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hope you know (i won't let go)

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Derek’s been away for almost three years when he’s awoken in the dark of the night by the telltale beep of an incoming text.

Groaning, he flips over the bed and reaches out a hand toward the nightstand to grab his phone.

> Scott, 3:55am: You should probably come back as soon as you can.

Derek frowns. In the three years that he’d been gone, he and Scott have kept in touch here and there but never once had Scott texted him with this request. He has just enough time to shoot out a why, everything ok? before there’s a shrill beep of another text.

> Scott, 3:56am: It’s Stiles.

Derek packs his bag, shoves the extra key to Mrs. Hudson’s half-asleep, half-annoyed face, and is in a cab heading to JFK Airport in less than an hour.

The air is different in Beacon Hills when he breathes in a deep lungful.

Derek’s still got the keys to his old loft so he drives there first, wanting to drop off his bags and change into a new pair of clothes. There’s no doubt in his mind that Scott knew Derek was in Beacon Hills the second he set foot in town, and this proves to be true when Scott texts him ten minutes later.  

> Scott, 4:02pm: Come to Stiles’s house.

There’s a dull ache in his stomach at the mention of Stiles’s name and his wolf whines inside him.

Derek left because he wanted to get away from the bitter memories and the guilt that constantly festered in him in Beacon Hills; he stays away because of Stiles.

It’s a known fact that werewolves, like most wolves, tend to mate. They date around, sleep around, behave like hormonal teenagers, but they know once they catch the scent of their mate, all of that is behind them. It’s an instinct no werewolf can resist, unless they’ve been scarred enough to withstand the needs and desires of their greater half - their inner wolf.

Derek had first caught Stiles’s scent when he was sixteen years old, clutching Laura’s hand so hard he was surprised claws didn’t come out, and in shock of losing his entire family, his pack, in the span of three hours. He was too heartbroken, too traumatized over the betrayal of the person he thought was his mate and over the loss of his family that when he scented a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, and apples in his next inhale, he almost jerked away from Laura. It wasn’t just the apple pie scent; it was that there were traces of home, of love, of carefree wildness that blended together and it made the wolf inside Derek howl.

Kate had never made him feel like that and it was that moment that drove the nail in the coffin; Kate was never his mate. But now, he was about to meet his mate and he could never look them in the eyes because he’d just murdered his own family. So he resolutely turned away, didn’t look for the origin of that scent and followed Laura to New York the next day.

One year later, in the big city of New York, Derek ran wild, fucked anyone who looked at him twice, ignored the way Laura looked at him, and tried to move on. But at night, all he dreamed of was smoke and ash and blood and rarely, the faint whiff of apple pie and home.

The next time Derek breathed in that familiar aroma, he was twenty-three years old, mourning Laura’s death, trying to survive from a rogue Alpha, and barely keeping his head on straight. This time though, he wasn’t powerful enough to stay away and he stuttered to a stop when he practically bounded through the woods in search of the scent’s origin and came upon two boys laughing and shuffling around.

He took a deep lungful and was overwhelmed by what he sensed; the one with the crooked-jaw was a newly turned wolf and the one with the buzzcut was his mate. And well, that decided it really.

After everything that had happened with Peter and the Alpha Pack and Erica and Boyd, Derek had taken one look at the kids who had given up their childhoods, their innocence, their freedom, before deciding that he wouldn’t let them get dragged down with him.

So he left with Cora, dropped her back in South America, and returned to his life in New York until Scott’s text the night before. He’d kept an ear out with the local packs of New York, had asked them if they’d heard of any troubles in Beacon Hills, but they’d all told him the same thing: the McCall pack was going strong.

Truth be told, he has no idea what to expect now. Every inch of his being is ready for a fight. Derek has barely lifted a hand to knock on the Stilinskis’ door when it swings open to reveal the sheriff.

“Sheriff,” he says, the title foreign in his mouth after so long.

John Stilinski looks older and more wearied than he remembers, but the man offers him a smile nonetheless, eyes crinkling in the sides, and waves him in.

“By now, you’ve earned the right to call me John, son,” he says in lieu of hello. Try as he might, he fails to not make his heart flutter at the sheriff calling him son.

The second Derek steps into the house, he knows what’s wrong. Rather, he feels it. There’s another scent in his house, a foreign one, and his hackles rise immediately, claws already extending.

“Put those away, Derek. You won’t need them.”

Derek turns to give him a bemused look, but John points to the second floor and Derek can hear most of the heartbeats coming from Stiles’s old room. With his own heart thudding in his chest and his wolf going batshit crazy at the mere thought of someone having hurt Stiles, he bounds up the stairs, taking two at a time. The door’s open when he practically runs to Stiles’s room and he can hear someone thrashing on the bed, alternating between howling and growling.

He goes in, ready for a fight, ready for the worst, but freezes at the sight of Jackson and Isaac holding a fighting Stiles down as Scott flashes his eyes at him. Allison and Lydia are standing off to the side, concerned expressions on their faces. Time slows down and it takes Derek longer than he’d care to admit to realize a few things.

First, Jackson and Isaac are also back in Beacon Hills. From the looks of it, they’ve been back for a while. And they’re holding Stiles down, struggling to hold him down.

Second, Scott is looming over Stiles, baring his fangs menacingly.

Third, Stiles is…doing the same at Scott.

That’s when his brain resets itself and Derek comes to a thunderous fourth realization. Stiles is a werewolf.

Suddenly, time speeds up again and six pairs of heads swivel in his direction but Derek only stares at Stiles. Stiles who pauses, closes his eyes, takes a deep breath in Derek’s direction. He opens his eyes, electric blue orbs glowing, and growls, “Mate.”

And well - what.

-

They manage to calm Stiles enough to sleep, albeit only after Derek slides into bed and lets Stiles curl into his chest, clutching at his arms. The reaction is almost instantaneous; Stiles’s racing heart begins to slow and he tucks his head into Derek’s neck, taking a strong whiff of Derek’s skin. After that, Stiles goes lax in Derek’s arms and passes out the next second.

Scott fills him in once Stiles had passed out, each one making the effort to at least touch or run their hands down Derek’s arm before bidding adieu. The meaning of the action wasn’t lost on Derek.

Apparently, things weren’t as calm in Beacon Hills as he’d been led to believe by the New York pack, though it was more because of Scott’s desire to contain rumours to Beacon Hills.

“Rumours of dark things only attract darker things and hunters,” Scott murmurs, shrugging helplessly.

“So, what happened?” Derek asks, impressed when he manages to keep his voice steady. His arms are wound loosely around Stiles’s sleeping body, but he aches to wind them even tighter.

In his mind, even his wolf berates him. Look at what happened when you left. Look what happened to our mate. You failed to protect him, Derek. What now? What will you do now?

Scott looks away, biting his lip, his brows scrunched in concentration.

“A lot. After the last issue, we were good for a while. The Nemeton was quiet, we were all at school focusing on that, and then the summer when we got back, it got really bad. Almost overnight, we were surrounded by a few groups of hunters who merely thought of the Code as general guidelines. The Argents helped, of course, but these hunters were bad. They’d hunt werewolves for sport and when they came across ones they really liked, they’d keep them, all chained and drugged.”

Scott pauses, his eyes darkening at the memories and Derek’s heart begins to thud loudly in his chest.

“The hunters would starve the wolves and then set them loose at night. If the wolves killed any humans, they’d chain them up and make it look like one of the local wolves did it so they have a reason to kill them. The wolves managed to kill six people before we were able to contain them ourselves. ”

Derek’s head snaps down at Stiles and his throat dries. Did one—

“One of the wolves they let loose five nights ago turned out to be an Alpha.”

“How—“

“He only woke up a few hours ago. The Spark inside him and the Bite didn’t mix well, obviously.” Scott snorts. He turns to Derek. “He wouldn’t submit to me. He still won’t, but he’s part of my pack and I know that he knows this.”

“So you called me to talk to him.” Derek nods; he can try that. Scott gives him a smirk.

“I called you because it’s obvious he doesn’t see me as his Alpha. Deaton said it has something to do with you.”

“Me?” Derek’s eyebrows shoot up. Scott shrugs.

“His best guess is that the magic from him being a Spark and him now being a wolf is causing all sorts of conflicts in his mind. His wolf might want to defer to me and recognize me as his Alpha but his Spark will tell him that he cannot defer to someone he should be equal to. So his mind is caught in between. But since you’re his mate,” at this, Scott throws him a frown and Derek tries not to make it about him right now, “Stiles will listen to you and follow your actions.”

“My actions?”

“If you tell him to defer to me, he will. If you tell him not to, he won’t.”

“I should, right? I should convince him to take you as his Alpha,” Derek repeats, eyes flickering down to Stiles.

“I want you to do what’s best for Stiles. I’m not blind, Derek. I know why you left and I know why you kept away. So I’m asking you to stop running. Be with someone you’re meant to be with.” Scott gives him a wry smile before getting up and crossing the room to the door. He looks back at Derek with dark brown eyes, bright and understanding. “Be the mate my brother deserves.”

-

It’s three hours later that Derek feels Stiles stirring slowly in his arms and he jerks awake. The sky outside is dark, quiet, like Stiles’s room. The only light comes from the window, white rays of moonlight dancing as they shine through.

“Derek?” Stiles’s voice is groggy and a bit hoarse, like he spent hours screaming and yelling.

“I’m here,” he answers softly, loosening his arms just enough for Stiles to shift slightly and look up at him, blinking owlishly. Stiles opens his mouth to say something but closes it when his brows scrunch together in concentration and slowly noses at his neck, as if unsure whether or not Derek would protest. Derek never could though; the wolf inside him is practically purring, giddy beyond imagination, at finally being able to touch and comfort his mate.

Stiles leans back and once again, his eyes shine a bright, beautiful blue. “You didn’t tell me.”

Derek looks away, tries to swallow the lump in his throat. “I didn’t want to be your ruin.”

Stiles places a light hand on his cheek, guiding his attention back to him. His eyes are big and wide, all open and happy. “Derek, you build me up and make me whole, filling in all my cracks, all my nooks, all my crannies. You can’t ever ruin me, Derek Hale. At least not in the way you seem to think.”

“You’re not mad about me staying away?”

Stiles gives a soft snort, lips curling up in a wane smile. “I’m furious, actually. But I’m prioritizing. If you stay, you’re going to be in the doghouse for days.”

“Dog jokes. Cute.” Derek smirks. “At least I know you’re not brain damaged.”

“Derek—”

“I’m sorry,” Derek blurts, serious again. “I shouldn’t have just left without an explanation or a goodbye. I should have told you what you meant to me. But I couldn’t, not after everything with Boyd and Erica. Not after losing my pack all over again. I thought I was doing the right thing. You get that, right?”

“Yes, Derek, I do. It’s part of why I’m not flying off my rocker right now. I’ve spent too many years wondering what we could have done to make you stay, to make you feel welcome in your own home. Scott and I.” Stiles licks his lips and Derek can’t help follow the motion with his eyes. Stiles looks towards the moonlit sky. “We should have made a lot of things easier for you. We were at fault too and after you left, it took us a long time to understand why. So yeah, I was upset and angry and annoyed that you got to leave and we couldn’t, but slowly, I realized that you deserved to leave. You deserved some peace of your own. And that’s why we never came after you. That’s why we never asked you to come back despite all the shit that went down here.”

“You should have. I would have came back.”

Derek doesn’t say for you, like he wants to, but judging from the small smile on Stiles’s face, he already knows.

“I know. And you did, when it mattered the most.”

“I—“

“I’m not asking for you to jump into this mates business, Derek. I won’t do that. For all I know, you could probably have some person waiting for you back in New York.”

Never. Not after you.

“But if you don’t and if you’re willing to stay for a while, I want to try this. I don’t want to be with you because of some primal instinct but because we genuinely like each other enough to want to be together,” Stiles murmurs, face painted with hope and fear—of rejection, perhaps.

Derek stays quiet for a minute, pondering how best to say what he wants to.

“My mom always told us that finding our mate will be one of the happiest days of our lives because we would realize that we’d found a home in each other. We used to joke and laugh about her, the infamous and stone-faced Alpha Talia Hale being a closet romantic at heart, but we couldn’t deny the way our parents looked at each other and cared for each other.”

The traces of fear begin to fade away from Stiles and a smile unfurls on his face.

“I lost my home to a monster twelve years ago but a day later, I found another in someone who smelled like apple pie and love and happiness.” Derek tightens his hold on Stiles again, relaxing when Stiles practically melts into his embrace, all happy and blissful. “I found my home a long time ago, Stiles. It just took me a while to come back to it.”

“So you’ll stay?” Stiles asks, mumbling in his chest, hands fistful with Derek’s Henley. Derek leans down, burying his nose in Stiles’s hair, breathes in the pure, raw scent exuding from it, and smiles.

“Yes. I’ll stay.”

They have a lot to still talk about; Derek has no idea what to do about the issue with Scott seeing as how he doesn’t even know if Scott is his Alpha, Stiles has to work on his control and familiarizing with his new senses, and his apartment in New York needs to be dealt with yet again.

But as he gazes down at Stiles, none of those things matter.

Derek’s finally home.