Unreality – EAD 2021

Unreality – EAD 2021

Title: Unreality

Author: Claire Watson

Word Count: 4,915

Fandom: Teen Wolf

Relationship(s): Derek/Stiles future

Genre: Canon divergent, Magical realism

Content Rating: Gen

Warnings: None at present

Authors Note: This is set in a Teen Wolf canon that went divergent late S2. Allison didn’t go psycho when her mom died, Gerard died of heart failure before he could put his plan into action. Scott grudgingly joined Derek’s pack at Chris Argent’s insistence. Cora arrived from South America and reunited with her brother and uncle. Aside from general monster of the week type issues, things in Beacon Hills have been fairly calm.

 

For the last two months, pack meetings had been held at Hale House 2.0. Derek, Cora, and Peter had chosen not to rebuild on the original site, instead building anew about half a mile away. The old burnt-out wreck had been pulled down, and a memorial garden had been planted in and around the remaining foundations.

Stiles looked forward to seeing it when the trees had established themselves; it promised to be beautiful. As thrilled as he was for the Hales, he wished that tonight’s meeting had been a little closer to civilisation. Maybe then this freak snowstorm wouldn’t be inconveniencing him so much.

Snow was falling thickly. The windscreen wipers were on full, but visibility was almost non-existent. He was moving at a snail’s pace, and even then, Stiles found himself leaning forward as though that would make it easier to see.

It wasn’t as if he’d never been in heavy snow before, he’d just wasn’t used to it in Beacon Hills. When he wondered out loud at the pack meeting if it could be a sign of supernatural shenanigans, his concerns hadn’t been taken as seriously as he thought they should have been. Apparently fucking with the weather just took up too much power for it to be a worthwhile pastime.

Stiles had his doubts, but it was pointless reiterating them. He planned to research the hell out of it when he finally got home.

If Scott were with him, he’d be able to use his enhanced hearing to help him navigate through this unexpected storm. They’d initially made plans for a COD session, but then Allison called, and Scott had bailed.

“Sorry, dude.” Scott hadn’t sounded sorry. “Rain-check?”

It was phrased like a question, but Stiles had known all too well that it was already a done deal.

Scott pulled on his shoes, talking animatedly. “Allison broke up with Isaac, she said that she’s been thinking about me a lot and wants to give it another go. I should go and see her, right? Should I bring her a gift? Maybe I should stop at the store and get some ice-cream. Or chocolate! She likes chocolate.”

Stiles’ eyes rolled so hard it was painful. “Oh my god, again? What is this, the…ninth? Or is it tenth? I think it’s tenth…time that you’ve ‘made up’ this year. By next week you’ll be making moon eyes at Isaac again. Why are the three of you doing this to yourselves?”

“It’s tempestuous,” Scott had explained. “We fight because we have an overpouring of passion for each other.”

“Sounds exhausting,” Stiles replied, wondering which romance Scott had picked that one from. Not that there was anything wrong with romances, but they were fiction. He made a note to source some of the more real-to-life examples and leave them in Scott’s room. Hopefully, he’d get the hint. “I’m not sure why you’re even talking to me about it. It’s not like you listen to me. I’m lucky to even be notified that you’re standing me up.”

Scott looked wounded. “You’re my ultra-supportive gay best friend! Who else am I going to go to for advice?”

Stiles stared at him. “Well, thanks for the validation, buddy. If you really want my advice, then listen closely.” He leaned in. Scott leaned forward too. “Break up with both of them. Journey to Nepal, and there take up the challenge offered by Annapurna. When you reach the peak, strip naked and meditate for seven days and seven nights. On the dawn of the eighth day, you will receive your answer. Only then may you return.”

Scott drew back, frowning. “You’re not taking this seriously.”

“Sorry, was that the wrong genre?” Stiles asked sarcastically. He started ticking points off his fingers. “Male protagonist, seeking wisdom, tragic orphan…no, wait, you’re right. This was Derek’s advice. Here’s yours… Grow up. Either work out a way for the three of you to be together without constantly spilling your drama all over the rest of us, or break up with them and find someone else.”

“You just don’t know what being in love is like,” Scott said, shaking his head. “One day, you’ll understand. I’ll catch up with you later.” With that, he’d tucked his phone into his coat and left. Apparently, he planned to run all the way to Allison’s.

There wasn’t much point in hanging around after that.

Derek had suggested that Stiles stay at the house until the weather cleared. Stiles had been tempted, so tempted, but the way that Peter’s eyes lit up at the prospect convinced him that he would be better off at home. Anything that made Peter that happy was bound to end in tears.

Derek had been unhappy and had loaded Stiles up with all sorts of winter gear before letting him out the door. Stiles had humoured him. An earnest Derek was hard to refuse. Right now, he was glad that he had.

The echoing sound of the wind whipping the snow in and around the trees increased until it almost sounded like a howl. What visibility there had been was swallowed up, leaving Stiles blind to anything outside.

He was about to pull over when a burst of light exploded around him, and everything suddenly stopped; the snowfall, the wind; the jeep, as it ran into an obstruction hidden under a pile of snow in the road.

The engine sputtered in objection before dying.

“Shit!” Stiles turned the ignition. The engine turned over once, twice, before even that gave out. He hit the hazards harder than necessary, relieved that at least those were working. For now, anyway.

He pulled out his phone, cursing again when he saw that it had run flat. He’d been meaning to get the battery replaced, a phone that couldn’t even hold a charge for a single day was not what he needed. He just hadn’t got around to it yet, and now it looked like he was going to pay the price.

Stiles was left with a choice. He could wait here in the car, hoping that someone would come by and either help him or give him a lift, or he could try making his way, either forwards or backwards, on foot.

Stiles tapped his fingers against the steering wheel as he considered his options. In the end, his decision was made for him. Something heavy suddenly smashed against the passenger’s side of the jeep, caving the door frame in and breaking the window before coming to rest inches from where Stiles was sitting. It was a tree, or what was left of one.

Icy air flooded the cabin.

“Fine!” Stiles said aloud to the universe that was clearly out to get him. “I’m going, okay? I’m going! Sheesh.”

Pulling his beanie down firmly over his brow and his ears and moving his collar up so that it covered most of his nose, Stiles looked both ways before crossing to the other side of the road where the trees provided a bit more of a wind-break. He knew he ran the risk of the snow being blown off the branches and dropped on top of him, but at that moment he didn’t care.

It was probably better to go back to Derek’s, even though it meant heading back into the woods rather than closer to civilisation. Derek’s was closer; and secondly, Derek was home, unlike his dad who had already let Stiles know that he was going to take the opportunity to get some of the paperwork backlog seen to. If there was one positive thing you could say about a snowstorm, it was that criminals were no more eager to be out and about in it than law-abiding citizens.

Also, Stiles had just driven along the road, so he had a reasonable assumption that it would be somewhat clear of debris, and the snow level should be manageable.

Having made his decision, he started trudging back along the road, imagining the look on Derek’s face when he showed up at the door.

The world around him still seemed unnaturally silent, the only sounds the ones he made as he walked, and the occasional creaking of the trees. The cold air felt like it was scraping his sinuses raw, but in a good way. Like he was being scoured with a wire brush and would emerge all shiny, with the caked-on evidence of the past removed.

He felt like the only person in the world.

Ten minutes into his walk, the snow started falling again. Not the dense blowing snow of before, more a gentle dance of snowflakes through the air.

A howl sounded off the left, the now-familiar sound of a wolf’s call. Without thinking about it, Stiles raised his head and answered with his own, very subpar, human howl.

Less than a minute later, an enormous black wolf with glowing red eyes emerged from the undergrowth.

“Derek?” Stiles blinked in shock. He knew the stories; the Hale bloodline was coveted because of their ability to take a full wolf form. He had no idea that any of the current Hales had that ability, let alone Derek. Stiles put his hands on his hips and gave Derek the stare-down. “Dude, are you keeping secrets from the rest of us again? Do I need to remind you just how epically badly that has a habit of turning out for us? Especially me, the squishy human?”

Derek chuffed lightly, stepping forward to stick his nose way to close to Stiles’ crotch for comfort.

“Whoa, nellie!” Stiles said, stepping back hurriedly. “Let’s not get overfriendly. Why are you sniffing me anyway? You think I might be hurt? Well, I’m not, okay? I promise I can actually go whole hours at a time without injuring myself. Fine, check if you don’t believe me.” He did his best to hold still while Derek quickly sniffed him over, pushing his muzzle away when it wandered towards his crotch again. “Uh, uh, I said no! That part of me is strictly off-limits to anyone without my express consent, you hear me?”

Derek made another chuffing noise but allowed the deflection. He shook himself. Snow—which had gathered like a light, white, blanket over his fur—flew in all directions. That done, he turned and trotted back towards the trees.

“Hey, wait!” Stiles called. “You’re not coming with me? You’re just leaving me to walk back to your place by myself? What kind of alpha are you, anyway?”

Derek looked back at Stiles, and then at the trees. Then back at Stiles, and then the trees again. He took another step towards the trees, and then looked back at Stiles.

Stiles blinked. “You’re gonna show me a short-cut? Is that really such a good idea?”

Derek took another step towards the trees.

“Fine, fine, you know these woods better than I do,” Stiles capitulated, not really wanting to be left alone again. He looked back at the road—visible mostly as space where the trees weren’t, and then followed Derek.

v^v^v^v

Walking through the trees was both easier and more challenging than following the road. On the one hand, the wind was less biting and the snowfall less constant. On the other, he frequently had to jump out of the way of snow dumps.

“You know, I used to love doing this when I was a kid,” Stiles said conversationally, stepping to one side as the canopy above him dropped a pile of snow right next to him. “Every year, my mom would take me with her to do the rounds of her friends. We’d fly to New York for a couple of days, then to Minneapolis. Susan Hobson had a small craft farm out by Black Duck Lake. She had a workshop with all sorts of crazy herbs and things.”

Derek flicked his ears but didn’t otherwise react. Stiles didn’t let that deter him from continuing.

“I wonder if she’s a druid? O a witch, or something? Because, with hindsight, that was a fuck-ton of stuff to have on hand if she was just a new-age herbalist.”

He was startled out of his thoughts by a loud cracking sound. Then a warm, black-furred body was barrelling into him, knocking him ass over tea-kettle into a pile of snow.

Stiles spat out the snow that had found its way into his mouth. “What the hell, Derek?” He gave himself a quick pat-down to ensure that all his bits were where he expected them to be. He turned to find Derek, ready to give him a piece of his mind, only to see him standing next to a fallen tree. A fallen tree, right where Stiles had been walking. Stiles was starting to think that the trees were out to get him.

“Oh.” Stiles’ face grew warm, even in the chill air. “Thank you, Derek.”

Derek chuffed and then led him back to where the trunk had snapped, leaping nimbly over it before stopping to wait for Stiles again.

“I’m glad you seem to know where you’re going,” Stiles remarked as he struggled over the trunk. It was hard enough to walk gracefully in winter gear at the best of times, and no one had ever accused Stiles of being overly graceful. “I don’t have the slightest idea of where we are.”

Derek raised his face and sniffed at the air before changing course slightly. Stiles followed, rubbing his gloved hands together. He’d always thought that with gloves this thick he’d be toasty warm if not steaming, but the chill wind was somehow making it through to steal what heat the friction managed to produce.

“I hope it’s not far,” Stiles grumbled, more to hear himself talk than any real desire to get to the Hale house. Spending time alone with Derek out here in the snow was preferable to knowing that Peter was waiting to pop up at any moment.

The most stressful thing about being a human in a werewolf pack wasn’t, as Stiles had initially imagined, fear of accidental dismemberment, or concern about being the target of hunters. No, it was knowing that the people around him had ways of knowing things that he didn’t.

Stiles regularly felt at a disadvantage. There were cues he was missing to people’s behaviour, he knew that. He’d tried asking Scott to fill him in, but Scott wasn’t the best at interpreting social cues at the best of times and couldn’t understand why it bothered Stiles so much.

Thanks to Derek’s insistence, most of the pack were pretty good about not lording their senses over the humans. Peter, however, wasn’t cowed by Derek’s scowl and flashing red eyes. He was often smirking at Stiles like he knew something Stiles didn’t. It was really irritating.

Stiles was brought out of his reverie by Derek stopping right in front of him.

“What? Why are we stopping?”

Derek didn’t answer. He sniffed around for a bit, before energetically starting to dig.

Stiles watched balefully. “This isn’t the time to go chasing after bunnies, Derek.”

Derek didn’t answer, but then he never was much of a talker.

Stiles sighed and rubbed his hands together. It wasn’t like he was in a tearing hurry or anything. It probably wouldn’t kill him to wait around for a bit while Derek played.

Before long, Stiles could hear Derek’s toenails scraping against something hard, maybe metal. He leaned in, peering over Derek’s shoulder to catch a glimpse of what it was. He was dazzled by the sight of crystals of all colours, glittering in the dim light of the afternoon.

They were set into a bright silvery metal surface that was large enough that Derek had only managed to uncover part of it.

“Want some help there, big guy?” Stiles asked, eager to see what it was.

Derek didn’t reply, just kept on digging. Stiles shrugged. Derek wasn’t much of a talker when he was on two legs, it didn’t surprise him that he’d be even more taciturn on four.

Stiles manoeuvred himself around so that he was opposite Derek and began scooping snow out of the way. Before long, he was able to wrestle it free and hold it up.

“It’s a mosaic,” Stiles breathed, brushing away some tenacious ice that was clinging to some of the crystals. “Are these gemstones? Surely not. Probably glass, or something else.”

The mosaic was of a big tree. It stood in the centre of a Stonehenge-type stone circle, on an island surrounded by water. It was beautiful. It was also heavy.

“You know, you could change back if you wanted to,” Stiles suggested to his four-legged companion. Derek was sitting on his haunches, looking pleased with himself, tongue hanging out of his mouth as he panted happily. “Your werewolf strength would come in handy.” A thought occurred to him. “Unless…okay, I can see why you wouldn’t want to naked out in this weather.”

Derek picked himself up, gave himself a shake, and trotted off again.

Stiles trudged after him, grumbling. “Not that I don’t appreciate a little treasure hunting, but why the hell are you waiting until a time like this to get your scooby on?”

Derek’s tail swished, managing to flick some snow up into Stiles’ face.

“Fine, I can take a hint.”

Ten minutes later, Stiles’ arms were starting to ache something fierce. “Is there somewhere I can put this down, Sourwolf? A designated rest area or something?”

Derek glanced at him but didn’t stop. Stiles sighed.

Then Derek dived into a fresh pile of snow and disappeared.

Stiles blinked. “Derek?”

There was no answer. Stiles stood there holding his fancy mosaic while snow slowly drifted down and settled on him. Derek’s head appeared out of the snowdrift. He gave Stiles a look, then retreated. Stiles could see darkness on the other side. It looked like the snow was superficially blocking the entrance to some sort of passageway or cave.

“Is that a cave? Derek, are you leading me into a cave? One ‘woof’ for yes, two for no.”

Silence.

The snow began to fall harder.

“You know I can’t see in there, Derek!”

Silence.

“Fine,” Stiles muttered. “If I fall down a mine-shaft and die, I’m going to haunt you for the rest of my life, Derek Hale.”

Gripping his fancy mosaic, Stiles ventured into the dark.

v^v^v^v

“You shouldn’t have let him leave, you know,” Peter commented, looking out of the window at the falling snow. “He was probably right about this snowstorm, which means he’s out there, alone, easy pickings for whatever nasty has enough power to cause something like this.”

Derek glowered at him. “If you hadn’t deliberately tried to make him uncomfortable, he might have stayed.”

Peter shrugged. “What can I say? It’s just so much fun to push his buttons.”

Derek paced, unable to rid himself of the feeling that something was very wrong. Outside, the wind picked up as the snow fell thicker. Finally, he couldn’t stand it anymore. “I’m going to go and check that he’s okay.”

“I’ll come with you,” Peter offered.

Derek gave him a hard look. “Why, so you can tease him some more? He might be out there freezing to death right now. You’re the last person he’ll want to see.”

Peter rolled his eyes. “It’s just a bit of fun. Oh, very well. I’ll leave off for a while.” He pouted. “Playing with Stiles is the only thing that makes pack meetings interesting. Most of your puppies are so…predictable.”

“I’m sure Stiles wouldn’t mind some verbal sparring,” Derek said. “Just do it from a level playing field. Feeding into his insecurities is counter-productive.” He raised his eyebrows. “Or are you afraid that you’ll lose?”

Peter scoffed. “To a stripling?”

Derek just stood looking at him, eyebrows raised.

“Fine,” Peter said, annoyed. “I promise I’ll only play games Stiles knows from now on. Shall we go and find your prince charming before he freezes to death, nephew?”

Derek knew better than to rub his victory in Peter’s face. “Come on. He probably hasn’t made it far.

v^v^v^v

Contrary to Stiles’ half-formed expectations, the cave wasn’t part of a derelict mine. It appeared to be a natural fissure in the rock. It wasn’t completely dark, either. Little specks of blue light high up lent enough light for Stiles to make out the shape of the walls, but not enough to stop him tripping on the uneven ground.

“I wish my phone had enough charge so that I could use the torch,” Stiles said softly to the dark shape moving in front of him. “This place is amazing. I never knew there were any natural caves in the preserve. I wonder if it was caused by volcanic activity, or by water?”

At the sound of his voice, the blue lights flickered slightly.

Stiles sighed. “I wish I knew where you were taking me. Is it another treasure hunt?”

Derek didn’t answer. Not that Stiles really expected him to. It was much warmer here, and Stiles was starting to feel a bit stifled by the clothes that had appeared inadequate only a short while before.

Soon Stiles could make out a glow in the distance. “Is that the exit? Have we, like, travelled through a hill, or something?” Stiles quickened his steps towards the opening, eager to get back to the Hale House. He should never have left.

The opening didn’t lead directly outside, there was a passageway to traverse first. At every step, the glow grew brighter.

Even before he reached the end of the passage, Stiles had realised that the glow looked wrong. “Derek, that’s not going to take me back outside, is it? I hope you’re not leading me into a bear cave, Derek. I don’t have a pot with me.”

The passageway opened out into another cavern. This one was huge, and although it wasn’t what you’d call brightly lit, there was a lot more light. Stiles attention was grabbed by the pond—or maybe small lake—that nearly filled the cavern. At its centre was a small island. On the island…

Stiles tilted his fancy mosaic so that he could get a look at it. Yep. Looked the same. Stone circle, tree. Except that the tree, in reality, didn’t look nearly as vibrant and robust as the one picked out in red, green, and yellow crystals.

Derek didn’t hesitate, just trotted into the water and swam over to the island, dragging himself out and shaking thoroughly before turning to look interrogatively at Stiles.

“I can see your eyebrows from here,” Stiles grumbled. He looked at all his cold-weather gear and sighed. “I’m getting a bad feeling about this.”

v^v^v^v

Stiles’ jeep was sitting in the road, abandoned, the engine cold. Stiles was nowhere to be seen.

Derek wrenched open the door and poked his head inside. He was hoping to find clues as to why Stiles had done such an out of character thing. Nothing.

Peter circled the vehicle, inspecting it from all sides. “I can’t see any sign of damage,” he reported. “At least, no new damage. Want me to see if the engine works?” He brandished a key.

Derek’s frown deepened. “Stiles gave you a key to his car?” He ignored the stab of hurt that Stiles hadn’t entrusted him with one. He didn’t think Stiles even liked Peter.

Peter wrinkled his nose. “Gave is such a subjective term. I have a key, that’s all that’s important right now.”

That made Derek feel better. He resolved to tell Stiles that Peter had copied his key at the first opportunity. “Hand it over.” Peter rolled his eyes but did as instructed.

When Derek turned the key, the engine turned over twice before the ignition caught. Then it sat there rumbling away just as it usually did.

Peter cocked his head. “The engine doesn’t sound any different, either. He’s going to need a new battery soon though. Or maybe it’s the alternator.”

Derek left the engine running and got out. “If there’s nothing wrong with the jeep, why did he just get out and wander off? In a snowstorm that might be unnatural? Stiles is smarter than that.”

“We agree on that much, at least,” Peter said. “Is there a reason you’ve left that gas guzzler running?”

“I’m warming up the engine so you can drive it back to the house,” Derek replied. “I’m going to see if I can find Stiles.”

“Anyone with enough power to create a snowstorm like this isn’t going to have any trouble with an alpha werewolf,” Peter warned, sounding almost concerned.

“I’ll be careful,” Derek promised.

Peter sighed. “Whatever.” He pushed past Derek and climbed into the jeep. “He might be trying to make his way back to the house. I’ll head in this direction on foot, and maybe between us well find him before he freezes to death.”

Derek waited until he couldn’t hear the jeep engine anymore before trying to smell any traces of Stiles that might remain. Nothing. Derek cursed the still falling snow, which would have obscured Stiles’ tracks long ago.

Derek lifted his head and howled. Maybe Stiles would hear him and try to respond. He strained his ears to catch even the slightest sound.

Nothing.

With no tracks, no scent markers, and no auditory cues to guide him, there was nothing for it but to go where his instinct led him. Derek hoped that it would be enough.

v^v^v^v

Derek was lying at the foot of the tree, staring at him with judging eyes.

“This stuff isn’t as easy to get on and off as it looks, you know,” Stiles muttered. “My fingers haven’t recovered from being frozen, so forgive me if I find these buttons a bit troublesome.”

Derek yawned and rested his chin on his front paws.

Having removed all of his outer gear, Stiles considered whether or not to remove the rest of his clothes. While getting naked in a cave while it was snowing outside didn’t seem like the most intelligent thing to do, neither was getting his clothes all wet.

“This better be worth it.” When Stiles was down to just his boxers, he dipped his toe cautiously into the water. He was surprised to discover that it was warm. “Are there hot springs here? Derek, why did you never tell me about this?” He glanced at the mosaic, which was on the ground next to his clothes. “Should I bring the pretty plate with me?” Derek ignored him. Stiles shrugged. “Silence gives assent, I suppose.”

He picked up the plate and stepped into the water. The depth changed rapidly, within five steps, the water had reached his elbows, but that was as deep as it got.

Stiles slowly waded to the island. “You know, if I wasn’t carrying this stupid plate, I’d be able to swim. It would certainly be a lot quicker.”

Derek watched his approach calmly, rising to his feet and giving himself a shake as soon as Stiles reached dry land.

“Okay, dude, what’s next?” Stiles asked. He followed Derek around to the other side of the island. “There’s a door in the tree. Why is there a door in the tree?”

Derek just looked at him, then scratched gently at the door in clear command.

Stiles sighed. “This is getting more and more ridiculous, you know.” Nevertheless, he reached for the door handle and gently eased the door open.

White light spilt out. It was so bright that Stiles, shading his eyes with a wince, couldn’t make anything out. Derek walked into it without a backwards glance.

Stiles looked down at his body, naked except for a pair of wet, clingy boxers. “Maybe this is a dream. This is definitely the kind of thing that happens in dreams.” That thought cheered him up. “If it’s a dream, then it’s okay for me to walk into a mysterious door in a tree leading only to the light.” He frowned. “If it’s not a dream, then it would be stupid.”

The cavern, which had at first appeared well lit compared to the passageway he’d travelled to get there, was dark and slightly foreboding. The stillness of the water and how it reflected the light from the tree door seemed ominous and disconcerting. Stiles remembered the Watcher in the Water from the Lord of the Rinds, and suddenly the idea of having to go back in to get to his clothes was less inviting than going through the strange door.

“This is the sort of behaviour that makes me yell at people in horror movies,” Stiles said aloud, needing to hear something other than his own breathing. “What if I go through that door and can’t come back? No one will know what’s become of me.” He brightened. “On the positive side, since no one will know what’s become of me, no one will be scolding me about my poor choices. So, it’s not all bad.” He sighed again. “Oh well. Here goes nothing.”

v^v^v^v

It had been an hour, and Derek still hadn’t found any traces of Stiles. Peter had dropped off the jeep and had made his way back to Derek’s side, also without discovering anything helpful. The weather had cleared, and the snow was already turning to slush, but dusk was rapidly approaching. It didn’t look hopeful.

“Are there no tracks because of the snow, or because there never were any?” Peter asked, voicing the worry that Derek had been feeling.

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