A ship was perhaps an odd choice for a werewolf. After all, even though their very nature is bound intricately to the moon, they are beings of the dry lands; creatures meant to roam the deep forests of the north where their thick coats are keeping them warm during the freezing winters. Where snow piles higher than their human forms and where the trees offer their thin skin protection during the sweltering heat of summer. Their paws are meant for the slippery grip of decomposing leaves in the fall and the muddy pits of spring where the scents of prey and pack mingles with the smells of the earth and wind, weaving together to the backdrop of their lives.
Here, with nothing but water for miles upon miles as far as the eyes can see, there is no shade to be had other than what little the sails offer, no room to run, to shift and stretch his legs at a galloping speed. It had been hell the first few weeks confined as he was to his human skin and with nowhere to hide from the rays of the eternally shining sun where even his accelerated healing hadn’t been able to keep up with the reflecting sunrays and he’d suffered through a more or less severe sunburn that had made his skin itch and his gums prickle with the need to shift in the hope it would shield him from the sun. Of course, he’d had to remain in his human form, he couldn’t very well go about shifting in the middle of a crew of humans, not to mention that he deserved much worse than a minor sunburn.
The thing is: Derek is a wolf without a pack and everybody knows that the lone wolf doesn’t survive. So, when the last purple spiral has been placed and with a final goodbye to those he had to leave behind, Derek had made the journey from the deep forests where he’d been born and raised closer to human settlement until he came to a place where the water began lapping at his feet and there was no further to go.
That had been when he’d made his way towards the docks and after a few days he’d managed to get hired, his job mainly consisting of carrying heavy boxes and storing them below deck. It’s mind-numbingly boring and Derek could probably do this in his sleep, but being closer to others is helpful in the way that it calms his wolf.
Derek spends a few years going from ship to ship until one day he sees her. She’s a magnificent vessel, built for speed and Derek longs, wanting so badly to just get away from the crowded docks with their overpowering bad smells, where it’s impossible to keep track of the people around him. He ignores the way people refuse to talk about the ship, how they barely dare speaking the captain’s name and all Derek manages to find out is that he’s called The Demon and that he doesn’t take kindly to strangers.
When the sun rises he stands at the end of the ladder waiting for someone to see him.
So while a ship admittedly was an odd place for a werewolf to end up, and this particular vessel was an even odder place still, at least the crew held enough structure that it felt enough like pack to keep Derek from becoming an omega and subsequently going feral.
Derek sighs as he lifts his hand to shield his eyes a little from the glare of the sun. Being lookout is terribly dull but has the definitive advantage of being out of Seytan’s reach. The captain has been in an even fouler mood than usual these past months, has snapped and yelled and cracked out the whip even faster than Derek has ever seen before in the decade of sailing under the man’s flag. When he hasn’t been seething with white-hot anger he’s been confined to his cabin, bent over ancient maps that Derek for the life of him wouldn’t be able to decipher.
It’s not the captain’s anger that scares him, by now he’s probably far more used to it than is good, no, the thing that had him in the crow’s nest almost before the order had been given is the fact that the rest of the crew (each and every one almost as sadistic and blood- thirsty as the captain himself) is quivering with fear whenever the snap of boots across the deck sound. It’s unsettling to see men and women who revel in cruelty shrink away from what is essentially nothing more than a single man who’d stand no chance against them, should they band together.
On the other hand, Derek’s a werewolf and even if he’s no longer as close to the wolf as he once was he still has the strength of a few men, and even he cowers from the captain’s presence, tries to blend in with the ship and do his chores as inconspicuously as possible.
The tension among the crew is almost a physical thing weighing down on them as they go about the daily chores; pretending that he can’t hear what they’re whispering is tiresome but when he’d heard the sailing master calling the captain an arrogant fool Derek had wished he’d left the ship last time they’d docked and never looked back.
And Derek hadn’t been the only one who heard the waver in the man’s voice when he’d ordered them to hold the course but he had been the only one who knew how much pain the man was in. Days and nights passed without them seeing neither land nor other ships, only just enough wind to carry them forwards and make the waves gently bob the vessel.
Pulling himself from his thoughts Derek lets his gaze sweep the surface of the ocean as far as his eyes will reach. He doesn’t really pay attention, so far there’s been nothing to break the monotony of the sea and the sky and he doubts there ever will be. By now Derek would almost wish it was possible to sail over the rim of the world, if for no other reason than because it would be something different happening.
The thought has barely caught root when he startles. Something dark against the brightness of the sky teases just at the edge of his vision. He sits up straighter, shields his eyes once more and squints. The Lucky Dame slowly pitches closer and Derek’s getting surer that they’re closing in on another ship; even if it’s significantly smaller.
For a while he hopes the other vessel will notice them and break off before he has to announce its presence. However, it never does and Derek can’t keep pretending it’s a mirage so he finally yells down that he’s sighted something.
A flurry of activity and soon the cannons are loaded and everybody else is standing on deck with their flintlocks and swords ready. For now everything is quiet all that can be heard is the water lapping at the ship’s hull and the steady breathing of twenty men and women. Then the other ship is within reach of their cannons and the captain’s voice rings clear through the air and after that it’s chaos.
There’s ringing in his ears when Derek swings across the divide between the two ships; he has no idea what’s happening around him, is only focused on advancing without regard to anything not directly in his way. And then he hears it: over the noise of the battle and the screams of the wounded and dying, a steady beat almost like a drum though even as it fills Derek’s entire consciousness he knows it’s probably not loud enough for a human to hear even without everything happening right now. It draws him, beckons him closer and he’s helpless to do anything but follow pushing everything and everyone aside when they try to stop him.
He’s finally stopped by a door, but the lock is flimsy and the wood fresh and it’s hardly a challenge even if he’s weaker than he would’ve been with a proper pack, so he reaches, grabs, yanks, and the door is no more.
It’s as if a switch has been flipped and all the world falls away, leaving only the steady heart beat belonging to the young man tied to a chair in the room behind the door. There’s barely any light but Derek doesn’t need it to see that he’s breathtaking. His skin is pale and smooth dusted with a few beauty marks, his jaw’s firm and barely graced by stubble, lips pink and full, nose slightly upturned. Derek stops at his eyes: Large and amber colored they stare straight into his soul until Derek is flayed open and there’s nowhere left to hide. He can’t tear his eyes away though, can only drink in the sight before him; later he will wonder at the lack of fear in the man’s eyes, the lack of it in his scent, which had been all honey sweet and sea salt sharp unlike anything Derek has ever encountered before.
He’s almost managed to convince his foot to take a step forward when a hand on his shoulder stops him, the captain’s shrill voice congratulating him for finding what he’s been looking for for years now.
Quietly he watches as the captain moves in front of the man, with a quick flick of his wrist cuts through the ropes holding him before grabbing his arm painfully tight and dragging him back to The Lucky Dame; for the first time in too long there’s a faint howl in Derek’s head, echoing the sadness he suddenly feels.
He doesn’t talk. He does scream though; a blood curdling, gurgling, guttural sound unlike anything Derek has ever heard before and that he hopes to never hear again. It’s almost two days before the captain steps onto the deck again, the last remnants of the final scream still rattling around Derek’s brain as he desperately tries to shake it loose in the hopes of not having to listen to it any longer.
So preoccupied that he never notices the snap of boots getting louder until a shadow falls on him where he sits carving intricate patterns into a piece of wood that had once been a part of a door ripped off its hinges.
Slowly Derek raises his head, anticipating one of his crew mates standing behind him though as soon as he realizes it’s the captain he’s scrambling to his feet, thoughts running through his head as he tries to figure out what he may have done to catch the man’s attention. Even a decade in and Derek has thankfully rarely been at the center of Seytan’s attention.
The captain is close to seven feet tall, thin as a reed though deceptively strong (Derek had seen some of the bodies left in the captain’s wake and not even he would not be able to do things like that to human bones), his skin is almost white as snow though these days it has upgraded to the color of pale eggshells as they’ve been at sea for far longer than ever before, and his eyes are a blue so pale it almost feels like fire where his gaze rests.
“Clean him up,” the captain orders, his voice shrill in a way Derek thinks should be comical but somehow adds to the menacing vibe emanating from him, and without waiting to see if his order’s being followed, he keeps walking, making his way towards the ship wheel where he’s soon engrossed in conversation with the sailing master.
The smell is repulsive, even for one who’s had years to get used to the stench of blood and other bodily fluids nobody has control over in neither death nor pain; someone with enhanced senses who’s spent more than a decade living in the close quarters of a ship’s bowels shared with fifty - and often times more - men and women.
The sight has Derek’s stomach turning and bile rising in his throat and he turns on his heel to get a bucket of water before he upheaves his lunch on the cabin floor.
It hasn’t gotten any better once he returns but this time he’s braced himself for it and manages to repress the urge to vomit even when he’s close enough to the prisoner to touch him. Once again he’s tied to a chair though this time unlike last he’s completely naked and his body’s littered with marks and gashes, some deep and new enough they’re still bleeding, most done with the captain’s trusted whip though maybe a tenth are clearly from a blade. Something extra for the places where the captain apparently didn’t think the whip did a good enough job at trying to pry whatever answers he was hoping to get from the prisoner.
Derek’s never been all that talkative, not even when he lived in the great forests half a world away, and even if he can feel the words forming and getting stuck in his throat, he makes no effort speaking them, doubts there’s anything he can say to make this easier for the man in front of him and unwilling to make empty promises no matter how badly he wants to. Slowly he dips the rag that he made from his own shirt (the cleanest piece of cloth he could find) and dips it in the bucket. He’s careful not to spill as he wrings it out, even more careful when he reaches out and touches the rag to the man’s forehead. Slow and gentle in a way he never thought himself capable of, he wipes the dried blood, tears and snot from a face he didn’t know he’d been missing so badly until it’s just there; pale as moonlight and with amber eyes glowing almost beta golden in the light coming from the lamps hanging on the walls.
Derek’s hand slows at its own volition rests against the apple of his right cheek and his eyes caught by the other man’s. The world comes to a standstill and all Derek can hear is the rush of blood in his ears (though it might be the swell of the ocean, he can’t be sure) and a barely there whisper of a voice that feels both painfully familiar and dreadfully unfamiliar, and Derek feels like crying when he’s unable to decipher the words it’s trying to say.
There’s movement against the palm of his hand and Derek realizes he’s closed his eyes as he opens them and is met, not by anger or hatred or anything else he’d have expected but rather a sense of wonderment, a softness to the stranger’s gaze Derek in no way feels he’s deserving of, and as his eyes drops - those golden orbs feel far too observant for Derek’s peace of mind - he can see the slight curl at the corner of the man’s mouth as if he’s trying to suppress a smile.
Derek isn’t sure what finally bursts the bubble, but it’s only a matter of seconds after that the noises from the ship and the crew are hammering against his ears and the shrill of the captain’s voice pierces the calm that had settled on him. Without wasting more time he hurriedly - though thoroughly - cleans the man, wondering how and why he’s ended up here.
Since the death of his pack Derek has been a light sleeper. It has saved him more than once from unpleasant pranks, once even from a knife to the gut - something he’d most likely had survived but would’ve had trouble explaining after healing within the span of maybe twenty-four hours. But this night, with the moon hanging low and pregnant above their heads he sleeps like the dead: Peaceful and still for hours upon hours. There’s no one to notice this unusual behaviour as the rest of the crew is either on deck or sleeping in their own cots, not paying any attention to Derek.
And then comes the dream.
He’s standing in a clearing he knows like the back of his hand, the wind in the trees the only sound and the bite of the chill autumn wind against his bare skin. The forest floor is firm beneath his bare feet, the grass tall enough still to tickle the skin at his knees. It’s night but hardly dark beneath the silver rays of the full moon and as the pull becomes too much to resist he breathes and where there was once a human is a large, black wolf.
Derek’s never been able to shift into a full wolf outside of his dreams, and even there it’s usually accompanied by agony and the crunch of bone rearranging themselves; rather than worry about it he throws back his head and howls.
It echoes through the trees, another sound to the cacophony of the forest at night though once the echo dies out he doesn’t howl again but rather chooses to wait patiently. He’s not sure what for, but there’s anticipation in the air and Derek can be patient when need be.
He can hear the footsteps before there’s even the faintest trace of a scent but his ears still perk up knowing this is what he’s been waiting for. The boy is ethereal, his skin luminescent in the moonlight a few dark spots where Derek knows the skin is dotted with perfectly shaped moles their sole purpose for him to trace the constellations they resemble. As he gets closer Derek’s nose fills with his scent: Cold, salty and strange interlaced with the smell of danger not unlike the ocean his mother once took them to see, but he also smells like warmth and home and not like a threat so Derek remains seated, tongue lolling from his muzzle as he tries to look as friendly and welcoming as possible with a maw filled with teeth sharp enough to tear through the muscle and bone of prey both bigger and far more dangerous than anything human shaped.
The boy sits down beside him, his head resting on Derek’s shoulder and his hands buried in Derek’s fur and it’s quiet and peaceful just the two of them sitting there, breathing each other in.
He wakes with a smile, can still feel the phantom of long fingered hands in his fur and as he rubs his eyes, he realizes this has been the easiest full moon since he fled the woods he’d grown up in and especially since joining The Lucky Dame.
Derek goes about his day as always, keeping his head down while doing the tasks the rest of the crew deems beneath them. He’d usually spend a good deal of the day in the crow’s nest but it seems the captain doesn’t deem it necessary to have a lookout for the time being. He finds that he misses it, if for nothing else then because it kept him out of the crew’s reach; still once he’s done and there’s still a little daylight left he sits at the same spot he chose yesterday and pulls the piece of wood from his pocket once more and begins to carve.
When the sun sets and the bell sounds calling them for dinner the captain storms from his cabin, his jaw clenched and hands drenched in blood and Derek’s surprised when he’s able to hear the steady beat of the prisoner’s heart. He remains where he is, letting the rhythm of the waves lull him to sleep.
He opens his eyes in the same clearing the greyish tinge to the world that is the wolf’s vision and warm hands scratching behind his ears. A deep, satisfied noise rumbles through him as he moves even closer to the smaller body next to him. They sit like that for hours content in each other’s company until the boy begins talking.
He’s painting images of words and breathing enough life into his creations that Derek can picture it vividly; the boy tells of his mother who succumbed to an unknown illness, his father who keeps the peace in their village (it’s not the word the boy uses but Derek thinks that’s what he means) and his best friend that he’s known almost since birth and they’re as close as brothers.
The boy even tells him his name but in this form Derek’s tongue can’t twist and bend the same way the boy’s can and laughingly he tells him to call him “Stiles.” Derek’s sad he can’t offer his own name in return but Stiles simply smiles at him before hiding his face in Derek’s furry chest hugging him tight; they sit like that for the rest of the dream.
Derek’s not stupid, and it doesn’t take him long to figure out that “Stiles” is somehow a younger version of the prisoner in the captain’s cabin. He has no idea how it’s even possible, there’s none of the repulsive smells Derek associates with witches and their magic nor the smell of thunderstorm that used to cling to his mother’s emissary or the petrichor in his aunt’s scent that had marked her as gifted. However, it doesn’t change the fact that Stiles is a prisoner that somehow has made it into Derek’s dreams, in which Derek’s capable of the full shift.
The longer Stiles is on board The Lucky Dame, the longer he and Derek spend time together in the dream. When he’d first made the connection, he’d briefly contemplated telling the captain, wondering if it was maybe possible to communicate in his wolf form and asking whatever questions Seytan’s still hoping to have answered (his anger has reached new heights and nobody is safe from the bite of his whip and a short lived rebellion had resulted in three empty cots) but he’d discarded the idea before it was even fully formed. Derek may not know what the captain’s looking for precisely, but for Stiles to resist whatever torture he has to endure for so long it’s clear that everybody’s better off with Seytan never finding out.
But also the longer Stiles stays in that cabin the more often the captain’s in need of someone cleaning up the mess left behind by the prisoner, and somehow Derek’s the one appointed for that particular task.
The man’s getting thinner with each passing day and his skin has a decidedly unhealthy tone to it. He doesn’t smell sick or at least not in the way Derek link with humans being sick, but he does somehow smell less than what he did back at the other ship, even than what he does in the dreams. There’s nothing much Derek can do about it, though, short of killing everybody aboard The Lucky Dame at least, and that would just leave the two of them stranded here with no way of saving themselves any way.
So rather than freeing Stiles Derek begins doing what little he can to make the man a little more comfortable during the time they spend together in the tiny enclosure of the cabin. He starts saving the pieces of bread he’s handed for lunch, holding the stale slices to chapped lips silently urging the other to take a bite. Despite the burgeoning friendship growing between boy and wolf the man still eyes him warily as if he’s not sure Derek’s the wolf he’s been telling stories for days now.
“Derek,” he says, his voice raspy with disuse and he feels stupid standing here with a slice of bread held at another man’s lips, but it somehow has the desired effect as Stiles opens his mouth and takes a bite of the proffered bread. Derek’s not really sure why it prompts the reaction from him that it does but he feels like bursting into song as the man keeps eating until it’s all gone - he doesn’t though, just lets the corner of his mouth curl into a tiny smile.
When Stiles is done eating Derek once again dips a rag in the bucket of water he brought with him and carefully cleans off his skin, mindful of every wound marring the skin and with his fingers hovering just out of reach where he desperately wants to trace the moles that still looks like stars.
It becomes their routine: Stiles talks in the dreams they share while Derek in his wolf form is lying quietly at his side; hands petting the dark fur and scratching behind his ears making his hind leg kick out and his tail swing in eagerness. Sometimes they tumble around on the grass, play fighting and growling at each other (Stiles’ growl not as impressive as Derek’s but pretty good for a human) chasing each other around the clearing until they fall into each other in an exhausted head of fur and skin using each other as a softer pillow than the ground they’re lying on.
Derek talks in the cabin, his voice low and his words coming haltingly. He hasn’t really spoken for years and more often than not the words get stuck in his throat until his frustration grows and he’s reduced to growling whines; for some reason this seems to amuse Stiles to no end and whenever Derek dares meet his eyes when the words are stuck all he sees is quiet encouragement.
Derek tells him about his pack three days before the full moon. His alpha mother, majestic in both her human and canine form, his beta father who would sing and dance while cleaning and cooking. His older sister Laura who would one day be his alpha and was studying hard for the mantle of responsibility she’d been born for even if she always had time to tease her brother or just hold him tight when his control failed again.
He tries to tell about Cora who was so eager to go on her first full moon run and his little cousins who were just coming into their second set of teeth and thought everything within reach was meant for them to bite on. He cries. Kneeling in front of Stiles, his hand still on the man’s thigh as he just falls apart.
There’s the phantom touch of arms around him, the ghostly breath of air on his cheek and the faint sound of a voice he thinks he should know that he strains to hear but remains just a little too far away for him to decipher. For the first time Derek doesn’t finish the task he’s been given.
Stiles doesn’t mention it that night and Derek briefly wonders if he’s the only one who remembers, but then skinny arms wrap around him, solid and real even here, and hugs him tight and it feels as absolution in a way he didn’t realize he was hoping for.
He’s furious. No matter what he’s thrown at the brat he keeps resisting.
His boots snap against the deck as he moves from forward to aft. He’s tried everything: the whip, the daggers, flintlocks even his fists. And all he gets are those horrible screams that somehow doesn’t provide the pleasure he usually derives from such things but not a single useful answer, despite the amount of broken bones and bleeding wounds.
He’s not sure what possesses him to stop at the cabin door but once he hears the voice he can’t stop the cruel smile forming on his lips. It’s all about pressure points and he may have just found the perfect one.
For once he joins the crew for dinner, sits next to the sailing and quarter master and is soon caught in a conversation about the future, which suddenly seems bright enough that he doesn’t even want to crack out the whip when a woman stumbles and empties her mug of rum on him; bright enough that instead he opts to share her cot for the night, and once he’s spent and surrounded by the sounds of snoring sea men he uses the darkness to come up with a new plan of attack.
He’s back with the first rays of sun hitting the ocean surface. The prisoner still naked and tied to the chair as he was left, though there are no longer any wounds marring his skin and no other marks than the moles. He takes the other chair and places it in front of the prisoner before sitting down close enough for their knees to touch. He reaches out his hand, fingers thin like a spider’s legs where they skitter across bared skin getting closer to the soft, vulnerable parts of the prisoner as he himself leans closer, too.
“I know,” he says, smile cold when he sees the first hint of fear in amber eyes that until then has been completely devoid of emotion.
As the sun climbs higher in the sky he talks and talks and talks. He’s impressed with the level of control the prisoner exhibits but he’s caught onto the terror by now, revels in it and he uses his words with the same precision he swings his whip, with the same speed he wields his daggers and the same ruthlessness he fires his flintlocks. Anybody will break under the right amount of pressure and he’s gleefully aware he’s just found it.
”I love you,” he chokes out. His feet are hurting, a shard of glass still embedded under the newly healed skin and every tiny step across the plank is agony; though, no matter how much he’d like to pretend it’s only because of the recent torture of his pseudo pack, Derek’s keenly aware it has nothing to do with that and everything to do with the knowledge that he’ll never again look into those whiskey golden eyes, never feel the soft skin under his hands or trace the constellations on Stiles’ skin.
He couldn’t stop the tear making its way down his cheek even if he wanted, but by now it doesn’t matter if the captain thinks it’s a sign of weakness, doesn’t matter if he’ll think even less of Derek for it. This is the last time Derek will look upon his love and the thought is so devastatingly painful that he needs the physical outlet of tears almost as much as he would’ve preferred his last look of the man to not be blurred around the edges.
The crew’s sneers almost feel like a physical weight on him, the captain spewing bile and where Derek would’ve cared maybe as little as a week ago, by now it’s like water off a duck’s back, doesn’t even register as he desperately tries to get one last whiff of Stiles’ scent, the puzzling combination of sea salt, sunshine and something cold and dark that shouldn’t be as soothing to his wolf as it is. For however short he has left he wants Stiles to be the last thing to fill his senses, hoping against hope that if he breathes deep enough while still surrounded by air it will be enough to overpower the ocean’s embrace once he breaches its surface – logically he knows it won’t be, but it doesn’t stop his nostrils from flaring nor his chest expanding as he tries to fill every cavity in his entire being with Stiles.
Derek hardly even registers the sword poking at his stomach, forcing him back towards the watery grave they intend for him. Barely notices the fact that his feet are moving in a futile attempt at avoiding the danger from the sharp blade mindless of the even bigger one behind them; all he notices is the fact that the man he’s known so shortly is getting further away from him, the frown marring his forehead like a gash across the unblemished skin. And then there’s nothing but empty air beneath him and Derek doesn’t get any more time with the love of his life as he almost instantly breaks through the water, sinking like a stone.
It feels as if time stops and the world stands still. For a second Derek can see the sky above him, a fleeting thought that maybe he’s simply floating on the surface of the water and any second now he’ll see one of his crewmates’ faces looking over the rim of the ship and upon noticing he’s still there – still alive – they’ll start shooting at him with their flintlocks to rectify their oversight.
Derek doesn’t get to worry about that for long as the pain of the cold water at last registers in his brain, a million little pinpricks through his clothes already dragging him further down and he closes his eyes, doesn’t want to see the darkness closing around him, wants to bask in the light that is Stiles and happier times for just a little while more before his final, reflexive breaths are going to kill him.
He doesn’t hear the deafening scream of a million seagulls, doesn’t see the darkening of the sky as lightning plays across the blackened clouds, thunder rolling ominously in the distance. The brush against him registers but he writes it off as seaweed or maybe some sort of jellyfish and as such never sees the mighty tentacles shooting into the air, some gripping the majestic ship tossed around by the violently rolling waves and tearing it apart while others are lifting the pirates into the air - the humans nothing but tiny bugs compared to the massive limbs – before bringing them down, down, down, beneath the surface of the ocean, further down than Derek has made it so far, all the way to the bottom of the ocean where the sight of the creature the tentacles are attached to would be enough to drive anybody insane. Luckily for the men held tightly by the creature, they are by now either unconscious or already dead and thus are spared the sight of it opening its beak-like mouth before devouring them all.
Another brush against him, this time light and not even hundreds of fathoms of water is enough for Derek to not recognizing Stiles’ touch, so he opens his eyes, thinking that if he gets to have Stiles in death then there’s nothing to be afraid of, no reason to try and keep it at bay. So he opens his mouth to welcome the water into him, to make it go just that little bit quicker, only to be stopped by petal soft lips against his, a set of strong arms wrapping around his torso as the water around them gets lighter even if Derek still can’t see the sun.
Derek’s disoriented with a lack of oxygen that’s not nearly as severe as he thought it would be by now, not that he can tell how long he’s been under other than he gets the distinct feeling that he shouldn’t be able to breathe (and he does, he can feel his lungs expanding, can feel his heart pumping blood through his veins) not to mention that he in no way, shape or form should even still be alive. It’s all too much to process and he can’t help but be grateful when his mind simply comes to a screeching halt and plunges his entire consciousness into the darkness.
Derek wakes up. Which isn’t something he expected to, but maybe he didn’t so much wake up as he’s in some kind of afterlife? Maybe he’ll even get to see his family again, though he hopes they’ll be willing to forgive the choices he made after their untimely deaths. With a groan - and really, should there be pain in the afterlife? - he gets to his feet but as he finally looks around he finds he doesn’t dare to take a single step from where he’s standing.
Only just big enough for him to lie on what he thought was dry land is a tiny spot of dirt surrounded by the ocean. As he adjusts to the reflection of the sun he notices a dark spot in the water coming closer to where his feet are almost touching the water; when it breaches the surface he stumbles back in shock because there, hoisting himself onto the tiny hill is Stiles, beautiful; vibrant; alive Stiles - though he’s not as tall as Derek would’ve thought, only comes up to his waist because Stiles’ lower body is shaped like a fish’s tail. Derek has probably gone insane and if he just closes his eyes everything will be back to normal when he opens them again. He’ll be back in the crow’s nest with his growling stomach because somebody had taken his food, or in the unpleasantly damp and piss stinking cot that he’d called his own or maybe even on his knees scrubbing the deck with his crewmates making lewd suggestions of other things he could be doing there.
Derek opens his eyes again, preferring insanity to the reality he’s known for too long.
Stiles is still there, though, his amber eyes bright with the smiles stretched wide on his mobile mouth and Derek is helpless but to return it (like it feels its always been), which makes Stiles’ widen even more. They don’t talk, simply stare at each other for so long though Derek’s aware Stiles’ hands are doing something but he can’t care enough to look away from his eyes long enough to try and figure out what.
When Stiles stops moving he grabs Derek’s hands urging him to follow. He thinks he should probably panic - werewolves don’t have the ability to breathe underwater - but he would trust Stiles with his life, so he follows. Somehow he’s able draw air and when Stiles lets go of one of his hands Derek lifts it to his neck because it feels somehow different and is surprised by the touch of soft skin kind of fluttering in the water; he raises a disbelieving eyebrow: Apparently Stiles has given him gills.
The man just smiles at him and keeps moving forward and Derek has no other choice than to follow. He’s not a very good swimmer and soon Stiles is practically dragging him with him and it takes forever before he slows down enough for Derek to look around.
The water’s bright and clear, there are fish of every kind (many more than Derek even knew existed) some in huge schools and others swimming by their lonesome; jellyfish, corals, seaweed and a billion other things that Derek has no idea what is; none of that matters when Stiles parts something akin to a curtain made of seaweed behind which lies an entire city seemingly made of gold and precious stones.
“This,” his voice sounds exactly like Derek remembers from his dreams, “is Beacon.” He laughs at the look on Derek’s face, but soon it falls and he grows serious.
“Seytan was banished centuries ago for trying to start a war that would’ve killed all life beneath the ocean.” There’s a sheepish look on Stiles’ face.
“I suppose that’s why it’s forbidden going to the surface,” he shrugs before breaking out into another grin. “I can’t wait for you to meet my dad. And Scott. And everybody.”
Derek has no idea what the future might hold, has no idea if he even has a future once Stiles’ dad hears about Derek’s part in the things happening to his son in the past month, but he never hesitates when Stiles beckons him to follow.
All Derek can focus on is the way his blood sings and his wolf howls and the enticing smell of Stiles’ happiness as they get closer to the palace in the middle of the golden city.