Derek remembers the first time they met.
It was totally by accident because Uncle Peter was taking him to school since Papa had a meeting with another Alpha from out of town and Mama was taking care of a sick Laura. The twins were old enough to walk to school and hated being seen with their littlest brother, and it was Uncle Peter who grabbed the tiny five year-old girl, a brown-haired blur in that very moment, from running out into the street and getting hit by a car. He remembers just how upset the then little girl was because her own father had to go away on a business trip or something like that, and she was upset because he promised they would spend her birthday weekend together. He remembers because Peter takes the both of them inside, while trying to console a hysterical girl that kicked him in the shin when he tried to hand her over to her new teacher, who happens to be Derek’s own Ms. Jones, and then he went and told Derek to watch out and make sure that girl does not try anything like that again. It’s okay because eventually this girl calmed down enough to the point that she’s reduced to mere sniffles and by the time snack time rolls around she offers some of her animal crackers to him, the really yummy chocolate kind too, and they bond over a mutual love of chocolate cookies that looks like the animals from the zoo. He learns that she likes to be called Maddie, not Maddison like the teacher calls her or Ms. Ross, her family just moved to Beacon Hills, and it is just Maddie, her dad, and her Nana, no Mama because she never had one in the first place.
They become best friends.
Well, it is more like she wiggles into his life as his best friend, since Derek really does not consider them friends till she punches Bobby Morris in the face two weeks later after he calls Derek something really nasty and pushes him off the jungle gym during recess. Bobby has a black eye that lasts a week, Derek has cuts and bruises for maybe at most an hour, and Maddie has a friend for life but looses any real chance at making friends with other girls, which suits her fine enough because they make fun of her for not having a Mama anyway. He tells this to his parents after school, and Uncle Peter comes in laughing overhearing the entire conversation, ruffling his hair, and telling him not try and kiss the girl yet, she’s a bit too young. It makes Derek go red in the face but makes his parents laugh too. It happens nearly every time, when Maddie is brought up, like when he asks if he can go and play at her house after school, or when he gets invited to her birthday dinner next year since her dad is there for once, or when he drags her to the park to play, or when he asks if she can come over, just once, and there are smiles, laughs, and everything is set for the future. Every single weekend they play together, mostly at her house, but there are a few times that Derek gets to bring her over to his. There are always those chocolate animal crackers too. Everything is perfect.
Then he starts to shift.
It actually starts right before they head off to middle school and they are close enough that Maddie knows, with her warm brown eyes staring into his very soul at this moment that he fears can see every bit of his own inner monster, that something has changed in him, and Derek wonders if she can know just by looking. Instead he keeps his mouth shut, because werewolves are supposed to be myths, and ignores her questions on just why he blew her off this weekend when he was supposed to go with her shopping for school supplies. He ignores her glances during his classes, ignores the questions in the halls, and ignores the way she punches the locker frustration, because he cannot tell her a damn thing. And he wishes that he could be he knows she knows something is up since they never blow off each other unless something happens. She yells at him the next day, yells and stamps her foot, and it takes every little ounce of control not to let his eyes glow blue, not to grab her and show her, not to tell her, “Look at me, just look and see what I am,” and scare her away. But he thinks, the tiny bit in the back of his head where he lets himself dream, that she would not care because maybe, just maybe, there might be people out there that really do not care if he is a werewolf and maybe Maddie is one of them.
Peter says give it time and that girls are complex creatures. His Papa, Alpha, leader, the one who needs to know everything, is told of the situation, and it makes for a night-long discussion on the importance of secrets and keeping the family safe. Laura and twins got the same talk but now it is his turn. The pack runs and howls at the full moon that weekend and Derek tries to forget about the fact he is keeping so many secrets from the one person he swore never to do that to.
That’s okay because when they are both thirteen Maddie’s Nana dies while her father is away, and she runs away from the paramedics, the police officers, even the Sheriff himself, and runs all the way to his house in the middle of the forest, hysterical, upset, and stumbles upon the secret anyway since she come over unannounced. It is forgivable because she runs past Laura who is actually the one who opens the door, straight into a partially shifted Peter, who grabs her but is so shocked at seeing the girl lets her go right into Derek’s arms and he’s the one who now calms her down. It ends with his Mama calling the Sheriff to let the man know exactly where Maddie is and that she is safe, along with hot chocolate and a long discussion over how her Nana died, what she saw, and just how important she knows that no one else can know. Derek is the one who pulls out the chocolate animal crackers from the kitchen and curls up with her on the couch while his Papa explains the rules now because she knows and no one is dying tonight so it is safe to say that the pleas from him got his Papa to understand. Besides, it is nice not to lie and Maddie promises that she would never betray her best friend. She actually asks to pet him but Derek says no.
He lets her anyway.
They start high school together, just a few years after Laura starts, and suddenly things start to change again. Because Maddie is suddenly a girl, an actual girl, and Derek has this odd urge to slam faces into lockers when he catches other guys looking at her in a way that they should not. He assumes that is just because he is protective, always has been, because he is the one who can calm her down from hysterics, he is the voice of reason when they do stupid stuff, and he is bigger, faster, stronger, and he has to watch out for her. He notices the way she smells, nice and sweet and sort of like the shampoo that she always uses, and watches her run at track meets and grins when she sees him play for the school baseball team. It bothers him when she gets asked out by others, bothers him when she smells like another boy, and it drives him up the wall when he can’t reach her on her cell because she is on a date with some guy that clearly is up to no good because three weeks later he is letting her cry in his arms while they munch on those chocolate animal crackers at her house post-break up since she wouldn’t give it up on the third date.
He breaks the guy’s nose, partially for breaking Maddie’s heart and partially for touching what is Derek’s. Not that he admits it to anyone but Peter, who understands better than his own parents what is going on catches on quickly. He is the only one who understands after Derek and Maddie steal her father’s car when she finally turns sixteen and go for a joy ride to the coast to see the waves hit the sand. He covers for them when they get back late from a movie, the drive-in kind that only happen once every few months for a fundraiser because Maddie wanted to stay for the double feature and Derek can't say no to her when she pouts. He understands just how important they are to one another and he sees everything. And he hopes that nothing happens to tear them apart because he likes seeing his nephew happy and does like the girl too, who kept her promise to not only to Derek, but to the pack, and there is something that he can see between them when everyone else is too preoccpied to notice.
But then there is Kate and suddenly his family is less important, suddenly Maddie is less important, and he so enamored that someone, blonde, beautiful, older, experienced, wants him, just him, and he blows up at his best friend when she points out that Kate is too old, they are both just sixteen and the woman is what, in her twenties? He ignores her pleas that this isn’t love, this isn’t right, and there is something wrong with Kate and the way the blonde looks at him. Derek thinks this is because she is jealous, jealous because there is someone else that has his attention, jealous because he is finally being treated like an adult for once rather than the baby of the family, jealous because he is no longer solely her’s, and in the end he feels a bit vindictive because it is getting back for all the times he saw her with a guy (even if it was only once and even if he ended up punching out that idiot). Kate is his first, his very first, and he is so enamored he cannot see anything wrong with her or just how her eyes are just a bit frosty when he brings up meeting his family or just how she shivers slightly in disgust when he mentions he has to go to a family (pack) meeting. He is so sure she is the one, the very one, and he makes the mistake of telling this to Maddie. The argument is something horrible because she threatens to tell Laura, then Peter, right after they get home from the school concert. She even throws a cupcake at his face (it misses), but walks away because she thinks that nothing else she does can change him. Derek wants to make her understand, he does, but right now he's too pissed off that his best friend cannot even think he knows better.
And everything goes up in smoke, ash, and death. Derek thinks it is his entire fault and maybe if he listened things would be different.
Laura is the Alpha now, ill prepared, and Uncle Peter is just an empty husk. Laura whisks him away to New York, to Brooklyn, where they have a few human relatives, distant cousins, who can calm the orphans, and Derek never says goodbye because he cannot speak for days, weeks, months even. And when he finally does open up it is to Laura, fierce, brilliant Laura, who holds him close and buries her own pain to be strong. She takes care of him while he tries to function without his pack, without his family, without constantly blaming him self for everything that happened. Beacon Hills is a part of him that needs to be buried far away and any reminds set him off.
He ignores the phone calls, the emails, the letters, everything, because he needs to forget that maybe if he just listened then things would be different.
It takes four years but finally they stop. The letters slow down. The very last one is sent to him gives him an address somewhere in San Francisco, a phone number, and a final plea to just say something. It comes with a package of those fucking animal crackers that he burns in a trashcan while Laura watches from the window of the shared apartment. Life moves on and he adjusts as best as possible, even if he knows his sister stashes away all the letters that he tried to throw into the garbage.
Life moves on and he grows up. He doesn't eat cookies anymore and milk tastes sour no matter what (something just tastes wrong each time).
And Laura leaves for Beacon Hills because someone calls and has news about Peter. Derek is long gone by then, moved out somewhere a few months after the letters stop and tries to reason with his sister, but when her eyes flash red he backs down, knowing that in the end she is the Alpha, in charge, and Peter is still part of their pack, empty shell or not. And she goes and gets killed, torn in half by hunters after being murdered, used as bait that lures Derek back to a place he swore he was never going to go to.
He drives cross-country and switches the plates on the Camaro so no one notices. New York plates in California would draw attention and that is the last thing he needs right now. But there is huge mess, a kid named Scott turned into a werewolf, with a best friend who knows too much and speaks too much, but Derek can’t help but be reminded of Maddie just a little bit, and there are Argents in town too, while an Alpha is on the loose and causing trouble. He tries seeing Peter, the tiny bit of him hoping that maybe, just maybe, something changed, but the body is still just that, a burnt out husk. He still goes and talks though because a tiny bit of hope never hurts.
He doesn’t stop by Maddie’s old house, even if her father still lives there, retired, sick, and now an old man that Derek can’t remember looking so burnt out. Driving by once made him sick because it smelled like her, just a bit, and his hands tighten around the steering wheel hard enough to leave marks. The old rusty red pick up that they stole sits in the driveway and brings back memories he tries so hard to block out.
Derek soldiers on, ignoring the faint memory of chocolate animal crackers and cool milk.
And somewhere he gets betrayed, again, over and over, and damn it, the McCall kid needs to learn to control himself or risk everything and anything. Stiles, the one who never shuts up, he’s not too bad, but he can only take so much at so once, and suddenly Kate is there and he wants to rip her throat out with his teeth for what she did. The world is this mess, a giant mess, and Peter is faking a coma, killed Laura, and lies about everything. Madness has taken away the kind uncle who saved the little girl from being hit by a car, who offered the boy some advice on dealing with girls, who was there and knew that what Derek and Maddie might be, the hope for the future, and he is angry. But he remembers before, he remembers the past, and for a second he pauses looking into his uncle’s face before striking the final blow because this is his pack and his responsibility. Scott will not become a murderer (he lied about the cure) and Stiles will not see his friend turn into a monster and Allison (because she is just a girl dragged into this) will not loose another person she cares about and Derek needs to do this before another girl like Lydia ends up hurt or another boy like Scott gets dragged into this mess.
It awakens and he can feel it. And he gives the bite to Jackson and leaves the boy, trying to cope as best he can without letting the others see. Because he has to have the control to master this or else he will end up like Peter (he can’t, won’t, mustn’t). An entirely new beast arises and he runs for nights, days, loosing track of time for a while to just come into his own as an Alpha. He knows hunters are gathering, he can feel the tension rises, and he takes action because Scott and Jackson are not fully loyal to the pack right now and he cannot risk it, hell he has no idea what is wrong with Jackson either.
Isaac is the first that accepts. Erica takes the offer after him. Erica was sick and hurting and in so much pain, but now she is given a new chance at life because of him. And Isaac is so troubled at home and Derek wants to give him a family, a place to be safe, and it works. They are loyal to him and one day both Scott and maybe Jackson will turn around. Lydia too, whatever the last two are. He thinks Stiles might be easy to sway but when he asked he was told, “No, and your psycho uncle tried too but I said no and that is final and would you really want me in your pack?”
And then he sees her.
Maddie grew up too. Derek can tell that San Francisco has been good to her, time has been good, and maybe just maybe he needs to keep himself in check because she is no longer the little girl who used to cling to him when they were younger. Legs and chest and everything else, and while she might not be a blonde bombshell like Erica she has her own appeal. But what makes him stop his car is more of the fact that she is here, in Beacon Hills, and there is a war brewing and the town is right in the middle of it. The Argents would know about her because Kate would have told them about Derek Hale’s little wannabe girlfriend. And the sudden pull to take her and whisk her away to safety makes him stop himself from going to talk to her.
He can’t drag her into this.
But she already is too deep now because a few weeks later the an Argent is at her house and no, Derek is not checking up on her, not one bit, and there is yelling, he can hear that even without the wolf, and shots fired ring out into the night that send him jumping from his car, fangs and claws already showing, eyes blazing red, and the door is swung open to find Maddie standing over a body, eyes wide and large, cast iron fire poker in her hands, gun several feet away from what is a body. The hunter might not be dead but he is certainly knocked out and it stuns Derek enough that he shifts back and just stares, eyes meeting her’s. It registers in the back of his mind that somehow one of them needs to call the police or at the very least throw that thing out of her house, but right now all they do is stare because this is the most surreal moment either of them have ever been in.
Derek leaves. He's good at that.
Maddie apparently calls the police and has the man arrested not just for trespassing but also for attempted murder thanks to the gun. It was a lucky shot with the poker apparently and the hunters are more than pissed but right now facing charges they have a mess to clean up. It makes her a target. Derek hears this from Stiles when the boy drags Scott and Jackson (whatever he is) to his house and makes them realize they are stronger in numbers than alone. Lydia is there too, and Erica drops by with Isaac in tow, and Derek thinks that somehow he has a pack again, even if they drive him crazy with their teenage drama most of the time.
He does not admit that while this does make him happy there is still something (someone) missing.
It takes two weeks before he sees her again and this time it is only because Maddie comes by the remains of the Hale House and Derek is there like he always is. He watches as she sits on the porch and there is a box in her hand with the familiar markings and it makes him rolls his eyes at it but he still goes outside and sits next to her like they always did before everything went to shit in his life. Neither say anything but he takes the box of chocolate animal crackers and opens it, munching on a few before offering the box to her and she takes a couple as well. An arm reaches out and he finds that he does not wince from the touch and relaxes when he can listen to her heartbeat next to his. She still smells the same, of chocolate, mint, grass, and something else, but it smells like home, pack, mine, mate, which leaves Derek to close his eyes just savoring this tiny bit of happiness he knows might not last as long as he wishes it would. Neither says a word while they sit and demolish the box of cookies while the teenagers are in school. He ponders over what her life was life after she stopped sending those letters and stopped trying to call him. He knew that she was hurt like he was after the fire, he knew that shutting her out might have been wrong, but he also knew that she understood in some twisted sort of way that he needed time, space, and everything that New York gave him, and he does not bring this up because it would only lead to interrupting the quiet.
Instead his hand finds hers and he laces his fingers through hers while they sit and wait together for the world to explode.
(It never does that night and they both are thankful for that.)