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When the pack splits up and leaves Beacon Hills, everyone stays in touch with Derek except for Stiles.

For a while, Derek had thought he would be able to keep the pack together. He wasn’t the best alpha, but he was still their alpha. Some of them make token noises about staying close to home when they look at colleges, but he knows that they don’t really mean it. In the end, it goes exactly as he’s always known it will go.

Scott goes to some college in San Francisco, and so does Allison, because they’re joined at the hip like Siamese twins. Erica wanders in the general direction of Los Angeles to capitalize on her good looks, awesome body, and newfound self-confidence. Isaac gets a scholarship to play lacrosse in Sacramento, but transfers to a college in Nevada after his first year. Lydia goes to MIT and drags Jackson across the country with her to play pro lacrosse in New England. Boyd goes to trade school in nearby Modesto and ends up getting a job in Seattle.

Stiles goes to Columbia to study criminology. Derek sees him around on occasion during the summer, but they never really connect.

Not that he can blame Stiles for that. They didn’t exactly part on the best of terms.

Derek never really figured out why Stiles liked him. It didn’t compute. They argued every time they saw each other. Stiles never thought Derek was right about anything. He knew that Derek found him annoying and frequently said things like ‘yeah, the pest has a question again’. And yet, the more time they spent together, the longer things dragged on with the kanima and the alpha pack and the million other things that happened after that, the more he started to smell the interest on Stiles.

He calls it interest because he can’t even call it lust, which is what it really is. The very idea of it freaks him out and makes him want to move as far across the globe from Stiles as is physically possible.

He’s content to ignore it at first. It’s just a crush, he reasons. It’s natural for teenagers to fixate on someone for a while, but they get over it. Surely, with some time, Stiles will realize why Derek is a great candidate for Worst Possible Boyfriend Ever, and decide he’d be much better off dating somebody else. Anybody else.

And it’s not that he doesn’t like Stiles. He does. Sort of. Sure, he’s annoying sometimes; he doesn’t know when to shut up. Derek gets sick of hearing about World of Warcraft and Stiles’ frequent, offhanded self-deprecating remarks (if he hears ‘because I’m just the human kid over here’ one more time he may pop a vessel), and the way that he insists everyone eats his stupid vegetable sticks is obnoxious, but seriously, Stiles is likable, at least some of the time. Despite himself, Derek admires him. He’s got a lot of amazing traits that he doesn’t even seem to realize he has. He’s loyal beyond a fault, he’s willing to stand up for what he believes in, he’s more intelligent than he gives himself credit for, and he’s brave, truly brave, in a way that someone like a werewolf just can’t be, because they can’t be hurt the same way. Stiles never backs down, even when he should, and sometimes Derek is insanely jealous of him because he has simply never believed in himself the way Stiles does.

So yeah, sometimes he thought about it, but Stiles was sixteen, so it just wasn’t going to happen. He wasn’t the only one aware of Stiles’ little crush; Sheriff Stilinski took to cleaning his shotgun whenever Derek was around, a message that Derek received loud and clear. And whenever he found himself thinking things like ‘Stiles is actually pretty mature for a sixteen year old’, he remembered Kate, and remembered how mature he felt, with his older-woman girlfriend, how he was puffed up with his own ego and on top of the world. When he was done throwing up, he looked in the mirror and swore to himself that he would never, ever treat Stiles the same way, that Stiles might think he’s mature enough for a relationship with a twenty-four year old, hell, Derek might think Stiles is mature enough, but he was sixteen and that was the end of the story right there.

The problem was that the little crush didn’t go away.

In fact, it got worse.

Stiles took to hanging around Derek a lot more often, even when nothing was going on. Sometimes Derek would hear his heartbeat speed up and he would glance over to see Stiles watching him. He could tell that Stiles was working himself up to something. Then Stiles would talk himself out of it and go back to whatever he had been doing. But Derek knew that wouldn’t last forever. Hell, given Stiles’ typical level of self-control, it probably wouldn’t even last very long.

He also started doing the same sort of thing for Derek that he had earlier done for Lydia. Things like “oh hey I saw you didn’t have a blender so I brought you our old one and now you can make milkshakes” or “seriously when was the last time you ate anything besides pizza, I brought you some groceries” or even “does this place even get cable, here, you can borrow my Buffy DVDs and that’ll give you something decent to watch”. It was muted a little, because he seemed to have actually learned from the mistakes he made with Lydia, but it was still very much in evidence.

It was also a way for Stiles to insinuate himself into Derek’s life even when there wasn’t any wolf stuff going on. Stiles started just showing up on random occasions, because he had nothing to do or Scott was hanging out with Allison or his dad was always at work and Derek started to realize for the first time how lonely Stiles was.

The worst part was that he liked Stiles’ random visits. He started to look forward to them, to recognize Stiles’ footsteps on the way up to his loft and hear his own heartbeat pick up in response. They watched TV or talked about football or sometimes Stiles just curled up on the bench underneath the big window and did his homework. But when Stiles got caught up in lacrosse fever at the beginning of his junior year and didn’t come visit for a week, and Derek found himself staring at the door to the loft, just waiting, he realized it was getting way too serious. He had to put a stop to it. He had let it go on far too long.

So the next time Stiles showed up, Derek got off the sofa and went over to the door to answer it before Stiles could just waltz in the way he usually did. He opened it and used his body to block Stiles’ way into the loft.

“Stiles, you can’t come here anymore,” Derek said, and Stiles just looked at him, a mixture of confusion and hurt. “I know what you’re trying to do, I know . . . how you feel. And it isn’t going to happen. So you just . . . you need to stop.”

Stiles’ jaw set angrily, and he said, “I’m not stupid, you know. I’ve seen the way you look at me sometimes. You can’t tell me that you don’t feel the same way. You can’t tell me that you don’t want me, too.”

Derek steeled himself up to it. It was going to hurt, but it was a ‘rip off the Band-Aid’ sort of hurt. Better to get it over with, put an end to it, quick and clean. So he looked Stiles dead in the eye and said, “I. Don’t. Want you.”

And then he shut the door in Stiles’ face.

Stiles never came to his loft again. Even when there was pack stuff going on and Derek called a meeting, Stiles never showed. If he had something to say, he would tell Scott beforehand, and Scott relayed it to everyone else. When they did have to deal with each other, Stiles treated him with cool civility and nothing else. They didn’t even argue anymore. If Stiles had a problem with something Derek said or did, he took it up with someone else who could then take it up with Derek personally. It was like a life-size game of ‘telephone’.

Derek hated it, but he could look himself in the eye in the mirror and know he had done the right thing, that he might have hurt Stiles but Stiles would thank him later, when he was old enough to understand.

Stiles graduated high school and went to Columbia and they never really saw each other after that.

The pack drifted apart because they had never really bonded the way they should have. Derek had never been able to give them a home, a family, the way an alpha was supposed to. He was too damaged to be an alpha. Looking back at it, he realizes that he should have known that. He never should have tried.

But he keeps in touch, because whether they built a pack together or not, these people are the only family he has left. And when he leaves Beacon Hills because he just can’t stay there anymore, it’s too much pain and too much memory, he gives them his forwarding address. He moves a few times and finally ends up in Wyoming. He gets a job as a ranch hand, because being outdoors suits him, and the hard labor takes his mind off things and helps him sleep at night.

There’s no pack up there, but that’s fine. He doesn’t want to be part of a pack anymore. He stopped being an alpha the day the last of his pack left Beacon Hills, not that he told anyone that. He woke up the day after Boyd left for Seattle and he knew it then. When he shifted, he saw the old familiar silver-blue shine in his eyes.

He was okay with it, far more okay than he would have thought he would be. He had never wanted to be an alpha, and he knew he hadn’t been a very good one. He’s omega now, like he was after Laura’s death, and it suits him just fine.

The horses aren’t too sure about him, but they get used to him after a while. The ranch’s problem with coyotes vanishes within a few weeks of his arrival, much to the mystification of the owners. It’s a small town, only about a thousand people, and he likes that, as well. He keeps to himself, is always polite but firmly aloof. The ranch’s owners give him one of the cabins on the property. He can run to his heart’s content, get out and move, run until he’s left his demons behind, even if they always catch up when he stops.

But he keeps in touch, because the wolf in him is omega but the human is still a human. He e-mails with Boyd and Isaac, and loans Boyd the start-up capital when he decides to open his own business as an electrician (paid back in full within five years, no interest). Scott and Allison invite him to their wedding, but he doesn’t go because the Argents are going to be testy enough about Allison’s choice in men without him showing up (or at least that’s the reason that he gives, but a certain no-longer-a-teenager with a buzz cut is sure to be the best man, and that’s another excellent reason to mark the RSVP ‘decline with regrets’).

He reads the articles Lydia publishes in scientific journals even though he doesn’t understand them, and occasionally he’ll see the results of one of Jackson’s games on the internet and send them a congratulatory note if he deserves it. He sees Erica on TV strutting her stuff and even attends a movie premiere with her once because she’s got a stalker and she wants someone big and buff and handsome on her arm who can take care of himself. He flies down to Los Angeles for the weekend. She tries to get him to stay longer, but Monday morning, he’s gone.

He talks to Scott and Allison over skype and gets introduced to their daughter that way, a beautiful, raven-haired baby with gold eyes. “Argent must be shitting a brick,” he says to Scott, who laughs. He’s never quite sure why Scott has kept in touch with him despite all the times they fought and argued and worked at cross-purposes just because they were both too proud and stubborn (and by ‘both’ he mainly means ‘himself’) to talk to each other. But Scott does and Derek likes seeing his little werewolf baby and hearing about how Chris is unbending because he wants to be a part of his granddaughter’s life.

The few times he asks about Stiles, he thinks he’s being very subtle, even though he’s not. He says casual things like, “Oh, you haven’t mentioned Stiles lately, how’s he doing?” Scott always answers, but he never brings Stiles up himself. He’s content to wait for Derek to express interest. Stiles just graduated from Columbia magna cum laude, Stiles is in the police academy, Stiles moved back to Beacon Hills for a while because his father broke his leg on the job, Stiles is looking for a job but hasn’t found one yet. Derek’s surprised that Stiles decided to go into regular law enforcement instead of something like forensics or profiling, but he realizes later that he shouldn’t be, that above everything else Stiles has always idolized his father and wants to follow in his footsteps. Someday, Stiles will be the sheriff in a small town just like Beacon Hills, and that will be his dream come true. He’ll have an entire life that will have nothing to do with Derek or werewolves.

He’s been in Wyoming for four years when he comes into the main lobby of the ranch to find Stiles standing there.

It’s early October, so the mornings are chilly now, and tourist season is pretty much over. The ranch has a few guests, and he’s still leading trail rides every day, but it’s only once a day now rather than twice. Once winter sets in – which can be as early as Thanksgiving; they’re not high in the mountains but they’re not exactly at sea level, either – everything on the ranch will shut down. He’ll still have his daily chores to attend to, but other than that, he’ll mostly be sitting around his cabin, heating it up with his little wood stove, and brooding. He’s still exceptionally good at brooding.

He doesn’t recognize Stiles at first, and sees only the uniformed deputy standing, chatting with Carol, who’s at the desk. Every inch of the uniform is perfect: beige pants perfectly pressed and neat, clean white T-shirt showing just a little at the collar of the perfectly matching beige shirt, patch sewed onto the olive green jacket perfectly straight. They’ve known for a while they’ll be getting a new deputy. Carnes, the previous one, had retired at Christmas almost a year before. Nobody had been in a rush about hiring a new one, it’s such a quiet place. Sheriff Benson checks in occasionally, but Cedarville is one of the smaller towns in the county, so he doesn’t need to stop by very often.

Carol glances up as he comes in from his early morning chores, thinking of heading to the kitchen for some breakfast, wearing a dirty gray T-shirt, jeans, and his boots. “Oh, Derek,” she says. “Come meet the new deputy. It’s . . . am I saying this right? Stilinski?”

“It’s phonetic,” Stiles says, and turns and looks at Derek, spinning his sunglasses around by the stem. “Hey, Derek.”

Stiles?” The word rushes out of Derek along with all the oxygen in his body.

“The one and only,” Stiles says. The tone is somewhat wry, but there’s still that polite indifference to it, and he’s not really smiling.

“Oh, do you two know each other?” Carol asks.

“From back in the day,” Stiles says. He turns back to her and says, “Anyway, like I was saying about the traffic light . . .”

Derek just stares at him, trying to process the way Stiles looked at him and then just . . . dismissed him. Completely, utterly dismissed him. Nothing about how long it’s been or how he’s glad to see him (why would he have even hoped for that?), not even a comment about how he smells like horse manure. Nothing. It’s like he’s not even there.

All of which is hard enough to accept on his own, but now he’s trying to deal with a surge of human lust and a sudden, snarling wolf instinct that proclaims Stiles is his, Stiles is pack, and he wants to simultaneously kiss Stiles until he’s blue in the face and rub his scent all over the other man. Both of which he is very, very sure that Stiles would not appreciate.

Because Stiles . . . looks good. He looks amazing. His bony frame has filled out; he’s not and never will be as solid as Derek, but he doesn’t really look shrimpy next to him anymore, either. He’s grown his hair out so it stands up in loose brown spikes now. Time in the sun has graced his skin with a few more freckles and moles, and Derek wants to nip at every single one of them, wants to wind his hand through that hair and . . . and the uniform, damn, there simply aren’t words in the English language for how good Stiles looks in that uniform and what it’s doing to Derek.

He shakes himself. Stiles isn’t sixteen anymore, that’s for damned sure, but he’s also very clearly not interested in having this conversation with Derek. Still, he can’t help himself. The words just fall out of his mouth. “What are you doing here?”

Now there’s a trace of irritation in Stiles’ face. “I work here,” he says, tapping the patch on his jacket. “New deputy. Weren’t you listening?”

“Of all the gin joints in all the world!” Carol says brightly. She’s not exactly nosy, but she . . . no, Derek corrects. Carol is nosy. She’s just not malicious about it.

“You knew I was here,” Derek says. “You weren’t surprised.”

“Scott told me,” Stiles says.

“So . . . you knew I was here when you took the job?” Derek says. “You . . . came to see me?”

Carol’s eyes light up. She’s clearly thinking that this is the most interesting day of the year so far. Derek has, of course, attracted his share of female suitors, but he’s always turned them down. Rumors about him have swirled for a long time, but this could be actual confirmation.

“No,” Stiles says, folding the sunglasses and hooking them on his shirt pocket. “I came here because the job was the kind of job I wanted, the benefits package was good, there was a house in the area I could afford, and it’s only a day’s drive from Beacon Hills. Your presence didn’t outweigh those factors.”

Derek flinches away from those words. Carol’s mouth is slightly ajar. After a moment to recover, Derek swallows and says, “Uh, Carol. The stables are done. Can you let Wyatt know the first tour is at eleven and I need him to check on Daisy before then. She’s favoring her right foreleg a bit and I don’t want to take her out until he’s seen her.”

“Uh, yeah, sure,” Carol says, trying to keep up.

Derek takes a deep breath. “Thanks.” He turns to Stiles and reaches for that cool indifference. “Deputy,” he says, with a nod.

Stiles nods back, and Derek leaves the lobby as quickly as he can without actually breaking into a jog. He has to take several minutes to have a quiet nervous breakdown before he manages to get into the kitchen for breakfast. That’s unfortunate, because it means by the time he manages it, Carol’s already told Sally, the cook, all about what just happened.

“Old flame, huh?” Carol asks, staring at Derek with googly eyes as he looks at the breakfast menu. The restaurant at the ranch is limited; they only have a few options for each meal that change every day. “Must’ve been one hell of a break-up.”

Derek glowers at her and says, “Corned beef hash, Sally.” He doesn’t need to say anything else because she already knows how he likes his eggs and that he wants country potatoes rather than hash browns, with lots of peppers and onions. To Carol, he then adds, “Seriously? Can you not see that he’s like ten years younger than me?”

“So?” Carol asks, with a shrug. “Willow is twelve years younger than Hector,” she adds, naming the owners of the ranch.

“Yeah, but they met when Willow was in her thirties,” Derek says. “I met Stiles when he was sixteen.”

“He’s not sixteen now,” Sally says, and lets out a low whistle. “Damn, why are all the good ones gay?”

Derek doesn’t want to dignify that. “Breakfast, Sally.”

She just laughs at him. Carol says, “Well, Sally, if you want to take a crack at him, I invited him to the contra dance tomorrow.”

Derek chokes on his coffee. “What? Why?!”

“Why do you care?” Carol asks, amused. “You never come to the dances.”

“Because – ” Derek scowls at her. “Because you don’t even know him.”

“Uh, that’s why I invited him to the dance, Derek, to get to know him. That’s what we do when new people arrive in town. Anyway,” she continues brightly, “he’s not actually living in Cedarville. He’s the deputy for all three towns in the cluster, and his house is in Aspen. He says he just moved up over the weekend and this is his first day on the job. He – Derek, where are you going? What about your breakfast?”

“Forget it,” Derek snarls, and storms out of the restaurant.

He’s grown to love the ranch over the years he’s lived there. It covers vast acres of land at the foothills of the Teton Mountains. He works with the horses and does general groundskeeping, so there’s always plenty to do. He also leads some of the trail rides and teaches a horseback riding class in the autumn and in the spring. He’s not the best teacher, but nobody’s ever complained about him.

What he really needs right now is to be outside, not to be pinned down. So he takes his tools and goes to mend one of the fences that needs a few posts replaced. He barely makes it back in time to lead the trail ride he’s taking out. There are about half a dozen guests at the ranch right now. He’s not the most chatty of tour guides, but his looks make up for it. Willow has mentioned that the number of young women in the area who have suddenly become interested in horseback riding has doubled in the past two years since he started taking groups out.

He manages to spend the entire day out on the property before going back to his cabin and making himself a sandwich. He checks to see if Scott’s online, and he is, so he dials him up.

“Hey, Derek,” Scott says, or at least Derek assumes it’s Scott, because the webcam has been knocked askew. It’s straightened a few minutes later and Scott’s face comes into view. He’s got Annie in his lap. She’s wearing a little jumper with frogs on it.

“Unka Derek!” she says, waving. Nobody has ever told her to call Derek that; she seems to have come to the conclusion that Derek is her uncle all on her own, despite the fact that they’ve never met in person.

“Hey, sweet pea,” Derek says. To Scott, he says, “This conversation may involve profanity.”

Scott gives a snort and then says, “Go see your mom, okay?” and lets Annie out of his lap. “What’s up?”

“Why the hell didn’t you warn me that Stiles was coming here?”

Scott blinks at him. “You mean he actually took the Wyoming job?” he asks. The surprise on his face is genuine. Scott’s never been very good at lying or faking things. “Jesus, I didn’t think he would.”

“You told him I was up here?”

“Yeah, yeah, he was telling me about his different job offers. He said that he’d gotten one in Wyoming that was the best so far, and I said, ‘oh, where in Wyoming’ and he told me and I said ‘holy shit, that’s where Derek’s been hiding himself’. And he just said ‘oh’ and then he didn’t say anything else about it. I figured that was an immediate ‘okay, I guess I won’t be taking that job’ or I would have warned you, seriously. But I guess he decided he wanted the job bad enough that . . .” Scott sees the look on Derek’s face, the way he looks like he’s slowly bleeding out from some internal wound. “It, uh, it didn’t go well, I take it.”

“He wouldn’t even look at me,” Derek says, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice.

Scott rubs a hand over the back of his head. “Yeah . . . I guess he’s still pretty pissed.”

“No shit, Sherlock,” Derek says. “Have you got any other helpful advice?”

Scott lifts his hands in surrender. “Hey, I’m staying out of it. I stayed out of it then and I’m staying out of it now. You’ll just have to find the mature, responsible adult that I know is in there somewhere, and deal with him like he’s a mature, responsible adult.”

Since Stiles’ mature-adult status is half the problem, Derek declines to prolong the conversation. He tries to remember how long it’s been since they all left Beacon Hills. Seven years? Eight? He didn’t keep track of the time very well. Either way, Stiles is well into his mid-twenties, and in theory that places him squarely in adulthood.

He watches a movie without seeing any of it and then goes to bed and stares up at the ceiling for a long time.

Weekends are the busiest time at the ranch. He doesn’t really get days off, per se, because the horses always need tending to, but some days are busier than others. It’s a ‘work until the work gets done’ sort of job during the week, and he doesn’t mind. But on the weekends they’ll see the most tourists, do the most trail rides and tours, and have the most lessons.

The dance on Saturday night is something that Willow had introduced about a year previous, and has become very popular. They host it once a month, and it alternates between contra dancing and square dancing. Derek has never gone to one because he can’t dance, has no desire to learn to dance, and doesn’t want to watch women eye him speculatively for an entire evening. And he’s certainly not going to go to this one. He doesn’t care that Stiles was invited.

Unfortunately for him, Carol has other ideas. She shows up at his cabin at seven, half an hour before the dance is scheduled to start. “C’mon, chop-chop!” she says. “You can’t go wearing that. Get in the shower!”

“What?” Derek asks. “Carol, I – ”

“Nope,” she says. “Absolutely not. If you don’t go, you’ll spend the next week moping about how you didn’t go. You should at least try to talk to him.”

“Because that went so well yesterday,” Derek says.

“You were taken off guard,” Carol says. “I know you’ve spent the last twenty-four hours thinking of all the things you wish you could’ve said. So, here’s your chance to say some of them. Shower. Now.”

“God, fine,” Derek says, mostly because he’s worked with Carol long enough at this point to know that she won’t back down, and that going along with her is by far the easiest way to get her out of his cabin. He jumps in the shower and comes out ten minutes later to find her looking through his wardrobe. “Get out of there.”

“Do you own anything besides jeans and T-shirts?” she asks.

“I work on a fucking ranch,” Derek snaps. “What else would I own?”

Carol heaves a sigh. She reminds him of Laura sometimes – bossy and with an ‘I know better than you’ attitude – although Laura was much better at handling him. He can admit that now, looking back on things. “This one,” she says, thrusting a maroon V-neck at him. Then she takes a second look. “Shave! What’s wrong with you?”

Derek rubs a hand over his stubble. “What’s wrong with my face?”

“You look like a bear that just finished hibernating for the winter. Razor.”

Grumbling, Derek goes into the bathroom and shaves. His face looks strangely unnatural to him afterwards. He can’t remember the last time he was clean shaven. He dresses in the maroon shirt and the worn black jeans that Carol gives him, and laces up his boots. She stands and examines him. “You’ll do,” she finally says, and grabs him by the wrist.

The dance is in full swing by the time they get there. Derek scans the dance floor for Stiles but doesn’t see him anywhere. He’s not sure whether he’s relieved or disappointed. Either way, it’s short-lived, because a minute later he spots Stiles standing at the refreshments table. He’s casually dressed now in one of those plaid shirts that he always wore in high school, and a pair of jeans. He’s smiling – correction, he’s laughing – and the sight of it makes sudden, inexplicable pain flood Derek’s chest.

“Go talk to him,” Carol orders, pointing sternly. “You don’t know how to dance, anyway.”

Derek sighs but heads over. He picks up a glass of lemonade from the table and considers getting a beer. Surely this conversation would be better with alcohol. But he approaches Stiles because, hell, he’s an adult, they’re both adults, and it probably can’t be worse than the way Stiles slammed the metaphorical door shut in his face the previous day.

“Hey, uh . . . hey, Stiles,” he says, and winces at his own attempt to be casual. “So, uh . . . how do you like Cedarville?”

“It’s nice,” Stiles says, tone completely neutral.

“I guess you just moved here, huh?”

“Last weekend,” Stiles agrees.

Derek wracks his brain for a conversational topic that might warm Stiles up. “How’s your dad doing?”

“Fine,” Stiles says.

The one and two word answers are starting to freak Derek out. He’s never known Stiles to be so uncommunicative. If this is Stiles’ idea of behaving like a responsible adult, it’s more painful than sticking his tongue instead a hornet’s nest. He thinks maybe bringing up a mutual friend will help. “So, uh, Allison’s pregnant again, I heard.”

“I know,” Stiles says.

Derek looks for a bridge to leap off of. “What about you? Are you, uh, are you seeing anybody?”

“Maybe,” Stiles says. “Maybe not.” There’s a significant pause. “Maybe go fuck yourself.”

That at least was an answer of more than two syllables. Derek is thinking maybe he should just be glad for that. At least the answer is somewhat Stiles-esque. “Okay, I shouldn’t have – ”

“No,” Stiles says, “you shouldn’t have.” For the first time, there’s actually emotion in his voice. “Yeah, I’ve had boyfriends. I’ve had girlfriends. I’ve had lots of them. Do you know why? Because after you slammed your door in my face, I was so desperate to feel wanted that I dated anybody who asked me and fucked anybody who was willing to touch me. Okay? Are you fucking happy now, Derek?”

Derek takes a step backwards. “I didn’t mean – ”

“You know what, I don’t give two fucks what you ‘meant’. I don’t want to have a God damned thing to do with you. I came to this stupid dance to meet people who aren’t you, now get the fuck out of my face before I pepper spray you.”

Derek swallows and nods. “I – okay, yeah,” he says, and turns away.

Carol catches up with him as he’s fleeing for the door and he turns and snarls at her, and it’s a miracle he manages not to shift. Even so, she lets him go, taken aback by the look on his face, and lets him storm out of the room. He starts running as soon as he hits open air and doesn’t stop until he’s a mile away, and then he lifts his head and howls.

Wolves howl to signal their pack, but Derek never gets any reply.

 

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