Laura is washing dishes, hands covered in soap suds. She reaches for the next dish and then it’s gone along with the warm, soft lighting of the kitchen, the sounds of her aunt reading a story to the twins in the other room and everything else around her. She blinks a few times, looking for the sink and dirty dishes that should be in front of her, and when that doesn’t work, she shuts her eyes tight, counting to ten, questioning if she’s caught up in a dream, only her dreams don’t smell and definitely not so vividly toxic. The smoke and char is cloying to her senses. It’s mixed with a hint of her life of where she was only moments ago, but this is not her house, she’s nowhere near her family. The drip-drop of water coming from her hands is the only sound, but then there’s two fluttering heartbeats behind her. Someone gasps and she spins, claws out with a snarl on her throat.
"It worked! Oh, my God!" There’s a kid with a huge smile and hands in the air standing in front of her. "I can’t believe it worked!" He turns in a victory circle, his red hoodie and plaid shirt fanning around him. Behind him stands a teenage girl with long, red hair wearing bright designer clothing that definitely doesn’t match their surroundings.
Laura’s woozy, her stomach lurching with a feeling she’s never known. She’s going to be sick for the first time in her life. She pushes through the back door looking for a safe spot but doesn’t make it far enough. It’s not a pretty sight and she’s never been more thankful to be a werewolf if this is a common occurrence in humans. She wipes her mouth, walking back into the kitchen.
"Who the hell are you?" Laura says. "Where am I?"
"Laura? Laura Hale?" The kid asks.
"How the hell do you know who I am?" She flashes her eyes at them, growling with a fierceness she hasn't shown in years. She should know better than to do it in front of strangers. She’s never lost control like this, but given the circumstances her mother will understand.
"Yellow eyes," he whispers under his breath, and his eyes go wide. His fear isn’t from seeing her wolf out, he’s familiar with what she is, or at least the supernatural. He curses, facing the redhead. "I think we messed up."
"You think?" the girl says, smacking him in the arm. He flinches, rubbing the spot in exaggeration. "I told you this was a bad idea and that we had no idea what we were doing."
Laura takes in her surroundings, recognizes the faded wallpaper on the walls of what should be the kitchen of her house, only everything around her is charred black from fire. There’s a breeze on the back of her neck coming from the broken windows and the only light is shining from the moon peeking through the ceiling from a hole in the roof. This isn’t her house, the one she was in minutes ago washing dishes after the family dinner. Hers is warm and bright with smells of vanilla and polished wood, and there’s always the sound of someone within its rooms reminding her she’s not alone. This house is built the same, she even sees the remains of the handcrafted, dining table big enough to fit the Hale pack at every meal, but everything and everyone else is gone.
"What the hell is going on?" she yells. "Someone better explain this shit right now. What happened to my house?" They don’t smell threatening, and seem as shocked as she is. "Who the fuck are you?"
"I’m Stiles," he swallows, "Stilinski."
"The sheriff’s kid?"
He points to himself like he’s surprised she’s heard of him. She doesn’t know him, but there’s only one family in their town with that last name. He’s familiar, though, from the few times she’s seen the sheriff after the loss of his wife. He might be the same age as her sister. He nods, then points to the girl. "This is Lydia." Laura doesn’t know her, so she’ll take his word for it.
"We did a spell—"
"Goddammit!" she mumbles. Stupid teenaged kids messing with magic when they know nothing about it. "I take it you’re not exactly experts in the magical arts?"
The kid, Stiles, scratches the back of his head. "Ah, not really, but Lydia is a…"
Laura waits for him to explain and when he just gawks from Lydia to her, back and forth mouth agape, Laura snaps, "Jesus Christ, she’s what?"
Laura snorts. "‘Something.’ Great. That’s just great."
"She’s a banshee," Stiles says, which isn’t any better, because even he isn’t convinced about it. "We’re just not sure what she can do," he mumbles, focusing on his sneakers. "Yet."
"So, you thought you’d get your kicks by summoning me to your future." She takes a step toward them, arm raised like she’s going to strike, and she wants to, she really does, but it won’t solve anything until she knows more.
"Not exactly." Stiles pushes Lydia behind him, taking a few steps away from Laura. "Ah, it’s more like, well, more like we wanted to bring you back from the dead?" Stiles raises his arms in a gesture that is meant to express ‘surprise’ but emphatically falls flat.
"I’m dead?" Laura’s voice squawks. "How did I die?"
"Peter killed you." Stiles grips his hands, squeezing them anxiously. "Your Uncle? You don’t remember?"
"No! I don’t remember. One minute I'm washing dishes at the kitchen sink and the next I’m standing here." She regards him as he processes her words, listens to his heart rate tick louder and faster, and when her words hit home, he clutches his chest, taking a few steps backwards.
"Oh, God. Oh, this is bad. This is really bad, Lydia."
"Stop saying that, Stiles!" Lydia stomps her high-heeled foot, hands fisted. "Of course, this is bad. I told you I had no idea what I was doing when I raised Peter from the dead."
"Uncle Peter’s dead, too?"
"Well, no. Not anymore, technically. Lydia brought him back from the dead and that’s why I thought she could do it to you, too." He’s rambling, moving his hands about and Laura just needs him to get to the point.
"What happened to my family?"
Stiles clears his throat, seeks her eyes. "They died in the fire."
Laura’s knees weaken. The idea of this being a dream is slipping through her fingers with every word they say. They’re telling the truth, she hears it in their voices, their bodies, and as she scans the burnt remains of her house, of the Hale pack house, she knows she’s alone in this foreign world, and that something terrible has happened to all of them. She leaves the kitchen, pausing in what was the living room, spinning, hands clutched to her head as she takes it all in. She keeps circling, panicking as she tries to feel anything of her family, and when she’s certain they aren’t there, she sinks onto a wooden crate, muttering to herself about stupid kids and messing with the future and how she needs to get back to the past to warn her family.
The two are still in the kitchen, whispering like they have any kind of privacy.
"Stiles," Lydia hisses through her teeth, "this is way above lighting candles without matches, like way above. I have no idea how we did it, but it’s obvious this Laura wasn’t dead. What if we brought her from the past? Too far past? Or ripped some kind of hole in the space-time continuum? We need help. We have to call him."
"No! Are you kidding?" Stiles says. "We can’t call him. If this was a mistake and we have to send her back, we can’t tell him this ever happened. It’ll destroy him."
"Which I told you when you first proposed the idea," Lydia cuts him off. "Especially if it didn’t work and clearly it hasn’t."
"Yes, okay, fine. You were right…again. But who do we get to help? Peter is obviously out of the question. Scott?" Laura hears Stiles’ sarcasm as he says that name.
"We have to call Deaton." A name which Laura recognizes.
"Alan Deaton?" she asks, rising to her feet.
"You know Dr. Deaton?" Lydia asks.
"He’s my mother’s emissary. He has magic," Laura says. "He can help."
Lydia pulls out her phone, dialing before Stiles can stop her. They’re left in silence hovering as the ringing continues to voicemail. Lydia bites her lip, eyebrows raised in question. Stiles nods and the girl storms off, clicking heels on the floorboards as she leaves.
"She’ll find him and bring him here," Stiles says. Laura moves to perch on the wooden crate again, placing her head in her hands. Stiles shifts around the room, moving closer but still keeping his distance which is wise considering her temper is erratic at times.
"So," Stiles blows out a big breath, "your mother’s alive? She’s the Alpha?"
"Of course, she is." Laura can’t believe this is happening to her. It’s been quiet for years in Beacon Hills. The Hales have kept the peace, existing the best they know how by keeping to themselves. How could this happen to them? When did this happen to them?
"What’s the date?" she asks, clearing her throat. She needs water and without asking, Stiles leans down and pulls a bottle of water from his backpack, handing it to her.
"August, well, it’ll be September 1st in a couple of hours," he glances at his phone, "2012."
"That’s impossible." She seeks out anything in the room to tell her differently. "It can’t be because it was August 2012 where I’m from and this fire looks like it happened years ago."
Stiles curses again. He takes a step closer and then freezes when she growls at him. His heart rate accelerates, a thundering beat in his chest as he bites his lip, scrunching up his face.
"What?" she says.
"I was hoping it was time travel."
"You were hoping it was ‘time travel?’ What does that even mean?" She pulls at her hair. "Do you hear yourself?"
"The fire that killed your family happened seven years ago." He pushes off from the wall, hands in the air. "I was trying to fix things, make them better. I didn’t mean for this to happen, and obviously things went a little astray, like really astray, catastrophically." She growls again to end his jumbled reflection. "God, you’re so much like him," he mumbles. He’s trailing after a thought, like Laura can actually see it happening and then he stands straight, hands on his hips as he focuses. "Right. Yeah. Um. I think we might’ve pulled you from another dimension?" He squeaks out the last word making Laura laugh at the absurdity. This has to be some elaborate joke being played on her, only no one in her family would do this. No one had the stomach for laughter these past few years. They used to, in fact, this is definitely something she might’ve pulled on her brother with the help of uncle Peter, but those days are long gone. The Hale house was too immersed in remorse and a quietness that hurt the ears sometimes.
"I’m sorry," Stiles says, watching her with an earnestness that is uncomfortable enough she has to look away. "I was trying to," he sighs, "I don’t know what I was trying to do. It worked for Peter and after everything Derek’s been through, I wanted him to have someone. He just seems so lost and..."
Laura doesn’t hear the rest of what he’s saying because her heart stalls, literally just stops, caught in her throat as her ears ring. She’s aware the moment it begins, a stabbing pain in her chest that cuts deep. "Derek? How do you know my brother?"
"Ah, that’s a good question?" Stiles scratches his head. "We’re sort of friends?"
Stiles nods at her like she’s the crazy one. "As of three days ago, yeah. But with all that’s going on in this freaky town, who knows?" He shrugs, releasing a hysterical laugh. She moves quickly, grabbing him by the hoodie and slams him up against the wall.
"Wow, the family resemblance is seriously uncanny."
"This is not funny," she says, shoving his shoulders. "My brother died seven years ago!"
"Ah, no. Nope." He shakes his head. "Derek’s alive and as broody as ever."
"That’s not possible." Her chest aches at the thought of seeing her brother. Her mother will, oh god, her mother. She broke when she lost her only son. Laura sacrificed years of normalcy and freedom to appease her mother’s despair. Their lives were put on hold when Derek died. He can’t be alive. This can’t be real. Her mother would give anything to have her son back, Laura would, too.
She loosens her grip, taking a step back, smoothing his hoodie down, and the kid smiles at her, chuckling as if she’s missed a joke.
"I need to see him. My mother, she’ll—" Laura doesn’t finish that thought because wherever she is, her mother is not here and wherever her mother is, her son is not. Talia Hale is still the strongest, most respected alpha on the west coast even if some days she roams through the forest a shell of her former self because she couldn’t protect a member of her pack, but that’s only for the family to see, no one else knows the grief that still tears her apart.
Oh, God, Laura thinks. If she’s here, her mother might lose her, too. It will destroy her and the family.
"I have to go back," she says. "You have to send me back."
"I know." Stiles apologizes. "We’re going to try. Deaton will figure it out and then no one will ever know this happened. I won’t tell Derek."
"Derek." She halts in her tracks. Derek is here.
She demands to know the details, so Stiles explains the fire, and how Laura and Derek were at school when it happened and how Cora and Uncle Peter were the only survivors but he was badly burned. He tells her of her own death a few years later, and Cora’s last month at the hands of hunters in Brazil. It doesn’t take him long to tell the story of her family, the words flowing from him like they’ve been bottled for years, and when he finishes, he takes a sip of his water, swallowing down his sadness with it.
"Derek’s the only one left," he says. "Well, Peter, too, but that guy has problems." She laughs at that because Uncle Peter does have issues but most of them are justifiable in her opinion. "And Peter’s daughter, Malia." The name doesn’t register with Laura, he doesn’t have any children, and the idea of Uncle Peter ever hurting Laura is absurd. He’s not the same man, so what does that mean for her brother? Maybe this is some dark universe, where people are evil. But this kid smells of nothing sinister, and her brother is kind and naive and he’s been all alone.
She rises from the crate, lumbers toward the heavy front door that’s still standing after all this time. Opening it, she grips the doorframe letting his words sink in. For years the family has grieved for Derek, broken and damaged because they lost a member of their pack, a brother, a son, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin, and Derek had lost them all. Her heart breaks for him, imagining how he went through it alone. It’s been years since she cried for Derek, only this time it’s different. She grieved for what she lost and what her family lost with his death, but now she grieves for what he lost. She’s overwhelmed and doesn’t understand what the hell has happened, only that this kid, Stiles, has opened long buried wounds with a few choice words. She’s filled with sorrow but also a hope that threatens to rip her open.
The wolf in her mourns for her brother. She drops to her knees, howling to let it out. It’s loud and inconsolable but she can’t stop it. If Derek is alive, this has to be a dream and she’s not sure if she wants to wake from it.
When she’s done, she sags against the floorboards, exhausted and lost. She doesn’t know where to go from here, if she even believes that Derek is alive, but there’s something that smells familiar about Stiles. It could be the house, the lingering smells of her family ingrained in the walls, even through the smoke and dust it’s recognizable, but Stiles shouldn’t smell like them. As far as she knows, he doesn’t know her family.
He squats on the floor next to her, cautiously, she notices, and he doesn’t touch her even though she spies his hands twitching like he wants to reach across and comfort her.
"Is he okay? Is he happy?" she asks.
She smells his regret, and even though he could lie and tell her something to make her feel better, she’s grateful he doesn’t.
"No," he says. "He’s angry and hurt. He doesn't trust anyone. He’s a walking textbook definition of PTSD."
"But you’re friends?" She meets his eyes.
"We’re working on it." Stiles smiles. "He makes it harder than it should be."
"That doesn’t sound like my brother at all." The Derek she remembers was kind and laughed a lot. He followed Uncle Peter around like he was a god, and when he was scared, he crawled into Laura’s bed and they would tell stories under the sheets with flashlights neither of them needed. He was a happy kid, if somewhat irritating in his early teen years. He shared their mother’s grace and presence along with their father’s looks and kindness. He had all the girls’ and the boys’ attention in school even though he was oblivious to the attention he garnered.
As the oldest, tradition dictated the alpha role would fall to Laura, but every so often the duties could fall to someone more worthy. Laura always thought that would happen in their family, she teased him often enough, passing it off that it didn’t bother her, even if it was her way of convincing herself that it was how it should be if it did happen that way. His temperament was more suited to it than hers. She was hot-headed and impatient a lot of the time, whereas Derek was forgiving and listened, weighing things thoroughly before making any decisions. Sometimes it would take him hours just to pick out a film when it was his choice on family movie nights, taking into consideration what everyone liked and didn’t like before making a decision. It used to drive Laura and her little sister, Cora, crazy because they always knew exactly what to pick when it was their turn. But not Derek. He would sacrifice his choice to make someone else happy.
"He’s been through a lot," Stiles says, breaking her thoughts. "Which is an understatement when it comes to Derek. A lot has happened since you died."
The idea of an alternate universe where Derek was the one who survived and the rest of them died couldn’t possibly exist. For the past seven years, their world has been shaped by a Derek-sized hole. Their lives have gone on, but it was obvious how everything diverged the moment their mother felt his loss. Her parents argued more, Uncle Peter and his wife took a path of vengeance for their mother when she wouldn’t. Cora and her cousins were smothered, pulled out of school to be taught by their aunt, never allowed to leave the house on their own. And Laura, well, she was left on her own, trying to pick up the pieces when her aunts and uncles could no longer help, busy with their own children and lives to help her mother and father with their grief.
Laura didn’t understand how she was brought here, but if this was real, she needed to see Derek with her own eyes.
"Where is he? Take me to him." She stands and then freezes. Someone or something is stampeding through the woods at a pace that isn’t human. Stiles is unaware of the movement. Of course, he can’t hear it and from his expression he isn’t concerned about threats that may be headed their way.
She senses him before she sees him. He pauses at the treeline, shoulders straight, jaw clenched. Stiles is right. The years have been rough on him, but she would know her baby brother anywhere. Gone are the soft edges that marked him as a fresh-faced kid naive to the hardships of life, and in their place are sharp lines, and eyes that are guarded but filled with pain and remorse that she's all too familiar with. She knows he's staring at a ghost because she's seeing one, too. The air around them stills, silencing the creatures of the night. It's broken by her sobs that are pulled deep from within, shoving their way up until she can't hold them in. Her hand on the doorframe barely holds her upright and then Derek races across the forest floor and up the steps, and he’s standing in front of her, a foot away like he's too afraid to come any closer.
"I heard your call," he says, voice breaking. "How are you here—"
She leaps into his arms, halting his words on his breath. He grunts from the force of the impact, yet, holds her as though she weighs nothing. He was always a little thing, smaller than her with spindly arms and legs that were too long for the rest of his body, but this Derek has grown into a man who is solid and warm with his arms wrapping completely around her. She presses her nose into his neck, scenting him, and for the first time in seven years, her body sings with anticipation and the feeling of wholeness that’s been missing for so long.
"You’re alive," she cries, taking another deep breath.
"I could say the same about you," he says. His scruff is rough against her jaw, scraping her skin as he does the same, marking her as his, as pack. She feels it then, the power within him that makes him hers. They cling to each other until their arms grow tired and the tears go dry. She doesn’t want to let him out of her embrace, but they have so much to talk about they can’t stay like this.
She rocks him and he rocks her as they huddle on the porch not ready to let go. She wipes her tears and other stuff neither of them care about on his shirt. She’s not sure if she’s ready to talk but she has to ask anyway.
"Are you happy?" She manages to say, but she’s not prepared for the way her brother lets out a sob into her neck. It’s then she understands that whatever the hell alternate reality she’s in, this is still her brother. That question is something their mother always asks. She never asks how they are, she asks if they're happy because their happiness is always their mother’s priority.
"No," he says. "I’m so far from it." Derek finally pulls away and if she looks anything like he does with his red-rimmed eyes and tear-stained cheeks, they’re both a mess.
The only time she’s ever heard him admit he wasn’t happy was when their dad accidentally ran over Derek’s bike when he was eight years old and destroyed it beyond anything rideable. He was always a sensitive kid, but he was always happy. Her brother had never known heartache, not like this, and all she wanted to do was protect him and rip out the throats of the people who did this to him.
Eventually, it’s Stiles who interrupts them, clearing his throat from the doorway, patiently waiting for their emotional reunion to taper off for them to take notice of him.
Derek squints at Stiles, eyebrows narrowed, and Laura understands what Stiles meant about the brooding.
"How?" he asks, but what he’s really saying is that he’s not surprised Stiles had something to do with his big sister’s sudden emergence from the dead.
"A spell," Stiles says, and Derek has the same reaction to magic as Laura did.
"Dammit, Stiles!" Their mother always told them that magic came with a cost and whatever price Stiles had to pay to bring her here, must have been expensive.
"I know. Believe me, I know, but it worked for Peter, right? So, I just thought we could—"
"We who?" Derek grits between his teeth.
"Lydia," Stiles admits. "She didn’t want to. I kind of made her. We had these books from the Argent library."
Derek curses, punching the banister on the porch, causing the whole structure to rattle. "The Argent library? You know you can’t trust anything that comes out of there." Derek steps close to Stiles, forcing him up against the side of the house without touching him. Stiles shrinks against the wall, but then Derek takes a few deep breaths and Stiles’ demeanor changes, straightening his shoulders as he lifts his chin.
"Well, technically it wasn’t their book. They stole it from some druids." Stiles pokes Derek in the chest, taunting him and Laura understands everything about the two of them in that one gesture. Laura knows exactly why Stiles brought her here, how he thought he was trying to help and why he wanted to help her brother. She doesn’t know how old Stiles is, but he’s definitely too young for Derek to even consider, but as she scrutinizes their interaction, smells it even, it’s easy to see the infatuation may not be one-sided. Huh.
"Lydia borrowed a few books from their library and traced their origins," Stiles says.
"Wait. The Argents are alive?" Laura interrupts, and both Derek and Stiles pivot as if they forgot she was there.
"Ah, yeah," Stiles says, "well, except for a few that we might have had a hand in killing. But they were very bad people. Very bad and deserved whatever they got."
Derek’s eyebrows are furrowed in confusion. Laura got the Wikipedia version of the events of the last seven years, but she hadn’t told Stiles her version, the one where the Argents killed Derek, which was a catalyst for Peter and her aunt to go on a rampage, killing every Argent and hunter within a five-hundred mile radius. They declared a hunter-free zone until the remaining hunters bargained a truce with the Alphas on the west coast. Of course, Derek’s death wasn’t the only reason for the killings, but it was definitely the match that struck the piled-up tinder, which burned the landscape of the future.
"The Argents are dead. Uncle Peter killed them," she says, even though it’s not the truth of this world, she can’t help herself. "He killed them when they killed you."
"But I’m not dead," Derek says.
"Yes, you are."
"No, you’re the one who’s dead," Derek says, eyeing Stiles.
"Okay," Stiles raises his arms, protecting his head from harm, "it’s possible we didn’t exactly raise Laura from the dead."
"Stiles," Derek growls. "What did you do?"
"We might have brought her from another universe where you’re the one who’s dead and your family is alive?"
Derek pales, which is understandable because it’s not easy to hear that you’re dead in another universe.
"They’re alive?" He looks at her with such uncertainty, and it’s sad and heartbreaking but also so much like her brother. "All of them? Mom?"
"Yes," she laughs, "but god she misses you, Der. So, so much. And dad, too." She wants to hug him again except they’ll never get anywhere if they keep doing that.
Derek turns to Stiles again, the unvoiced question of how in his expression.
"I don’t know." Stiles shrugs. "I really don’t. Lydia went to find Deaton when he didn’t answer her call."
"But why?" Derek asks.
Stiles’ face heats up and it’s hard for him not to stare at Derek when he’s standing so close in his space. He manages to catch Laura’s eye and she has to smile, just a small one, because if she’s stuck here and can’t get back to her family, she knows Stiles’ heart was in the right place, that he was trying to make her brother happy, so she may be able to forgive him. Eventually. Maybe.
"Why, Stiles?" Derek asks again. "Why would you do this?"
"I didn’t want you to be alone anymore, all right?" Stiles snaps. He ducks under Derek’s shoulder, moving to the other side of the porch where he can breathe a little easier. "You seem so sad and after Cora, and then what happened in Mexico, I just wanted you to have something good in your life. After everything you’ve done for us you deserve some good, Derek."
Laura should give them privacy, she should step away so they can talk this out, only she’s never been that strong, not enough to let her brother out of her sight even for an uncomfortable discussion of feelings with a teenage boy.
Derek folds his arms, staring at the floorboards. The silence stretches on a little too long that she thinks she’s going to have to fill it and break up whatever thoughts are running through their heads.
"Derek," she says just as Derek prowls toward Stiles.
"She has to go back," Derek tells him.
"We’ll try," he says, "but it may not be possible. There’s not exactly a manual for alternate realities. We could send her somewhere worse."
Derek rolls his eyes. "Doubtful."
"Yeah, well, you probably just jinxed us, now!"
"She has a life, Stiles! She has my family. She has nothing here."
"She has you." Stiles squares his shoulders.
"It's not enough. Not when we've lost so much. I'm not worth my entire family."
"Derek, don’t say that—"
"No, Stiles! She goes back!" Derek clenches his fists, his eyes flash blue and the color catches Laura’s breath. Peter is the only family member with eyes that color. Their mother always says they’re predators, but they don’t have to be killers. Laura’s not sure what she would have done in this world, if she would’ve killed after going through what Derek did, regardless, she has no right to judge him. So his eyes are blue. He’s alive. He survived.
The tension between Stiles and Derek is thick and suffocating. She can’t let them argue about her as though she isn’t standing right behind them.
"Don't I get a say in it, baby brother?" she asks with a smile in her voice.
Stiles doesn’t seem surprised by Derek’s dismissal of her, in fact, he laughs and is about to clap back when they see car headlights through the trees. Her brother clenches his jaw a couple of times and at this point she’s not sure if he wants to punch Stiles or kiss him. It’s really a toss-up because she doesn’t know them well enough to make that call. It makes her chuckle, like a guffaw and she’s surprised it comes out of her mouth. Luckily though, she’s saved by Deaton’s arrival.
He steps out of his car, alone, and looks exactly the same as her Deaton, complete with the same disapproving expression he uses when they’re in her alpha training sessions. He isn’t surprised to see her, so she’s assuming Lydia filled him in before he drove out here.
"Mr. Stilinski," Deaton says, pulling a wooden chest out of the trunk of his car. "I sent Ms. Martin home. It seems the two of you have done enough damage together. He passes the trunk to Derek, then tells Stiles to follow him. "I’m not certain how you achieved this feat of magical impossibility, but it’s clear I’ve underestimated you." She’s pretty sure Deaton wants to grab Stiles by the ear, drag him inside like he’s used to these kinds of shenanigans from him.
"This will take some time," Deaton says, as Derek sets the chest in the kitchen. "Perhaps you and your sister would like this opportunity to reacquaint yourselves?" Deaton glares pointedly at Stiles who cowers in the corner of the room."Stiles and I will see what we can do."
* * *
Popping into existence in an alternate universe is a lot to digest...even on an empty stomach. They were lulled by Stiles’ explanation, a careful step-by-step of how they conjured the spell, but when the theories of multiple realities and quantum physics came into play, Laura and Derek tuned out, choosing to relax under the moonlight to catch up on how different things are in their worlds.
Derek is quiet, letting Laura do most of the talking. He says he doesn’t have much to share, only sorrow and loneliness, so she’s happy to fill in the silences with talk of the family, the stories he’s missed out on, and what they’ve missed without him. Their lives are the same, for the most part. There’s a diversion in 2004, a girl named Paige that Derek never met in Laura’s world, and then things change from there with the night of January 25, 2005 leading to tragedy for both of them. It’s the night Derek died, murdered by Gerard and Kate Argent, and the night the Hale family died, murdered by Kate Argent and her hunters.
Through their conversation, there’s only one thing that Laura is certain of and it's that Derek doesn’t deserve the life he’s living. He may not be telling her everything about the night of the fire, he carries too much guilt in his heart, in his words, for the story not to be entwined in mystery and a few secrets, but from their shared past, she knows this Derek and her Derek would die before letting harm come to the family.
He’s so alone and broken, tortured by the past that he’s not living any kind of life her mother and father would want for him.
There’s nothing here for him.
"Come with me, Der." She smiles, holding his hands. "Nothing has been the same since you died."
"I can't," he says without hesitation.
"Why not? What do you have here?"
He stumbles on an excuse, knowing she’s right.
"If they figure out the spell, why couldn’t you come with me?" she asks. "From what you’ve told me, this kid, Scott, is capable enough. He has a pack that you aren’t even a part of, or so you’ve said." She senses his reluctance and she understands. From the sounds of it, they’ve been through a lot, fought together through unspeakable things. He’d be abandoning them when he feels responsible for them even though he shouldn’t. It was Peter, or a psycho version of their uncle, who brought them into their world.
"I'm not the same brother you knew," he says, his voice cracking. "I'm different, Laura. I'm damaged."
"So? You think any of us are the same? Seven years, but you're blood. I smell it. You're pack, Derek, and that's all that matters.” Grabbing his shoulders, she twists the material of his shirt in her fingers. It may be rash and reckless to entertain the idea of bringing him with her, but she’s not letting this miraculous chance slip through her fingers. “Our parents need you back, no matter how broken you think you are. They’ll make it right."
He leans forward, hand on the back of her neck as he brings their foreheads together. He doesn’t say anything, but she senses how much he wants to come. He’s just afraid it won’t be possible.
"Eureka!" They hear Stiles in the other room laughing and Derek’s heart races. Those two may not have fully realized what they are to one another but there’s definitely something there. She wonders if it’s enough to keep Derek here.
"We think we got it." Stiles comes out to the porch, clapping his hands and then pauses when he realizes he’s interrupted their tender moment. "Sorry," he says, "but Deaton says there isn’t a lot of time."
They follow Stiles to where Deaton has set up the spell in the burned-out kitchen where Laura materialized.
"The window is closing," Deaton says. "If we miss it Laura will be stuck here, or at least stuck for another three years when the next calendar year has thirteen full moons."
Three years to spend with her brother doesn’t sound too bad, she could handle it if it doesn’t work. Deaton must catch her train of thought.
"If you don’t go on this night, we can’t guarantee you’ll arrive in your universe."
"There’s a risk of that?" Derek asks, gripping her hand.
"Nothing is certain. I’m not a quantum physicist, but what I can surmise from Ms. Martin’s book is that you’ve come from another universe, one where the fire that killed your family did not occur. This diversion of events is of the ‘many-worlds’ interpretation of quantum physics."
"Like the new Star Trek films," Stiles says, nodding his head in seriousness.
"I suppose," Deaton says. "Even if that is fiction. I cannot theorize what may have happened in this world or that one, or even how you got here, I can only reverse it."
"It’s the blue moon," Stiles said, like they’re supposed to know what he means.
"The moon holds many mysteries and much power when magic is conducted at the right place and time," Deaton says. "The Hale house and territory has always held power, evidenced by Miss Martin’s actions with Peter Hale. Add the telluric currents of this town and the Nemeton’s power—"
"But you said the Nemeton was dormant," Derek says, his jaw clenching.
"Dormant, perhaps," Deaton says, "but not dead, especially when combined with the emotions of an inexperienced spark. This spell took a lot of power.” Deaton smiles at Stiles, a kind one that lays no blame. "It seems you are more influential than I thought."
“You’re saying Stiles re-awakened the Nemeton? Stiles?”
“Hey!” Stiles claps back, “I’ll have you know that—”
“Can we focus?” Laura says. “You said we’re running out of time.”
Deaton finishes the explanation of the spell and what they can expect, that it’s harder to pull someone from another world than it is to push themselves into one—or he theorizes—which is why she had the reaction when she arrived.
"What if it doesn’t work?" Derek asks. "And something happens to her."
Stiles assures him nothing will happen at the same time Deaton says there’s always a possibility and nothing is certain. She sees the hesitation on Derek’s face, worried for her about where she might end up, and maybe the fear of uncertainty will be enough for him to come with her.
"What about a ticket for two?" she asks. "Could you send us both back?"
Stiles flails, mouth open as he tries to think of something to say, while Deaton looks pensive.
"I suppose it’s possible." Deaton flips a few pages in the book. "The laws of reality wouldn’t be affected since there is no other Derek in that parallel world. You wouldn’t be sharing the same space with your other self. And actually, the spell is based on the concept of ‘something missing is found’ which is how you were pulled into this reality, Laura."
Stiles is quiet, too quiet from what she’s observed of him in the last few hours she’s gotten to know him.
"Stiles?" she asks because her brother is a brooding mute.
Stiles clears his throat. "Yeah. No, you should totally go, Derek. That’s awesome. You’ll have your family again. You deserve it, man. You’ve saved us, you saved the town, you’re done. Time for you to have a life...a good one." Stiles wipes his cheek on his shoulder, heading to the other room. There’s so much longing and torment coming from him that she wants to follow him, wrap him in her arms, only it’s not her place. She doesn’t know him and can’t presume to know what he’s thinking or what he wants. Her brother on the other hand, she can get a better read on him and he’s just as torn, lost and confused, haunted by the machinations of a teenage kid who summoned her from another universe to make his life a little better. She understands Derek’s hesitation and his guilt. She wants to tell him it’s okay if he wants to stay, but she’s too selfish and she doesn’t want that at all.
She sees it, though, the moment Derek changes his mind. It’s in his squared shoulders and the way he bites his lip. He’s going to stay, keep punishing himself for being the one who survived.
"I can’t go," Derek says to her, eyes pleading. "I shouldn’t get a free pass like that. I don’t deserve it."
Stiles comes storming into the kitchen. "You shut your stupid mouth with that kind of talk, Derek Hale! Don’t blame yourself for the choices other people make. You know who told me that? You did after the nogitsune. Shitty things happen sometimes. But it’s how we get past them that defines us. And if you waste this opportunity to have your family back in your life then I’ll never forgive you. I would give anything to have my mom back, I know what this means to you, so don’t pretend you don’t want it, that you’d rather punish yourself instead of having everything you’ve dreamed of for the last seven years!"
Laura wants to pull Stiles in her arms and kiss him all over. She kind of loves this kid. If the spell doesn’t work and they’re stuck here, she can see a long and satisfying future with Stiles, filled with hijinks and hilarity that she would pledge her life to protect. He’s worthy of the Hale legacy, a gift to be treasured, and if she didn’t want to disturb whatever is happening between Derek and Stiles, she would tell him all of this kneeling at his feet.
It’s difficult to hold still while she waits for her brother to react or for Stiles to keep berating him.
"The party’s over, dude," Stiles says, his voice cracking from the yelling. "And let's face it, it was a real shitty one where everyone puked in the flower pots." He gives him a weak smile. "You’re going. There's nothing here for you."
She studies her brother letting everything sink in, why Stiles did what he did for Derek and what he risked to make his life a little more special. It’s quite impressive to see; the realization dawning on Derek’s face as he comes to understand what she knew within minutes of arriving in this universe. Stiles loves him. And Derek loves him in return.
She’s proud of her brother when he stands in front of Stiles, head down but with purpose. "Nothing?" he asks, then meets his eyes.
Her heart melts for this and can’t believe she’s only spent a few hours with them and is getting to witness this. It’s like she’s been given a gift that will be cherished by her always.
"Maybe?" Stiles smiles. "Maybe there’s something?" He laughs. "There's definitely a maybe."
"There’s a maybe," Derek says, his fingers brushing Stiles’ cheek.
"Do you really want to risk happiness with your family for a maybe?" Stiles asks and Laura is fighting everything to refrain from squealing. She loves this brave, wise and wonderful stranger.
"This could be something," Stiles says, gesturing between them, "but you and I know we’re not there, yet. We have a long way to go and we may never get there after everything we’ve been through. You have a chance at a normal—well, relatively normal—life. What kind of person would I be if I didn’t want you to have that?"
Derek kisses Stiles. It’s not a tender kiss by any means. It makes Laura blush and feel all kinds of things she’s not sure she wants to parse. She’s a twenty-seven-year-old werewolf, she should not be cheering on her brother for mauling a human teenager, but she’s in another universe so she can do whatever the hell she wants. When it gets a little too heated, she makes herself scarce like Deaton did, and retreats to the porch to give them some privacy. Neither say anything, just smile, nodding awkwardly, trying not to listen to the gasps and moans and sounds of lips devouring one another.
It goes on until Deaton eventually clears his throat. "The moon is setting," he says. "We have to do this soon."
"Okay, boys!" She claps her hands and they break apart with red cheeks. "I’d say get a room but..." She pretends to glance at a watch as she stomps into the house with Deaton following.
As Deaton prepares the final part of the spell with Laura’s help, Derek murmurs about a Camaro, deed to a building and cash in the walls as he hands Stiles a set of keys. Stiles argues, refusing to accept them, but with blue eyes, a final growl and a peck on the lips, Stiles admits defeat. After that, there are a few more whispers and promises, and then they stand in silence, avoiding each other’s eyes. It’s not awkward, but it sure is charged.
"Find me," Stiles blurts out. "Laura said her Stiles knows nothing about werewolves and magic and is living a normal life, but I want you to find me. It may take a while for you to heal, to be ready, but if I’m built the same, it won’t take much for me to fall in love with you. So, when you’re ready, Derek, find me and make me fall ridiculously, embarrassingly, head-over-heels for you, the whole you. The one who gets to have extra years with his family and has a healed heart."
"It’s up to you. If you want it."
Laura will make damn sure Stiles is in their life in whatever capacity is appropriate. She has no idea what’s in store for them when and if they get back, but it will take time for everyone to heal. She senses Derek’s fear, his worry that he’s making the wrong decision, that the family won’t accept him, and it’s that fear that has her smiling. This Derek is now her Derek and he may be a little weathered but underneath it, he’s the same kid who would offer her the last of his Easter chocolate just to see her smile. He’s still her brother at the core of who he is. And if that’s true, then the Stiles of her world is worth having as an ally in their lives.
"Are we ready?" Deaton says, ever the perfect timing. "Laura, Derek, please stand in the circle where Laura first appeared. Holding hands would be best."
"You ready?" she asks, a small part of her speculating if he’ll stay, but he nods and joins her, reaching for her hands.
"Not even remotely." Derek focuses on their joined hands. "This isn’t real," he mutters.
"Oh, it better be fucking real." She laughs, as does Stiles.
"Just a second," she says, holding up her finger. She rushes at Stiles embracing him in a bone-crushing hug. "Thank you," she confides. "For…" She scents him, pulling the essence of who he is inside of her so she’ll carry it with them into her world. She has so many things to say to him and not enough time. She wants to know more about him, hear more of their stories and thank him for being Derek’s friend, watching out for him, caring about him enough to bring her here, and loving him when there was no one here to do that. And most importantly, loving him enough to let him go. She squeezes him one last time. "For everything. Thank you."
She joins Derek, hands clasped. "Ready."
"What if it doesn’t work?" he asks.
"If it doesn’t, it was worth trying." She places her hand on his cheek. "I’ve missed you so much. Everyone has and if this means this is it, well, I’ll have died happily seeing your face again."
"You’re not going to die!" Stiles says. "It’s like you don’t trust me, or something. It worked before."
Derek turns to him, eyes shining with tears. "I trust you."
"It’s time," Deaton says, opening the portal. He chants as a crackling sensation shifts along her spine, like the air in the room is getting sucked out all at once. She squeezes Derek’s hands, then changes her mind and pulls him close, wrapping her arms around him, gripping tightly like she’ll never let anything separate them ever again.
There’s a flash of light, an electrical discharge emanating from the ceiling surrounding them. It’s a thunderous sound and makes the hair on her arms stand up. She glances toward Stiles to see him crying, staring at them with fondness. He smiles at her, mouths ‘take care of him,’ and as the electricity buzzes along her skin, Stiles yells, a desperate plea over the roaring in her ears.
"Laura, promise me! Make sure he finds me. I just...I just want to know him!"
And then there’s silence.