Derek Hale turns, distracted for a moment from deciding between skim milk or half and half, and the six hundred other varieties of milk in the dairy cabinet. When the hell did milk get so complicated? He just wants something to pour on his goddamn cereal, not something he needs an advanced degree in chemistry to figure out.
There’s a kid barreling toward him. He must be about sixteen or seventeen, with a tragic buzzcut and an even more tragic red flannel shirt flapping behind him as he moves. He’s all angles and elbows, the grin on his face manic-wide.
“Can I help you with something?” Derek asks.
The kid shows him the palms of his hands. His eyes are ridiculously wide. “Whoa, dude. I mean, I know we’re not like friends or anything, but aren’t we at least, I don’t know, comrades in arms, or brothers in adversity or something?”
Derek raises his brows. “I’m sorry, who are you?”
“That’s harsh, sourwolf, harsh,” the kid says, then looks around and lowers his voice. “Look, I know you don’t like me, or I’m a pain in the ass, or whatever, but now that your creepy uncle’s back from the dead and the alpha pack is out to take everyone down, don’t you think we should be working together?”
Derek goes cold at the mention of his uncle. “Fuck off,” he tells the kid. “I don’t know what game you’re playing, but just fuck off.”
He grabs the nearest carton of milk, dumps it in his basket, and shoulders his way past the kid.
“Derek!” the kid yells after him, aggrieved. "Derek, seriously?”
Derek had never intended to come back to Beacon Hills. It was his home, once, but it’s too full of bad memories now. Derek had successfully shoved those bad memories down, until three months ago when they’d gotten the call that the insurance money was running out, and that they’d have to make a decision. Such a loaded word.
“I can’t do it,” he’d told Laura. “I fucking can’t.”
For six years Peter had been hanging on against all odds, and now it came down to fucking money.
“I’ll go out there,” Laura had told him. “I’ll talk to the doctors in person. See if there’s any hope.”
Derek had been stupidly grateful his big sister was stepping up, just like always. It was an unfair burden, he knew, but Laura had always been the strong one. She’d called him a few times when she’d arrived in Beacon Hills. And then she hadn’t called at all.
One afternoon, Derek had received a visit from the NYPD, bringing a message for him from the Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Department. They were incredibly sorry, Mr. Hale, but there’d been a car accident…
Derek blames himself, of course. If he’d been with Laura, maybe things would have gone differently. Maybe she wouldn’t have been driving back to the motel when some drunken asshole went through a red light in his truck and collected her little rental car. Because if Derek had been with her, they would have stopped for pizza or something. They would have taken a walk in the Preserve, to see if it matched up with their memories from childhood. They would have bickered so long about whose turn it was to drive that they wouldn’t have been at that particular intersection at that particular moment in time.
Derek blames himself, but he blames Beacon Hills as well.
It’s destroyed everything he ever loved.
Derek’s not even sure why he hasn’t left yet. He’s buried Laura next to the rest of the family, killed in a fire six years ago, and he’s buried Peter beside her, but he hasn’t fucking left.
He figures he’s just waiting for Beacon Hills to destroy him too.
Derek sees the weird kid from the grocery store a few days later. He’s walking back to his car when he gets the feeling he’s being followed. He stops and turns, and there’s the kid. The kid sees he’s been spotted, flails, and almost ends up face planting in the parking lot of the diner. He manages to catch himself at the last minute, straightening up and giving Derek an awkward wave.
Derek glares at him. “I thought I told you to fuck off.”
The kid twitches. “Oh, yeah, but that was the other day, and today’s a new day, and…” He scowls suddenly. “Why the hell would you even bite Jackson, dude? He’s a complete douche, and now he’s probably a venomous lizard killing machine, and I mean he’s a killer lizard, obviously, not a killer of lizards, but the point is it’s not Lydia, okay? It’s not!”
What the everlasting fuck?
“Listen,” Derek says, taking a step toward the kid.
The kid takes a step back.
“I don’t know what your problem is,” Derek says, biting off each word, “but you need to stay the hell away from me!”
“Oh my God! This is your problem! You think you’re so great and tough, and all growly alpha, but fuck you too, Derek!” The kid scrubs his knuckles over his scalp. “Why can’t you just admit you screwed up? You bite the wrong people all of the time!”
Derek cants his head. “Are you on drugs? Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you?”
“Drugs?” The kid actually laughs. “I wish! Come on, Der, you know me better than that!”
“I don’t fucking know you at all!”
The kid’s big eyes fill with sudden tears, and Derek doesn’t know what the hell is going on.
The door to the diner bursts open, and, oh great, another kid. This one is floppy haired and panicky, and he rushes up to the first kid’s side and grabs him by the arm. “Hey,” he says, drawing the kid out of Derek’s reach. “Hey, Stiles, it’s okay. Just take a breath, okay?”
Derek realizes with horror that the first kid, Stiles, is actually crying now.
“This is all your fault!” he chokes out around his tears, pointing a shaking finger at Derek. “You’d better leave Lydia alone!”
“I don’t even know what the hell you’re talking about,” Derek growls.
“Scott,” Stiles says. “Scotty, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
Scott pulls him close and puts his arms around him. Lets Stiles bury his face in his shoulder while his body is wracked with sobs.
Derek glares at him. “Your friend is delusional.”
Scott’s face hardens. “Dude, my friend is dying.”
Derek freezes for a moment in shock. Then he pulls his car keys out of his pocket, gets in his car, and drives away.
For a week or two Derek doesn’t see anything more of the kid. Of Stiles. He rents a loft above a warehouse that is more or less livable, and gets work as a mechanic at the auto shop a few blocks away. He likes the work, and he likes his boss, Steve, who basically communicates in grunts and never asks about his personal life or his history. Derek is incredibly okay with that.
There’s an old baby blue Jeep in the shop. It’s been there since Derek started. The suspension is shot, and it needs a new fuel pump. The Jeep’s seen better days, but it’s obviously someone’s pride and joy. It’s old, but the inside is spotless apart from the discarded lacrosse jersey in the foot well of the passenger’s seat.
Derek has no idea why Steve hasn’t told him to work on the Jeep when it’s a simple enough job and they have the parts. So he asks.
“Hey, Steve, you want me to do anything with that Jeep?”
Steve scratches his beard. “Nah. There’s no rush on that one.”
Derek raises his eyebrows. He’s only been working here for a week, but he already knows Steve hates to have cars just sitting on the workshop floor, taking up valuable space.
Steve sighs. “It’s the sheriff’s kid’s. All the shit they’re dealing with, I’m not gonna chase ’em up for a car the kid can’t even drive anymore.”
Derek doesn’t ask. It’s none of his business.
“Yeah,” Steve says meditatively, staring at the Jeep. “That’s Stiles’s baby.” He shakes his head. “Real goddamn shame.”
Derek’s gut clenches. He runs his palm over the hood of the Jeep, and hears the sound of Stiles’s sobs again, that day outside the diner, and the look on Scott’s face.
“Dude, my friend is dying.”
Derek was only trying to eat his dinner in peace. He looks up to see Stiles sliding into the booth across from him, a brilliant smile on his face. Then he raises his eyebrows as Stiles helps himself to his curly fries.
“So, guess what?” Stiles asks.
“What?” Derek asks him cautiously.
“I think I know where the alpha pack have Boyd and Erica!”
“Oh,” Derek says. “That’s…good?”
“Hell yeah it is!” Stiles waves the waitress over. “Doris, I will have a strawberry milkshake as big as my head!”
The woman’s nametag says ‘Linda’, but she only smiles. “Okay, hon. Does your dad know where you are?”
“Oh, totally,” Stiles says vaguely.
The waitress shakes her head at the obvious lie, and goes off to put his order in. Derek notices that she picks up the phone behind the counter, dialing a number while she watches Stiles.
“So,” Stiles says, lowering his voice. “We need to get in there.”
“Get in where?” Derek asks.
“The bank vault.” Stiles sighs. “I already explained all of this!”
“The bank vault where the alpha pack has Boyd and Erica?” Derek hazards.
Stiles nods. He taps his fingers on the laminate table, almost vibrating with energy. “Yeah, the only thing is, it’s really close to full moon. Which, great, you’ll be stronger, but so will they, right?”
Derek feels more and more out of his depth, but he nods.
“And, seriously, how much can we trust Peter?”
“Peter?” Derek’s mouth feels suddenly dry.
Stiles’s eyes grow wide with concern. “Yeah, I mean I know he’s your family and stuff, but, Der, he killed Laura.”
No no no.
Derek is prepared to let the kid spew bullshit for however long it takes him to finish his dinner, but he can’t deal with this. Not if he brings Peter and Laura into it. And how the hell does he even know their names?
“Peter didn’t kill Laura,” he rasps out.
“I know he was out of his mind at the time,” Stiles says, “but, Der, he did.”
For a second Derek wants to laugh. It’s almost true, in a way. If it hadn’t been for Peter, Laura would have stayed in New York. But then, Derek’s whole life has been a tragic homage to bad fucking timing, hasn’t it?
“I don’t want to talk about Peter,” he says.
Stiles nods. “Okay, man, I’m sorry.”
His wide eyes are the color of honey. He’s sincere.
He’s also out of his fucking mind.
The waitress brings over Stiles’s milkshake, and sets it on the table.
“Is he bothering you, hon?” she asks Derek.
“Excuse me, Doris!” Stiles looks outraged. “Derek is enjoying my company! Don’t you try and get all up in his business just because of the hotness and the leather jacket and whatnot!”
“He’s fine,” Derek tells her, and she moves away again.
“Dude,” Stiles says. “She wants you bad.”
“She’s old enough to be my grandmother.”
Stiles grins. “She’s still got eyes, hasn’t she?”
Derek smiles despite himself. He doesn’t remember the last time he smiled. It feels strange, as though his muscles have forgotten how they should move.
“So, the bank vault,” Stiles says, a flush rising on his throat. “Are you sure you can punch through that much concrete?”
Punch through concrete?
Stiles slurps at his milkshake. “I mean, I know your wolfy powers are awesome, but you not only have to do it, you’re gonna have to fight Deucalion once you get through.”
“My wolfy powers?” Derek asks.
“Grr!” Stiles says, making claws out of his fingers. “Dude, whatever. What am I supposed to call them? Your supernatural werewolf strength? It’s not as catchy.”
“My supernatural werewolf strength?” Derek repeats slowly.
Stiles grimaces. “Not at all catchy.” He steals another curly fry.
Derek lets him, because he has no idea what else to do. The kid is obviously living out some crazy fantasy with monsters and werewolves, and Derek has somehow landed a starring role. A part of him just wants the kid to go away. But there’s another part of him that wants Stiles to have this, whatever it is, because it’s got to be better than his reality.
He looks up as a middle-aged man in a sheriff’s uniform approaches their booth. His face is careworn. There are dark shadows under his eyes.
“Stiles,” the man says.
Stiles jerks and flails. “Dad, hey!”
The sheriff looks at Derek.
“Yes,” Stiles says, “I’m having lunch with Derek Hale, who has totally forgiven me for getting him arrested that time, right, Derek?”
“Right,” Derek says, trying to make it sound less like a question.
The sheriff’s gaze softens a little. “Sorry if he’s been bothering you, Mr. Hale.”
Stiles huffs. “Why does everyone keep saying that? God! I—” And then his face falls suddenly, crumbling into an expression that almost breaks Derek’s heart. When Stiles opens his mouth again, his voice is tremulous and uncertain, all his previous exuberance vanished completely. “Dad?”
“It’s okay, kiddo.” The sheriff puts a hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay. Let’s get you home, huh?”
“Yeah,” Stiles murmurs. He lets his dad help him to his feet, and then turns to look at Derek again. He’s frowning slightly, as though Derek is someone he knew a long time ago, and suddenly can’t place.
“Bye, Stiles,” Derek says.
The sheriff puts an arm around his son and leads him toward the door.
“Dad?” Stiles asks, his voice drifting back to Derek. “Who was that guy?”
Derek sees Stiles again a few days later. He’s taken up running again, and his route takes him past the high school. There’s a kid sitting cross-legged in the middle of the empty lacrosse field. He’s wearing a Beacon Hills High Cylones jersey, and resting a stick against his knees.
Derek turns off the sidewalk before he even knows what he’s doing. “Stiles, hey.”
Stiles looks up at him, and smiles slightly. “Hey, Derek.”
“What’re you doing here?” Derek asks him and then, unaccountably, sits down on the grass beside him.
“Waiting for practice to start,” Stiles says.
It’s almost nightfall.
“I think maybe practice isn’t on today,” Derek tells him.
Stiles sighs. “Man, Scott should have told me.”
“Stiles, you know it’s Saturday, right?”
“No,” Stiles says, his voice hardly more than a whisper. “No, I did not know that.”
They try two different houses before Stiles finally remembers where he lives. By the time Derek knocks on the door, Stiles is back to his happy, talkative self, even though he’s talking about stuff that Derek can’t even begin to follow. At all. About a pair of werewolf twins whose alpha form, whatever that it, is to join together as one huge motherfucker werewolf. Stiles’s words. Derek just nods and grunts and lets Stiles keep talking.
The sheriff wrenches the door open, sagging in relief. “No, it’s okay,” he says into his cell phone. “He’s here now.”
Stiles grins at him. “Dad, you should have seen me at practice! I was killing it out there, hey, Derek?”
“Sure,” Derek says hollowly.
Stiles ducks under his dad’s arm and tramps inside.
“Frontotemporal dementia,” the sheriff says in response to the question Derek’s too afraid to ask. “Thanks for bringing him home.”
He shuts the door gently in Derek’s face.
Again, weeks pass. Derek settles into his new place, into his new job, and, for the first time since burying Laura and Peter, starts wondering what to do with himself, with this life that he doesn’t particularly feel any attachment to, but he thinks should be about more than just going through the motions. He looks up college courses online, but the sheer volume of them intimidates him. And none of them actually help him figure out what he wants to do.
One Tuesday evening Derek finds a letter in his mailbox. His name and address are handwritten on the envelope, and Derek can’t remember the last time he got something that wasn’t a bill or a credit card offer, or something spat out by a computer. He takes it upstairs to the loft and leaves it on the kitchen counter while he showers. Then, wearing nothing but a towel while he waits for his microwave meal to cook, he opens it.
It’s an invitation to Stiles Stilinski’s seventeenth birthday party.
Derek looks at it, and sighs, and finds his cell phone. He dials the number for the RSVP.
It’s not Stiles. “Oh, Sheriff. This is Derek. Derek Hale. I, um, I got an invitation to Stiles’s birthday, and…”
The sheriff sighs. “You wanted to make sure it was the real deal?”
“Look, I know you’re not friends,” the sheriff says. “Hell, I know you don’t even know my kid, but he’s got it into his head that you’re someone important in his life, so that’s why he invited you.”
“It’s up to you if you want to come or not. Maybe he’ll think you’re his werewolf friend, or maybe he won’t know who you are. Depends what kind of day he’s having.” The sheriff’s voice is clipped, but Derek has the impression it could break at any time. “If you do come, I can promise you beers and the best steak you’ve ever eaten in your life.”
“I’ll come,” Derek says, regretting it as soon as the words are out of his mouth.
The sheriff’s voice is gruff. “I appreciate it, son.”
When Derek ends the call, his hands are shaking. Nobody’s called him son in years.
The afternoon of the barbecue, Derek arrives at the Stilinski house with a hastily wrapped gift for Stiles. The party is small, no more than ten or twelve people, but the only people Derek recognizes are the Stilinskis and Scott, and the waitress from the diner. Scott waylays him before he can go and say hello to Stiles and the sheriff.
“Derek, right?” he says.
“You’re the alpha,” Scott says.
“The alpha werewolf,” Scott tells him in a low voice. His smile is nine-tenths heartbreak. “You’re the leader of our werewolf pack.”
“Are you a werewolf too?” Derek asks.
Scott nods, and then grimaces. “Look, the thing is, Stiles used to read all his dad’s case files. So it’s like he took stuff from there, and mixed it all up. He thinks all your family were werewolves, and that it was hunters that burned down your house.”
Derek closes his eyes briefly. Werewolf hunters. It’s a hell of a lot more exciting than the truth: faulty wiring. Maybe even something a little more meaningful, a little less fucking arbitrary. He almost wishes it were true.
Scott sighs. “He also thinks that your uncle, Peter, killed your sister Laura to get her alpha powers. Then you killed him, so that’s how you became alpha.” His forehead wrinkles. “I know…I know it’s probably awful for you to hear that, but I just wanted to tell you in case he blurts something out tonight.”
Derek nods. “It’s okay.”
It will be okay. He can think of Peter and Laura not as family, but as characters in Stiles’s mind. As wolves. Not his Peter, not his Laura. Just two random names. If that’s what Stiles needs to maintain this crazy fantasy of his, it’s okay. Peter and Laura would think it was hilarious.
He misses them so much. He misses all of his family.
“So,” he says. “We’re all werewolves?”
“You and I are,” Scott says. He points out another kid. “Isaac is. Allison is a hunter, and Lydia is a banshee. Jackson was a kanima—that’s a lizard thing—but I think he’s just a normal werewolf now.”
A normal werewolf. Derek almost cracks a smile at that.
“What’s Stiles?” Derek asks.
Scott’s expression grows serious. “Stiles is human.”
Human, Derek thinks. Fragile. Mortal. Dying.
Stiles loves the Batman shirt Derek bought him. He strips off the shirt he’s wearing in the middle of the backyard to put it on. Later, when Derek’s eating his steak and sharing a bench with the waitress from the diner—“Just call me Doris, hon. It’s easier.”—Stiles comes over and sits beside him, slurping from a can of soda.
Linda—Doris—goes to talk to the sheriff.
“You got me the best gift, Der,” Stiles says. His smile is a little more subdued than Derek is used to seeing.
“I’m glad you like it.”
Stiles shifts closer, his thigh pressing up against Derek’s. He lowers his voice. “Derek, I’m scared.”
Derek’s gut clenches. “Why are you scared?”
“I’m scared I’ll do something bad,” Stiles tells him. “I’m scared there’s something dark inside me, and it won’t let me stay me. Remember how Deaton said we’d have to pay if we used the Nemeton to save my dad and Scott’s mom?”
Derek just nods.
“I think there’s something in my head,” Stiles says, whispering now. “I don’t want to tell anyone else. I don’t want to worry them. But sometimes I have these crazy dreams, and I wake up where I’m not supposed to be, and I’m losing time, and I think it’s winning, Derek.”
He’s wide eyed. He’s terrified.
“We’ll figure it out,” Derek tells him. “We always do, right?”
Stiles shows him a shaky smile. “Yeah, yeah we do.”
He suddenly leans in toward Derek, and Derek puts an arm around his shoulders.
He wants to cry, he thinks, but he’s already too worn down with grief, too fucking bone weary, to feel the sharp stab of pain that might produce tears. Peter’s dead, and Laura’s dead, and Stiles is dying, and Derek stopped feeling alive a long time ago.
“This is the best birthday ever,” Stiles says after a while. “It’s my last one, isn’t it?”
Derek holds him closer and doesn’t answer.
What is there to say?
“I have frontotemporal dementia,” Stiles announces one day after finding Derek at the diner. “I have less than a year to live, and there is no cure.”
Derek slides his plate of curly fries across the table toward him. “I know.”
Stiles jams a curly fry in his mouth. “There are no wolves in California. Not normal wolves, and not any other sort either.”
Derek takes a sip of his coffee and regards Stiles for a moment over the rim of the mug. Then he sets the mug down and shrugs. “Maybe that’s just what they want you to think.”
Stiles stares at him open-mouthed for a moment, and then starts laughing.
He spends more time with Stiles, on both his good days and his bad days. They meet at the diner more often than not, and Stiles drinks milkshakes and eats curly fries, and talks so much with his hands that he’s always knocking stuff over.
Stiles tells stupid jokes and pulls stupid faces and is just…stupid.
He makes Derek laugh, for the first time in longer than he can remember.
He makes Derek want to get out of bed in the morning.
He makes him want to remember how to live.
In September, Stiles is hospitalized. Derek helps the sheriff pack up a few boxes of his personal items to make his room seem more like home. Scott and Isaac try to help, but in the end they can’t. They’re kids, Derek thinks, even though he was younger than they were when he lost most of his family in the fire.
Maybe, though, in a way, it was easier for Derek, because he’d never seen it coming. These kids have been staring down the barrel of Stiles’s mortality for months now. And they know, everyone knows, that Stiles won’t be coming out of that hospital.
“Go home,” Derek tells the boys. “Come up to the hospital tomorrow to visit him, okay?”
Then he goes back into Stiles’s room to help the sheriff.
He finds the man sitting on Stiles’s bed. He’s unmoving except for the tears running down his face. “His mother, Claudia, died of the same thing. You know, I thought it was the most unfair thing in the universe when it happened, but at least she got to see thirty. He’s seventeen, for Christ’s sake!”
Derek puts a Yoda figurine in one of the boxes.
“He’s seventeen,” the sheriff repeats.
Derek sits down next to him and clasps his shoulder.
The afternoon softens slowly into darkness.
“The balloons in the gift shop are ridiculously limited,” Lydia explains. She’s holding a bunch that say It’s a Boy! “I mean, ‘Get well soon’?” She sniffs in what is possibly meant to be disdain, but the sound comes out wetter than that.
“He’ll love them,” Allison says.
“Balloons! Who wants to suck down some helium and make funny voices?”
Stiles seems out of place in the hospital today. He’s having a not-werewolf day and, apart from some jerkiness in his movements and the shaking in his hands, seems perfectly healthy. Derek knows that can turn on a dime though.
Only yesterday he couldn’t remember the word for pudding. “Food,” he’d said. “I want some of that food. Dammit. Food.”
Today he’s bouncing on the bed with excitement at seeing all his friends, and he and Scott get into a wrestling match on the bed that only ends when one of them rolls on the call button and summons an annoyed nurse.
“Again?” she demands, hands on her hips.
“Sorry, Mrs. McCall,” Stiles says, his eyes bright.
“Sorry, Mom!” Scott says.
“I’ve got my eye on you two,” Mrs. McCall says.
When she leaves, the boys dissolve into laughter.
Derek visits Stiles every day. He’s not sure why. He thinks maybe it’s an obligation to every person he never got the chance to say goodbye to. More often than not the sheriff is there too, and Derek sees the way that Stiles looks at him; like the most heartbreaking thing in the world isn’t leaving it, but leaving his dad alone.
“Der,” Stiles says one night when it’s just the two of them.
Derek is lying beside him, jammed up against the rails of the bed as they watch TV. “Hmm?”
Stiles threads his fingers through Derek’s. “When I’m gone, you’ll look after the pack, won’t you?”
Derek is suddenly too choked up to answer.
“Because I know you, sourwolf.” Stiles squeezes his hand. “You don’t do feelings. You run from feelings. But anger can’t be your anchor forever, you know? They’re your pack. They love you.”
“Stiles,” he says softly, but then can’t bring himself to tell Stiles that nobody loves him, because nobody even knows him. He’s just some stranger that Stiles pulled into his delusions. Just some stranger who’s lonely enough to let it happen.
“And I know Scott’s as bad as you,” Stiles says. “But he’s gonna need someone, Der. He’s gonna need you.”
“Okay,” Derek whispers.
Stiles rolls over to face him. His eyes are wide and bright. “And, Der, my dad? Will you look out for my dad?”
Derek swallows and nods.
Stiles blinks and tears slide down his face. He sniffles and tugs his hand free to wipe them away. “Because, you know, it makes logical sense. You’re a son without a dad, and he’ll be a dad without a son, so…”
And suddenly he’s crying.
Derek wraps his arms around him, his own tears stinging his eyes.
“I wish it wasn’t too late for you to give me the bite,” Stiles mumbles against his shoulder.
“I know. I wish I could.”
“Der, I’ve had a crush on you since the time I saved you in the swimming pool, remember?”
Derek brushes his forehead with his lips. “Tell me about it.”
Stiles pulls back slightly. “You were there!”
“I like it when you tell it,” Derek says, smoothing a thumb across Stiles’s cheekbone. “Please.”
Stiles smiles. “Okay.”
Stiles tells a story then, about a time that a boy—147 pounds of pale skin and fragile bone, with sarcasm his only defense—saved a paralyzed alpha werewolf by holding him up in a pool for hours. And Derek listens, and watches the way his face grows animated and his eyes light up as he talks. He’s beautiful and he’s wonderful and he’s so very, very alive, that Derek thinks the entire universe must be broken, so broken, when a boy like this can’t stay in the world.
When Stiles finishes the story he grins. “Saved you, sourwolf.”
“You did,” Derek says, and wonders when it became true, exactly. When this kid crashed against him and shoved so much light into his life that he could see again, feel again, live again. “You always do, right?”
“Right,” Stiles says. He rests his head against Derek’s chest and drifts off to sleep with a smile on his face.
There will always be a part of Derek that is broken.
There will always be a part of him that will never heal.
But he won’t let anger be his anchor.
A few days after the funeral he forces a numb John Stilinksi into his car, and they drive out to the Preserve. The kids—the pack—are already waiting. They’re pale and tear-stained and they stand huddled close together, but they came.
“Tonight,” Derek says, “let’s be wolves.”
They look at him like he’s crazy. He is, probably, but he has a feeling Stiles would approve.
“It’s full moon,” Derek tells them. “And we’re gonna howl.”
He throws his head back and does his best wolf imitation. It echoes through the gathering darkness of the dusk, and fades into nothing. When he opens his eyes again, they’re staring at him.
“Fuck it,” Scott says at last, and howls too.
After that it’s a mad rush of noise, of howls and tears and screams. When Derek turns to find the sheriff, he’s sitting on a fallen log, shaking his head and smiling through his tears.
“He would have loved this,” the sheriff says.