Everything goes in cycles, everything is happening again. It's the only thought that seems to stay put, to stay coherent in Derek's brain. He tries to speak to Lydia but the words are so heavy. His tongue is heavy, his arms and legs, and there's a weight on his chest that feels so real he wonders if she is kneeling there, but she can't be, he can see her to the side, feel her laying out his arm. And he can't do a thing about it. He's frozen (helpless, useless), he can only watch and think (and barely that) and wait (but it's never going to end). In his blurred thoughts Allison is wearing Kate's smile and her clothes, and Derek is shaking Scott, over and over, getting ashes all over both of them and trying to make him understand. Laura bleeds so that Peter can rise. Derek bleeds-
Derek bleeds, and Peter rises. He's telling Derek something, but Derek can't hear him, not over Lydia's screams. Then Derek blacks out.
When he wakes again it's to Stiles pulling his hand back for another slap, and Derek tries to focus on that, that and the sting, as dark lingers around the edges of his vision. Stiles is talking. Of course he is. "Oh sweet zombie jesus, yes, finally, get up. Derek, get the hell up-" He's agitated, that's obvious, but his scent is too much of a mess of strong conflicting feelings for Derek to get a solid grip on the meaning underneath. It's not as clear as it should be.
"- Peter, right now, Scott can't do this by himself. Derek, can you even hear me?"
Derek blinks. Peter. And then it hits, like a wave crashing down; it all makes sense, how he's as weak and groggy as a pup after the first full moon, he's not the Alpha anymore. The power's gone. The power is Peter's, he gave it up, Peter took it from him. And that's why Peter's back.
Derek has managed to get on his feet, somehow. He's not going to stop to think about, because if he does, he won't be upright anymore. The room stinks of blood but it's all his own, Stiles isn't hurt, so it's ok. Wetness down his wrist, healing so slowly, but healing. He can do this, one foot in front of the other. Step by step, until Stiles is there slamming both hands into his chest and glaring at him. Derek glares back. Whatever blame there is to be laid here, he doesn't have time for it, not now. Not yet.
"Move," Derek finally manages to force out, but it's thick and far from as threatening as he'd like.
"You're in no position to be giving orders, buddy," Stiles snaps back, and Derek shudders but masks it with a step, pushing past Stiles. He doesn't need to be told that; he knows it more clearly than Stiles can imagine. He's not the Alpha anymore. But Peter - he did this, it's his fault, and no matter what Stiles thinks he has to offer what he can to undo it.
As Stiles said, Scott can't do this by himself.
Scott doesn't do it by himself, he does it with pack; with Isaac and Boyd and Erica, with Lydia and Stiles, with Jackson half transformed and back in control. Derek doesn't have the luxury of stopping to wonder about that, or wonder how long he was out. He has the here and now to focus on, and launches himself, howling, at his uncle, digging deep into his back and tearing until Peter turns from choking Isaac and claws Derek open from shoulder to hip. Derek is curling in on himself, waiting for the next blow, the last one, when Jackson and Scott come out of nowhere, and Erica not far behind.
It's only when Scott has Peter against the wall, claws at his throat, that Derek goes cold and struggles to his hands and knees and screams at him to stop, think about this. Because Derek is selfish, because it's all he has. And it is selfishness, because he's always wanted this for Scott, really. Just not yet, not yet. There can only be one Alpha.
Scott doesn't listen, because everything goes in cycles.
"Oh shit. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh sh-"
"Dude," Stiles says, somewhat hysterically, "if you don't shut up I will slap you, and then you'll probably disembowel me with your freaky new alpha-instincts, and that'll just be really bad for everyone involved, so seriously I'm here for you and everything but shut the fuck up."
Scott just gives him the full-force puppy eyes. "I can't be the alpha!" He wails, "I'm not ready to be an alpha! Derek's the alpha! I don't even know what it involves! I have school, oh my god, they're not going to try and move into my house, are they?" He looks frantically from an amused Erica and Boyd back to Stiles. "Stilessssss. Mom's gonna kill me!"
"Now, see, this is why you should think about whether you're ready to be a father before you go killing psychotic alpha werewolves without appropriate protection," Stiles says giddily. No. Helpful. He's trying to be helpful here, because he is an excellent, deserves-a-literal-trophy-for-this-shit friend. "But, um. I'm sure it can be fixed, right? Boyd said that Derek told him these things can change."
"Yeah," Scott yelps wildly, "by killing people! I don't want Derek killing me! That would not be good!"
Stiles raises one eyebrow until Scott, somewhat sheepishly, mumbles "Sorry," and ducks his head, so Stiles bites back the 'well, you wouldn't be in this position if you'd actually listened to Derek in the first place' response and turns to Isaac instead. "He awake yet?"
"No." Isaac bites his lip and peers at Stiles through a rapidly-fading black eye. "But he's stopped bleeding all over your sheets so I think he'll be ok."
Oh, that's going to be a bitch come laundry day. But, no, forget that. Priorities. "It's going to be fine," Stiles tells the room at large. "Derek's gonna wake up and we're going to explain the situation calmly, and we'll just work something out. I mean, just because you're the alpha doesn't mean we have to change anything if we decide we don't want to, right? We can just. Work around it. Like proper reasonable adults. Or, you know, piss-scared semi-hysterical teenagers. It'll be totally fine."
No one looks particularly convinced, and he can't blame them. Actually, Scott looks a bit like he's going to have a red-eyed super-alpha-powered asthma attack.
Stiles just really, really wishes Derek would wake up already.
When Derek wakes up everything hurts, and smells of Stiles. This is starting to be a pattern. He reaches out, straight away, to feel for Boyd and Erica and Isaac, to know that they're safe. They are, but the connection between them is a shadow of what it was before, faint, disrupted. The loss of it is more physically painful than any of the cuts running down his ribs.
He briefly hopes they aren't feeling the same thing.
Derek rolls out of the bed - Stiles' own bed, and you'd think after this long it would occur to the kid that the bathroom floor is an easier cleanup - and shrugs off his shirt, or what's left of it. His jeans- his jeans will have to do. He runs the shirt under water in the ensuite and cleans himself up as best he can and then leaves it in the small bin under the sink. Someone has left his jacket hanging on Stiles' chair, and he pulls it on, only wincing slightly as he stretches newly-healing skin.
Then he pads down the stairs to face Scott.
He doesn't need to follow their scent to know where they are; he can still feel the three he turned well enough to walk straight to them, and he knows them well enough to know they'll stick to Scott's side until he shakes them off, sends them home. He stops in the doorway. They're all looking his way, Stiles too, standing at Scott's side with a twitchy, protective energy. No Allison, no Lydia, but that's not for Derek to worry about now.
Everyone's eyes are on him, expectant, wary. He tenses, unsure of what it is that they are expecting. His eyes flicker to Scott before he tells himself that the fear is misplaced - it isn't unheard of for a new Alpha to eliminate a displaced rival, or a beta that is unwilling to accept their role, but he does not believe Scott would do things that way. Scott reminds Derek of Laura, and of his mother. They were good Alphas, they drew their power from a bone-deep kindness and the loyalty they inspired with ease in their pack. They were strong.
"I killed Peter," Scott says, in the silence. "I don't know if you saw that." He sounds strange. But then, he had been so set on doing things without killing, with Jackson.
"Yes," Derek says. It's not enough to make expectation from every corner of the room fade. Derek doesn't know what kind of submission is required, here, doesn't know where he stands at all. The wolf in him wants to know, with a desperation that's at odds with the remnants of his very human pride. "You are the Alpha now," he says, with finality.
Isaac has shuffled over to Boyd and Erica, and the three of them are watching it play out, apprehensive. But it's Stiles and Scott that Derek is focused on, the Alpha, the human who isn't bound by pack but stakes his place nonetheless, and the displeasure that flared from both of them when Derek spoke. He stiffens. There's nothing else he can say, nothing he can think of to do save bare his throat, and he doubts the gesture would mean much to Scott.
"That's it?" Stiles says, looking from Scott to Derek. "Just like that? Are you serious? He kills the bad guy and all of a sudden he's gotta be you?" He sounds horrified by the very idea, and Derek wants to flinch or growl, maybe both, but once again pride holds him still.
"He's the Alpha," Derek says, low, blank. "He can do things however he wants to."
It seems to satisfy Scott, if not Stiles, and that's enough. "Cool," Scott says, and Derek relaxes just a little, except then Scott looks straight at him and says, "Just making it clear. And, I mean, I'm not your Alpha, right? That would be way complicated."
It's like a blow to the gut, sets a whine starting in his throat that he has to force down, and he should have seen it coming. He really, really should have seen it coming. It's not like Scott hadn't made it perfectly clear, from the very beginning, that he would never be Derek's pack. Not even in the earliest days, when Scott didn't know what he was doing, not even when Derek was the Alpha, when Derek had the strength. Had something to offer.
And now- It's almost funny, bitterly so. It's practically a mantra now, running through his head; he could have, should have seen this coming.
"Of course not," he says sharply, cut-off. He can't look at Isaac, at Erica and Boyd. He doesn't want to see their faces. It's bad enough to be- to lose- it's bad enough. Then, against every instinct telling him not to leave his back open to Scott, to any of them, he turns and walks out of the room.
He almost makes it to the door before Stiles catches up with him. He grabs at Derek's shoulder, and there was a time he wouldn't have dared- but no, that's not true. He always would have, even if it made his heart jackhammer and his voice shake. Neither are happening now.
"What the hell, Derek," he's saying. "Man, I know this isn't how anyone planned it, but you gotta man up here. You were pretty eager to give Scott the werewolf 101 before." He's bouncing on the balls of his feet, growing more and more agitated as Derek doesn't answer. "What, you're going to walk out now without even throwing us a bone? No pun intended. But you know what I mean, the basic Alpha manual, kind of thing. Or, you know, anything at all!"
Derek blinks at Stiles. If this is some sort of joke, Derek doesn't get it. Stiles has made it perfectly clear what he thinks of Derek's ability as an Alpha. And the worst part is, Derek doesn't even think he's wrong.
"I'm in no position," Derek tells him flatly, using Stiles' own words, trying to make himself understood, "to be giving orders."
Stiles stares, then all but explodes. "That?!" He yells, arms flailing, "You're seriously fucking holding that against me? You were in a pool of your own bloo- you know what, I don't even care. I'm done. I am so done with you." Derek focuses on the way he breathes when he's angry, short and heavy. "We don't fucking need you!"
The only thing Derek can think of to say to that is 'I know', so he says nothing at all, just bares his teeth and slams the door in Stiles' face.
Stiles is furious. He's mad that Derek, for all his talk about pack, has gone and walked out on them. He's mad at Derek's stupid stone-faced silence when he was supposed to be the one who knew what to do, who told them what to do. He's mad because he knows that's unreasonable, that no one has lost as much in that one night as Derek has, and he can't bring himself to care. He's mad that when Scott basically promised not to try and alpha-lord it over him, Derek only got colder, harder. And of course, underpinning it all is a lingering anger at Derek for going and getting himself hurt again, almost dying again, but that's pretty much a constant and really, Stiles is self-aware enough not to go poking around those feelings.
He also has the growing sense, staring at the shut door an inch away from his face, that he has just said something very, very stupid, that he didn't mean at all. It's a depressingly familiar feeling.
"Dude that was, like, the opposite of what we planned on saying." Scott says mournfully, creepily echoing Stiles' own thoughts from the top of the stairs. He starts to come down with the others not far behind.
"Don't," Stiles says miserably, because of course they just heard every single word with their freaky werewolf superpowers, "I know. I just totally pissed off the one guy who might know what to do and now he is going to stalk around in silent manly- or, I don't know, wolfly, is that thing? - a silent wolfly way about his stolen alphahood. I need a muzzle. No, I take that back, Boyd, get your mind out of the gutter." Boyd, who hasn't so much as cracked a smile, just stares at him. Stiles waves a hand in his general direction, taking in Erica and Isaac as well. As usual, they're slinking close together like they think the other one won't notice. "Don't you three have somewhere to be, anyway?"
"You are so dumb," Erica snaps, but weirdly she seems to be glaring at Scott, not at Stiles. "At least he has an excuse," she adds, stabbing a finger in Stiles' chest and making him take an awkward step backwards, "he couldn't catch a scent if it slapped him in the face. But you, Scott." She flicks her hair, and looks like she's going to say more, but Boyd interrupts.
"We have somewhere else to be," he says, and it's hard to tell if he's annoyed because 'distinctly unimpressed' is kind of his default expression, but the three of them certainly stalk out of the house like... like people who really, really know how to stalk. God, Stiles is tired.
"What the hell does that mean," he says incredulously at their retreating backs, "Scott, wait, what am I not smelling? Oh my god, is this like the attraction thing- wait, but how would that apply to Derek?"
Scott looks as confused as Stiles feels, shrugging helplessly. "I don't know. I'm not really good at telling stuff apart. He just kind of- he was just like he is before he fights something."
"Great," Stiles says dully. Just what they need, Derek suppressing the instinctual need to fight Scott. That's even worse than just plain angry.
"It will be ok," Scott says softly, "right?" He smiles awkwardly. "He always comes back. Like, even when we don't agree on anything, he always came back when we really needed." And the thing that makes Stiles feel simultaneously relieved and like the worst person in the world is that it's entirely true.
Scott goes home after that, and Stiles catches a nap on the couch before dragging himself up to make dinner before his dad gets back from working the night shift for a security company a town over. He doesn't mind, it's not like he's been more than passingly acquainted with a regular sleep or meal schedule since this whole wolf thing started, but he hates how his dad looks surprised every time, how he thanks Stiles for staying up like this whole mess isn't Stiles' fault in the first place.
"You shouldn't have," his dad insists, even as he makes appreciative noises over the pasta sauce, "you look a wreck. What were you lot up to at Scott's last night?"
Well actually, is what Stiles wants to say, there was this psychotic supernatural murdering bastard who we had to kill for a second time, and then Scott accidentally became King of the Werewolves, and that ex-homicide-suspect you keep warning me away from almost died in my bed after playing the cavalry even though he'd just donated half his blood to some sort of evil resurrection ritual, and I paid him back by yelling at him and I don't know what to do.
"Computer games," is what Stiles actually says. "I swear to god, they make time go wonky. I think it's a conspiracy. A corporate conspiracy, possibly involving hypnotism."
"I'm not going to argue with you there," his dad says, then smiles, and Stiles savours the moment. Then his phone goes off.
It's Isaac. He apologises, resisting the urge to bang his head against the table, then takes the call in the hallway. "He's not here," Isaac says abruptly, and then honest-to-god whines down the line and adds, "we don't like being apart, Stiles." Stiles can't really think of anything to say to that, and says nothing. "We don't like being alone," Isaac says, except it sounds more like he's trying to say 'he' instead of 'we', and he seems to think the better of talking to Stiles at all, because he hangs up immediately.
"Dad," Stiles says quietly as he goes back to the table, replaying everything that has happened in his head, slowly, trying to pick out what seems off. "When there's an armed suspect, or- or something, how do you feel? I mean. How do you feel before a fight?"
He can feel his dad looking at him, weighing up the question before answering. "Afraid," he says, finally. "I feel afraid, and I remind myself why I need to be there."
"Right," Stiles says, because he suddenly knows that he has gotten absolutely everything wrong. "I am so, so sorry, but I need to-"
"-make a call," his dad finishes, and nods wearily, but without resentment. "Go on, then."
When he hits Scott's number, the phone only rings once before it's picked up. "Scott, we need to find Dere-"
"Stiles," Scott yells over him, "we need to find Derek!" Which, yes, but also, what the fuck. Scott doesn't stop for breath, though. "It's bad, Stiles. Allison's mother's dead, and Allison won't answer my calls, and mom says it was suicide but there were animal scratches on the body and she won't answer Lydia either and it can't have been Peter it was before he came back- Stiles, you need to get here, right now-"
By this point, Stiles is already in his car.
Derek runs, and runs, and ends up at his own burned out house, because everything goes in cycles.
It's foolish, he knows that. Hunters come through regularly, now. But he hasn't anywhere else to go. He won't go back to the empty train; that's Erica's haven, Boyd's secret, more or less what Isaac has to call home. He has no right to it if he has no right to them, and they need an alpha who can protect them.
The only other place he's ever run to is the house he just came from, the Sheriff's house and the... the Sheriff's son.
I'm done with you. We don't need you!
As he walks in through the yard he can see a scorch mark covering the ground in all directions, near the back door. Gasoline, half-filled, on the porch. They burned Peter's body, he realises, just to be sure. Of course they did. He flinches. End it with fire, and that seems the only way they're allowed to go, the Hales that were missed. The ones that should have been down in that basement too.
Not Laura, though, and he takes comfort in that. She didn't die with fire.
He takes the gasoline that's left and he goes down to the basement and stands there, considering, even just for the moment, even knowing he'd never have the courage, or the lack of courage, or whatever it is that he'd need. He goes back up to the ground floor and considers lighting up the staircase, what used to be the kitchen and the dining room. He could get out in time. He could bring this empty shell down and watch it burn and then he could run and run and run.
He could, but he does't have the courage, and instead he goes to where his parents used to sleep and curls up in the corner until sleep takes him.
He wakes a few hours later to layers of sound from all directions, and jerks to his feet. Cars, in the distance, lots of them, and one close, the engine shutting down already, just outside. Footsteps, coming, and on instinct he leaps from the doorframe to the bannister to the rafters. Up high he keeps out of sight, in the half ruined ceiling, and looks down as the door opens."You sure he's here?" It's a voice Derek recognises; couldn't miss, not in a crowd of thousands, and he wonders when that became true. Down below, he can see Scott roll his eyes at Stiles and tap his nose.
"Right, yeah, superwolf senses. Ok. Not questioning the wolfiness. So should we, like, call for him? Or just start talking right here, I mean, he can hear us right? He ca- Scott?"
"There are other people coming," Scott says, and whirls around. "They're circling the house, it's-"
"Allison." Stiles finishes for him, and he sounds scared. Derek tenses. When did Allison become a threat to Scott? To Stiles? He realises he's changed, that his teeth and claws are out, and almost laughs; his body is fool enough to think he's still pack, it's still urging him to protect and defend. And he will, that's the sad part, the funny part. He wonders what Laura would say if she could see him now, and gets ready to spring down.
The door opens for a second time, and Allison comes through with her crossbow up and eyes like steel; and she freezes him where he is, not with anything she has but with what she says.
"Give me Derek," she tells Scott, aiming at his chest, "and no one gets hurt."
"Woah," Stiles says, waving his hands up in surrender, "woah. And oh, look, you brought friends. This is a family thing. That's nice."
"Shut up," Allison says, Gerard Argent at her back. "You know what he did. Give him to me."
Derek doesn't move, barely breathes. Scott knows he's here but none of the hunters do yet, they don't have the senses and he's out of sight. This doesn't make any sense. Argents pinning the blame on him, that's nothing new, that's business as usual. But Allison? He tries to think, tries to-
"Allison, I'm so sorry, but your mother-"
"Shut up!" Allison yells, then bites down on her lip, hard, tears in her eyes that have nothing to do with that. "Scott, tell me where he is. We're done, Scott. Unless you tell me. Right. Now."
Her mother. Derek remembers Scott howling, wolfsbane in the air, and not much else. Red hair, a scrambling fight. It's fogged by the wolfsbane, but he's sure she got away, he remembers her running.
"Allison," Scott breathes out brokenly. "Allison-"
"I'd do what the girl says, son." Gerard says, and Derek can hear the smile in it, feels his skin crawl. There's a whole different kind of threat, there.
"You want to know where Derek is?" Stiles says, a sudden yelp, a too-loud break in the tension. "Ok." He smiles nervously at Gerard, then looks back to Allison. "Ok. Right, Scott?" Scott turns to him, and the two lock eyes for a moment, and then Scott nods.
Derek closes his eyes and digs his claws into the wood, grips tight to keep himself from falling. He shouldn't need to, he doesn't- he doesn't get dizzy, he-
He has one way out here alive, and that's only a bare chance. The element of surprise, a jump down would take him halfway across the room and if he was lucky, if the hunters were slow enough to pull the trigger, to the window. Right through the middle of the room. Through Allison, Stiles, Scott, caught in their little tableux. He'd have to go through one of the humans, both of them maybe, hurt them enough for Scott to choose to help them instead of chasing Derek.
He only has this one way, and really, that means he has none. Stiles is- all of them are just kids, in an impossible situation. Derek can't. If he's going to die here, it might be with fangs and claws, but he's going to die human in the ways that count.
"I'd do what the girl says, son." Allison's creepy grandpa tells Scott, and Stiles is pretty sure the subtext to that involves the big-ass guns some of those hunters are holding. Which, seriously. How is this his life. His mind is running at a thousand miles an hour, running through the options, what's possible and what's probable and all the chances in between. Talking to Allison: an option. Talking to Allison with Gerard there: not a realistic option. They can't run; well, maybe Scott could run, but really, Stiles isn't on the self-sacrifice train quite yet, and he still has not idea where in the house Derek is. They have to all get out, that's the only endgame Stiles will accept.
Whatever Allison says, he knows Derek isn't responsible, not intentionally, and he's going to find out what happpened. That's not the immediate problem. The immediate problem is that he thinks he might have a plan, but it hinges on Scott being required to lie.
"You want to know where Derek is?" Stiles says, before he can talk himself out of it. He's got to trust, here, trust that Scott will get it, trust that wherever Derek is, he'll catch on and stay down, stay safe. "Ok." He plasters on a smile. "Ok."
Scott jerks and looks at him like he's grown a second head; Stiles' stares right back, schooling his expression into perfect calm. Roll with it, Scott. This is me. Trust me. And Scott looks right back, open and ready, and nods.
"I know we weren't gonna tell them," he adds, a little louder than he needs to, but there are large guns in the room, he figures he's excused. "But we don't have a choice. You gotta show them, Scott. The changes."
"The changes," Scott echoes, and Stiles' heart almost stops, but then he turns and looks straight at Allison and his eyes go red, and hers go impossibly, impossibly large. "Allison. I'm the alpha now."
Even Gerard looks surprised. It's not a look that suits him, and Stiles is exhilarated, watching as the cogs whirr in every hunter's brain; there's only one alpha, and one way to become an alpha if you're not born to it. They don't know about Peter. There's only one conclusion to come to. Allison is coming to it right now, deflating; clearly rage is the only thing that's kept her going, and Stiles thinks briefly of his own mother, sort of wants to reach out to her.
"You-" Gerard starts, eyes narrowed and stepping forward, but Allison throws out an arm and glares at him, glares at all the hunters.
"We're done here." She says, blank and hard. "Derek Hale is dead. We're done." There's a moment of tension, and Stiles is praying under his breath that this women-leading tradition thing is more than just pretty words. Then it breaks, and the first hunter swings his weapon onto his back and starts to walk away, and then another and another, and Gerard blinks and steps back, conceding, if only for now. In just a few moments they're all gone, and Stiles can hear cars starting outside.
"Oh my god," Scott gasps, and promptly sits down in the middle of the floor. "Oh my god, what the hell was that."
"I don't know," Stiles says, flying high on the realisation that hey, nobody died, "but we're all here and not shot and I'm counting that as a win." It's not a win, of course. It's a time bonus, a respite; they can't hide Derek away forever, they have to find out what happened and make Allison understand, but for now it's- it's good enough."Derek!" Scott calls, and there's a pause long enough for Stiles to start questioning Scott's olfactory powers when Derek literally falls from the fucking sky. Or ceiling. Whatever. He jumps down and then straightens up and just stands there, half in shadow, staring at Stiles and Scott. Stiles is too relieved to notice any details, just starts talking.
"Derek! Jesus, you scared the crap out of me. Did you see that? Of course you did. I am a total mini-machiavelli. I am a genius and well ok maybe you'll have to hide out for a while, but you kind of do that anyway, and seriously I am so glad you worked out the plan because I did not have a back-up and-" he stops. Details, little details. Derek is silent and he's pale and his hands are shaking. Stiles stares at his hands. Derek follows his gaze down and then looks at his own hands, incredulous, like he doesn't know who they belong to.
"Oh my god," Stiles says softly, because he doesn't have everything wrong anymore, because he kinds of gets it now, and Derek is so pale. "You didn't work out the plan, did you? You thought we'd let them-"
Derek blinks, doesn't move or look at them, and it's enough, it's a yes.
"But you're pack" Scott protests from where he's slumped on the floor, and Stiles has a moment's premonition before Derek all but drops, like a puppet with its strings cut. He sways but doesn't fall. Stiles has literally no idea when his brain decides to do another life-threatening thing today, but before he knows it he's on tiptoes and has his arms wrapped around Derek's neck and his face pressed into Derek's collarbone.
"You're not an omega because we never meant that because you are pack because we need you," he says all in one breath. He thinks he knows, for once, that it's exactly the right thing to say.
When Derek grips him right back and kisses his neck and his jaw and his mouth, he knows it for sure.