Where He Belongs

A shotput of Sterek, because it pleased me. Or: any excuse to write dreams.

In a nutshell:

Other people dream of superheroes, of flying, of falling, of dying.

Stiles dreams of being in love.

 

In his dreams, the leaves smell like honeysuckle and the sky like gardenia wine.

His mother’s perfume, a memory from another lifetime.

His nose is in the dirt, rooted to the earth, and yet he knows the air’s the color of winter and the sun’s smothered in purple and gold.

He’s in a garden, he knows. A forest. Someplace fairy-tale enchanted and warm.

Other people dream of superheroes, of flying, of falling, of dying.

Stiles dreams of being in love.

He turns over, fights his face to the light. The ivy tugs at his ankles, familiar, tickles the back of his knees. His fists are full of roses, which is new, and the fireflies watch him, curious, as he pulls petals from his palm and tries to find his fingers.

In time, the fauna backs off enough for him to stand, to swing his arms and shake the starlight out of his ears. Again.

He hears the water before he can see it, a whispered rush of fury over stone. It’s white, the water, and it sings like the moon when it’s full. He wades in without thinking, lets the waves lick up to his chin and then bottom falls away, yanks him under deep grey waves and fills his feet with air.

He comes up, sputtering, spitting goldfish from his mouth and fumbling for his pants.

He makes it to the bank, naked, and he’s sure he sees a sartorial starfish float by, cargo shorts sliding over its spines.

The animals in this dream. They all think he’s the ridiculous one.

The ivy winds up over his shoulder, sympathetic, and nudges him towards the clearing. Where he knows he’s supposed to be. Always, in this dream.

Which is why, this time, he resists. Why he turns left at the redwood rather than right, why he ignores the lilacs falling at his feet that try to block his path. Why he wanders into a field of knotty pines, their branches tight-knit and sticky with want.

He’s not supposed to be here.

It makes the ivy nervous, all these needles driving into his skin, drawing blood out of his hair. Even the roses in his hands go silent, roll up into buds and refuse to open their eyes.

He’s not supposed to be here. His body knows it, too, and it pulls out all the tricks: makes him sweat, makes him cold, makes him sick.

But even in his dreams, Stiles is stubborn.

He puts his head down and wipes the slime from his eyes and keeps going, digs his way deeper into the trees that don’t want him, the plants that resent him, the sky that’s turned away, turned its back.

He doesn’t stop.

At the end of field, the forest, there’s nothing left but deadwood and ash. His flesh has abandoned him, the flowers, too, and he opens his mouth to scream or apologize or weep but his mouth is full of wasps, gleeful things that sting him and sneer and fall back to watch him cry.

He gives up. He gives in. He turns back to the pines, what there is left of Stiles, and reaches back for the path.

Why did he come this way? Why did he stray?

The moss and the rocks have no answers, the ones the butterflies bear for his cairn. They bury him gently, brick by uneven brick, and by the time he dies, his tears have cast the ash into mud. He sinks. He swallows. He dies.

He opens his eyes.

The ivy’s chattering in his ears as the flowers finish sewing him up, remaking what was lost. Threading daisies into his shoulder. Weaving hyacinth into a spine. A new mouth of tulips and baby’s breath.

The fireflies are not impressed. But whatever.

He stands up on his own and the lilies steady him, press him gently into the clearing. Where he belongs.

“So,” Derek says, from somewhere up in the trees. “Why’d you go that way?”

Stiles can’t see him, tips his head back to try, but then Derek’s there at his side. He has rosebushes snarling at his heels, waiting, thorns drawn and ready to fight.

But Derek’s not angry. Not like his seconds. More curious, the ivy whispers to Stiles. He really doesn’t understand. But he wants to.

The rosebushes hiss, jab Stiles in the shin to draw out an answer. But he can’t. He’s not sure what to say.

Usually, in the clearing, Derek touches him. Makes life bloom under his skin, fills his mouth with springtime, plants a seed in his chest of something bigger than them both. Paints his name in Stiles’ skin as he comes.

Usually, it’s beautiful and shivery, the things Derek does to him here in the grass, and it makes the rest of his life, the part that happens in the real word, in the not-dreams, seem pretty fucking terrible and dark. Even more than it already is.

He’s tired of this dream.

He needs it.

He hates it.

He never wants to wake up.

So this time, he ran. Tried to get away from the clearing, from the way that Derek makes him feel.

But he didn’t. He couldn’t. So what is it he has to say?

The rosebushes rattle, annoyed, and before he can move, they shoot, latch into his flesh with a snarl and pull until all Derek can do is catch him, all the ivy can do is wind until there’s no way Stiles can look away, can see or smell or hear anything except–

“Love,” Derek says, low and amused. “It’s ok. You can say it. Nobody can hear you here, except you.” He knocks violets from Stiles’ eyes and smiles. “I promise. Not even me.”

In his dream, Stiles’ mouth works around the word “exactly,” but there’s honeysuckle curled over his tongue, a sweet that he bites into Derek’s lips as they kiss, as hot long hands meet at the base of his spine, get twisted in the ivy and stay.

Oh, how Stiles wants to. Stay right there, wound around Derek with his face full of color and carnations under his feet, Derek’s hips in his hands and the sound of the flowers ringing in his ears.

It’s still ringing, that sound, when he wakes up. Alone.

Tell him, the ivy hums, insistent, but Stiles pretends not to hear. Unwinds the sheets and turns on the shower and shuts out the smell of the pine.

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