You're good, Derek.
You're a good man.
Derek remembers it like it was yesterday. Remembers it because it’s not an old wound that’s scabbed over. Not an open hole in his heart or his soul. Not a mar on his perfect life because his life was never really perfect in a sense. Never the American Dream.
But it was your dream.
He remembers the stale sweat smell in the locker room. The murmur of people leaving the court. Laura shoving him gently when he had finally met her at the Camaro.
He remembers the sudden flare of pain at the base of his skull. Remembers the look on Laura’s face as she felt it, too.
Remembers scrambling to get home – to get home – to get home –
They kill for kind and not cause.
He remembers fire. The smell of it. The heat of it. Not nearly as strong as the anger that flares when he sees Kate again six years later, but just as potent.
He remembers Laura screaming. Remembers it echoing in his skull. He remembers the arrows flying suddenly. Too close, too fast.
They had exploded, and the high pitched squeal had scrambled his thoughts. Remembers not thinking anything but—
He remembers stumbling on the old oak stump and hearing Laura cursing God.
Remembers a sudden moment of peace, a hand on his shoulder, wrapped around his heart, holding him together.
Remembers following fireflies until Washington.
You should never have to leave your home.
So he goes back home. Doesn't bother repairing because his charred house is just a house and it was always the town that was his real home. Always the forest he ran in. Always the trees that would sing.
Help the cub.
He feels strangely protective of Scott. Calls him brother when he doesn’t mean too. It just sort of tumbles out of his mouth without warning. Scott is a lot like him, but is also so very, completely different.
He doesn't want the responsibility of pack, but he makes one anyway. Builds it from people who are broken and from people who are worn down.
Laura would call him crazy. “A pack of teenagers is bad enough,” she'd say, knowing because she was in one before she died. “A pack of teenagers with issues will get you killed!”
Derek does it anyway, builds and builds and builds from fragments because –
You fit into each other like puzzle pieces.
When Boyd dies on his hands he thinks, I've already lost one family.
When Stiles puts his hand on his shoulder he thinks, I can't do this again.
So he doesn’t.
He fights tooth and nail to keep what he has. Gives up his power to save his sister. Lets Peter stay at his apartment because even having him is better than having nothing.
He remembers the oak tree. Remembers the fireflies. Doesn’t make the connection until he smells Stiles on the top of the hospital. Smells the struggle the boy has.
Derek knows that smell. Knows it from Kate. Knows it from Jennifer. Knows it from Peter. Knows if from Deucalion.
There’s a distinct lack of light in Beacon Hills. And though no one here is completely evil, the Shadow that thrives in the woods and the streets is so very good about winding into minds and curling around hearts.
His mother spent her life trying to ignite some sort of spark. Something to make the inherent Shadow less.
And now that Shadow is latched to Stiles. Poor, skinny, defenseless Stiles. Stiles who brings baseball bats to claw fights. Stiles who can't stomach blood.
Stiles who’s got a spark in him like his mother. Has golden light leaking from his veins.
Derek has lived his whole life as a werewolf and only a little bit as a man. His mother probably wouldn't be proud of most of his choices. He knows he’s not.
But he is changing. The Broken Pack of Beacon Hills fits together like sharp puzzle edges and he'll be damned if another piece goes missing.
“I will,” he says.