After the fire, Derek was depressed. Then Laura died, and he fell even further down that road. He thought he found the bottom of that bottomless pit, and the climb was something he knew he’d never make. He didn’t have a ladder. Everyone he knew was dead, and it was all his fault.
In fact, it’s a miracle he even survived. Without his big sister, there was no one there to make him eat or shower. So he barely did either.
And then – and then the weirdest thing happened.
He was roped into helping a newly turned wolf, Scott.
One thing turned into another, and suddenly he was teaming up with Scott’s friends too.
And it got better; there was something distracting him from doing stupid things like hurting himself or working out until he passed out from dehydration – a hard task for a werewolf. Instead, he found a few kids in need of his help.
Erica was a shy, helpless little human that reminded him so much of his deceased cousin Modesta. So he offered her the bite. She said yes.
Isaac was an even shyer, more helpless human. Derek found him in the graveyard.
Boyd wasn’t helpless or shy. He was quiet and reserved and Derek liked that. He would make a good beta. Boyd’s reasons weren’t right (who becomes a werewolf for attention and popularity?) but Derek needed a third, and Erica begged Derek to change him. Boyd took the most time of them all deciding whether or not to take it.
And then he had an official pack. A ragtag pack of essentially useless werewolves, maybe, but they were still his and willing to learn as long as Derek was willing to teach.
Throughout this time he always prioritized Scott’s drama over his. It’s what his mother would’ve done and he had an obligation, as the only living Hale member, to protect Beacon Hills. He gets so busy lurking and listening that he finds himself momentarily forgetting about Laura’s death, and then he’ll turn around, ready to brag to Laura: ‘Did you see that? I was totally scarier than you are.’ ‘That backflip was way better than yours,’ that’s when it hurts the most.
And then they’re suddenly battling their first villain. He finds another way to corner Stiles, without seeming like he wants his attention. And maybe he threatens the kid a little, but it’s been years since he’s cared about someone this much, and he forgets that it isn’t socially acceptable to bully your crush anymore, because he’s not eleven.
The wolf instinct to protect your mate happens before the brain can process it, he remembers his mom telling him. He’d shoved Stiles out of the way from the Kanima’s tail, taking the poison instead.
When he falls into the pool, sinking, drowning, all he can think of is getting back to the surface. Panic welling inside him, trying desperately to move but the muscles in his body unwilling. It’s the first time in forever that he hadn’t just shrugged, uncaring if he lived or died.
So he hisses some empty threats in Stiles’ ear about Scott not surviving if he doesn’t, and realizes there’s no ladder, but he’s not at the bottom of the pit anymore either. He realizes it’s only a rope, with someone at the top slowly pulling him out.
Stiles keeps them both up in the water for hours, promising to keep him up, even though he gets more and more out of breath and their heads have been going under more and more.
Eventually Scott, ever the hero, comes and saves them, and he’s actually relieved when he’s dragged and laid out beside Stiles, who can’t catch his breath either.
He mutters a breathless thanks to Stiles.
Everything feels different knowing he values his own life. For years, he hasn’t. It sort of feels like losing something and then finding it a few months later.
He knows he won’t see the surface for awhile, but it’s enough for now. It’s not a ladder, but it’ll work. He knows it will.
Derek just needs Stiles for a little longer.