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It's so bright. Derek's just arrived and he swears it was raining three seconds ago. Swears he had the Sheriff's choked up voice in his ear. But it's quiet, and bright, and dry. And he doesn't feel any pain. The poison is out of his body, and he thinks that maybe he survived, maybe he was saved.

Then he opens his eyes.

His mother stares back at him.

There are tears on her cheeks and he chokes on his spit because his mother's been crying and someone has to pay. But Talia smiles, big, and brighter than anything, and Derek has to screw his eyes shut against the tears that has gathered. It's one of the most cruel dreams Derek's had in a while. It must be a dream, because there stands his mother, and he's not in pain.

His subconscious is cruel, has always been, but this is almost as bad as the last time he dreamt about Stiles, this is his mind taunting him. It's as if his brain suddenly decided to flirt with being a masochist and wanted him to suffer through an ordeal worse than anything he can think of.

“Who did you leave behind?” comes Laura's voice, and his entire family murmurs and nods along with the question. He remembers the tinny crying of Sheriff Stilinski in his ear, of Scott's desperate yelling of his location.

“My – God, my Alpha,” he chokes out, eyes still closed, “and the Sheriff.”

He tries to tell them more, tell them about the children in the pack, about the other humans, but he's remembered the two most important people that he's left behind. Scott and the Sheriff, and maybe Melissa should have been with them in that corner, but he can't speak past the lump in his throat. He's left them behind, they're no longer in the same realm as him. He's in the After. That's why his mother was crying but smiling, why Laura was there, why his father murmured soothingly.

“Sheriff Stilinski?” Laura's voice is better than he remembers it, because it's there, it's actually there. “Did you ally yourself with Sheriff Stilinski?”

“He's my father-in-law,” Derek chokes out. He's miserable and worried, and he wonders what will happen with his pack now, how they'll cope. They've been without him for two years, but he's been calling to make sure they're all okay. He's been on a mad goose chase, too angry (and isn't that ironic, that his anchor came to be that again?), and too full of despair and hurry to really think about them.

“You married Stiles?” Cora asks incredulously, and Derek's eyes fly open in panic. If Cora is present to hear him say it something must have happened, and he must have missed one of the most important things before he died.

“Don't be so grumpy, brother, you were preoccupied with other things.” Cora leers at him.

“Cora!” Talia admonishes, but turns her sharp gaze to Derek. “You were married? And you acted carelessly enough to die of monkshood? Have I taught you nothing?”

Derek's inhale sticks to his windpipe and no oxygen makes it into his lungs. Stiles, god, Stiles. Tears well up into his eyes again, because if Stiles isn't here, isn't where Derek woke up, it means one of two things. Either, and this is what Derek mournfully hopes for, Stiles is off somewhere with people he deems family. Stiles is hopefully somewhere with his mom, somewhere safe. The second option makes Derek's stomach churn. If Stiles isn't in the After, it means he committed a crime too atrocious to gain entry. He wouldn't be allowed to see his family.

“A widower,” Derek gasps, and Talia's eyes turn sadder than he's ever seen them, “I was a widower.”

The quiet is almost deafening, and Derek looks around at his family, watches the familiar faces. There's one blood relative missing, and he wants nothing more than to postpone the inevitable questions about Stiles.

“Peter?” he turns surprised eyes to his mother, “why isn't Peter here?”

“Oh, Der,” Laura says, and the hurt in her voice hits him so hard he thinks he's going to die twice in just a few minutes. “How awful did life treat you if you think killing one's own niece isn't a crime awful enough to deny one entry into the After?”

The breath Derek had thought about taking is so far out of his reach he can feel his skin tinge blue. He knows for a fact that werewolves can drown, but he's never heard of one suffocating themselves with a panic attack. There's a tendril of a thought that pleases him, that he didn't commit a crime against his family, against life, awful enough to be sent somewhere else. His mistake with Kate Argent wasn't seen as his fault, his family's death wasn't his fault. But the feeling is short-lived, because even though he's dead, not breathing hurts his lungs, and he doesn't know pain worse than this.

Hands grip his shoulders (there should be holes there, bullets and blood and black swirling towards his heart, but he's clean and whole and painless), and his mother's mouth grips around the word 'breathe.' He breathes, heaving, helpless breaths, and he's crying and gripping his mother like he used to when he was little.

“There was a nogitsune,” he forces out through gritted teeth, hating himself for saying the name, for telling them without Stiles' explicit permission. “He wasn't himself, he must be here.”

He's being hushed, and gripped, and hugged, and he doesn't know why he can't stop crying, but he needs Stiles to be in the After, he needs to spend the After with him. He doesn't want to be somewhere Stiles isn't, and here there aren't culprits to chase, there isn't vengeance. The After is eternal, timeless, and vast, but if Stiles isn't Derek doesn't want to either.

“A nogitsune,” his father murmurs dejectedly, “there was a man I met here who had been killed by a nogitsune, your Stiles must be here.”

“He wasn't,” Derek gasps, hope burning in him. “He survived. He was killed half a decade later, if I'm here after revenge, he must be here, too.”

The silence is almost overwhelming, Talia's hand is over her mouth, Laura is gripping Cora's arm so tight it has to be painful. Derek's father frames his son's face with his hands and kisses his forehead.

“Son,” he says, and Derek is painfully reminded of the Sheriff, of the ones he left behind, “he survived a nogitsune, your Stiles? Was he changed? Did he take the Bite?”

“No,” Derek turns wide eyes to his father, letting tears run free, “he was human, and I couldn't – I didn't protect him.”

Derek hadn't protected him, because after six years they'd been stupid, too sure of themselves, and Stiles had had to pay with his life. They weren't on their guard, too busy protecting a pregnant Kira to worry about the most important man in Derek's life.

“Shh,” his father cradles him to his chest, like he had back when Derek was a toddler, “wander, Derek, find him.”

He's torn. He wants to set off, but he wants to stay. He doesn't want to lose them again, it's been more than a decade and a half since he's seen most of them. It's been a decade since Laura, one year less than that since Cora. He doesn't want to abandon them for a man only one of them has met, but he wants – needs – to find Stiles. He needs to hold him again.

“Bring him back,” Cora says, smiling sadly at Derek, “he's not here because he didn't meet enough of us, but he's family.”

He hugs them all, which is an ordeal that takes longer than possible. It's an eternity before he's finally standing in front of all his blood relatives, knowing how all of them died except one.

“It was a Druid,” Cora answers his unasked question. “Funny how I could survive a Darach and an alpha pack, but a Druid gets me in the end.”

Derek smiles at her, small and pleased, and he says, “I was killed by wolfsbane bullets. Stiles was killed by an arrow, death sometimes gets us in absurdly easy ways.”

“Yeah, yeah, if we're gonna examine who died in the least flattering way I think I'd win, all right?” Laura explodes from somewhere behind Talia. “Derek, wander, find him, bring him back. I need to talk to him about improving your sense of humour."

Derek wanders after that. He finds himself in New York, and Beacon Hills, and Los Angeles, and South America in its entirety, all at the same time. He rounds a corner that should bring him to the Sheriff's house, but his eyes meets the Empire State Building, and another corner takes him to a hotel shower in Argentina.

He inexplicably knows, somewhere deep down in his head, that the After lets him wander in happy memories, with people who made him happy. He gets to meet his family because they made him happy, and he doesn't have to suffer through not meeting them because the crimes he committed in life weren't awful enough to deny him a timeless happiness.

He doesn't really meet anyone while he walks.

He sees a glint of Lydia in the train depot, and she smiles at him, but neglects to blow powdered wolfsbane in his face. He's glad, but confused as to why she's there. It isn't a happy memory. It never was. She's also not dead, if he interprets the way she blinks out occasionally correctly. But she smiles at him, and he grins back, relieved to see a familiar face.

“This is one of the few memories we share,” she says, and her voice echoes in a way no one else's does. Absolutely not dead, if Derek's guesses are right.

“It is,” he affirms. He feels a little fond of it now, this is the place where Isaac found his anchor, where they cooperated to restrain Boyd and Erica. Where he was Alpha, where he had his Betas.

“I'm glad you're all right.” Lydia continues before she blinks out of focus. She returns with a sour expression on her face. “Find him, and tell him we love him.”

“Why can't you tell him yourself?”

“Because I can't have too much of an emotional connection, tether if you will, with the person I talk to in the After. I could lose myself.”

The corner of Derek's mouth twitches, he smirks quickly at her, and tries to reach out. She flinches, but stands her ground. He doesn't move closer.

“I'm glad you're here, and I will tell him. You know I will.”

She tilts her head, tears in her eyes.

“They're not here because this isn't a happy memory for them. Try the preserve.”

“I will,” he replies. He takes her in. She's the only living person who can talk to him now, he realises that her being a banshee allows him to see her, and her to see him. He mourns with her, because she isn't able to talk to people she loves, she isn't able to see Allison, or Stiles, or even Aiden if she'd want to. It would be too risky.

“I'll tell Allison you said hi when I see her,” he promises, and her tears fall. “I think you're the only one except Ethan who had happy memories with Aiden, but I'm sure he's here, somewhere.”

Her face is somehow sad and happy at the same time, as if she's amused about being sad, or sad about being amused. She steps forward, only a couple inches from him now. The intensity of her stare makes him feel so close to living the breath stutters in his chest.

“I don't think he's here,” she whispers, and one of her hands touches his cheek, cold enough to burn a brand into him, it leaves a phantom caress on his face even if it's completely disappeared by the time her hand is at her side again, “he committed atrocious crimes against life while he lived, you know about this intimately.”

He swallows. His breath wheezes out of him, and Lydia's face loses all traces of amusement. She looks sorry to be there with him, to remind him of things that hurt when he's supposed to spend eternity – and no time at all – being happy.

“He didn't have enough time to repent,” her eyes are wide, unfocused, and brimming with tears. “It's different for Stiles, the way it'll be for Jackson. They didn't choose it themselves, Aiden did.”

He wants to reach out for her again, fold her into his embrace, but the panicked look in her eye pins him stuck to where he's standing.

“You have to go, continue, and I must leave,” her voice wobbles, and she grips something that's probably in the living world. It might be a table, or a hand. It could be anything. He won't ever know. “I wish I could come back,” she tilts her head at him, smiles a little, “but we're too closely tethered now as it is.”

She blinks out. Doesn't return. Tears stain Derek's cheeks. He lets himself sink down to the floor of the depot, angry and confused and a little happy, too. He had never been able to see eye to eye with her when they both lived in Beacon Hills. When she moved, the only person she would talk to was Stiles.

She'd been at the funeral. Eyes searching the crowd, and hand clutching Jackson's hard enough to make them both wince. She didn't talk to anyone. She gave her card to Scott, told him to call her if there were ever an emergency, then she fled.

Derek's always wondered if she knew Stiles would die that day four years ago. She seemed to have known Allison's death was imminent, and she must have known Derek's was as well. She wouldn't have had time to visit him if she didn't know, or maybe Scott had called her. Maybe Derek has been dead longer than he thought.

Timeless realms are a bitch and a half.

He gets up eventually. He doesn't know if he should wander to the preserve to see his old Betas, or if he should wander aimlessly to find Stiles. He starts walking, and it feels as if he's on his way to all three of them, with imprints of other people. He hears a laugh, throaty and sad but happy and amused and Derek runs when he connects it with a blonde he hasn't seen in over a decade. There she is. Beautiful and still his Beta in some sense.

Erica is curled up against Boyd, and they're laughing and crying and then they see him and they launch themselves at him.

He has his arms full of his Betas, and he can recall the burn of Alpha eyes in his skull, and he can see how they're mixes of what they were when he recruited them and what they became after the Bite. The three of them laugh through tears, and there are apologies. He rubs his nose and face against their shoulders, and cries into Boyd's chest when the younger man murmurs, “I forgive you.”

Another laugh resounds from further into the park, deeper between trees and ponds and benches. It's accompanied by two other voices, but Derek's entire being has zeroed in on what must be Stiles, what must have been Stiles when he was barely seventeen. Erica smiles at Derek, as amused and sad as Lydia had been.

“He found me in the train depot when he got here, after one of his wanderings,” her amusement is stronger than her sadness, and her face lights up brighter than he's ever seen it. “Apparently me calling him Batman was happy enough to make it in here.”

“He found me in Motel Glen Capri by a vending machine,” Boyd snorts. “His definition of happy differs from everyone else's.”

“I think he was just happy you were alive, that he was alive to see you,” Derek smiles, eyes downcast. “I think that kind of happiness is stronger than most, especially if you were as hyper vigilant as Stiles.”

It hits him then, that Stiles is there. He's well (but dead, but Derek's dead as well), and he's in the same realm as Derek. There's an urgency in Derek's bones, and Erica pushes him towards a path that makes him feel like every cell is screaming at him to hurry, to finally see his husband again.

He finds him, as beautiful as always, curled up on a bench with Allison, whispering something that makes her giggle. There's another girl on the other side of Stiles, blonde curls, and green eyes, and a warm smile when they find Derek's. He assumes she must be Heather. She elbows Stiles in the ribs, and his head whips to her with an amber glare. She points to Derek.

Derek would describe the stillness that happens as time standing still had he been alive, but the After is timeless and endless and eternal. He's dead and will stay that way forever and never. But it still feels like everything stops, even though nothing really is where they are right now.

Their eyes are locked with one another's for the first time in almost four years.

People change constantly in the After. Your appearance and voice changes depending on which memory you're visiting. Derek's body and voice was five most of the time back when he was with his family. He knows he was dressed in the ruined tank top when he talked to Lydia.

Stiles is young as he stands before Derek. His head is shorn, and he's wearing clothes Derek hasn't seen in years. It hits him that this is the first time they met, this is what Stiles wore in the preserve that day. He looks a little crooked, tilted a little too far to one side without Scott standing next to him, but they can wait. Scott will show up eventually.

“How?” is the first thing Stiles asks, and now he's older, now he's twenty and his eyes are wet and his face is sad. He's pale as he looks at Derek, as he sees how old he was when he died. “Why?”

“I got them all,” Derek tells him, “every last one of the hunters who took you from me. Monkshood got me in the end.”

Stiles' smile is askew and unsure, but his back is straight when he asks, “you hunted hunters down for me?”

Derek takes a step closer, and Stiles is in the clothes he died in, he's twenty-two again, and he has the same fright in his eyes as there had been seconds before the arrow hit him. They both swallow, and both their throats click when they do. Derek steps right up to Stiles, frames his face with his hands and whispers, “of course I did.”

A whine is ripped from Stiles, and he screws his eyes shutas if wishing to disappear, or have the After disappear around him. Derek lets his fingers brush Stiles' jaw, and his thumbs drags smoothly under his eyes. They stay like that for a few seconds – or eternities –, Stiles' breaths wheezing out of him, as if he's overwhelmed.

“I can't imagine anyone thinking that was a good idea.”

“They didn't,” Derek replies, eyes weary but reluctant to tear away from Stiles' face. “But I haven't seen them in two years, I had to leave for them to not have them caught in the crossfire.”

Stiles' eyes are wide and trained on a point a little to Derek's left. Heather and Allison sit in the background still, their eyes raking over Derek, taking him in. He wants to rely Lydia's message to Allison, he wants to introduce himself to Heather, but Derek can't move, can't breathe.

“What do you mean?”

“You died four years before me.” Derek tells him, one hand drifting down to his throat, brushing his thumb against the skin and trying to swallow the lump in his own. “After two years of hunting them down, Chris said he couldn't justify protecting the pack if I was part of it.”

There are three sharp intake of breaths, the only one continuing to breathe normally being Heather. Derek closes his eyes, because if he has to look at these people, look at Stiles, while he tells this story, he's going to need a minute to compose himself. He takes a deep breath before continuing.

“There were only three left by that time, and I found one of them a year later, and two of them a year after that. I –“ and he stops, because he doesn't know if Stiles can forgive him for this, but he has to continue, has to tell the truth “– I ripped their faces off their heads and their limbs from their bodies for what they did to you. One of the last two shot me. Wolfsbane bullets. I called home once their hearts had stopped. I think I had just a few minutes. Then I woke up to my mother's face.”

One of Stiles' hands is gripping his forearm, and when Derek blinks it's as if the floodgates have been opened, and out comes everything he's kept to himself for four years. All the tears he has neglected to shed, all the cries he's smothered in his throat, and Stiles surges forwards and holds him for the first time in what feels like Derek's entire life.

“You were gone,” he sobs, voice rawer than it's ever been. “You were gone and I had nothing but revenge to live for.”

Stiles is hushing him, swaying from side to side soothingly. It takes a while before he's calm enough to look up at Stiles, to wipe away tears with trembling fingers. When he's an inch from presentable, Stiles' smile presses to the corner of his mouth, and Derek's knees buckle, and they sprawl in the grass.

Derek puts his lips to whatever piece of Stiles' skin he can reach, and both of their wet laughter rings clear and beautiful in his ears. It takes them a little while to settle, Stiles' head against Derek's shoulder, but once they do, Allison approaches and curls up against Stiles' back.

“I met Lydia before, while I wandered.”

“She's not – “

“No, no, she's alive. I don't really know what she did, but it couldn't have been done with anyone she had an emotional tether with.” Stiles laughs until there are tears wetting Derek's shirt. “She says she loves you, that Scott, and your fathers love and miss you.”

Allison's hand rests next to Stiles' on Derek's chest, and her fingers cramp until they've formed a fist in Derek's shirt. She cries, wet and ugly and loudly, and Stiles pats her knuckles and the back of her hand until she's calm enough to let go of the garment. She sniffles but has a smile flirting with her mouth when Derek looks at her.

“Scott was angry,” is what he says next, and both Stiles and Allison tense up at his name, “he was so angry with me for going away by myself two years ago, for letting myself get hurt. He thought he'd be able to reach me in time. God, I really wish he won't ever have to find my body.”

“How is he?” Stiles asks hesitantly, clears his throat, “I mean, how was he last time you saw him?”

Derek drops a kiss to Stiles' forehead, closes his eyes, grips the t-shirt Stiles is wearing tightly in his hand to prevent him from disappearing again. Allison smiles through tears again as Derek relies the years to them, Stiles sheds a tear or two here and there, and Derek's eyes are drier than they've been since he and Stiles were both alive and well.

Erica and Boyd come back from wherever they had been. Boyd has another girl with him, who bears likeness with him. Erica blows kisses to an old lady. They all sit on the grass, smiling at one another, but not saying much at all. Heather walks up and Derek finally gets to introduce himself to Stiles' oldest friend.

A while later, or perhaps it had always been like that, there are Hales around them. Laura has her talk with Stiles, and both of them come back from it looking a little shell shocked but triumphant. It's quiet and loud, and joyous and saddening, and Stiles introduces himself to Derek's mother and then they know everything about one another.

It's a whiplash kind of place even though you can't get hurt, even though every ache in your body disappears, and every mental scar sits next to the best things you've experienced in your life.

Derek wonders why he was ever trying to stay alive, if this had been there, but he realises that if he hadn't lived, if he had given up, he wouldn't have had the family he has in the After, he wouldn't know to tell Allison about Scott and his wife and their daughter. He wouldn't have Stiles in his After.

He wouldn't know how to kiss him in a way that leaves him breathless, and he wouldn't know he was allowed to tangle their fingers together. He wouldn't feel the sting of tears in his eyes when Claudia Stilinski steps into their meadow, he wouldn't be able to appreciate her beauty.

Stiles pulls him forwards, going from twenty-two, to sixteen, to ten, and back again. Their hands are still clasped, their fingers still tangled, their bodies still angled towards the other's. Stiles smiles bright and big and everything about Derek's timeless eternity is right.

“Mom, I want you to meet someone.”

Chapter Text

His car breaks down in the middle of Colorado.

It's summer, Derek thinks, but the seasons have faded to the background during his quest for revenge.

His cell phone still works, miraculously, and someone at home must still pay for it, because the call he makes connects and there's a weary voice coming from the speakers. He realises belatedly that it's not even dawn yet.

“Derek?” the Sheriff asks, and he wants to curl up to the sound of it and not move for a while, wants to cry and scream and rage but he can't. There are still two left.

“Sheriff,” he replies, and there's a sigh on the other end, faintly amused, but mostly tired and miserable.

“It's been over a decade, Derek, I've told you, call me by my first name. We're there.”

A smirk flirts with his mouth, but Derek stamps down on it until the urge disappears. He wishes he could go home. He wishes there was anything to come home to.

“I'm sorry, but I need more specific coordinates,” he says, blunt and toneless and without emotion as always, and like every other time, Derek swears he can hear the Sheriff choke back tears, voice thick in the back of his throat.

“Yes, I'll send them to you in a minute. When are you coming home?”

Derek sighs, as much as he appreciates the continuity, this tradition always cuts away a little of his resolve, removes some of the defences on the locked box that contains his feelings. He doesn't have time to cry, he doesn't have the energy to let go. He doesn't have the heart to leave unfinished.

“There are two left,” he tells the Sheriff, and there's a quiet moment.

“One of them who shot the arrow?”

“Yes, the brothers, I'm not sure which one unless I get a whiff.”

“And when this is done, when you've brought down these last two, will you come home?” the Sheriff prods. Derek wants so badly to say yes, but he stopped lying, even by omission, back after Lydia fled Beacon Hills.

“One way or another,” he admits, and they both know that it can mean many things. He could be back in California within the week, knock on the Stilinski door, and hug Scott and Kira. Or he could die, and hope to meet Stiles in the After. Both options means he'll come home, in a way.

Or he could end up in an eternal darkness. There's really no way to know.

“I wish I didn't have to lie to Scott, he asks if I know where you are almost every week. I technically never know where you are, I just know where your victims have been during their last days.”

“I – “ Derek doesn't know what he can say to ease his father-in-law, but he can feel the way his throat closes up, knows that if he doesn't stop this now they will get away again. He's been hunting them for a year, barely living while he's done it. He can't afford to lose them again, won't be able to live with himself. “I need to go, Sheriff.”

“Derek,” he sighs again, voice cracking and Derek's resolve has spider webs of crackles in it, and he needs to get away from this as soon as possible. “I'll text you the coordinates. Be safe.”

Then there's a noise signalling the other person has hung up, and his phone shines in his face, and Derek is alone in the middle of nowhere, without a car, without his husband, without his family, and he wills himself not to break down before the last two has paid for their crimes.

There's a light drizzle of rain wetting his shoulders, and the goddamn Toyota sits at the shoulder of the road in its unbearable uselessness. He almost wishes he could set it on fire, but there is a forest not three yards from the car, and he's always – just like Kate taunted him about a decade ago – had a problem with fire.

A text lights his phone up again, and he almost wishes he could feel the cold around him. Colorado is a bit more south than Northern California, but somehow it seems colder here. Maybe it's because Derek knows these last two hunters are from around here, he thinks maybe the entire area suffers from the ice they have in their hearts. But Derek has been unable to feel since four years back. Almost to the date. The anniversary was just a couple weeks ago, descended on him with anxiety and panic and anger, and he spent the day on the phone with the pack, with the only family he has left.

The last place where the brothers used their credit cards is only a day's run away from where Derek is stranded. Their scent will probably be faint, but it will be there, it will be traceable. He's not going to give up, he's not going to stray from what has to be done.

The rain picks up as he leaves the car behind, not even bothering to bring any of his bags. Water whips his face as he jogs. He's nowhere strong enough to sprint all the way, and he needs to conserve energy.

The people he's hunting will be prepared to meet him for battle, since they're heartless enough to shoot a human. Sometimes Derek thinks he attracts hunters who ignore the code enough to blame humans for others lycanthropy.

The sky finally brightens, even if the clouds are dark grey in it. The rain is practically pissing down, soaking to his skin and slowing him down. He wants to strip down and take on the Alpha shift, but he isn't sure if he'd keep enough of his sanity to leave unsuspecting civilians alive if they dared step in his path even if he still had the ability, if he still was Alpha.

At one point, many years ago, Derek might have thought Colorado was beautiful. The little shit hole he's on his way to might have been as appealing to him as Beacon Hills is. Small town, pretty forests. But Fort Collins grates at his bones worse than a bitten wolf's first full moon. The brothers were born here, and Derek hates the entire state for their existence.

He doesn't stop often during his run, the only times he does is just to check his position compared to the coordinates. He's spot on, even after half a day's run, and he's closer than he thought he'd be.

Normally, one would pause for breath at this, but Derek is driven by a bloodlust that has nothing to do with the phase of the moon. He needs to avenge Stiles. Needs to kill his murderers.

He's been doing it for four years now. All fourteen scattered like ash in the wind after the brothers embedded an arrow in Stiles, too afraid to stay after Scott lost all semblance of control and shifted, after Derek roared, after Kira's Fox Fire leapt at them in her anger and grief.

He's hunted them down relentlessly ever since. He'd started with the stupid ones who stayed in the state, rounded it off a year ago with an aunt to the brothers. He doesn't even have their names, has never wanted the names of those he killed. The Sheriff knows. He's had to track them down so Derek could kill them all.

None of them like it. The Sheriff hates it, but he hated burying his son more. Derek likes knowing they're no longer alive. He hates killing them almost as much as he hated seeing Stiles' coffin being lowered into the ground.

Some of them begged. The last one he'd been able to kill had begged for her nephews' lives. Told him she was sorry, just like Kate had told Peter to keep Allison alive. The only difference was that Allison hadn't killed, had only gotten mad with grief, had repented. The brothers had intentionally hurt Stiles to hit the pack the hardest.

When the woman pleaded for him to let her relatives live, he had hit such a low he feared he'd turn into Peter. He'd smiled at her the way he did when under the influence of one of the Nogitsune's fire flies, this time voluntarily, but no less crazed, and told her every detail of how he planned to eviscerate her dear boys.

The thoughts have him run faster, wishing to reach the scum of the earth faster. He wants it to be over, he wants to unlock his emotions, and feel the cold air again. He wants to be conscious of which season it is, wants to check up on the Sheriff's diet, wants to curl up with his Alpha and his family and breathe again.

He can't do that until every last one of them is dead. He doesn't even care if he dies trying. He cares where he ends up after. What he's doing might be too much of a crime against life to let him in the After later, he might end up in darkness. There might be nothing at all. He can't let himself think of it, though. He needs to concentrate on his task.

He checks his phone at a gas station a few miles out of the wretched fucking town. His position is spot on, maybe a few feet off, but he can smell them. Aconite, mountain ash, gunpowder. The scent of their emotions would have faded if not for the sheer amount if terror they must have stunk up the place with. Derek revels in it. If they're still this afraid of him when he killed their aunt a year ago, they must have almost gone mad with it.

Unfortunately, that means they're on guard enough to keep wolfsbane on them at all times. Probably monkshood, most likely several others that will kill him in very imaginative ways. The smell of mountain ash bothers him a little. He won't be able to gut them slowly if he's caught. He's still stealthy, even after all these years, but hunters have been trained to notice him, and he can't risk losing them again.

He sniffs around the empty lot, letting the blisters on his feet heal. He's surprised his shoes haven't given up yet, that the soles are whole enough to only let in a whisper of water. He's kept to the shadows long enough that the brothers decided using their credit cards was safe enough, probably because they've forgotten he's related -- in all the ways that count -- to an officer of the law with ambiguous morality. Or maybe they thought the Sheriff would've given up on Derek by now.

Derek doesn't know whether he wishes for that or not. It would've been harder to find everyone, especially considering their number and all the time it's taken him. Then again, some nights Derek fitfully thinks of the two years where he had the pack at his back in this, where the Sheriff and Scott and Melissa were there to hide bodies and take on the missing reports when they came.

Derek crossed state lines alone when Chris put down his foot, when Scott held his family while telling Derek there was nothing he could do. That was the last time he had seen them, the last time he'd seen Kira's sad smile, Scott's puppy eyes, Melissa's worried frown. The Sheriff wiping away tears they all pretended not to see.

He secures the direction the brothers' scent has gone, takes off in a jog that borders on full-out running.

The urgency is burning in the marrow of his bones, pushes him faster and harder forwards. His senses are heightened further as adrenalin pumps in his veins. The scent trail seems to get sharper, more prominent. He recognises it as if he smelled it yesterday. It almost chokes him, almost has him stumbling with all the memories it brings up.

It disgusts him how they can smell so human, so utterly ordinary under the aconite and ash. These people have no empathy, are as psychopathic as Kate. They're probably proud of what they've managed to do, how they rendered every werewolf and their associates in Beacon County grief ridden and off the rails.

Memories from the funeral gathers in his mind, and maybe it should weaken him in sorrow, but he hastens his pace, breaths wheezing out of him.

He can almost taste them, can almost imagine what their blood will feel like sluicing down his arms, what their entrails will feel like against the pads of his fingers.

An arriving text makes him pause.

He's still sniffing, keeping the pungent scent in his nostrils as the Sheriff gives him new coordinates.

They've rented a warehouse. Be careful.

Derek shoves the phone into his pocket before taking off again, only an hour's run from the fuckers.

The smell of aconite is sharper now, itching in his nose, and he has an absurd urge to sneeze. He holds it off, not wanting to alert his presence to any listening ears.

The warehouse is uglier than the one he lived in with Isaac a decade ago. It's probably been empty and forgotten for a while, landlord letting it succumb to the elements. It smells of rot and dust and the hunters. He feels his teeth lengthen in response, anger burning hot and unrelenting in him.

It almost feels beautiful how angry he is, how rage courses in his body better than his blood, how he can't help but unsheath his claws and let his eyes burn blue. He hasn't let his face take on all of the changes, he wants the brothers to see who kills them.

He can’t hear heartbeats from inside, but he’s sure they’ll come back eventually. The inside is littered with what must be the brothers’ meager belongings. A lone SUV is parked at the back, and three bags are thrown onto what looks like a camping spot. The sleeping bags are dirty and rank, but Derek ignores them as he makes his way to the bag that makes his nose sting.

There is so much wolfsbane and mountain ash in it he’s surprised he isn’t choking on the air. He finds lighter fluid in one of the other bags, brings the offending one out back, and lights it on fire. He slashes the tyres of the car, and heads back inside before he chokes on smoke.

Derek realises that with the car out of commission, he’ll have no choice but to run back home. He has no money, has been living on woodland creatures for two years – something he’s realised Stiles would find funny, but has never allowed himself to dwell on –, and the Toyota is somewhere on the side of the road. Probably south from where he is now. He isn’t sure.

He settles in a dark corner to wait for his prey, silently thanking someone, something, that his eyes no longer burn red even in the dark, without him telling them to.

The wind has changed, so he can hear them before he smells or see them. Their hearts are thumping quickly in their chests, which is something Derek plans on rectifying as soon as possible. They still stink of aconite, or maybe that is because fumes have leaked a little into the room Derek has hidden in.

It’s the biggest room, the one with the hunter’s sleeping bags. It has the most shadows, more places for him to hide. He hopes that will be enough.

They've noticed the smoke, and they yell indignantly when they see the car. Maybe he should've killed one of them while they were unsuspecting. Now they're aware in some way or another of his presence, they know who’s there.

They begin to search the room with the help of flashlights.

It hits Derek that he’s probably going to die today. The fumes from the wolfsbane he set on fire is making his head spin, and it seems the brothers’ guns are filled to the brim with aconite laced bullets. He wished he cared more, wished he could allow himself to sympathise with the Sheriff and Scott and everyone else in the pack.

But the need to do this, to go through with it, to kill these bastards even if it kills him, is burning worse than any injury he’s ever sustained. He needs to avenge Stiles.

He leaps silently behind the men as they pass his corner, slices his right hand claws through the older’s hamstrings and watches in some sick kind of satisfaction as he goes down with a groan.

He would like to draw it out, to make them suffer, even if Stiles’ death was relatively quick. But he knows he has a better chance of staying alive long enough to see these men die if he makes it swift. He kicks away a gun that had clattered away when one of them went down, pushes his claws into the younger’s shoulder and yanks until the hunter is screaming.

The arm is still connected to his body, and Derek’s rage deems that unacceptable. He yanks again, finally separating limb from body. Blood spurts in his face, and the taste is the sweetest thing he’s experienced in four years.

A gun goes off, and though Derek knows the bullet hit him in the left shoulder, he doesn’t let it slow him down. The younger brother is probably down for the count, but he makes sure to bite his face off for good measure as well. Another shot rings through the warehouse, and this bullet burns a little more than the first one.

He can still move his arms, even with the aconite injuries in both his shoulders, and he rushes after the older hunter as he tries to flee. This time he goes for the face with his fangs first, bites down with his lower jaw in the apple of a stubbled cheek, wraps his mouth all the way to an ear on the other side.

There’s a wet gurgle beneath him, and he unlocks his teeth from where they’ve caught in cheekbones. He attempts to incapacitate the arm that holds the gun, but he’s only shot for his troubles. The blast and burning of wolfsbane makes him recoil, and the hunter is trying his best to crawl away from Derek.

They’re both bleeding extensively, but Derek can still use his legs, and he catches up with the hunter. The man is crying, calling his brother’s name, he’s begging for his brother’s life.

“Please, please,” he coughs, and Derek can only make out what he’s feeling from his scent. His whole face is a mess of blood and tissue and flapping skin. Derek can see bone. “I beg you, save him, anything.”

There’s a strange tugging in Derek’s face, and he realises that he’s smiling. It’s probably the same smile he gave their aunt, the same smile he used while trying to burn Chris alive. He must seem crazy to these humans, absolutely off his hinges, and he understands that he is.

The sorrow of losing Stiles, of watching everyone around him grieve has slowly hacked away at his sanity, his humanity, and Derek just needs to be done with this before he dies.

He stalks forward, and the hunter whimpers, averts his eyes toward his brother. Derek crouches, wrenches the gun from the man’s hand, leans close, and takes a good, long whiff.

“Anything?” he asks, voice gravelly with the shift. So much for keeping control enough to let his face remain his human one.

“Anything, anything at all.”

Derek inhales through his nose again, dimly aware of the pain in his body, the scorching of aconite in his blood on its way to his heart. This one, the one still conscious and begging for his brother’s life, is the one that shot Stiles. This is the one who took him away.

The hunter is breathing shallowly, his scent stinking of terror and love and misery and hope.

Derek bends down to exhale over the hunter’s ear, almost purrs with pleasure when the terror engulfs all other emotions in the scent.

“I’ll make it quick,” he says, and stands up.

“No! Don’t!” the man yells, desperation infecting the sweet terror with its sour smell.

“You took him from me!” Derek roars, wishing for the Alpha form yet again. He’d like to just act on instinct, to lose himself, but there isn’t time for that, there is no way for him to achieve it.

He walks closer to the unconscious one, arm lying haphazardly a few feet from his body. The heartbeat is slow and thready, on the brink of death. The face is nothing but blood and sinew, and Derek inhales deeply before slicing through the man’s throat.

There’s a soft cry from behind him, and Derek is hit with three more bullets. He goes down on one knee, somehow calling up enough energy to awkwardly crawl back to the older hunter and gut him.

He’s suddenly very tired, disgusted by the smell of so much blood, hazy with aconite. He fumbles for his phone, energy quickly bleeding out from him.

He finds the text the Sheriff sent earlier, the one with new coordinates. The words “be careful” mock him, but he swallows dryly and calls, hopes someone will pick up.

There are long seconds of nothing but the beeping of a phone wanting to connect with another, before the call picks up from the other end.

“Derek,” Scott breathes, and there’s a sparking in the background that tells him he’s on speaker phone. “Where are you?”

“I don’t know,” he grits out as he slices through his shirt to see how long he has left, how far the black tendrils have travelled. “In the middle of nowhere.”

“Is it done?” the Sheriff speaks next, and Derek can hear how his throat is once again thick with unshed tears.

“It’s done, they’re both–” he pauses, listens carefully for heartbeats, but finds only his own. “None of their hearts are beating, at least. They bled to death.”

“Will you come home?” Scott asks, probably around a lump in his throat, and Derek wishes, despite everything, that he could return to his Alpha, to his father-in-law. But the only scent of aconite comes from his wounds, and the black is almost at his heart now.

“In one way or another,” he replies, and hears the Sheriff choke out a sob. “I’ll come home in some way.”

“What do you mean? What does he mean? Derek! Fuck, just tell me where you are and we can patch you up.”

He’s unable to stop tears from leaking down his cheeks, but he doesn’t really feel anything, everything is muted. He vomits all over himself, the same black goop from back when he was last shot with monkshood laced bullets. He finds it appropriate that he’s gonna die of this, that he’s going to be killed by the very same thing that made him trust Stiles in the first place.

“No, no, no, Derek, don’t talk like that,” he hears the Sheriff say, voice thick and full of grief, and Derek wishes he could see them, could smell them. He can’t remember what they smell like, can only smell blood and rot and death.

It’s familiar, in some way, wishing for death but still being scared of it. He remembers Stiles’ face, his smell, the warmth of his skin. He misses the naïvety, misses how trusting and loving Stiles had been, misses his snark and sarcasm. Stiles had been a package of soft skin and sweet smiles, but with a hard edge one could cut oneself on, sharp wit and comebacks, and Derek wants nothing but to see him again.

Where is he?” Scott is demanding of his stepdad, “Where the fuck are you, Derek, I’m gonna find you and we’re gonna fix you, okay?”

Derek exhales, watches as the aconite crawls closer to his heart, hears it stutter when he concentrates, even if the effort makes his vision dim and his ears ring.

“I don’t have much time,” he coughs, and neither of the men on the other end seem to be able to say anything for a while.

“Hey,” his father-in-law says, and Derek latches onto that so tightly he thinks he might make it, even if nothing can save him now. “You tell him about us, all right? When you meet him, you love him enough for all of us until we join you, okay?”

Scott is raging in the background, hissing and growling through what must be tears. Derek wants to reach out and console him, comfort his Alpha. Tell him it’s okay, convince him it doesn’t hurt. He doesn’t tell him that, because Scott has all ready heard if from someone, and that never made it easier.

“Sheriff,” he murmurs, not enough energy to speak louder.

“I thought I told you to use my first name, Derek, don’t you think we’re there?”

He huffs a laugh, watches in morbid fascination as the wolfsbane creeps over the last inch through his tattoo for his heart.

“I don’t– there isn’t more time,” the grip on the phone digs the plastic into his hand, but he can only feel it as if far away. The smell of blood is still awful in his nostrils. He can hear them choke back their sobs. “Shh, it’s all right, I’ll tell him.”

He’s slurring, barely making himself heard over the crying on the other end. It sounds like the phone clatters to a table, and two chairs are dragged out. They’re sitting down, crying over hearing him die.

“I know you will,” the Sheriff says, and Scott makes a wounded noise in the background. “It’s okay, we know you’ll tell him, we know you’ll see him soon.”

Derek vomits on himself again, and it burns his throat, prevents him from saying anything. The first black tendril reaches his heart, and he can feel how it burns, how the beats stutter. His father-in-law is murmuring through tears in his ear, and Derek lets his eyes fall closed. He can’t smell anything except blood and rot, and he realises it’s from him.

The world goes dark, the only thing he can hear is the pounding of rain on the roof.

Chapter Text

Derek’s been on it for two years. Eleven hunters are dead, lifeblood from eleven people staining his hands. There are only three left, and they’re the trickiest to find.

“I’m sorry,” Scott says, and it seems like he means it, like he understands how much this burns in Derek’s veins. How it feels like betrayal, even though they both know it isn’t.

“We can’t keep doing this, Chris can’t hold off for much longer. It’s just too much.” Scott’s hands find Derek’s shoulders, and the Alpha’s eyes are full of apologies Derek knows he won’t utter. They both know that what Derek’s been doing has been a little too much.

Eleven deaths in two years has brought too much attention towards the McCall pack, even if Derek’s been lead on to chase them across surrounding states as well as at home. Californian hunters have been asking themselves why so many of them end up dead.

Chris still has some kind of semblance of control over Northern California, over Beacon Hills, but he’s still only a trained soldier. He’s not terribly used to having to make big decisions. But Derek knows that not even Chris can let this go on, knows that he must leave them all behind until he’s done and every last one of the hunters that killed Stiles are dead.

His chest twinges with the phantom pain of his tattoo, as if it doesn’t matter that it’s two years old, as if it didn’t heal many months ago. Derek raises a hand to rub over his henley, attempting to calm down the way his heart is jackrabbiting underneath cloth and tissue.

“Can you call the Sheriff?” he says, just to reply in one way or another, just to get the lump out from his throat.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll call him, should I get someone else here, or…?”

“No, no, just the Sheriff for now,” Derek swallows, curses the lump silently in his head. “I just need to see him.”

“Of course,” Scott smiles sadly at him as he makes the call. Derek doesn’t really know if he’d go so far as say that he’s losing time, but one second the call is being made, and the other his father-in-law is standing in front of him. The other man’s face is wrinkled in misery, and he’s making aborted movements with his hands that reminds Derek far too much of the man’s son.

“I have to leave,” Derek says, horrified at how vulnerable and broken his voice is. He doesn’t want to know what his face looks like, can’t even feel it for the numbness that took him over when he realised he couldn’t stay with his pack. He’s so close to getting his revenge he can almost taste it.

“No– Derek, that’s not what I said!” Scott exclaims, angry and hurt, and the scent of it makes Derek’s stomach roil uncomfortably.

The Sheriff shoots an unimpressed look toward Scott, a half-hearted glare in his eyes. When he returns his face toward Derek, the lines in his face are deeper, more prominent. His eyes are concerned, his mouth pursed in a frown too alike Stiles’. But Stiles is dead. There will never be anyone like Stiles anywhere in the world again.

“I’ll need your help, but I have to leave.”

“Yeah, anything Derek,” Stilinski replies, and Derek wants to drown in it, wants Stiles back so much he can’t breathe with it on good days.

“I promised–” he chokes, can’t get more words past his vocal chords, because he had promised a dead body, everything that made Stiles up had all ready died.

“If he continues Chris will put the pack up as dangerous on hunter’s boards, wherever they are,” Scott says, dejected. “The Alpha pack was up there, and we’re gonna end up right at the top. Dangerous; kill at sight.”

“And if he stops?” the Sheriff asks, ignoring the whine Derek lets out at that. He can’t stop, he can’t. He promised.

“Then nothing will happen, but if he doesn’t– they’ll hunt him down, their code will let them.” the urgency in Scott’s voice cuts deeply into Derek, reminds him of why he has to leave. He can’t let them get hurt, can’t lead destruction back to Beacon Hills when he’s spent two years trying to make up for the last time.

Can’t let anyone else die because of him.

The Sheriff’s hands tightens on Derek’s shoulders, and he’s levelled with stern, determined eyes.

“Now, I don’t want to hear you say that, none of it has been your fault,” he says, and Derek realises he must have said that last thing out loud. He wants to tell them that it had been his fault, that he could’ve stopped it, but it’s futile. “What if”s and “but”s won’t mean anything. Stiles is still dead.

The silence seems thick enough for Derek to slice through with his claws. He looks up at them, not sure when he even lowered his head. Scott looks frighteningly determined while the Sheriff just seems sad beyond any comfort.

Derek grips his father-in-law’s hands, removes them from his shoulders. It feels too much like a plea to stay, to let go, and Derek can’t bring himself to do that. Retribution must be served, and it isn’t like Derek can expect anyone else to do it for him. Law enforcement doesn’t have any leads, the Sheriff’s hands are tied. So are Chris’. Derek is the only one who is ready to give up everything he has left.

He promised.

The three of them are still standing in Scott’s kitchen. Derek isn’t really sure how he ended up where he is, knows only he has to pack up essentials and leave. They’re not looking at each other, trying to postpone the inevitable. Even Scott seems to have given up on trying to keep Derek. The Alpha smells of resignation, Stilinski gives off such a pungent odour of distress Derek is sure it will smother him.

“How do you wanna do this?”

It isn’t Scott who’s asking, and Derek can understand why. Even if Scott’s been an Alpha for almost a decade now, the Sheriff has more resources to help Derek. He also knows more about not leaving evidence behind. He knows how to track them the human way, the way they won’t expect to be tracked by a werewolf.

“I don’t– I can’t–”

He can’t think. He doesn’t know how to organise the jumble of thoughts in his head. Doesn’t know how to make sense of anything anymore.

Hasn’t been able to in over two years.

“Shh, okay, we’re gonna talk about this like civilised men. Wolf. Wolf-men. Plus human.”

“You sound– I can’t–”

Derek is losing breath, and Scott is there embracing him. Scott is keeping Derek afloat, just barely, while he tries to draw in enough oxygen to speak. He composes himself surprisingly fast. Going from weak at the knees to standing tall faster than he’s done anything in his entire life.

“I sound too much alike him, I know.”

Derek can’t talk about it, can’t let himself talk about Stiles, not even mention his name outside his head for fear of falling into despair too deep to claw himself back out.

“Did Chris have their names? Didn’t he say he knew which kind of hunters they were?”

“Their relatively new blood,” Scott answers. “He said they haven’t been in the business for too long, but yes, he has their names.”

“The brothers’?”

Scott looks at him sadly, brings up a hand as if to touch him, but Derek steps back.

“Yes, he knows the name of the brothers, he knew all of their names.”

“Call him.”

It pains Derek a little, to see Scott follow his order. Scott is his Alpha, and Scott never followed orders when the hierarchy was the other way around. There’s nothing to do about it now, no “what if”s or “but”s will help.

Stiles is still dead.

Chris arrives in the same fashion the Sheriff did, before Derek can understand any time has passed at all. He didn’t even hear Scott make the call, couldn’t even hear past the rushing of blood in his head.

Argent makes his way immediately for Derek, but he just shakes his head. His instincts are still too jumbled for him to see Chris as anything else than a threat. The scent of aconite and mountain ash and the unmistakable crossbow at his back makes his hackles rise an alarming amount.

Stilinski steps in. He guides the hunter away from Derek while keeping his body between them. He knows that Derek could destroy him to get to Chris, could kill him in a heartbeat. He also knows that Scott is there to back him up if it would ever come to that.

He’s also well aware Derek would never touch him with ill intent. Has never been able to, even in the early days he had too much respect for the man. Later it was because he was a helping hand, after that because he was Stiles’ dad, then the whole thing with him being Derek’s father-in-law.

Most of all it’s because the Sheriff is the closest thing to Stiles in the world. Not that anyone but Derek knows that it’s a reason. Stiles’ DNA is still somewhat present in the world, and Derek would do everything in his power to keep it there as long as possible.

The world deserves Stiles’ DNA.

But Stiles is still dead.

Hunter and Sheriff go deeper into the house while Scott and Derek are stuck in the kitchen. Derek feels stuck, at least, while Scott seems at home. It’s not weird that he might be, seeing as it is his home. The one he shares with his family. Derek feels guilty he can’t feel safe in his Alpha’s den, but both of them know why.

Derek hasn’t really felt safe since he was sixteen. He’s been reckless, especially two years prior, and had to pay with his last refuge in the world.

Nothing in the world is safe without Stiles in it.

They look at each other, and Derek is adamant to tune out whatever it is the other men are talking about. He doesn’t want names.

He doesn’t want to know anything about these people except that they’ve been exterminated.

He just needs them dead.

Derek busies himself with making tea. It’s a nervous habit, one he picked up from Stiles, from their many Skype conversations when Derek was left in Beacon Hills when everyone went to college. It’s Yellow Label, which he knows no one likes. But he makes it anyway.

He listens intently to the water boiler while it heats up the water, preoccupy his hands by taking out four mugs to put tea bags in, pulls out sugar and milk from their respective places in the kitchen.

He knows his way around, is achingly familiar with all the nooks and crannies of the house. He’s been here too many times to count.

He still feels caged in.

Scott is still somewhat rooted on the spot, probably reluctant to approach after the rejection. It stings in an Alpha when one of its Betas pull away from comforting touch. Even with Scott’s immaculate control, the human side of him probably feels it just as well as his wolf does, and that usually keeps anyone at a distance.

It isn’t like Derek and Scott don’t get along. They’ve functioned well since the Nogitsune, even better since after, but Scott is still partially convinced the bite ruined his life. They’ve never been able to see eye to eye on that.

Derek knows the entrance of werewolves to Scott’s life has taken away too many things to count, and he could never fault Scott for thinking the way he does. But it’s who Derek is, and he wants to help, wants to reach out and teach him all the things he still doesn’t completely know.

Derek keeps himself at least one pace away from his Alpha. He’s afraid of losing his grip on determination if he were to accept, nevermind search for comfort.

He still has to avenge Stiles.

Still has to kill every last one of them.

It burns a little in his veins to keep his distance like this, but he feels the need to. Derek is leaving, and he’s not coming back in a very long time. There is no point visiting the pack while he’s on his quest for vengeance. He could lead dangerous people back to them, people who won’t care about codes or humanity at all.

He can’t let the pack suffer more than it all ready has. Even if it’s mismatched, even if too many of them are dead, even if several of them live across the country, or even the world. It hurts to leave Scott with only three Betas, although he’ll have the humans, too. But Derek has to make himself scarce for their and his own sake.

The electric kettle gurgles in the background as Alpha and Beta stare at one another, and Derek wants to show his throat, but he’s preparing himself to become Omega. To be as independent as possible.

The only one he’ll have any direct contact with will be the Sheriff.

For old time’s sake, Derek averts his eyes first. It’s been that way forever, for as long as he can remember. Even when Scott was newly bitten and scared shitless, he never looked away when challenged.

This situation isn’t necessary that, but Scott believes in Derek more than he can take. He can’t face faith like that, because he isn’t strong enough to back off from this, to ensure his own safety.

He doesn’t care if he dies while doing this, so long as every last one of the hunters die. All he cares about is letting Scott have the rest of his family intact.

Both of them startle when the kettle signals the water is ready, and Derek practically dives to pour it into mugs. He knows how everyone usually take their tea, but since either Scott or Kira has bought Yellow Label, he makes sure to put more milk in than he would usually.

“Chris, you don’t–” they hear the Sheriff say, alarmed, before Argent bustles into the kitchen. Derek’s hackles go up in protest, but he keeps himself busy by blowing gently into his mug.

“Make sure absolutely no one knows exactly where you are,” the hunter snarls, and slaps a phone into Derek’s hands. “This is a precaution, which is why it’s in my name.”

They stare at one another, Scott poised and ready to intervene, the Sheriff’s face a mask of irritation. Derek can smell worry and resignation and a little anger.

“If I hadn’t come back, Chris–” Derek tries to say, but is interrupted almost immediately.

“I would’ve had family left,” and that stings, because it is true, and Derek knows it, but it still stings. “But I would be married to a woman who thinks it’s all right to kill a sixteen-year-old, I would be the son to a selfish psychopath, and I would have been the brother of a mass murderer.”

Derek bows his head to look down at his mug and the phone in his hand, he can’t look at Chris.

“I don’t think I’d still have Allison.”

Scott has a sharp inhale for that one, and the Alpha grabs a mug. Derek looks up.

“If you hadn’t been here, Scott would’ve been a murderer, Allison would be dead either because Peter forced Scott to kill her, or because Kate was reckless and brought her unprepared to stand up to an Alpha werewolf hellbent on revenge. There would’ve been more death here if you had never come back.”

It’s too quiet in the kitchen after that, and Derek tries weakly to lower his hackles when Chris steps closer. They’ve been friends for a long time now, but Derek can’t control his instincts. Not like this, when he’s cornered and away from the pack, away from his real anchor. He breathes out an exhale of relief when Scott steps up to him and puts a hand on his shoulder.

“I understand that I’m a confusing presence for you right now,” Argent says, eyes sad while his mouth is in a thin line. “We’re friends, we’re allies, but I stink of hunter, and I understand.”

He stalls a little, takes one of the mugs still left on the counter, and grimaces when he gets a whiff.

“I don’t know why you poison yourself with this excuse for tea, Scott,” he smiles weakly at both of them, backing up a step while the Sheriff comes further into the kitchen. Probably to put Derek’s senses at ease with his scent.

“I still have an Alpha,” Chris says, and Derek looks at him, wonders when this will stop. It hurts, to hear him say goodbye. “I have friends,” he glances at the Sheriff, “I have an honorary granddaughter,” his scent changes with the weight of misery, and Derek wants to run.

“But I’m sorry to lose you as well.”

He leaves them in the kitchen, in the house.

The silence weighs a ton.

Scott’s eyes get steely and determined, and Derek want to cower and curl up somewhere. He knows what’s coming, and he doesn’t want to face it.

“If you’re leaving, I’m coming with you.”

“The hell you are, Scott!” is what the Sheriff yells at the room in general, startling both werewolves. Stilinski’s breathing is heavy and angry and terrified.

“He’s right,” Derek murmurs after a pregnant pause. “You’re needed here. Beacon Hills needs protection.”

It’s always needed protection, always needed someone to keep it standing. Derek remembers when he promised he’d help Scott with it, teach him. They’ve done that, trained together and discussed strategies, but then Scott went to college with Kira, and Derek was distracted by Skype calls and the countdown for when Stiles would come back.

They failed, because Stiles died, and to Derek it feels as if he made the kill himself. If they’d just worked a little harder, been more prepared, none of it would’ve happened, though no “what if”s or “but”s matter.

Stiles is still dead.

“That’s not entirely what I meant,” the Sheriff says, and Derek feels confusion grip him and make him pay attention. “Scott, your mother–” happiness curls around his scent and eyes, and his whole face softens. “She’s pregnant.”

Silence grips them yet again, and Derek’s breath leaves him. Beacon Hills seems determined to mock him with the promise of life at every turn when it robbed him – all of them – of Stiles. Derek forcibly squashes down any thoughts about children of his own. They hadn’t had a chance to talk about it, and there’s no reason to dwell on it now.

Scott’s eyes seem brighter suddenly, but Derek recognises the set of his shoulders. He hasn’t backed down yet, probably won’t without one hell of a fight. Derek knows ways to do it, but he’s reluctant to manipulate Scott in such a way.

“I wasn’t confused,” Scott says, and the Sheriff’s expression turns puzzled. “I thought I heard another heartbeat, but it was faint, as if muffled, and fast as hell.”

“Oh dear, she hasn’t even had the ultrasound yet, but I guess I should’ve realised sooner that you’d be able to tell.”

Derek is both happy and frustrated with the change of subject. It means Scott might be distracted long enough for Derek to come up with a reason to go alone without taking desperate measures. It also means he has to listen to them talk about Melissa’s pregnancy, about the new life.

About new pack he’s leaving behind.

All the while Stiles’ death hangs over him.

Their smiles are sad when Derek tunes them in again, having opted to study his tea instead of plaguing himself with thinking excessively about things that could have been that never will.

Scott turns to him, his stance more determined than Derek’s ever seen before. His hands are fists against his thighs, and he looks so old now, so much older than his twenty-five years. He looks ancient and decisive, and Derek wants to look away from it.

“I’m coming with you,” Scott says, damning Derek to hurt him before he leaves. The Sheriff opens his mouth as if to protest, but closes it with a snap when Scott brings up a hand. “I’m coming with you to make sure you come back.”

“No,” Derek replies instantly, wishing to come up with another way to convince his Alpha than the one he has now. “It’s not only about Melissa and your new sibling, Scott.”

They look at one another, and Derek’s breathing is laboured. It hurts to have to do what he’s about to do.

“It’ll be dangerous,” he continues, and Scott scoffs. “I won’t come back until I'm finished, and these last three are cunning, and they know how to hide. Think about Kira, Scott.”

They both choke a little, and the Sheriff turns away to finally pick up his own tea, which is probably cold.

“You have to think about them,” Derek says, and walks forward. He takes Scott’s hand, runs his finger over his wedding ring before he envelopes his Alpha in a hug. It’s desperate, a call for forgiveness and permission.

“You have your fox, Scott,” he murmurs as he drags his nose against Scott’s shoulder. “You have your mom, and the baby, and Malia, and your stepdad. You have all these people who need you, a town who needs you. You’ll forget their scent, the way they laugh, what they look like.”

“I don’t care.”

Derek scrunches his eyes shut for a moment, stalling and wishes he doesn't have to do this.

“You’ll forget the shade of your daughter’s eyes,” he continues, listening to the way Scott curses and collapses a little against Derek. “You won’t be able to hear her call your name, or remember the way her lips curl when she smiles. You have to stay here, Scott. If not for them, stay for her. Stay to see her grow up. She deserves that. Allison deserves to have her father alive.”

Scott rips away from him, eyes red and face full of betrayal. Derek mourns a little over it, but he straightens his back. He has to leave, has to put Beacon Hills behind him until he’s killed the last three.

Stiles is dead, and Derek doesn't really want to live without him. But he can’t let the world be riddled with the likes who killed the most important person in it.

“How can you do that? How could you do that to me?”

“I’ll call when it’s done, I promise.”

 

Chapter Text

The clearing is bright and warm, and Derek regrets choosing to come here at all. They’re standing shoulder to shoulder, the sun in their eyes, waiting for the group of hunters to arrive. Stiles is vibrating with anticipation next to Derek. Scott is standing straight, a little ways in front of them.

Kira stands at the back, a hand on her belly. Malia is in front of her.

Derek feels as if they’re far over their heads, but they’re an established pack. They might be mismatched, since they’re only two werewolves, but they’re enough. They’ve been through worse than this, they’ve taken down a Darach and an Alpha pack simultaneously. They’ve battled against a Nogitsune, against Peter twice, against Kate Argent twice.

They’re an established pack who trust one another.

Derek’s skin is prickling. He just wants this over with, he wants these hunters gone from his land, pack, Stiles. He wants to whisk everyone away, curl into Stiles’ heat and watch fireworks as Stiles whispers endearments, or filth, or both in his ear.

A year ago they had done that, Stiles’ inhibitions out the window after his third beer, and Scott had tried to hold his disgusted laughter when embarrassing pet names had turned into sexual propositions.

The day after had been a normal enough Tuesday, spent in bed almost inhaling water and shutting out the sun to counter a hangover Derek’s never been able to feel for himself.

Today isn’t a normal Tuesday.

They’re all poised for attack, and Derek is going mad with it. He’s cataloguing everything, remembering snippets from the last few weeks just to have them in the front of his mind. It’s a jumble of things, pieces of information Derek should’ve cherished more. Things he’d like to forget.

He remembers the elation mixed with disgust on Stiles’ face after the pieces of Gerard Argent was found, frowning at Stiles frowning at his phone after hanging up on Lydia. He remembers the frantic sex they had the night before and nights before that. He thinks of how tight they’ve been holding each other recently.

They’ve been waiting for the hunters for too long. It makes Derek’s skin ache, to see how they’re all so ready for an attack, but not able to vent the energy. Stiles finds his hand and squeezes it fiercely. Derek sees the wince when he grips back, and releases his hold a little. It’s not enough to let Stiles go, but the pressure on his fingers won’t cut off his circulation this way.

A stick snaps a mile or two in front of them, not visible from the clearing. The hunters are on their way at least.

Stiles is breathing a litany of “what’s happening, what’s happening, Derek, Scott, Malia, tell me,” while Kira’s heartbeat is in overdrive. They can’t hear the approaching threat, but they must have noticed how Derek, Scott, and Malia suddenly snapped their attention forwards.

Derek wants to comfort Stiles, tell him something, wants to reassure Kira to slow her heartbeat. The second one in her body is healthy, but slowly ratcheting up in her panic. He wants the day to be over with.

It happens so fast.

The hunters enter the clearing, Scott steps forward, Malia abandons her post in front of Kira, Stiles turns halfway around to make sure the latter is all right, Derek steps forward.

There’s a loud thwack from an arrow being released.

They’re too slow.

A breath gurgles out of Stiles’ mouth, mangled and copper tinted by the arrow in his throat. The arrowhead explodes.

It takes a second, an agonising, disorienting second, for Derek to get his bearings. He tries to blink the bright spots from his eyes, hair at the nape of his neck rising at how quiet the clearing is.

Stiles is lying on his side. Arrow protruding from his throat.

The air is frighteningly still. There are no wheezing breaths. No thumping from his heart. Derek slowly crawls towards him.

“Stiles?”

Derek looks up at Scott, who has turned his head minutely to them. The Alpha is breathing shallowly, and his heart is haywire. Derek finds himself shaking his head, answering an unasked question. He doesn’t know where the energy comes from.

There are no breaths disturbing the air in front of Stiles’ face, no heartbeat in his body.

Tears burns in Derek’s eyes, and his voice cracks wetly as he tries to gently rouse Stiles. He brushes the hair from the man’s forehead, gaze drawn to the butt of the arrow. It’s jutting out in the air, and the entire right side of Stiles’ face is covered in blood and–

Tissue.

Someone hitches a breath, and Derek thinks it might be Malia, but his ears are filled with ringing. He finds it in himself to inhale, but what comes out instead of just air is a roar he can feel vibrating in the earth.

Electricity crackles somewhere, Kira’s heartbeat calming in the event of her Fox Fire. Scott still has his face turned toward Derek, eyes on the prone body beside him. The Alpha inhales, breath stuttering its way into his lungs. Then he screams. It’s human at first, but it turns to a howl as sorrow forces the full shift on him.

Derek can’t look away from Stiles’ face. It’s burnt and bloody and partially off on one side, but he can still see some traces of him on the other. Moles and scars as stark as they’ve been for years, a patch of facial hair where Stiles missed when he shaved.

He can hear the hunters running away, can feel Kira’s powers leap around, knows Scott is trying to reel his wolf in, think rationally. Malia is a coyote, running after murderers, bringing one back. He looks up when someone is dropped to his left. The coyote’s eyes are burning blue, and he can feel his own light up in return.

A life for a life.

If only Derek could think that’d be enough.

The woman is coughing between assurances that they can’t prove she shot the arrow, that law enforcement can’t ever convict her. Derek leans closer to her neck and inhales. It doesn’t hold the same scent as the butt of the arrow does, but her smug demeanor makes his anger boil hot in his veins.

Kira crawls closer, slow as to not startle anyone.

“Don’t do it here,” she says, eyes pleading. “Not in front of him.”

Derek chokes. His throat is stuffed full of rage and sorrow and dismay and powerlessness.

“He’s dead,” he replies, hands cramping into fists. Scott howls from somewhere, but Derek doesn’t find it in himself to look for his Alpha. His eyes are glued to Stiles’, to the way they are glassy and lifeless.

“Derek,” she says, voice laden with disapproval and hurt and anger. “It doesn’t matter. Don’t do it here.”

It’s not like he doesn’t know that it would be a bad idea, no matter how dead Stiles is. He knows how much death took its toll on Stiles’ life, how he reacted to it. There has always been so much death in all their lives, and no matter how much Derek tries to think it started when he was sixteen, he knows it didn’t.

Sacrilege. That’s what it will be, should he kill the woman next to Stiles, so close to his corpse. But the fury is impatient in him, the way it courses faster than his blood. It’s like it touched down the way lightning does, fast and vexed before the flames rise up and consumes everything. He wants – needs – this woman’s blood on his hands.

It will be better, sweeter than anything.

At least now that Stiles is dead.

He heaves a breath, trying to keep the shift in. His hands are buried in Stiles’ shirt, wrinkling and staining the fabric. He doesn’t know how he got blood on his fingers, but it must be Stiles’, somehow.

“The house,” he gasps. “Drag her to the house. It’s far enough away, but close enough for us to come up with a cover story.”

The world goes quiet again. The coughing and laughing and taunting gave way to screaming and scuffling, but now the world is quiet.

There are no breaths, no heartbeat.

Derek isn’t crying, and he doesn’t know why that is. He knows he should, and he knows he should be hearing his own laboured breaths, his own heartbeat, and his own desperate whines for his husband to wake up. But his senses doesn’t want to acknowledge any of it. Not if Stiles’ sounds aren’t there as well.

Scott comes crawling forward from somewhere. Derek notices him from the corner of his eye, and his Alpha's misery makes his own more prominent. Scott is snuffling and whining, but when Derek looks up the younger man is naked and heaving and human again.

"We have to call his dad," he sobs, tears running free now that he's out of the full shift. "He deserves to know the truth."

Derek still doesn't cry. He calls the Sheriff, tells him to wait at least an hour before reacting, so they can call 911 and report the death.

After that, Derek crawl-walks his way to the old Hale House, his childhood home. He still can't draw breath properly, still can't really breathe around the emotions caught in his throat.

The woman is still alive, surprisingly. Malia is still a coyote, Kira is standing a little ways away, disapproval heavy in the set of her shoulders. Derek approaches carefully.

"You're such a weird pack," the woman taunts. "Almost no werewolves, what the fuck is wrong with you?"

Derek doesn't reply. He wants to get back to Stiles' body, back to his husband before law enforcement force them to let him go to the morgue.

He stands at the hunter's side, numbness creeping up against his skin and poisoning his body. He understands he needs to become a killer, even with what his mother always told him.

He's a predator, always has been. He didn't need to be a killer, but now he does, now he wants to be one. He'd performed a mercy kill on Paige, had to spare her from suffering further because of his own insecurities.

He crouches down, the woman hitches a breath. He lets his fangs come out, doesn't say anything.

The hunter gurgles as he bites at her throat.

Kira leans against him when he stands straight again. It's nice having pack close. Malia is still in her full form, but she nips at his heels as they walk back. Derek wishes for a form as a wolf. He never found out if he was able to do that.

He should've been. Like his mother, like Laura.

Being an animal muffles human emotion. He kind of needs that right now.

They get back to the site. Derek wants to give it capital letters, but he can't even make his brain do what he wants now, he doesn't think he could speak if he tried.

Scott is on the phone, practiced panic as he tells the responder at 911 that Stiles was shot by a poacher. It's as close to the truth as possible.

He mentions some kind if carnivore, but Derek can't parse out whether he tells them it was a mountain lion or something else. He's straining to hear a familiar heartbeat, air whooshing out of lungs.

It hits him that Stiles is really dead, that there's nothing left of him in the world.

The numbness is overwhelming, and he thinks that he should feel something, he should be crushed beneath sorrow and misery. But there isn't really anything except a low simmering of anger, an urge to find all the hunters and have them all killed bloody and brutally.

It should be worrisome, but he can't feel it.

It feels cliché. Like the world has tilted on its axis for him but is still turning for others. He can’t draw his eyes from Stiles’ face, even if it’s almost mangled. Scott flashes red eyes at Malia, who turns back immediately. Kira has acquired her clothes – or other ones – from somewhere.

Derek feels his eyes burn. He doesn’t dare blinking, thinking it might get worse the thousand of a second it takes his eyes to open again. It seems like an elaborate nightmare.

He really wishes it is.

He knows it isn’t.

They’re not far from the road, at least he doesn’t think they are. The Preserve is full of service roads to aid firefighters and law enforcement and the occasional ambulance should someone need it. It’s California, firefighters are needed this time of the year. It’s Beacon Hills, law enforcement basically lives in the Preserve. It’s Beacon Hills, ambulances are a common occurrence.

At least they used to be, then the pack made things quieter by establishing themselves and showing anything and anyone who showed up that the territory was theirs.

He can hear the sirens of the first ambulance in a long time making its way toward them. He wants to throw up – or maybe throw a fit – but he can’t even begin to concentrate on anything other than Stiles.

Maybe, he thinks, if he waited long enough, there would be a heartbeat, or he would take a breath. Maybe Deaton had showed him some protection Druid thing, maybe he would sit up, cough–

But he won’t.

The paramedics make it to them before anyone from the Sheriff’s office. Small favours. Derek doesn’t know what he would do if the Sheriff were to see his son the way he looks now.

He’s pale, eyes half open, mouth agape. Blood soaking the earth and his clothes and his face is a fourth not there.

He hitches a breath, but almost no oxygen makes its way down to his lungs. He knows he’s outdoors, but it feels like there’s no air at all around him. Scott places a hand on his shoulder and gently steers him away to let the medics do their jobs. Not that it’ll make a difference.

Someone is yelling from somewhere in the general direction of the road. Derek turns and manages a shuddering breath when he sees Stilinski struggling to get to them despite Deputy Parrish’s best efforts. Scott pushes him hesitantly towards them.

Parrish seems relieved when Derek approaches, even though the Sheriff is wild eyed and almost manic in his pursuit to get to his son. He’s white as a sheet, and looks about as panic-stricken as Derek feels. The Deputy releases Stilinski when he reaches them, and his father-in-law falls into his arms as much as Derek falls into his.

“I need to–” Stiles’ dad pleads, but Derek won’t let him get anywhere. He holds him as hard as he dares to, holds his face against his throat as he slowly pivots to avoid letting the Sheriff see his dead son.

“You don’t, I promise you,” he murmurs back when he’s facing the clearing again. “You really don’t want this to be the last time you see him.”

Neither of them cry. Deputy Parrish take their statements, and even though they really haven’t come up with a story together, they give similar enough accounts not to be suspicious.

They were in the clearing, a coyote came running, an arrow hit Stiles, and a female fled the scene deeper into the Preserve.

Scott rides with Stiles’ body to the morgue. Stiles’ Jeep goes to impound. Kira and Malia take the Toyota. Derek and the Sheriff are driven to the Stilinski household by Parrish as neither of them are in a stable enough mental state to I.D. the body. By werewolf dynamics, and basically every unwritten law therein, it’s Scott’s job. He’s eligible for it as well, what with being Stiles’ brother in everything but blood.

Derek sits with the two policemen in the kitchen. They all stare at the table top and they say nothing. When it darkens, Scott comes by with clothes from Derek’s closet and drawers, leaves them in the living room and sits down with them.

Parrish leaves somewhere around midnight. Kira arrives with food no one eats. The Sheriff absentmindedly gets up to change into pyjamas to go to bed, though Derek can hear by his heart that he never really falls asleep. Scott and Kira disappears around two in the morning. Dawn breaks and showers the room in pale orange light.

He gets up around noon to sit on the couch. He doesn’t know how many days pass, he stops counting the dawns and dusks. Isaac inexplicably turns up, and Derek sits, stares, and tries to rearrange his reality enough to accept recent events. Parrish comes back sometime to tell them that they found a female matching their description killed just a few yards away from the old Hale house. Scott confirms she was the one to shoot the arrow. It helps that she apparently had a bow on her, not that Derek noticed.

Derek barely registers the funeral. Isaac lays out his tux for him to crawl into in the morning, and then helps him shave. It’s bright out, balmy and pleasant. It itches in Derek’s skin that they can’t have a private affair, that almost everyone in Beacon Hills attends the funeral. Stiles deserves the same ritual any pack member should have.

The coffin is lowered into the earth next to where Stiles’ mother was buried. Derek’s hands clench so hard Scott has to put a little of the Alpha tone into his voice to get him to relax them.

No one speaks. It’s one of the most quiet moments of Derek’s entire life. The Sheriff stands shoulder to shoulder with him, watching as Stiles disappears six feet under. Derek knows Lydia is somewhere, can hear her after most of the crowd has dispersed. He doesn’t really care about what she has to say.

Isaac smiles sadly, apologetically.

“I need to get back to France,” he explains, and Derek is still blank and empty but he understands that he probably should go home at some point, stop living on Melissa and the Sheriff’s couch.

“Okay.”

Isaac leaves. Derek is still standing twelve feet away from Stiles’ final resting place. Something twists in his gut, and he feels a sudden urge to act. But he doesn’t know what to do.

Ethan calls. He does that sometimes. Usually once a month, just checking up on Beacon Hills. The phone calls have changed over the years. At first it was mostly a way for him to see how things were with Danny, then it was the pack in general, and now it encompasses the whole town.

This call is different. For one, Ethan speaks. Stiles always laughed at their conversations, because Derek always talked to Ethan, while the other wolf listened. Derek isn’t the best of conversationalists, he admits, but he knew what it was like to lose footing on the world. It always felt right to offer a distraction while Ethan dealt with Aiden’s death.

This time, Ethan helps Derek. He starts with, “when Aiden died,” and just lets his voice waft over Derek, lets him listen for as long as he wants, doesn’t hang up until Derek is ready. Never presses him to reciprocate.

The loft is a special kind of torture. No one’s been there since the day Stiles was taken from them, since that same morning where they had woken up and kissed and had lazy sex and talked about what they were planning to do for the holiday.

Stiles’ scent wraps around Derek, though it’s almost too stale to stand. He stands frozen in the doorway, scared out of his mind. How can he return if Stiles isn’t there? He can’t stand to look at the boxes that had been left unpacked since Stiles moved back home from college. He grits his teeth when he sees the gown Stiles had worn on graduation, and he tries not to think about how that was only a few weeks ago.

Derek becomes so much of a hermit the loft only smells like himself. He doesn’t dare go out. He tried it the second week after the funeral, and when people weren’t stupid enough to approach him about his tremendous loss, they tried to whisper about it. They didn’t know he could hear them, but that didn’t mean they had to do it.

Scott visits, sometimes. It’s probably an insult to the word visit to call it that, since all they do is sit with about eight inches between them on Derek’s couch (that Stiles picked out) and stare at the wall (painted by Stiles, paint chosen by Stiles). Sometimes Scott cries silently, sometimes he leans against Derek and rubs his cheek and scent into Derek’s shoulder.

Mostly they just stare.

Scott doesn’t come by for a long time. Derek stares at the wall alone, he eats when Ethan calls to remind him. After three weeks, he starts getting antsy. He dons running clothes and jogs to the Stilinski’s. Melissa greets him at the door, teary eyed but smiling slightly.

Derek enters, sits on their couch, and stares.

Ethan calls hours later, and Derek gets up to cook for three. They eat in silence, and it almost hurts him how little of his scent they carry.

Melissa doesn’t hug him, but she grips his bicep and rubs her cheek against his shoulder, and he’s so grateful he chokes a little on an inhale. He sits with the Sheriff on the couch, their knees pressed together, and sometimes Stilinski reaches out to rub his hand across Derek’s back. It doesn’t occur to him that the other two seem to be waiting for something until what they’re waiting for arrives.

Scott barges in with tears and a smile on his face, and after him steps Kira, and in her arms is a baby. Their baby.

Melissa shoots up from where she had situated herself in an armchair, and she’s at Kira’s side almost as fast as a wolf. She coos a little as she sees the face of the infant, and Derek is struck with an aching longing. He doesn’t really know if it’s for scent marking the baby, or if it’s for the baby itself.

He and Stiles had never had the time to talk about children, at least not to an extent where they considered getting them. It burns a little in his gut, but he pushes that aside almost as soon as it tries to take root.

Scott gently takes the bundle from Kira, smiles at his child before he looks up at his mother, “Mom, I want you to meet Allison Laura McCall.”

Absurdly, Derek wonders how on earth Scott managed to convince Kira to name their daughter after Scott’s first love. But then the middle name screams out at him, and he wants to double over, run away, and crowd close to see the face of the girl who’s gonna carry his sister’s name, all at the same time.

The last one wins out, at least after Melissa and her husband has finished smiling and crying (Melissa), and lip-twitching and cheek-stroking (the Sheriff).

Derek slowly gets to his feet, and Scott looks at him with an expression that can only be described as sad and hopeful.

"We meant for the both of you to be Godfathers--" Scott's voice hitches, and he drives his eyes closed so hard Derek thinks it must hurt. It's a painful topic, and Derek knows what he must do. He knows that he can't let Stiles' murderers run loose while he has a goddaughter to take care of.

He can't let another Laura, another Allison be in danger.

Derek knows what he must do, and he makes mental plans to have a spiral tattooed over his heart. It’s the only thing that will help him keep going. Vengeance is the only thing that makes sense.

He reaches out to the bundle of cloth and baby-smell. Scott dutifully hands her over, continuously telling him to watch the head and whatnot. But Derek isn't listening, because in his arms is a warm and breathing Allison McCall, and he bends his head to rub his nose against hers.

He smiles a little, and four people hold their breaths. He drags a finger across a pink and chubby face, gives a kiss to a forehead while the little creature squirms and fusses.

"I can't get him back," Derek forces out, and the little face turns to his with wide eyes as if she can understand what he says. "But I promise to avenge your Uncle Stiles, I promise they will all suffer for what they took from us."