The burnt shell of the Hale house is full of ghosts, none more visible than Laura.
Derek’s always prided himself on his ability to appear out of nowhere, scare the crap out of kids like Scott and Stiles, but he’s got nothing on a ghost. He’s got nothing on the way his sister appears in of the corner of his eye, dark hair and sharp smile still as vivid as the last day she was alive. When he’s sitting on the stairs, she’s at the bottom. When he’s in the basement, she’s whispering to him from the window.
You let me die, she says. She says it every time.
He’s learned to stop talking back, learned to stop trying to argue with her. Doesn’t mean she quits accusing, though.
There’s always been something between Derek and Laura. They were always the closest out of the Hale kids, maybe because they were the youngest. Neither of them had ever expected to become alphas; they focused their energies on play and school, and let their parents do the leading.
They were at school when the fire happened. Neither of them knew what was going on until the loudspeaker asked for Derek and Laura Hale, come to the principal’s office please; they thought they might be in trouble. Instead of a lecture, they got an apology.
Laura understood it before Derek did. She was older. She heard fire and knew death; Derek heard fire and knew nothing. They had to put everyone in the ground before it sank in: their parents, their three older brothers and one older sister, the five-year-old twins too young to go to school; countless uncles and aunts and cousins. The only survivor was their uncle Peter, and he was in a coma. They were alone.
They left after that. There was nothing for them in Beacon Hills. Just murmurs of sympathy, and Laura said she couldn’t take that, the whispers and the fake tears. She found a distant cousin in New York, and they were gone the day after the funeral.
Derek and Laura shared a room at the cousin’s house. They finished high school. He still remembers Laura’s graduation: he and the cousin turned up at the school, but she wasn’t there.
The cousin didn’t know what to do, having never been one of the family wolves. Derek knew. Derek tracked Laura, following the scent he knew too well—mint and Dove soap and anger. She was on the golf course, sitting at the top of what the local kids called Suicide Hill; her knees were drawn to her chest and her hair was tangled from the wind and Derek had the sudden thought that he had never really seen her before.
When he sat down beside her, she rested her head on his shoulder.
“They were supposed to be here,” he said.
“It’s all on me now,” she said, as if she hadn’t heard him. “Everything. I have to take care of you, I have to be the alpha and lead the pack, but there’s no pack—“
“There’s no pack,” she said again, and her mouth was cold against Derek’s ear.
She stayed in the cousin’s house long enough to watch Derek finish high school, and then she took him with her to the city, to some run-down place in Brooklyn near the park. “We can run here when the moon is full,” she told him, and he watched the way the edges of her mouth stretched when she smiled. There was something wild there, more feral than he’d seen in her before, like her alpha status had settled into her bones and flesh.
He still sees her now, running through the park at night, the joy of the night the only thing left in her. She watches him remember, sighs, says: “Derek, why did you let me go?”
“I didn’t want to,” he tells her, but she’s not listening. He can’t make her listen. This is why he doesn’t think she’s just some strange figment of his imagination: if he was imagining her, wouldn’t he be able to fix her broken record, make her stop hurting him.
So she’s a ghost, then. Which he thinks at first is ridiculous, but then he remembers he’s a werewolf.
Then again, maybe she’s not. She won’t tell him who killed her.
“Derek,” she sighs, the first time he asks her. Her hands are cold air on his face, stroking his jawline. He watches them with fascination: the pale slender fingers, the veins peeping blue and delicate through skin. And yet there is nothing delicate about Laura, in life or in death. If her hands were solid, she’d be breaking his neck.
(He closes his eyes, and imagines they are.)
“This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t let me leave,” she whispers to him, and her fingers find their way to his mouth.
He hadn’t meant to. They’d been fine for so long. The second year, the third; with every year the memory of Beacon Hills grew hazier, obscured as if by smoke. They settled into Brooklyn. They were their own small pack, and they got by, as if no one had ever taken care of them in the first place.
But Laura got impatient. She was like that, a tempest cooped up inside a cage of skeleton and muscle; a hurricane in a woman’s body. And what a body it was, and what a hurricane.
So maybe he shouldn’t have been surprised to see her go out more and more often. Maybe he shouldn’t have been surprised that she spent so much time at the library, poring through old newspaper articles and town records. Maybe he shouldn’t have been surprised when she came home, six years after everyone they loved had died, and said, “I want to go home.”
He'd asked why. For answers, she’d told him, and she wouldn’t say more than that until he got her drunk a few days later.
Well. “Got her drunk” suggests premeditation. It went more like this: Derek went to visit a high school friend in New Jersey and came home with a bottle of Everclear in his jacket. Laura wasn’t home, so he started drinking. And then she did come home, and she poured it into her coffee, and then she drank it straight, and then—
He doesn’t like to think about what happened then.
But she told him. She told him, voice blurry and eyes somewhat unfocused, that someone from their uncle’s care facility had called and asked her to come back to sort out something with the paperwork, and had casually mentioned that the police might reopen the investigation into the arson of the Hale house.
“But doesn’t that sound a little suspicious?”
She’d grinned, and held up her hand, claws out. “I think I can handle it, Derek.”
Laura left three days later, and he didn’t see her alive again.
She’s there when Kate Argent finds him.
“Too easy,” Laura whispers from the doorway, watching as Kate brings Derek down. He wants to tell her to shut up, tell them both to shut up, but he can’t make words come out of his mouth, at least not any that don’t sound like a groan. And Laura keeps watching as Kate keeps zapping, as Derek tries and tries to get up, but she disappears when the electricity does.
“We didn’t kill your sister,” Kate tells him, her mouth uncomfortably, familiarly close to his ear. He tries to look to Laura instead of the heartbeat, to see if she’s telling the truth, but Laura’s not there. The doorway is empty.
“You can’t go,” he told her just before she left.
She was in the doorway, her hand on her suitcase and her eyebrows raised. “No?"
“No,” he said, and before he knew it she was up against him, her body pressed against his, her small hand over his heart.
“Try and stop me,” she said, and the claws were out, piercing through his shirt and grazing his skin. “I’ll rip your heart out.”
“You’ll do that anyway,” he told her, and winced the second the words had left his mouth. Laura laughed sharply.
The nails pressed just a bit harder. “Oh, little brother,” she sighed, looking into his eyes as her free hand sought his. “I never took you for a romantic.”
“That’s because I’m not,” and he grabbed the back of her neck. “Two can play at this game, Laura.”
She shivered under his hand, her grin wicked. “And play we will,” she murmured.
Her mouth on his was hungry and cruel, and took something out of him.
Maybe that’s why she’s still here, he thinks. Because she never gave it back.
“You let me die,” she whispers into his ear as he’s trying to sleep, and he imagines what she would be if she were solid: hungry as a lover’s caress. Or for one. The line’s always been blurred there.
“Go away again, Laura,” he says wearily. “Just for a little while. Just so I can sleep.”
“You don’t want me here?” Always the faux-innocence tone with her, though he bets she’s laughing underneath.
“No,” but he opens his eyes and looks at the solidity of her, looks at the undented place where she sits on the edge of his bed. She’s put on a translucent white nightgown, the phases of the moon stitched down the neckline. Can ghosts do that? Change their clothes?
“Don’t make me leave again,” she says, leaning forward, running a hand over his chest. He imagines real flesh there, with hot sweet blood in its veins and something forbidden inside the bone. He imagines Laura, real again instead of a dismembered corpse lying in a grave next to the coffins of their parents and siblings. “Not now,” and her cool breath is sweet in the hollow of his collarbone. “Derek—“
Silver in her eyes, silver on her breath. Sweet poison. His thoughts come in fragments—
“Derek,” again, and he can’t pretend to himself that he can ignore her now. He retains some vague awareness of how ridiculous this would look to anyone who walked in, a man groaning against an invisible mouth, but he can’t stop himself.
He knew the moment Laura died. There was some kind of shift in the world, like gravity had momentarily lost its meaning. He was in the grocery store, buying a slab of beef; he felt dizzy when the cashier handed back his change and barely made it home without throwing up.
It took a day to get his things together. They’d left the apartment sparse at first, but the clutter began to accumulate over the years: outgrown clothes, empty bottles. He threw out everything he didn’t think he’d need, and then he was on the next plane out to California, the magnetic pulse of his sister’s body calling him.
The alpha was dead, and the wolf in him knew that, but he was responding to something else, some pull that went deeper than pack loyalty. Or maybe he was just imagining that, trying to humanize himself more than he deserved. After that last morning with her, he wasn’t sure he deserved anything resembling the label of humanity. Wasn’t there some sort of societal rule about sleeping with your sister?
But it didn’t matter anymore, he told himself on the drive up to Beacon Hills. Laura was dead. There was no one left to know what they had done.
So it was other things that poisoned him once he got to Beacon Hills. The burnt-out house that had been his six short years ago. The familiar scent of California autumn. The body of his sister, torn in half, lying in the woods.
When he buried the top half of her body, waxy and cold, he could think of nothing but vengeance.
He’s no closer to finding out who killed his sister, though. He knows Kate Argent wasn’t lying. But he has no idea who the alpha is, has no idea who else might have done it. He has no clues, no pack, no family, nothing.
All Derek has is the ghost of Laura, pitiless and pale.