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the you i'll never know

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Derek feels like he’s drowning.

 


 

He’s been drowning for months now, trying to find a way to keep going after Paige died. Today was one of the bad days, when he doesn’t have the heart or the energy to do anything but sit on his bed and stare at the pile of crumpled, photocopied sheet music she forgot the only time she was at his house. They didn’t even make out that day. They just did homework.

The mangled paper, almost destroyed from cramming down in the bottom of her backpack, sits on top of his desk in a dogeared mess. He should probably throw it away. No, he definitely should throw it away. But he can’t.

Derek takes a deep breath and holds it, hoping that if he holds it long enough, he’ll black out before he starts crying again.

Crying isn’t a relief anymore. It’s just a shameful state of being.

He closes his eyes tight, wraps his arms around his stomach, and leans so his head is nearly between his legs.

And startles, because one second he was alone in silence, and the next there’s a man, tall and slender and looking wildly around with his mouth hanging open.

Derek is plastered against the wall, legs akimbo across his bed. He wasn’t beta-shifted yet, but it was close. Shit. “Mom!” he yells immediately, but the man puts his hands out and shushes him.

“Derek, it’s okay, I’m not here to hurt you.”

“MOM! DAD!”

“But full disclosure, your mom’s not going to hear you because I soundproofed this room. Sorry about that.”

Derek takes a minute to listen for his family in the living room, and it’s so quiet, his ears are nearly ringing. “Who are you?” he demands, taking in a deep breath and analyzing the stranger. He looks like he’s maybe college-aged, maybe graduated, wearing stained jeans and a gray t-shirt with Converse that should have been thrown out months ago. He smells like coffee and barbecue chips, and the way the air smells after it’s been burnt by lightning, metallic and hot, and something…

It takes Derek a minute to pinpoint the rest of the man’s smell because—it’s Derek. It’s a weird version of his own smell, not different enough to belong to a family member, but not exactly how Derek smells now either.

Derek falters a bit. “Why do you smell like me?”

“It’s probably better if you don’t know?” the man is saying. “Besides, explaining would take too long, and I don’t know how long this is going to work. Okay, first of all, do your eyes turn blue?”

“My eyes don’t turn any color.” Derek swallows, his mouth suddenly dry.

The man snorts at that. “Of course you’re still a bad liar. Either they turn gold or blue when you wolf out, so which is it?” The man sticks his neck out and raises his eyebrows, like, well?

Derek ignores his nerves and crowds into the man’s space, pushing him against the wall. “Have you been watching me?”

The man looks down at him with half-lidded eyes, and he sighs, suddenly looking heartbroken. “Blue, then. Fuck.”

Derek’s eyes are indeed flashing blue. He can tell by the familiar heat and the brief glow on man’s face, reflecting in his brown eyes if Derek pays attention. Derek shakes his head and tries not to show how scared it makes him, that he lost control so quickly. He hasn’t in years.

The man is limp—comfortable, even, being held against the wall like this, and he’s muttering to himself. “Okay, this changes my plan a little. Basics first.” He meets Derek’s eyes and pushes his head forward a little. Derek has to stop himself from backing up, maintaining distance between their faces. “I know you’re a werewolf, you and your family. I won’t out you. Besides, I’m a spark, so it’s not like I’m a muggle either. You with me so far?”

Derek feels his brow wrinkle in a frown, but he calms down enough that his eyes turn back to normal, and he nods.

“Good,” says the man, looking down a bit in concentration and speaking rapidly. “I need you to know which people in town are hunters, okay? Just, if I did my research right, the Argents are back in town, and Kate Argent is going to be your substitute teacher.”

Derek blushes and feels angry—angry and embarrassed. Kate already is his substitute teacher—their school can’t hold onto English teachers to save a life—and they hadn’t kissed yet, but there is definitely something. Light, and playful, and a little forbidden. And after losing Paige, all he really wants is to just feel. Anything. Anything but feeling like a massive fuck-up who got his girlfriend bitten against her will, whose claws put her out of her misery when the bite didn’t take. Derek swallows and steps back, losing all his will to fight.

The man straightens and steps away from the wall, still talking fast. “I don’t know what kind of bullshit she’s going to tell you, but she’s a hunter, and she’s trying to find a way in to kill your family.”

“But my family hasn’t done anything wrong.”

“Yeah, well, she’s a psycho, so she doesn’t care about that. Her family doesn’t follow the code.”

Derek doesn’t know how to respond to that, so he falls back into his default mode and glares at the stranger.

The man rolls his head around and laces his fingers behind his neck in frustration. “Fine. I didn’t want to say it. She’s going to try to sleep with you, get you to trust her, and use you for intel. You can’t let that happen, Der.”

Derek’s mind goes to that afternoon, when Miss Argent—Kate—had asked him to stay behind to compliment his newest essay, trailing her fingers down his shoulder and telling him how mature, how well-adjusted he was.

It was a far cry from how he felt all the time these days. He’d walked out of there feeling like he could breathe, for once.

The man’s gaze sharpens in sudden remembrance. “Oh! While I’m here, maybe tell your mom that if Deucalion gets blinded, he’s going to turn into a psycho too. Although, he’s probably always been a psycho on some level, but losing his sight just really brings it out of him. Like, killing his pack on purpose.”

Derek has to try again, or he’ll go crazy. “Who are you?”

The man is jittery, almost dancing in the way he moves. “I’m a, you know, I’m kind of like a druid. Although the druids totally wouldn’t approve of what I’m doing, but I’m trying to restore balance in my own way. Arguably.”

Derek is so fucking annoyed. No straight answers whatsoever. “Get out of my room.”

The guy, if anything, softens at Derek’s harsh tone. “There’s the sourwolf I know.”

Derek growls at him.

“Right. You wouldn’t like that now either, I should have guessed that. My bad. Okay. Well. I’m fucking up royally here. I just need—” and here he locks eyes with Derek, hard, and suddenly Derek’s mouth feels dry and he’s fixating on the way this stranger’s eyes almost glow in the light from his bedside lamp, “—I just need to make sure you’ll be okay.”

Derek still feels like he’s missing the line of conversation. “So you came here,” he says, just to be clear, “to warn me about Kate Argent?”

“Yes!” the man shouts in clear relief. “Bad news. Bad, bad. She—you know, I don’t want to tell you, you’ve got enough going on, just promise me you’ll be on your guard. And probably talk to your parents about it. You should probably take advantage of them. Being around. Shit.” He winces and shakes his head forcibly, turning so he can pace in the space between Derek’s closet and his bedroom door.

“What do you mean?” demands Derek, accidentally going closer again. “You sound like you’re not sure they’ll be…” His eyebrows crunch together and he shakes his head in confusion.

“I… shit. Okay. So, say hypothetically that you lost your family, totally not through any fault of yours, but you thought it was.”

Derek feels himself cocking his head in the way that Cora always teases him for, but he can’t help it, and uneasiness pervades his body. This seems very much like a hypothetical situation that isn’t hypothetical at all.

The man just keeps going, like if he’s going to tell the story, he might as well get it over with quickly. “And years later, you’re learning how to keep going, and to forgive yourself, and you’re being so brave, and,” his warm eyes are misty, Derek notices, just before the man wipes the back of his hand across them and shakes himself, “and you’re happy. You’re actually happy, despite all the shit that happened to you. But no matter how well you’re doing now, they’re still gone. And people lose family all the time. It’s just a thing that happens, but I believe it would be better if you had your family, Derek. It would just be better.”

Derek barely even knows what this man is talking about, but his eyes start watering too, for some baffling reason. He wipes his tears away angrily, feeling more unbalanced by the minute.

The stranger doesn’t see it, and he’s waving his arms like he has no idea the danger they present to the lamp on Derek’s desk. “And when I realized how strongly I believed that, I had to do something with it. Like, if I believe something strong enough, I can fix things, and this is something I can definitely fix. I already can tell it’s doing something,” he says, laughing in disbelief as he wipes his eyes again. “It’s getting harder and harder for me to stay here. Der, I—”

Derek swallows, takes a deep breath, swallows again. Sure, the situation is strange, but that’s no excuse for how this strange man is able to make him feel so shaken. His sincerity is bleeding through every pore, and now that Derek is paying attention, the man’s heart is beating quickly, but steadily. He believes what he is saying, at least.

“How do you know me?” Derek insists.

The man’s face is panicked for a second, and then it smooths over. “We, uh. You don’t know me. There’s a good chance we’ll never see each other again, if things go right. I just, if you’re happy, it will be worth it.”

“You didn’t answer the question.”

“Yeah, I know, I just… if I tell you the short version it’ll just,” he puffs out his cheeks and lifts his hands away in an approximation of a brain exploding, “and if I tell you the long version I’ll probably either take all night, or fuck something up, or both. I don’t matter, okay? Don’t worry about who I am. Just take care of yourself. Oh, shit, you’re forgetting, I shouldn’t be feeling this present. See? Big fat distraction. Why did I come here?”

It takes Derek a moment to realize it’s not a rhetorical question. “Oh. Kate,” he says, his stomach dropping.

“And Deucalion. You don’t know who that is, probably. And please, please get Deaton to check out the nemeton, you know that big tree in the forest. But especially Kate. You know what, just write it down. I should’ve just fucking written you a letter.”

Without waiting for Derek to do it, the man grabs a sharpie and scribbles out a note on the back of an old Spanish test. In the minute it takes for him to write, Derek has to restrain himself from interrupting. He was proud of that test, even if he wasn’t planning on showing anyone.

When the visitor is done, he slides it away with a sigh of relief. “Alright, that definitely worked. I’m barely holding on now.”

“What do you mean?” Derek feels genuinely worried for this man, now.

“Just, please be happy. If you’re happy, that’s all I want.” Stiles gazes at him, then, with the air of losing a battle with himself, he hugs Derek, strong arms around his shoulders. Derek finds himself with his face crushed against the man’s collar bone, and he should probably mind, but it’s a pretty good hug. Really good, even.

“Take care of yourself,” he hears the man say, his voice rumbling straight from his chest to Derek’s right ear. “Bye, sourwolf.”

And then, in a rush of light and sparkles that seem ripped directly from the Star Trek franchise, he’s gone.

 


 

Derek doesn’t look at the desk after the man disappears. He’s experienced a little bit too much weirdness in the last ten minutes. He can’t handle looking at the letter right now.

He goes downstairs to where his family is watching HGTV.

“Hey, Der,” says his mom, and she moves her stack of books to the other side in a silent invitation to join her.

She doesn’t ask too many questions, since Paige, and Derek is grateful. At least she’s used to smelling strangers on him, after a day bumping into people at school. She doesn’t notice the scent of one more stranger who smells like barbecue chips.

He lays down next to her, puts his head in her lap, and watches the Fuller family debate which vacation home to renovate.

 


 

He eventually has to go back to his room, to face the fever dream that happened there, and sure enough, there’s basically an entire novel on the back of his Spanish test, written in emphatic strokes that barely stay consistent in size and style.

1. Kate Argent - BIG NO I cannot stress this enough any authority figure who puts the moves on a minor is sick or evil or both. She kills weres for fun pls stay away

2. Deucalion - BLIND => MEGA SOCIOPATH

3. Nemeton - TELL DEATON when Paige died her blood activated it if you can contain the nogitsune you will be preventing a lot of pain

4. Take care of the people around you Der. You like to look strong and manly because you’re the personification of manpain but I know you better than that. You’re happiest when you’re helping others don’t forget that

The last part of the letter looks shaky, and he remembers that the man had looked a little shaky himself while writing it. I’m barely holding on now, he had said. But he had taken the time to write that nonetheless, the longest part of the note.

Derek feels exposed and embarrassed. The man definitely knows him, knows him well. Too well. He had managed to expose all of Derek’s weak spots.

Derek reads the note six times before slamming it into a notebook and forcing himself to go to bed. Later. He’ll deal with that later.

 


 

At breakfast the next day, he grumps down the stairs and pauses at the entrance to the kitchen, where his mom and dad are eating together, both reading on their laptops, knees knocking together.

Derek should tell them, the stranger had said.

Derek considers it. Considers the stranger, the fact that he didn’t say anything the night before, the fact that his parents might very well guess what he’d been flirting with when it came to Kate Argent.

“Morning, Derek,” says his dad, and his mom looks up for a second to flash him a smile.

He chickens out.

“Morning,” he says, and helps himself to a stack of pancakes.

Chapter Text

He wants to go home, to hide in his room like he’s been doing for months now. He wants to read the note again, the one sitting in his pocket, but when Derek got home from school, something about his face made his mom proclaim he would be going to Cora’s volleyball game with the family.

So here he sits, and the echoes in the gymnasium make him want to wince. It’s different when he’s the one playing basketball. He gets in the zone, and instead of unnecessary noise, the squeaking of shoes and muffled cursing weaves together into something helpful, telling him who’s guarding whom and who just got blocked. Here, the middle school girls are shrieking like a bunch of monkeys.

Me Me Me Me Here Here Over here Set SET! SET YOU IDIOT!

Okay, that was Cora. She honestly doesn’t try to hurt people’s feelings, but she’s still learning basic sportsmanship. Doesn’t make him want to rip out his eardrums any less.

Paige would have hated this too. She would have sat next to him, holding hands, snarking about the downward emotional spiral of athletes getting so involved in a stupid sports game, stopping just before she made fun of Derek and his love of basketball.

He feels like a giant rubber band is stretched around his chest, constricting his breathing.

Well, he tried. Time to go.

There’s a shrill blast of a whistle, and Derek jumps to his feet before he has to wait for everybody shuffling toward the bleacher stairs. “I’ll see you at home,” he says, loudly so his dad will hear him. He makes it down the stairs just ahead of the rush, and almost makes it to the doors when—

He smells something, like junk food and ozone and a stifling amount of body spray, something very much like the scent still hanging around his room from yesterday. And it doesn’t smell like Derek this time.

He zeroes in on a gangly kid sitting on the front bleachers with an asthmatic friend, openly ogling the middle school girls in tight shorts. He’s clearly a little shit, licking his lips too much and laughing too loudly, showing off for the kids sitting behind him, nudging his friend and snorting at his own commentary.

He’s very annoying.

Derek needs answers, though, so he stands in front of the boy and waits quietly until he starts, dramatically clutching his friend’s arm and yelping.

“Do you have a brother?”

The boy scoffs. “Excuse me?”

“Do. You have. A brother.”

“You don’t wanna put any question marks in there? Also, you don’t want to try some small talk first, like, hey, what’s your name, my name is Scary McTeenager with scary eyebrows, nice weather—”

Derek raises one scary eyebrow and doesn’t bother repeating his question.

“Me? Um, no, it’s just me. I’m just.” The boy licks his lips and fixates on Derek’s mouth, which makes Derek wonder where this kid’s parents were, why this freaking child has no problem lusting after someone clearly older than him.

Derek frowns and looks away. He’s not going to think about how that puts his own Miss Argent situation in an overly familiar light. “You’re an only child,” he says, to finish this conversation as soon as possible.

“Exactly. That.” The kid’s eyes are dilated, for crying out loud. He’s what, twelve?

“Any cousins?”

The kid just gapes up at him.

“That’s a no, then,” mutters Derek, giving up. He feels gross, standing here getting lusted over, and he clearly wasn’t going to get the answers he’s looking for. “Never mind.” He doesn’t bother saying goodbye and just walks away.

He can’t get away fast enough to avoid overhearing them, though. “Stiles. Stiles, what was that?” says the friend, and there’s a faint thumping sound that sounds like he’s hitting the kid—Stiles—to get his attention. “Why’s Cora’s brother talking to you?”

“I have no fucking clue, Scott. He’s in high school, right? He looks like he’s in high school.”

“Maybe he met someone who looks like you.”

“Huh. Yeah, maybe. I’ll ask Cora.”

Derek makes it out into the open air of the parking lot, leaves the cacophony of the gym behind him, and starts running home.

 


 

Look, it’s different, the thing between him and Kate, okay? They’re adults, and—

Well, Derek’s not an adult in the legal sense, but he can drive, and he has facial hair, and he’s had sex before. That kid, Stiles, though… He’s clearly a child. Derek’s at least three, no four years older—

Derek sighs and bangs his head on the steering wheel as he waits in the line crawling out of the high school parking lot. It’s two days later, and he’s still obsessing over that kid. And it’s not even the whole “mysterious stranger in my bedroom” thing. Well, it’s that a little, but mostly, he can’t stop thinking about how inappropriate it felt to be objectified by that kid. How obviously wrong it would feel to view that child as someone to date, or fool around with, or anything. He can barely imagine it. It’s disgusting.

But Miss Argent—

He skipped English class that morning to try and get his head on straight.

His phone rings, buzzing in the seat next to him, and he gives it the side eye instead of answering.

It’s her.

Derek clenches his jaw. The car in front of him has moved, so he shifts into first gear and rolls forward, going less than ten feet when he’s forced to shift into park again. He pulls out the old Spanish test, folded and worn from living two days in his pocket.

BIG NO I cannot stress this enough any authority figure who puts the moves on a minor is sick or evil or both.

Derek doesn’t think Kate can possibly be a hunter. He would know, right? He’d see the disgust in her face, in her scent, he’d smell the wolfsbane like his parents taught him to.

But maybe he’s been too excited about the prospect of sex, of what it says about Derek that he’s being lusted over by an older woman, to think about what it says about Kate that she’s doing this in the first place.

He doesn’t want to, but he plays the voicemail when the notification comes up.

“Hey, sweetheart. I missed you today, and I wanted to make sure you were alright. I wore that purple dress you liked, remember? You said I looked good in it and I wanted to look good for you. Don’t think I didn’t notice it’s the tightest dress I own.” Kate’s laugh is breathy and flirtatious. “Maybe this is out of line, but if you ever want to see me out of that dress, all you ever have to do is say so. I’ll be waiting to hear from you.”

There’s a beep, and his voicemail proclaiming ‘You have no new messages.’

The line moves forward again, and Derek finally gets out of the parking lot. He ends up pulling over into the first residential area he sees and parking in front of a stranger’s house.

He gives himself five minutes to brace his arms over the top of the steering wheel, hunch down, and stare sightlessly out the window.

He’s so close to becoming a statistic, that kid that everybody knows slept with the teacher.

That man, the one that smelled like Stiles, told him that Kate would try to sleep with him. Sick or evil or both, he’d said.

Yeah, Derek had been vaguely hoping, completely in his hindbrain, but he hadn’t believed until this moment that sleeping with Miss Argent was a real possibility, a rebellious decision he could jump into, consequences be damned. But that man had known, which should creep Derek out a lot more than it did.

Derek stares out his windshield and asks himself why he’s letting this stranger get into his head like this. So why was he?

Before he can even answer his own question, Derek feels a phantom pair of arms around him, and a scratchy voice speaking in his ear. ‘Take care of yourself. Bye, sourwolf.’

Something about that had been… what was it? Heartfelt. Selfless.

Derek bites the inside of his lip, staring at both his phone and the letter sitting next to it.

Then he does a u-turn and heads to the vet’s.

 


 

“Derek,” says Deaton, his family’s emissary, just as he’s about to lead an owner and her Maltese to the back room. “I’ll be with you in a moment, if it’s not an emergency.”

Derek nods and sits down, picking up an old Cosmo magazine.

Eight signs you should break up is emblazoned on the cover.

He hurriedly puts the magazine down again and stares at his feet instead.

It really is a little humiliating that his family’s emissary is the town vet. Handy, when his mom and sister are fully shifted into wolves, but humiliating none the less.

“Derek?”

Derek whips his head up.

“Want to come back?” says Deaton, lifting the mountain ash barrier that would otherwise keep him from going into his office.

Derek rubs the back of his neck self-consciously and edges past Deaton until he’s in the office, standing awkwardly and feeling like his arms are suddenly a foot longer than they were a moment ago.

Deaton closes the door and takes a seat, motioning for Derek to do the same. “You want to tell me what’s going on?”

Derek feels wrong-footed. Dr. Deaton only communicates with his mom, usually. Sometimes Laura, since she’s next in line. He doesn’t know where to start, so he sits down and weighs his options.

“There’s a hunter at my school,” he blurts.

It’s like that first sentence opens the pandora’s box. Deaton never seemed to pay Derek much attention before, but now, his attention is laser-hot. He volleys questions at Derek faster than an archer shoots arrows. (How do you know she’s a hunter? Why would this young man come to your room? Do you know who he is?)

Deaton calls his mom, and Derek rakes his hands through his hair as they wait for her to arrive, getting more and more fidgety.

The letter sits on Deaton’s desk, and Derek wants to take it back, fold it away and keep it for himself. Keep it secret. Keep it from affecting the rest of his life.

His mom finally gets there, and she interrogates Derek more closely about what the man looks like, what he smells like, what he says and why he says it. She and Deaton share a confused look when Derek asks how the man can smell like, well, him.

Talia picks up the letter, closes her eyes and inhales deeply.

“Can you get his scent?” asks Deaton, looking worried.

“I’ve got it, but—” Talia smells it again. “He smells like Derek, but older.”

Derek is scowling in confusion. “You can tell that?”

“If anyone knows what you smell like as you age, it’s your parents, Derek,” says his mom, shaking her head affectionately.

Derek thinks about the vast difference between new-baby smell and old-person smell and considers she might have a point.

Talia turns her attention to Deaton. “Is this man from the future? Is that even possible?”

“It happens once in a while, but only the most powerful druids can do it,” says Deaton, nodding. “Although it’s strictly against our rules, to interfere with the natural progression of things.”

“He did say he was a druid,” Derek reminds them. “And a spark.”

“So he’s from the future,” says Talia, “and he knows Derek in this other future.”

Derek stares at the letter. “I think I know who it is,” he says. “He’s in Cora’s grade. He smells the same. He didn’t know who I was when I saw him at Cora’s volleyball game, though.”

“We don’t know if he’s telling the truth,” cautions Deaton, standing with his arms folded and one hand covering his chin. “Even if he had good intentions, as you say.”

“Well, that should be easy enough to find out,” says Derek’s mom, getting that glint in her eye that usually makes him rush through the chores he’d neglected. It’s shiver-inducing. “Peter used to date an Argent. He’ll find out the real story. Let’s get you home, Derek.”

She puts a cool hand on his shoulder as he stands up and politely thanks Deaton, and they walk outside together. “I’ll drive you,” she announces, steering him to her car.

“My car,” Derek protests, but he’s already getting into the passenger seat of her SUV.

“Laura can get it,” she says, grimly getting behind the wheel and starting up the car.

Derek thinks about protesting, but it feels so good to know that his mom’s in control, she’s taking care of things, that he leans his head against the window and just watches the town roll by.

Chapter Text

“Were you going to sleep with her?” his dad asks when they go out running that night, far from anyone who could overhear.

They’re sitting on the ground now, trying to enjoy the sunset, letting his dad catch his breath. His dad is fit for a human, but there’s still a difference between the endurance of a healthy human and a werewolf. The real reason they came out here was so Peter could call Chris Argent without Derek listening, so when he hears the truth it will come through the filter of a caring adult. (Peter is neither caring nor an adult in the family’s eyes, after the shit he pulled with Ennis.) Derek doesn’t mind. He feels, distinctly, like he doesn’t know himself anymore. He’s not tough, and he’s not strong. He’s not someone who makes smart choices.

“I—maybe,” Derek says. He feels sick to his stomach.

“Come here, bud,” says his dad, pulling him closer so Derek can put his head on his shoulder. “If everything that guy said is true, then we have a lot to be thankful for. First, we’re going to be around for a long, long time, so you don’t have to worry about us.”

Derek can feel the faint heat coming off his dad’s body, smell the reassuring aftershave he always uses, along with the smell of everybody else in his family. Derek should be closer to his dad, he knows. And he knows it’s his own fault, for letting himself migrate toward the werewolves in the family—his mom and his sisters—just because it was easier. Usually, Derek doesn’t even know he’s doing it.

His dad is dorky, and kind of average-looking. At some point several years ago, Derek had decided they didn’t have enough in common to put in the effort, and started hanging with his mom’s little brother, instead.

He considers how different his life might be now if, years ago, he chose his dad over Peter.

Derek whimpers a bit and nuzzles his face closer to his dad’s neck.

“Second,” his dad continues, “even in that terrible future, you have someone extraordinary who cares for you enough to rip through the space-time continuum.”

Derek scoffs at that.

“What? I’m not a scientist,” says his dad. “I don’t know how this Dr. Who stuff works.”

“It’s magic,” says Derek, rolling his eyes. “I don’t know how much science applies.”

“Hey, magic is just unexplained science, right? Either way, you’ve got a friend in the future who is hella powerful and risked turning the universe into a black hole to keep you safe. So don’t you go thinking that you aren’t extraordinary. I know you don’t always listen to your parents, since we’re obligated to say nice things about you, but you’ve gotta listen to Dr. Who.”

“Don’t say hella again, I’m begging you,” grumbles Derek. His dad is way too geeky for his own good. “And also, shouldn’t you be teaching me not to trust strangers?”

“The majority of sexual assault and kidnapping is committed by people you know, not by strangers,” his dad says frankly. Right. A social worker would know. “You were propositioned by a teacher, someone you should be able to trust. I’m more open towards the guy who motivated you to do the right thing.”

“Okay, okay,” says Derek to get him to stop talking. The words sexual assault rub him the wrong way. He feels like they’re a little too… assaulty.

“Seriously, Derek,” says his dad, rubbing his hand over Derek’s shoulder, and it finally occurs to Derek that his dad is freaked out, too. “That guy had it right. If you slept with her, she would have been committing statutory rape. A good person wouldn’t have put that burden on you. Whether or not you felt ready, that would have been something that might have made you feel shame, a secret you don’t need. And I don’t want you to have any more secrets in your life than absolutely necessary.”

Derek thinks about it for a minute, wondering how he would have felt five, ten years from now. Even if the sex was good, even if she taught him how to be good at it and bolstered his confidence, he couldn’t imagine wanting to tell anybody about it later. Having to fight with himself, wondering if whoever he told would judge him.

He doesn’t want to talk about this anymore. They haven’t even addressed the fact that she apparently comes from a hunter family, and that way lies madness.

“Secrets like how you serve everyone else at the table when we have green beans so you can pretend we run out,” says Derek, nodding too seriously.

His dad cracks up and pushes Derek off his shoulder. “Yes. That’s the secret I was talking about. Come on, let’s head back. We’ve given them enough time to get their shit together.”

“Secrets like how you said shit in front of me.”

“Okay, okay. I get it.”

 


 

“Andrew and Derek, come into the kitchen,” they hear Talia holler when they go inside, raising her voice for his dad’s benefit.

Derek’s feet falter in their steps, but his dad squeezes his shoulder and goes on ahead.

Derek takes a deep breath and follows.

“Chris is on the phone,” his mom says as he walks into the kitchen, “and we thought we should let him talk to you directly.”

Derek only lets his eyes rest on Peter for a split second before he turns his attention to his dad. His relationship with Peter will never be the same. Derek doesn’t blame Peter for Paige’s death, since that was clearly his own fault, but Peter hadn’t helped, either. He had pushed Derek for his own entertainment, acting out against his big sister as alpha, wanting to feel powerful. Derek doesn’t hate him, but he’s lost every shred of respect for him.

“Okay,” Derek says quietly, sitting at the table and bracing his chin on his hands.

Chris sounds gruff and overly masculine, almost definitely a man with daddy issues, but he’s surprisingly decent, for a hunter. He seems to have a hard time believing his sister would solicit a minor for sex, but listening to the voicemail had removed his doubts pretty quickly. He apologizes to Derek, saying that while he doesn’t trust werewolves to be stable in most cases (prompting a heavy eye-roll and muttered ‘He just had to put that in, didn’t he,’ from Peter), but that the Hales haven’t done anything to merit this kind of attention from hunters. “I have a little girl, just a few years younger than Derek,” he says, losing his distant, professional tone just for an instant. “If an adult tried to sleep with her when she was just a high schooler, for whatever reason, I would want them to go to prison for a long time. If only to keep me from giving them a concussion.”

Chris tells them that the best way to stop her, short of killing her and bringing the wrath of hunters on them, would be through California law. If Derek testifies, with her voicemail as evidence, attempted solicitation of a minor won’t get her long in prison, but it will build the framework for later, should she try anything again.

A major plus would be how exposing her attempt would embarrass her in front of other hunters. “Our father draws a strict line against sleeping with the enemy, as he says it,” Chris says, prompting more bitter mutterings from Peter and a shushing from Derek’s mom.

“Are there any other options?” says Derek, even though he’s smart enough to know there aren’t any. He just really, really doesn’t want to be that kid that’s missing school because they’re testifying against a former teacher. There’s no way it would stay a total secret.

“This is an act of war against you, and against our pack,” says Derek’s mom, her eyes flaring red and a snarl slipping onto her face like she’d been struggling to keep them at bay all along. “If you don’t want to testify, I will hunt that bitch down and make sure she leaves.”

“If you do any violence against my sister—” comes Chris Argent’s voice through the speakers of the phone.

“Fine, fine, okay, I’ll do it,” Derek snaps to prevent them from fighting. They’ve been left alone by hunters for a long time. He’s not in the mood to get them caught in a fight because he’s chickening out. “I’ll testify,” he declares directly into the phone, then slumps back into his chair and crosses his arms.

“And say it goes according to plan,” says Talia, visibly trying to rein in her aggression with deep breaths and closed eyes, “what happens after she gets out of prison? How can we be sure she won’t try to have revenge?”

“Surely going to prison would be enough to make her back off,” protests Derek’s dad.

Derek nods a little desperately. Yeah. Like he said.

Chris is already arguing over speakerphone. “No, I know Kate. If she’s stuck in prison, she’s going to spend every spare moment planning how to finish the job. She’s got a vindictive streak.” Chris’s sigh comes over the line, weary and resigned, and he stops there.

Derek’s parents and Peter all look at each other, a circle of perpetual scowling. Derek feels awkward, because he knows this is his fault. He nearly fucked up everything, and now there’s a hunter on their tail, and another on the phone.

“If Kate goes to prison, the day she gets out, I’ll move to Beacon Hills and ensure that she stays far away from you,” says Chris, sounding like he’d rather eat nails. “But if any of you wolves step out of line, I will be expected to put you down.”

Derek’s mom juts her chin at Peter, arms crossed and carrying the air of a colonel in a war room. She speaks quietly enough that the phone won’t pick up their voices, but they can all hear clearly. “Who’s the bigger threat here?”

“Kate,” says Peter, turning his face away in annoyance. “Chris follows the code religiously, and he’s not trigger happy. Having him in the area might help keep other hunters away.”

“But he still thought it necessary to threaten us,” Talia grumbles. “How long would Kate be in prison?”

“Less than a year if they charge her with a misdemeanor,” says Derek’s dad. “More if it’s a felony. My guess is we’d have five or six years in that case.”

“Well, that settles it. Chris, thank you for your advice and honesty,” says Talia, leaning over the phone now, still looking disgusted with the situation. “If everything goes right, we’ll welcome you to our territory when she gets out.”

“Yeah. Good luck.” The phone clicks, and the screen goes black.

His parents look at each other. “We’re going to need a good lawyer,” says his mom.

Derek’s dad is already on his way to their bedroom, digging out his cell phone. “I’ll make some calls.”

Peter looks oddly at Derek, and Derek has no idea what he’s thinking whatsoever. Maybe he’s finally looking at the wreck of a kid Derek’s become, in the wake of Paige’s death.

Look all you want, Derek thinks, staring him back right in the eye. Peter’s been avoiding him for long enough.

“Let’s get takeout tonight,” says Talia, interrupting their tense staring contest. “Derek, you drive. We’re getting Italian. I need carbs.”

Derek grabs his keys and goes to the car with his mom, grateful for something to do and for a chance to connect with his Alpha, with his mom. And if that doesn’t fill the pit in his stomach, well, carbs might do it, too.

Chapter Text

Everything goes according to plan. Well, it does, but it still sucks.

After discussing their case with the police officers, Derek goes to school the next day and pretends nothing has changed. He sits in Kate’s English class and acts like he doesn’t know she’s a hunter, a predator in multiple ways. He stays behind when she asks him to, and when she apologizes for coming on too strong, he blushes, not even on purpose.

“I know maybe you weren’t expecting what I said in that voice mail. I’m sorry if you aren’t interested.” Kate looks up at him from where she’s sitting behind the desk, and her face is angular and alluring at once, her blouse just open enough that he can see down it from where he stands.

“I just… I didn’t know if you were serious,” he says, and his stammering makes him sound sincere.

She shifts her weight in the chair as if to touch him, and he can’t stand that now, knowing that she’s exactly 25 years old, and suddenly that’s fucking old.

“Can I…” He scuffs his shoes on the floor and takes a deep breath. “Can I see you tonight?”

“Of course,” breathes Kate, her perpetual smirk gone for once as she gazes sincerely into his eyes. “You’re important to me, Derek. I want you to know you can trust me. You can trust… us.”

He almost believes her. She seems to genuinely care about him. Even his werewolf senses aren’t exposing any lies or nervous ticks.

But now, he knows. And there’s no going back.

 


 

After school, he and his mom go to the police station again, where he meets the Sheriff and realizes with a start that he smells like Stiles. It’s like this kid is everywhere.

“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” his mom asks, smoothing over his hair.

“It’s just a text message,” he grumbles, feeling oddly embarrassed in front of the Sheriff. A couple other staff members are sitting around the conference table, but he has no idea who or what they do. He just wants to get this over with.

Derek> is 5:30 ok

Kate> of course. Want to come to my house?

The Sheriff is shaking his head vigorously, but Derek already knows better than to say yes to that. They need Kate to go somewhere with the intention of meeting him for sex if they’re going to get her on a felony charge.

Derek> ezra lives in your neighborhood he might see

Derek> what about the school

He puts the phone on the table and bites the side of his thumb while they wait. His mom isn’t trying to touch him, knowing he’s too antsy already, knowing he wants nothing more than to just shift and run for hours.

“Do you think she suspects?” his mom asks the Sheriff, and he shakes his head.

“She might. But if she doesn’t bite, we can still get her on an attempted solicitation charge—”

“That’s not good enough—”

Their tense conversation cuts off when Derek’s phone starts buzzing.

“Don’t answer it,” says the Sheriff, speaking slowly like Derek’s a spooked animal. “She’s more likely to know something’s up if you talk to her.”

“She’ll know if I don’t answer anyway,” says Derek. He can’t let her go to voicemail again. He can’t go through another 24 hours of this. He glances at his mom, at the strangers suddenly on high alert, and feels a burst of recklessness.

He grabs the phone and answers. “Hello?”

Every adult in the room scowls at him, displeased but resigned.

“Hey, sweetheart,” Kate purrs in his ear. “Whatcha doing?”

“I’m at home,” Derek lies, hoping she believes him, that she doesn’t know what his mom’s car looks like sitting in the parking lot of the police station. “Trying to do homework, but…”

Kate laughs. “What? Got something on your mind?”

“Yeah, you could say that,” says Derek, trying not to startle as an old tape recorder enters his field of vision, a small microphone pointed his way. He leans forward a bit, hoping his phone is loud enough that the recorder will pick up the sound of Kate’s voice. “I was thinking about that purple dress.” He winces and closes his eyes. He can’t let himself think about his mom listening to this conversation. “Are you going to wear it?”

“Hmm, I’m thinking of starting out that way,” says Kate. “After that—are you alone?”

“Yes.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

“Are you touching yourself?”

Derek’s eyes fly open. He can’t do this. He really can’t. He looks at his mom and makes a strangled noise.

His mom looks ready for murder.

Kate misinterprets his sound and laughs again. “Alright, maybe we can work up to phone sex. I just want our first time to be special. You fucking me for the first time at the band room wasn’t really what I had in mind.”

“I just,” Derek’s shaking his head frantically, as if it’ll help his thoughts connect faster. “It’s where I met you. I thought it would be… I dunno. Romantic. Or something.” He winces as he catches the Sheriff’s worried gray eyes.

“Oh, sweetheart. Whatever you want. Meet me by the south entrance and I’ll let you in.”

“Okay. Uh, see you soon.”

“Bring condoms.”

Derek hangs up and hurriedly shoves his phone away, to the middle of the table. He stares dumbly at the fabricated wood grain and lets the horror of the last two minutes wash over him. He wasn’t going to say that was the worst thing he ever did—his last moment with Paige would always hold that place—but that phone call would always be on the list, especially with his mom and Stiles’ dad listening to the whole thing.

“Did it record?” he hears one of the guys say, and they rewind the tape just enough for them to hear Kate clearly tell him to bring condoms.

Derek groans and faceplants on the table.

 


 

Much of what happens after that gets placed firmly into the Don’t Think About box in Derek’s head.

The arrest goes off without a hitch, as Derek stays at the police station and Kate goes to the school looking for him, only to be met by a small army of Beacon Hills’ finest.

Everything after that is meeting after meeting with lawyers who are both needy and boring, and that embarrassing talk in which they have to tell his sisters and little brother the gist of what’s going on, and getting a new suit for the court appearances because the one he wore to Paige’s funeral is getting a bit too long in the ankle.

And there’s the court appearance, in which Derek colors like a tomato giving his testimony, and steadfastly refuses to look at Kate during the entire thing. Laura and his dad are there for emotional support, since there’s a real concern that his mom will lose it and scalp Kate Argent with her bare hands.

Everything goes as well as it possibly can. The evidence is damning enough that Kate Argent will be in prison for ten years, not just five. She snarls and looks Laura straight in the eyes as she’s led away in handcuffs, trying to bait her. Laura just smiles and flips her off.

There are times that Derek is really tired of Laura’s shit. And others when she’s his personal hero.

Chris Argent meets them outside, his wife at his side, a box-color ginger with scary eyeliner. He looks like he’s sucking on a lemon, but he apologizes to them all, to Derek especially, and shakes their hands. “We’re coming back the day she gets out,” he says, equal parts threat and promise.

They all breathe easier when the freaky hunter couple walks away.

“Who wants to go to Disneyland? Disneyland sounds pretty good right now,” says his dad shakily, watching them leave and rubbing Derek’s back with a traumatized look in his eyes.

Derek would scoff, but after that whole shitshow, he wouldn’t turn down some spinning teacups.

 


 

School is weird, because everyone already knew that Derek was the kid whose girlfriend died, and now he’s also the kid that got hit on by a teacher. A hot teacher, but still. That draws a variety of responses, from jovial awe in the locker room to understanding, sad smiles in the hallway from people he barely knows.

He stops hanging out with the guys who insist he ‘shoulda tapped that’. He joins the Spanish club. He takes a friend, a girl, to prom. He aggressively spends time with his whole family. Moping in his room doesn’t appeal to him anymore, not when he thinks of how he almost lost them, too.

His mom gets proactive with Deucalion. She doesn’t tell Derek what’s going on, just that she’s handled it, she met with him and he’s not a psycho yet. She promises to keep an eye on him, but they all hope whatever terrible, vague situation future-Stiles was warning them about has already been averted.

Once the trial is behind him, and he feels a bit more clarity, he starts thinking more and more about Stiles—well, Stiles Prime, as his nerdy dad likes to call him. What exactly was their relationship? How did he skip back in time? Did he just disappear from existence, or is there another universe where he went on living with the Derek that got his family killed?

Summer starts, and Derek feels too big for his body. Every day he wakes up with a head full of worry and questions, and it chases him out of bed until he goes down to the gym in their garage and he does pull-ups for an hour. If he doesn’t work out hard enough, he usually ‘Dereks out’ at breakfast, as Cora likes to say—meaning that he gets caught in his head, zones out, abruptly stands up, and goes for a run. He has to keep moving. He has to be stronger.

So he goes down to the garage every morning around 6:30, turns on some old Evanescence, and tries to sweat out all the thoughts in his brain.

And he does it again at 11 o’clock at night if he needs to.

This goes on for about three weeks before one morning he hears Laura stomp downstairs. He’s squatting 300 easy now, not even breaking a sweat yet, and Amy Lee is just getting to the second chorus of Everybody’s Fool.

He doesn’t stop his reps as she opens the door and glowers at him in an old Beacon High t-shirt and drawstring shorts, her dark brown hair a lopsided bird’s nest on top of her head.

He lifts his eyebrows at Laura in a silent question.

She answers it by punching a hole through his CD player, sending the pieces flying in a small explosion, turning around, and slamming the door.

Distantly, he hears his mom whoop, and dad and Cora start up a slow clap that Erik instantly joins.

Maybe he was overdoing it a bit.

That night, when he goes to bed, there’s a navy blue book on his pillow, smelling faintly like his dad and the big box store it came from. He picks it up and smooths his hands over the embossed leather, flipping through the blank pages.

It’s a fucking diary. With a lock and a key.

It’s the girliest thing he’s ever owned.

There’s a slip of paper inside. Derek, it reads, written in his father’s handwriting. We tried to buy you another CD player, but nobody makes them anymore. We looked everywhere, but there are no CD players left in the world, and there are definitely no more Evanescence CDs. We’re really sorry about that.

Derek snorts. Yeah, he bets they are.

To make up for it, we bought you a journal. While your mom and I promise not to ever read it, we can’t make promises for any of your siblings, hence the lock. Sure, they could probably break the lock, but at least then you would know.

Remember that we’re always here for you to talk to, even if it’s about nothing.

We love you.

Mom and Dad

Derek chuckles and tosses the book onto his bed, sitting down at his desk. He doesn’t know how he would even start telling his parents about everything in his head. He doesn’t think he wants to tell them anything right now.

Which they obviously know. Which is why they bought him a diary.

Well, he can’t leave it completely blank. He isn’t that ungrateful of a child. He’ll at least write on the first page, tell them he tried, and never worry about it again.

Think of it like homework. Just get it done.

He fetches the diary, cracks the spine, and puts it on the desk, pen at the ready.

He stares at it for a solid five minutes, but all he can think to write is

Dear Stiles,

Derek stops and taps his pen against the desk. He feels crazy. This is crazy, right? But he has too many questions, and no good way to process them. He just needs a way to get them out.

The day you showed up in my room probably saved my family. Maybe. I don’t know for sure, but it’s the only explanation that makes sense.

Derek frowns. He’s already planning ahead, trying to make a cohesive letter in his head, the way he does for short essays, but maybe that’s for another time. Right now, he just needs to word-vomit.

It’s crazy to me that you’re gone, but little you is still here.

You’re a pain in the ass, you know that? You are the most obnoxious

But you somehow saved me

You saved my whole family

Your handwriting sucks, by the way

And I used to hate the smell of barbecue potato chips but now every time I smell them I think about you

And it’s weird because you don’t exist yet

You won’t exist ever

The person you were will never exist because everything’s different now

The person I was going to be will never exist, I hope

How unhappy was I that you had to do this for me? I’m scared that

I don’t want to think about losing my family

I don’t want to think that I almost ruined everything

But I almost did

Because I wasn’t careful

I have to be more careful

Derek leans back, scrubs his hands through his hair, and lets out a huge sigh. Nobody’s allowed to read this, he thinks. Nobody ever.

Chapter Text

Dear Stiles,

I had a dream about you

We were having a party and it was really normal

Except you were there

But old you, not young you

You were telling everyone not to trust me

But you wouldn’t say why

And my family weren’t listening

You kept following my mom around and telling her I was stupid

Why would I dream something like that?

I don’t think you think I’m stupid

It didn’t seem that way when you were talking to me

I think you really cared about me

The other me

So why would I dream that

 


 

He starts his junior year, and everybody’s looking at him again, evaluating how well he weathered the summer, wondering what new tragedy might be coming to him next. Derek wants to just melt into the lockers when he hears the speculations in the school halls. Laura keeps threatening to ‘Cut a bitch’, regardless of the speaker’s gender.

Then and a bunch of lacrosse guys get busted for drinking and trashing the superintendent’s front yard, and Derek fades back into sorta obscurity. He feels anonymous enough that he has no qualms taking a boy to homecoming. They make out a bit, enough for Derek’s suspicions to be confirmed that yes, he’s into guys, but no, not particularly this one.

So I’m gay, it turns out, he writes in his journal that night, his third journal so far. Bi, I guess. Did you know that about me? Were we t

He can’t even finish the question.

He sees Stiles from a distance when he goes to Cora’s volleyball games, and a couple of times at the grocery store. The kid’s still fidgety, unable to hide a single inappropriate thought that crosses his mind, and Derek has a hard time not staring at him in fascinated horror.

At home, Derek becomes obsessed with sci-fi and the butterfly effect and divergent universes and space-time theories, and he reminds himself that they’re two different people, that this Stiles is never going to become that one. Two roads diverged in a wood, and on this road, he has a family. The person that kid would have become, would have been to Derek, is a non-entity in this new reality. Derek’s grateful to a person who no longer exists.

So he gets used to seeing this weird child who carries the ghosts of ‘almost’ and ‘nearly’ on his shoulders, who ignorantly represents the biggest mistake Derek never made. Eventually, Stiles fades back into the sea of middle schoolers he doesn’t care about.

He never tells Cora what his deal is with that Stiles kid, and she forgets to push the question.

 


 

Dear Stiles,

Turns out you were right about Deucalion

He killed one of his omegas I guess

We didn’t even know he had omegas in his pack

My mom said she met with the other alphas and Ennis said Deucalion wants to form something called an Alpha Pack

They told Deucalion if he kills someone his pack again they’ll kill him

I never met Deucalion but my mom always said good things about him growing up

We could have never predicted this if you didn’t say anything

I don’t know what happened to you or people you knew because of him

But thank you

 


 

Derek starts senior year and Laura’s not there for the first time in forever, just starting some leadership degree at UCLA. He doesn’t have time to feel lonely, though, because Cora’s a freshman now. It’s the first time since elementary school that they’re roaming the same halls.

He didn’t consider that when Cora was there, that kid would be again.

That smell of ozone and junk food and the obnoxious cologne he now douses himself with, hovering in faint clouds around corners and in doorways that Derek has to walk through. It pushes up memories of the person he was two years ago, even three years ago, following Paige around like a lost puppy.

He blows through three notebooks like they’re nothing before he’s at peace with it.

Basketball season starts, and Derek walks the tightrope of leading his team to state without attracting the gaze of any college scouts. Werewolves playing for major universities or professional leagues are just begging for a posse of redneck hunters, and he’s not the type to take those kinds of risks anymore. He visits Laura and falls in love with UCLA, comes home with exactly one pamphlet for a BA in psychology. He doesn’t know what he wants to do yet, but he does know he could use some more understanding of what makes people tick.

So he’s studying for the SAT, and trying to bolster his grades in a last-ditch effort, and coping with the pressure to make the absolute best he can of his last year in public school, and the year is flying by.

Second semester starts, and everything comes to a screeching halt.

 


 

Derek’s walking by the weight room (a place he avoids when he can, since he has to use much smaller weights than usual and grunt and huff like an idiot so as to not attract attention) when he hears Stiles.

He’s babbling in a steady, frantic stream, “Come on, Scott, you’re gonna be fine buddy, the ambulance is on its way, just hold onto my hand and you’ll be fine, I’ll go with you to the hospital don’t worry—”

Derek steps into the weight room, where Stiles is cradling another freshman into a semi-upright position and holding an inhaler with one hand. A phone alarm goes off, and Stiles immediately moves the inhaler into position. “Okay, I’m going to give you just one this time. The ambulance will be here in no time. It’s not like there’s any traffic between here and the hospital.”

His friend closes his eyes and takes a puff of the inhaler, holding his breath while Stiles counts. Derek hears the ambulance wailing, maybe two minutes out, and also becomes aware of a crowd of students clogging the hallway, trying to look over his shoulder.

“Okay, guys, everyone either go to class or back off,” he hollers, letting his annoyance come to the surface. A cluster of skittish sophomores titter, but they jump back enough that others start to follow their example.

Derek motions them further back and lets his death glare out for good measure. Finally, there’s a clean path for the EMTs to come running in with their equipment, bundling Scott into a wheelchair and taking his vitals on their way out. Stiles keeps pace with them, talking into their ears with more confidence than a 14-year-old should have.

Derek follows them, with the vague intention of helping, dragged along like he’s caught in an undertow.

They crash through the doors and roll Scott down the sidewalk, into the waiting ambulance.

“Thanks for the help. We’ve got it,” says one of the EMTs, some Dudley Do-Right man who’s trying to close the back door, but Stiles is in the way.

“Where’s Mikey? He always lets me ride.”

“I’m not Mikey. No joyrides today.”

“Look, if I’m there it’ll help him relax. I always—”

“Family only, kid. Go to class,” says the EMT, and gently, but firmly, pushes Stiles back hard enough that he stumbles back.

The doors shut, and the ambulance leaves in a cacophony of sirens and flashing lights.

“I am… I am his family,” says Stiles faintly, scrubbing his hands through his buzzed hair. From the back, Derek can’t see his face, but he sees the tension running from his neck to his fingertips, the way his knuckles go white as he clenches his fists and takes a deep, heaving breath.

Derek feels his arm hairs stand on end. The kid is doing something, something to the atmosphere, and it feels like lightning is about to strike.

Right. Crazy powerful spark with no training. With enough emotional power to rip through time and space.

That’s why (he’ll claim until his dying day) Derek gives into his impulse and steps forward. “Hey.”

Stiles is just chewing his lip, breathing heavily, arms clenched over his head in frustration.

“Stiles,” says Derek, and he taps him on the shoulder.

He gets zapped hard enough that his right arm goes numb.

“Fuck! What the fuck, dude?” sputters Stiles. Derek doesn’t know if he was just startled, or if he felt that shock too. If he did, it was on a much smaller scale. The electricity in the air fades, though, so crisis averted.

“I can drive you to the hospital,” Derek grits out, shaking his arm out and trying not to look like a lunatic. He hasn’t been shocked like that in—ever. And Laura used to have a cattle prod. “I have a—I have a free period.”

That free period ends in about two minutes, but he doesn’t say that.

Stiles barely looks at him, just charges ahead into the parking lot. “Where’s your car?”

 


 

Everyone but his dad and his little brother can smell the hospital on him when he comes home. Even if they couldn’t, Cora announces to the dinner table, with a certain amount of glee, that Derek skipped Physics to take Stiles there. “You never told me, Der. How do you know Stiles, again?” she teases.

“It’s not like that,” Derek tells his plate, then looks at his mom for help. She just shrugs, leaving it up to him like she always has. Derek never got around to telling either of his sisters the really trippy part about the Kate Argent debacle, but maybe it’s time. “I’ll tell you tonight.”

“Me too!” says his little brother, going on high alert at the prospect of being left out. Derek feels bad about that. Erik is in fifth grade now, getting more sensitive about the fact that he’s the only human kid in their family.

“Sure thing,” Derek lies. He’ll find something else to tell Erik and put in some bro-time while he’s at it. His little brother’s cool. But he’s also the sort of kid who would go right up to Stiles and ask if he can time travel yet, so letting him in on the secret isn’t exactly an option.

Cora narrows her eyes at him, catching the lie and actually intrigued now. She’ll definitely hunt him down later for the full story.

“Is Stiles okay?” his dad asks, even putting down his silverware in concern.

“Yeah, it was his friend, uh, Scott?” Derek looks at Cora to double-check. “He had an asthma attack and they had to call the ambulance or something.”

“Is he okay?” asks Cora, trying to hide her concern. She claims not to care about most of her classmates, but Derek knows better than to believe it.

“I don’t think so,” Derek says. “They had to put him in a coma. I went back to school when Stiles’ dad got there.” He had a math test that he really couldn’t miss, and the Sheriff had been insistent.

“Well, let’s hope he gets better,” says Derek’s dad, grabbing Erik’s plate and cutting his steak into smaller pieces.

Derek doesn’t miss the way his parents trade significant looks for the rest of dinner. And with the way Cora keeps raising her eyebrows at him, the sooner he finishes eating, the better.

 


 

“Do you think you and Stiles were banging?” Cora casually asks, and Derek spits hot chocolate through his nostrils and is immediately overtaken by a coughing fit.

“What the fuck, Cora!” he snarls as soon as he can, eyes watering and his entire respiratory system stinging. This is the worst. As soon as he and Cora had sat down on her bedroom floor, he knew that telling her the whole time travel version of events would suck. Somehow, he didn’t prepare himself for her drawing this conclusion.

He’s leaning against her dresser, she’s hugging a pillow to her chest, they’re the only ones awake, and he honestly feels so attacked right now.

Cora opens the ziploc where Derek kept the letter for the last two years and takes another whiff. Scent is so important to their family that they keep a lot of things in ziploc bags. It doesn’t work perfectly, but it’s better than nothing. “It smells like him, and I smell Scott a little bit, but it definitely smells like you, too.”

“But older,” Derek says a little desperately. He hopes this can forestall any teasing about him and a freshman, gross. Sure, occasionally seniors and freshmen get together in high school, but it always raises eyebrows and that’s too big of an age gap for Derek, especially now. His personal experience has made him aggressively aware of age differences, and more than ready to preach about it in English class, especially as it pertains to Thomas Hardy. (Their new teacher is 100% better than Kate, by virtue of being, well, not Kate, but Derek now has a boatload of opinions re: the required reading.)

“Well, duh. Like you’re both in your twenties, or something. Did you get a vibe when the other Stiles came to see you? Like, he didn’t try to kiss you, or anything?”

“No,” says Derek shortly, and he takes another sip of hot chocolate. When Cora trains her falcon-sharp gaze on him, he relents. “I don’t think he saw me like that. Even if he was with, uh…”

“Other Derek.”

Derek winces at that, but yeah. Other Derek, that guy he doesn’t particularly like thinking about. The one who fucked Kate Argent and lost his family. “He wouldn’t think it was appropriate, with me.”

Cora bobs her head, swinging her ponytail from side to side as she thinks about it. “Yeah, that makes sense. He’s the Sheriff’s kid, you know. He wouldn’t make a move on a teenager, especially if Other Derek was sad and traumatized.”

“Please stop calling him that.”

Cora snorts at him. “Alright. I’m just saying, you’re bi, and Stiles is obviously bi or pan or something. A lot can change in five years. Or ten.”

“Well, it’s not an issue because we’re going to go our separate ways. Whatever timeline he came from, everything’s changed. We’re already different people than we would have been.”

Cora gazes at him for a moment, then crawls to his side and leans her head on his shoulder. “But you’re not totally different people, either. I might have to reevaluate my opinion on Stiles Stilinski after this,” she says, sounding thoroughly annoyed.

“No, don’t do that. He’s still a little shit.”

She snorts. “Yes, he is. Do you know he announced to our bio class that he just found out that a clitoris and a penis start out the same in a fetus? Like, what the fuck? Who even wants to know that?”

Derek covers his face in horror and starts laughing. It feels like release, like he needs to start talking to Cora more often. She has an odd way of cheering Derek up, but it usually works.

“He raised his hand and everything,” says Cora, smiling into the distance in triumph. “You didn’t tell Laura about him?”

“No. Maybe I should. It was just too weird then.”

“Yeah, there was a lot going on. Just tell her before you send out wedding invitations.”

Derek closes his eyes and bangs his head against the wall at his back. Yup, this is exactly why he didn’t tell Cora sooner.

Chapter Text

“Mind if I come in?” his mom says, leaning against the doorway. Her hair’s in a loose ponytail, and she’s wearing sweats. She’s here on mom business, then. She has a way of dressing up a little more, wearing a leather jacket and fierce eyeliner, when she’s in alpha mode.

Derek nods and motions to the empty spot on his bed, glad he’s actually doing homework and not, like, dicking around on his phone. He catches her scent and frowns. “Were you with Stiles today?”

“Yes, actually,” says Talia, coming inside and sitting cross-legged on his bed, facing him where he’s leaning against the headboard. “Your father and I decided to offer Scott the bite. I had a meeting with him and his mother today, told them all the pros and cons. The risks.”

Derek nods. He’d say he’s pretty well-acquainted with the risks of being a werewolf by now. “Why was Stiles there?”

“Cora said they’re attached at the hip, and Scott would handle it better if he was there. Besides, if Stiles is as powerful as we believe, he needs training. Deaton thinks his mom was a spark too, but didn’t know how to handle it.” At Derek’s inquisitive look, she sighs and gives in. “She passed away several years ago. We don’t want the same thing happening to him.”

“What did Scott say?” Their pack has only been Hales for as long as Derek can remember. It was one of the reasons hunters left them alone, for the most part.

Talia stretches her legs out and wiggles her toes, sighing. “He’s going to think about it, talk it over with his mom.”

“Chris Argent won’t be happy.”

“As Peter would say, Chris Argent can—” his mom cuts herself off before she can finish the sentence, which is obviously fuck himself.

Derek snorts. His parents are never going to be comfortable cussing in front of him, even if his werewolf hearing means he always hears. Always. “So why are you telling me?” His mom will obviously tell everyone else in the pack, but he doesn’t know why he merits the special meeting.

“If Scott says yes, I want you to teach Scott control,” says his mom. “They both look up to you, and we both know Cora’s not completely in control herself.”

“There you go, she's perfect. Those who can’t do, teach, right?”

His mom lifts one eyebrow and gives him her dryest look.

“I’m not good at teaching people, mom,” says Derek earnestly. Really. People in his Spanish club are afraid of asking him anything. It’s not that he wants to hurt people’s feelings. He’s just always been uncomfortable with verbal encouragement, both giving it and receiving it. He’s not the person to hold anyone’s hand. He and Cora are similar that way.

“I’ll give you advice if you need it. I think it’ll be good for you. Besides, we’ve got to see if this Stiles kid is all he’s cracked up to be,” she quips.

Oh, Derek knows that Stiles is the whole point of all this. His parents are significantly more interested in Stiles than he is by now. Like he’s the chosen one in a fantasy book, the one the prophets foretold would save them all. Except he already had. Or something. Also, there’s the concern of letting one of the brightest sparks they’ve ever heard of run amok.

Derek doesn’t doubt that his parents are truly concerned for Scott, but they’ve let people die of chronic conditions before. They had to. The only way the Hale pack can live as peacefully as they do is by keeping their heads down and taking care of their own.

They wouldn’t be risking the wrath of hunters if it weren’t for Stiles, and it’s clear that Stiles and Scott are a package deal.

His mom nudges him with the toe of her foot, immaculately polished with bright red nails. His mom and her dumb alpha jokes. “He might not even go for it.”

Derek sighs. He and Stiles didn’t talk much when they were waiting at the hospital, but the little Stiles had said about Scott’s asthma painted a pretty bleak picture. “No, he’s going to say yes.”

“Probably,” says his mom, smirking at him in a way that’s both consoling and teasing.

Derek scowls, feeling beaten, then he gets an idea. “The SATs are in two weeks,” he says, mentally crossing his fingers. The SATs are sacred. The SATs hold the key to scholarship money.

His mom waves her hand, way too flippantly. “Oh, you’ll be fine. You were always good at the essay portion. Besides, you can put this down as mentoring experience on your college applications.”

Derek groans and throws his head back. He’ll probably do exactly that. But he won’t be happy about it.

 


 

So apparently Stiles is going to join our pack, and Scott too

I wonder if that would make you happy

Or if you wish you had stayed out of this whole mess

But at least this way he’ll get some training

He nearly started a lightning storm last week

He honestly might kill somebody if he doesn’t get help

I wonder if you had trouble with your spark too

Or if it just came naturally to you

 


 

His mom gives Scott the bite a week after the full moon. It’s the most common time for a change, since it gives new wolves a few weeks to get a handle on their control before getting whammied with double the animal instincts and aggression.

Derek picks up Scott and Stiles after lacrosse practice every day, and they hang out in the woods behind his family’s house. It’s chilly, being late February and all, but nobody’s complained about the weather yet. They’re too busy complimenting Derek’s sunshiney attitude.

All the compliments are sarcastic, if that’s not obvious. The derogatory remarks, meanwhile, are sincere. And really, most of the complaining is coming from Stiles, because Derek won’t laugh at his terrible jokes and he’s butthurt about it.

Scott’s not so bad. He’s grateful that any risk to his life will now come from the occasional outside source, and not his own body. He’s not great at concentrating, but he’s sincerely trying, at least when Stiles isn’t throwing pinecones at them and doing his best to make them his personal entertainment because he’s bored with these exercises from Deaton, Scott. Save meeeeee!

Derek feels a little out of his depth. He hasn’t had to practice control since he was a toddler, not on such a basic level. Cora is really the best person for this job, he thinks, but his mom won’t be swayed. He really, really hopes this isn’t all part of her plan to make him and Stiles best friends or blood brothers or something.

He thinks it might be.

Because really, there’s no reason Stiles has to be there for Scott’s training. At all.

Derek’s been training Scott how to spar, making him flick his claws in and out, change his eyes, so on and so forth. Scott’s mostly got it, although he still doesn’t understand the extent to which the full moon can fuck with your emotions and thought processes, so he’s listening more out of obligation than survival instinct. Derek gets the impression that Scott has a pretty even-keeled personality to begin with. That’s usually a good thing, but it also means that Scott has never learned to control his temper before. He never had one to begin with.

That’s about to change.

 


 

Derek’s phone starts buzzing at 2:15 on a Thursday afternoon, eight days before the full moon. He’s inclined to ignore it—he’s in the middle of an English essay and really wants to finish it before class ends—but then he sees Stiles’ messages.

Stiles> sow

Stiles> shit I mean sos

Stiles> scotts losing it

Stiles> derek pelase

Derek hastily fakes an emergency, gathers his stuff, and rushes out into the hall. He doesn’t bother messaging back, just closes his eyes and listens for the fastest heartbeats in the school. It takes him a moment, but he hears them, along with Stiles’ babbling that Derek now knows is his response to stressful situations.

They’re on the first floor, in the boy’s bathroom. Derek’s sprints through the halls, leaps down the empty stairway, and gets there in fifteen seconds. Scott’s curled up in the corner, clawed hands clutching at his head as he tries to stay still, fangs peeking out over his bottom lip. Stiles is trying to be encouraging, crouching down to Scott’s level, but wisely staying out of Scott’s immediate reach.

“What’s the matter?” Derek says, closing the door behind him.

Stiles yelps and falls on his ass.

Scott’s nostrils flare, and he makes a whining sound as he takes in Derek’s scent. That’s good. That means he’s acknowledging him as pack.

“He got pissed at Harris,” says Stiles, gathering his wits and righting himself.

“He’s a dick,” growls Scott, his eyes flashing.

“Yeah, well, what else is new? I appreciate you having my back, buddy, but we can’t have this happen every time Harris tries to give me detention. We’d have to just move into this bathroom, get a TV and everything.”

Derek gets the gist. The chem teacher has it out for Stiles. He’s not surprised—Stiles has the sort of charm that teachers either love or hate with a deadly passion—but he is surprised by his own reaction. He’s feeling protective towards Stiles, the same way he feels toward Cora and Erik. In a ‘nobody gets to give them crap but me’ sort of way.

“Well, let’s think of how we’re going to get him back,” Derek says. Stiles and Scott swivel their heads to him. Even Derek can’t believe he just said that.

“As fantastic as that sounds, I don’t think Scott’s really in the position to be hatching stone-cold revenge plans,” says Stiles, waving at Scott. Scott opens his eyes wider and nods frantically.

“We haven’t figured out what Scott’s anchor is yet, right?” suggests Derek. “What if it’s his morality? The reason he couldn’t hold back the shift is because Harris violated his sense of justice. If we create our own justice, it might help him deal with it.”

Stiles beams at him and sits on the grimy bathroom floor with legs comfortably crossed. “Are you sure this is Talia-sanctioned advice? I mean, I am a thousand percent on board, but—”

“If you tell my mom about this, I’ll wrap your entire head with your lower lip,” says Derek flatly.

Stiles sucks in his lip protectively.

“What can we possibly do?” says Scott, pleading so they’ll focus. “He’s a teacher.”

“He’s such a sweet, innocent babe,” tsks Stiles to Derek.

Derek eyes him but chooses not to say anything to that.

“Someone’s coming,” says Scott, his eyes flaring gold. “I think it’s Greenberg.”

Shit, he’s right. Whoever Greenberg is, he’s humming nervously and headed straight to them. Derek rushes outside and stands in front of the boy’s bathroom door, crossing his arms.

“Bathroom’s occupied,” he says.

The kid is a freshman that Derek honestly can’t find anything to criticize about, but instantly wants to forget. He’s shifting from one foot to the other and grabbing his crotch like a three-year-old. “Man, I gotta piss so bad.”

“Go use the girls’ room.”

Greenberg actually whines.

“There’s nobody in there. Just go,” says Derek, helping him out by steering him away by the shoulder.

“This is the only bathroom I can pee in,” says Greenberg, bouncing up and down, making his glasses jiggle along with it.

Derek’s about to snap.

“Hey, dude,” says Scott, appearing at Derek’s shoulder, completely back in control. “We’re all done if you want to use the bathroom.”

Greenberg’s eyes widen. “You and… Stiles?”

“Heeeey, Greenberg,” sings Stiles, squeezing himself past the three of them on his way out.

Derek rolls his eyes and pushes Greenberg past the open door.

Greenberg is still staring at Scott and Stiles, glasses askew and mouth drooping to the side a bit. “I didn’t know you guys… um, not that there’s anything wrong—”

Derek closes the door in his face, ignores Greenberg’s squawking noises, and turns back around. “Feeling better, Scott?”

All the tension from Scott’s shoulders is gone, and he smiles, sunshiney and confident. “Yeah, I’m fine now. Thanks, Derek.”

“Dude,” breathed Stiles, eyes wide. “I think your anchor might be Greenberg.”

Derek doesn’t bash his head against a locker, but it’s a close call.

Idiots.

 


 

They get Scott through the full moon without any real issues. All it takes in the end is inviting him, his mom, and Stiles to the Hale house for movie and game night. Scott and Cora break the controllers playing Halo, but that’s an acceptable level of damage for both of them.

Stiles tries to show off with wolfsbane, snapping it into rings on the ground and pulling it back into a crumpled paper bag, and accidentally gets it up Derek’s nose.

Derek sneezes for five hours straight.

That little shit doesn’t even stop laughing when Melissa McCall slaps him upside the head and tells him to apologize.

When he gets home, Derek makes a point of standing next to his mom so she gets a good, hard look at his streaming eyes and red face.

She turns to take it in, arms crossed, and chuffs in laughter. “You did a good job training Scott,” she says, which is as close as she’ll get to acknowledging Stiles’ Stilesness within werewolf earshot. “We’ll see how Cora does next month.”

Derek sneezes. Good. Sounds like freedom.

 


 

Derek refuses to hear out Scott and Stiles’ plans for revenge on Harris, holding onto plausible deniability just in case. But when evidence comes up that Harris has been selling academic papers for university students, of all things, his eyebrows go up in grudging admiration. Apparently, when Stiles sets out to get even, he doesn’t half-ass it.

Harris doesn’t get fired immediately, but it’s an open secret that this is his last year at Beacon Hills. When it looks like Harris is taking out his wrath out on Stiles, the screws start disappearing from everything he owns—his chair, shelves, desks, you name it. That doesn’t fix anything, of course it doesn’t. It just fans him into a rage. But then some girl takes a video of Harris screaming at Stiles, spittle flying out of his mouth.

Then he’s fired.

Derek passes Stiles in the hallway, Scott at his side, and nods in approval.

The side of Stiles’ mouth curves up into a smirk that looks ripped from a cheesy anime, and he nods back.

 


 

Derek graduates, not with any fancy awards or titles, but he does have a decent enough GPA and a few small scholarships to get started at UCLA. He’s told dozens of times that he’s going to miss high school. He doubts it.

Laura makes it back for the ceremony and throws him a graduation party. The whole pack is there, setting up a projector and air mattresses in the backyard so they can watch Back to the Future, which was Cora’s choice. She will never get over the time travel jokes, but Derek doesn’t mind. It’s kind of become their thing.

Derek flops onto a mattress between Erik and Laura, and Erik almost bounces into the stratosphere, but Derek snags him out of the air in time, wrenching him safely back into place.

Erik laughs, bright and carefree, and sprawls out over Laura and Derek’s backs, forgetting that he starts middle school soon and has to learn some dignity.

Derek just props himself up on his forearms and watches the beginning of the movie, taking in the scent of his pack, the warmth of Laura at his shoulder and Erik on his back, the chatter and rustling of people getting settled in. His mom and dad are talking in the kitchen while they wait for the pizzas to finish baking, about Laura being back for the summer, about taking one more family vacation before Derek goes to college.

Derek looks over his left shoulder at where Stiles and Scott are sitting on big, squeaky inflatable armchairs, half a dozen open bags of chips between them. Stiles is chewing popcorn with his mouth open, scattered pieces falling heedlessly into his lap.

This kid didn’t save them. Derek knows that. This Stiles is not that Stiles. He feels thankful, all the same.

He catches himself smiling a little wistfully and turns back to the screen in time to see Marty McFly blow out a comically large speaker system, sending himself flying across the room.

Chapter Text

UCLA is everything Derek dreamed it would be.

Laura’s cool girl vibe gets him invites to as many parties and clubs as he could possibly want, and he rides that wave for a while, until he makes friends with the other psych majors. His roommate is a baseball player, so he doesn’t see him much, but when they do hang out they go to the batting cages and talk statistics. They aren’t friends for life, but it’s comfortable, and it’s easy.

His classes are fascinating, if overpriced. Spending upwards of $300 per class seems pretty steep, but since studying internationally would be hard for a werewolf away from their pack, in-state tuition seems the next best bet. He gets in with the smart kids in his classes and they help each other study for tests, then start doing everything together.

He starts dating an exchange student named Cleo, but then she figures out he’s a werewolf and says “Thanks, but no thanks.” She’s been supernatural-adjacent before and has no interest in that particular brand of drama.

The rejection stings, but Derek wasn’t falling in love with her or anything, so they stay friends.

Then there’s the last scramble before final exams, and he’s home for Christmas.

 


 

So…

Turns out when he and Cleo broke up first semester of freshman year, they weren’t anticipating falling for each other even more when they were ‘just friends’. One year later, before they know what’s happening, they’re falling into each other’s arms and hearts and just being gooey-eyed 24/7. Derek really should have seen it coming, because well, she’s Cleo.

Cleo is at UCLA as part of an exchange program from Cambridge, and she’s a no-nonsense Greek girl with wavy brown hair and striking blue eyes. She’s short and curvy, and wears tight clothing that makes Derek constantly think about getting his hands on her. He never thought he was an ass man before, but…

That ass.

She pulls Derek around by the hand when they go to the bookstore, and when they get sub sandwiches, she gives him her onions if he’ll give her his tomatoes. She argues with the professors with just a trace of accent that to weaker specimens (Derek included) makes her seem slightly smarter than she is, which is already really fucking smart.

She doesn’t get weirded out by the werewolf thing, even if the danger still makes her a little wary. Derek doesn’t have to explain the scenting, or his constant struggle with possessiveness, or how he goes a little manic during the full moon. She knows how to break a ring of wolfsbane, which makes Derek feel protected, even if it hasn’t been a concern at school. More than that, she protects him emotionally, with an open mind and honest opinions, and zero tolerance for bullshit.

Laura approves of Cleo wholeheartedly, and invites her to go camping with the family during summer vacation.

They talk about it for the rest of the second semester, how great it’ll be camping on the beach, introducing Cleo to the whole family, how much Cora is going to love her. They buy aquatic shoes for all the kayaking they’re going to do, and.

And Cleo breaks up with him.

She gets an incredible internship back at Cambridge, and she’s going back, and she doesn’t foresee coming back for at least two years, if ever.

Derek kisses her goodbye at the airport, knowing it’s really goodbye. Then he drives, alone, to the campsite in La Jolla, and is greeted by both his parents, giving him full-body hugs.

“We want you to know,” his mom says, smoothing her hands down the sides of his face and looking him in the eye, “that it’s fine if you’re not okay for this trip. We know she meant a lot to you. You don’t even have to stay if you don’t want.”

“You drove all the way down here so it was easier for me and Laura,” grumbles Derek. “I’m going to stay.”

Andrew pulls him into a hug next. “Just let us know if you need some time to yourself. Things are just going to suck for a while.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

His parents show him to his cabin, which is empty, of course. They’d paid for Derek and Cleo to have their own cabin for the sake of privacy, and now Derek doesn’t know if it’s a curse or a blessing. He puts down his duffel bag and sits on the bed, feeling numb.

“Dinner’s at six,” his mom says, before she leaves. It isn’t long before the sound of her footsteps is swallowed up by the relentless sound of waves crashing onto the beach, again and again and again.

 


 

Derek makes an appearance at dinner, smiles half-heartedly at Erik’s efforts to cheer him up, then makes his escape.

He finds a grassy outlook over the beach where the waves, the wind, and the traffic create a soothing white noise.

And then he hears a car detach from the main road and pull into their campsite, making a worrying whining noise and lurching to a stop with squeaky brakes. The doors open, and he can hear Scott and Stiles squabbling over whether Stiles did a good enough job parallel parking or not.

Derek just chuckles to himself and tunes them out again. They’re his mom’s problem now. He gets a perverse sense of vindication when his mom complains about having to raise three teenagers at the same time, instead of only Cora. Not that he thinks she shouldn’t have brought them into the pack. He just wants his mom to know, at all times, that she did this to herself, choosing the two most annoying people in Cora’s grade.

He tunes them out so thoroughly that he’s taken by surprise when a lanky figure clumsily sits down next to him, wearing a plaid overshirt that smells like road trip. “Hey, bro. I heard you got broken up with.”

Derek groans internally. He does not. Want. To do this.

“I was thinking we could start up our own lonely hearts club,” continues Stiles, looking down and wringing his long fingers, constantly in motion. “Man, we’re everywhere these days. Kira just broke up with Scott to go join this freaky desert tribe, and it’s not like I’m in the headspace to take care of him, either.”

Derek can smell the heartache on him, and it is strangely comforting, after all. “You got broken up with?”

“Yeah, uh.” Stiles squints into the sunset, picking at the grass at his feet. “In the sense that I never got the chance to, uh.”

Derek looks over at him and doesn’t try, at all, to hide his judgment.

“I realize that on the one hand, our situations are totally different, because while I have never been in a relationship, you had the privilege of dating someone totally badass, from what Laura says—”

Why’s Laura talking to Stiles about Derek’s girl—ex-girlfriend? Since when does Stiles talk to Laura at all?

“I’m just saying that I feel like even though we’ve never dated, I feel this connection to her, you know? Like we would complement each other so well, if she would just—”

“To Laura?” Derek’s eyebrows crinkle in concern.

“Huh?” Stiles wrinkles his forehead in confusion, then suddenly laughs. “Not to be insulting, but I have absolutely never thought of Laura that way. She’s like, grown. I’m talking about Lydia. She’s this girl at my school. She’s got these full lips and green eyes and she’s fucking brilliant, you know? She just never dates anybody who’s not at the pinnacle of the social pyramid, and sometimes it seems like she’s never going to see me that way, like she’s so far above—”

Derek scoffs, getting angrier by the minute. He can't believe this kid. “That seems like a dealbreaker to me.”

“Huh?”

“If somebody doesn’t like you, that’s a dealbreaker. A relationship won’t work if you always think you have to convince somebody you’re good enough,” says Derek, his vision blurring a bit as he remembers his last night with Cleo, sleeping with their foreheads touching, arms reaching out for each other. The way they just naturally fell into love through a series of 3 a.m. study sessions, and coffee runs, and sending each other cat memes when they were procrastinating. Easy. Natural.

“Okay, Mr. Judgey, not everybody is the pinnacle of physical perfection,” spits Stiles, instantly clenching his fists around his knees in a defensive pose. “You’ve probably never been heartbroken in your life.”

Derek just looks at him.

“Except for that time your girlfriend—shit,” says Stiles, slumping down and letting his mouth hang open.

“That time I had to kill my girlfriend so she wouldn’t suffer,” says Derek, speaking evenly, resisting the impulse to rub his chest. He can talk about it now, even told Cleo about it, but it’s an old wound that’s never going to completely heal. He stares out at the horizon, furiously clenching his jaw, then stands up, leaving Stiles gaping up at him from the ground. “Let me give you some advice as the president of the lonely hearts club,” he begins, keeping his voice careful and quiet. He knows how to intimidate when he really needs to. “One, it doesn’t matter if you’re physically attractive or not. ‘Ugly people’ find love every day, and attractive people get their hearts broken. The whole thing’s a crapshoot anyway. Two, that doesn’t even apply to you, because you’re going to grow up hot. Three, it doesn’t matter how epic your unrequited love story is. It’s not going to cheer up somebody who just lost somebody they loved, somebody who was their best friend.”

Derek turns without another word and walks back towards his cabin. He needs a door to shut people out with. He does his best not to stomp, but he can’t help himself from clenching his fists and taking deep breaths. “I’m sorry,” he hears Stiles whisper when he’s 30 feet away, but he’s not in the mood to reassure Stiles and make him feel better.

Derek will make nice tomorrow. Right now he needs to be alone.

 


 

He goes kayaking with Cora, Scott, and Stiles the next day, and it’s actually really fun. Scott can’t get the hang of keeping his kayak upright, so he’s basically just exercising his werewolf-gifted core strength as he spins in the water like a perpetual dunking machine. Derek, Cora and Stiles laugh at him until they’re all tearing up a bit. Stiles, surprisingly, doesn’t have a hard time at all paddling circles around them, and he reaches a new level of smack-talk because of it.

Stiles is tentative around Derek, and Derek doesn’t know how to read it. He doesn’t know if it’s because he’s afraid Derek’s going to snap on him again, or if he just realized that Derek’s a flesh-and-blood person with real-life feelings. Derek suspects it’s the latter, given how Stiles has never acted scared of Derek in his life.

Derek almost wishes they could take back their conversation the night before. It was short, less than a minute long, but he feels exposed now. He hadn’t planned on giving Stiles Derek Hale’s Philosophy of Dating 101. And Stiles exposed the part of himself that is still immature and self-centered, and while Derek has already forgiven him for that, he doubts that Stiles has forgiven himself. He doesn’t spend time with Stiles one-on-one, but three years in the same pack is enough for him to know that Stiles can be really hard on himself when he hurts the people he cares about.

So Derek makes it his mission to unbalance Stiles, tipping his kayak over with his oar. Stiles flips himself right-side up again, and when he’s still catching his breath, Derek splashes him in the face.

“You fucking bastard!” screams Stiles, splashing him right back, laughing brightly.

“I thought you were the King of Kayaks,” says Derek, leaning forward so he can lean his chin on his hand and bat his eyelashes.

“This disrespect will not stand. Senior Class of 2015, assemble!” Stiles cries, brandishing his double-sided oar like a weapon.

Derek finds it a lot harder staying smug when all three of them attack.