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In Your Shoes

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When Stiles wakes up that morning, he isn’t in his own room. It takes him a while to realize it, but before he’s opened his eyes he knows something isn’t right. It’s too quiet for one thing, he can’t hear his dad puttering around getting ready for work, or the noise of Mrs. Gutiérrez loading her three screaming kids in the car. Instead there’s a preternatural stillness. The sheets smell different too and the mattress is harder than he’s used to, not the soft, slightly sunken-in-the-middle familiarity of his own bed. Stiles opens his eyes. Blinks.

He’s in Derek’s loft.

He’s in Derek’s bed.

Shit.

He sits up in bed blearily trying to focus, blinking as he looks about himself, brain still working it’s way online. Because this is— weird. Derek's sheets are navy and dark gray, because of course they are. There’s a chrome lamp on the bedside table, a glass of water, and a book with a garish cover that provides the only spot of bright color in the room.

Genuinely, he has no idea how he got here, not one clue, the last thing he remembers he was in his own room revising calculus for his midterm tomorrow, and freaking out because, well—- Math, man. Lydia Martin he ain’t.

He’s pretty sure he stumbled into his own bed at 2AM, praying to any god that cared to listen that his math midterm would be suddenly and inexplicably cancelled. Which doesn’t explain how he ended up here in Derek freakin’ Hale’s bed. There’s no sign of the resident sourwolf. No hint of anyone at all actually—

Stiles scrubs a hand over his face and stills, eyes going wide.

“What the hell?” Stiles jolts as he hears his voice. Clutches at his throat. That isn’t the way he’s supposed to sound, but then— oh god. He stares down at hands that are definitely, definitely not his own, the palms are broader, the fingers shorter but thicker. With a yelp he scrambles out of the bed, still tangled in the sheets, falls to the floor with a thud, picks himself up and races to the bathroom, where he knows there’s a mirror. “Shit.”

Derek Hale stares back at him.

“Shit!” Stiles hisses clutching wildly at Derek’s face. “Motherfucker. What the fucking fuck is going on?”

He hesitates eyes catching on the way Derek’s mouth forms the word fuck. The way it sounds. Mama Hale must have been strict about language because in two years they’ve known each other, he’s never heard Derek swear. “Fuck,” he says again experimentally, peering at himself under the harsh light of the bathroom. Then just because he can— “Shitballs. Dickface. Spunkbagel. I’m the sourwolf.” He poses a little hands on his hips, gives it the ol’ Blue Steel. “I AM the sourwolf alpha,” he intones, as dramatically possible. “Lick my balls.” He grins at himself. Derek’s face smiles back at him and Stiles flinches back a little.

God. Smiling Derek. That’s— a little too weird, even for him. And he shouldn’t get distracted. If he’s in Derek’s body then that probably means that Derek is—

A cell phone starts to ring. Stiles winces. It sounds shrill, and soooo loud. In the quiet and stillness of Derek’s apartment it almost hurts his ears. Werewolf senses,  Stiles thinks to himself, shit.

He hurries out of the bathroom and locates Derek’s cell quick enough, swipes to answer the call.

“Hello?” he says.

“Stiles?” His own voice answers, but he knows immediately who it must be.

“Derek?”

“What did you do?” Stiles almost drops the phone at the injustice of the assumption.

“Me,” he squawks, gesturing imploringly at an imaginary audience. “Why is this my fault?”

“Well it isn’t mine,” Derek grits out.

“Hey, don’t grind my teeth, man,” Stiles says immediately. “It isn’t good for them.”

“I’m not grind--ugh—” Derek sighs. “Fix this.”

“I’m pretty sure I would have to know what happened in order to do that,” Stiles points out. “And I don’t.”

“Well I don’t either,” Derek points out. “And your dad just came in to ‘remind’ me that he’s giving you a lift to school this morning because your Jeep is still in the garage.”

“You need to get my body there on time, dude. I have a math midterm today. I can’t miss it.”

“Stiles—”

“You didn’t try and explain things to him?”

“What try and explain that his teenage son just swapped bodies with the guy he once arrested on suspicion of murder?”

“Hey dude, you were exonerated.”

“Not the point! How are you not freaking out more about this?” Derek groans.

“I don’t know. Last night I was just worried about my math midterm. Now I don’t have to take it. I think Zeus answered my prayers, dude. Or maybe Thor. It’s a toss up. Anyway, it’s kind of a load off, not gonna lie.”

“Stiles!”

“You go to school, Der-Bear. I’ll look into this and have us swapped back lickety split.”

“Der-Bear?” Derek growls. “Lickety split?”

“I like listening to your voice say stuff it wouldn’t normally say. It amuses me.” He can hear Derek grinding his teeth again. “Dude, seriously, my teeth.”

“I am going to rip your teeth out and jam them up your—”

“Catch you later, bud,” Stiles says cheerfully, and ends the call.

Then after a moment’s thought, he texts Derek:

Send me a list of every place you went yesterday

I told you. This isn’t on me

Maybe but we need to cover all our bases

You won’t find anything

You want this fixed??? send me the goddamn list

Derek doesn’t reply immediately, and after about ten minutes Stiles texts again:

Derek. I’m the alpha now. Send me the list!!!!!!!!!

Five minutes later Derek texts back:

I was eating breakfast with your dad jackass

But he sends the goddamn list.

Stiles spends fifteen minutes trying, and failing, to master his beta shift in the bathroom mirror. Then gives it up as a lost cause and gets to work.

 

-

 

The thing is, whatever Derek believes, Stiles is sure it can’t be him. He’s basically been cramming for his midterms for the past two weeks, to the exclusion of any supernatural shenanigans.

So it has to be Derek. Somewhere. Somehow. Derek is responsible. Stiles knows it. Knows it like he knows he’s about to fail his math midterm, because there’s no way Derek is gonna remember calculus. But Stiles can’t do anything about that so he’s gonna choose to ignore that particular problem for now.

The list Derek texts is impressively inane. Grocery store on Pine. Ran the long trail in the preserve. Book store on Main. Ate dinner. Read. Went to bed. That’s it. Which is, well— kind of tragic really. Derek really needs to get some friends of his own age and go bowling or drink craft beer or whatever it is people do when they’re not in high school, geeze, basically anything that doesn’t involve skulking around this construction site chic loft stressing about the supernatural. Stiles should try and find Derek a friend. Deputy Parrish is kinda cool and sorta Derek’s age Stiles thinks as he scours Derek’s kitchen cupboards looking for something, anything  vaguely breakfast worthy.

“You went to the grocery store yesterday?” Stiles mutters in disbelief. “Jesus, what do you eat, dude? Does your man pain sustain you? Or are you sneaking out at night to kill Bambi?”

The refrigerator has nothing but TV dinners in it, but eventually after a lot of searching, Stiles finds some stale pop tarts at the back of a cupboard and toasts them, they taste— horrible, far worse than he remembers, sickly sweet and full of chemicals and he only manages to eat a few bites before giving up. “Definitely prefer being human,” he mutters, gulping down some water and trying to wash the horrible chemical taste out of his mouth.

Breakfast finished with, he digs through Derek’s limited closet and finds something suitably somber to wear.

“Derek Hale, why is every pair of jeans you own so tight? Do you hate your own balls? Is that what this is?” he groans, squeezing himself into the loosest pair of jeans he can find. Then he discovers he has no idea where Derek keeps his keys. So he texts:

Where are car keys?

Derek doesn’t reply. Looking at the clock though, Stiles figures he’s probably driving to school, in fact he’s probably making awkward conversation with Stiles’ dad in the cruiser right now. Ah well. After turning the apartment upside down Stiles finds the keys shoved down the side of a couch.

With that he heads off to try and find where Derek’s parked his Camaro.

It turns out it’s parked round the back, and Stiles allows himself a minute to just stand there, staring at it: All sleek and black and awesome. Sure, Derek’s apartment is kind of spartan and lacking in essentials, like nutritious food, and a decent mattress, and primary colors, but the Camaro more than makes up for it.

When he finally opens the door and climbs in all he can smell is rich leather and Derek , he isn’t above admitting it’s a good smell . He sinks into the seat and slides the key into the ignition. Twists it gently and hears the engine purr into life.

“Yeah, baby,” he says, grinning. “Let’s go.” He puts his foot down on the gas, tries to put it in gear and somehow manages to stall it. It jolts forward then stops.

“Okay, okay,” he says, looking about himself. “Nobody saw, nobody saw, we’re cool. We’re totally cool.” Looking down, he sees in his shock that he’s managed to pop his claws and while he hasn’t damaged the car, it take him another five minutes to work out how to make them retract.

The second time he turns the key in the ignition the Camaro starts properly and he manages to drives it down the road, carefully at first, but gradually getting faster as he gains confidence.

When he finally reaches the grocery store on Pine he parks up, gets out and screws up his face. He has no idea what he’s looking for. None. But he knows he has to try. He slouches through the doorway, tries to jam his hands in the pocket of his jeans, but they don’t fit easily and he ends up folding his arms across his chest nervously. There’s nothing there though— no mystical cabbage that has inadvertently cursed them both, or portal to the netherworld in the freezer aisle. It’s all depressingly normal.

The only real difference Stiles notices is the way people look at him. The way they act around him. Maybe it’s their animal hind brain reacting to his alphaness, maybe it’s the leather jacket and tight jeans, or maybe it’s the fact that he’s really, really ridiculously good looking. Whatever it is, nobody seems to smile or make eye contact at all. At least not openly. Stiles catches a couple of people checking him out, but once they see him look back, their gaze darts away guiltily, a bright burst of sweet scent on the air that makes his stomach twist. He thinks it might be arousal. It isn’t like Stiles can be flattered about it, it’s Derek they’re ogling, and it isn’t as though Stiles hasn’t ogled Derek himself on occasion, but somehow, being on the receiving end makes him feel—-exposed. He doesn’t like it.

Fortunately it seems like he isn’t gonna find whatever he’s looking for here, so he moves on quickly.

The next item on Derek’s list is running the long trail in the preserve, and Stiles is kind of worried about how he’s gonna manage it to be honest, especially when Derek’s wardrobe seems to consist of tight fitting denim. Sure Stiles wants his own body back, but does he want it more or less than he wants to experience the kind of groinal chafing that will occur running eight miles in ball hugging jeans? He heads back to Derek’s loft, convinced that not even Derek can be that much of a self-flagellating martyr and finally uncovers pair of old sweatpants, and a white tank top buried at the bottom of the chest of drawers. He puts them on and heads out to the car.

The long trail takes Stiles about eight miles out of town in a wide circuit that cuts through dense woodland, and some of the highest ground in the county. Unsurprisingly, in Derek’s body, he runs it with ease. It’s a beautiful day, pale bright sunshine, clear blue skies, but with a breeze that cools his skin and nips at his lungs. The air out here is pure and wholesome, scented with pine and rich earth, Stiles can hear birds trilling in the distance, and, if he focuses, the thumpthump of heartbeats that belong to other, smaller creatures.

This, he thinks to himself, blood singing in his veins as he leaps over a boulder and across a small stream, this would be a reason to accept the bite.

The whole way round the trail he keeps a careful watch, there’s nothing nefarious though. No evil creatures or witches holed up in a hovel, waiting to leap out and curse him. Everything is fresh and pure and natural. Derek was right about this, at least, whatever caused their current situation, it didn’t happen here.

The end of the trail brings Stiles round, near the burned out of shell of the old Hale house, and his feet take him there on instinct. It feels strange to stand here, intrusive, maybe, and he can’t help wondering if this is why Derek runs this trail in particular. Does he ever stand here just like this, remembering the good times? Or is this place all guilt and ash? The hollowed out remains of once happy memories.

With a sigh Stiles turns and heads back to the car.

The bookstore on Main is the next place on the list. It’s a strange little place. Quirky. With a sunken floor, exposed beams, and a several old armchairs dotted about. Like whoever owns it got confused and thought they might open a coffee shop instead, but then changed their mind.

It has inspirational quotes stenciled onto the walls, the kind of thing that some people like to spam their facebook feed with. “Everything you want is on the other side of fear,” reads one, and “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall,” says another. Stiles screws up his face skeptically.

“Hey,” says an airy voice from behind him. “Back again so soon?”

Stiles wheels round to see a middle-aged woman with long grey hair that hangs loosely around her shoulders, she’s wearing some kind of floaty tie-dyed pink dress that rustles as she moves and about six more necklaces than any person should ever need to wear at one time.

“Uh--hey—” he says awkwardly.

“I’m Skye.” She gestures to herself. “Remember? I served you yesterday. Did you like the book?”

“The book?”

Her face clouds a little. “The book you bought yesterday.”

“Yes,” Stiles says. “Yes. It was great. So great. I uh— I wanted to come back and see if you had anything— else?”

She beams at him. “Of course! By the same author, or—-?”

“Sure!” Stiles says.

“Agatha Harkness is such an inspirational author, one of our most popular. What did you think about the chapter on empathy?”

“It was great?” Stiles says, “She uh— really nailed it. I totally--uh— empathised with it. Har Har.”

“Right? I swear, she’s so incredible. When she talks about how we should all take the time to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes I just— I was so inspired.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says, nodding absently. Something in his brain is trying to get his attention. Is screaming at him, but he can’t quite catch hold of it. “Wait!” Stiles says, “what did you just say?”

“You know,” her fingers flutter nervously. “How we should all try and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”

“Uh-huh,” Stiles says nodding slowly, things are falling into place at an alarming rate. “I--um. I have to leave now? I have a—” he squints at her, brain refusing to provide him with the words he needs. “A granola emergency? I--I’ll be back later.”

He wheels around and books it out of there. As soon as he reaches the car he grabs Derek’s cell out of his pocket and then slumps in the driver’s seat. He has sixteen texts from Derek and a missed call. The texts are all various versions of:

If you drive my car I will kill you.

Stiles figures the voicemail is the same. He checks the time on the his phone. Shit. Derek’s probably taking the test right now. He can’t call him.

I figured it out  he types then hits send.

Then he starts the Camaro and drives back to Derek’s apartment.

 

-

 

It’s four o’clock in the afternoon later that same day, and Stiles is sitting at his own desk in his own bedroom, still locked inside Derek’s body, waiting for Derek to get back from school. He hears a car approach, hears the front door bang shut, and grins to himself, gets up silently and goes to stand near the curtains. A prime lurking spot that Derek has used to great effect on many occasions in the past. How the tables have turned.

Footsteps sound up the stairs, the door to his bedroom flies open,and Derek walks in, holding Stiles’ phone in his fist, glaring down at it. He moves differently than Stiles does when he’s in that body, more fluid somehow, less manic.

“Hey,” Stiles says, and Derek startles, almost drops the phone.

“You—” he scowls.

“No complaints,” Stiles says, lifting a finger. “Vengeance is mine.”

Derek narrows his eyes. “I thought you said you had this sorted.”

“I do.”

“Then why am I still—” he makes a sweeping gesture that takes in Stiles body.

“Patience padawan.”

“Stiles—”

“No, listen you shall. For learn you must that always right Stiles is.”

Derek’s eyes narrow, his jaw clenching shut, lip curled in a snarl. It’s a strange expression to see on his own face, but it kind of looks good, weirdly hot actually. When Stiles finally gets his body back he might practice it in the mirror.

“What’s going on, Stiles.”

“What’s going on, is that this is totally your fault.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” Stiles says, “Understanding People Better, by Agatha Harkness.” He pulls out the garish self help book  that had been on Derek’s nightstand this morning and waves it in the air.

Stiles watches his own face blush, as Derek gapes. “That—”

“You didn’t pick up on it? Agatha Harkness?” Stiles grins. “Witch, Derek. Totally a famous witch in the Marvel Universe.”

“Why would I know that? Anyway, comic book characters can’t write self help books, Stiles,” Derek grinds out.

“No but it turns out that fans of Marvel comic books who are also witches totally do. Agatha Harkness is a pseudonym. The real author is called Mackenzie Gray, I contacted her publisher today and got her to give me a call back while you were in the middle of taking my math midterm for me. How’d that go, by the way?”

“I aced it,” Derek mutters, looking a little stunned. “I have a degree in engineering. You’re saying a witch cursed me through a book.”

“Not a curse,” Stiles scrunches his face up. “At least— that’s the way she tells it. More a helpful push to open the minds and hearts of those most in need.”

“Great,” Derek scowls. “Where can I find her to show her my gratitude?”

“She lives in Portland, apparently, but that’s beside the point.”

“Is she gonna change us back?”

“She doesn’t have to. Apparently it’ll wear off naturally. When we wake up tomorrow morning—-” He clicks his fingers. “We’ll be back in our own bodies.”

“That’s it?” Derek looks a little stunned.

“Yup.” Stiles does jazz hands and throws out a winning smile.

With that all the fight seems to drain out of Derek, he drops onto Stiles bed, head in his hand, arms resting on his elbows. “Uggghhhh.”

It’s not exactly the reaction Stiles had been expecting. “Are you okay?”

Derek moans something unintelligible even with the advanced werewolf hearing, Stiles can't understand it.

“Wow I wish I could speak whale, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to use actual words. What’s up big guy?” Stiles edges closer.

“I said: Why are you so okay with this? Why aren’t you more angry? She messed with us. Performed magic on us without our permission.”

Stiles sinks down next to him on the bed, so there knees are almost touching, but not quite. “I don’t know,” he admits softly, “I guess— worse things have happened to us in the last few months?” He swallows. His conversation with Mackenzie had been enlightening. The magic in the book designed specifically to reach out and help only those that truly needed it. To point them in the right direction, the place where they would find the help they needed.

Stiles takes a deep breath. “Look, I know we bicker sometimes, I know we’re not exactly— close, or anything, but you should know, I--I trust you, and, if I was gonna swap bodies with anyone for a day, well, I’m glad it was you. I guess if I wasn’t worried it was because I knew that you would look out for me. You’ve always looked out for me.” He huffs out a sigh. “Was it really that bad being me?”

Derek looks at him then, smiles ever so slightly. “No. I mean, high school still sucked. But— your dad was, um.” He swallows. “It was nice to have that again. Even if it was just for a day.”

“Yeah,” Stiles feels something soft, aching, bloom in his chest. The silence that descends between them isn’t uneasy, but it’s charged, feels like there’s something just on the edge of Stiles’ understanding, something he can’t quite understand or put his finger on.

He takes in a shaky breath. Thinks for a moment about Derek’s quiet apartment, his TV dinners, his stale pop tarts. The long lonely days that stretch out before him now Boyd and Erica are dead and Isaac has left. The burned out shell of the house in the preserve. Thinks about that stupid goddamn self help book. Thinks about the fact that he and Derek have saved each other’s lives more times than he can count, but he didn’t even know Derek had a degree. He releases his breath with a sigh. “You should come to dinner,” he says. “Here, tomorrow, with my dad and me.”

Derek’s eyes dart to his, hold his gaze. “Really?” he says, it sounds almost hopeful.

“Yeah,” Stiles says and grins. “Definitely.”

“And if I don’t?” Derek crooks an eyebrow, smirking.

“Don’t mess with me, Hale.” Stiles says, trying to will his eyes to turn red, and only managing to make them flicker wildly like a broken street lamp. “I’m the alpha.”

Derek grins.