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The Scent of an Alpha

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They’ve been in Brooklyn for a week before the local alpha tracks them down, knocking on the door to their tiny apartment at 6pm on a Wednesday. Derek’s stomach clenches before the knock comes; the scent of an alpha is strong enough to come through the door when he’s still on the street. Laura smiles and cocks her head at Derek, and he follows her to the door, positioning himself behind her right shoulder as they’ve agreed.

The other alpha is older -- 40, 45? -- and he’s brought three betas with him, all at least fifteen years older than Derek. He suddenly feels extremely young. The alpha is smiling, but he smells angry. “Perhaps they do things differently where you’re from,” he says “but here in New York it’s good form to present yourselves if you’re going to be joining the pack.” He has an accent, Puerto Rican, Derek thinks, and Derek hears a whole world in the words “where you’re from.”

“I’m sorry,” Laura replies coolly, “but we’re not joining your pack.” She’s calm, collected, and a hint of an alpha growl comes through her words as a soft buzz. Derek hopes that the scent of her confidence will overpower the stink of his fear. He inhales sharply as the anger rolls off of the betas.

The alpha laughs. “Why should I let you stay in my territory if you’re not going to join my pack?” he asks. Laura turns her head and smiles at Derek, and he knows the other pack can smell his fear. He swallows and takes a step forward, standing in front of Laura, and tips his head slightly to one side. One of the betas -- a dark-skinned woman in her mid-30’s -- narrows her eyes and licks her lips, and the anger shifts into something else.

“My brother is very good at what he does,” Laura says, spreading her hands. “Consider him on loan for the duration of our stay.” The other pack’s betas shift their weight from one foot to the other. Derek looks the alpha in the eye, then steps forward, inches away, and bares his throat fully. He knows the alpha is watching his pulse jump and hearing his heart race, knows his fear is feeding the alpha’s desire. There is hot breath on his neck, the scrape of teeth, and then the alpha is laughing, and Derek knows that Laura has gotten what she wants.

If Derek comes home sometimes with still-healing cuts and bruises, smelling like sex, she never asks.

***

“Derek, honey, you have a very important place in the pack.” Aunt Rose pulls him onto her lap, and he relaxes, leaning his head against her chest. Derek is eight years old, small for his age, and fits perfectly in the space between her lap and her chin. “You and me, we’re alike. Our job can be very hard sometimes, but this is a good pack. They need me, and when your sister starts her own pack she’s going to need you.” Aunt Rose smells good, like shampoo and perfume and love, and he squirms himself closer to her. “Do you know what our job is, Derek?”

“Being nice to people even when they’re mean to you?” he asks. Derek knows about that. The other kids are mean to him, sometimes, but he usually just smiles and laughs and eventually they’re not mean anymore.

“That’s very close, honey,” Aunt Rose says, shifting Derek to her other knee so she can reach her hairbrush. She starts brushing Derek’s hair in even strokes. “Our job is to help keep the pack from getting too tense. When they get too tense, they fight. When we fight amongst ourselves, we’re weaker.”

“How do you do it?” Derek knows “tense.” He can smell it sometimes, when the adults are arguing. That’s when Aunt Rose shows up, and tells them something like, “Not in front of the children,” and then they go away for a while but when they come back they don’t smell like “tense” anymore.

“Well honey, there are a lot of different ways. You’ll have to find the one that works best for you. Sometimes you might not like it. Sometimes helping the pack means you have to do something you don’t want to do, or you have to get hurt.” She puts the brush down and runs her fingers through Derek’s short hair. “I want you to start watching what I do more. You watch and you see how it works, and you come to me when you have questions. If it gets hard, if you think you can’t do it, I want you to come talk to me and maybe I can help.”

“Okay,” Derek says, hopping off of Aunt Rose’s lap. He catches himself before leaving the room and turns back to her. “Aunt Rose? Why is this our job and not someone else’s?”

Aunt Rose’s smile looks sad and it makes him feel sad too. “The weakest member of the pack gets this job, honey. Maybe some day you’ll grow up big and strong and it won’t be your job anymore. Go on, go find your sister and bring her in for dinner.”

***

The taste of ash is still thick in Derek’s mouth and the pain and shame of betrayal are heavy in his bones when Laura pulls the car up at a motel in Reno. They barely spoke on the drive here, barely spoke since the fire, while Laura talked to the lawyers and financial advisors and insurance agents. He follows Laura into the motel room, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

He knows Laura knows about Kate. Laura knows everything about Derek, he can’t hide things from her, because she’s not just his alpha, she’s also his sister, and his best friend. Now she’s all he has left. The tension in the room is thick and heavy, like a physical weight on his skin, and even though there are only two of them now Derek has to cut it somehow.

Laura is setting the suitcase on the bed and unzipping it, and Derek comes over to her, sinks to his knees, and bares his throat, leaning his head against her thigh. Her hands slow, then still over the suitcase. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m sorry.”

Her anger is crawling over his skin, and he shivers. She doesn’t move. Derek reaches up and takes hold of her hips, turns his face into her leg, and kisses her thigh. He slides one hand up under her shirt, and moves the other to the fly of her jeans. He hesitates; with Laura, he doesn’t often use this tactic, even though it works best with everyone else. She growls, low in her throat, and turns fully toward him. Derek opens her jeans, kissing the exposed fabric of her panties, then dips his fingers under the elastic and pulls them down, taking the jeans with them. He kisses her skin, then buries his face between her legs, inhaling the earthy scent clinging to her hair.

He thinks, for a moment, that this is going to work.

Then Laura’s hands slide onto his head, her fingers tightening in his hair, and she hauls him up and throws him across the room. Derek hits the wall hard, the air knocked out of his lungs, and collapses down onto the floor. He listens to Laura stalking across the room toward him, and then she is on him, claws tearing through his flesh, hot tears stinging where they fall in the cuts. This way is harder, much harder, but it is still good. When it’s over, Laura pulls Derek into her arms, kisses the tears off his face, and tells him how much she loves him.

***

When Derek is fifteen years old, Aunt Rose leaves town for two weeks to visit an ailing relative. The timing is awful -- the full moon will come while she is gone, and Laura has been clashing with their father. Two alphas clashing means all of their betas clashing, and Derek has been kept on his toes just dealing with trying to keep his cousins from fighting their parents. Teenage rebellion has nothing on a house full of werewolves. He’s tried distracting them every way he can think of -- video games, suggesting they go run in the woods, even homework -- but Derek is quickly learning that there is one method of distraction which works better than anything else.

So when the full moon is approaching and everyone is on edge, and Aunt Rose is in Washington and not there to help, Derek finds himself in between his uncle Peter and his cousin John, he does the only thing he can think of that will help: he presses his body fully against Peter’s, slides his arms up Peter’s back, and rises onto his toes to press his mouth to Peter’s neck, just below his ear. He takes Peter’s earlobe into his mouth, tugging with his lips, flicking with his tongue. He feels the moment Peter’s attention shifts off of John and onto Derek, and rubs himself against Peter, a sensuous slide that works so well on his cousins.

But Peter is an adult, not an awkward teenager, and things are never easy for Derek, never on a full moon. Peter growls and effortlessly tosses Derek aside, advancing on John. Derek struggles to his feet, and puts himself between them again. John’s scent is transitioning from angry to afraid and this is going to end very, very badly if Derek can’t stop it, so he jumps at Peter, wrapping his legs around Peter’s waist, and presses his mouth to Peter’s. If Peter’s canines are extended and they dig into Derek’s lip, that’s alright, because he gets his tongue into Peter’s mouth and in the moments Peter is distracted John runs. When Peter reaches up -- to throw Derek aside again? or to pull him closer? -- Derek twines his fingers into Peter’s hair and kisses him harder, rolling his hips to press his ass to Peter’s crotch. Finally, finally, it is working, and instead of pushing him away, Peter’s hands close on Derek’s ass and he turns to press Derek into the wall.

It’s not Derek’s first time, but sex with a grown man is different from sex with a teenager, especially when the full moon is coming and tensions are high. Derek may heal quickly but he is sore for hours, and it’s not more than three more hours before he has to prevent another fight.

When Aunt Rose gets home, Derek throws all of his teenage pride aside and crawls into her bed, letting her hold him while he cries.

Soon after that, he meets Kate Argent.

***

When Derek returns to Beacon Hills, he is a wolf without a pack. In the past six years he’s grown bigger, stronger, strong enough to be a beta, if there was someone to replace him.

“There are two ways to get out of being an omega,” Aunt Rose had told him, after those awful two weeks. “You can get replaced by another omega, and become a beta. Or, you can kill an alpha, and become an alpha yourself. People like us, Derek, we don’t become alphas though. Do you know how strong you have to be to kill an alpha?”

Derek is about to find out exactly how strong he has to be to kill an alpha. He’s lied to Scott, manipulated him into helping take down Peter, let Scott think Derek is something other than what he really is, but if he lets Scott kill Peter then Scott will be the alpha. Scott will be the alpha and Derek will be his omega and there will be nothing he can do about it. After six years in New York, six years “on loan” to another pack, six years of beatings and letting the pack fuck him all for Laura, he will not, can not, do it again.

It turns out it’s just a swipe of the claws. You don’t have to be that strong, after all, to kill an alpha.