When he’s fifteen, Derek’s girlfriend burns his family alive. It’s funny at first, because when he was little he and Laura used to take turns jumping into bonfires, playing with the embers and the coals that glowed red in the palms of their hands. Afterwards, mom would always pull them from the flames, laughing at their protests, and toss their naked, sooty bodies in the lake. That was fun too though, because the sirens who lived in it were always delighted that they could drown them over and over again.
So it’s funny, when he hears about it at school. He’s not stupid enough to laugh, but he wants to. He can tell Laura feels the same, because she trades amused looks with him behind the police man’s back.
They sneak into the morgue later and Laura holds hands with their mom, playing with the crispy skin on the back of her hands.
“Why are you guys still burnt?” Laura asks curiously, raising an eyebrow when Cora tumbles off the table and her arm snaps off. Derek laughs and helps her reattach it.
Mom doesn’t look happy though. Mom doesn’t look happy at all.
“The policemen got to the house too fast,” she explains carefully. Derek remembers how the perimeter of the house had smelt of mountain ash, how it had seemed insignificant at the time because he knew about the stash in Laura's room. She liked trapping him and Cora in their rooms and pumping gas through the vents. Now though, that detail seems important. He wonders if that’s why they couldn’t get out in time. “They saw us like this, so we have to wait.”
She explains it to them, her voice stilted, and squeezes Derek when he crawls up on the table beside her. She tells them that they have to bury them, that they have to pretend like they’re sad, like they’re really gone.
Derek doesn’t like that. He tells her as much.
“Don’t worry, we’ll come up when it’s safe.”
Then she drops the bomb — that after they’ve been buried, after they claw their way up through grave soil — they have to leave.
“The whole town thinks that we’re dead, Derek,” his mom tells him. “We have to go.”
It’s not funny after that.
It’s even less funny when he gets a voicemail two days later, Kate gloating in his ears. She thinks she killed them. She thinks that she killed Derek’s family. She wasn’t just playing games like the ones he and Laura played when they were little, she tried to make them gone forever.
Neither him or Laura have to fake their upset faces after that.
He helps mom brush graveyard soil from her shoulders until she shoos him off, telling him to go help his cousin. They’ve all regrown their skin, but their skulls are still bare. The tops of their heads are shiny in the moonlight. It reminds him of that time that Cora scalped him while he was sleeping and he had to spend a month growing his hair back again.
Derek and Laura have already taken care of what they can. Aunt Morticia was happy to hear from them. We’d love to have you, she’d written.
They’ve got the cars ready and slowly, his family changes into the clothes that Laura and Derek had gotten for them, and drive off.
Mom and dad are the last to go, Cora a mutinous ball of fur between them. She hasn’t changed back to human since she crawled out of her grave, and has spent most of the time chewing on Derek’s sleeve.
“You’ll join us in a week, understood?” their mom says, like it’s a question and not an order. Derek and Laura both nod. The humans will expect it, once they’ve had time to get things in order. No normal family would stay in a place they’ve lost all their loved ones.
Mom presses a kiss to each of their heads, dad quirks a grin in their direction, and Cora pees on their feet. Then they’re gone.
Laura and Derek spend the rest of the night shoveling dirt back into empty graves.
The Hales aren’t quite like the Addams.
When they were little, his cousin Wednesday had been torn between fury and fascination the first time she’d seen Derek shift. Fascinated, because it was apparently interesting in the same way that playing with guillotines and alligators was, and furious, because it was something that she couldn’t do.
“Do you think that if we cut out my brain and put it in the body of a wolf that it would work?” she’d asked him, and they’d gotten as far as catching a stray dog (because sadly there were no wolves in their part of the world) before Derek’s mom had caught them.
She’d smiled and let the dog go, then at dinner that night, Wednesday had venomously asked Aunt Morticia if Aunt Ophelia could do it too.
Aunt Morticia had laughed and explained that sadly, that particular gift belonged to the Hale side of the family. Which had brought up even more questions — like whether or not the ability had come from their dad’s side of the family and why only one of the Addams sisters was a werewolf.
They hadn’t explained it very well, which had just frustrated Wednesday even more.
As a peace offering, Laura and Derek had allowed her to dissect them in their wolf forms, which was only interesting until Wednesday realized that there was nothing tangible to be found amongst their innards. She’d left them there, in pieces on the dining room table, and because Laura and Derek couldn’t piece themselves back together with just their paws, they’d had to wait for dad to come find them.
After their week of grieving has passed, Laura packs up the camaro and drives them out to Aunt Morticia’s, where the rest of their family is in the process of getting new identities. They don’t stay though. It takes a month for Laura to pull him to the side and ask if he’d like to go on an adventure with her.
They don’t really talk to mom about it. Instead, they leave a note (written in blood, because Laura can be as dramatic as Uncle Peter when she wants to be) and drive to New York.
New York is strange. The air is poison, which is almost refreshing. It makes him think fondly of the rat poison that mom would break out on special occasions, of cupcakes with belladonna frosting and the arsenic that he’d once convinced Uncle Gomez to let him have a sip of.
It’s loud and there isn’t much room for them to run on full moons. Central Park is well policed at night, so they have to be careful, slipping into shadows and letting the dark parts carry them safely past the unsuspecting humans.
Laura isn’t an alpha, but they’re both Hales, so the local alpha stays well away from them. Even in the werewolf world, it’s well known that the Hales are a strange sort, and that messing with one of theirs isn’t such a good idea. So they’re safe from that at least.
Mom wants them to come back, but Laura’s not ready. Laura wants to help him find Kate — wants to help him peel her apart and laugh when she can’t put herself back together the way that they can.
It takes a long time.
When Derek was five, he learned that normal people bleed.
There was a girl on the playground, who’d fallen off the jungle gym and broken her neck. She didn’t have many friends and the jungle gym had never been a coveted spot during recess, not like the see-saws or the swings, so when she fell, the only person who’d heard her neck snap was Derek.
He spent ten minutes trying to put her back together. When that didn’t work, he’d tried to take her pain. And when that didn’t work, he’d reluctantly called for help.
He hadn’t understood what all the fuss was about. It was easy to snap bones back together like jigsaw pieces, much easier than reattaching a severed limb. She was kind of stupid, for not knowing how to do something so easy.
Everyone got sent home early that day, and when he’d asked mom about it, she’d smiled sadly at him.
“Normal people can’t do what we can, Derek,” she’d explained. “They can’t put themselves back together so easily.”
“What about other werewolves?” he’d asked.
She smiled at him indulgently. “A little. But not like us.”
Six years after the fire, Laura goes back to Beacon Hills. She tells him that she’s following a lead on Kate, but that he should stay in New York until she calls for him.
“I’ll be back before you know it,” she says, cutting deep into his chest and then, when the skin and bone is out of the way, pressing a kiss to his heart. It’s a ritual they’ve always had, just the two of them, so Derek smiles indulgently at her and tells her not to do anything stupid.
But she does.
Five days later, when he gets to Beacon Hills, her ghost is there to greet him.
Derek always used to like wolfsbane the most, out of all the poisons. They kept it in the spice cupboard, right beside the cinnamon, but Derek was the only one who liked it.
“It tastes gross,” Laura had told him once, wrinkling her nose at the fine purple powder he’d sprinkled over his eggs.
It doesn’t taste gross. It’s got an electric tingle to it, like chewing on live wire. Afterwards, he’s always surprised that his hair isn’t standing on end.
“There are certain kinds of wolfsbane that you should avoid,” his father told him. “There are kinds that can and will hurt you, the way normal people hurt.”
Derek had raised an eyebrow at him, sure that his dad was pulling his leg.
“Blessed things aren’t good for us,” he told Derek. “Hunters don’t use it often, because wolfsbane does the job for most of our kind, but old families are more traditional.”
He only finds half of Laura’s body before the cops show up and find the other half. Laura rolls her eyes at him when he skulks among the shadows, watching strangers prowling around his sister’s corpse. He's seen Laura cut into pieces no bigger than her pinky before, so it shouldn't phase him to see her legs on the gurney. It does though. It makes him feel sick, because there is no part of Laura left in those legs. She's standing right next to him. And that's the strange part.
“It’s not right though,” he tells her. “I could put you back together.”
She stops laughing then. “You can’t.”
“What do you mean I can’t?” he asks, frowning.
“I mean, you can’t. I’m dead. You can’t put me back where I belong anymore.”
He scowls in her direction. “But why are you dead?”
She shrugs, hopping up onto a fallen tree trunk. When she swings her legs, her ankles pass clean through the bark. “I don’t remember.”
He blinks twice when he finds two boys lurking in the woods where he’d found the first half of his sister’s body. They smell normal enough, even though Derek’s pretty sure that the second kid is a werewolf.
“It’s a fresh bite,” Laura calls from where she’s standing next to the boy with the curly hair, the one that smells like wolf. She peers at his side, her nose inches away from the fabric. He wonders if she can still smell him, even though she’s a ghost. A frown wrinkles her brow. “I think he was bitten last night.”
The night that he found her body.
Derek sighs and makes his introduction as gruff and unfriendly as possible.
“You need to train him, you know,” Laura says as they watch the two amble off, both boys occasionally looking over their shoulders. “Or call mom.”
“I need to call mom anyway,” he tells her, because it’s true. Laura might be a ghost, but she’s still dead. That’s something that even their family would want to know.
“But not yet,” Laura says.
He nods. “Not yet.”
When they lived in New York, they shared a small apartment that smelled horrible. It was in a sketchy part of town though, so nobody really paid much attention to the weird siblings in 340B.
Derek misses that. He especially misses that when he’s shoved into the back of the sheriff’s cruiser and not a minute later, one of the two kids from the other day crawls into the front seat to ask him invasive questions.
Laura stops laughing beside the car long enough to tell him, “His name is Stiles.”
What kind of a name is Stiles? Derek doesn’t say, because the kid is still in front of him, and he’d learned at some point to at least try not to scare the normal people.
“Why are you worrying about me?” he asks, glowering through the grate as he explains what is going to happen the next night, how his little buddy is going to tear everyone apart. He tells him to keep his friend out of the game and the kid flinches away from him when Derek leans closer, licking his lips nervously. Derek should probably be more concerned by the way his eyes track the movement. He licks his own lips a moment later, throaty scratchy when he says the words, “And trust me, you want to.”
“Oh man,” Laura says as the sheriff jerks his son out of the car. Her eyes are wide. “A human? Please tell me you are kidding right now.”
“If I do this right, it’ll grow back,” Derek says, but even as he says it, he wonders if its true. This isn’t like when he was little, this is different. This isn’t like cutting off a finger or a head and then pressing the pieces back together. He doesn’t know if he’ll grow a new part, but he’s pretty sure that even after it’s been cut off, the limb will still be poisoned. He can’t just stick it back on.
He grimaces. He’ll deal with that later.
Stiles frowns at him, fingers trembling around the grip of the saw in his hand. “You’re a little bit not normal, aren’t you?”
He doesn’t know why he goes to Stiles the second time that he’s been convicted of murder. He has no reason to trust him. None at all. This kid understands nothing about Derek’s world. He barely knows anything about the werewolf part, much less the Hale part.
“Look, I’m sorry that Scott accused you of murder again, but we thought you were dead,” Stiles tries to explain. He looks guilty, knees pulled up to his chest, propped up against the wall. His sheets are a dark navy color. It makes his knobby knees almost glow-in-the-dark pale.
If Derek was human, he would be dead. If he was just a werewolf, he’d be dead. But he’s a Hale, so he’s really not. He’s had to heal much worse than a fist through the chest.
“You can have the left side of the bed?” Stiles offers, biting his lip. “Unless you really want to sleep on the floor. Up to you, man.”
Derek wants to lick the space behind Stiles’ ear. He doesn’t.
“You know,” Laura remarks from Stiles’ computer chair. “This is only marginally better than Kate. Your taste sucks, bro.”
Shut up, Laura, Derek doesn’t say.
He takes the left side of the bed.
“I was just having a bit of fun,” his uncle says, pouting.
“You killed Laura,” Derek tells him flatly. At his side, Laura crosses her arms and frowns. Peter doesn’t look perturbed in the least.
“That part was a mistake.” He grimaces, like he can’t figure out why it was a mistake, then straightens again. “Would you like my help or not?”
With Peter’s help, they get Kate alone, and slowly take her apart. It’s slow and agonizing for her, and it kills Derek that despite all she’s done, despite what she tried to do, he still feels bad for her. She can’t turn pain off the way they can, after all.
He only makes it to the three hour mark before he gives in and snaps her neck. Both Peter and Laura look disappointed.
“You should probably call mom now,” Laura tells him, after.
Peter’s nearby, eyes still glowing red with either satisfaction or annoyance, maybe both, and that’s the other thing that concerns him, because Peter shouldn’t be an alpha. He doesn’t know why mom let him get away with it. Unless she doesn’t know. She’s not dead, though. He knows that much at least, because there’s voicemails on his phone proving that.
“Probably,” Derek says slowly. There’s the rumbling of an engine down the road — one that he recognizes.
He makes up his mind.
“You go back with Peter,” he says. “I’m going to stay here.”
Laura gives him a blank look. “Why?”
He licks his lips and doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t have to, because Laura’s head is already cocking to the side, listening to the jeep rumbling its way toward the preserve.
“Oh,” she says. “Okay.”
“I am sorry about your family,” Stiles tells him. It’s been a month and a half since he burned Kate and buried her ashes in an unmarked grave, and he’s only gotten three angry voicemails from his mother and father. They’re sitting on the wreckage of his porch, watching Scott try to track a rabbit, blindfold and earplugs firmly in place. “It sucks, dude.”
Derek startles, glancing over at Stiles.
He thinks about telling Stiles the truth, that his family is alive and well. Cora is probably Stiles’ age by now, unless Wednesday convinced her to stay twelve with her and Pugsley. He could. He could probably tell Stiles everything, and he’d just accept it. They aren’t friends still, but Stiles is something else. He’s an asshole and tells Derek he hates him all the time, but Derek has Morticia and Gomez for an aunt and uncle. For them, that’s practically foreplay. Judging by the way Stiles scent goes from aroused to frustrated and back like a tilt-a-whirl whenever Derek’s around, he thinks it might be for Stiles a little bit too.
“Yeah,” he says, trying and failing to put a hurt expression on his face. He’s mostly sure it doesn’t work.
The truth though, is bound to come out sometime. It happens when he and Stiles are kidnapped by a group of wayward hunters that decide to behead Derek first and throw his ‘body’ into the cell with Stiles.
Derek feels kind of bad, having to play dead as he listens to Stiles panic. His heartbeat is louder than the hunters taunts and his breathing is off. He sounds like he’s crying, a little bit. Derek would like to stop playing dead, so that Stiles stops feeling so bad, and he will, as soon as the hunters fuck off.
They do, eventually, and the second that they’re out of the room, Stiles is choking on a sob and his hands are all over Derek’s face. He’s gasping something that sounds like an endless stream of apologies, so Derek blinks his eyes open and frowns for a moment, concentrating, (its been a long time since he’s been decapitated, he should really practice more) before he can get his body to move a hand up so he can muffle Stiles’ scream.
Stiles is pale and he’s covered in the blood that Derek had allowed his body to spill. It would have looked suspicious, after all, if he’d gotten his head chopped off and hadn’t bled.
“Shh,” Derek says. “It’s okay.”
Stiles widens his eyes at him, flicking them pointedly between Derek’s head and his body. Derek blushes. “Don’t scream when I let you go,” he warns, and lets his hand drop away from Stiles mouth.
Stiles stares at him.
“So is this a werewolf thing or a you thing?” Stiles asks eventually. He’s half-hysterical, but appears to be keeping mostly calm. “Because I’m pretty sure Scott would die if I chopped off his head.”
“It’s a me thing,” Derek says. “Well, it’s a Hale thing. A Hale-Addams thing. Look, can you help me reattach this? I’m a bit out of practice, so it’ll be easier if you do it.”
A shudder goes through Stiles frame and briefly, Derek’s afraid that he may vomit.
“You want me to reattach your head.”
Derek nods as well as he can, with most of his neck still attached to his body. “Just press it up against my neck. My body will do the rest.”
“You want me. To reattach. Your head.”
Not good. Too much panic. Derek tries for soothing, lifting a hand and running it down Stiles’ arm. All that does is make Stiles flinch.
“Please,” he says. He could do it probably, but he’s really out of practice with this. Even stroking Stiles’ arm is a trial. He’d rather not make matters worse by dropping his head.
Haltingly, Stiles reaches out, and lifts Derek’s head, his long fingers curving around Derek’s jaw. They’re soft and a bit callused, and it’s weird, it is, because he’s used to Laura or Wednesday doing this — he’s not sure he likes how it feels to be handled by someone who’s not family when he’s like this. It’s intimate, Stiles’ hands cupping his face as he nudges Derek’s head up against his neck.
“I’m gonna have nightmares for months,” Stiles tells him, watching in fascination as Derek’s skin knits back together. When it’s done, Derek sits up and rubs his neck, wrinkling his nose as the bone sets.
Derek rolls his eyes. “You won’t.”
“You’re explaining this once we get out of here. Hope you know that.”
Derek does know that.
They get out, and after, he takes Stiles to the ruin of his old house, and tells him the truth. All of it.
“So, your family isn’t actually dead,” Stiles says after awhile, foot tapping an unsteady beat against a spot of blackened floorboard.
“Laura is,” Derek offers. “She’s a ghost.”
“But how’d she die? I mean, I just watched you come back from getting your head knocked off your shoulders, how—”
“My uncle got his hands on some blessed wolfsbane. My guess is he thought she wouldn’t actually die from it and when she did…”
“He chopped her in half.”
Derek grimaces. That part still doesn’t add up very well. He’ll have to call mom and tell her to watch over Peter at some point. “He wanted me to think a hunter did it.”
Stiles nods, like that makes sense. He shifts, sliding down the wall so his neck is bent at a strange angle, legs spread akimbo. He looks like an awkward collection of broken parts, thrown into a heap on the floor. Derek regrets that he can’t take Stiles apart and see how he works. He’d bet that it would be like the thing with Wednesday, that it wouldn’t be satisfying because he wouldn’t find anything tangible, but still. He’d like to see what makes Stiles tick. He’d like to press kisses to his heart and lungs.
He can’t though, because Stiles is normal.
“So your family…”
“They’re with my cousins. They were supposed to get new identities and move on, but I secretly think mom likes Aunt Morticia’s aconite wine too much. That or they’re just bonding.”
Stiles makes a humming noise under his breath. He’s slanting a look Derek’s way that’s half-curious, half-confused.
“Can I meet them?”
Derek blinks, startled. “You’d want to?”
“Sure.” Stiles shrugs. After a moment, he grins. “Not gonna lie, it’s pretty cool. I mean, the werewolf thing was already awesome, but this is in a whole ‘nother league. You’re like a character from Heroes.”
“I’m not a cheerleader and saving me won’t save the world,” Derek deadpans and Stiles — Stiles laughs — throwing his whole head back and shaking with it.
“Look at you,” he says fondly, after he’s caught his breath. “Wolf’s got jokes.”
Derek shrugs, suddenly bashful. He considers Stiles, spread out across his floor. He could see Stiles next to his family, cracking terrible jokes with Uncle Gomez and bonding with Derek’s little sister over their mutual love for comic books. He’s human though. Breakable.
“Wednesday may try to scalp you,” he warns after a moment, and Stiles gives him this wide-eyed look of incredulity.
“Guess I’ll just have to stick to your side like glue,” Stiles says, licking his lips as he scrambles back into a normal sitting position. Just as he had in the cruiser, Derek tracks the movement, and then thinks, fuck it.
Kissing has always been a bit weird. It was with Kate, and Paige before her, and it’s still weird. Him and the rest of the kids used to wrinkle their nose whenever Aunt Morticia and Uncle Gomez got too lovey dovey, and he specifically remembers vowing to Laura that he’d never turn out like that.
Kissing Stiles is different. It really is still weird, but nicer. Stiles lips are soft and plush beneath his, and the noise that he makes when Derek presses a hand to his jawline is absolutely exquisite. Derek wants to carve his initials into Stiles’ body, bite him hard enough to leave a scar. He doesn’t, he’s still not stupid, but he wants to.
Derek wants to keep him, he realizes.
When they pull back several long minutes later, Stiles eyes are heavy-lidded and his lips are red and kiss-swollen. It’s a good look on him.
“How do you know they’ll like me?”
They’re standing on the Addam’s porch and inside, Derek can hear Cora shouting something about spiders at Pugsley. He’s already checked the porch for traps, just in case. He brushes his nose against Stiles’ cheek and rubs their noses together.
“They’ll adore you. It’ll be sickening and gross. Mom will probably adopt you.”
Derek gives Stiles a fond smile and one last kiss, then carefully, making extra sure to put his body in front of Stiles should he need a shield, opens the door.