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should the pillars of memory topple out of my reach

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All must be remembered:
a turning wind, the threads
in the threadbare event must be gathered,
yard after yard of all we inhabited,
the train’s long trajectory,
and the trappings of sorrow.

Should a rosebush by lost
or a hare be confused with the night,
should the pillars of memory
topple out of my reach,
I must remake the air,
the steam and the soil and the leaves,
my skin and the bricks in the wall,
the thorn in my flesh
and the haste of my flight.

Pity the poor poet!

I was always an avid forgetter:
in my two human hands
only the untouchable things of the world
live unscathed,
and the power of comparison required
nothing less than their total destruction.

Smoke came like a smell,
and smell passed like a smoke,
the skin of a body asleep
that woke to my kisses:
no one asked for the date
or the name of my dream:
I am powerless to measure the road
that leads to no country, perhaps,
or the truth’s pure mutation
that might blow itself out in the daylight
or afterward change to the glow
of a firefly’s vagary at night.

- Pablo Neruda, "Memory"


 

 

He wakes up, and he is alone.

He’s in a hospital room, and there are machines beeping and whirring nearby, the entire place smelling of antiseptic. He doesn’t know how to explain it, but underneath that he can smell the sharp tang of worry and stress, anxiety and exhaustion.

He blinks, sitting up, and pulls the IV out of his arm and watches, fascinated when the small opening on his arm closes, as if there had never been a needle there. He rubs at the drop of dried blood, and underneath it is just smooth skin.

The floor is cold under his feet as he stands up, reading the name printed on the IV bag’s label.

Derek S. Hale.

Derek, he thinks, turning over the name in his head. It feels right to him, but he still doesn’t know why he’s in the hospital. He feels perfectly healthy.

The thin hospital gown flaps open, but he isn’t cold. Some instinct tells him that his body is naturally warm, but Derek’s train of thought is interrupted by a doctor entering the room.

“Mr. Hale!” she says, eyes widening. “You should be-- lay back down, you’ve been in a terrible accident. I’m surprised you can even stand up right now,” she says, and Derek obediently sits down on the edge of the bed. “And you removed your IV,” the doctor says, clicking her tongue impatiently. “How are your ribs?”

Derek lets her feel his ribcage, watching as her face wrinkles in confusion. “That’s strange,” she says, hesitant. “Wait right here, I’m going to tell your nurse you’re up.”

Derek nods, and he watches the doctor leave the room and shut the door. He can still hear her, though, in the hallway, voice clear as day. Derek finds by concentrating he can focus on the voices in the hallway, or the beeps of the machine, or the television in the room next door.

There’s a plastic bag sitting in the corner that’s marked “PATIENT BELONGINGS.” Derek picks it up, hoping to find something that will give him a clue to who he is beyond his name. Opening the bag releases a deluge of familiar scents-- his own, he recognizes, and a few more. The clothes are torn and covered in dried blood, but there’s a wallet at the bottom of the bag.

Derek flips the wallet open, looking at his driver’s liscense

“--should keep him for observation, I’ve never seen anything like it--”

They’re excited now, and Derek is starting to get worried. He doesn’t know what “observation” entails, but he’s pretty sure he isn’t going to like it.

He gets dressed in the clothes from the bag. They’re dirty, sure, but his instinct tells him it will be easier to leave the hospital if he’s not wearing the surgical gown.

There’s a hole ripped clean through the abdomen of the blue shirt, and Derek rethinks putting it on; it might draw more attention to him. He wonders what happened, though, and what impaled him in the stomach and also broke his ribs. And why he doesn’t have those injuries anymore, is the more pressing question.

Derek should probably figure this out later though. He yanks on the jeans, the denim cold and stiff against his bare thighs, but half dressed is better than not dressed at all.

There’s another person in the hallway now, whose scent upon arrival makes Derek’s body snap to attention immediately. It’s the source of that faint comfort lingering on Derek’s own clothes, and Derek understands immediately he knows this person. They’re important to Derek somehow, and Derek wants to race out into the hallway to see them, meet them, bury his face into their chest and inhale more of this wonderful scent.

The doctors are blocking the way, though, and Derek is torn between sneaking out the window or to wait and try and find a way around them to meet his person. Because they’re undoubtedly Derek’s, right? He has no idea who he is right now, why he can smell things like this or why he’s here, uninjured when he is supposed to be very much so, but this person smells like safety and comfort and home.

Derek’s trying to figure out what to do when a voice rings out in the hallway, commanding the doctors to release Derek to him.

“I cannot believe that state of the healthcare industry! My husband and I have quality insurance, he should be at St. John’s Medical Center, not at this dump!”

“Sir, will you calm down--”

“I will not calm down! Believe me, I am gonna sue the pants off of your entire institution if you do not release my husband to me right now!”

Derek gets a first glimpse of his-- his husband-- through the paneled window between his room and the hallway. He’s attractive, with soft-looking brown hair and brown eyes that are currently flashing with anger. He turns, looking at Derek through the window and mouths at him, It’s going to be okay.

Derek stares, watching him argue through the glass with the doctors, transfixed.

He married a gorgeous man who is passionate and well spoken, with expressive hands that have long, tapered fingers. Derek drinks in all the visual information he can: his husband’s plaid overshirt’s collar is half flipped, half not, like he got dressed in a hurry. He must have been worried about Derek, and Derek feels a pang of guilt, getting in some sort of accident and injuring himself terribly. He hopes his husband won’t take the news of the memory loss too badly.

Derek still loves him, he’ll have to make certain his husband knows.

There’s a redness to his husband’s lower lip like he’s been biting it, and Derek wants to kiss it better.

The door opens, and the incoming scent of his husband-- pure, undiluted-- wafts into the room, and Derek is overwhelmed. He rushes into his husband’s arms, seizing him in a tight hug, pressing his nose to that pale neck. Yes, this is good, this is safe. For the first time since Derek’s woken up he feels his body relaxing.

“Alright, it looks like everything is in order,” the doctor is saying sheepishly. “Mr. Hale, if you would sign here to acknowledge that you’re checking out against medical advice--”

Derek takes the offered pen, not letting go of his husband with the other arm. He scribbles on the line quickly, and then his husband says brightly, “Alrighty then-- Derek, you’ve got all your stuff?”

Derek nods, the wallet already in the pocket of his jeans. He doesn’t have any attachment to any of the torn, bloodied rags left in the bag, and neither does his husband, apparently, as he just steers Derek neatly out of the room and down the hall.

“Oh my God, what a nightmare, I can’t believe of all places you ended up,” Derek’s husband is muttering to himself. “C’mon, let’s get out of here, this place gives me the creeps with their vomit-colored walls and everything.”

He keeps up a brisk pace, and Derek doesn’t want to stop touching his husband but it’s difficult to walk with his arms around him so he’s willing to settle for holding hands. But when he reaches out, his husband stops suddenly, staring at Derek, a pink flush high in his cheeks.

“Pull up your fucking zipper, dude, I can practically see your dick,” he snaps.

Derek looks down at himself, and hastily tugs the zipper up.

His husband sighs, exasperated. “Let me guess, your shirt was all in pieces, too, that’s why you’re subjecting the general public to your”-- he waves his hands at Derek’s torso-- “everything.”

Derek frowns. Maybe his husband is possessive and prefers Derek to be partially nude only at home. “Sorry,” Derek says sincerely.

They’re in a parking lot, walking up to a battered blue Jeep, and his husband says, “Yeah, just because you have to go au natural whenever you’re full wolf doesn’t mean-- wait a minute.”

They stop in front of the car, and Derek’s husband fixes him with a strange look. “Why are you saying sorry? Whenever I make fun of your uber hot bod you just make the face and say ‘Deal with it, Stiles’.”

“Stiles,” Derek says, the name resting comfortably on his tongue. He says it again, smiling.

“Okay, now you’re creeping me out,” Stiles says, shaking his head.

Derek steps forward and pulls him into another embrace, relishing in the warmth of his body and how solid Stiles is in his arms. “Derek, are you okay?” Stiles asks, and there’s a sharp scent of worry coming from him now.

“I’m fine now. Thank you for getting me. I think those doctors wanted to keep me for-- for something,” Derek says.

“Yeah, pretty sure werewolf healing would be hella interesting.”

“Werewolf?” Derek asks, eyebrows knitting together.

Stiles steps back, holding him by the shoulders, studying his face intently. “Holy shit, you are not okay. Derek-- do you know where we are? What happened today?”

Derek shakes his head. “I know my name. And I know you. I’m sorry I lost my memory, I really don’t know what happened. But I promise, I still love you.”

Stiles stares.

 


 

 

Stiles is fucked. Like so, so fucked. Metaphorically. But also literally, considering the way Derek keeps looking at him, like he wants to do the fucking. It’s seriously messing with his head right now because he’s pretty sure the real Derek would never even think of Stiles like that, not that this is a fake Derek or anything, but--

Oh fucking-- Derek just reached for his hand. Like he wanted to hold it.

Stiles jerks his right hand from the console and puts it back on the steering wheel, staring determinedly ahead. There’s a red light, and Stiles turns because it’s in his nature to not sit still, and then he looks at Derek.

It’s a mistake, because Derek Hale is pouting.

“You smell upset,” Derek says sadly. “Is it my fault? I don’t remember what I did before the-- were we having a fight?”

“Okay, technically it is some of your fault since you’re a noble, self sacrificing asshole who will apparently track down dark fae on his own without telling anyone, but then Scott told me that after your fight with their goons, their leader pretty much surrendered to Scott and agreed to the peace talk, but whatever magic they did to you to make you lose your memory like three towns over, that. That is not your fault,” Stiles says.

Derek takes all this in stride, face stoic. His expression doesn’t explain when Stiles tries to go over the basics: Derek’s a werewolf, he lives in Beacon Hills, where they’ve just passed the welcome sign, and now Stiles is driving Derek home.

“You found me pretty quickly, if that all happened tonight,” Derek says, a small smile on his face. If Stiles didn’t know any better he’d say that look in his eyes is adoring, but he does know better, and also amnesiac Derek thinks they’re married. Which is the only fact he hasn’t questioned so far, which is the weirdest thing. Like Derek asked question after question while Stiles was explaining the werewolf thing, and then when Derek had sneezed and his claws had inadvertently popped out, and then he played with the shift for awhile, studying himself in the mirror and asking wide-eyed and serious, “But where do my eyebrows go?”

That had been hilarious. But right now Derek is doing that look again, and it hurts, because it’s everything Stiles wants but can’t have.

“Yeah, I mean after we realized you were gone, I figured you went after the fae, so I just tracked unusual atmospheric activity until I figured out where they were, and then from there it was pretty easy to find where they handed your ass to you and what hospital you’d have ended up in if some passerby called 911.”

Derek nods while Stiles is saying this, totally impressed. It’s nice, but still… totally weird. Stiles actually misses some of the lame backtalk he’s used to from Derek.

Derek reaches out tentatively, like he wants to hold hands again, and it makes Stiles shudder, thinking of the full-body hug Derek had greeted him with. That had been intense. Amazing, yes, but intense.

Stiles takes a deep breath. “Derek. You should know, but uh, we’re not married.”

Derek’s face falls, and he turns to look at Stiles in horror.

“I know I said-- I just wanted to get you out of there, and it was the first thing that popped into my mind,” Stiles says. He bites his tongue before he admits that it didn’t take much thinking to imagine, in some alternate universe he actually not only fell in love with Derek, but at some point told him about it and his feelings were reciprocated, and they dated and got married and then lived happily ever after.

Reality is that Stiles never tells Derek about his crush, and then goes off to college and dates other people. He comes back to Beacon Hills and thinking that being friends with Derek, working with him and Scott and the pack and everyone, that would help, but that just turned the crush into actual feelings.

Stiles parks the car in the lot next to Derek’s building, and shuts off the engine. It looks like Derek is taking time to process this information. Stiles hopes he won’t be angry, or--

“That’s okay,” Derek says, and Stiles leans back against the seat in relief. “I mean, I noticed we weren’t wearing rings, and we’re both pretty young.” He grins at Stiles, and before Stiles knows what’s happening, Derek leans forward over the console and kisses him quickly on the lips. “I’m sure you’re a great boyfriend.”

Derek cheerfully opens the car door and hops out, leaving Stiles still sitting in the driver’s seat, absolutely stunned. He can still feel the phantom press of Derek’s lips to his, soft and warm, and he sits there, frozen, unable to process what has just happened.

“Stiles? Are we home? I don’t know where we’re going, by the way. I’m guessing we live together, since your Jeep has a parking permit for this lot,” Derek says, standing outside Stiles’ car window.

The easy, casual way he just accepts it absolutely floors Stiles. Are we home, do we live together. The words tumble through his brain, and all of a sudden domestic images of Derek and Stiles living in the same space flutter through his head-- cuddling in bed, cooking together, showering--

Ugh, there is no use to thinking about things that will never happen. So he got kissed. So what. That’s just-- it was just a mistake, that’s all. Derek will get his memory back and they’ll laugh about this in the future, because they’re friends, and one day it will just come up like “Remember when you lost your memory and totally thought we were dating and then you kissed me? Hilarious!”

Stiles moves to open the car door, and Derek has propped his forearms on the window, leaning in, looking expectantly at him.

He looks ridiculously cute, tilting his head forward like he wants another kiss.

Stiles steels himself. “Derek, look, you’ve got it wrong. We’re not married, we’re not dating, we’re not anything.”

“But--” Derek glances to the parking permit hanging from the Jeep’s rearview mirror, which clearly indicates “RESIDENT PARKING PASS.”

“Yeah, I stole that because you never use the spare, and pack stuff always ends up here somehow because you don’t have any furniture like a total loser--”

And now Derek looks sad again. Stiles is really gonna have to amend the way he’s used to just throwing the insults since memory-less Derek doesn’t seem to want to insult him back. It’s not really fun when he just lets Stiles make fun of him like that and now he’s doing some sort of really cute lip pout.

“Come on,” Stiles sighs. “I’ll walk you up to your door,” he says.

 


 

Derek follows Stiles out of the parking lot and into the building, up the rickety stairs to his loft. He smells unhappy and anxious, and Derek wants to do something, anything to help, but apparently they’re not together.

Which is so strange, because Stiles smells so good to him, and he obviously cares about Derek, and right now he’s pulling out a tangle of keys from his pocket and one of them fits in the door perfectly.

The steel door slides open, and Derek takes a huge whiff. It smells familiar and safe, a myriad of scents-- his own, he recognizes immediately, and then a few more, different people that he notices who’ve been here often, that he trusts. His pack.

And Stiles. His scent is here too, over on the couch, all over the kitchen area, flitting across the floor, even-- even on the bed.

Stiles steers him toward it, motioning for Derek to sit down, and he does, grabbing one of the pillows to hold. It smells like Stiles. This Stiles, the one currently grabbing a glass from a cupboard and filling a glass of water from the kitchen like he knows exactly where everything is, this Stiles has slept here. Fairly recently.

While Derek is wondering about this, Stiles hands him the glass of water. His cell phone rings, and Stiles motions for him to drink. Derek does so, listening to Stiles’ conversation. He’s talking to someone called Scott, at whose voice has Derek automatically nodding. A leader, a packmate, someone Derek trusts. Who also is telling a worried Stiles that he should stay and watch Derek tonight.

Stiles shoots Derek a concerned glance. “You sure the fae said it would wear off tomorrow?”

“Yeah,” Scott’s voice on the other line says. “I’m still in negotiations with them on what they can and can’t do in Beacon Hills, and I’m gonna be busy for the next few hours. The spell does make them prone to wandering around if they’re on their own, it took us awhile to track down Liam--”

“Oh no, baby wolf got hit with the same thing?”

“Yeah, well just the memory spell, he didn’t actually try and fight them like Derek did, so he’s not injured, but yeah, Liam doesn’t remember anyone. But he does say Mason smells really good, and kind of instinctually remembers that I’m his Alpha, so between the two of us we’ve been able to keep him in one spot.”

“Derek, do you have the sudden urge to go walk around by yourself?”

Derek shakes his head, sipping his water. Stiles is here, his scent warm and comforting, and he really doesn’t want to go anywhere else.

Stiles goes back to talking with Scott, and Derek can feels his spirits lifting, as it sounds like Stiles is getting more and more convinced to stay with Derek.

“Fine, okay, I’ll stay,” Stiles says. “This is the worst, you guys owe me big time,” he says, hanging up the phone.

Derek is trying to figure out why Stiles’ heartbeat stuttered over this is the worst, brightening when he figures it out. “You don’t actually think this is the worst,” he offers.

“What?”

“Staying here. With me.” Derek beams at him.

Stiles shakes his head. “As much as I love seeing your rare smile, dude, this is really weird right now. Why don’t you try and get some sleep.” He stands up, rummaging around in the drawers next to Derek’s bed, and tosses a pair of sweatpants at Derek. There’s also a pair he grabs for himself, which he takes to the bathroom. Derek can hear Stiles brushing his teeth, wondering what kind of relationship they have where Stiles has a toothbrush, spare clothes, and a parking permit for where Derek lives but they aren’t anything. That heartbeat he heard, now that he thinks about it, wasn’t exactly steady over that word.

Derek changes into the sweatpants, which are a lot more comfortable than the stiff jeans he was wearing, and crawls into his bed, closing his eyes. He listens to the water in the bathroom stop, and Stiles’ steady heartbeat and breathing as he back into the main room.

After a moment, Derek’s eyes flutter open when the footsteps stop. He looks over and sees Stiles sprawled out on the tiny couch, his gangly legs hanging over the armrest.  

“Stiles,” Derek calls out. He pats the bed next to him, waiting for Stiles to join him.

“You know I said we’re not together, right?” Stiles says.

“You’ve slept in my bed before,” Derek replies, and he’s pleased to see a faint rosy flush beginning in Stiles’ cheeks.

“I-- you-- you insisted! I was going to go home after the whole lame kelpie incident, but you were like ‘Stiles, you’re injured, you’re only going to injure yourself more’… guh, fine.” Stiles gets up from the couch, stomping over to the bed, and Derek turns on his side, watching him get under the covers. “I will say, you and your ridiculously expensive memory foam mattress-- by the way, I totally understand and appreciate but I still wonder why you haven’t furnished the rest of this place--”

“Stiles, go to sleep,” Derek huffs, and Stiles glances at him sideways.

“Hey, you sound like you now. Do you… do you remember anything?”

Derek shakes his head. He doesn’t have any pressing need to at the moment, doesn’t feel curious about his life. All he knows is that right now he has everything he needs. He’s safe and warm and...he has Stiles. Even if they aren’t married, or dating, or whatever, Derek feels good, having him here. Before Stiles showed up in that hospital it was like he was adrift, but he’s not lost in the sea of his thoughts anymore. He’s got an anchor keeping him steady.

~

The morning sun is bright as usual in Derek’s loft, the warm light flickering on his face. Not for the first time Derek considers buying curtains, but then that would probably throw off his biological clock. Besides, he likes waking up at dawn. It’s good for empty trails when he goes for his usual run around the Preserve.

Derek stretches, noting the strange recently healed sensation of his ribs, and it comes back to him. Chasing after the dark fae, challenging them to a fight to make them leave Beacon Hills. A stupid decision, probably, but one of them had insulted Scott, and Derek had been livid about the disrespect. Waking up in the hospital. Stiles declaring himself Derek’s husband, picking him up and driving him back to Beacon Hills. Derek kissing Stiles in the Jeep, convinced they were at least dating, if not married.

Derek plays over the rest of the events of the night in his head, and turns over.

Stiles is still asleep in his bed, his brown hair tousled messily, mouth falling partly open. He’s shifted in the night, and is now curling up to Derek, his head resting on Derek’s chest.

Derek watches him breathe for a little while, soothed by the constant rhythm of his heartbeat. Stiles finally wakes when the morning sun gets a little too bright, and he looks up at Derek, blinking wearily.

“Uh, hey,” Stiles says. “Sorry about the cuddles, I just-- you’re really warm and--”

“It’s okay,” Derek says.

“Are you ...back? Do you remember what happened?” Stiles asks hesitantly.

Derek nods, slowly, waiting for Stiles’ reaction. It kind of happens all at once-- there’s a sharp tang of anxiety, a sense of panic and guilt settling in the air, and a heavy sense of worry in his scent, and he jerks backwards away from Derek in the bed.

Derek catches him by the shoulder. “I promise, I still love you,” he says.

For a second Stiles gives him a look of disbelief, like he’s not sure that Derek’s memories have actually returned, and then Derek leans forward a little, taking a deep breath. “I think I have for awhile. Since you’ve come back from college, and we started spending more time together. I was pretty sure you just wanted to be friends, and I didn’t want to give that up.”

Stiles is still just looking at him, eyes searching Derek’s own, listening intently.

“I guess I’m just trying to say thanks, for putting up with how weird I was without my memory. I think I only had my emotions and instincts to go on, so I-- I’m sorry. I kind of stole a kiss from you.”

Stiles takes a deep breath, and Derek is suddenly aware that he’s still in the bed, body close, face drifting closer, eyes dilating like he’s--

“Can I-- can I have it back?” Stiles asks softly.

Derek can practically feel the air in the room still, like time stops, and he can only nod his head, and Stiles moves in closer, touching his lips to his. It’s a soft question of a kiss, easy to answer, and Derek knows he’ll remember this particular moment forever.