and bloody in forested areas. They would appear as the distant lights of the city to travellers, trying to lure them into the forest to be lost and perish." Derek's eyes widened slightly, intent and engaged, "In some of the Irish lore they appeared as jets of flame that would rend a traveller to ash once far enough from the path."

"That...that sounds fairly badass, actually. Why the hell did they name it that?"

Stiles laughed and Derek grinned, proud. It was such an uncommon look on Derek's face that Stiles felt he'd stepped into another world entirely-which, yeah, he sort of had. "I met an Irish folktale expert once. Don't ever ask that question." Stiles winked so quickly that it could've been a twitch, but colour flooded up in Derek's cheeks, his grin going down shyly to the floor. Stiles couldn't stop the grin that flashed over his mouth at the sight, catching Derek's eye again, "How about djinn? Demons who'd grant wishes that would ensnare the wisher...give them their greatest desire...and then twist it to take it away in such a horrible way it would kill the person who'd made the wish. Scary enough?"

"More heartbreaking than scary, I think."

Stiles agreed, "You've never seen one." Stiles snorted, the image of those creeping shadows moving around Derek's dead body making him want very dearly to hug Derek, just to make sure he was alive. "The djinn live by strict rules, though. They give the deepest desire, but if they find that that desire has already been fulfilled, killing their prey is against their laws. Tearing lovers apart, especially, is what the djinn abhor."


Stiles swallowed, his throat clicking, "The first of their kind was a man so obsessed with his lost love that he fell into a dreamlike state, living forever with the knowledge both that he'd lost her and that he could have her again with but a wish, for a time."

"What would they do if their law was broken?"

"They'd give the other lover a chance; one wish, without any strings attached. One wish that would change what happened. They would be given a time limit to change the fate of their love, and if they failed...if they failed, they would become a djinn as well."

"Why would a djinn…" Class was starting, students filtering in, and Derek's mouth closed with a frown that etched into his features.

Derek Hale at sixteen only ever smiled or laughed outside of the Hale house in Mr. Stilinski's History class.

While it gave Stiles a special thrill because, yeah, he was that awesome, at least sixteen-year-old Derek could see that, it also made him almost panicked.

Derek already felt like he was missing an important piece; and if Stiles couldn't make enough of a difference, those wards would come down, djinn would be set free, and Stiles's only hope would be to make Derek feel less bereft; to make him feel more like he belongs in his skin; like it was okay to be free, that he could be both the wolf and the boy.

Stiles bought them subs and sat cross-legged with Derek on the desks as they talked about the fears and trials and tribulations of the time periods they've discussed in class. Stiles started to tell stories, and Derek listened like they held the secrets to life. Stiles knew that Derek...Derek had imprinted on him in one way or another, and while he'd accepted they were mates about the same time Derek wheezed the confession out on his last breath, Stiles found himself better understanding why Derek never said anything sooner-to an extent, anyway. Stiles had Derek die in his arms at twenty-two, he wasn't the blushing virgin he'd been at sixteen, and Derek should have made a goddamn move.

But the more Stiles spent time with Derek; as a teacher and as a friend, the more Stiles felt like Derek was just as adrift was he was, or Scott; needing desperately more love than his family could give him, and that'd be how Kate would've found him if Stiles hadn't been filling that empty space with stories and laughter. Stiles found her leaning over Derek one morning as he headed into the school, her thumb on Derek's lower lip and Derek's eyes like flint because he didn't want her there, scowling hard and looking ready to growl if she didn't back off. Stiles cleared his throat, "Ms. Argent, I do believe that's a bad-touch." Kate's psychotic, predatorial eyes flashed, "Derek, good morning! You ready for the quiz?" Derek jerked his head slightly, relief in his eyes as Stiles pulled out his key to the classroom, "Well, I'm shocked you actually peeled yourself out of bed early to come help me, so you have that extra credit. Let's get working: supplies are in the back of my car." Stiles threw a small smirk at Kate as Derek moved immediately, leaping up and grabbing the box out from Stiles's arm, slipping through the door as Stiles held it open for him, giving Kate a little finger wave before slamming the door in her face and following, looping his messenger bag back over his head and dropping it to the little hidey-hole he'd designated for it under his desk. "Derek, does Ms. Argent...look, it's not a problem unless you say it is, I get that you can make your own decisions, but you looked you didn't want her touching you, and if that's the case, I want you to be comfortable and she's making that difficult."

Derek ducked his head looking down, "She keeps...she keeps asking me why I don't smile more. And she'll touch me when she does it, lean in close. It does make me uncomfortable, but-"

Stiles reached over, nudging his arm, "There is no 'but' here. She's making your life difficult, I will make her life impossible, Derek. You deserve to feel like you can be safe here. Well...other than the smell in the boy's locker rooms. There really isn't any safety from that. At all."

Derek snorted slightly, the tension on his features breaking as the warm light that was usually in his eyes when he was with Stiles took over again, "It would crack through a gas mask some days, wouldn't it?"

Stiles gave an exaggerated full-body shudder, sticking his tongue out, and Derek laughed. "Dead people smell better than that damn locker room, Hale." Stiles snorted, twirling his keys over his finger as they walked back to his car. Stiles retrieved the two cups of coffee he had waiting in the passenger's seat along with the box of doughnuts, "You're my slave, but I'm not inhumane." Stiles joked, grinning at the look of almost joy on Derek's face. "You got out of bed early to come help me. For a teenager, that's worth a sainthood."

Derek flashed a grin at him, taking two boxes that Stiles knew were too heavy to take like that for a human as if they weighed nothing. "I'll settle for a crueller." Stiles beamed; Derek's doughnut order hadn't changed.


There were times when Stiles had to actually remind himself that Derek wasn't the Derek he knew; but the outline of who Derek was was already gloriously there, only intensified in weird ways. Derek's sense of humour was out there and sometimes non-existent, but it was there for Stiles in a way Stiles had only ever assumed was saved until Derek had been left alone, letting the kid laugh until he nearly fell off of his desk some days. Stiles saw he love he had for his family every time he'd complain about being saddled with watching his little sister, a light shining in his eyes that Stiles had never gotten to see before; an easy, earnest way about him that made something in Stiles's chest catch. Stiles kind of just wanted to hug Derek and not let go.

"So, since you so neatly dodged the question yesterday with a Chem test...which, yeah, I now happen to know you're not in Chem, you giant cheater; what do you want to be when you start growing facial hair?"

Derek frowned at him, elbowing lightly, "I can grow facial hair now. I shave!" Stiles laughed at him as he passed back into the classroom.

"Not my point. Beans. Spill 'em."

Derek looked down at the box of arts and crafts supplies, his brow furrowed, "I...I kind of want to be a fireman? But I'm not sure…"

Stiles almost choked coffee through his nose, "A-A fireman?" Derek frowned deeper, and Stiles took a deep breath, turning and fixing Derek with a stare that stopped even the Alpha some days, "Derek, I had a f-friend...whose entire family went up in a fire." Stiles's throat was dry, maybe he scalded it with the wasn't that hot… "His whole life, Derek, just burned away, and it broke him. So much that I don't think he would've survived most days if he hadn't been needed by the other people in his life." Stiles let Derek take his coffee cup from him, felt Derek's tension amp up as he took Stiles's arms and looked into his eyes.

"What happened to him?"

"He died." Stiles muttered through numb lips, the image of Derek's face as he'd died in Stiles's arms superimposing itself over Derek's young, innocent features now. A tear might've run down his cheek, but it didn't matter, because Derek pulled him in, wrapping his arms around him and hugging in earnest.

"Is he why you moved here from New York?" And the resurfacing of that little lie almost shocked Stiles into laughing.

"Yeah...yeah, he is." Stiles cleared his throat, getting himself together enough to pat Derek on the back. Derek didn't let go once he had, though; he just kept hugging, and Stiles had to melt into it, he was kind of helpless not to, "Bastard broke my heart.

"Did he know that?" Derek asked, slowly disengaging.

"No...not as much as he should've." Stiles admitted, and Derek's intense, unknowably-coloured eyes were focussed solely on him, on his face and his grief. It was a lot of attention to have on you, Stiles knew; werewolves were intense creatures and there was so much that they could focus on at once that Scott's Scott-ness still gave Stiles pause.

"I'm sorry." Derek murmured, "He shouldn't have left you...if he knew it'd hurt you even a little, he shouldn't have gone."

Stiles hiccoughs, bursting into teary laughter, "Yeah, well, I don't think he would've valued me that much. This isn't exactly a great deal." Stiles snipped at himself, waggling his eyebrows. Derek looked positively stormy at that, and Stiles bit down on a wince. "He didn't know it, but he...he was gorgeous, and it just got better once you knew him; once you loved him. He was an idiot, but only in the best ways."

Derek frowned still, looking like it was his "friend" who'd died. Stiles huffed, pulling him into another hug quickly.

"My point is...There's a lot of good you can do. But you'll never know who you're leaving behind when you run into a burning building, Derek; you're not the only person who'll get burned." It was an utterly breathless moment, a lot like the calm before the first kiss, and Stiles had to force himself to look away, clapping his hands together and grinning over the doughnut box, "A crueller, you say?"

Derek quietly took the doughnut from his fingers, eyes still deep and intense and completely focussed on Stiles. "I see your point, but I don't think I'd ever throw my life away like that. I love my family, and I know I'd be lost without them, but an anchor like you would keep me from letting it get too dark. You're a really, really good friend. And he should've thought of that." There was love shining in Derek's eyes, and Stiles knew that a sixteen year old could actually love and know what it was; his best friend had mated for life with his high school sweetheart and he'd been carrying a blazing, often-scalding hot torch for Derek since he'd walked into his bedroom to find the surly bastard's fugitive ass seeking refuge in the house of the sheriff that was hunting him. Which, looking back, might've been a clue concerning that whole mates thing Derek had kept under his hat.

Stiles nodded, ducking his head, "Then maybe I wasn't as good a friend as I should've been. Probably falls in with him not knowing just how hurt I'd be."

Derek got the sour look on his face that Stiles had already learned meant that Derek didn't have anything to argue that with, even though he really wanted to argue about it.

The rest of the morning before the bell went with much glue, glitter, and cursing, Derek snorting into helpless laughter when Stiles smeared green paint on the end of his nose accidentally, "You look like a leprechaun!"

"Have some respect for the Little Folk!" Stiles admonished in an honest-to-god imitation of a leprechaun's Irish brogue. That had been a fun March Break for him: he'd gotten to go to Ireland (not by choice), get Gullivered in a cave (also not by choice), and saved by an Irish version of Derek Hale with bright, Irish-blue eyes and a smile that would've melted Stiles's very knees (panties) if he hadn't been so concerned with getting home to his dad. "They bite, don'cha know?"

Derek snorted, rolling his eyes, and Stiles grinned in response, taken completely by surprise when Derek reached out and wiped away the paint. "What do they reach? My calves?"

"Mmm, gotta worry more about the backs of your knees. Lot of veins, and them cuddlies are kind of made for the rending of flesh." Derek made a pinched, disbelieving face, "Oh, yeah. The Italians are not the only ones who like rabbit on Easter." Derek actually managed to look horrified, and Stiles had a silent chuckle to himself over Scott and his little werewolf oven.

"Poor Thumper." Derek muttered, getting a laugh out of Stiles before he went serious again, "You talk, all this is real…"

Stiles shrugged, "I think there was a good chance it was; maybe some of it still is. I'm of the firm belief that we know nothing: our eyes are closed and our ears sealed shut; we're sheltered because of the stories we tell, left in almost-peace because there's a kernel of knowledge that will get us through in every myth and legend we hear. Rumplestiltskin and his name; what made him able to turn straw into gold? Were there actually rainbows involved?" Stiles shrugged, leaning back against his desk and surveying their handiwork at turning his classroom into a spooky forest. "We used to teach through stories like those; why just have a moral to a tale? What's the point of that? Elders then were just as capable of 'don't touch the fire, it'll burn you' as parents now are capable of 'don't touch the stove'. What makes these stories special to have lasted so long? What makes us fear them still if we weren't ingrained to fear them, to fear what could be, instead of what we insist is the only; the real?" Derek was watching him with unfathomable eyes, and Stiles sighed, bone-tired and almost desperate for things to be put to rights. He missed his own Derek; missed Scott and Allison jumping apart guiltily when he caught them making out; missed Jackson and Lydia going at each other like pissed off cats for no other reason than that they loved each other; missed the way Erica would kiss his temple and hip check him just a little when he made the pack dinner on movie nights. He ached to see Danny absently petting Isaac's very fluffy and pettable hair while he read through old folklore, and he really missed the bets he'd place with Boyd over what was real and what wasn't. They were a family, even if he hadn't quite fit; hadn't quite known where he'd belonged.

He missed Derek looking at him with unreadable eyes for just the moment after he laughed or sighed or bit down on his fear and his sorrow and found the push to keep going. Really, there were a lot of signs he'd missed; and he wanted them all back, wanted to live through it all over and know and drag Derek into loving him and being loved by him by his ridiculous eyebrows if he had to.

"Happy Halloween, Derek." Stiles murmured as Derek walked out of the room to the sound of the first bell. It was time for Stiles to go home and just pray he'd done enough.

Last period of the day that day, Derek's World History class filtered in, Stiles just having finished taking Kate Argent to the cleaners in every way he possibly could.

Stiles knew that he was throwing off strange vibes, knew that he was angry and intense and sad and scared, and that that had to be getting Derek's back up, but he couldn't quite bring himself to care.

The class took their seats, casting confused glances to each other as they sat around Stiles's semi-circle, Stiles folding himself down into a cross-legged seat in front of a tissue paper fire, his face gaunt and pale and the circles under his eyes making him look sickly.

Derek vibrated in his seat, his eyes so intent on Stiles he could almost feel their gaze, and then Stiles took a deep breath, and began to talk, "Today is the last that we have together, and, since it's All Hallows' Eve, a legend a little closer to home seems necessary.

"Many, many ages ago; when the earth ran wild over these lands, there was an evil that had travelled here, on the wish of a family's solace from Death. With a desperation that had brought them to this New World, safely away from the poisonous ravages of sickness and war, a family was slowly consumed by the very beings that had granted their wish to be free of their plight, faced with lonesomeness, starvation, and an unshakable sense of loss. These creatures who had granted them their deaths were named djinn, horrid and deformed souls whose hatred of the fleeting nature of happiness had granted them the power to bestow upon a person their greatest wish, and twist it in horrific ways until the wisher would die of heartbreak at the awfulness he'd brought upon him."

Images of Derek's eyes, huge as dinner plates and horrified as he'd reached for Stiles, flashed through Stiles's head. A life for a life, the djinn had said: they hadn't realized that in granting Derek's wish of a sister returned to him, they were taking his mate. And what shocked Stiles still was that Derek had been damaged enough by that; had been so bereft, that he'd let himself be taken by them would forever make Stiles think not good enough and shouldn't have even noticed I was gone. Derek had begged them to bring him back; to do whatever was necessary. He'd put himself out there, vulnerable and pleading, and he'd died only just confessing something that had torn him from yet another member of the Hale family, brought back to him. He'd died with Stiles's name on his lips-and, god, it wasn't even Stiles's real name, and Stiles honestly couldn't tell if that hurt more or less, because as much as he'd always hated that name, always would, he wondered in a hopeless kind of way if hearing Derek call him by his real name wouldn't have made it more powerful in Stiles; wouldn't have just given him the strength to pull him back into the broken shell of a body his sourwolf was vacating.

"It's said that the djinn began with a single man, in tune with the powers of the universe, and grounded by his true love; his soulmate." Stiles had spoken with the First himself, had learned this very story from the mouth of the original djinn, "But a tragedy befell her, an accident that took her life, and, with all his great power, he could only bring her back for a short time; could only keep her alive until Death came to claim her back, insistent he owned her soul. In agony beyond knowledge or reason or compassion, the first djinn became exactly the demons that were brought to our lands, twisting happiness for all its fleeting glory until all that's left is the charred remains of all the promise and hope that had been held in the wisher's heart," three of the girls were breathless, tears in their eyes. One other was scribbling down something, as she always did, but Stiles knew the signs well enough to know that it wasn't taking notes, no matter how attentive she seemed. But Derek...Derek was staring at him with the unreadable eyes, and it felt like an undertow to meet his gaze, "but the djinn lived by rules, as with all things: rules that governed the power they could so easily abuse to tear the world to cinders and steal all joy away. Their victims were only those with a broken heart; those with the sweetest hope that was the easiest to break. And their victims could not be mated, destined, to find their true love; for, if that rule was broken, and they took a victim before their time, they would be forced to grant the heart's remaining half one single wish, to travel to any moment in time and right things, to change things, and bring them the happiness they needed to survive. They would grant this one wish with no boundaries and no limits but a fixed mark of time-sometimes a mere moment, a day...a month, but a window in which to save their love before they could be torn away.

"When was of the lover's choosing, and as what; but were they to fail, they would become the very demon that had ripped their love away." Stiles didn't want to become a djinn, he would've turned down the offer of the deal if he'd had any other hope. But Derek was dead in his arms, he wouldn't be returning to him, and there was no way Stiles would be able to breathe again without a way to do it. So he did it. "But the djinn could not remain unchecked, could not be allowed to tear this land asunder beneath turmoil and despair as they picked through settlers, one by one. From an ancient, roaming tribe came a powerful ward to keep the djinn and all other cursed spirits like them at bay. Into the very trees, the elders of the town poured their strength, their belief, into, until the circle was complete, and there was not a single djinn unbound by their magics." The First had wanted to be bound up again, taking no joy in the anguish and hatred in the world, "If you listen closely, though, just at the moment the candle flickers out under a wish or a sigh carries away on the wind; there you can hear the djinn, hearing your wants, and laughing."

A shudder ran through more of the students than would actually admit to even paying attention, but Derek had become unreadable, body tense and eyes hard in the half-light of their ceiling cover arrangement. Stiles let out a quiet, ominous 'dismissed' just as the bell went, and the class looked spooked enough that he felt he might've gotten the point across about keeping that forest intact. "That was a good story."

Stiles wasn't even remotely surprised Derek hadn't moved yet when the rest of the class was gone, "Derek, I really wish I could stay-" he cut off, because Derek was by his side in a heartbeat, pinning him back against his desk with his mere presence, "I can't."

"Why?" Derek demanded.

"I think you already have an inkling as to the answer to that question." Stiles replied primly, licking his lips and crossing his arms over his chest, "Derek, I want to stay, I want to get a call from the sheriff's office at three in the morning because you've had a call out, and I need to worry sick; I want to stick around-"

"Would you, though?"

Stiles didn't even really hesitate, "Yes. And I'd be working my ass off on protection charms and hex bags and driving myself insane. I'd be bringing you pancakes when you're covered in soot and I'd trace the phrase "wash me" into the worst of it with my fingertip. You know this; we both know you can smell it on me, for Christ's sakes!" Derek's eyes widened, and flash gold, and Stiles just huffed, rolling his eyes. "Yeah. I know that already, too." Derek nodded slowly, his eyes flicking down to Stiles's mouth then back up to meet his.

"I thought as smell like Alpha; like you're connected, you share the burden."

"The pack really isn't so much of a burden as falling in love with you was!" Stiles flailed slightly, almost hitting Derek in the chest.

"I was the one...who died. Who made you sad." Derek surmised, his arms reaching out to pin Stiles to the desk by holding onto it on either side, "You came back here from sometime in the future...just to save my life…"

"And when I get back there tonight, your stupid, wolfy ass better remember this, better remember that I already fucking loved you, even before finding out I was your soulmate."

"Why wouldn't I?" Derek breathed, and Stiles ccould feel it against his skin, making him shiver.

"Because you're older than me by seven years and very, very reticent when we first met. You kept slamming me into walls and threatening to rip my throat out with your teeth." Derek made a displeased sound, his head bending around to scent delicately at Stiles's neck.

"When you go back tonight, tell him that he's a fucking idiot for everything but mating you." Derek muttered, slowly pulling away with near-black eyes his pupils have gone so huge, "I don't know why you chose this time to come back to, but I promise you; you'll find me alive when you go back."

Stiles grabbed both of Derek's hands, looking him dead in the eye, "Be safe. I'd never tell you to be careful, 'cause there's no fun in that, but you can be safe and still be free." Derek pulled him in for a hug with a flick of his wrists.

"I'll see you in a few years."

Stiles smiled around panic and fear and need, only just keeping himself from pulling Derek back when he pecked Stiles on the cheek-kissing his tears away.

The Hale house fire was happening as Derek and Stiles were saying their goodbyes.

Laura and Derek still left town, though Derek wasn't as angry or guilt-ridden as he had been.

They'd gone to New York and Derek had searched for him over the years.

Peter killed Laura; bit Scott; and Derek had to put down his only remaining family member. That was all the same.

What is different, though, is Stiles waking up to the smell of fire, a single, hot, calloused finger running down his bare spine, coaxing him awake. "You have two hours before classes, I am covered in soot, and I've been promised pancakes, I don't care how much you argue that doesn't count or that I made it up." Derek had asked him out after Stiles had turned seventeen, had pretty much replaced Scott on Stiles's list of people to trust if you need to, and Stiles had had such a torch for him, even then, that he was helpless to stop himself from falling hard and fast and completely. He was meant to be with Derek; Derek was meant to be with him. They fit.

"Fuck, you're a morning person, aren't you? Why do I love you? Mornings...nnnnurrgh." Derek had been hurt and damaged and afraid of loving anything, but he'd trusted Stiles, and Stiles had been there, hadn't let go. Stiles had won: had earned his happiness.

"Stiles, there needs to be pancakes and morning sex because you got through all that grading and I saved a bridge game of little old ladies that tried to cop a feel, and I did it without killing them for trying to touch me when I'm yours." Derek caresses over Stiles's now-bare ass and then sighs, and Stiles knows what's coming next, won't fight it at all, and is actually more than ready to attempt to hickey Derek for longer than the three minutes and twenty-eight seconds they've managed to stretch it out to after being together for years. Derek yanks the blankets off him completely, and neatly catches his careening mass of flailing limbs in almost the same movement.

The forest is intact.

Derek's smile is white even though between the beard and the soot he's rather blackened around the edges.

Derek can wrap his arms around Stiles and carry him into the shower laughing at him for the ridiculous, nude tackle-lunge.

And Stiles can feel his heartbeat, can lounge in his warmth, and is more than half-tempted, presented with a sweaty and sooty and tender Derek, to call in sick from work and absolutely bliss himself out on just how lasting his happiness can be.

A/N: Alright, as for the firefighter thing, and how Derek could stand to become one after what happened: it comes down to Stiles. To remembering the way he looked and how he smelled of pain remembering a loss that wasn't his to flames he never even felt. If he can save anyone from looking so lost and broken, he will.

Other than that, as always, no beta, so all mistakes are mine, and I hope you've enjoyed *hearts*