- Character Bashing
- Dark Themes
- Discussion-Child Abuse
- Discussion-Domestic Abuse
- Discussion-Sexual Abuse
- Hate Crimes
- Fix It
Section Four: Reunion
Stiles entered the Pack House, Derek on his heels. Derek had followed his Jeep in his car and Stiles had texted Peter a heads up before they left the memorial sight. The reply he had read while waiting at a red light had relaxed him, knowing that his Alpha agreed taking Derek to Peter was the right thing to do.
Stiles could see Derek gazing around the foyer of the large house as they waited for their host to arrive. The man’s gaze seemed to catch on the wall of photos near the door to the main lounge. There were shots of the Pack, candid and posed, as they grew up. Many of them featured Peter, Cora, or both, and Stiles figured that was reason enough for Derek to examine them closely.
Peter seemed to know what was going on as it took several minutes for him to appear at the end of the hallway near his office, much longer than it should have considering the warning text he had received.
Stiles stood back and watched as Derek’s head came up and turned as soon as Peter appeared. Stiles figured Derek heard and recognized Peter’s heartbeat or something once the Alpha was out of his sound proofed office. The look on Derek’s face hurt Stiles’ heart. It was a heartbreaking look. One that was full of loss and longing.
Peter stride quickly down the hallway and once within the foyer, he spoke softly, “Derek.”
Derek whimpered and bared his throat. To Stiles, not a were but knowledgeable enough about their behavior all things considered, it looked almost involuntary on Derek’s part. Peter smiled and approached the younger man and pulled him into an embrace. Derek slumped against him and his arms wrapped tightly around and Stiles could see how tightly he held onto his uncle by the strain in the muscles of his arms, seen below the short sleeves of his shirt.
Stiles really wanted to leave and not intrude further but Peter’s text and made it clear he wanted to have a word with him before he went home so, his curiosity aside, Stiles turned his back on the two men and looked over the photographs on the wall, remembering good times.
Over five minutes later, he heard a soft “Stiles” and turned back around. Peter was standing with one arm around Derek and the younger man’s eyes were reddened. Peter smiled at Stiles.
“Thank you for bringing Derek to the house. He and I are going to talk but you need to postpone your trip into the Preserve. It will keep for another night and it is too late now. The sun would be down before you even got to where you were headed. And considering the lack of true urgency, you can go tomorrow instead, directly after school. I know you are free then.
“After dinner tomorrow there will be a pack meeting to discuss today’s information gathering session. That will give the pack who want involved directly a chance to view the videos.
“Your job tomorrow, along with Lydia and Hayley, and anyone else who has a chance, is to keep Scott from opening his mouth around her and making things worse than he already has. Remind him of the conversation he and I had about the matter and the consequences to he and to Melissa if he disobeys me. He does not have permission to ask her. If it is granted, it will be after tomorrow’s pack meeting, at the earliest. Make sure he understands and verbally acknowledges his understanding by repeating back what he knows about this. And step in if he seems to be forgetting or heading in a direction where his mouth will write a check that his ass can’t cash.”
Stiles nodded with a smirk. “I can handle him.”
Peter looked unimpressed. “No newspapers or leashes. We don’t need her suspicions up.”
Stiles smiled. “Any leash will be invisible to the human eye, Alpha. And the rolled newspaper will be metaphoric. At least while at school.”
“Good. Now get home and get your homework done.”
Stiles approached Peter and was scented and scented him in return before he left, giving a smile and nod to Derek. “It was – nice to meet you, Derek. See you around, I guess.”
As Stiles walked out the front door, he turned to pull it shut and saw Peter leading Derek down the hallway toward his office. He hoped things went well but unless he was brought in for some reason, it really wasn’t his business. Even if he really, really wanted to know.
Derek sat in a comfortable chair across from his uncle in a wood paneled office, dominated by a heavy wooden desk. The room had several walls of built in bookcases filled with books. There was a small seating area with a coffee table off to one side of the room by a large bay window and that’s where they were.
On the little table there was a tea set with large cups and a large pot. Derek found it odd because Peter had never been overly fond of tea. He always claimed he could taste the dirt in the tea leaves. However, as Peter poured out the contents of the pot into the cups, Derek’s confusion eased. The teapot want filled with tea, it was filled with hot cocoa, which also explained the little bowl with mint chips and bowl of whipped cream.
Derek accepted the cup Uncle Peter extended to him and added a large scoop of whipped cream and sat back in his chair while his host doctored his own cup. When they were settled, Derek looked away.
“I – I didn’t know you survived. The boy said Cora’s alive, too.”
Peter sighed. “Stiles. His name is Stiles. And yes, Cora wasn’t in the house when the hunters came. She was in the hidey-hole in the tree and I was nearby and smelled the wolfsbane on them. I told her to stay hidden and I tried to get to them, to at least get those who were human but I couldn’t. They set up multiple lines of mountain ash and I ended up trapped between two of them. I was badly burned and ended up in a coma for six months because the wolfsbane embedded in the burns from the smoke slowed the healing. I only fully healed when I became an Alpha.”
Derek took a gulp of the hot cocoa. “The boy – Stiles told me a wild story about -“
Peter nodded. “He texted me. He told me you were here and that you weren’t the Asshole Alpha. That is what the children came to call the one who bit them during the time I was comatose and it stuck. He also told me that Laura survived and had your mother’s spark.”
Derek frowned. “Yeah. She became my alpha that night. She found me on the road to the house and stopped me from going there. She said everyone was dead. I had felt the pack bonds break and I swear, I couldn’t feel yours or Cora’s. Just weird echoes. And gaping holes.”
Peter snorted. “Is that what she called them? Those weird echoes were the pack bonds created when she bit NUMBER children in the playground that night. I can understand you not being able to distinguish my bond among the trauma of so many lost and torn bonds. But Laura as an Alpha would have known the difference. And she knew I was alive. She saw me loaded into the ambulance if she was at the house, or close enough to it to know the smell of it. And she heard me roar. She was injured during the attack on the children and she Alpha roared. I responded. The children all say that is when she returned to the woods and headed in the direction of the house.”
Derek shook his head. “There must have been a rogue alpha around that night. Laura never would have bitten little kids.”
Peter sighed. “She did, Derek. My guess is that the rush of alpha power on top of the snapping of so many bonds caused her to lose control. It is understandable. What isn’t forgivable is her abandoning those she bit. She may have not remembered right away once she regained control. But there was no way that was hidden from her for more than a few minutes. And she just took you and left town, abandoning those she bit, as well as myself and Cora.”
Derek slumped in his chair. “I don’t want to believe it of her but she changed, after the fire, after becoming an alpha. I didn’t really take it in at first, didn’t see it but I wasn’t exactly fully aware of things myself for months. But after I got my GED and a job that made enough to move out of the one bedroom apartment we were living in, Laura more or less dropped me from her life.
“We would meet on the full moon, usually, but rarely otherwise. I tried. I reached out, would stop by, bring food, dessert, whatever, but she would push me out the door as soon as she could, making excuses that I knew were lies. And Laura knew that I could hear the lie but she didn’t seem to care. The pack bond was still present but the strength has been dimming for years. And she never tried to form a pack beyond me, either, or join another. It was like she just decided to be a lone wolf and didn’t care that if she succeeded I would become an omega if I couldn’t find a pack to take me in.
“She Ordered me before I left, which was against her wishes, to not tell anyone her new name or our location for the last six years. If Mom had given me an Order like that, which she wouldn’t have had to because I wouldn’t have been able to go somewhere if she forbid it, which Laura tried to do, I never would have been able to disobey or even find loopholes. But I’m pretty sure I could tell you our false names and where we lived, down to the addresses, if I wanted to and pushed myself just a little bit.”
Uncle Peter rose to his feet and rounded the table, perching on the arm of Derek’s chair. He laid his hand on Derek’s shoulder. “Talia was raising Laura to be the next Alpha but I was never fully sold on the idea. She wasn’t really cut out for it, her inner core, her mind, even her wolf, they weren’t natural future alphas. But your mother insisted she was just young and she would grow into what she needed to be by the time she needed to be an alpha. But she never got that chance and she proved that I was more right. Even if Laura had been in her forties or fifties when she ascended to the position, she wouldn’t have been a good alpha. She probably would have handled it better than she did, but her time as alpha would have been turbulent or bland. Turbulent for her and those closest to her, bland for everyone and everything else, I suspect.”
Derek leaned into the touch, even though he knew he didn’t deserve it. “I don’t know. I was never trained to be an alpha. I wasn’t even being trained to be a Right or Left Hand. Mom said I would be a good beta, a good follower, but I didn’t need responsibility. And she was right. I made terrible choices when I had the chance.”
Peter’s grip tightened on Derek’s shoulder. “Paige’s fate wasn’t fully on you, Derek. I should have been clearer on what I meant and I should never have discussed it when other packs were in town. Ennis would have never chosen to bite Paige if he hadn’t of thought it would give him a close connection to the Hale Pack through your relationship with her.”
Derek shuddered. “What happened with Paige was partly my fault. I should have had the balls to ask Mom if I could tell her about us. But that isn’t what I was talking about, that was a bad decision on my part but I couldn’t have foreseen Ennis’ actions. I meant – I mean – when we left town, I was devastated for more than one reason. The loss of the pack, the fire, running away, not knowing who was after us and if they would follow or not, yeah. But I also left behind – I was – I thought I was in love again. There was a woman, she was a substitute teacher at the high school and – I know now that even if she wasn’t who – even if – a teacher seducing an underage student is wrong. But then, it was like high romance, sneaking around, sleeping together, us against the world and I just left town without even trying to contact her. But I saw – the news – she was the one who set the fire. She used things I said to her to trap and kill my pack. Her real name is evidently Kate Argent. I didn’t even know that. Until the news report.”
Derek looked up at Peter. “You should hate me, Uncle Peter. You should kill me for killing our pack.”
Peter pulled Derek to his feet for a moment, then took Derek’s place in the chair and pulled him into his lap like a child. Derek felt ridiculous for a moment, the proportions were off, he was bigger than his uncle. Then Uncle Peter began rumbling deep in his chest and gripped Derek’s nape strongly in his hand. Derek curled into a ball, his ear pressed against the alpha’s torso, his wolf relaxing within him.
“My poor boy. You just got lost in your head and the grief and shock, didn’t you? And your alpha didn’t help you. Knowing Laura’s recent actions, she pushed you away harder and blamed you, didn’t she? She started the cycle of blame that’s inside you.
“But I already knew about Kate Argent, ENDEARMENT. Your logic got lost under your self-hatred, my dear nephew. I was one of the ones who found out who was responsible for the fire and pointed the authorities in the right direction. I knew what she had done, where she had gotten to the pack. I thought you were dead – or the Asshole Alpha – but I knew it wasn’t your fault, Derek.”
Against his will, Derek let out a whimper and then a sob. Peter held him tighter. “I’ve got you, Der-Bear. I’ve got you.”
As if the metaphoric dam broke at the childhood nickname, Derek’s single sob turned into an unstoppable wave of sobs, tears pouring from his eyes as he felt his uncle’s embrace and knew he was forgiven. For over ten minutes Derek’s grief and anguish and self-hatred poured out of him and Peter simply held him and let him cry.
Derek realized how much he needed it. He had never truly taken the time to grieve his pack, his family. Laura wouldn’t let him. She said they couldn’t afford to be weak. And to her, showing honest emotions other than anger was weakness.
When Derek’s tears finally slowed down, he kept his head pressed to his uncle’s chest, listening to his heartbeat. Derek felt like an infant, a baby close to a parent’s bosom and protected from the harsh world around them. And it was a nice feeling.