Derek doesn’t know why he did it. He’d been wandering for weeks, moving mindlessly through the Holds, trying to get the taste of smoke off of the back of his tongue and the cheering of the Vigilants of Stendarr as his home, his family burned, out of his head. He’d only been in Windhelm for a few hours, resting and drinking Candlehearth Hall, when he hears about a boy, Aventus Aretino, whose mother had been killed. Who had run away from the orphanage in Riften. Who was, supposedly, looking for the Dark Brotherhood.
Derek still doesn’t know why he goes and speaks to the Aretino boy, but he does. And then everything changes.
It doesn’t take Derek long to agree to kill Grelod the Kind after he speaks to the Aretino boy. He’s not part of the Brotherhood. Doesn’t think he wants to be. But he can’t, won’t stand by while there’s a chance kids might be getting hurt. The idea of leaving, of letting it continue, makes his wolf howl and snarl in rage.
So he goes.
It’s not hard to get into Riften, not really, it only takes a glare to stop the guard at the gate from trying to take some of his gold from him. He gets more trouble from a man called Maul, but Derek’s not stupid, he know’s that Riften is Maven Black-Briar’s city. He won’t cause trouble. Well, too much trouble at least.
He settles down at the Bee and Bard for a while. Black-Briar mead takes like piss but its warm and fresh and Derek’s not really there for the drink. A few coins into Keerava’s hand and she and Talen-Jei are more than willing to tell him everything he wants to know about Grelod the Kind.
What he hears makes his fangs ache in his jaw.
Derek can’t help but sigh in relief when he leaves the Bee and Bard, he has nothing against Argonian’s, really he doesn’t, but they always smell so much like fish. Even the ones that don’t live near the water. He sighs again, breaths in air that tastes like blacksmith smoke and the stagnant water of the canal. Turns and walks to Honorhall Orphanage. In the dark his teeth are fangs.
It’s almost ridiculously easy to break into the orphanage. The locks are old and he barely has to try to break them. He’s as quiet as a ghost when he enters. It’s late and the children are sleeping. But he can hear two other heartbeats. He knows that the one toward the back is Grelod’s. So the other must be the other woman, a Redguard, Constance Michel. A kind woman who cares for the children, or so Derek’s been told. He won’t hurt her, but Grelod will die.
Derek could have killed her without her making a sound. Grelod could have died before she even knew she was in danger, but he can’t help but enjoy the terrified scream she lets out when he hunches over her bed, fangs and claws glinting in the light. With the sunken in scent of so many terrified children in his nose Grelod the Kind’s blood is a satisfaction unlike any other.
The cheers and cries of relief and joy he hears from the children as he leaves and they find Grelod’s body only makes it sweeter.
The gasping, overwhelmed thanks the Aretino boy gives Derek when he returns to Windhelm makes Derek smile and he accepts the ‘heirloom’, a plate. It may be worth a fair bit but Derek doesn’t know and doesn’t care. He won’t sell it. He shadows the boy until he returns to Riften. To the orphanage. To Constance Michel’s crushing hug and his fellow orphans cheers and thanks.
He thinks it over then.
He’s nearly at Whiterun when the huffing call from a courier makes him halt.
After confirming his identity the courier gives his a single note. It bears only a black handprint and two chilling words.
Derek doesn’t stop for a long time after that. He moves from Whiterun to The Reach, cuts through Haafingar, only stops at Solitude long enough to have his axe blade replaced before he’s moving again. It’s a spur of the moment decision to stop for a rest at Morthal, but he doesn’t even have time to wake up before the sleep spell puts him back under.
Derek wakes with a jolting gasp. His nails already curving into claws. He’s not in his room at Moorside Inn but he can tell he’s still in Hjallmarch. The distinct smell of the salt marsh still strong.
The first thing he sees when he opens his eyes is a man sitting on a bookshelf, leg idly swinging. He’s wearing some kind of armor, red and black. And a mask and hood that covers everything except his eyes. They’re as bright as the piece of amber he and Laura has found as children. Derek can still remember how it had glowed in the sunlight.
The man’s voice is warm and just slightly mocking, Derek shakes the memories away and looks around. There’s only one room, there’s straw and old blood splatters evertwhere, and at the end of the room are three figures. Two Nords, one man and one woman, and a Khajiit. Derek turns back to the man.
“Where am I? Who are you?”
The man’s eyes dance and his voice is a purr, “Does it matter? You’re warm, dry and still very much alive.” Then his voice turns hard, cold. His eyes razor sharp. “Which is more than can be said for dear old Grelod, hmm?”
“You heard about that?” Derek hadn’t thought that the word about Grelod would spread far enough for the Dark Brotherhood to of heard about it.
The man chuckles, “Most of Skyrim’s heard.” he leans forward companionably, “Some old hag gets butchered in her own orphanage? Those kind of things get around. But hey,” he waves a hand carelessly, “don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing, it was a great kill. And the old crone had it coming. And you even saved some brats while you were at it.”
He leant back, managing to look regretful while his eyes turned hard, “But there is a, hmm, slight. Well. Problem.”
“Problem?” It’s not a question, not really. The Dark Brotherhood lost a kill, and now they’re intending to make a different one instead. Derek’s sure he can kill this man, he’s strong enough. But he doesn’t think he wants to. Something about this man makes him want to curl around him and bite and snarl at everyone else. It’s taking more effort than he’s used to, to stop the shift. He hasn’t been this unstable since he was a child still trying to hunt with his milk teeth.
“Yeah,” It’s almost regretful. “That little boy, Aventus, was looking for the Dark Brotherhood. For me, and my associates. Grelod the Kind was, by all rights, a Dark Brotherhood contract. A kill that you stole. A kill that has to be repaid.”
“Are you going to try and kill me?” Derek can’t help but ask, “Because I really don’t think that’s going to go the way you’re hoping.”
The man laughs, “Kill you? No, no, I’m not going to kill you. But you are going to kill for me.” Derek can hear his smile, can almost hear the slick sound of his mouth sliding open to bare his teeth. He jerks his head back,
“You want me to kill them?”
The man laughs, delighted, “One of them, all of them. I don’t really care. I just want to watch you. However, there is a contract on one of them. So you they can’t leave this room alive, the others,” a shrug, “well that’s up to you.”
Derek doesn’t like having choices, doesn’t like knowing that he has to choose who lives and who dies. He doesn’t bother talking to them, he doesn’t want to know. Just picks up his axe and swings. The blade, still shiny and new, glides through the Nord man’s skull, the woman’s throat and jerks to a halt halfway through the Khajiit’s chest. Derek yanks it out with a grunt and flicks the blood off. Swings it back onto his back. Turns to the man.
“I was right.” The man murmurs, sliding off the bookshelf and slinking over to him. “That was beautiful. Why bother figuring out who the contract mentioned? Just kill them all. So,” A wide, long fingered hand rested on his chest, “obedient.”
Derek shivers under that hand, his wolf aches and strains. “Can I leave?” He doesn’t know what he wants the man to say. Whether he wants the man to say yes and to disappear from his life or if he wants the man to tell him, order him to stay.
The hand slides up his neck, cups his cheek, smears blood deeper into his skin. “Of course,” another hand slips something into his pocket, “but why stop here? Why not take our… relationship to the next level? I would like to extend an invitation for you to join my family. The Dark Brotherhood.”
Derek had a family once, it was large and violent and loving and perfect. He had parents and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and more cousins than he could count. Then one day they weren’t there anymore. A Vigilant of Stendarr had found out what he and his family were, werewolves, and they’d burnt his house and his family and his life to the ground.
He’d had a family. And he’d never ached for anything more than he’d ached for a chance to have that again.
Derek listened in dull silence as the man gave him the directions to reach the Dark Brotherhood’s sanctuary. He didn’t move until the man began to slip away, “Wait!” It was choked, strangled from his throat. The man paused. “What’s your name?”
He smiled, “Stiles. My name’s Stiles. Oh and Derek?”
Derek nodded, he didn’t bother wondering how the man, Stiles, had known his name. Suddenly Stiles was there, in his face, and his mask was down and Derek could see his skin and he had moles and his mouth. What a mouth and-
A kiss, feather soft and lightning fast, pressed against his cheek. “Welcome to the family.”
It’s nearly two months later when Derek finally stops at the black door that guards the sanctuary. He’d stopped at every inn, hoping against hope that he’d wake up and Stiles would’ve taken him again.
He never had.
The same thrumming urgency that pushed Derek to travel straight to Falkreath urges him to knock on the door, so when the door hisses its question at him he doesn’t hesitate to answer back.
“Silence, my brother.”
When he walks down the stairs the first thing he sees is Stiles waiting for him, eyes warm and bright, the sounds of his new brothers and sisters moving in the background and it feels like coming home.