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rediscover in silence the part of me that was harder to leave behind than home

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You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

...

After the fire, Laura decrees that they leave Uncle Peter to the hospital and flee. She doesn’t know what happened, who set the fire, or why – well, she knows why (werewolves) but not why their pack was targeted. But hunters attacked them with no provocation, no cause. And she could stay and fight, could go to the Hunters’ Council and demand an explanation, or she could take her little brother (her only pack member left) and go to ground. Get safe. Stay under the radar by never staying anywhere for long.

She’s a young alpha, barely 18. Derek, at 14, is still just a child. And starting a war, or demanding satisfaction from the Council, would put him at risk.

And so Laura leaves Uncle Peter (despite the guilt, despite the pain) and leads her little brother into a life on the run.

.

Derek never tells her what happened with Katie Plata. After he begins teaching himself useful languages, how he keeps his mind occupied while Laura chooses a new direction to travel every week, Derek has to throw the Spanish dictionary across the room to keep from clawing it to pieces.

Katie Plata. Katarina Argent.

.

At 16, Derek can speak Spanish and French passably, so he moves on to German, Italian, and Polish, just for kicks. They’re in Miami and Laura paid a hacker to get Derek into four different online schools while she works three jobs. Derek spends the mornings on his assignments, then focuses on a different language every afternoon until he masters enough to be conversational and moves on.

Every other day, instead of eating lunch, he finds a different gym or self-defense class or some sort of martial arts lesson and watches whatever it is, or he watches youtube videos about fighting, or reads how-to manuals.

His pack was murdered because he was an idiotic little boy. His pack was murdered because he was helpless and stupid - so those are things he’ll never be again.

.

By the time Derek’s 18, Laura finally stops running. No hunter has seemed to catch their scent, so she lets them settle down in Brooklyn. She uses the insurance money to send Derek to NYU, so he decides to matriculate at the Silver School of Social Work as a big fuck you to every Argent in the world. He keeps up with his language and fighting studies on his own time by forgoing sleep most Saturdays.

Thanks to Laura’s hacker friend from Miami, Laura and Derek Hale no longer exist. They’re now the Waynes, brother and sister from San Francisco. Her half a semester from Stanford is transferred to NYU, too, (thanks to her hacker friend) under her new name. She’s getting a Business and Political Economy Degree from Stern.

They live off the insurance and their inheritance, and spend all full moons curled up together in their apartment.

“We have to start living again,” Laura says, as they shop for school supplies. “We can’t run forever.”

Derek nods, tossing a pack of paper into the basket.

.

Some nights, when he could still smell Katie’s perfume, he’d research battle tactics instead of sleep. He keeps himself firmly in the middle of his classes, neither the best nor the worst. He devours information and watches humans interact and he checks things off his mental list, one at a time.

The best way to hunt is to be invisible. Mom had told him he was a predator, but that didn’t mean killer. He’d been a dumb kid but he couldn’t afford to be a dumb man. Or a dumb ‘wolf. He couldn’t afford it as a kid, either, but he learned.

Laura throws herself into her coursework, and she plays politics with the eight packs that called New York City their home, and Derek is her second by default since they’re a pack of two. Three of the alphas offer to let them join, but Laura politely refuses.

Derek won’t bare his throat to anyone but his sister ever again.

Slowly, they begin pulling away from each other, learning to deal with others. Laura makes friends and Derek chats with his classmates, and gets coffee a few times, and has study dates. He’s well-liked but not memorable. He attends parties, but only to play designated driver.

He focuses his degree on helping the homeless and graduates well in the middle of his class. Laura, meanwhile, excels and decides to continue working towards an MBA/MA in Politics.

(Neither of them check the news in Beacon Hills. When the deer mutilations start, only the hunters notice.)

Derek is 22, fluent in eight languages (including his native English), has a BA in social work, and hasn’t shifted at all in 7 years. Laura is 26 and flourishing, tentatively dating the son of Chinatown’s alpha, and has her whole career planned out.

So Derek tells her, “I need to travel again.”

She has books spread over the table, her laptop, a cooling mug of coffee, and half a blueberry muffin. She looks up, forehead furrowed, and Derek says, “I don’t expect you to drop everything and come with me, Laura. I don’t want you to. But I have to do this.”

Laura could order him to stay. Instead, she orders him, “Call me every week. If you don’t, I’ll think something terrible has happened and I’ll track you down to kick your ass.”

He promises and leaves with a single bag and an unlimited credit card.

.

The best way to hunt is to be invisible. Werewolf hunters have learned, over the years, to find packs of all sizes. Usually, if they’re peaceful and keep to themselves, the hunters leave them be, hunting instead the rogues, the dangerous ‘wolves. Usually. In theory. But not in Derek’s experience.

As a ‘wolf himself, Derek learned about the North American packs. His mother had treaties with most of the ones in the US, half the ones in Canada, and those closest to the border in Mexico. Laura has yet to renew any of the treaties. (She’s probably going to mate into the Li pack because she and Ethan (the alpha’s oldest child and only son) are getting more serious by the day.)

If you track the prey, you find the hunters. So Derek goes to Waterbury, Connecticut, where a beta of the Reynolds pack (the largest pack in Connecticut) has been getting in fights with humans for whatever reason. The current alpha (Diana, Derek’s pretty sure) hasn’t dealt with the problem yet. A few days’ reconnaissance reveals that there’s a divide in the pack. Half of them are happy with Diana; the other half wants William (the violent beta’s older brother) to take over. Diana and William are cousins.

This, Derek knows, was when hunters usually struck.

And he’s right.

A week after he hitchhikes into town, hunters catch and kill not only William’s little brother, but also his own son, who had been visiting his uncle that night. William was 22; the child was only 10.

But age doesn’t matter to hunters. Derek learned that well when his infant cousin burnt with the rest.

So while the Reynolds reel (and unite against the outside enemy), Derek tracks the three hunters to a motel, and then to a diner, and then towards the city limits. Hunters don’t linger.

These three, though, stop to fill up on the way out of town. Two of them go into the little store to stock up on snacks. The third sets up the nozzle and then wanders over to chat with a pretty woman.

Derek crouches down to unscrew the valve stem cap. He memorizes their license plate and finds the nearest used car lot, where he buys a medium-sized unnoticeable car in cash. Then he leaves Waterbury by the same road the hunters did, and lo and behold – their car is on the shoulder, one of them yelling into his cell phone, and the other two milling around.

The sun is setting.

By the time the tow-truck gets there, all three men are gone without a trace, and so is their car.

.

Derek moves in a spiral. He starts in the center and works his way out, supplementing his credit card with odd jobs here and there, with hustling drunks at pool or darts or bare-knuckle fights. He loses just enough that no one gets mad when he wins the big pot.

While he travels, Laura gets her MBA/MA, moves in with Ethan Li, and starts talking about forming their own pack, her and Ethan and Derek. Derek makes agreement noises while watching a hunter-pair (tall, built man and medium-height, next-door-neighbor pretty woman) watch a group of children walk home from school. Two of the kids are werewolves.

That night, two men get in a bar fight. Both of them are newcomers in town, one of them far bigger than the other. They’re told to take it outside, and the bigger man’s girl goes with them.

None of them are ever seen again, but no one notices, and no one cares.

The Calson pack never even realizes hunters were sniffing around. Derek moves on.

.

The Hunters’ Council tries to keep track of the various hunting groups, but it’s a transient field. Only the hereditary families are easy to keep up with, the Argents and Smiths and Jonstons. Each of the major countries have their own Council, and those all keep in contact.

But America’s a big place. It’s easy to get lost in.

Over 25 hunters go missing before anyone notices. But there isn’t much of a trail to follow, and no one can be sure when or where they were last seen.

Turns out, magic can be used by werewolves if their will is strong enough. It’s all about imagination. Derek’s been honing his for years.

.

In Beacon Hills, Chris Argent puts down Peter Hale. He promised his daughter they’d finish out her high school years in one place, so they stay.

That is not the first mistake Chris Argent makes, but it proves to be the most fatal.

.

When Derek drives past the welcome sign, the full moon is rising. He’s 24 years old. It’s been ten years since the fire burned his pack alive.

Allison Argent graduates from high school in two days. She’s planning on going to Stanford; her boyfriend of two years is going to vet school. Her aunt (more like a sister) is in town for the graduation, and her dad’s father, though she hasn’t seen the man in years.

“We miss you on the hunt, son,” Gerard tells Chris at dinner while Allison is out with her friends. “But with Allison going back to school – you’ll be with us soon?”

Something’s been off with Gerard since he showed up and he takes pills all the time, so Chris says, “I might start hunting again if you tell me what’s wrong.”

Gerard scoffs. Kate rolls her eyes. “Just tell him, Dad. Not like he’s not going to find out.”

Gerard glances at Victoria, who nods. Chris raises an eyebrow. “So we’re all keeping secrets now, is that it?”

“We were waiting for the right time,” Victoria says. “And now that Allison is leaving in a few weeks, the time finally is right.”

“You should bring her into the fold,” Gerard says, popping another pill. “Letting her run off to college – I thought better of you, son. Bring her to heel.”

Victoria lifts her chin while Chris clenches his jaw. “Allison wants to go to college,” she says firmly. “So to college she goes.”

Gerard just shakes his head, and that’s when a voice says, “Gotta admit I’m surprised by that, Mrs. Argent.”

There’s a stranger standing in the kitchen. He flicks his fingers in a nonsensical move while each of them goes for one of the guns hidden strategically around the dining room.

“You should change your alarm code, Argent,” the man continues. “Your daughter’s birthday? How sweet. Tell me – does she know about what Daddy and Mommy do? About what a psychotic monster her aunt is? What a genocidal lunatic Grandpa is when he turns off the Ward Cleaver charm?” He laughs softly. “Cleaver. Fitting.”

Kate pulls the trigger and it clicks empty. Chris glances from his own gun to the stranger’s smirk. “How long have you been in the house?” he asks.

The stranger’s smirk widens. “Hey, Katie,” he says, leaning back against the kitchen island and crossing his arms. “It’s been awhile. Did you know that another variety of rowan works against humans?”

“You know him?” Victoria murmurs, checking her own gun, though of course it’s empty.

“He looks vaguely familiar,” Kate answers. “But I don’t – ”

“Tell us what you want,” Gerard says, sidling towards the door to the den. The stranger just keeps smirking and he laughs aloud when Gerard reaches the doorway and can’t go through it.

“I sealed the circle, old man. Laid the ash earlier this morning while you showered, Chris re-organized the armory, Kate went for a jog –see any boys you liked, Katie? The younger the better, right? –and Victoria took sweet Allison for a last minute shopping trip.” He straightened. “The only reason that girl isn’t trapped with you is because all signs point to her being completely unaware of what you do.”

“Oh, fuck,” Kate whispers, unsheathing the knife she always carries and throwing it unerringly at his heart.

He catches it by the hilt and throws it back too quickly to dodge – too quickly to be human. It goes through her shoulder all the way to the hilt and she falls back, but Chris keeps her from hitting the ground.

“You grew up good,” Kate says. “In all the right places.”

The stranger smiles widely, a great gash across his face – nothing pleasant, nothing humorous about it at all. “Refresh my memory, Katie,” he says conversationally, hip resting against the island again. “How did we meet?”

Kate pulls herself out of Chris’ grip, one hand around the knife in her shoulder. She doesn’t pull it out and none of them suggest doing so. “At the library,” she grinds out. “You were reading Where The Wild Things Are to a group of brats and I asked you to help me find a book, after.”

“I was such a good kid,” he muses, glancing at Gerard. “I helped little old ladies cross the street. I baked cookies with my grandmother. I played catch with Dad and had just made the high school baseball team.” He chuckled. “I forget – how old was I, Katie?”

She exhales sharply. “Fourteen,” she hisses.

The smile drops off his face. “I thought I loved you. Here was this woman, this funny, gorgeous woman, and she was interested in me. I hadn’t hit my growth spurt yet, weedy as hell, more likely to read a book than go out with friends. You picked me up in a library.”

“What?” Victoria demands but Chris can only glance from his father, who doesn’t look at all surprised, to Kate, still glaring at the stranger.

“I’d call you a bitch, Katarina Argent,” the stranger says, “but I’ve known amazing ‘wolves.”

“Derek Hale,” Gerard says. “You’ve got us trapped like rats, without weapons, without phones. What are you planning to do? Prove yourself the monster I’ve always known your kind is – vicious, cruel, need to be put down for – ”

“If you say ‘the greater good,’” Hale interrupts, “I’ll kill you even slower than I was already planning to.”

Gerard slams his lips shut. Hale’s eyes flash blue and his smile is a little toothier. “I’ve never met a more vicious or cruel person than Katie Plata. By the way,” he asides to Kate, “if I’d known Spanish then, your ID might have been compromised. Or was your research so good you knew I wouldn’t take that till sophomore year?”

“Baby,” Kate says, voice just a little shaky, “I’m that good.”

“We didn’t, that fire wasn’t us,” Chris says, sharing a look with Victoria. Her face is mostly expressionless, but Chris sees the same panic around the edges that’s crawling up his spine. “We keep to the code. We only hunt the werewolves that have taken human life.”

“So Evelyn, three months old, human – she’d killed somebody?” Hale asks, his bright blue gaze staring Chris right in the eye. “Or Marcus, two years, werewolf. Timmy, human, and Tyler, werewolf, six, and Cora, eleven, werewolf. Evan and Talia, who I know never hurt anybody that didn’t come looking for a fight, or Ursula, who was my uncle Peter’s human wife. My grandmother, nearly ninety years old and as human as you are.” He scoffs. “No, more human than you. She’d killed one person in her entire life, and he was her abusive asshole of a first husband, though I’d just heard that story for the first time the night before Katarina Argent locked them all in the house and set it on fire.”

He turns to Kate. “I used to be curious about it, wonder how you did it. Why didn’t any of the human members of the pack break the circle? Why didn’t any of the ‘wolves shove them out? We all knew the tunnel was there, but why didn’t it work? I didn’t tell you about it.” He shakes his head. “But I don’t give a fuck anymore.”

“No,” Chris says, stalking up to Kate and grabbing her good arm. “You didn’t do this, Kate. You couldn’t have! Argents keep to the code.”

“Shut up about that code of yours, Christophe,” Gerard shouts. “It was your mother’s nonsense and I shouldn’t have let her poison you with it. At least Kate is strong enough to be an Argent the way we’ve always been.” He points at Hale. “They’re vermin and I’ll put them all down.”

Hale smirks again, and it’s just as mirthless as the last. “You’ve been searching for an alpha, old man. There’ve been whispers about you lately. You catch ‘wolves alive and they’re never seen again, but only alphas. What does an alpha have that betas and omegas don’t?” He glances at Chris. “Your father smells like slow death. I might leave him alive just because of that. Let him wither away.” He cocks his head, staring at Gerard as his eyes slowly turn blue. “No,” he murmurs. “No, I need to feel your blood on my claws, your throat in my teeth. For my pack.”

“I’ll go to the Council,” Chris says. “I swear to you on the code I’ve always followed. I will go to the Council in the name of the Hale pack and I’ll tell them what Katarina and Gerard Argent have done. Listen to my heartbeat – I am not lying to you.”

Hale just looks at him, then glances to the side at Victoria. “And you?”

“Kate didn’t do a thorough enough job,” Victoria says.

Hale’s smile is full of fangs. “So be it.”

.

Allison Argent doesn’t walk with her class at graduation. She and her boyfriend are with her dad at the hospital. He tells Sheriff Stilinski that five masked men invaded his home during dinner. Of his family, Chris responded the quickest, going for the nearest gun. That’s the last thing he remembers. Victoria’s body was left at the scene, her neck broken.

Gerard and Katarina Argent are never found. Neither are the men who took them.

.

Allison goes to Stanford in the fall. Chris never hunts again. He follows his daughter to Palo Alto and starts his consultant business back up instead.

.

After avenging his pack, Derek takes a break. He goes back to New York for Laura’s wedding to Ethan Li. She talks about starting the Hale pack up again; Ethan’s already agreed to move to Beacon Hills. “You know how the hunters have the Council?” she says. “I think I should start something like that for the packs. And not just ‘wolves, either – there should be something for all of us, both to police and to protect. We can’t trust hunters.”

“No, we can’t,” Derek agrees. “You’d need a second for something like that. Someone to watch your back. I like Ethan just fine, but I’m not sure I trust him enough for that yet.”

She laughs. “We’re getting married in two weeks, kiddo. You trust him enough for that?”

Derek shrugs, smiling just a little. “Guess I’ll have to stick around.”

.

In Beacon Hills, sometimes there’s howling heard around the preserve. The Hale land is still there, but the house was torn down years ago. A small office is built two miles away for a small business the oldest surviving Hale starts. The name of the business doesn’t make much sense unless you know -- Silverbane Consulting. It’s mostly online for the first few years till word spreads.

.

Derek never tells Laura about Katie Plata or the hunts he goes on sometimes. Laura’s busy with Silverbane, with her three children (Jocelyn, Corrine, Annabel), with all the requests to join the Hale pack.

Talia Hale was respected across the continent; Laura Hale is known all over the world for going toe to toe with the hunters and forging a treaty that all the Councils enforce.

If she ever learns about his hunts, Laura will have to order his execution or lose everything she’s built.

That doesn’t stop him. It can’t. Not while rogue hunters still exist.

.

(There will always be rogue hunters. He’ll always have someone to hunt.)

.

(“Hey,” the kid says, barging into Derek’s office one day. “So, I found this job listing? And, well, it’s just –” He points at the sign on the wall. “Silverbane. Howling. All of the odd people who keep wandering around Beacon Hills but only ever come here? Yeah.” He smiles nervously. “I have a degree in Anthropology and Folklore, but I don’t want to teach. So, can I interview?”

Derek blinks at him for a moment. “Sure,” he says. “First of all, name?”

“Oh, right,” the kid says. “My first name is a nightmare, so I go by Stiles. Stiles Stilinski.”)

.

(“Do you do this a lot?” Stiles asks, handing him the bonesaw. He doesn’t even flinch when the severed limb flops away from the torso.

“Only when they deserve it,” Derek answers.

Stiles stares down at the body, biting his lip. When he meets Derek’s eyes, he just nods firmly. “I’ll start researching,” he says.)