Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.
Song for this chapter is And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop, by James Vincent McMorrow
Dr. Leanne Lundy's office is an even, neutral beige tone and the mild lighting comes from a single lamp on her desk and three different candles. An outdated CD player sits adjacent to her desk and she, herself, sits cross-legged on her rolling chair. Her couch isn't all that comfortable and seems to shrink under Derek's hulking image. She has a blanket strewn over the back of the couch and the miniscule end table that rests against the right arm of the couch balances a box of tissues, a miniature Zen garden and one of the burning candles. They smell like cotton and vanilla and some kind of flower. It's all a little overwhelming to Derek's hypersensitive nose, but he doesn't let it show. He never does.
She has a clipboard in her hand and she seems, at the same time, passive and engaged. He can tell she is focused and he appreciates it, in a weird new way. She wears muted colors, fake jewelry and her hair is swept back behind her ears. She is maybe a little over forty years old. The CD player has the time on it and it's five minutes behind; the sound is some kind of soft rain with plucked string instruments playing on top of it.
He feels cornered.
"So," she begins.
"Before we get started, I need to tell you a few things. That okay?"
"Yeah," He utters.
"I just need to tell you that confidentiality means that anything you say in this room will be kept strictly between us. Your private affairs, thoughts and feelings are between us only, unless I feel you are a danger to yourself, anyone around you or you confess to me you know something about a minor or elder being abused in some way, shape or form. If you were to end up in any kind of legal trouble, information you give me here can be legally asked of me to disclose. If I feel that you are in immediate danger from yourself, I can and will Baker Act you, which means you will be held in a hospital until you're deemed no longer a danger to yourself or anyone around you. That make sense?"
"Yeah," Derek repeats.
She shows him the clipboard and tells him, "sign here," with her pen touching an 'x' beside a line titled 'signature,' "All that means is that I told you about confidentiality, under what circumstances it's broken and my obligation to take action if you're in danger or someone around you is in danger, or you're plotting the assassination of the president, so on and so forth."
"Right," Derek replies stiffly and signs.
"This is a safe place," Dr. Lundy assures him, "I've worked for many years, in this very room, making this a place that keeps secrets and reduces shame and provides comfort and safety. Trust in that. This is a safe space. This is your time and we can use it however you want. If you want to sit in silence, I won't make you talk and if you want to work hard, I will help you. I'm here to help you, whatever that might mean."
He says nothing to that and once she turns the page on her clipboard, she leans back in her chair and says, "now a few questions, if you don't mind. Would it bother you if I took notes while we talk?"
"No," he says, "that's fine."
"Alright," she readies her pen on her paper, "I know that you found me through your parents' records. So, we can address the elephant in the room and just say that we both know you're a lycanthrope. Right?"
"Right," Derek nods.
"Alright. So, I know you aren't taking any medications and probably haven't seen a psychiatrist or psychologist before and you put in your own notes that you don't have an Emissary either."
He hums agreeably.
"Are there any names or pronouns you prefer?"
"No, I mean – you can just call me by my name. That's fine."
Her pen is pressed so delicately against the paper and she says, "it's a beautiful Saturday morning, the sun is out, the sky is clear, the town is alive with hustle and bustle, yet instead of being at the beach, lazing around, or enjoying time off, you're here with me."
He thinks that sounds kind of pathetic.
"So, why are you here?" she tacks on conversationally.
He hadn't considered explaining it, really.
He sort of hoped she'd just look at him and instinctively know everything and then give him a shot or some sage advice and he'd be on his merry way.
He thinks about saying, 'I'm an Omega and I was never meant to be alone, but it's becoming apparent to me that I'm not supposed to have anyone in my life either,' or 'Peter makes me feel like I go about everything wrong and I'm scared I don't know between right and wrong.'
He thinks about saying, 'I'm twenty-five and my life is a shit show that is taking the form of a never-ending downward spiral,' or 'A bunch of teenagers have been joking about me needing therapy and I don't know where to draw the line.' He considers telling her, 'I don't remember the last time I was genuinely happy and I'm terrified that this only gets harder,' or 'Everything I touch is destroyed and I just don't want to hurt anyone anymore,' or 'Love scares me, I can't have any joy without guilt and I hate myself.'
He thinks, 'I have nightmares before I even fall asleep,' and 'I'm passively suicidal, I feel exhausting anxiety more often than not, I have flash-backs and tremors.' He thinks he might tell her, 'My fourteen year old self would be so disappointed to see what I've become,' or 'I am always letting myself down and allowing the people that trust me to be hurt.' He contemplates telling her, 'I don't know.'
Just, 'I don't know.'
He feels so trapped, so cornered and so stressed that he ends up saying nothing at all.
So goes his first appointment with Dr. Lundy.
And so goes the second one too.
That hour includes a lot of him twitching and readjusting his posture and playing with the sleeves of his jacket. He opens his mouth a few times and shuts it, uselessly. When the hour is up, he asks her to open the window next time, because the smell of the candles is making him tear up. (It's not and she knows that, but she keeps the window open the next time he comes in anyway)
The third session is three weeks after his first and then he finally knows what he wants to say.
"I want to change," Derek announces bluntly and he feels a bit sick when he does, "I don't… really know how. I don't know what I want to change. I need…help. I've wanted to change for a long time, but I was never able to talk about it. Verbalize it. I think I'm ready to talk now."
"Alright," she says, scribbling down in a quiet and fluid motion, "Where would you like to go today?"
Derek's brow furrows a little curiously, but he says steadily, "I guess I should start from the beginning."
"Sounds good to me," she smiles casually and gestures for him to go on.
He sighs and stares at his hands in his lap, "I… okay. Well, I guess I'll start with my family. I was born into a big pack. My mother, Talia, was the Alpha. There was my grandmother Penny, my father Andrew, my uncle Peter, my aunt Danielle, my little cousin Rose, my older brother Liam, my older sister Laura, myself and my younger sister, Cora. We all lived in one house."
"Sounds a little crowded," she jokes lightly.
He nods and twiddles his thumbs, "yeah."
He thinks, I liked it that way. There was always something to do, always somewhere to go, always someone to talk to.
Then he thinks that he's meant to share those thoughts here.
He remembers her saying that this was a safe space for him and his secrets.
It takes a gulp, a moment for him to gather the strength and resolve, but he says it out loud.
"I'm sure," she says casually and it doesn't minimize his sharing, but doesn't put pressure on him either and he breathes for a second, "Did you have a good relationship with your family members, growing up?"
Derek remembers sitting on the living room couch, frustrated tears in his eyes, just about to condemn himself to a life of Velcro shoes when Laura stepped in and helped him learn to tie his sneakers. He is able to recall the breeze in his hair where he sat atop his father's broad shoulders; he can feel the swipe of his mother's hand on his forehead when she checked him for fever after he'd happened upon wild wolfsbane.
He can hear Liam chuckling at him at the dinner table, telling their parents about how Derek had asked him when he'd be able to grow chest hair. He remembers Peter pushing him on the swings at a playground, he remembers his grandmother smacking his hand with a wooden spoon when he snuck into the kitchen to steal a taste before dinner was ready.
He swallows tightly.
"Yeah," he answers, his thumbs rubbing together, and he thinks to himself, talk, idiot, talk.
He adds, "yeah. Liam was a few years older than me and gave me a lot of grief, but we always loved each other. I was closest to my uncle Peter and my sister Laura."
"Uncle Peter belonged to what side of the family?"
"He's my mother's brother."
She writes down again and looks up, to cue him into talking again. He's startled by it at first, wishing he could stay silent and she could just understand everything that's happened to him without having to actually explain. He eventually says with a measure of nervous impatience, "look, this… all of this started going wrong when I was around fourteen."
Dr. Lundy tilts her head curiously and asks without inflection, "what happened when you were fourteen?"
Her name slips from his lips and his heart twists and it beats unevenly to the terribly familiar song of OhGodI'mSoSorryForgiveMePaigeOhGodI'mSoSorrySoSorrySoSorryPaigePaigePaige. She is frozen at fourteen in his mind's eye and he hates himself, hates himself. It's a cold, rusty razor against the plush underbelly of his soul. Her eyes are young and sparkling and she has baby fat around her rosy cheeks and he wants to die.
"Paige," she repeats and he thinks that she hasn't said that name with nearly enough reverence, "Tell me about Paige."
"She was my first love," he begins evenly, reserved and he feels the nerves he was so frightened of feeling crawling up his arms and making the back of his neck feel cold and sweaty, "She was so unimpressed by me and I couldn't get enough of it. I wanted her to want me and once she did, I didn't want to know what it was like to be wanted by anyone else, ever again. She looked at me and the world stopped spinning. She was sharp as a tack, beautiful, talented and a little dangerous."
"Dangerous to a werewolf?" Dr. Lundy smirks.
Derek smiles shyly and replies, "dangerous to a hormonal, teenage boy with impulse control issues. She liked pushing the envelope."
She chuckles a little and says, "tell me more."
"I… was fine. I was fine with how things were, but Peter kept pushing me…"
"Pushing you to do what?"
"Give her The Bite," Derek answers, "Or, rather, get another Alpha to give her The Bite."
He feels his hands fiddling, but can't really stop it. He continues, "he kept trying to convince me that we couldn't be together unless I had her Bitten. It didn't feel right, but I didn't know why it felt wrong, so I blamed paranoia. I couldn't think up why he would be wrong, why he would steer me in the wrong direction. I couldn't imagine how wrong…"
He remembers the feel of Paige's hand in his, the way the sunlight bounced off her eyelids and nose and how her voice was such smooth, easy music to him. He remembers her moles and freckles, her attached earlobes, her shy laughter, the way she couldn't roll her tongue or her 'R's' in Spanish. He remembers her constant craving for filleted salmon, sweet potato pie and horseradish sauce (exclusively, never together, but she always wanted one of those at any given time). He remembers what her laugh sounded like bouncing off the walls of his family room and how her profile looked so perfect when she stole sideway glances at him during class. Her shy hugs, light as a feather around his waist. Her pink, small palms.
"What went wrong, Derek?"
He looks up to Dr. Lundy, guilty, then back to his hands and he's blaming them, "I… tried to save her. But I was too late. It didn't take. The Bite. The Bite didn't take. I had to…she begged me to, I mean…"
"You saved her from the pain," Dr. Lundy finishes knowingly.
Derek's heart lurches and he feels he's being given credit where none is due. He feels selfish and guilty and it's hard to breathe under the weight of it.
Under the weight of a fourteen year old girl, dying and bloody and scared in his arms.
He can see her glassy eyes, foggy with faraway's and gone's and he feels her sobs. He's fifteen again, cradling her in the dark, wanting more than anything to wake up or start over or take it all back. He is so frightened of living without her, so frightened that she won't believe at the end that he loved because if he loved her, how could he do something like this and that the end is in front of him, the end is coming for her and he's the harbinger of it.
He shuts his eyes and breathes in slowly.
When he opens his eyes again, he only nods.
Dr. Lundy writes more down and says, "do you mind if we talk about Paige for a bit?"
Her young, freezing body is on his lap.
The room is warm and full of warm colors, but she is blue and dark in his arms and she's not moving and she'll never move again.
"No," he lies, "I can talk about it."
She seems to be able to detect his hesitation, but he scents her respect, her focus.
She's zeroing in on him and he feels unarmored. He irrationally worries that she's able to see Paige's dead body in his lap.
"Tell me what your five favorite things about Paige were," she instructs nonchalantly.
"I don't think I can choose just five."
He wants to stroke her hair. He always does, but he knows by now that when he lifts his hand, it will fall on empty air.
"Tell me any five things, then," she amends, "Any five things you loved."
"Her motivation," he starts easily enough, "I don't think will-power exists, because I don't believe it can be measured, but she had drive. I liked that."
He gets lost, looking off and unfocusing his eyes. He sighs and says, "she was dangerously curious and insatiable that way. She was adventurous, she was loyal and…"
After an empty beat, Dr. Lundy asks, "And?"
"She loved me," he says plainly and sadly to the space between his feet; he can see one of her bluish hands dangling limply there, "She loved me and never asked me to change. She never told me I was too much of something or too little of something else. She just…wanted me the way I was. The natural, or supernatural… the rawest way I came, she wanted me that way. Unfiltered. Uncensored. Untamed. Before I knew shame."
While she's writing, Dr. Lundy asks, "what did Paige mean to you then?"
"What do you mean?"
"When you were – what age was this?"
"I was fourteen when I met Paige."
"Well, when you were fourteen and thought of Paige, what did you feel? What did she mean?"
"Love. Tranquility… and trust. Excitement. The future."
There's a pause while Dr. Lundy looks at her paper and scribbles until she inquires, "and what does Paige mean to you now? What do you feel when you think of Paige?"
His brow furrows and he feels that sickly, cornered animal fear. He answers, "guilt. Anger. Idiocy. Suffering. Loss."
"Would I be right in thinking that you blame yourself for this?"
"It's my fault," he growls irritably, "Of course I blame myself. If it weren't for me, Paige would still be alive. My family would still be…"
"Here," he concludes quietly.
"How is that?" Dr. Lundy asks clinically.
"I was dumb," he starts, sounding and feeling exhausted and fearful of voicing the eternal, broken record of his inner monologue, "I was hurt. When I lost Paige, I lost everything. My family looked at me differently, my eyes were different from everyone else's and I was vulnerable. I was easy prey. A hunter…"
His throat closes up and his head doesn't feel right. He doesn't feel like his blood his flowing properly. Like his blood flow has changed direction and it's making his limbs feel weak and his stomach is churning. He wants to be swallowed up by the ground. He wants to die before he has to finish the sentence.
"Keep going, Derek," Dr. Lundy encourages gently, "Tell me what happened."
"She was a substitute teacher at the high school," Derek says without breathing, "She got into my head. She used me. I was fifteen. It was my first sexual relationship, it was too soon after Paige died, I was too dumb and fucking sad to see any of the red, blaring fucking lights. She killed them."
"Everyone," Derek chokes, feeling the terrifying sting of isolation he hadn't felt since he was newly orphaned, "Everyone but Peter and Laura. Laura was at school with me. Peter survived. Barely. The house was set on fire. They were all locked in the basement. I never told anyone…"
Dr. Lundy probes, "until now?"
"I'm not totally sure. Last year, a…" he almost says 'a kid I know,' but thinks that sounds way too creepy. He considers saying, 'a pack member,' but Stiles isn't pack, because Derek doesn't have a pack anymore. He winds up settling on, "A guy I know said something that sounded…"
He remembers the green, flashing on-and-off of the hospital lights. He remembers the fiery look in Stiles' amber eyes and how sharp his human teeth looked when he shouted,
"Me be quiet? Me? Are you telling me what to do now? When your psychotic mass-murdering girlfriend - the second one you've dated, by the way – has got my dad somewhere, tied up, waiting to be ritually sacrificed?"
"…he implied that he knew about her – Kate. Kate was the woman's name, and he implied that he knew what happened between Kate and me."
Dr. Lundy seems a little wary when she asks, "is there any way for this 'guy' to know about that?"
"No," Derek insists, but softens before he adds, "Well, I don't think so. He's got sharp investigative skills, he's smart. He might have figured it out for himself. Otherwise, the only other person, still alive, that knew who killed them is Peter. But Peter doesn't know what happened between Kate and me."
"I see," Dr. Lundy says, "Would you like Peter to know?"
"No," Derek chuckles darkly, "No. Peter's the last person I would want knowing."
"Why is that?"
Derek makes a frustrated noise, but doesn't elaborate, so Dr. Lundy rephrases and redirects, "what's the nature of your relationship with your uncle Peter, Derek?"
"The nature? I don't know. He's the bane of my existence," Derek offers.
"I thought you said you were quite close with your uncle Peter?"
"I was, but the fire changed him," Derek tells her, anger and regret boiling in the pit of his stomach, "He was always an ass, but the fire made him lose his mind. He's a power-hungry psycho. He killed Laura two years ago, to take her place as Alpha. I killed him. A banshee brought him back to life. Now he has an apartment outside Beacon Hills and fucks with me by setting my DVR to record shows I don't like and drops ambiguous hints about what I should be doing."
"…uh-huh," Dr. Lundy replies, a little strained, "What happened to Peter after the fire? And what became of you and Laura?"
"He wasn't healing correctly. He stayed in a hospital for years. We left. Laura would visit him sometimes. I visited him twice after the fire, but I just couldn't bring myself to see him like that again," He imagines Laura's face and her constant understanding whenever he said he didn't want to go with her to see him. He sighs a little longingly for her and then says, "Laura was stronger that way. She saw him regularly, about once or twice a month. She hadn't been down here to see him for months when she heard rumor of a rogue, feral werewolf terrorizing Beacon Hills. So, she came down to see what was happening, because Beacon Hills is still, technically, Hale territory. It was Peter and he killed her. I came looking for her when she didn't come back. I've been here since."
"I see," she nods and looks up from her paper, "And you blame yourself for these events too?"
"If I'd followed Laura down here when she left to follow up on the rumors, it wouldn't have happened. I shouldn't have let her come alone."
"She came to Beacon Hills alone many times before, though, right?"
"Yeah," Derek grumbles argumentatively, "but never to go looking for a rogue Omega. I shouldn't have let her go alone."
Dr. Lundy writes more down and Derek begins wondering if it was a bad idea to tell her he didn't mind her taking notes.
She questions, "what's happened since that? You said Peter killed Laura two years ago. What's happened since then?"
"While he was an Alpha, Peter Bit a kid named Scott. Scott was only sixteen; he's a good kid. He's also naïve and incompetent and a lot like me when I was his age."
Dr. Lundy cocks a curious brow at that and asks with genuine intrigue, "what does that make you feel?"
"Yes, about Scott."
"Fear," Derek answers frankly, "I feel fear for Scott."
"Are you involved in Scott's life?"
"I wouldn't say that," he confesses regretfully, "I wanted to be. I wanted to help him, but he didn't want my help."
When Dr. Lundy makes an expression that wonders why Scott wouldn't want his help, he says, "I didn't make myself easy to be around or anything; I don't blame him. I made a pack, after killing Peter. I was scared without Laura. I was too scared to be an Omega. I turned four kids. Boyd, Erica, Isaac and Jackson. Jackson's Bite didn't take at first. He turned into something else and I almost had to put him down. Erica and Boyd are dead. Isaac belongs to Scott's pack now."
"Isaac left you?" she inquires.
"I pushed – forced - him away," Derek admits.
"To protect him," Derek promises, a distinctive ache in his chest; "I care deeply about Isaac. I'm just a goddamn black cat. I was in danger at the time and I pushed him away to keep him safe. It was all I could think to do," Derek rationalizes.
"Erica and Boyd?"
"Boyd killed Erica when he became feral. They were being tortured and kept prisoner by an Alpha pack. One of those Alphas used my hands to kill Boyd."
"He was dead, then the banshee brought him back to life too. His family panicked and sent him away. He's somewhere in Europe now, in some boarding school," Derek explains.
"Who is this banshee you keep mentioning?"
"Lydia. Part of Scott's pack."
"Is that all of Scott's pack? Lydia, Isaac and Scott?"
"Kira, a kitsune. Malia, a were-coyote. And Stiles."
"And what is Stiles?"
"A human," Derek answers proudly, looking Dr. Lundy in the eyes for the first time in the hour, "He's a human. His father is in law enforcement and he's more curious than is good for him. He's Scott's best friend. He's been there since Scott was first Bitten."
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds to me like you envy Scott and his pack. Would that be accurate?"
Derek shrugs, looking away again, "I guess. A part of me is definitely…envious, I guess, but I'm more worried. And I'm more sorry than anything else."
"Sorry for what?"
"Sorry that I ever spoke to Paige," he says while shaking his head, "Sorry that made me love Paige. Sorry I killed Paige and that she was received as a sacrifice to the Nemeton."
"The Nemeton is an ancient magic in the woods, where my family lived. It draws a lot of creatures. Ones not so friendly. And because I killed Paige there, it stirred. Its awakening meant disaster for Scott and I'm sorry for it."
Derek starts rubbing his knees with his open palms, nervous and fitful, "Scott wanted to kill Peter, in the hopes it would cure the lycanthropy. I didn't let him. I was too angry. I killed Peter. I took it away from him and I'm sorry for that. I was cruel to Stiles because I would see Paige in his eyes and it made me want to kill myself. I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry that Peter causes his pack so many issues and he does – he really does. And if I'd never spoken to Paige, I'd have never tried to change her. If I hadn't tried to get her changed, I wouldn't have had to kill her and if I didn't have to mourn her, I wouldn't have been vulnerable to Kate and if I hadn't been vulnerable to Kate, my family wouldn't have died. If my family didn't die, Peter would've been kept in check and if Peter had been kept in check, he never would've been Alpha and never Bitten Scott. If Peter never Bit Scott, he wouldn't have to deal with all of this. The pain and the loss – he just lost his first love to all this evil shit and it's my fault. It all comes back to me."
"You blame yourself for everything that's unfolded, then?"
"Of course I do."
"Alright," Dr. Lundy says, finishing a sentence in her notes with a loud tap.
Derek quirks a brow and his hands stop moving. He asks, "alright, what?"
He expected her to tell him it wasn't his fault, how he was only a child. He expected her to tell him that he didn't need to feel so sad, so guilty, so angry with himself, but she hadn't. She's staring passively at him and he realizes that he wouldn't have listened to a single word she'd said if she'd started a sentence with 'it isn't your fault.' He feels validated; for something awful, but it helps him feel entitled to his feelings.
He swallows thickly and she asks, "so. Blaming yourself. How is that working for you?"
Derek drops his head in his hands, elbows balanced on his thighs when he replies, "not so well."
"So, what if you didn't blame yourself anymore?"
"What do you mean?" Derek grumbles.
"I mean, what if you stopped blaming yourself. What would happen?"
Derek's fingers twitch and he knows he probably looks furious, but he's just feeling open and raw and confused. He doesn't know. He tries to imagine life without the guilt and he thinks words like selfish, heartless, undeserving. He knows he's taking too long to answer and Dr. Lundy smiles a little sadly.
She leans forward and looks him in the eyes when she prompts, "what purpose does the guilt serve, Derek?"
"I don't… it's my responsibility," he insists, his shoulders rolling up higher and higher, his back arching.
"To myself. My family – those kids – " he's panicking and the knowledge of the panic is only making it worse, "if it weren't for me, they'd still be here."
She backs up a little, gives him space enough that he no longer feels like he's being hovered over.
"You know, humans are the only animals that feel guilt," she says simply.
"That's not true," Derek glares at her, dropping his fists against his thighs, "Dogs feel guilt. You've seen dogs with tails between their legs, their ears down when they're being yelled at."
"Yes, but that dog isn't thinking about having shit on the carpet two weeks after the fact."
Derek pauses and Dr. Lundy smiles again, "humans are the only ones that torture themselves with guilt. We are the only self-punishing creatures. So, if nothing else in the animal kingdom uses it, what kind of use do you think it has?"
"Not a lot…" he guesses half-heartedly.
"Not a lot," Dr. Lundy agrees, "Humans are flawed animals. If it doesn't serve a purpose, or its purpose is harmful, it's maladaptive. You said you want to change. You stand by that?"
"Yes," Derek answers readily, always more open to a new challenge than mulling over old feelings.
"Then we have to change the way you think. It won't be easy."
"Nothing ever is."
She smiles at him and it's encouraging.
She announces, "our time is almost up for today. Should I put you down for the same time next week?"
"Two, if you can. Back-to-back. It's a long drive out here and… if we've got work ahead of us, I guess I should spend a little more time here than an hour a week."
"That's fine by me," she says and starts penciling in her agenda.
Before he leaves, she stands by the door and tells him, "remember, Derek, when you feel discomfort or are experiencing unpleasant emotions, ask yourself where it's coming from and whether it is serving a purpose. Madness is trying to get a different result from the same things; don't stay idle."
He nods and drives home in rush hour. It takes him an hour and a half to get home and he spends most of it biting the inside of his bottom lip until it bleeds.