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Let it break or you'll never breathe

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The relief and realization that it's really over now only hits about an hour after the anuk-ite is gone. They all decide to try and spend the rest of the night breathing again and winding down from it all. A few of them are still shaken up, especially from being turned to stone, but they're mostly used to it by now. 

Scott checked in with his mom at the hospital on the way back from the school. She seemed fine for the most part; when he left, Argent was still with her, and he's confident that she'll be alright.

He wouldn't have left at all, but he needed somewhere quiet to process, to think. Or not think, even. But the thought of being alone wasn't really one he liked, and with his mom still at work, his own house out was ruled out as an option.

He would have gone with Stiles to the station but he's only been back a few hours and it felt better to give them some space. Even Lydia had her mom to go and talk to at home, Malia with Peter, and honestly, being alone sounded better than trying to process everything with Peter less than five feet away from him.

So, when Derek offered he come back to the loft with him, he said yes. He didn't exactly have anyone else either, and Scott can imagine how big that loft must feel, especially after the anuk-ite dredging up their biggest fears.

That's one of the things Scott's actually trying not to think about. It's a lot harder than he thought it would be. The way it knew exactly how to get to him. A part of him thought, before he went into the library, that he knew what was coming. He was sure he knew what his biggest fear was, and he was ready to face it. In the metaphorical sense, obviously. 

It proved him wrong. The second it spoke to him in that slow, twisted version of a voice he's heard since he was four years old, something broke inside of him. The rest that followed only made it worse. Which is exactly why he's not supposed to be thinking about it.

He drops his head into his hands, sighing quietly. They're just sitting in silence, the loft lit by the soft lights Derek must have got installed on the walls. He's been moving back and forth every now and then, going up the stairs for a few minutes, heading over to the little kitchen area he has in the corner. Scott hasn't moved once since he sat down on the couch. 

He stays like that for a few seconds, trying to push it to the back of his mind. It's like it's refusing, staying in the front of his mind. If anything, he's glad that he never actually saw any of it. Unfortunately, that just means his mind gets to fill in the blanks for him. 

A noise from somewhere in the loft comes as a welcome distraction, even if only for a second or three. His hands fall to the back of his neck as he lifts his head back up. Derek's in the process of standing from where he's been sitting on the edge of his bed for the past five minutes or less. He can't seem to stay in one place for much longer than that.

Scott's eyes follow him across the room again, watching him with his back turned to him. There's still a little bit of dust on his shoulder from the stone he was encased in, standing out on the black shirt. He just stares at it for a few seconds until his eyes start to burn again at the backs. 

Looking away, he rubs a hand over them. It's been happening since the anuk-ite. The sharp pain that shoots through them every so often, that same burning he felt back in the library. It's like there are still claws digging into the both of them, tearing them apart until he can't see a thing no matter how wide he tries to open his eyes. 

He quickly pulls his hand away and blinks, looking around.

His stomach swoops, then twists almost painfully as the kick of relief settles back in. His shoulders slump as he looks around the loft, lingering on the twenty-foot window on the wall across from him.

Even the sight of the rain pouring down and the tall, brightly lit buildings standing out against the dark sky is a welcome one. A reassurance. 

The silence of the loft is broken with a startling knock at the door. The noise seems to echo as his eyes go to Derek, the both of them tensing. Derek glances over at him, a wary look on his face. 

He takes quick strides to the door as Scott focuses his attention back on the window, deeming it as probably just another member of the pack. The scent's familiar at least.

The door makes that dragging noise as Derek slides it open. What follows is the sound of someone choking and the slam of their body presumably hitting something. Something hard.

Scott's eyes snap back to the door and they widen. He's on his feet in a second. 

"Derek, what are you doing?!"

He has one hand wrapped around Theo's throat, keeping him just a couple of inches off the ground as he presses him into the wall. Theo tilts his head back, obviously trying to adjust to the pressure being applied to his windpipe. If anything, all it seems to do is make Derek squeeze harder. 

"Give me one reason I shouldn't kill you right now," he says through his teeth, his voice dangerously low as he ignores Scott's question. 

Theo doesn't even seem surprised by any of it, just trying not to struggle too much and end up crushing his own throat by accident. He doesn't get the chance to defend himself, Scott already jumping in as he starts moving over to them, slow and careful. He eyes Theo with a touch of worry.

"Derek, let him go," he says. "He helped us, remember?"

"Yeah, to save his own ass," Derek shoots back. "He's not our friend, and he isn't our ally. He would have thrown us all to the anuk-ite if it meant saving his own life."

Scott shakes his head, and in a quieter and hopefully more convincing voice, says, "He isn't our enemy either."

Derek scoffs and looks over at him. The disbelief is written all over his face, staring at him for a few seconds as if trying to figure out if he's being serious.

Scott just holds his stare, his heart beating that little bit faster. He's not sure if it's out of concern for Theo or something else. It stops him from getting any closer, whatever it is. 

"He's made mistakes," he continues, and his eyes slide over to Theo.

Their eyes meet for a second and a lump forms in Scott's throat, a stab of pain ripping through his stomach and stealing most of the air from his lungs. Attempting to push through it, he swallows, turning his attention back on Derek.

"We all have. But he helped us tonight, and for the last few weeks. We can't just hold him to the mistakes tha—"

"Killing you wasn't just some mistake," Derek cuts him off, his words almost a growl. His eyes flicker blue, turning back on Theo. "Well, maybe for him."

Scott stops, going still. That tightness in his chest expands and yet constricts at the same time. He falters, his heart dropping somewhere into his stomach where it gets caught up in the knots it's tying itself in. 

"How... how do you even know about that?"

"Argent told me," Derek says, glancing over at him again. "He thought it was important for me to know everything that's happened. Including how he—" his hand tightens around Theo's throat even more, forcing him to tilt his head up as far as possible, hands now on Derek's wrist, "—thought he could just waltz in and take everything."

His eyes are back on Theo once more, burning bright blue now.

Scott doesn't think he's ever seen this look of anger on his face before. The last time it came close was when Kate tried to kill them, when he found out the truth about Peter killing Laura, when Peter taunted him right before Derek slashed his throat. All situations that didn't end well for the person on the receiving end of that anger.

"How he tried to get Liam to kill you by manipulating him," Derek continues. "And then, when he failed, decided to finish the job himself. That sounds a lot like an enemy to me."

That burning returns in the back of Scott's eyes and he briefly closes them, pushing it down. He shakes his head slowly, swallowing down the lump that refuses to budge and the nauseating, light-headedness.

"That's not..." He looks back over at Derek, sucking in a deep breath. "That's not the point. I healed, Derek. And we're past that. He's on our side now."

He shifts his eyes to Theo, despite every part of him not wanting to.

"Aren't you?"

"Yeah." Theo nods a little too quickly. He drops one of his hands from Derek's wrist, pointing it towards Scott. "Yes, I am. We've sort of already gotten past that whole thing, so if you could maybe just—"

"Gotten past it?" Derek repeats, cutting him off once again. If his voice was scary when low, it's downright terrifying when it rises. The underlying threat and anger seeping in, making its presence known.

He turns his head to stare at Scott, his eyebrows furrowing. Scott just stays quiet this time.

Derek shakes his head. The disbelief on his face only grows.

"Scott, he killed you!" His stomach gives an involuntary twist. "If it wasn't for your mom bringing you back, you would still be dead right now! You don't just get past murder, Scott. You're the one who told me that, remember?"

"This is different," Scott argues, but a part of himself tries to figure out how to prove that.

"How?" Derek shoots right back, obviously intent on pointing out the flaw in his logic for him before he can. "He killed you. How is that any different from what any of our enemies have done? He murdered you for power — because he wanted you dead. Scott, he didn't kill you because he couldn't control himself, or someone else made him. It was cold-blooded, calculated murder that he had probably been planning since before he even stepped foot back in this town."

"The dread doctors wer—"

"Stop defending him!"

Scott's abdomen clenches, tensing, that burning pit in the bottom of his stomach growing. 

Derek turns his disbelieving look back on Theo, shaking his head slowly. His head tilts, his eyes narrowing.

"You did this to him," he says, accusing, pained. "You've done it all over again. Manipulated your way back into his life."

Scott takes another small step forward, his mouth already opening to argue that no one has manipulated him. Derek doesn't give him the chance.

"You don't even regret it, do you?" he asks, though it feels like more of a statement. "You just regret it not going the way you planned. The only reason you're sticking around now is because you think you still have a chance. Maybe in a year or so, you'll have done enough to be able to try again. What are you gonna do, kill him again? Make sure that it sticks this time? How exac—"

"Derek, stop!" Scott shouts, part pleading. He can't take it anymore. His entire body aches like it's in pain, and he just wants it to stop.

He grabs Derek's wrist and pulls his hand away from Theo's throat. Derek doesn't try and stop him. As soon as Theo drops back to the ground, quickly steading himself with a hand against the wall, Scott lets Derek's hand drop. 

He looks at Theo. For once, he doesn't get that stab of pain in his gut. All that accompanies is a numbness, spreading through him like flames made of ice, licking at the wounds inside. He can't decide if that's better or so much worse.

"If you're looking for Liam, he'll either be at his house or Mason's," he says to him. "You know where they both live?"

Theo nods, rubbing a hand over his throat as he visibly swallows. His eyes dart to Derek, wary.

Scott quickly pulls his attention back to him, nodding his head at the door. 

"Go."

Theo doesn't need to be told twice. He leaves the second the words out of his mouth with one last look at him that almost seems... apologetic. The one thrown Derek's way is less so. It's just a relief to Scott that Derek doesn't try and grab him again before he disappears down the stairs. 

Scott turns away from him, taking slow steps back across the room. The loft is silent once more, but all he can focus on is each breath he tries to take. The numbness almost felt like a relief but now it's more like it's closed off his lungs in the process.

Each breath is shaky, uneven, just like the rest of his body, as much as he's trying his hardest to calm it all. The burning in the back of his eyes only grows but he keeps pushing it away as best he can. It'll go away eventually, it always does.

Still, he closes them for just a moment to try and ground himself. He's used to the slight shake after talking to Theo, or the tightness in his chest, but this... this is different. It doesn't feel right. He hasn't felt like this since Allison died. 

He's aware of Derek closing the door as he slowly makes his way back to the couch. He doesn't sit. Just stands next to it as his eyes go back to the window across from him. Maybe it'll calm the shaking in his hands, or the burning in his throat. 

He stands there for a good few seconds in silence, trying to even things back out. Soft footsteps sound in the silent room, approaching him, but Scott doesn't move.

Derek stops beside him. He catches a glimpse of him in the corner of his eyes.

The concern is strong around them and Scott can't tell if it's making it easier or harder to breathe. Harder, he thinks, like it's filling up his lungs. It almost reminds him of before all of this. It's strangely like an asthma attack in a way, except his head feels like it's about to explode and his skin is itchy. He's used to the last part by now, thanks to his heightened senses.

"I'm fine," Scott says quietly, because he can see that look on his face even without looking at him. "It's just..."

He ducks his head, his eyebrows drawing together into another frown. He shakes it slightly, biting the inside of his cheek.

"You know, everything's that happened today. I guess I'm more tired than I thought I was."

He lifts his eyes up to Derek and is met with that knowing look. Knowing about what, Scott isn't sure. At least he tells himself that because it's easier than admitting it. Because saying it out loud won't do anyone any good. 

"Scott, you're not fine," Derek says, looking him in the eyes. "You're anything but fine. The second you saw Theo, your heartbeat sped up, and all I could smell from you was fear. And you just flinched at his name."

Scott tries to brush it off; it was involuntary, he didn't even realize he was doing it. He's been telling himself that as well since the first time someone mentioned Theo after it happened. No one else noticed so what was the point in making himself think about it?

Shaking his head again, his words come out as a quiet sigh, saying, "It's in the past, remember? We — we move past things, forgive people. It's what we do. We can't just go backwards."

"Backwards?" Derek repeats, that same look of disbelief on his face once more, but gentler now. "Scott, holding him accountable for killing you—" Scott closes his eyes, inhaling, "—isn't moving backwards. How..."

He trails off as Scott avoids looking at him, even once he opens his eyes. They stay focused right ahead of him instead, on the tall building across from them. It has so many lights on, so many people inside of it. All blissfully unaware, he imagines. 

Unfortunately, he doesn't have to look at Derek. He senses the realization clicking into place, the understanding. The pain.

It's strange how heartbreak has always seemed like a slight exaggeration in most cases, and yet, the closest they can get to it has a unique scent all of its own. Stronger than sadness, and warmer; it's almost like a thousand tiny little heated pins embedded under and poking away at his skin whenever he catches the scent.

"You're in denial."

It's not even a question. Derek's so confident in his words that it's just a statement, putting it out there for them both to acknowledge. Except Scott's gotten into the habit of doing the opposite of that, and he's pretty good at it at this point, he thinks. It's the only thing he can do. 

"I'm not," he says quietly. "I know what happened. But this is di—"

"Don't say different," Derek cuts him off, shaking his head. "It's not. You have to know that, Scott. Surely you can see that this isn't any different than if he had killed someone else."

Scott sighs again. The conversation itself is exhausting, and he doesn't know why. Maybe because no one else has pushed back like this on the subject; no one's tried to force him to confront it because they would rather ignore it entirely. He understands that, and he's fine with it. He has to be.

"I healed. It doesn't matter anymore. And," he looks at him now, unable to help himself, continuing, "you forgave Peter for... what he's done. And didn't he forgive you for killing him? You've moved past that, right? So, why can't I with this?"

Derek just stares at him for a good few seconds. He wonders if he went too far; Derek has talked about Laura on a few occasions, but he's always tense and his voice is strained when he does. 

But then Derek says, "No."

Scott's eyebrows furrow and he quickly continues, breathing deeply in through his nose.

"I haven't moved past it. Any of it. I can work with Peter when we need to, but he still killed my sister. I'm never going to forgive him for that. And as for him forgiving me; he's probably still coming up with a way to enact revenge or something on me. Probably by hurting you, since that seems to be his go-to in the past. But I don't regret what I did. Wish it had stuck? A lot of the time, yeah."

"Okay, but you just said it yourself," Scott insists, grasping at anything he can. "You're willing to work with Peter. Just because you can't forgive him doesn't mean you don't see him as an ally, at least. That's what I'm doing with Theo."

Derek shakes his head. "No, it's not. Because, me? I acknowledged it. I've talked about it with Cora. I've accepted that it's happened because I've had the chance to grieve."

Scott looks away again, staring back out the window. It's easier than seeing that look on his face; the one that's telling him what he's going to say before he says it, and he just really doesn't want him to. He's not sure he can hear it.

Derek sighs. There's another slight pause, and in it, Scott continues trying to push down that burning in the back of his throat and his eyes that's building up, refusing to be brushed off this time. It's never usually this relentless. 

"If Theo had killed me, would you forgive him?" Derek asks, and Scott's eyes snap back to him in confusion. He shrugs. "Or what about if he killed Liam instead, decided that he should die for failing to kill you? Stiles? Lydia? Your mom? Would you have forgiven him for that?"

Scott can tell he's not asking to hurt him. His voice is gentle and almost pleading with him. This is just the only way he knows how to get through to him, and they both know it. That doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.

His eyes blur and he ducks his head, staring at the ground. He has to bite the inside of his cheek because he knows his answer. If Theo had killed any of them, he wouldn't be able to forgive him. He had a hard enough time with Ethan and Aiden after what they did to Boyd, but they would have died themselves if they hadn't followed Kali's orders. 

A part of him tries to jump back to blaming the Dread Doctor's. He knew what they were capable of; they wouldn't have hesitated to kill Theo if he didn't do what they wanted. Except he was going against their orders. 

"You see? It's not different," Derek continues, his voice only growing softer. "You only think it is because it was you he killed. Grief isn't just reserved for losing other people. You died, Scott. You're allowed to grieve for yourself."

It's not clear if it's the way Derek says it — quiet, caring, and so concerned in a way that Scott doesn't think he's heard anyone be while talking about this — or if it's what he says. Something cracks inside of him. It was already cracked if he's honest. Broken, even. It's more like it crumbles and takes the air in his lungs with it.

His throat tightens as he sinks onto the couch, the closest thing other than the floor, and he's aware of his legs threatening to take that option. The shaking in his hands has already spread to his shoulders, his entire body. Everything's cold and too warm at the same time, and his head hurts so much. It's all just too much. 

Derek sits beside him as his vision blurs completely and the tears finally escape, rolling down his face. For once, he doesn't try to hold them back. He doesn't make a noise, just sits there, and cries.

As he does, Derek wraps an arm around him, holding him. Steadying him while he finally lets it sink in, lets it all overwhelm him in the way that he's been forcing himself not to for so long.

His chest hurts from it all, and all he can think of is sitting in the waiting area of the school and assuring Theo that he'd be okay. The feeling of his claws digging into his skin, ripping at his lungs until he felt everything inside of him drain away. Theo's face. Smug, taunting. The rest of it all seems to blur together in his head, everything that's happened over the last few years finally hitting him all at once.

"It's okay," Derek says softly. "I'm right here. Just let it out. In the way you've been needing to for a long time."

He does. About everything. He cries until he's left with nothing, just shaking in Derek's arms. It could be minutes, maybe hours, he really doesn't know. He doesn't care either. For once, he's able to without having to worry.

Derek never lets go, just keeps talking to him with that soft voice and gentle, soothing words to help.

Everything hurts, even inside. But it feels... better, at least by a tiny bit. Relieved. It's easier to confront his own death when he has someone there, pushing him to do it and then staying with the promise of helping him put everything back together.