AU: Stiles died and the only way Derek can see him is when he is in his full wolf form, but he also can’t talk to him this way.
After the funeral, Derek leaves the pack curled together in his living room, sharing the stories about Stiles that made them laugh the most. Derek leaves because the absence of Stiles’ scent is almost as bad as the places where it still lingers, where it may always linger.
He runs, for the first time, as a wolf. He runs faster than he has ever run, no longer weighed down by guilt but still aching with loss. After the fire he and Laura hadn’t been able to let go like this, missing the soft footfall of their fellow wolves too much to assume their most natural form. He thinks he can disappear into the wilderness like this, fade into the nature of the beast. It is tempting, but something holds him back. He slows down somewhere in the mountains, snow dampening every sound. He treads carefully, vigilant for hidden dangers under the white cover.
“Thank god you’re done having your freakout, I’ve been trying to get your attention for miles.”
Derek turns, slowly, unable to quite accept what he’s hearing, his ears pressed flat to his skull. Except, when he lays eyes on Stiles, transparent and flickering a little as snowflakes pass right through him, there is no capacity for horror or fear. All he feels is relief.
He relaxes, feels his tail wagging, and doesn’t give a damn about looking like a dog if only Stiles will make a dog joke to annoy him.
“Good puppy, that’s right, it’s me. Your…” Stiles and him, before, had a rocky relationship, not quite friends because there was always that thread of tension between them, that potential they never got around to exploring. “Your friendly neighborhood ghost, I guess.”
Derek huffs and inches closer, body low to the ground. He doesn’t want to touch Stiles and find that there’s nothing but thin air, but he can’t stay away. When Stiles reaches out to pat his head, it’s not quite like anything he’s felt before. It’s a cool tingling, weightless but unmistakably there. Derek thinks this may be madness, that he’s finally succumbed to thrall of an imaginary world, but if so, if so, would it not include everyone else he’s lost?
“I’ve been following people around for days. I’ve been following you, too. I don’t think you can see me when you’re not like this.”
That’s another complication but Derek wags his tail anyway and butts his head near Stiles’ hip. It feels a bit like dunking his head into bubbly water.
“Hey,” Stiles says, “that tickles.” And then, with a wicked gleam in his eyes: “Do it again.”