Derek can't count how many times he's had to run for his life - It's just become a routinely part of schedule. There's a little list in his mind that looks like this: 1) Yell at Scott 2) Find out who the Kanima is 3) Tell Boyd 'I'm the Alpha' multiple times in a threatening way to keep his mouth shut 4) Run for life
Because ever since Peter and Kate died - deaths he cannot feel remorse for - the Argents have made his pack a priority to target for what seems twenty-four hours, seven days a week. There's this nagging part in his brain to question this, but it's usually interrupted by him having to save one of incompetent pack member's ass from a hunter. For example? Now.
"Damn it!" Scott hisses in the dark, fumbling around the forest for a hiding place from the bloodthirsty hunters. Seeing as Erica, Isaac, and Boyd seem to be safe - for now - Derek runs to Scott, remembering that this is how Yell at Scott is at the top of his daily To-Do List. When he arrives in the half-shaded forest clearing, Scott is bleeding out from the arrow embedded into his side and slowly removing it.
That's when instinct kicks in: Derek rushes - storms? - over to his Beta, lifts him up from his shirt collar and forcibly eradicates the arrow himself, not missing the ooze of blood and layers upon layers of skin. Scott howls in pain and all Derek can think is Perfect, now the fucking Argents know where we are. And his glare must be translating way because Scott immediately recoils in a sheepish manner that doesn't reflect the life-or-death situation.
A crunching of leaves that would be almost deadly silent to a human ear and a deafening cock of gun - Derek is pushing Scott out of the clearing and shouting "Run!" For once his pack member adheres to his orders and runs at lightning speed, but not before glancing back over his shoulder to gape at the image that stands before him. And in a matter of seconds Scott is out of harm's way and Derek is stuck, sick of running and turns to meet the hunter before him.
It is not what he expected.
The male teenager before him is standing with poise but Derek can feel the stutter of his heartbeat and pick out the almost unnoticeable trembling of the hand holding the gun that is pointed directly at his head. From a single glance, Derek can see that this boy, this child, is not an Argent, but is with them for what appears to be the first time on a hunter's night out. There is a hesitance in his eyes, uncertain and tentative but a hint of the blood thirst that resembles the one of the young Argent girl.
The boy standing before Derek is a killer in making.
Derek is unsure how much time passes before there is a din of voices in the distance - the Argents - and a distant flash of light. The boy does not retreat or move from his position, but there is a flash of panic in his eyes that reads a need to prove himself but accompanied by the thought of not killing, not becoming a murderer.
"Stiles?" The young Argent girl's voice, guarded but anxious, rings in the silence and Derek can only think What the fucking hell is a Stiles?
And then it happens, the boy shoots Derek. But not at his head or his chest or even at his leg, but at his shoulder. There is another shooting, but this time at centimeters away from where he is standing and this is when he understands: This is his chance to leave. Why? Because this boy is not a killer. Well, at least not yet.
The voices become louder as the hunters approach and before leaving, Derek meets the eyes of this hunter, this boy, not able to kill and communicates silent, confusing gratitude before fleeing to meet the remainder of his pack with the sting in his shoulder irritable at best.
"Oh my god," Scott repeats for what feels the millionth time, sprawled out on a batty recliner the kids dug up around the abandoned subway station. On the sofa next to him Erica has her legs propped up onto Isaac's lap as she absently strokes his hair. Looking at Isaac's greasy hair makes Derek frown and think that his pack is need of a bath, but sets aside the hygienic needs are not a point he should be fussing about. "Oh my god."
"Yes, we know, Scott," Erica drawls, but her face is scrunched up in confusion and concentration too, weighing the circumstances and what has just happened.
"But Stiles," Scott repeats, not able to finish this thought once again.
Derek is sitting a few ways away from the pack in a darkened area of the station, watching the wound on his shoulder heal and thankful that the bullet is not laced with Wolfsbane. Boyd is by his side, quiet and calculating as usual but even his normal aura is interrupted by a distinct feeling of perplexity and disbelief.
"This is worse than when he figured out Allison hunted werewolves," Erica exhales and pausing before continuing. "But what does this mean for us? Another hunter in the mix at school let alone one none of ever expected."
Well," Isaac begins and all of the pack turns to listen because of the slow, careful tone of his voice. "What do we know about him? I mean he shot Derek in his shoulder. That doesn't give him a good record as a hunter let alone a shooter, does it?"
Derek bites his tongue, relaying information from his pack. There is no mistaking this: This Stiles shot him on the shoulder on purpose when there had been a clear shot of his vital parts.
"True and the bullet had no Wolfsbane, right?" Erica turns to Derek, who nods stoically. "Then what the hell - He must be training or whatever, right? The Argents are still testing the waters with him."
"But - but - Stiles," Scott splutters, shaking his head and at a loss for words.
"You were friends with him," Boyd finally speaks, not asking a question but making a statement.
Scott swallows. "Yes."
"Then what? What happened to make you two no longer buddy-buddy?" Erica almost demands, sitting a little straighter. "Maybe if you had stayed friends with the kid we wouldn't have another killer in the making on our hands, one that is at school with us where we're vulnerable."
"Hey, I - "
"Erica, Scott," Derek says, using a steady command in his voice to shut his pack up. Erica scowls before crossing her arms and staying quiet, but Scott merely takes a breath before speaking.
"I don't know what happened," Scott shrugs, twiddling his thumbs. "I think... We had a fall-out, I guess. It - it happened after his mom died in the summer before ninth grade. I don't know - He just sort of kept his distance after that."
"And now he's running with the Argents," Isaac says with a wry smile. "What else do we know about him?"
"Stiles," Derek says slowly, almost tasting the name and every pack member's head turns in his direction. "As in Stilinski?"
"Yes," Scott says, taken aback at Derek's sudden speech and recognition with the name. "Do you know - ?"
"The Sheriff's son," Derek says. "The Sheriff, who died from an 'animal attack' last weekend."
That's when the pack understands.
"Wait, he's out for revenge?" Erica is the first to speak and scoffs at the idea of this. "What so the Sheriff's son sought out the Argents, learned about werewolves, and decided we killed his father when it was clearly a Kanima attack?"
"The Argents may be deceiving him to gain another spy and killer," Boyd remarks and Derek silently agrees but there is not just that. A feeling - an instinct - tells him none of this kid running with the Argents bit is a coincidence or chance.
"I can't believe Stiles is a killer," Scott shakes his head and Derek can feel the mix of betrayal and sorrow radiating from the Beta.
"Not yet," Isaac corrects, but sounds slightly as Scott feels. There is a moment when Derek wants to ask what the problem with this Stiles kid becoming a killer is? Yes, besides the obvious but why is the pack upset that it's him? Scott has a former friendship, but what about the others? It seems that even Boyd is joining in on the misery and astonishment.
"Enough of this," Derek declares, regaining the attention of his pack. "This kid is not the focus right now. We still need to identify who the Kanima is. Scott, Isaac, I need you two to stay close to Jackson since he is our number one suspect at this point. But in the meantime, you all can try to figure out what the deal is with this Stiles kid if he poises to be a threat to us."
That night when Scott returns home and the remainder of his pack, Derek stays awake pondering how a helpless, parentless kid can turn into a murderer. Then he crosses his reflection in a clouded piece of cracked glass and remembers.
Derek is parked in his Camaro outside of the high school when the bell rings. Scott and Isaac are skipping lacrosse practice to begin strategizing a full-fledged plan to capture the Kanima. As always he wishes that his pack would emerge from the school without taking centuries and come out immediately when the bell rings.
Derek is tapping his fingers on the steering wheel when the familiar figure approaches from the front doors of the school. The kid - Stiles, he reminds himself - is alone and slightly fidgety, running his fingers back and forth over the strap of his backpack and waiting while dozens of people pass him by. There are a couple sympathetic looks shot his way for his loss, but other than that Stiles might as well be invisible.
Stiles is detached and distracted, his eyes darting in every direction as if he waiting for to be attacked. There is a distinct air of anxiety coming from him that is all too familiar to Derek and it makes him wonder how or why this kid wants to kill when he seems incapable of harming a fly.
It's at that moment Stiles notices Derek, but does not flinch or make any movement. It's funny how less than twenty four hours ago this young, clueless teenager involved himself in a werewolf hunting/killing spree with a gun expertly poised in his hands and missed on purpose.
Stiles stares and Derek stares back.
Out of the corner of his eye, Derek spots the pack appearing from the school. Scott is talking animatedly using his hands and flailing around to Boyd, whose expression remains forever neutral and nods every now and then. Erica and Isaac trail not too far behind, linking arms and whispering secretly to each other and sharing seductive smiles. The moment the pack spots Stiles, each and every one stops walking. Stiles must notice because he breaks his stare from Derek to the pack, mainly Scott, who is nervously chewing on his bottom lip and spouting out words. "Sorry about your loss" and "I hope you're doing well" and "I'm here for you if you need me, man" as if none of them were running around in the forest late last night, playing the never-ending game of cat and mouse with the Argents and now this Stiles kid.
Derek half-expects Stiles to make a scene, but the kid merely nods impassively, displaying a small level of thanks. The pack practically scrambles over to his car, piling in (Scott takes shotgun as usual).
"So," Scott clears his throat awkwardly as Derek leaves the parking lot. "You'll never guess what I found out today."
Derek is stalking through the woods at 2 AM when he hears a girlish squeal. Of course his first instinct is Erica but Erica is a) Not a girlish squealer and b) Safe at subway station with the rest of the pack (Minus Scott, as usual).
There is no immediate sign of danger so he approaches the site of the squeal to find a flailing Stiles, hanging upside down from a wire attached to the tree. Derek's initial reaction to laugh because it's clear this kid is clueless, stumbling around at night and falling for what probably is his own trap.
For a few seconds the two just stare at each other, Derek keeping his distance and trying hard not too seem too smug and Stiles helpless and probably blacking out a little.
"Help?" Stiles says the first words in surrender because he's yeah, about to faint.
It only takes a few seconds for Derek to cut the wire with his claws, but forgets that little part of catching Stiles. Stiles hits the ground, groaning and holding his head in misery and when he shifts on the ground, Derek catches the sight of a gun hidden in his clothing.
But here's the thing: There is not a doubt in his mind that Stiles will not shoot him and if he does? Well, it won't kill him and won't be laced with Wolfsbane. It occurs to him that he should be threatening this kid, telling him to leave and to never come near him again but there is a flicker of seeing that vulnerable expression again that makes him mind set.
Stiles is coming back to full consciousness when he is sitting up, but not without clutching a hand to his forehead and shivering quite a bit since he's wearing only a thin red hoodie. The kid opens his mouth to speak, closes it, and then opens it again to say, "Um, thanks."
Derek can feel the increased heart rate and goose bumps and the sweaty palms itching to reach for the gun so he replies "I'm not going to hurt you."
For a moment Derek regrets his decision and is positive that Stiles is ready to shoot him until he feels the exhale of breath and slumping of shoulders that resembles a man who's been through war. Stiles rubs his eyes and pauses before meeting Derek's gaze and all he can think is Who is this kid and what does he want?
"Your cousin is the Argent girl," Derek says because nothing else comes to mind and he needs to confirm this. Well, he doesn't need to but he wants to (He will never admit that to anyone).
Scott recalled this information to Derek and the rest of the pack while sounding offended and hurt for not knowing this before. "But I mean Allison didn't transfer until our sophomore year so I guess it makes sense... I couldn't have known before." For the next few minutes he comforted himself in this while the others talked about how no one could have ever guessed Stiles and Allison are related even if they do exchange a few, brief words at school.
"What?" Stiles says, his voice raspy and Derek can see the cloud of breath in the air from the coolness. "You mean Allison? Uh, yeah she is. Why?"
"No reason," Derek shrugs. But both of them know the real reason why and that they're both avoiding the subject of matter at-hand, the one about being a werewolf and a hunter respectively. Plus the part where Stiles missed, but Derek decides not to push that. This time.
And then his head is dizzy because what? Did he just think that to himself? This time? Shaking the feeling away, he moves to leave until the kid's voice stops him.
"Thanks," Stiles calls out, almost uncertainly. "You know, for uh, saving me."
"You're welcome," Derek replies even if he's more tempted to reply You already said thanks. "It's late and cold. You shouldn't be out in the forest at this time."
About six seconds of walking later, Stiles speaks again still seated on the forest floor. "Then why are you?"
"To look for a murderer," Derek answers tersely, not specifying what kind.
Scott is in love.
It's kind of annoying, especially since it's been ongoing, but lately it's become worse and Derek has no idea in hell why.
Two hours after the pack is well hidden in the subway station, licking at their wounds from the last battle without any information on the Kanima still, Scott is sighing contently a mile a second. Derek is tempted to slam his head against the wall, but remember self-control and instead lets Erica do it.
"What the hell is up with you?" Erica demands, aggravated while fingering the hole in her shirt left behind from the healed bullet wound. "You won't shut up and you sucked out there today."
Isaac is leaning on the rusty subway looking smug and answers his mate. "Isn't it obvious? Scott's in love."
And he doesn't even fucking deny it. It hasn't been a secret to any of them that Scott has had his eye on Allison Argent since day one even after discovering her family origin and occupation, but it's subdued in the past year. Well, until now.
"Scott," Derek says, his voice filled with warning. "You - "
"I can't fraternize with the 'enemy,'" Scott absentmindedly says with a tiny eye-roll. "Don't worry, Derek. I won't do anything."
"Yeah, he can't because Argent's out of his league," Isaac murmurs while Scott shoots him a look and Erica practically cackles and Boyd is smiling and Derek wonders what the hell he's to do with this pack of idiotic teenagers.
"If it's not Jackson, then who is it?!" Scott whines to Derek, who tenses up before sighing and rubbing his temples.
"I don't know."
The entire pack quiets at this time because this is it, their Alpha has no leads to who the Kanima is and that's it. Erica and Isaac exchange a look before she opens her mouth to speak, "I asked Lydia to translate part of the Bestiary that Scott stole from Allison - "
"Borrowed!" Scott interjects.
"I told her that it was for school and well... It said 'the Kanima seeks a master.'" Erica explains before frowning and continuing. "Whoever the Kanima is? Isn't alone in this. There's a thing or a person controlling it and - "
"If we don't know who the master is we don't know who the Kanima is and can't stop either of them," Isaac finishes steadily but looking as if he wants nothing more than to panic and throw objects everywhere. Derek knows the feeling.
"Two targets," Boyd says concisely as Scott groans and Derek thinks Wonderful, just peachy.
Derek is pissed, but he's also paralyzed leaving him nothing to do but watch Scott handle the Kanima and its master (Matt?) by himself while watching helplessly on the floor. Erica, Isaac, and Boyd are roaming the building but it's only a matter of time before any of them will be injured as well and damn it this is not how it's supposed to happen.
"Why are you doing this?" Scott asks Matt with a shaky voice and his signature puppy glare that intimidates no one, not even rabbits. "You destroyed all the evidence, just leave."
"That's the thing, Scott," Matt spats with a smirk, toying with the gun in his hand as if to be threatening. It's hardly working on Derek and hopefully not on Scott. "You all have been in my way since day one along with those Argents."
Scott visibly freezes and grits his teeth but then deflates and speaks weakly. "Don't hurt her, Matt."
Matt screeches in laughter. "You're worried about her?! Do you not see your helpless little Alpha on the floor, Scott? Obviously pack means nothing to you."
"That's not true," Scott's voice lowers an octave as he grips the chair next to him and bares his fangs. "Leave us alone or - "
"Or what? Or I'll send the Kanima after you, right?" Matt flashes him a winning smile as the Kanima appears but not fully transformed and shit, it's Jackson. Derek hears Scott's panicked breath and it shouldn't be a shocker to any of them, but after the failed test... "And not as if you'll kill Jackson, right? Derek might want to, but you'd never let him. Funny how little power the Alpha delegates over his pack."
Fuck you, Derek internally thinks but instead opts to send Scott what he hopes appears to be a reassuring look.
Erica, Isaac, and Boyd burst into the room at that moment and Derek is tempted to kill someone because now his entire pack is in danger. "Jackson?" Isaac whispers while Erica growls at Matt and Boyd's eyes flash a menacing gold.
Matt simply hoots at this and signals Jackson to kill his pack and fuck, this is not happening. It's almost a stroke of luck at that moment the glass shatters and bullets start to swarm in the air, but missing his pack - Thank god.
"All of you, get out of here!" Derek shouts and he sees Scott move to him as if to help carry him. "NOW, Scott. That's an order!"
Derek hears Erica scream and almost feels her pain as she falls to the ground with a bullet laced with Wolfsbane in her shoulder... The exact spot Stiles shot Derek.
"Erica!" Isaac cries, running to her side and taking her into his arms before darting out of the room for dear life followed by a reluctant Scott and Boyd, who manage to dodge most of the harm.
Matt is hiding under the desk, chanting words to himself and Jackson has shifted back, eyes wide in panic and confusion and nailed to the ground in fear. The venom is slowly wearing away, but Derek is still unable to stand and flee from the oncoming wrath of the Argents.
There is a mix and racket of voices as the bullets die down and Derek catches a glimpse of red before feeling a weakness taking over his body and blacking out.
It's all a bit too familiar, being chained to the wall, but at least he's actually clothed this time. This dungeon is not the one under his own home, but one that is at least a bit cleaner despite being blocked from all natural light and consumed in almost complete darkness.
The chain on Derek's wrist is cutting into his veins, but it is the least of his worries because it'll heal just as it does every time and he waits. One hour passes, then two - or is this all just time made up in his head? - and the scars do not fade nor do the bruises on his arm. The ache in his side is still throbbing and his head weighs a thousand pounds - What the hell is happening to him?
"Wolfsbane." Derek hears the familiar, quiet voice say as a figure appears from the shadow and of course, it's Stiles.
"What?" Derek asks, feeling lightheaded and tasting nothing but copper and metal in his mouth. This isn't normal, is it?
Stiles sighs before stepping closer and there contact with Derek's lips, but it's just water that quenches every dry part of him that feels as if it's dying. For a few moments, Derek is disoriented and panting before his vision focuses on the flash of red and Stiles becomes one, unmoving figure.
"I've been hit with Wolfsbane before," Derek speaks, hating the croak in his voice. "This didn't happen."
Stiles shrugs before retrieving a bullet from his pocket, one that is small enough to be held in an infant's palm and is silver with a golden tip. Holding it in the faint light, he steps back so it catches Derek's eye and it's almost funny how such a miniscule item has reduced him to - to this.
"Wolfsbane is similar to drugs," Stiles explains, tucking the bullet back into the pocket of his hoodie. "It comes in all sorts of forms, with all sort of effects."
"You haven't killed me yet," Derek states, emphasis on the yet. Why is rotting down here anyways? It'd be better for his pride if the Argents - or even Stiles - just killed him here and now instead of ripping his insides out with the grueling Wolfsbane formula.
Stiles doesn't respond but instead sits down on a chair and pulls his knees up to his face, looking vulnerable and alone and young. For a second Derek wonders if the Argents have concocted this plan make him trust this - this kid and trust him but one look at that broken face dispels that idea from his mind.
"I shot Erica," Stiles says more to himself than to Derek. His face is burrowed in his knees and he's shaking slightly as he continues to speak. "But with a Wolfsbane bullet. Not the one Chris shot you with, but the one that is designed to kill within forty-eight hours."
Derek freezes as he recalls his own encounter with that nasty version the bullet and prays Scott remembers what to do to save Erica because he can't imagine losing one of his own. It's - it's unthinkable. It's not an option.
"She'll live," Derek says, not sure why he trying to assure a killer, an honorary Argent. It's probably because he's falling apart in front of him in a full-fledged panic. "Erica's strong. The pack is with her."
Stiles is laughing weakly with a hint of tears in his eyes. "Do you know why I did that? All of this?" Derek knows he isn't talking about shooting Erica or helping trap him in this murky, miserable place.
He doesn't answer.
Stiles tells him anyway.
"I thought - " he swallows away a sob and continues in a shaky voice. "I thought it was you and your pack. The ones that killed my dad? Chris.... I don't know. I guess he convinced me and told me everything. My mother, who died four years ago, apparently she was fucking a werewolf hunter. And she never bothered to tell me or my dad. That's how she died. A werewolf killed her and then I thought one killed my dad."
Derek is quiet, remembering the feelings of vengeance and death creeping upon him six years ago when Kate burned his family alive and then when Laura died. It's an all too familiar feeling that is a drop in the pit of his stomach, burning and heavy.
"Then I learn about Scott and Erica and Isaac and Boyd and - and I'm pissed. But when I'm at the station, I see Jackson as a kind of sick lizard or - or something. It's been him all along and I'd just shot Erica, setting her up for death. It's - it's almost been forty-eight hours." Stiles voice becomes a whisper, but Derek can still hear him loud and clear. "What if she's dead? What if I killed her."
"Don't say that," Derek says, trusting that his pack is taking care of one another.
"I'm a murderer."
And those are the last words Derek hears blacking out for the second time.
Derek still isn't dead.
But Erica? Erica is.
The news travels to him second-hand from Chris Argent, who comes down to tell him with a sick smile on his face. "Some Alpha you are," Chris taunts. It's only for a moment Derek thinks that he is lying. Instead of addressing this, he asks the question that has been burning his mind since Peter and Kate.
"What happened to the Code?" Chris raises an eyebrow at this, as if expecting it simply a throwaway question but answers while choosing his words slowly.
"After my sister," Chris pauses and stares directly into his eyes. "I learned that all of you are killers, no matter what. Funny how the death of your family can change your perspective, isn't it? Just look at Allison, look at Stiles. But I guess - I don't have to be telling you about this."
It stings more than it should because of all he can think of his Erica, the female of his pack who held her ground until the end and left fighting. Out of them all, she had been the weakest and changed into Erica after the bite. Nobody ever mocked her again and now they never will.
Derek feels the need to shift because his self-control is dissolving and every part of him wants to cleave Chris Argent's insides apart, but it's almost as if the chaos inside of his body is preventing him.
Chris Argent's laugh echoes all around and consumes the room, haunting every part of it.
"Face it, Derek," Chris sneers. "Your pack is falling apart and you're stuck here to die a slow, painful death. We win; you lose."
It's ironic that this is the moment in his life that Derek silently agrees with an Argent.
The Argent girl - Allison - is the next to visit him after he wakes up for the second time. In the right light, she is hauntingly beautiful but the way she stares at him is haunting in it of itself.
Derek waits for her to speak first.
But for what seems hours or days, Allison remains silent, not speaking to him but only observing him with almost pitiful eyes. A few times, she opens her mouth slightly to speak but closes it, not daring to communicate words with him.
A part of him wonders when this happened. This girl, whom he'd caught glimpses of before, used to have a smile that could light up all of Beacon Hills, but she's transformed into monster and is still turning.
For a second he imagines what her life would be like if she had not been born into the Argent family. It is a scenario he would play for his own life, pondering who he would be as a human, not a werewolf. Being associated with the word killer and murderer and monster did not help his never-ending feeling of despair and this is when he knows that Allison knows this feeling.
Allison understands how Derek feels.
It's a thought that sends shivers down his spine, knowing that this girl is a younger version of himself, wanting nothing but to be loved and powerful and wanted. For a brief moment he considers telling her that there is no point in wishful thinking because nothing can change who you are, that the bullshit people feed you are lies but that doesn't mean you should give up yourself or try desperately to please people, even your family.
But he doesn't.
Derek isn't sure when Scott, Isaac, and Boyd arrive, but they do. It's only a slight shock that Allison has been in fact helping the pack in this endeavor and blood is spilled from the girl's hand herself - It's the blood of her father.
The weight and the effects the bullet has left behind still burn at his side and play with his mind, but an antidote is relieving him and all at once sounds become louder and his vision becomes clearer and everything is falling back into place.
"Derek!" Scott calls out, signaling the plan for escape, but not before taking Allison away from her father's body and screaming "Come on!"
That's when he manages to miss who is missing from this entire rendezvous: Stiles. Derek almost asks, but thinks better of it and takes leadership of his pack, herding the lot (and Allison) outside of the house.
There is a shuffle of footsteps behind him that must be Victoria Argent, but he runs without looking back and hopes that she is not holding a gun loaded with Wolfsbane bullets because twice is enough for him and he's not fucking losing another member of pack.
For a second it seems all too easy until the police sirens sound and a part of sighs in exasperation thinking Time for me to be a wanted fugitive again.
As Scott drives away from the Argent home, Derek dares a look back and catches the lone figure of Stiles, standing in the stupid red hoodie with an almost crestfallen look. It's all he can see before Scott turns the corner and the pack retreats into the subway station.
It should be becoming better, but it isn't. Derek lets him skip school for a week while he consumes himself in grief, wanting to be alone constantly. The few moments Derek does see him is heartbreaking second-hand.
Scott, who has taken permanent residence at the subway station with Allison whom Derek is still wary of, tries to distract his pack member/friend with talks of lacrosse and college, but nothing can phase Isaac from this.
Derek has lost his family, but never a mate. It must be ten times worse than what he has experience because werewolves mate for life and to Isaac, Erica is irreplaceable. To Isaac, any other person or option must seem impossible and preposterous. Family is forever too, but they're for when you're young and need to be held and fed chocolate chip cookies. But a mate is there in everything that happens after that and a part of Derek can't stand knowing that Isaac will have to face all of that alone, forever.
Erica doesn't have a funeral because her parents have since becoming a werewolf and hanging with Derek rejected her completely, but the pack (and Allison) does gather in memory of her. A fighter and a friend and a mate, Derek thinks.
This is the first time he sees Isaac cry. At first he tries to hide it, but a arm around his shoulder form Derek causes the waterworks to start. After that everyone sheds a few tears, everyone except Derek.
In the corner of his mind, he tell himself he is glad that Isaac is stronger than him or Allison because he doesn't seek out the killer. Stiles is safe from vengeance and fury, but Isaac is still falling apart more and more every single day.
Derek finds Stiles out in the woods alone on a Thursday.
The rest of the pack is at school, carrying on as if nothing has happened - Isaac is still struggling but at least leaving the depths of the subway station if only for school and the occasional lacrosse practice.
It's a start.
Stiles is of all places at the burned, abandoned Hale house, sitting on the steps of the front porch with a blank expression. For a person that is constantly moving or twitching even in the tiniest ways, seeing a still Stiles is unnerving.
Derek contemplates whether or not to approach him. It seems for the most part, he is in fact harmless and under a pool of endless guilt. And Derek? Derek knows the feeling. A part of him is compelled to move toward Stiles if only to sit by his side and say nothing because it occurs to him that he is eerily similar to this broken teenager.
But then he distinctly remembers that he is not the type to do... this. Because he has no idea how to comfort another person or tell them it's not their fault or whatever since he can hardly tell any of that to himself.
The matter of the fact is that Derek is drowning with Stiles, deep in a pit of guilt and misery.
Allison tells Derek that Stiles has returned to school. His initial reaction is to ask Why? Especially since he still speaks little to her, only exchanging a few words when it is necessary.
"I don't even know where he's staying," Allison continues, cleaning up the murkier parts of the subway station in a meticulous manner. "I haven't talked to him. I haven't tried. I don't know if I should... What do you think?"
Derek turns to stare at her, painfully aware of how much she is communicating to him through her hardened, but steady gaze. It makes Derek wish his pack did not have to stay after school for detention after 'disturbing the classroom environment' for the billionth time this year.
"What are you trying to do, Allison," Derek says with a weary tone, no longer wary of her intentions after she saved his life by shooting the Kanima if only slowing it for a second. After all to Derek a second can make or break everything.
"I'm not trying to do anything," Allison shrugs, looking back at the ground where she carefully sweeps up broken glass from the latest, messy training session with the Betas. "I just - I noticed that after Stiles talked to you that night we, uh we, locked you up?" Allison swallows as if not sure she can speak of subject but continues. "There was a part of that kind of fell apart. Well, more than usual. I know it's not your fault, but it's..."
Allison pauses, licking her lips and making a point not to meet Derek's stare. From past experience with humans, he understands why but thinks that perhaps it more than that.
"You comforted him."
"What?" Derek says without delay because his memory of the event is still a bit fuzzy from the Wolfsbane bullet, that apparently Chris Argent shot with an alarming level of accuracy.
"I mean," Allison clears her throat before turning a scarlet red and busying herself with every tiny glass residue. "I might have listened in... But it was an accident. And well, I've never even reassured Stiles too much. I hardly know him as a person or as my cousin. I regret it now, but there's nothing I can change... Anyways, you did. Comfort him, I mean."
"I told him that Erica would live," Derek's mouth becomes dry as he says this, but shakes the feeling and remembers the topic at hand. "I think I said it more to himself than I did to him."
"See, that's the thing, Derek," Allison shakes her head with almost an imperceptible heartbroken smile before turning the other way. "You didn't think Erica would survive."
Derek's head snaps in Allison's direction and for a single moment in time he utterly speechless because what she is implying...
"Erica - was my pack," Derek practically growls, feeling a wave protection and defensiveness. "Why would - "
"You knew that after last time when my aunt - Kate, I mean - shot you, we wouldn't be that reckless about where we kept our bullets," Allison says in an unwavering tone. "And your pack was in no condition to make a surprise attack, especially not without my help."
A part of him wants to yell at her until his voice is hoarse and broken because everything she is implying is making his head ache and pound, the blood in his veins boiling and coming together at a full stop - It's insulting.
"You have no right," Derek says, holding onto his last shred of humanity and remembering his anchor, but for once it may be betraying him. Even more than that, there is a hint of anger toward Allison because all that time she could have saved Erica.
Erica would still be alive.
That's the part that makes him lose every part of his mind and turn into a monster. But thank God for Scott, because he appears out of nowhere while Derek lunging at Allison and stopping him from another lifetime of regret and guilt.
"DEREK!" Scott yells, his voice filled with sheer fear for his Alpha who is losing control, letting the wolf overtake him.
And this is what Derek has reduced to.
That's what makes him for not the first time in fucking life run, run until his vision is a blurred mirage of images and his legs are on fire and for a second he doesn't even know where his body is taking him until he stops at the broken, burned building and drops to his knees and lets himself break.
"We're not going to kill him," Scott insists to Derek who just huffs in response and returns to planning the 'Capture the Kanima (Jackson)' plan. "We're going to help him."
The pack (and no, not Allison who has kept her distance since that incident) is gathered around to contain Jackson. It is a mystery to any of them where Matt is hiding and how he survived, but according to Allison both escaped from sheriff's station. (It doesn't help Derek's self-esteem).
"There's been two deaths since then, but it's been semi-quiet," Scott observes while thinking too hard and making faces. "What's his angle? All of his killings seem to be inconsistent."
"I wouldn't put a plan past him. We're just missing the key pieces," Boyd thinks aloud. "But there are people who just..."
"Are bound to end up on the crazy train?"
Every time head turns to Isaac, who has not made a joke since... There the tiniest quirk of his upper lip and Scott returns almost a wolfish - ha! - grin in return before agreeing. "Well, what Boyd said is true but I think he's just a psychotic killer."
"You don't have to be psychotic to be a killer," Derek says without thinking, but pushing his mind from those thoughts and instead begins directing his pack. "I have a feeling there is a connection between the murders, but we're missing essential information, evidence - "
"That Matt shredded," Scott interrupts, scowling. "What do we do?"
"We wait," Derek sighs, running a hand over his face.
"Or we kill Jackson?" Boyd suggests with a hint of a question. Scott tries to be intimidating with a glare. It almost works.
"Fucking Kanima," Derek murmurs under his breath, feeling close to defeated but keeps leading for his pack because that's what an Alpha does. And Derek?
Derek is the Alpha.
When Matt targets Stiles, it makes sense.
"Law enforcement," Boyd says the two words that makes Derek wonder why the hell he didn't come up with this idea before. But Matt is sneaky and digs deep into the past and brings it back out, killing it along with a life.
"STILES!" Scott screams when the Kanima lunges at the fear-stricken teenager who is defenseless. Or at least, that's what Derek thinks until Stiles pulls out a gun and begins shooting.
The empty parking garage is in the outskirts of the town and it's kind of a wonder what Stiles is doing here in the first place because where does he even live at this point? But the problem here isn't the Kanima or Matt or Stiles. It's Isaac on the ground, bleeding out and holding on for dear life.
No. No, not again.
"Isaac!" Derek shouts, running over to his pack member and taking him to secluded area, slightly hidden from the fighting that Scott is handling well. A spark of pride and misery mix in the pit of his stomach. "Isaac, hold on - "
"Erica," Isaac manages to choke out, spitting bits of blood out as he does and fuck, this is not happening. Derek has lost his mother and father and sister and Erica, but never has anyone died in his arms. And it's not happening for the first time or ever.
"Erica isn't here," Derek speaks weakly, supporting all of Isaac's weight and keeping him from falling.
"Isn't this touching?" A voice sneers and he looks up to see Matt for the first time in weeks looking disheveled and worn, but with a murderous intent in his eyes. "A dying baby wolf with his pathetic, failure of a leader Alpha."
Isaac opens his mouth, but spurts out a violent amount of scarlet blood that soaks his front and Derek's arm.
"Face it, Derek," Matt says casually while pointing the gun at the already dying Isaac. "I win. The Argents killed one and I'll kill this one myself if Jackson's venom doesn't do it soon. Then I'll take the other two and eventually you."
"Your motive makes you look weak," Derek snarls for the lack of a better comment.
"But really?" Matt smirks a little, his eyes flashing in a dangerous manner that just speaks murder. "I have a reason. But you know... After a while, being subtle has grown old. Maybe just killing in itself is what Jackson - I'm meant to do."
Yeah, total psycho.
"You mother-fucking - " Isaac growls almost puppy-like as his body deflates further. Of course the instinct is fighting the venom which is preventing immediate death, but it's still spreading and poison in his veins.
Isaac is dying.
Derek can't help.
Derek is helpless.
Matt chuckles while petting - what? - his gun and moving it to aim at Derek's head. "You know, they saw that normal bullets don't kill werewolves? Well, with my aim and your inability to anything right, how about we test that theory."
Before Derek can even blink there is the sound of a bullet but no pain. And there is Stiles, standing there with a gun in his now-shaking hands and blood running down his temple, but still alive. Scott and Boyd come from behind, rushing past the dead Matt to the dying Isaac who is holding on for dear life.
"Isaac?" Scott's voice breaks as he lets the tears fall. "I - Isaac."
Boyd is eerily calm by his side, but looking solemn and close to a tear or two himself. And Derek is holding his dying Beta, watching the rest of his pack already mourning over a loss that hasn't even been lost yet.
In the corner of his eye, he sees Stiles approach the Kanima - Jackson, Derek reminds himself - and whispers while putting a hand to the scaly palm. "It's okay. You don't have to kill anymore."
"Isaac," Scott is on his knees now, his head buried in Isaac's shoulder and bawling as he trembles with every heave and exhale of shaky breath. "Isaac."
Isaac's mouth opens, adorned in shades of red blood and for a second Derek waits to listen to the last words of his pack member. But the last bit of life leaves Isaac as he grows cold and his eyes still completely and his body slumps.
Scott screams out in agony, feeling the loss of his pack member and friend and Derek sees Boyd shedding tears while biting his on lip to control the inevitable cry that is coming.
Isaac dies in Derek's arms and he never figures out what the eighteen-year-old's last words would have been.
And that makes two.
There is no funeral for Isaac.
The mere thought of having one is a sting of irony as Derek remembers finding the teenager for the first time alone and frightened for his life in a darkened graveyard.
Allison returns to the pack to ease Scott, who cannot spend a single day without bursting out into sobs, his body refusing to obey him. That's when Derek is silently grateful for being absent for the majority post-death mourning of Erica because enduring this once is hell enough.
Boyd rifles through Isaac's belongings, finding an early college acceptance letter from the state university that leaves every single one of them in silence for agonizing hours because even though he probably never would have left, Isaac had an entire future ahead of him. A few days later, Boyd finds the same unopened letter addressed to Erica. And even though Derek fucking made them spend hours running around training and fighting, the pair of them still managed to gain acceptance letters to esteemed universities.
It takes Derek a while to realize that Allison has become part of his reduced pack and that he is accepting of it. After all one of them needs an a human anchor, the simple human love that he can never have.
Derek watches Scott's championship game with Boyd and Allison.
Stiles is nowhere in sight.
Beacon Hills wins.
It's the beginning of February when Derek runs into Stiles at the house in the forest. This time he is adamant on talking to him.
"You shot me in the shoulder," Derek speaks as he appears in front of Stiles, who flails a little in astonishment. Stiles doesn't hesitate to meet his gaze, but in a steady and almost calculating matter before shrugging.
"So I did. Never said sorry about that. Sorry, I guess."
"No, but why did you shoot me in the shoulder?" Derek insists, wanting to the know the answer from Stiles' mouth itself.
Stiles delays a reply, tapping his fingers in an odd rhythm on the front porch stairs he is sitting on. There is ash and dirt gathering on each finger for every tap, but he doesn't seem to notice or care.
"How's Scott?" Stiles asks almost casually, not even trying to transition the conversation to dodge the question.
"What - "
Derek pauses, wondering if Stiles is just throwing words out there or is truly curious. "Scott's fine. Boyd's fine. Allison's fine."
"Good to know."
"Are you going to answer my question?" Derek sighs, becoming just as restless as Stiles seems.
Stiles breaks eye-contact and opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out except for a rush of cold breath in the air. "I'm kind of a mess."
At first he wants to respond Yeah, I noticed but bites his tongue before taking a hesitant step toward him and then settling himself on the step next to Stiles.
"I think I can relate."
The two sit in companionable silence until Derek leaves to return to his pack, wondering if Stiles is safe alone in the woods.
It turns out he's not.
The damage isn't about to take his life, but the blood is everywhere and every time he walks he winces. Derek wonders why he feels drawn to help Stiles, but he does and he takes him back to the subway station where the pack is absent.
"And I thought where I'm crashing sucked," Stiles murmurs under his breath as he settles onto the coach, flinching at the tiniest impact.
"You're staying at that run-down house?" Derek raises his eyebrows, not too taken aback by this information but still amused.
"I still run back to the old place every now and then," Stiles says while lifting his hoodie and shirt to let Derek see the wound. "But I don't know... There's something about that house that feels - "
"Like home," Derek finishes, knowing that this is not Stiles' thought but can't help himself.
"I guess?" Stiles says, recoiling slightly when Derek reaches out to touch the blooded skin. "What - "
"Just trust me," Derek says the words lightly but doesn't miss how much weight they carry, especially for people like them.
Holding his hand to an open blooded wound is not unusual, but there is almost a warmth that fills his fingers as he watches the black in his veins sharpen and crawl up his arm before disappearing.
"Wha - "
"Now that's done," Derek declares, reaching for the depleting first aid kit supplies for bandages, "and I just saved from a lot of infection, care to tell me what happened?"
Stiles frowns, but lets Derek almost gently clot away the remaining blood. "I think you know what happened."
Derek doesn't respond, only grimacing a little as he finds the bullet and retrieves, not missing how Stiles hisses in pain.
"Odd place to shoot yourself," he muses and feels the almost one-second imperceptible freeze of Stiles' body before he shrugs and murmurs to himself, "Not like I didn't deserve it."
Derek spends the rest of the time cleaning up the wound in silence.
"Thanks," Stiles says when he's done and lingers for a moment before asking a question. "How are you, Derek?"
And it's almost as if they're picking up from their last conversation, evading questions and giving pathetic answers.
"Better than you."
Because that is the honest answer.
By the time early spring rolls around, Scott and Boyd and Allison have committed to the local university that is close enough to commute and not dorm. That's when Derek is seriously considering to find an actual home for his pack.
Of course his initial thought is repairing the old burnt down Hale home, but it is dispelled from his mind when he remembers that this pack deserves a home that isn't second-hand or broken down.
And somehow he still finds himself in front of the house on a Sunday evening.
Stiles must hear him this time because he appears from the house, wearing a neutral expression and gun poised in his hand.
"You're not actually going to shoot me again, are you?" Derek deadpans in almost a cheeky manner.
Raising his eyebrows, Stiles lowers the gun and responds, "Thought you were something else."
"No, I'm me," Derek replies, hesitating for only a split second before stepping onto the front porch at a comfortable distance from the guarded teenager in front of him. "You look better."
"Same goes for you," Stiles responds, plopping down on the steps and motioning for Derek to join him.
"So what's with this unexpected visit?" Stiles asks, still oblivious but always trying to act otherwise.
"I can't visit my own house? What has this world come to?" Derek wonders aloud, almost smiling at the taken aback face on the boy next to him.
"You could have told me," Stiles grumbles after a few seconds of stunned silence on his part. "Now I feel... Well, not guilty but yeah, you could have told me."
"I don't have a problem with you staying here," Derek says, amused. "But the main reason I came down here is to see if it's not too late to fix it up. The rest of the pack - Scott, Boyd, and uh, Allison - are staying in Beacon Hills for college and I think they deserve a proper place to you know, live."
"So I guess the big, bad Alpha isn't as bad as he seems?" Stiles barks in laughter almost teasingly. "You don't have to worry about me, I'll move out."
"I wasn't - "
"I'm not staying here anyways. I, uh, got accepted to UC Berkeley."
The silence prolongs and Derek takes almost what feels a decade to nod in acknowledgement and "Oh." Because that's all his mind seems to be able to think at this point. It shouldn't matter too much to him because all this means in that hyperactive, eccentric, probably emotionally-damaged-beyond-repair teenager will be out of his dead family's house. Right so oh.
Neither of them speak for the rest of the day - to each other, or to anyone else.
Derek returns to the Hale house the next day.
Stiles is gone.
Allison asks Derek if he's okay on a regular basis. Although he is the pack leader, the Alpha, Allison is the motherly figure with less nagging and coddling. Of course he wants to say "Yeah" as usual, but this time his mouth grows dry as he can barely manage a terse nod.
Allison isn't buying it.
That's why the last night the pack stays in the subway station, the Argent confronts him Scott and Boyd rest.
"You can talk to me," is all she says while rifling through a pile of clothes, picking and choosing what should stay and what should not.
"Your Scott's mate," Derek states, not knowing why this is his opener but what can you do?
"Actually," Allison's body grows rigid, clenching a cream colored shirt before releasing it in throwing into the "Throw away" pile. "I wouldn't say that."
"Why not?" It makes sense, but maybe there's a part of the picture he isn't seeing properly...
"Yes, I'm here with Scott and yes, I would say we're dating, but - " For a few seconds there is just a huff of breath and the sound of clothing flying and landing in messy piles. "I don't think I'm his mate."
"You're making no sense."
"Derek, you know what a mate is. I'm not Scott's mate, or at least not yet. I think - no, I know, that he loves me and I think I love him and he would do anything to save me, but that's all there is."
"What, that's not enough for you?" Derek asks incredulously, wondering what goes on in this girl's mind.
"I'd like to think a mate is someone you know is there for the forever, you know? The long run. A person you can just talk to about anything and everything with that revelation, that moment where you think 'Oh, there you are. I've been looking for you forever.'" Allison sighs and twists another shirt in her hands. "Maybe I'm just looking for a fairytale ending or Scott is falling short or maybe I'm just crazy - " Derek doesn't dismiss that idea "but I'm not his mate. I'm not."
Allison pauses before continuing in a softer voice, "I think your mate should change you, you know? Not just change your mind. Scott changed my mind about werewolves, but deep down I'm still a killer. That hasn't changed and I don't know if it ever will."
"Okay," Derek nods dumbly, hoping that -
"Why did you bring this up in the first place?" Allison turns to him, a sudden interest sparking in her eyes.
"It's nothing, Allison," he insists, already walking away until her voice stops him.
"You know, Scott tells me you smell like him sometimes," Allison practically teases in that understanding and motherly manner. "It's okay, you know. To feel that way."
Derek doesn't respond and can't fall asleep that night.
The pack adjusts well to the new living quarters, even if it is a work-in-progress. It's almost heartwarming to see the group of three rag-tag teenagers in a complete mess of joy.
It makes him Erica and Isaac.
It, oddly enough, makes him think of Stiles.
"Fuck," Derek hears in the woods one night in mid-May while on a midnight walk. The voice makes Derek's ears perk up in attention and there is a rush of panic until he finds Stiles on the forest floor, holding his ankle in pain.
"Oh, hey there," Stiles says sheepishly, looking almost guilty? "Don't mind me. I just tripped and now I think I have a twisted ankle, but I can - "
"What are you doing here?" Is the only thing that comes out of his mouth and Stiles almost looks offended before replying.
"Midnight walk. Too much on my mind. You?"
Derek nods, as if to say "I know what you mean, me too." There is no point in just standing there so he takes a step closer and then another before pulling Stiles up. The teenager's body freezes before relaxing under Derek's what is hopefully gentle and steady grip and lets himself be led back to the Hale house, now the pack's home.
"You've fixed it up," Stiles grunts as he is hauled up the stairs.
"It's still got a long way to go," Derek replies, entering and helping the boy by his side onto the sofa before retrieving the first aid kit, a regularly used household item for his pack. "This feels familiar."
"Ha," Stiles snorts and holds out his twisted ankle onto the coffee table in response. "Are you going to use your magical wolf powers on me again?"
"Only if you want me to." The gauge has been messily unrolled and re-rolled by a clumsy Scott to Derek's annoyance.
The question was intended to be a joke, not an actual inquiry and maybe he's playing along, but Derek can feel the authenticity of the response and can only nod in response.
"Ouch," Stiles hisses as Derek takes a hold of the damaged ankle but loosens up after the initial transfer of pain that admittedly occurs longer than it needs to. "Thanks."
The remainder of the period is spent in silence as Derek plays the medic and Stiles is the patient for the second time. Derek wonders if this second time will be the last.
"I've decided not to go," Stiles blurts out before flushing and looking away.
"Go?" Derek repeats, playing dumb.
"Yeah, you know to Berkeley."
"It's more why than why not."
Derek wonders if that even makes sense, but doesn't argue.
"As long as you're sticking around," Derek decides to continue the conversation in a casual tone, "will you answer me this now? Why - "
"Did I miss?" Is the interjection he receives, but is not the one expected or would have said himself.
"No, well I was about to say 'Why did you shoot me in the shoulder?'" And Stiles flushes a deeper scarlet this time, blood rushing to his pale cheeks.
Earlier this year, having this kid in his home would be a danger to himself and to his pack despite the appearance of his incapability to shoot, to kill. But now the feeling is almost domestic, almost normal. Derek considers if maybe bringing up this sore topic will ruin what hardly even exists, but holds his breath and awaits an answer or more probably, a change of subject.
"It didn't start out with this reason, you know," Stiles finally speaks, slow and steady as if speaking for the first time in weeks, months, maybe years. "I'm not that person anymore, but all I can think is what I tell myself now." A pause. "I didn't shoot you because - you probably know - I didn't want to become a murderer. And even if I did - eventually, uh, shoot - Erica - I, never wanted to become that person. But I wanted revenge and I wanted to be respected by the people around me because it never happened before."
"What do you tell yourself now?"
Instead of answering, Stiles literally takes Derek's breath away as he leans in for a kiss that is of course, well received on his part. It's funny how Allison is searching for that Disney romance, just like every other human being on the planet, but this? The gauge of band-aids rolling out of Derek's hand as he takes Stiles' face into his hands in the middle of the night while his pack is upstairs probably not even asleep yet? This is enough for him.
Maybe it's because Derek can feel himself changing for Stiles.
"You still didn't answer, you know," Derek says when Stiles runs out of breath, licking his lips and fuck, why would he do that?
"Yeah, I know," Stiles half-smiles before cupping Derek's cheek and coming closer for another kiss. "I'll tell you one day."