Chapter 1: Yesterday Says
Laura is washing dishes, hands covered in soap suds. She reaches for the next dish and then it’s gone along with the warm, soft lighting of the kitchen, the sounds of her aunt reading a story to the twins in the other room and everything else around her. She blinks a few times, looking for the sink and dirty dishes that should be in front of her, and when that doesn’t work, she shuts her eyes tight, counting to ten, questioning if she’s caught up in a dream, only her dreams don’t smell and definitely not so vividly toxic. The smoke and char is cloying to her senses. It’s mixed with a hint of her life of where she was only moments ago, but this is not her house, she’s nowhere near her family. The drip-drop of water coming from her hands is the only sound, but then there’s two fluttering heartbeats behind her. Someone gasps and she spins, claws out with a snarl on her throat.
"It worked! Oh, my God!" There’s a kid with a huge smile and hands in the air standing in front of her. "I can’t believe it worked!" He turns in a victory circle, his red hoodie and plaid shirt fanning around him. Behind him stands a teenage girl with long, red hair wearing bright designer clothing that definitely doesn’t match their surroundings.
Laura’s woozy, her stomach lurching with a feeling she’s never known. She’s going to be sick for the first time in her life. She pushes through the back door looking for a safe spot but doesn’t make it far enough. It’s not a pretty sight and she’s never been more thankful to be a werewolf if this is a common occurrence in humans. She wipes her mouth, walking back into the kitchen.
"Who the hell are you?" Laura says. "Where am I?"
"Laura? Laura Hale?" The kid asks.
"How the hell do you know who I am?" She flashes her eyes at them, growling with a fierceness she hasn't shown in years. She should know better than to do it in front of strangers. She’s never lost control like this, but given the circumstances her mother will understand.
"Yellow eyes," he whispers under his breath, and his eyes go wide. His fear isn’t from seeing her wolf out, he’s familiar with what she is, or at least the supernatural. He curses, facing the redhead. "I think we messed up."
"You think?" the girl says, smacking him in the arm. He flinches, rubbing the spot in exaggeration. "I told you this was a bad idea and that we had no idea what we were doing."
Laura takes in her surroundings, recognizes the faded wallpaper on the walls of what should be the kitchen of her house, only everything around her is charred black from fire. There’s a breeze on the back of her neck coming from the broken windows and the only light is shining from the moon peeking through the ceiling from a hole in the roof. This isn’t her house, the one she was in minutes ago washing dishes after the family dinner. Hers is warm and bright with smells of vanilla and polished wood, and there’s always the sound of someone within its rooms reminding her she’s not alone. This house is built the same, she even sees the remains of the handcrafted, dining table big enough to fit the Hale pack at every meal, but everything and everyone else is gone.
"What the hell is going on?" she yells. "Someone better explain this shit right now. What happened to my house?" They don’t smell threatening, and seem as shocked as she is. "Who the fuck are you?"
"I’m Stiles," he swallows, "Stilinski."
"The sheriff’s kid?"
He points to himself like he’s surprised she’s heard of him. She doesn’t know him, but there’s only one family in their town with that last name. He’s familiar, though, from the few times she’s seen the sheriff after the loss of his wife. He might be the same age as her sister. He nods, then points to the girl. "This is Lydia." Laura doesn’t know her, so she’ll take his word for it.
"We did a spell—"
"Goddammit!" she mumbles. Stupid teenaged kids messing with magic when they know nothing about it. "I take it you’re not exactly experts in the magical arts?"
The kid, Stiles, scratches the back of his head. "Ah, not really, but Lydia is a…"
Laura waits for him to explain and when he just gawks from Lydia to her, back and forth mouth agape, Laura snaps, "Jesus Christ, she’s what?"
Laura snorts. "‘Something.’ Great. That’s just great."
"She’s a banshee," Stiles says, which isn’t any better, because even he isn’t convinced about it. "We’re just not sure what she can do," he mumbles, focusing on his sneakers. "Yet."
"So, you thought you’d get your kicks by summoning me to your future." She takes a step toward them, arm raised like she’s going to strike, and she wants to, she really does, but it won’t solve anything until she knows more.
"Not exactly." Stiles pushes Lydia behind him, taking a few steps away from Laura. "Ah, it’s more like, well, more like we wanted to bring you back from the dead?" Stiles raises his arms in a gesture that is meant to express ‘surprise’ but emphatically falls flat.
"I’m dead?" Laura’s voice squawks. "How did I die?"
"Peter killed you." Stiles grips his hands, squeezing them anxiously. "Your Uncle? You don’t remember?"
"No! I don’t remember. One minute I'm washing dishes at the kitchen sink and the next I’m standing here." She regards him as he processes her words, listens to his heart rate tick louder and faster, and when her words hit home, he clutches his chest, taking a few steps backwards.
"Oh, God. Oh, this is bad. This is really bad, Lydia."
"Stop saying that, Stiles!" Lydia stomps her high-heeled foot, hands fisted. "Of course, this is bad. I told you I had no idea what I was doing when I raised Peter from the dead."
"Uncle Peter’s dead, too?"
"Well, no. Not anymore, technically. Lydia brought him back from the dead and that’s why I thought she could do it to you, too." He’s rambling, moving his hands about and Laura just needs him to get to the point.
"What happened to my family?"
Stiles clears his throat, seeks her eyes. "They died in the fire."
Laura’s knees weaken. The idea of this being a dream is slipping through her fingers with every word they say. They’re telling the truth, she hears it in their voices, their bodies, and as she scans the burnt remains of her house, of the Hale pack house, she knows she’s alone in this foreign world, and that something terrible has happened to all of them. She leaves the kitchen, pausing in what was the living room, spinning, hands clutched to her head as she takes it all in. She keeps circling, panicking as she tries to feel anything of her family, and when she’s certain they aren’t there, she sinks onto a wooden crate, muttering to herself about stupid kids and messing with the future and how she needs to get back to the past to warn her family.
The two are still in the kitchen, whispering like they have any kind of privacy.
"Stiles," Lydia hisses through her teeth, "this is way above lighting candles without matches, like way above. I have no idea how we did it, but it’s obvious this Laura wasn’t dead. What if we brought her from the past? Too far past? Or ripped some kind of hole in the space-time continuum? We need help. We have to call him."
"No! Are you kidding?" Stiles says. "We can’t call him. If this was a mistake and we have to send her back, we can’t tell him this ever happened. It’ll destroy him."
"Which I told you when you first proposed the idea," Lydia cuts him off. "Especially if it didn’t work and clearly it hasn’t."
"Yes, okay, fine. You were right…again. But who do we get to help? Peter is obviously out of the question. Scott?" Laura hears Stiles’ sarcasm as he says that name.
"We have to call Deaton." A name which Laura recognizes.
"Alan Deaton?" she asks, rising to her feet.
"You know Dr. Deaton?" Lydia asks.
"He’s my mother’s emissary. He has magic," Laura says. "He can help."
Lydia pulls out her phone, dialing before Stiles can stop her. They’re left in silence hovering as the ringing continues to voicemail. Lydia bites her lip, eyebrows raised in question. Stiles nods and the girl storms off, clicking heels on the floorboards as she leaves.
"She’ll find him and bring him here," Stiles says. Laura moves to perch on the wooden crate again, placing her head in her hands. Stiles shifts around the room, moving closer but still keeping his distance which is wise considering her temper is erratic at times.
"So," Stiles blows out a big breath, "your mother’s alive? She’s the Alpha?"
"Of course, she is." Laura can’t believe this is happening to her. It’s been quiet for years in Beacon Hills. The Hales have kept the peace, existing the best they know how by keeping to themselves. How could this happen to them? When did this happen to them?
"What’s the date?" she asks, clearing her throat. She needs water and without asking, Stiles leans down and pulls a bottle of water from his backpack, handing it to her.
"August, well, it’ll be September 1st in a couple of hours," he glances at his phone, "2012."
"That’s impossible." She seeks out anything in the room to tell her differently. "It can’t be because it was August 2012 where I’m from and this fire looks like it happened years ago."
Stiles curses again. He takes a step closer and then freezes when she growls at him. His heart rate accelerates, a thundering beat in his chest as he bites his lip, scrunching up his face.
"What?" she says.
"I was hoping it was time travel."
"You were hoping it was ‘time travel?’ What does that even mean?" She pulls at her hair. "Do you hear yourself?"
"The fire that killed your family happened seven years ago." He pushes off from the wall, hands in the air. "I was trying to fix things, make them better. I didn’t mean for this to happen, and obviously things went a little astray, like really astray, catastrophically." She growls again to end his jumbled reflection. "God, you’re so much like him," he mumbles. He’s trailing after a thought, like Laura can actually see it happening and then he stands straight, hands on his hips as he focuses. "Right. Yeah. Um. I think we might’ve pulled you from another dimension?" He squeaks out the last word making Laura laugh at the absurdity. This has to be some elaborate joke being played on her, only no one in her family would do this. No one had the stomach for laughter these past few years. They used to, in fact, this is definitely something she might’ve pulled on her brother with the help of uncle Peter, but those days are long gone. The Hale house was too immersed in remorse and a quietness that hurt the ears sometimes.
"I’m sorry," Stiles says, watching her with an earnestness that is uncomfortable enough she has to look away. "I was trying to," he sighs, "I don’t know what I was trying to do. It worked for Peter and after everything Derek’s been through, I wanted him to have someone. He just seems so lost and..."
Laura doesn’t hear the rest of what he’s saying because her heart stalls, literally just stops, caught in her throat as her ears ring. She’s aware the moment it begins, a stabbing pain in her chest that cuts deep. "Derek? How do you know my brother?"
"Ah, that’s a good question?" Stiles scratches his head. "We’re sort of friends?"
Stiles nods at her like she’s the crazy one. "As of three days ago, yeah. But with all that’s going on in this freaky town, who knows?" He shrugs, releasing a hysterical laugh. She moves quickly, grabbing him by the hoodie and slams him up against the wall.
"Wow, the family resemblance is seriously uncanny."
"This is not funny," she says, shoving his shoulders. "My brother died seven years ago!"
"Ah, no. Nope." He shakes his head. "Derek’s alive and as broody as ever."
"That’s not possible." Her chest aches at the thought of seeing her brother. Her mother will, oh god, her mother. She broke when she lost her only son. Laura sacrificed years of normalcy and freedom to appease her mother’s despair. Their lives were put on hold when Derek died. He can’t be alive. This can’t be real. Her mother would give anything to have her son back, Laura would, too.
She loosens her grip, taking a step back, smoothing his hoodie down, and the kid smiles at her, chuckling as if she’s missed a joke.
"I need to see him. My mother, she’ll—" Laura doesn’t finish that thought because wherever she is, her mother is not here and wherever her mother is, her son is not. Talia Hale is still the strongest, most respected alpha on the west coast even if some days she roams through the forest a shell of her former self because she couldn’t protect a member of her pack, but that’s only for the family to see, no one else knows the grief that still tears her apart.
Oh, God, Laura thinks. If she’s here, her mother might lose her, too. It will destroy her and the family.
"I have to go back," she says. "You have to send me back."
"I know." Stiles apologizes. "We’re going to try. Deaton will figure it out and then no one will ever know this happened. I won’t tell Derek."
"Derek." She halts in her tracks. Derek is here.
She demands to know the details, so Stiles explains the fire, and how Laura and Derek were at school when it happened and how Cora and Uncle Peter were the only survivors but he was badly burned. He tells her of her own death a few years later, and Cora’s last month at the hands of hunters in Brazil. It doesn’t take him long to tell the story of her family, the words flowing from him like they’ve been bottled for years, and when he finishes, he takes a sip of his water, swallowing down his sadness with it.
"Derek’s the only one left," he says. "Well, Peter, too, but that guy has problems." She laughs at that because Uncle Peter does have issues but most of them are justifiable in her opinion. "And Peter’s daughter, Malia." The name doesn’t register with Laura, he doesn’t have any children, and the idea of Uncle Peter ever hurting Laura is absurd. He’s not the same man, so what does that mean for her brother? Maybe this is some dark universe, where people are evil. But this kid smells of nothing sinister, and her brother is kind and naive and he’s been all alone.
She rises from the crate, lumbers toward the heavy front door that’s still standing after all this time. Opening it, she grips the doorframe letting his words sink in. For years the family has grieved for Derek, broken and damaged because they lost a member of their pack, a brother, a son, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin, and Derek had lost them all. Her heart breaks for him, imagining how he went through it alone. It’s been years since she cried for Derek, only this time it’s different. She grieved for what she lost and what her family lost with his death, but now she grieves for what he lost. She’s overwhelmed and doesn’t understand what the hell has happened, only that this kid, Stiles, has opened long buried wounds with a few choice words. She’s filled with sorrow but also a hope that threatens to rip her open.
The wolf in her mourns for her brother. She drops to her knees, howling to let it out. It’s loud and inconsolable but she can’t stop it. If Derek is alive, this has to be a dream and she’s not sure if she wants to wake from it.
When she’s done, she sags against the floorboards, exhausted and lost. She doesn’t know where to go from here, if she even believes that Derek is alive, but there’s something that smells familiar about Stiles. It could be the house, the lingering smells of her family ingrained in the walls, even through the smoke and dust it’s recognizable, but Stiles shouldn’t smell like them. As far as she knows, he doesn’t know her family.
He squats on the floor next to her, cautiously, she notices, and he doesn’t touch her even though she spies his hands twitching like he wants to reach across and comfort her.
"Is he okay? Is he happy?" she asks.
She smells his regret, and even though he could lie and tell her something to make her feel better, she’s grateful he doesn’t.
"No," he says. "He’s angry and hurt. He doesn't trust anyone. He’s a walking textbook definition of PTSD."
"But you’re friends?" She meets his eyes.
"We’re working on it." Stiles smiles. "He makes it harder than it should be."
"That doesn’t sound like my brother at all." The Derek she remembers was kind and laughed a lot. He followed Uncle Peter around like he was a god, and when he was scared, he crawled into Laura’s bed and they would tell stories under the sheets with flashlights neither of them needed. He was a happy kid, if somewhat irritating in his early teen years. He shared their mother’s grace and presence along with their father’s looks and kindness. He had all the girls’ and the boys’ attention in school even though he was oblivious to the attention he garnered.
As the oldest, tradition dictated the alpha role would fall to Laura, but every so often the duties could fall to someone more worthy. Laura always thought that would happen in their family, she teased him often enough, passing it off that it didn’t bother her, even if it was her way of convincing herself that it was how it should be if it did happen that way. His temperament was more suited to it than hers. She was hot-headed and impatient a lot of the time, whereas Derek was forgiving and listened, weighing things thoroughly before making any decisions. Sometimes it would take him hours just to pick out a film when it was his choice on family movie nights, taking into consideration what everyone liked and didn’t like before making a decision. It used to drive Laura and her little sister, Cora, crazy because they always knew exactly what to pick when it was their turn. But not Derek. He would sacrifice his choice to make someone else happy.
"He’s been through a lot," Stiles says, breaking her thoughts. "Which is an understatement when it comes to Derek. A lot has happened since you died."
The idea of an alternate universe where Derek was the one who survived and the rest of them died couldn’t possibly exist. For the past seven years, their world has been shaped by a Derek-sized hole. Their lives have gone on, but it was obvious how everything diverged the moment their mother felt his loss. Her parents argued more, Uncle Peter and his wife took a path of vengeance for their mother when she wouldn’t. Cora and her cousins were smothered, pulled out of school to be taught by their aunt, never allowed to leave the house on their own. And Laura, well, she was left on her own, trying to pick up the pieces when her aunts and uncles could no longer help, busy with their own children and lives to help her mother and father with their grief.
Laura didn’t understand how she was brought here, but if this was real, she needed to see Derek with her own eyes.
"Where is he? Take me to him." She stands and then freezes. Someone or something is stampeding through the woods at a pace that isn’t human. Stiles is unaware of the movement. Of course, he can’t hear it and from his expression he isn’t concerned about threats that may be headed their way.
She senses him before she sees him. He pauses at the treeline, shoulders straight, jaw clenched. Stiles is right. The years have been rough on him, but she would know her baby brother anywhere. Gone are the soft edges that marked him as a fresh-faced kid naive to the hardships of life, and in their place are sharp lines, and eyes that are guarded but filled with pain and remorse that she's all too familiar with. She knows he's staring at a ghost because she's seeing one, too. The air around them stills, silencing the creatures of the night. It's broken by her sobs that are pulled deep from within, shoving their way up until she can't hold them in. Her hand on the doorframe barely holds her upright and then Derek races across the forest floor and up the steps, and he’s standing in front of her, a foot away like he's too afraid to come any closer.
"I heard your call," he says, voice breaking. "How are you here—"
She leaps into his arms, halting his words on his breath. He grunts from the force of the impact, yet, holds her as though she weighs nothing. He was always a little thing, smaller than her with spindly arms and legs that were too long for the rest of his body, but this Derek has grown into a man who is solid and warm with his arms wrapping completely around her. She presses her nose into his neck, scenting him, and for the first time in seven years, her body sings with anticipation and the feeling of wholeness that’s been missing for so long.
"You’re alive," she cries, taking another deep breath.
"I could say the same about you," he says. His scruff is rough against her jaw, scraping her skin as he does the same, marking her as his, as pack. She feels it then, the power within him that makes him hers. They cling to each other until their arms grow tired and the tears go dry. She doesn’t want to let him out of her embrace, but they have so much to talk about they can’t stay like this.
She rocks him and he rocks her as they huddle on the porch not ready to let go. She wipes her tears and other stuff neither of them care about on his shirt. She’s not sure if she’s ready to talk but she has to ask anyway.
"Are you happy?" She manages to say, but she’s not prepared for the way her brother lets out a sob into her neck. It’s then she understands that whatever the hell alternate reality she’s in, this is still her brother. That question is something their mother always asks. She never asks how they are, she asks if they're happy because their happiness is always their mother’s priority.
"No," he says. "I’m so far from it." Derek finally pulls away and if she looks anything like he does with his red-rimmed eyes and tear-stained cheeks, they’re both a mess.
The only time she’s ever heard him admit he wasn’t happy was when their dad accidentally ran over Derek’s bike when he was eight years old and destroyed it beyond anything rideable. He was always a sensitive kid, but he was always happy. Her brother had never known heartache, not like this, and all she wanted to do was protect him and rip out the throats of the people who did this to him.
Eventually, it’s Stiles who interrupts them, clearing his throat from the doorway, patiently waiting for their emotional reunion to taper off for them to take notice of him.
Derek squints at Stiles, eyebrows narrowed, and Laura understands what Stiles meant about the brooding.
"How?" he asks, but what he’s really saying is that he’s not surprised Stiles had something to do with his big sister’s sudden emergence from the dead.
"A spell," Stiles says, and Derek has the same reaction to magic as Laura did.
"Dammit, Stiles!" Their mother always told them that magic came with a cost and whatever price Stiles had to pay to bring her here, must have been expensive.
"I know. Believe me, I know, but it worked for Peter, right? So, I just thought we could—"
"We who?" Derek grits between his teeth.
"Lydia," Stiles admits. "She didn’t want to. I kind of made her. We had these books from the Argent library."
Derek curses, punching the banister on the porch, causing the whole structure to rattle. "The Argent library? You know you can’t trust anything that comes out of there." Derek steps close to Stiles, forcing him up against the side of the house without touching him. Stiles shrinks against the wall, but then Derek takes a few deep breaths and Stiles’ demeanor changes, straightening his shoulders as he lifts his chin.
"Well, technically it wasn’t their book. They stole it from some druids." Stiles pokes Derek in the chest, taunting him and Laura understands everything about the two of them in that one gesture. Laura knows exactly why Stiles brought her here, how he thought he was trying to help and why he wanted to help her brother. She doesn’t know how old Stiles is, but he’s definitely too young for Derek to even consider, but as she scrutinizes their interaction, smells it even, it’s easy to see the infatuation may not be one-sided. Huh.
"Lydia borrowed a few books from their library and traced their origins," Stiles says.
"Wait. The Argents are alive?" Laura interrupts, and both Derek and Stiles pivot as if they forgot she was there.
"Ah, yeah," Stiles says, "well, except for a few that we might have had a hand in killing. But they were very bad people. Very bad and deserved whatever they got."
Derek’s eyebrows are furrowed in confusion. Laura got the Wikipedia version of the events of the last seven years, but she hadn’t told Stiles her version, the one where the Argents killed Derek, which was a catalyst for Peter and her aunt to go on a rampage, killing every Argent and hunter within a five-hundred mile radius. They declared a hunter-free zone until the remaining hunters bargained a truce with the Alphas on the west coast. Of course, Derek’s death wasn’t the only reason for the killings, but it was definitely the match that struck the piled-up tinder, which burned the landscape of the future.
"The Argents are dead. Uncle Peter killed them," she says, even though it’s not the truth of this world, she can’t help herself. "He killed them when they killed you."
"But I’m not dead," Derek says.
"Yes, you are."
"No, you’re the one who’s dead," Derek says, eyeing Stiles.
"Okay," Stiles raises his arms, protecting his head from harm, "it’s possible we didn’t exactly raise Laura from the dead."
"Stiles," Derek growls. "What did you do?"
"We might have brought her from another universe where you’re the one who’s dead and your family is alive?"
Derek pales, which is understandable because it’s not easy to hear that you’re dead in another universe.
"They’re alive?" He looks at her with such uncertainty, and it’s sad and heartbreaking but also so much like her brother. "All of them? Mom?"
"Yes," she laughs, "but god she misses you, Der. So, so much. And dad, too." She wants to hug him again except they’ll never get anywhere if they keep doing that.
Derek turns to Stiles again, the unvoiced question of how in his expression.
"I don’t know." Stiles shrugs. "I really don’t. Lydia went to find Deaton when he didn’t answer her call."
"But why?" Derek asks.
Stiles’ face heats up and it’s hard for him not to stare at Derek when he’s standing so close in his space. He manages to catch Laura’s eye and she has to smile, just a small one, because if she’s stuck here and can’t get back to her family, she knows Stiles’ heart was in the right place, that he was trying to make her brother happy, so she may be able to forgive him. Eventually. Maybe.
"Why, Stiles?" Derek asks again. "Why would you do this?"
"I didn’t want you to be alone anymore, all right?" Stiles snaps. He ducks under Derek’s shoulder, moving to the other side of the porch where he can breathe a little easier. "You seem so sad and after Cora, and then what happened in Mexico, I just wanted you to have something good in your life. After everything you’ve done for us you deserve some good, Derek."
Laura should give them privacy, she should step away so they can talk this out, only she’s never been that strong, not enough to let her brother out of her sight even for an uncomfortable discussion of feelings with a teenage boy.
Derek folds his arms, staring at the floorboards. The silence stretches on a little too long that she thinks she’s going to have to fill it and break up whatever thoughts are running through their heads.
"Derek," she says just as Derek prowls toward Stiles.
"She has to go back," Derek tells him.
"We’ll try," he says, "but it may not be possible. There’s not exactly a manual for alternate realities. We could send her somewhere worse."
Derek rolls his eyes. "Doubtful."
"Yeah, well, you probably just jinxed us, now!"
"She has a life, Stiles! She has my family. She has nothing here."
"She has you." Stiles squares his shoulders.
"It's not enough. Not when we've lost so much. I'm not worth my entire family."
"Derek, don’t say that—"
"No, Stiles! She goes back!" Derek clenches his fists, his eyes flash blue and the color catches Laura’s breath. Peter is the only family member with eyes that color. Their mother always says they’re predators, but they don’t have to be killers. Laura’s not sure what she would have done in this world, if she would’ve killed after going through what Derek did, regardless, she has no right to judge him. So his eyes are blue. He’s alive. He survived.
The tension between Stiles and Derek is thick and suffocating. She can’t let them argue about her as though she isn’t standing right behind them.
"Don't I get a say in it, baby brother?" she asks with a smile in her voice.
Stiles doesn’t seem surprised by Derek’s dismissal of her, in fact, he laughs and is about to clap back when they see car headlights through the trees. Her brother clenches his jaw a couple of times and at this point she’s not sure if he wants to punch Stiles or kiss him. It’s really a toss-up because she doesn’t know them well enough to make that call. It makes her chuckle, like a guffaw and she’s surprised it comes out of her mouth. Luckily though, she’s saved by Deaton’s arrival.
He steps out of his car, alone, and looks exactly the same as her Deaton, complete with the same disapproving expression he uses when they’re in her alpha training sessions. He isn’t surprised to see her, so she’s assuming Lydia filled him in before he drove out here.
"Mr. Stilinski," Deaton says, pulling a wooden chest out of the trunk of his car. "I sent Ms. Martin home. It seems the two of you have done enough damage together. He passes the trunk to Derek, then tells Stiles to follow him. "I’m not certain how you achieved this feat of magical impossibility, but it’s clear I’ve underestimated you." She’s pretty sure Deaton wants to grab Stiles by the ear, drag him inside like he’s used to these kinds of shenanigans from him.
"This will take some time," Deaton says, as Derek sets the chest in the kitchen. "Perhaps you and your sister would like this opportunity to reacquaint yourselves?" Deaton glares pointedly at Stiles who cowers in the corner of the room."Stiles and I will see what we can do."
* * *
Popping into existence in an alternate universe is a lot to digest...even on an empty stomach. They were lulled by Stiles’ explanation, a careful step-by-step of how they conjured the spell, but when the theories of multiple realities and quantum physics came into play, Laura and Derek tuned out, choosing to relax under the moonlight to catch up on how different things are in their worlds.
Derek is quiet, letting Laura do most of the talking. He says he doesn’t have much to share, only sorrow and loneliness, so she’s happy to fill in the silences with talk of the family, the stories he’s missed out on, and what they’ve missed without him. Their lives are the same, for the most part. There’s a diversion in 2004, a girl named Paige that Derek never met in Laura’s world, and then things change from there with the night of January 25, 2005 leading to tragedy for both of them. It’s the night Derek died, murdered by Gerard and Kate Argent, and the night the Hale family died, murdered by Kate Argent and her hunters.
Through their conversation, there’s only one thing that Laura is certain of and it's that Derek doesn’t deserve the life he’s living. He may not be telling her everything about the night of the fire, he carries too much guilt in his heart, in his words, for the story not to be entwined in mystery and a few secrets, but from their shared past, she knows this Derek and her Derek would die before letting harm come to the family.
He’s so alone and broken, tortured by the past that he’s not living any kind of life her mother and father would want for him.
There’s nothing here for him.
"Come with me, Der." She smiles, holding his hands. "Nothing has been the same since you died."
"I can't," he says without hesitation.
"Why not? What do you have here?"
He stumbles on an excuse, knowing she’s right.
"If they figure out the spell, why couldn’t you come with me?" she asks. "From what you’ve told me, this kid, Scott, is capable enough. He has a pack that you aren’t even a part of, or so you’ve said." She senses his reluctance and she understands. From the sounds of it, they’ve been through a lot, fought together through unspeakable things. He’d be abandoning them when he feels responsible for them even though he shouldn’t. It was Peter, or a psycho version of their uncle, who brought them into their world.
"I'm not the same brother you knew," he says, his voice cracking. "I'm different, Laura. I'm damaged."
"So? You think any of us are the same? Seven years, but you're blood. I smell it. You're pack, Derek, and that's all that matters.” Grabbing his shoulders, she twists the material of his shirt in her fingers. It may be rash and reckless to entertain the idea of bringing him with her, but she’s not letting this miraculous chance slip through her fingers. “Our parents need you back, no matter how broken you think you are. They’ll make it right."
He leans forward, hand on the back of her neck as he brings their foreheads together. He doesn’t say anything, but she senses how much he wants to come. He’s just afraid it won’t be possible.
"Eureka!" They hear Stiles in the other room laughing and Derek’s heart races. Those two may not have fully realized what they are to one another but there’s definitely something there. She wonders if it’s enough to keep Derek here.
"We think we got it." Stiles comes out to the porch, clapping his hands and then pauses when he realizes he’s interrupted their tender moment. "Sorry," he says, "but Deaton says there isn’t a lot of time."
They follow Stiles to where Deaton has set up the spell in the burned-out kitchen where Laura materialized.
"The window is closing," Deaton says. "If we miss it Laura will be stuck here, or at least stuck for another three years when the next calendar year has thirteen full moons."
Three years to spend with her brother doesn’t sound too bad, she could handle it if it doesn’t work. Deaton must catch her train of thought.
"If you don’t go on this night, we can’t guarantee you’ll arrive in your universe."
"There’s a risk of that?" Derek asks, gripping her hand.
"Nothing is certain. I’m not a quantum physicist, but what I can surmise from Ms. Martin’s book is that you’ve come from another universe, one where the fire that killed your family did not occur. This diversion of events is of the ‘many-worlds’ interpretation of quantum physics."
"Like the new Star Trek films," Stiles says, nodding his head in seriousness.
"I suppose," Deaton says. "Even if that is fiction. I cannot theorize what may have happened in this world or that one, or even how you got here, I can only reverse it."
"It’s the blue moon," Stiles said, like they’re supposed to know what he means.
"The moon holds many mysteries and much power when magic is conducted at the right place and time," Deaton says. "The Hale house and territory has always held power, evidenced by Miss Martin’s actions with Peter Hale. Add the telluric currents of this town and the Nemeton’s power—"
"But you said the Nemeton was dormant," Derek says, his jaw clenching.
"Dormant, perhaps," Deaton says, "but not dead, especially when combined with the emotions of an inexperienced spark. This spell took a lot of power.” Deaton smiles at Stiles, a kind one that lays no blame. "It seems you are more influential than I thought."
“You’re saying Stiles re-awakened the Nemeton? Stiles?”
“Hey!” Stiles claps back, “I’ll have you know that—”
“Can we focus?” Laura says. “You said we’re running out of time.”
Deaton finishes the explanation of the spell and what they can expect, that it’s harder to pull someone from another world than it is to push themselves into one—or he theorizes—which is why she had the reaction when she arrived.
"What if it doesn’t work?" Derek asks. "And something happens to her."
Stiles assures him nothing will happen at the same time Deaton says there’s always a possibility and nothing is certain. She sees the hesitation on Derek’s face, worried for her about where she might end up, and maybe the fear of uncertainty will be enough for him to come with her.
"What about a ticket for two?" she asks. "Could you send us both back?"
Stiles flails, mouth open as he tries to think of something to say, while Deaton looks pensive.
"I suppose it’s possible." Deaton flips a few pages in the book. "The laws of reality wouldn’t be affected since there is no other Derek in that parallel world. You wouldn’t be sharing the same space with your other self. And actually, the spell is based on the concept of ‘something missing is found’ which is how you were pulled into this reality, Laura."
Stiles is quiet, too quiet from what she’s observed of him in the last few hours she’s gotten to know him.
"Stiles?" she asks because her brother is a brooding mute.
Stiles clears his throat. "Yeah. No, you should totally go, Derek. That’s awesome. You’ll have your family again. You deserve it, man. You’ve saved us, you saved the town, you’re done. Time for you to have a life...a good one." Stiles wipes his cheek on his shoulder, heading to the other room. There’s so much longing and torment coming from him that she wants to follow him, wrap him in her arms, only it’s not her place. She doesn’t know him and can’t presume to know what he’s thinking or what he wants. Her brother on the other hand, she can get a better read on him and he’s just as torn, lost and confused, haunted by the machinations of a teenage kid who summoned her from another universe to make his life a little better. She understands Derek’s hesitation and his guilt. She wants to tell him it’s okay if he wants to stay, but she’s too selfish and she doesn’t want that at all.
She sees it, though, the moment Derek changes his mind. It’s in his squared shoulders and the way he bites his lip. He’s going to stay, keep punishing himself for being the one who survived.
"I can’t go," Derek says to her, eyes pleading. "I shouldn’t get a free pass like that. I don’t deserve it."
Stiles comes storming into the kitchen. "You shut your stupid mouth with that kind of talk, Derek Hale! Don’t blame yourself for the choices other people make. You know who told me that? You did after the nogitsune. Shitty things happen sometimes. But it’s how we get past them that defines us. And if you waste this opportunity to have your family back in your life then I’ll never forgive you. I would give anything to have my mom back, I know what this means to you, so don’t pretend you don’t want it, that you’d rather punish yourself instead of having everything you’ve dreamed of for the last seven years!"
Laura wants to pull Stiles in her arms and kiss him all over. She kind of loves this kid. If the spell doesn’t work and they’re stuck here, she can see a long and satisfying future with Stiles, filled with hijinks and hilarity that she would pledge her life to protect. He’s worthy of the Hale legacy, a gift to be treasured, and if she didn’t want to disturb whatever is happening between Derek and Stiles, she would tell him all of this kneeling at his feet.
It’s difficult to hold still while she waits for her brother to react or for Stiles to keep berating him.
"The party’s over, dude," Stiles says, his voice cracking from the yelling. "And let's face it, it was a real shitty one where everyone puked in the flower pots." He gives him a weak smile. "You’re going. There's nothing here for you."
She studies her brother letting everything sink in, why Stiles did what he did for Derek and what he risked to make his life a little more special. It’s quite impressive to see; the realization dawning on Derek’s face as he comes to understand what she knew within minutes of arriving in this universe. Stiles loves him. And Derek loves him in return.
She’s proud of her brother when he stands in front of Stiles, head down but with purpose. "Nothing?" he asks, then meets his eyes.
Her heart melts for this and can’t believe she’s only spent a few hours with them and is getting to witness this. It’s like she’s been given a gift that will be cherished by her always.
"Maybe?" Stiles smiles. "Maybe there’s something?" He laughs. "There's definitely a maybe."
"There’s a maybe," Derek says, his fingers brushing Stiles’ cheek.
"Do you really want to risk happiness with your family for a maybe?" Stiles asks and Laura is fighting everything to refrain from squealing. She loves this brave, wise and wonderful stranger.
"This could be something," Stiles says, gesturing between them, "but you and I know we’re not there, yet. We have a long way to go and we may never get there after everything we’ve been through. You have a chance at a normal—well, relatively normal—life. What kind of person would I be if I didn’t want you to have that?"
Derek kisses Stiles. It’s not a tender kiss by any means. It makes Laura blush and feel all kinds of things she’s not sure she wants to parse. She’s a twenty-seven-year-old werewolf, she should not be cheering on her brother for mauling a human teenager, but she’s in another universe so she can do whatever the hell she wants. When it gets a little too heated, she makes herself scarce like Deaton did, and retreats to the porch to give them some privacy. Neither say anything, just smile, nodding awkwardly, trying not to listen to the gasps and moans and sounds of lips devouring one another.
It goes on until Deaton eventually clears his throat. "The moon is setting," he says. "We have to do this soon."
"Okay, boys!" She claps her hands and they break apart with red cheeks. "I’d say get a room but..." She pretends to glance at a watch as she stomps into the house with Deaton following.
As Deaton prepares the final part of the spell with Laura’s help, Derek murmurs about a Camaro, deed to a building and cash in the walls as he hands Stiles a set of keys. Stiles argues, refusing to accept them, but with blue eyes, a final growl and a peck on the lips, Stiles admits defeat. After that, there are a few more whispers and promises, and then they stand in silence, avoiding each other’s eyes. It’s not awkward, but it sure is charged.
"Find me," Stiles blurts out. "Laura said her Stiles knows nothing about werewolves and magic and is living a normal life, but I want you to find me. It may take a while for you to heal, to be ready, but if I’m built the same, it won’t take much for me to fall in love with you. So, when you’re ready, Derek, find me and make me fall ridiculously, embarrassingly, head-over-heels for you, the whole you. The one who gets to have extra years with his family and has a healed heart."
"It’s up to you. If you want it."
Laura will make damn sure Stiles is in their life in whatever capacity is appropriate. She has no idea what’s in store for them when and if they get back, but it will take time for everyone to heal. She senses Derek’s fear, his worry that he’s making the wrong decision, that the family won’t accept him, and it’s that fear that has her smiling. This Derek is now her Derek and he may be a little weathered but underneath it, he’s the same kid who would offer her the last of his Easter chocolate just to see her smile. He’s still her brother at the core of who he is. And if that’s true, then the Stiles of her world is worth having as an ally in their lives.
"Are we ready?" Deaton says, ever the perfect timing. "Laura, Derek, please stand in the circle where Laura first appeared. Holding hands would be best."
"You ready?" she asks, a small part of her speculating if he’ll stay, but he nods and joins her, reaching for her hands.
"Not even remotely." Derek focuses on their joined hands. "This isn’t real," he mutters.
"Oh, it better be fucking real." She laughs, as does Stiles.
"Just a second," she says, holding up her finger. She rushes at Stiles embracing him in a bone-crushing hug. "Thank you," she confides. "For…" She scents him, pulling the essence of who he is inside of her so she’ll carry it with them into her world. She has so many things to say to him and not enough time. She wants to know more about him, hear more of their stories and thank him for being Derek’s friend, watching out for him, caring about him enough to bring her here, and loving him when there was no one here to do that. And most importantly, loving him enough to let him go. She squeezes him one last time. "For everything. Thank you."
She joins Derek, hands clasped. "Ready."
"What if it doesn’t work?" he asks.
"If it doesn’t, it was worth trying." She places her hand on his cheek. "I’ve missed you so much. Everyone has and if this means this is it, well, I’ll have died happily seeing your face again."
"You’re not going to die!" Stiles says. "It’s like you don’t trust me, or something. It worked before."
Derek turns to him, eyes shining with tears. "I trust you."
"It’s time," Deaton says, opening the portal. He chants as a crackling sensation shifts along her spine, like the air in the room is getting sucked out all at once. She squeezes Derek’s hands, then changes her mind and pulls him close, wrapping her arms around him, gripping tightly like she’ll never let anything separate them ever again.
There’s a flash of light, an electrical discharge emanating from the ceiling surrounding them. It’s a thunderous sound and makes the hair on her arms stand up. She glances toward Stiles to see him crying, staring at them with fondness. He smiles at her, mouths ‘take care of him,’ and as the electricity buzzes along her skin, Stiles yells, a desperate plea over the roaring in her ears.
"Laura, promise me! Make sure he finds me. I just...I just want to know him!"
And then there’s silence.
Chapter 2: Tomorrow Says
Laura hugs Derek, eyes shut tight, holding on with all of her strength hoping neither of them have the reaction she had last time. It’s different, though, louder and more painful whereas last time she appeared into thin air with a ‘pop’ and a woozy stomach and spinning head. She’s not sure what it means, if they’ve made it into the right universe or if they’ve been thrown into another one. She blinks a few times, looking for Stiles and the derelict house that should be surrounding them, except they’re not here. There’s only the soft glow coming from the lighting under the kitchen cupboards that are worn with use but whole. The walls are solid around them filled with the smell of home and the fresh, clean linens from the laundry room.
Derek gasps, his hands clasped tightly to her shirt, and if she didn’t have a strong grip around him, he wouldn't be upright. He could be reacting to their mode of travel or the scents he’s probably long forgotten along with the other heart beats in the house. There’s more than there should be at this hour and a few outside, too.
There’s a clatter of footsteps upstairs. “Laura!” Her mother yells as she runs down the stairs. “Where have you been? You’ve been gone half the night without a word. You know the rules!”
Derek tenses, like he wants to run but she’s not letting him go, not for anything.
They made it. Stiles did it. They’re home.
The tears and smiles flow between Laura and Derek. They don’t stop, not even when they sense someone coming into the kitchen. The growls from her mother at seeing the sudden stranger in the house is what has Laura spinning, putting her back to her mother to protect Derek.
“Mom?” Laura says, her voice cracking on the word.
“Are you hurt? Who is this?”
Laura releases her grip on Derek, places her hands on his cheeks blocking her mother’s view. “It’ll be okay,” she says, kissing his forehead. She meets his eyes and smiles. “Mom, use your senses.”
“Just use them.” By now they’ve gathered an audience with the other members of the family. They all scent the air, and though the children and the humans wouldn’t recognize him, the others do.
“It’s not possible,” her mother says. “Laura...”
She steps to the side, holding Derek’s hand. “It’s him, mom. It’s really him.” She laughs at the look on her mother’s face, at her father’s and Uncle Peter’s. “Or a version of him, but that’s a long story, but trust me. It’s Derek.”
“Derek?” her mother cracks and has him in her arms in a breath and a gasp. She holds him fiercely, breathes him in, pressing her nose to his neck, scenting her son for the first time in seven years.
“It’s not possible,” her mother cries. “How are you alive? I felt,” she swallows, “I felt you go.”
Her father pulls Laura into his arms, kissing her temple. He has the best hugs, the kind that encompass her whole body where the top of her head nestles under his chin.
“You did good, kid,” he says and continues to whisper things, only she can’t hear him over everyone else’s joyful babble. The burdens that have enveloped this house, weighed it down for so long, have been lifted in these early hours of the morning, like they can breathe the way they were meant to, and the house is filled with an unspeakable love that Laura never wants to forget.
It should be awkward, except it isn’t, not at all. They sit around the table with mugs of tea and coffee and hot chocolate for the children. Gradually the other members of the family fade off into the early morning, saying their goodbyes until it’s just the five of them left. They talk until the sun has risen and the rooster in the henhouse calls out reminding them that they need to be fed. There is much to share and there’s no rhyme or reason to the stories they tell and discover where things differed from Derek’s upbringing to theirs. It’s hard to say what the diversion of events truly was. It could’ve been a simple promise an alpha asked of her brother when her children were born, it could’ve been the trusting ear of a friend who heeded her mother’s warning not to trust an Argent, or maybe it was an uncle protecting his nephew from the heartbreak of falling for a human which meant there was no blood sacrifice to the Nemeton. They’ll never know the catalyst. Derek’s history is one-sided, privy to only the things he knew, and as a fifteen-year-old he wouldn’t know about the conversations happening between adults beyond closed doors and what may have seemed important to a teenager, might not have been to an alpha and her pack. Their mother does her best to explain this to Derek, to tell him there’s much more happening in the politics between hunters and werewolves, that he never would've known what his mother and father were dealing with because he was still a child when the fire occurred. She holds him, hoping her words resonate but it’s obvious it will take more to ease Derek’s guilt.
“I know one thing,” Laura says. “Like always, Derek’s being too polite right now. I’m ready to eat my own arm, so give us food!”
“Please!” Her father teases, ruffling her hair.
“Ah...parallel dimensional travellers here! We should get some privileges.”
“Agreed,” her father says, carefully getting up from the table so as not to disturb a sleeping Cora. “But rudeness is not one of them.” He levels a glare at Laura, then turns his attention to Derek. “You still love waffles?”
Derek blushes, ducking his head. “Only if they’re yours.”
Her father clutches at his heart. “Now that’s how you get anything you want. No one appreciates my waffles like you did.”
“If there’s any doubt this isn’t Derek, that just sealed it,” Laura says. “You two always took each other’s side.”
“In a household of three strong, intelligent women? You bet your ass we did. I’ve been on my own here, it’s been rough.” Her father’s face pales, immediately regretting his words. “I’m sorry, son, I didn’t mean that to sound so insensitive—”
“Dad.” Derek chokes on the word, twisting in his mouth like it’s another language. He ducks his head. “I know you didn’t. It’s okay.”
“You’re here now,” her mother says, reaching for his hand. “And we’re going to make up for every second we were apart.”
“Damn straight,” Laura says, a little too loudly by the way Cora jolts awake. She blinks a few times, looking at everyone watching her. She smiles at her big brother, throwing her arms around him.
“It was real. You’re still here.”
“I’m still here,” he says with the same wonder.
* * *
They’re exhausted by the time breakfast is over and the only thing they want to do is sleep. Laura, Derek and Cora curl up in their parent’s king bed and sleep the day away while their parents lock themselves in the den making phone calls they’re told don’t concern them.
Talia’s connections are far reaching. It takes about a week and a few well-placed calls before they have a convincing story to explain the resurrection of their dead son. A Nevada wolf pack and their emissary who works in their county sheriff’s department are more than happy to have Talia Hale in their debt. They corroborate a story about finding Derek wandering the back roads after escaping years of captivity, abducted as a teenager, not killed like they were led to believe. And being the way things are in America, the story is easily gobbled up by the local news outlets and deemed a tragedy and a miracle all in one. The FBI investigations don’t go too deep, not when there are zero leads and the people who supposedly killed their Derek are long dead and buried. It’s classified as an open case with the Bureau, but no one is about to question the happy reunion between a grief-stricken family and their son when Richard Hale starts talking lawsuits for invading their privacy during this difficult time.
Derek’s gaps in memory are attributed to the abuse he suffered and his silence and reluctance to talk is considered common for victims of trauma, or so the doctors say. The FBI comes to the house for statements, as does the sheriff’s department, and absolutely no one else is allowed on the property, Uncle Peter makes sure of it.
It isn’t difficult for Derek to want to stay inside the house, and their mother doesn’t let Derek out of her sight, so most of their nights are spent around the dinner table with good food and the entire Hale pack. They laugh and argue, play games, fill in stories that are different to Derek’s, and slowly, Derek opens up to them. He’s different from the brother she grew up with, but he was a teenager so how could Laura know the man he would become. But this Derek tenses at loud, sudden noises and takes a pause when someone puts their arms around him. Despite all that he’s still theirs. His humor is sharp and he’s quiet like how she remembers, happy to sit and listen to everyone around him. He’s just so damn happy to be with them that it makes her heart ache to watch him with everyone, and as much as he lives each day without taking any of them for granted, Laura feels his loneliness, they all do.
The first thing on Laura’s agenda is to get rid of the mausoleum that is Derek’s bedroom. Behind the closed door is a room frozen in time complete with posters of Britney, Green Day, the Lakers and surprisingly, Napoleon Dynamite. She’d forgotten how much he liked that movie. It makes her smile to see ridiculous things on his walls when there’s been so much darkness.
Her hands trail over the books on the shelves, stopping at book five of a beloved series, the last one her brother got to read. She catches her breath before it turns into something more. She remembers when the next book had come out in the summer after he died and how she cried that he never got to finish the series. He can’t stay in here and not be reminded of the outsider he thinks he is.
“Hey,” Derek says from the door. He hasn’t slept in here, not yet, preferring to stay with one of them for the past week. She imagines it’s creepy for him, mementos of the fifteen-year-old boy he never knew but is supposed to. It’s time they make room for the man he’s become.
“What are you doing?” he asks.
She wipes away her tears. They’re stupid because he’s right in front of her and there’s nothing she regrets about having him here. Nothing.
“I was thinking we should make this a little more age appropriate.” She laughs, picking up the basketball, spinning it on her finger.
“I don’t know,” Derek says, shrugging, glancing at the wall above his bed. “Britney’s still hot.”
She chucks the ball at him, sits on his bed and he joins her.
“Was your room like this?”
He squints at the posters, the books and CDs. “Pretty much. Although, I don’t remember liking that movie enough to put a poster on my wall.” He points to Napoleon.
“Oh, my god!” She buries her head in her hands. “You and Uncle Peter would quote it to each other incessantly! It drove dad nuts.” She laughs. “You were such a little shit at that age.”
Derek flinches at the mention of Peter. He’s kept his distance from their uncle which Peter has respected even though he’s suffering in silence, waiting for Derek to come to him. They were all so close when they were kids and Derek and Laura spent a lot of time with their uncle. Nobody is willing to push Derek, though.
They go through some of his music, laughing at the titles, playing some on his stereo—the only CD player in the house. His scent that was once ingrained in this room has long faded with time and with every little thing Derek touches it begins to smell like him again.
She catches him eying his biology textbook next to the iMac G5—a birthday gift he barely got to use. There’s a calendar on the bulletin board showing his schedule for the month of January 2012 with a basketball tournament circled for the weekend after he died, and a note written in red about an essay due on ‘Death of a Salesman’ that same week.
“Do you have any idea what you want to do?” Laura asks.
He picks up the notepad on his desk flipping through the pages. It must be startling to see familiar handwriting he doesn’t remember writing. He slowly closes the cover of the notebook, placing his hand on the top of it. She’s not sure if he’s grieving for the Derek that never got to fulfil any of these experiences, or if he’s grieving for himself who had them but couldn’t live them.
“I’d like to graduate high school,” he says.
“I thought you did? In New York.” Derek rolls his eyes, waiting for her to catch up and she feels stupid when she does. “Right. Well, we can get you your GED. Hell, I bet Peter could get you a college degree if you wanted one.” When his brow furrows, she mentally kicks herself. Of course, he wants to experience college for himself. She wanted that adventure, too, but it was taken from her the same time it was taken from him. She’s been stuck with online learning and years of isolation missing most of her twenties.
“I applied to law school,” she says. “Early acceptance, hopefully. I find out in December for next fall. You could come with me? We could live together, and you could go to school there.”
“I don’t know, Laura. The SAT—”
“There’s still time.”
“Alumni parents with huge donations and Uncle Peter, remember?” she says, smirking, because she’s still not sure how Peter does it, or who he has working for him, but he can pretty much make impossible things possible.
“What would I study?”
“Does it matter? It’s your chance to start over. Have the life that was taken from you. No one would care. You could become a professional student if you wanted. Lord knows the estate has enough money. It’s a chance to branch out and see what you like, what you’re good at.”
He presses his lips together, but she senses his reluctance. “I’ll think about it.”
“Great! In the meantime, you need to pick a paint colour for the walls. I hate this royal blue.”
* * *
Slowly, Derek opens up to them one by one, everyone but Uncle Peter. It hurts her uncle even if he won’t admit it or pressure Derek for more than he’s willing to give. Derek hasn’t bridged that distance and when the family gathers, Peter tends to make himself scarce. She watches the tension in Derek’s shoulders when Peter walks into a room and it’s hard to reconcile the differences of an uncle so foreign to each of them, one who risked everything to keep their family safe, and one who destroyed everything that was left of their family. It will take time and the talks behind closed doors between her parents and Derek only reaffirms just how long it might take.
“It’s soundproofed for a reason, Lolo.” Uncle Peter steps out of the shadow of the hallway. He takes her arm, leading her away from the office and out to the front porch. It’s the first full moon as a family tonight. Anticipation is rife within the walls, as is the excitement of having someone else who can fully shift other than their mother. She’s not jealous of Derek’s ability. He went through hell and back and came out the other side evolved. He deserves the gift of the wolf. She’s upset at knowing she could fully shift in Derek’s world but can’t in this one. No one knows why or when a wolf chooses to reveal itself, but according to legends one has to be worthy and Laura’s sure as hell done nothing in this life to make her deserving.
“Aren’t you curious?” she asks Uncle Peter. “What’s with all the closed doors?”
“Curiosity killed the cat.” He grins at her, sharp and with blue eyes glowing. “Or so they say.”
“I just...” She sighs. “I just wish everything could be normal.”
Peter chuckles, shaking his head. “You must realize the absurdity of that statement. Nothing is normal in this family, little one.” He hasn’t called her that in years, not since Derek was born and she wasn’t the little one anymore. It makes her feel coddled, naive, and in some ways having Derek back with all his life experiences, has her reverting to child-like ways. She’s frustrated being left out of conversations.
“You know what I mean.”
“I do.” He stares into the forest, watching two squirrels scramble up a tree. “He came to me,” Peter says. “He asked what my role in the family was. I assumed your mother had told him, or a PG version of it. I believe she used the term ‘Conservator’ of the pack.” He tilted his head, smiling. “Your brother called me an ‘Executioner’ and I suppose he isn’t wrong.”
“They deserved what they got,” she says. “You did what needed to be done.”
“We may see it that way, but he doesn’t. He sees a cold blooded-killer, a cutthroat, and from the sounds of it, I am that in his world.” He grips the banister, lowering his head and stretching his back.
“But that’s not you. You’re not like him.”
“And by saying that, you’re admitting that he’s not like our Derek. Do you see the dilemma?” He faces her. “That is what we call a paradox, and our young man is struggling with how he and I can fit in this world.”
“Why do you think that Peter did what he did?” she asks.
“Who can possibly say. ‘If suffering brings wisdom, I would wish to be less wise,’” Peter says. “The man lost everything, burned alive and was trapped inside his mind for years. Wolves are strong, but not that strong. We eventually break, anyone would.”
She puts her arm across his shoulders, hugging him. He’s definitely terrifying when he needs to be, hard and ruthless when it comes to the family and now that he’s months away from having his own child, even more so. The wariness Derek is feeling is not just one-sided. She’s aware how Peter watches him, assessing him when everyone else has opened their arms and accepted him without any doubts. But Peter’s responsibility is the protection of the pack and that means even the tough decisions when her mother and father can’t make them. There’s a lot at stake if there’s the slightest division in the unity of the pack. But she knows the man who would endlessly read her ‘Rikki Tikki Tavi’ when her mother and father refused, and who was there during her first full moon shift, catching her when she almost toppled down a cavern to the river below. He’s the one who snuck her out of the house, taking her into town when the household was grieving and the walls were suffocating from being cooped up for so long. He was Uncle Peter, protector and shenanigan starter—the prank war king, and Derek should get to see that.
“He’ll come around.”
“Maybe,” Peter says, then adds, “hopefully. It’s been a long time since this house held laughter alongside love.”
“Do you remember the buttermilk?” She giggles. “Oh, god. Derek used to drink right out of the milk carton and mom and dad would yell at him. He didn’t even know you switched them. He was so angry. He chased you with that carton for miles.”
“If a wolf can’t use more than his eyes, he deserves what he gets.” Peter is smiling, but like always his attention is divided and when the door opens, surprising Laura, Peter turns back to the forest.
“Hey,” Laura greets Derek, “we were just talking about the pranks we used to pull on each other. Uncle Peter would torture us.” It’s the wrong word if Derek’s clenched jaw is any indication. “But we got him back a few times.”
“Hardly.” Peter folds his arms, barrelling through the awkward moment. “I let you.”
“You did not! We totally got you when we arranged your library by color.”
“That wasn’t a prank, that was just cruel and wrong. And if I recall, your mother made you spend a Saturday afternoon dusting and re-organizing it the way I wanted. You were also told never to touch adult spaces again.”
“The coffee grinds in the toilet. That was funny.” She points at him, grinning.
“You got your mother, not me. And she made you scrub all seven of the toilets for a month as punishment.”
Laura glances at Derek, leaning against the bannister a few feet from Peter. He’s watching them banter with a look of curiosity, Peter sees it too and she doesn’t miss the gleam in his eye.
“I do recall a certain letter, though,” Peter says.
Her childish behaviour resurfaces. She launches herself at him, trying to put her hand over his mouth. “Don’t you dare! That is not fair. You promised you’d never bring it up again.”
“There were—” he grabs her hands, “—so many tears.”
“Because it was cruel.” She’s laughing now, but at the time she definitely didn’t, neither did Derek. “You ruined our childhood.”
“It’s why I am the...what?” Peter holds a hand to his ear, waiting for her to answer. When she presses her lips into a firm line, he asks again. “Lolo, what am I?”
“You’re the worst.”
“I’m the what, now?”
“The King of the Pranks,” she mutters all in one breath, “Master Deceiver, Captain Capricious, Earl of High Jinks, Prince Perceptive, Emperor of Escapades and Lord over the Lame.”
“Thank you.” Peter bows and it’s interrupted by a sound from Derek. It’s not a laugh or a chuckle, maybe a ‘guffaw’ is the closest to it, but it makes them both pause. Derek raises his eyebrows in question, waiting for an explanation.
“Well, now we must tell the story,” Peter says.
“No, we really don’t,” Laura says, pleading with Derek and when he remains hopeful, she relinquishes. “Fine.”
“It started with those infernal books,” Peter says with a flourish of his hand. “The one about the boy in the closet.”
“You’re making it sound like you never read them with us,” Laura says. “And I know for a fact you read all of them and watched the movies.”
Peter ignores her and continues to set the stage. “Derek was the first to bring them into the house, but you were both obsessed even more than you led us to believe. It was always the same when one would be released. So much begging and pleading and then staying up through the night to read them. Magic.” Peter says like it’s a curse word, rolling his eyes. “Your father was dealing with a time-consuming case and your mother was trying to raise three little cubs who were obsessed with a book and a kind of magic that doesn’t exist in our world. She was at the end of her rope. You wouldn’t listen to her, you let your chores go by the wayside and nothing would get through to you, so she solicited my help.”
“Oh, she did not, you fabricator. You just wanted to get us back for the soup stock in the shower head trick.” She narrows her eyes at him, arms folded across her chest.
“I’m a highly perceptive werewolf. That was never going to work.” Their staring match appears heated but Laura is seconds away from cracking up. “Where was I?” Peter breaks. “Ah, yes. A neighbouring pack gifted me a beautiful, handcrafted calligraphy set for helping them with a Wendigo problem. I couldn’t let it go to waste.”
“He made a replica of a Hogwart’s acceptance letter,” she says, “and somehow made it come down the chimney when we were all gathered for a movie night. It had a seal and everything.” Laura catches Derek’s grinning. “It was addressed to you,” she adds, and his look of surprise is worth the re-telling of the embarrassment she suffered. “You cried when you read the letter. You believed you were going to magic school.” Derek starts to laugh, his shoulders shaking at the absurdity. “Two weeks, Derek. He had you convinced for two weeks.”
“Now, Lolo, that’s not the whole story. You’re missing a few key elements, like how jealous you were and how you slept in front of the fireplace every night, waiting for your own letter. You promised you’d never misbehave again if you got one. Your brother lorded his letter over you, said you were too old, that you’d missed your chance. Oh, the devastation.”
“You called me a Muggle,” she says, looking up at Derek.
“Young Lolo did not take kindly to being called that demeaning name. The two of you fought, claws and fangs out until your mother intervened and made me tell you the truth. The tears from both of you.” Peter throws his hands in the air. “One would think the world was ending, that being ‘just a werewolf’ was the worst thing in the world.” He’s thoughtful for a moment. “I believe that was the last of the prank war and how I got my esteemed, deserving titles, is it not?”
“It was cruel,” Laura says, hands on her hips, looking to Derek for confirmation.
Derek thinks for a moment, his expression like stone. “It was cruel,” he says, then adds, “but genius.” He laughs and gives Peter a silent nod of respect.
“You were being brats to your pack and your mother.” Peter steps off the porch, heading toward his house, calling over his shoulder. “One day you’ll have your own cubs and you’ll see. You’ll beg me to help with them. See you at the moonrise!”
Laura and Derek are left on the porch in silence, but it’s not uncomfortable.
"Why does he call you Lolo?" Derek asks.
That one hurts a little, just a tightening of the chest and a pang of missing a life that was taken from them and realizing they’ll truly never get it back.
"You could never say your 'Rs,’" she says. "We're four years apart. You were so stubborn about walking. Went straight from sitting up to stumbling around on your chubby, little legs. You followed me everywhere and if I wouldn't wait for you, you'd just yell 'Lo-lo-lo-lo' until I'd come back for you. The name kind of stuck."
Derek doesn't meet her eyes, choosing to stare at a spot just over her shoulder. "I used to call you Owa," he says. "Couldn't say my 'Ls' or 'Rs.'” A giggle bursts up from her chest and she's so damn happy, she throws her arms around him and they laugh together. Yes, they're different, but there's so much joy at having him here it will never matter.
“Did you guys pull any pranks?”
“Definitely not,” Derek says, softly. “My Uncle Peter had a flair for the dramatics, but he was more conniving than that. He was all about the manipulation of people.”
“I know it’s hard to accept their differences. I can’t imagine what it’s like to see what you see. I can only promise that he’s a good man, a good uncle who loved you deeply and if you let him, he will again.”
* * *
The first month marking their reunion comes to pass and it’s with surprise they find Sheriff Stilinski on their doorstep. Laura is in Derek’s room; they’re painting the walls a soft gray named ‘Silver Linings’ and listening to music as loud as their mother will allow. The others have gone to her aunt’s house to help with some much-needed roof repairs. They didn’t hear the car driving up their road, not until their mother yells at them to turn down the music. The knock on the door is the first in a long while, weeks since anyone dared to come to the house. The ease in which their mother opens the door doesn’t have them worried until they hear who it is.
“Sheriff,” her mother says. Derek is by the window and a few shades paler than his usual pallor. “Won’t you come in?”
Laura glances out the window to the sheriff’s cruiser parked in front of the house. There’s someone in the back seat, a glimpse of a pale, thin arm sticking out of a light blue T-shirt. She grips Derek’s shoulder. “It’s him.”
There’s a certain topic they agreed to avoid after a full-blown screaming match that ended with Derek’s refusal to speak to her. When eventually he came around, he asked for her patience until he was a little more settled with being here. Since then she’s respected his wishes, but it doesn’t count if that certain topic shows up on their doorstep.
“Laura,” Derek says. “Don’t.” But it’s too late, she’s out the bedroom door and skipping stairs two at a time to come to a stop beside her mother.
“Talia,” the sheriff says as he walks through the door. “This must be Laura.”
“Yes, my oldest, but lately you’d never know it,” her mother says, giving her a side-eye.
The sheriff chuckles. “I have one of those.”
Laura says hello, then glances over his shoulder to the car. She can clearly see him now, his neck craning to look up at the house. His hair is close shaven, different from the other Stiles but his wide eyes and expressive mouth are the same. “Is that your son? Stiles, is it?” Derek curses her from upstairs, just loud enough only their ears can hear.
“Don’t you want to invite him in?” Laura’s going to pay for her brazenness.
“He’s fine. He’s better confined in the back where he can’t get into trouble, believe me.”
“You sure? It’s pretty hot out there today.”
“I cracked a window.” The sheriff smiles.
“Laura,” her mother says with a hint of her alpha voice, “why don’t you put the kettle on.” She’s powerless against it, so she reluctantly goes.
“What can I do for you, sheriff?” her mother asks.
Laura senses the sheriff’s hesitation and reluctance from the kitchen.
“I’m sorry to bother you. I would’ve come sooner but I wanted to respect your privacy.”
He shuffles his stance. “I came to apologize, ma’am.”
“It’s Talia, please. And why would you feel the need to apologize?”
“I was on duty that night,” he says, and he doesn’t need to say which night, it’s clear from the softness in his voice. “I was just a deputy then, but I was one of the first on the scene. If I had done my job,” he clears his throat, “if I looked at the evidence more clearly, perhaps with the experience I have now, you wouldn’t have had to go through what you did.”
“Sheriff,” her mother says, placing a hand on his forearm. “You have nothing to apologize for. My son is back and that’s all that matters to me.”
“If it was my son—”
“John, it’s okay,” she interrupts, stopping his guilt before it starts. The less they delve into the lies, the better. “You couldn’t have known he was alive. None of us did.”
The kettle whistles, breaking the tension. Her mother asks if he would like that cup of tea, but he declines, so Laura joins her mother in the hallway.
“Thank you, Sheriff. Your visit means a lot to my family. More than you know.” Derek is at the top of the stairs, listening but won’t come any further. He doesn’t know this man, none of them really do since Talia shut them off from the town years ago, but from what Derek has shared about his sheriff, it sounds like they’re cut from the same cloth. It gives Laura hope his son will be like Derek’s Stiles, and maybe this Stiles will grow to love her brother like the other one had.
“Here’s my card,” he says. “If there’s anything, anything you and your family need, please don’t hesitate to call.” He hands her his card and with a quick glance out to his car, he adds, “I know you’ve been wanting to keep to yourselves, and I don’t want to overstep, but the library is looking for volunteers at the book drive next month. It’s something my wife was involved with so my son will be there, and I believe he’s the same age as your youngest, Cora? Maybe she’d be interested in helping out or it could be a family affair?” He smiles at Laura and it’s a kind smile with warm, soft eyes.
Her mother presses on her lower back, warning her to stay silent. “We’ll think about it,” Talia says, and with a final nod the sheriff leaves. They let out a deep breath, all of them, including her brother lurking upstairs. This visit will go a long way with their mother even if he had nothing to do with what happened to Derek. If she can trust the sheriff, it might be a first step toward trusting the people of Beacon Hills again.
* * *
Life keeps moving. They have lives to attend to even if they’ve been relegated to the preserve for the last few years. Laura has her courses online even though she’s already applied to law school. Cora and the cousins continue with their homeschooling. Their father has his practice and their mother has Alpha business. What’s obvious about the shift in responsibilities is that Derek doesn’t have much to do. He has a weekly therapy session with a werewolf-friendly therapist which is the only time he leaves the house, but never alone. He refuses to go into town, refuses to entertain any conversations about Stiles, and even ‘forbids’ Laura from seeking him out. Forbids! Like he has the authority to tell her who she can be friends with, well, as much as a teenager can be friends with someone her age. It’s not like she has many friends of her own, only wolves from other packs who live miles away. At least she got to experience high school whereas Cora never has.
Laura’s going to change that, though. She wants both her siblings happy in life and she thinks it starts with one little plan.
She might have promised to stay away from Stiles, but there were some fingers and toes crossed, and it’s not like she’s shown up at the Stilinski’s door and knocked on it. Anyone in the family—apart from Derek—would call that progress.
It’s not stalking, per se, more like casually being in the same place at the same time while treating herself to a coffee. It’s not her fault they both had a hankering for a fall flavoured coffee.
The coffee shop has one of those bells on the door that jingles when it opens. Luckily, Stiles is at the counter ordering his drink when Laura enters. He doesn’t look her way, but a young girl with auburn hair that hangs in a braid down the length of her denim jacket inspects her through thick rimmed glasses. She’s a mini mirror of Stiles, so it must be his ten-year-old sister—the anomaly between the two worlds and one of the reasons behind Derek’s refusal to introduce himself.
“Millie-bean! What do you want?” Laura remembers her mother mentioning the sheriff’s other child, Ludźmiła, or Millie for short because it’s such a mouthful.
She watches Laura with a wary eye, ignoring her brother’s insistent nudging. Laura smiles at the girl, hoping not to draw Stiles’ attention, and then glances at the menu board.
“Can I have the chocolate sprinkles on top?” Millie asks with total adoration in her voice.
“Only if you don’t tell nana you had a hot chocolate,” Stiles says, pulling money from his pocket. “We have a big dinner tonight, so you have to eat it all.”
She scrunches up her nose. “I hate pierogi. Why do we always have to eat it?”
“It’s dough, potato and cheese. What’s not to like?” He ruffles her hair.
“But nana always puts onions and that sour stuff on it. It’s gross.”
“Sauerkraut. We have it once a year in honor of mom’s birthday, so suck it up.”
“I bet she didn’t even like it. She probably liked hot dogs or pizza.”
“You mean you’d rather have pizza and mom loved sauerkraut on her hot dogs. So....” He holds up their drinks. Laura can smell the hot chocolate and the salted caramel Stiles has ordered. He pulls Millie’s drink back when she reaches for it. “Listen, I’ll tell nana you want yours plain with butter. You have to eat all of it, though, and don’t rat me out. Deal?”
Millie thinks it over, like she may forgo the drink not to have to eat her dinner.
“Please?” Stiles bats his eyes at her.
“Throw in five more hot chocolates and we have a deal.”
Stiles’ mouth falls open, his eyes wide with astonishment. It’s exactly how Laura remembers his face the night she met him. It hurts her heart.
“That’s highway robbery!” he says. “No way!”
“I’ll tell nana you’ve been watching porn at night after dad’s gone to bed.”
“Oh, my god!” Stiles stands tall, head thrown back. “How do you even know what that is?”
“It’s called the internet, duh.”
“You are totally my sister,” Stiles mutters under his breath. “You get two more, you little con-artist.”
“Three and I won’t tell dad about you and Scott stealing the liquor out of his cabinet.”
“Holy shit. Is nothing sacred?”
Laura feels a pang of jealousy, not malicious, just envious of what she missed out on with her siblings. The four years between her and Derek were enough that he annoyed her more than anything when she was Stiles’ age. She’s ten years older than Cora and their upbringing was filled with tragedy after Derek’s death so she never had a chance to take her for hot chocolate or ice cream.
“If it makes you feel better,” she says, rolling her eyes as she reaches for her cup, “I learned it all from you.”
He hands it to Millie with a look of admiration and disbelief. “No. It absolutely does not. I was not as Machiavellian at your age.” He glances up, catching Laura’s laughter. He shakes his head, mouthing. ‘Can you believe this kid?’
“You should have asked for a dozen,” Laura says with a wink as they pass her on their way out.
“Don’t encourage the hooligan!” Stiles yells over his shoulder.
Laura has a plan. It’s solidified by his laughter, in the way he carries himself and she caught it in his scent when he passed. He seems younger, more naive and wholesome, but it’s Stiles.
* * *
Their mother yells from the front porch, reminding them to stay together as she waves them goodbye. It’s a big step with a well-timed nudge from Uncle Peter and long nights of pleading by Laura, but she’s allowed to take Cora to the library book drive, just the two of them. Laura wanted Derek to come but even if he wasn’t avoiding Stiles, the family didn’t think a public venue was an ideal way to make his first appearance in the town. They are going to garner enough attention as the reclusive ‘Hale children’ without their sideshow brother tagging along.
Cora is buzzing in the seat next to Laura, fiddling with the radio, asking questions about what she’s expected to do, and for the hundredth time wondering if this means her mother is going to let her attend high school for her final semester. She doesn’t want to get Cora’s hopes up even though Peter has told her it’s pretty much a done deal. Their mother has changed in the last three months. Her smiles are genuine and true. She walks in the forest less and there’s a light in her eyes that looks a lot like hope. She’s starting to forgive herself and it’s evident in the newly found freedom Laura’s been given, and Cora, too.
“Do you think he’ll be there?” Cora asks.
“Who?” The family had purposefully left Cora out of the talks about Stiles. They were the same age and likely to be in some classes together so the less she knew about the boy who summoned Laura across worlds for Derek, the better.
“The guy you and Derek were fighting about the other day. I wasn’t eavesdropping, you were just yelling a lot. It was hard not to hear it.”
“His name is Stiles and I imagine he will be since he’s the sheriff’s son. He’s someone Derek knew, you know, before. Derek’s a little freaked out about running into people he knows or knew.”
“Why do you want Derek to meet him so much?”
“He was,” Laura swallows to steady her heartbeat, “a really good friend to Derek and they went through a lot together. But this Stiles doesn’t know anything about us or magic so just remember that. It’s been awhile since you’ve been around a lot of humans. You have to keep your control. Always.”
“I know.” Cora rolls her eyes. “Like I haven’t heard that a million times this past week. You sound just like mom.”
“Well, if you want to go to school, you better remember that. Be on your best behaviour so she can’t think of a reason to keep you home.”
“Got it. No claws,” Cora says. She finds a song on the radio and stares out the window to hide her nervousness. It’s the first time Cora’s left the property without parental supervision in seven years. She’s only been around other packs and family.
As Laura parks the car, she reaches across the seat for Cora’s hand. “Anything you need or want, just say it under your breath and I’m there. We’ll leave whenever you want.”
“Okay,” Cora says, hiding her flushed cheeks.
“All right, then. Let’s go let people gawk at us.” They lock the car and walk hand in hand toward the doors. She spies the sheriff’s cruiser in the first parking spot and feels the excitement in her bones.
She understands why Derek’s hesitant to meet Stiles, they’ve talked about it in depth many a night. Age being the main factor, which she can’t fault Derek on that. Stiles is seventeen and Derek’s twenty-two. It’s just as illegal in this universe as it is in Derek’s. He’s adamant about keeping Stiles out of the world of werewolves and supernatural phenomena. A weak excuse, but then he mentions Stiles’ little sister and when that doesn’t convince Laura, Derek lays his trump card down, telling her he’s too damaged, that he needs time to heal before he can think about relationships. She kind of wishes Kate Argent was still alive so she could kill Derek’s abuser, or let Uncle Peter do it, long and torturous like she deserves.
Derek may not be ready to meet Stiles, but it never hurts to lay some groundwork.
They walk through the doors and it’s as they expected, people stop what they’re doing to stare at the newcomers, but the sheriff is greeting them before the silence gets too awkward.
“Laura,” he says, holding out his hand. “It’s good to see you again. And this must be Cora.”
Cora gets shy which is understandable, but a soft hand on her lower back from Laura relaxes her.
“I’m glad you could make it,” the sheriff says. “We need all the help we can get. A lot of donations this year. I’ll introduce you to Mrs. Ruthers. She’s in charge of the volunteers.” They head to a small table where an elderly woman with chains on her glasses smiles kindly at the sheriff. “Two more, Patty.”
Mrs. Ruthers, or Patty, squints up at them, then puts on her glasses. “You’re the Hale girls. Laura, is it?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Laura glances from Patty to the sheriff.
Patty scrutinizes each of them but it’s not hostile, if anything it looks like she’s fondly remembering something. “This must be...” she pauses then opens her eyes wide. “Cora! I remember the night you were born. Your father was running late, working a case and your mother gave him quite the sass about being late to the party.”
The girls have heard the story a few times, usually when Cora’s blowing out candles on her birthday cake and their mother reminds their father about missing the birth of their ‘cub.’ Laura never knew others might be privy to the story.
“My late husband worked with your father when you were just babes,” Patty explains. “You’re all grown up now.” She smiles. “Your parents were really good to me when Harry passed but I haven’t seen them for a while now. How’s the family? How are they holding up?”
“We’re all very well, thank you.” Laura holds Cora’s hand. “Lots to celebrate.”
Patty reaches across the table, places her hand on theirs. “A miracle is what it is.” They pause for a moment before Patty sits back. “It’s nice to see you girls out and about. Give them my best and tell them to not be strangers.”
“We will.” And she means it. “So, where do you want us to help out? We’d like to stay together, if that’s okay.”
Patty gives them one last appraising look. “What do you think, Sheriff? They seem like strong, capable women. Maybe Parrish needs some help with those crates out back. Or maybe that son of yours needs someone to crack a whip.”
“Patty, you just don’t know when to quit, do you?” The sheriff chuckles. “All right. Come with me and let’s get you settled somewhere.”
Cora’s nerves get the better of her and she asks to use the bathroom. The sheriff excuses himself for a minute, leaving Laura waiting near the doors to the backroom. She pokes her head in and amongst the tables and stacks of boxes she spies Stiles. His nose is buried in a book, biting the edge of his thumb with Millie beside him doing the same.
What’s the harm? Laura thinks, and makes her way over.
The Hale family is rejoicing in love and light these days. With all the good news of babies, and law school and new chapters, Laura is hoping to kickstart a new “diversion of events.” Because in the other universe, Stiles and Derek will never get their chance, but in this one, she’s going to follow through on the promise a seventeen-year-old asked of her.
“Hi,” she says, interrupting them. Stiles glances up, eyes unfocused at first but then snaps to attention when he sees her in front of them.
“You were in the coffee shop,” he says. “You’re Laura Hale.”
“Hi, Stiles. Millie.” Laura smiles like a lunatic. She can’t help it. He’s so similar to what she remembers that it’s hard to contain her excitement. “It’s nice to see you again.”
“You know my name,” Stiles says, eyes wide. “My dad said you might be coming but...Hi, ah—,” He holds out his hand. “I’m Stiles.”
“We already established greetings and salutations,” Millie says with a shake of her head,surprising Laura with the big words from a 10-year-old.
“She’s a smartass, little genius.” Stiles smirks, pointing at Millie.
“Guess she takes after her brother,” Laura says and Stiles' looks accusingly. “Or so I’ve heard.”
“You’ve heard of me?” Stiles says, his cheeks and neck are blotchy from nerves. Laura can’t help but already love him. “No one’s heard of me, even my dad forgets me sometimes.”
“Now, that’s definitely not true.” She laughs. “No one could forget you, Stiles, and if they did, they’re not worth your time.”
The sheriff and Cora join them at the table. “I see you’ve met my slacker children,” he says, then narrows in on the books they’ve been reading. “You’re supposed to be sorting the books, not reading them, you two.”
“Remember this?” Stiles holds up a copy of a book she’s not familiar with.
“It’s the reason I wouldn’t let you get a dog. You cried for weeks after reading that.” Stiles’ is affronted, mouth open glancing from Cora to Laura and ready to argue.
“He cries at Disney movies, too,” Millie mockingly whispers.
“Traitor!” Stiles claps his hand over Millie’s mouth. “Little sister’s, am I right?”
“Why are you acting so weird?” Millie says around his fingers, trying to get away from him.
Laura laughs at the two of them, glances at Cora with a pang of regret for so many missing memories. They lost so much more than their brother.
The sheriff breaks up their bickering. “Laura, how about I leave you with these delinquents. Think you can get them to actually do some work?”
“I’ll try my best,” she says as he walks away. “No promises, though!” He waves at them shaking his head.
They settle into a routine, sorting through boxes and children’s books, laughing at the old titles they recognize and when Mllie spies one of her favorite books, Cora flips through it, then settles in to read it to Millie.
Stiles and Laura listen for a few paragraphs and then a thought comes to Laura.
“Do you know a Vernon Boyd?” she asks.
“Boyd? Yeah. Quiet guy. We’re in a few classes together.”
“What about an Isaac Lahey or Erica Reyes?”
Stiles thinks on the names, scrunches up his nose. “Erica, no. Maybe through grade school? I don’t think she was well. Isaac, though. Yeah.” He scratches the back of his head, looking down. “I didn’t really know him.”
She smells the sorrow and distress on him and regrets asking the question.
“It was tough on my dad, hit him hard.” Stiles seems confused by her ignorance when she questions why. “His dad used to beat him?” He frowns. “It was all over the news. My dad had tried to get him into foster care, but Isaac wouldn’t go, denied the abuse. And then one day, his dad went too far. He killed Isaac.”
“Oh, god,” Laura says, hand covering her mouth.
Derek talks about his betas, and the regrets he made, but at least Isaac is alive in the other world. He’ll be devastated to hear of Isaac’s fate. Another loss for him that might be eased knowing Boyd is alive. And maybe Cora and Stiles can bridge that friendship.
She shakes her head, taking a deep breath. “Stiles, can I ask a favour?”
“Ah, yeah. Yes. Anything.”
“Cora’s enrolling at the high school for her final semester.”
“She is?” He gawks at her in horror. “Why? Wasn’t she at like some fancy private school?”
“Something like that.” She chuckles at the rumours surrounding her family.
“I was wondering if you’d look out for her. After everything that’s happened, I think she could use a friend like you.”
“Like me?” Stiles points to his chest. “Ah, sure. Yes. I can do that.” His voice goes a little higher than usual, causing Cora to pause in her storytelling when Millie starts laughing.
“You’re so weird.” Millie rolls her eyes, shaking her head at the foolishness of her brother. He may be ridiculous, but Laura thinks it’s cute and she smiles with a tightness in her chest that lasts the rest of the afternoon.
* * *
Cora’s graduation is the first time the family has been together in public. None of them, not even Derek, would miss the opportunity to see her smile as she walks across the stage to get her diploma. It’s quite the sight to see, and watching her mother and father beam at their youngest child participating in something so normal as a high school graduation has Laura brimming with tears. Derek pokes fun at her, nudging her elbow but when Cora raises her arms in celebration, she catches Derek wiping his eyes.
It’s also the first time Derek has the potential to come face to face with Stiles. They’ve still never met, even though Cora and Stiles became friends during the last few months. He can’t hide from him today, not when Cora and Stiles are walking arm in arm toward the family. Laura preemptively holds Derek’s hand, squeezing tightly making it impossible for him to escape.
“What am I seeing?” Stiles says with a huge grin. “Cora, is this your elusive brother? The one you swore to me existed?” He takes a moment to inspect Derek, he’s seen pictures, of course, snapshots Laura and Cora have shown him over the past few months. He’s always said their brother was ‘beyond-this-earth’ hot. If only he knew the truth, but Stiles has never seen him in person. Even with his witticism his anxiety is bleeding through. He’s nervous, which has Laura’s heart racing as much as her brother’s. Derek’s grip on Laura’s hand is bone-breaking, literally. She holds back the wince and the reflex of wanting to punch him in the face as her bones knit back together.
“Hi.” Stiles comes to stand in front of Laura and Derek, thrusting out his hand. “I’m Stiles. I’ve heard so much about you, so many good things, too many, really, that I was beginning to think you weren’t real.”
Derek reaches for Stiles’ hand in greeting while Laura holds her breath waiting for that same fateful, breathtaking moment she witnessed almost a year ago, where sparks flew and heart eyes appeared even though Derek denies it ever happening. Laura’s certain it did. She watches their hands connect and...
Nothing. Nothing special happens.
Stiles drops his hand, shoving it in his pocket as he looks to Laura.
“Laura! Thanks for the cupcakes, by the way. Funfetti.” His shoulders bounce. “My sister loves you even more, now.” Laura had sent congratulation cupcakes to Stiles, Heather, Boyd and Scott—all the people who were kind to her sister and helped her experience the final few months of high school with meaningful friendships. It was the least she could do.
“Glad they were a hit.” She meets her sister’s eyes. “Ah, Cora, I need your help with something. Got a second?” Cora rolls her eyes knowing exactly what Laura is up to but doesn’t argue. They take a few steps toward the bleachers, still close enough they can hear the exchange.
“Congratulations,” Derek says. “I hear you’re off to Caltech.”
Stiles rubs the back of his head, ducking to hide his blush. “Thanks. Wasn’t sure if I could go, sheriff’s salary and a part-time barista not exactly conducive to higher education.” He laughs. “But then this anonymous scholarship came up that I don’t even remember applying for and here I am. School of my dreams is a reality.”
‘Anonymous Donor,’ Laura snorts. Anonymous being the Hale estate through untraceable shell corporations. Her brother is not as subtle as he thinks.
“That’s great, Stiles,” Derek says, his voice all warm and fuzzy that only Laura and Cora would recognize. “I’m happy for you.”
“Yeah,” Stiles says then jolts like he’s on a new train of thought. “I hear all the Hale siblings are off to San Francisco. Cora at Stanford and you and Laura at Berkeley. All one big, happy family living together. That’s wild.”
“It is. We’ve got a house that’s easy for everyone to commute,” Derek says, his eyes never leaving Stiles’ face. “Catching up on those missing years, you know?”
“No, I get it, man. It’s going to be hard leaving my sister. I thought about deferring a year but then this scholarship opportunity came along and couldn’t turn it down.”
Derek takes a deep breath, scenting him and she’s still waiting for that special moment. She’s not sure what she’s expecting but this superficial, awkward conversation isn’t it. She wants to ring her brother’s neck.
“Stiles!” A high pitch squeal echoes across the field coming from Millie. She races toward him with burgundy helium balloons trailing behind her. She jumps into his arms, hugging him tightly. “Dad’s looking for you. He wants pictures.” He sets her down, batting the balloons out of his face. Millie is staring up at Derek with a frown on her face.
“Cora’s brother, Derek.”
“Hi, Millie,” Derek says, squatting down to her level.
“Hi.” She stares at him behind her glasses. She’s in a yellow jumpsuit and bright, green Chucks with the laces loose around the tops. She’s quite the vision of colour standing next to Derek in his dark sweater and pants. “You look like Laura more than Cora,” she says, making Derek laugh.
“And you look just like your brother,” Derek says and it’s easy for Laura to hear the melancholy in his words.
“Yuck. I do not!” Millie says. Stiles tickles her telling her she’s lucky she takes after him and not their dad. Laura knows her brother, knows he’s thinking about the other Stiles and what his life would’ve been like with a little sister and how lamentable it is that a world exists without Millie Stilinski.
“Dad’s waiting,” Millie says. “I’m supposed to bring everyone for pictures.”
Stiles waves at Cora, calling her over as Stiles says his goodbye to Derek and Laura, telling them good luck and that it was finally nice to meet Cora’s infamous brother. They head off with Millie towing them across the field, balloons and gowns flowing in the wind.
“What the hell was that?” Laura smacks Derek’s shoulder while his eyes are still fixated on the balloons.
“What kind of first impression was that? That was the lamest meet-cute known in existence.”
“What did you expect?” Derek says, finally taking his eyes off the balloons. “This isn’t one of your romance novels.”
“It could be, though.”
“He’s a kid who’s got his whole life ahead of him.”
“And a future that could include you.”
“Because, Laura. It doesn’t matter. My feelings don’t matter in this.”
“Yes, they do.” She touches his arm. “Of course, they do.”
“Not to him. It’s not the same. He’s not the same.”
“He just has to get to know you. You have to make the effort, get to know him.”
“Just stop, all right?” He huffs out a breath. “Please just stop.”
“Then give me a good reason to stop,” she says.
They’re both breathing heavily, the telltale signs of another epic battle brewing. Derek won’t take a chance, and she’d be okay with it, accept it, if he was meeting other people but he’s not. He’s locked himself away, denying himself from all that life has to offer just to stay with the family. He’s afraid to venture out and wolves are not meant to be alone. If there’s one thing Laura does have experience with it’s being miserable behind the confines of the Hale territory. It can only satisfy him for so long before he’s going to come to resent it.
He takes a deep breath, shifting to sit on the bleachers. He lowers his head when she sits beside him. “When I met Stiles, my Stiles, something happened in those woods. It’s hard to explain but it was quick. Something changed. It connected us. I didn’t know what it was at the time. I didn’t know for years, or refused to admit it, not until you showed up and I was reminded of the different pack bonds.” He clasps his hands together, his knuckles turning white. “It didn’t happen this time.”
“Maybe it’s because it already has. Maybe—”
“No,” he cuts her off. “It’s not—He’s not him. He never will be. He might be the same in a lot of ways but not the ones that count. Not to me.”
“It’s okay. I’m okay.” She hears the lie he’s telling her and himself. “I have so much to be thankful for. No one can have everything, and I wouldn’t trade my time with any of you.” He rises from the bench. “I’ll meet you at home.” He stalks his way to the edge of the trees, shoulders hunched and huddled against the wind. She won’t follow, not when it’s clear he wants to be alone. There isn’t anything she can say that she hasn’t already, that Stiles is still Stiles even if his fierceness isn’t as loud or his bravery and loyalty is molded in other ways. He’s a product of his circumstances, but he’s still Stiles deep down, because Derek is still Derek. There’s still hope.
* * *
Laura’s out of breath, which is saying a lot for a werewolf, but she’s been chasing a wolf for the better half of the night. She can never catch Derek, just like she can never catch her mother, the wolves are just too fast for any of them. But seeing the two of them, black fur melting into the shadows of the trees effortlessly, leading the pack on the full moon into the heart of their territory brings a joy Laura’s never felt on any other occasion. It’s primal, seeing their wolf form howling at the moon. Answering the call of the pack fills each of them with adrenaline that keeps them running through the night—well most of them. Some of the younger pack members grow tired and the others steer them toward the houses. It’s just Laura and Derek now.
Derek chases the moonlight, pushing and pushing like the devil is chasing his tail. He slows, every so often, waiting for Laura to catch up but at some point her legs don’t want to work. She collapses in a heap of limbs in a clearing where the moon is shining bright and beautiful. Derek’s snuffles can be heard from overhead, but eventually he settles beside her, licking her arm. She grabs hold of his fur, gripping tightly before gently scratching behind his ear. It’s not the first time they’ve done this, but tonight is special. Neither of them has approached the topic, but it’s staring down at them lighting their way through the forest.
It's the first Blue Moon since he came to this world. Three years, and she wonders if he thought about going back, if it’s even possible for him to do it. He’s two years into his studies, taking subjects that don’t really make sense in this world, not unless he was looking for a career in law. Cognitive Science and Conflict Studies? Linguistics? It doesn’t make sense to her. After everything he’s suffered, why would he choose a career path where he’ll be subjected to more suffering? He should be taking art classes, literature and music appreciation. It’s not like any of them need money and a viable job. Derek should be enjoying the bounties life has to offer but instead he’s focused and driven to learn as much as he can in a career that would take him far from the family’s territory. Unless there’s another reason for it.
“Der,” she says, because she just can’t leave well enough alone. “It’s the Blue Moon tonight. First one.” Derek whines, burying his nose in her neck. It isn’t an ideal time for this conversation, but then again, maybe it is. Derek doesn’t have to speak what he’s feeling, only react and it will be honest. “Have you thought about going back?” she asks, gripping his fur when his body tenses. “Would you want to?”
Derek breaks free of her hold, sits on his haunches, staring down at her. He glances in the direction of the houses, then back to her, then to the houses before letting out a long, mournful howl. Is it the thought of leaving them, leaving the sanctity of the family that has him lamenting? Or does he mourn the life he left behind and the one person who could fill the hole that he can’t seem to heal?
When he’s done, he chuffs like he’s sighing, and he settles down beside her. He’s telling her he would never leave them. This love he has for them is cleverly masking his loneliness and that is the most heartbreaking thing of all.
* * *
Derek’s in the kitchen in his usual spot. He’s there every morning, sitting on the bench in front of the window with a book in hand and a breakfast plate in front of him. With Derek and Cora having graduated and Laura working for their father permanently, they’re all home with their futures set before them. Derek’s not working, not in the sense of a real job but he’s been working with their mother with ongoing pack business. He’s even accepted Uncle Peter and the two have become friends, a rather proud uncle to Peter’s children. Derek hasn’t said what he wants to do, if he wants to go back to school or if he’s found his place within the pack but he seems content to be home with everyone in one place again.
To Laura, Derek is lost now that his studies are done. He doesn’t do much or seek anyone out. Laura has found some friends, even dated a few people, and Cora has turned into quite the joiner with a constant array of social engagements that none of them can keep straight. She’ll make a fine teacher when she makes the decision to pursue that career.
Derek, though, he’s quiet again.
Laura snags a muffin off the counter, peeling back the paper as she sits across from him. “Any plans tonight?” She knows the answer, it’s the same every Friday night, lurking in the shadows watching. He thinks she doesn’t know what he does but he’s not as stealthy as he tries to be.
Derek fixes her with his withering glare, then goes back to his book.
“Let’s go out tonight.” She kicks his foot.
“Being a third wheel is not my idea of fun.”
“Then bring someone.” She says it casually, baiting him.
“Der, come on,” she says reaching across the table. “You can’t live a life as a monk. You’re not built for it.”
“Is that what you call hooking up with a hook-up from ‘before.’” She understands why he sought out Braeden, she does. She’s super-hot for one thing, she’s immersed in their world and when he told Braeden the truth—the only other person besides Deaton—she didn’t bat an eye. They meet up anytime she passes through San Francisco and Derek needs to blow off some steam, but her travels rarely bring her to Beacon Hills.
“Bring Braeden, then.” She shrugs.
“She’s not in town.”
“She never is.”
“What do you want from me, Laura?” He shuts his book.
“I want you to have some fun! I want you to come out with me tonight.” She narrows her eyes. “Stiles is back in town,” she says. “But you already know that.”
He sighs. “How many times do we have to go through this?”
“It’s been five years. You’ve both had time to do what you needed to do. You’re ready.”
“He’s got an entire life he’s built that doesn’t need to be disrupted by what we are.”
“You are not a disruption. I thought you were past all this?” Laura loves her brother, she loves every extra minute she gets to spend with him, but this meager life of existing in the bubble of their family home is not enough for him, but frankly, she’s had enough of his self-sacrificing ways.
“You made him a promise,” she says.
“No, you made the promise, not me.” His finger is inches from her face. “He said it was my decision and I’ve made it.”
“I know you’ve never stopped thinking about him,” she prods. “I know you follow him, listen outside his house, watch where he goes, what he does.”
“It has nothing to do with that,” Derek says with an edge. “It’s to keep him safe and away from this world. That’s all.”
“I know you can’t let him go, Derek, so why can’t you give yourself a break for once! Get excited about something, anything, don’t be content with only this.” She throws her arms up to encompass the house and family. It’s taken years of therapy and a lot of pack hugs to get him to accept his new life, accept himself worthy of any kind of love, and feel like he deserved the second chance that was given to him by Stiles, that Stiles, not this Stiles. She just wishes he would follow up on his promise to that Stiles.
“Has it ever occurred to you that I’m perfectly content to sit and read my book. Maybe I like the idea there’s no one I have to run from, that I don’t have to fight, and maybe I like the idea of not being tortured just for existing.”
It’s a punch to the gut. A reminder of what he’s endured. She forgets because their life is so far removed from getting shot up with wolfsbane bullets, repeatedly, that it sounds like stories they were told as children. She’s done nothing in her life, experienced nothing in over a decade. There’s never been anything at stake for her, to make her appreciate what’s in front of her, and maybe she’s angrier with herself for the life she’s wasted.
“Laura,” her mother treads softly into the kitchen. “I think that’s enough.” She heads straight for Derek, bending down to kiss him on the top of his head. She closes her eyes, breathing in his scent like she does every time she passes him. Her smile is fond as she looks at Laura. Her pack is strong and whole. Sometimes she hates that her mother defends him so much, protects him when he doesn’t need it but then she’s reminded of his pain and how he’s grown. This Derek is cheeky and sarcastic at times, and even if she thinks he wallows in his loneliness his scent would say otherwise. He loves openly and fully as though every day may be his last with them, and for many reasons, Laura understands it’s something he will never let go of. It’s the same for her mother. She just wishes they would apply that to people outside of this family.
They have all of this because one stupid-ass teenager thought he could do magic, and no matter if it’s in this world or that other one, Laura will always love Stiles Stilinski for bringing them together.
“Do I need to incite new pack rules?” her mother asks.
Derek chuckles, looking at his hands in his lap. He’s younger around their mother, wistful of the years he missed. His features were never hard as a kid, and yet, this man in front of Laura is serious and pensive but when he’s with their mother, he blushes and smiles that wide one that reaches his eyes and lights up a room. It breaks her heart every time she sees it because it’s rare and Derek deserves to smile like that all the time.
“I’m okay,” he says, reaching up to pat their mother’s hand. “Just some sibling squabbles.”
“Arguing again?” Uncle Peter steps into the kitchen, grabbing a mug for tea.
“The usual.” Laura sits back in her chair. “Just trying to convince my brother he needs to experience life beyond these walls.”
“And by ‘experience life’ you mean that boy, Stiles?” Peter teases. “Well, if it isn’t the Sheriff's son that interests you, dear nephew, perhaps I can introduce you to some nice wolves that may be more your style.” Uncle Peter winks at Derek, knowing he’ll never take him up on that kind of offer. He understands, as does Laura, that Derek found his mate in Stiles. They’re just not sure if it still applies to this Stiles.
“The sheriff did mention your Spark is back in town this summer. Somewhat forlorn, though. It seems he’s suffering the difficulties of a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend.” Uncle Peter has learned to approach Derek with a gentle hand. With Laura, he never minces his words, and with his alpha he tells her things she has to parse on her own sometimes, but with Derek, it’s a combination of the two. “Ah, young love,” he says and sips his tea. One would think Laura and her uncle planned this interaction because they hear the skip in Derek’s heartbeat, even scent reads agitation and it’s enough to bring about the concern of their mother.
“Oh, Derek, sweetheart,” she says, running her hand along the back of his neck as she sits beside him on the bench. She holds his face in her hands, searching his eyes, listening for the rapid tick of his pulse. “Maybe your sister is right. Maybe it’s time to make a decision one way or another.”
“It’s fine, mom. Really,” Derek says, and they hear the lie.
Her mother smiles, but it’s somber. “Are you happy?” she asks, and Laura’s eyes well up at the weight of the question.
Her brother looks down, but his stubbornness comes from their mother and she waits until he meets her eyes again and answers truthfully.
“Most of the time,” Derek says, a single tear dropping onto her hand. She pulls him into her arms. He may be an adult who’s pushing thirty, but his burdens will always be his mother’s burdens. She’s only wanted their happiness, and if Stiles is Derek’s mate in this world or the other one, Talia Hale will not rest until her son finds the peace he deserves.
* * *
It’s Christmas and Derek’s escaped to the front porch as he often does when the house is full. Grabbing a blanket, Laura joins him, wrapping them up in the fluffy fleece. Derek graduated almost a year ago and he still hasn’t settled. Laura thought he would when they went to school, then when he graduated, or when he got a full-time job, and now, she tells herself he will in the new year. She pushes the deadline further and further and nothing changes. He’s stuck in this void of complacency that no one talks about yet it’s the worst kept secret in the family.
She knows what’s plaguing him. He might think he’s been careful in his travels and his research, and if she hadn’t been watching him for five years it might have gone unnoticed.
Derek was shaped by the tragedies he suffered and now that he’s reconciled what happened to him and is at peace with himself, he’ll always be left wondering what he left behind despite how deeply he loves his family.
As much as Laura wanted Stiles to be Derek’s Stiles, he isn’t. He’s got a job, a girlfriend and like Derek wanted, he’s living a normal life. He was also shaped differently, void of fear and conflict, and even though he lost his mother at an early age, he was surrounded by love and molded with the responsibility of looking after someone young and vulnerable. He doesn’t operate on reckless abandonment like the other Stiles. He never will.
Five years have gone by and it’s been wonderful, filled with unfathomable love and laughter, and everything she wished for on the nights it hurt too much to fall asleep. It has been a gift beyond measure. They are healed but Derek is stagnated in a place that’s never really been his. He’s had his time with the family, got those precious years that were robbed from him, and helped shape him into a better, more capable man. As much as she wishes he would stay, that he would want to, she’s reconciled why he can’t, not when he knows who’s out there waiting for him.
A half hour of watching the stars drags by before Laura gathers the courage to tell him her plans.
“I’m going with you.” She predicted the argument or the denial, prepared for it in her head many times, even talked it through with Uncle Peter. What she didn’t expect was for Derek to take her hand and squeeze it tight with a small sob on his breath filled with relief.
“Did you really think I’d let you go alone?” she says, bumping his shoulder.
“I would never ask,” he says. “But I hoped.”
“I knew when I asked you on the first Blue Moon this day was coming. I’ve been ready for it. Who do you think pointed Deaton in the right direction?” Derek looks up in surprise. “Uncle Peter tracked down the Argent library, found the book.”
He pulls her into his arms, holding her tightly.
“I only knew him for a few hours,” she says, “but I miss him, too. I miss him for you.”
“I miss him so much, Lo. I need to know he’s okay, that he got to have the life he gave me.” He puts his head on her shoulder, and if her shirt gets a little damp, she’s smart enough to know how fragile this moment is not to tease him. The decision could not have come easy, and telling their parents will be much harder, even though she has an inkling Uncle Peter has softened the blow. Her mother will miss them terribly, grieve for them all over again, but she’ll be grateful they’re together and they’re stronger now. Besides, Laura was never cut out for the Alpha gig. Cora will be tenacious like her mother and patient like their father.
“Why?” Derek asks.
She takes a deep breath, and this was another answer she rehearsed. It’s a well thought-out reason why she would leave behind the only world she’s known, leave behind her family and the security and sanctity of the Hale legacy. She could tell him how much she loves him, that she would do anything for him, but the reality is, Derek doesn’t need her, not anymore. She’s the one who needs to feel alive, to feel like her life matters, that there’s a purpose, and for the last thirteen years it hasn’t been that way. She’s latched on to Derek, trying to fix him when she’s the one who needs to be fixed. She’s not sure how to change the mundane path she’s been groomed to follow for so long. She wants the uncertainty, the thrill of making a new life for herself and if it happens to be in a new universe away from everything she’s known, at least she’ll have her brother to help guide her. She’s thought a lot about the other Laura, how capable she was at nineteen even though she must have been terrified. She did her best with what was thrust upon her and was worthy of the wolf spirit that lives inside of them. Laura wants to honor that.
She meets his eyes. “My reasons are my own, Der, but I can tell you it’s not a decision I’ve made lightly.”
He holds her gaze, absorbing her words then a look of resolve slips over his face. He nods, breathing in her scent. “We can have a look around. We don’t have to stay. I don’t even know if he’s—”
“Don’t you say that.” She smacks him. “Don’t even think it. From everything you’ve told me about Stiles, he’s clever and capable, and you’ve never underestimated him before, so why now? I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the mayor of the damn town.” She makes him laugh and they sit back in the porch swing, watching the clouds over the quarter moon lost with their own thoughts.
“What if he’s met someone else?” he asks.
It was a thought she discussed with Peter and it’s a strong possibility. Stiles never expected to see Derek again, essentially, he’s dead to him. He would have moved on, but he’s only twenty-three and a potential graduate so it’s doubtful he would have his whole life figured out. And even if he did, they could come back or try again in three years. At least she hopes so.
“Well,” she smiles, “guess you’re taking a chance on that maybe.”
He snorts but relaxes. The next blue moon is at the end of January. He’ll have lots of time imagining the ‘what if’ scenarios if he hasn’t already.
“How are we going to tell mom?” he asks.
It’s surprising how much their mother actually perceives, like she can read their minds, always has been able to. Laura would bet their mother knows, if not suspects the torment Derek’s been inflicting upon himself. Hell, she’s probably exacting her own torment, imagining a thousand ways to ask her son if he wanted to go back despite how much it would pain her to hear his answer. It will break her heart, but if it makes Derek happy, she’ll let him go.
A floorboard creaks from the side of the porch, their mother stepping into the light from the window. Her eyes are shining with unshed tears, but her scent is sweet and filled with love. They make room for her between them, her arms coming around them both. She kisses Laura’s forehead, then her brother’s holding them tight without a word. They sit like this until the sky turns from black to grey and the birds start their morning songs.
“I think we need waffles,” her mother says. “And then we need to make plans on how we’re spending the next thirty-four days I have with you.”
After one last lingering hug, they head inside. There are many things to celebrate, and like the last five and half years, not a minute will be wasted.
Chapter 3: Today Says
They’ve said their goodbyes, packed for their departure with backpacks full of supplies and spells in the event they don’t make it to the right place. Dr. Deaton was as helpful as he could be, translating the texts they needed to make the journey as well as contingency plans to perform the ceremony on their own.
Derek wavered in his decision to have Laura join him, as she knew he would. It was a battle that ended in one caveat: They send Laura back once Derek is safe in his world. They’ve given themselves until midnight to make the call which gives them roughly six hours before the moon sets.
The family is gathered in the kitchen and as Deaton performs the ritual to open the portal, it’s familiar except the walls around them are bright and clean and the faces smiling are a reflection of home and love. To the best of their memories, Laura and Derek emulate the circumstances of the spell and as they hold each other tight, the crackle in the air from years ago washes over their bodies. The same electrical discharge emanates from the ceiling surrounding them, thunderous and overwhelming but they’re not letting go of each other for anything.
Laura catches Peter’s eye as he watches with a fondness that makes her teary. He yells at them, a plea they haven’t talked about but it’s there, nonetheless.
“Don’t give up on me! We’re the same at our core... Don't give up on him!"
And then there’s only silence.
There’s the staggering scent of new paint and remnants of a meal, pasta and cheese, lasagna maybe with the sounds of laundry running in a washing machine. She opens her eyes to a wall of white cupboards where there should be faded wallpaper, ashes and char.
“It didn’t work,” she says, letting go of Derek. She wants to cry as she scans the kitchen that looks so much like theirs but newer, freshly remodeled and all she can think is not again. They can’t start over in another world. The scents are off to her, they’re not familiar, not pack. There’s a hint of it but not enough to believe her family is here. “Der, it didn’t work.”
Her brother is scenting the air, shoulders relaxing with a hint of a smile on his lips. She doesn’t know what he smells, but they should be standing in a burnt-out kitchen in a house in tatters, not something that should be in ‘House & Home’ magazine. It’s tastefully decorated with black accents among the white tiles and reclaimed wood trim. The cupboards are stacked with handcrafted stoneware and lush green plants. This is not their house, and it’s definitely not the house Derek left behind.
There are two heartbeats in the house and if they’re werewolves they’ll have heard theirs as well. There are footsteps rushing down the stairs along with the cock of a gun. So, maybe not werewolves.
To Laura’s complete surprise, Uncle Peter steps into the light, gun raised at their heads.
“The faces you wear are no longer on this earth,” he says without so much as a blink of the eye. “And this place is warded against spirits and tricksters. What are you?” His eyes are hard, colder than her Peter’s, he’s thinner, too, with his black sweater hugging tightly to a leaner frame, like the years have been difficult for him.
“It’s us,” Derek says, moving in front of Laura. She’s still not sure they’re in the right world, but at least Peter recognizes them as family.
The standoff between them goes on longer than Laura can hold her breath. Peter is cataloguing them, taking in their scents and when he’s convinced, he lowers the gun and his demeanor calms. His eyes soften, as does his mouth and he’s ready to crumble like there’s decades of guilt weighing him down.
There’s a moment in time one never really forgets. A memory that haunts and torments, makes someone examine their life choices. It can come out of nowhere, a feeling so intense it causes a rush through the body until the scene plays out and doesn’t stop even through force of will. It’s something that can’t be recollected in passing. It’s triggered by a word, a sound or a scent and the feeling is so intense the shame and regret floods the system making it impossible to think of anything else. For Laura, the shame she replays in her head that makes her stomach turn on nights her head won’t stop spinning is the night she taunted her teenage brother, teased him for not having friends or a girlfriend. That argument plays over and over because if she hadn’t harassed him, hadn’t called him a loser, he might never have left the house the night he met the Argents.
Laura recognizes the look in this man’s expression, the moment he wishes he could take back when he meets Laura's eyes.
“Laura,” he chokes on her name. To him, she’s been dead for seven years. He’s seeing a ghost.
Derek moves in front of her, crouched with his claws out. “Don’t touch her.”
“Peter?” A young woman calls from the other room. She stands in the entryway to the kitchen dressed in black, leather pants and a blank tank-top and some seriously heavy-duty boots. Her hair is short, shorn on one side with the bulk of it flipped over her left ear. Laura doesn’t recognize her but she’s a fighter from her stance.
“What the hell!” she says, then her eyes land on Derek as she sniffs the air, her eyes glowing blue. “Derek?”
“Malia,” Derek says, and his shoulders relax. So, this is their cousin, the one they don’t have in their world. The werecoyote.
“I say again, ‘What the hell?’”
“Malia, darling,” Peter says, “it seems we have visitors. From another world.”
Peter must have been privy to Derek’s disappearance, which is promising—at least they’re close enough for Peter to believe Stiles. He’s in shock, though, but not like he would be if they’d risen from the dead—as much as it’s common in this world.
Malia’s eyes shift back, dismissing them like this is an everyday occurrence.
“Cool,” she says. “Hate to break up the family reunion, but we were supposed to be at the rendezvous like five minutes ago.”
“Well, she’s a charmer,” Laura says. “I see the family resemblance.”
Peter holds his breath, eying them warily like he’s not sure what he should do next.
“We have somewhere we need to be.” He doesn’t want to leave, clearly, but whatever they’re up to in their black attire it’s pressing enough he’s ready to disregard long-lost family members from another universe.
“They coming?” Malia asks, throwing a black backpack at Peter.
Peter easily catches the bag, holding it in front of him. “I’m going to sit this one out.”
She cracks her neck, rolling it from side to side, then looks him in the eye. “People are depending on us.”
“Well, we can’t exactly leave your cousins here, can we?”
“Then bring them with us.” She shrugs, turning on her heel toward the front door.
They’ve only been here minutes, but already Laura senses the shift in dynamics between herself and Derek. Whereas Derek was always keen to let Laura lead, let her make decisions and nudge him in the direction she wanted him to go, here, Derek is in charge. She feels it, her wolf believes it like a calling that she’s willing to obey. This is his world and she’s willing to let him lead.
He glances at her, eyebrows raised, and without a word she conveys what she’s feeling. It’s his call what they’re going to do.
“Where are we going?” Derek asks Peter.
“I’ll explain on the way.”
* * *
“A black Escalade?” Derek mocks as he hops in the back with Laura. Malia drives and Derek seems surprised by that but the two are at ease like this is how it always is.
“I’m sensing a theme,” Laura says.
“It was Chris’ idea,” Malia says, throwing the vehicle into drive like they’re supposed to know who ‘Chris’ is. “Best for transport and good for evading. Has a lot of muscle.”
Laura cranes her neck to study the moon through the window. They have until 6:56 A.M. for the moon to set and about four and a half hours to make a decision. Hopefully where they’re going it’ll be near enough they can make it back in time. The location of where the spell is cast has never been a factor since it’s always been performed in the kitchen, yet, they’re not willing to take any chances by trying it somewhere new, who knows where they could end up.
“So, I’m assuming we’re in the right world,” she turns to Derek, “we are, right?”
“Only if you’re the same Laura who stole her brother away to another universe on the Blue Moon of August 31, 2012?” Peter says, then shrugs. “Maybe there are others.”
“Ah, that was us, or me. But what the hell? This is not the world we left behind,” she asks Derek for confirmation.
“No kidding,” Malia scoffs. “You left. Shit happened.”
“Malia,” Peter says, squeezing his temples. “What my contrary daughter is trying to say is that a lot of things have changed in the years since you left. Some better. Some worse.”
“What kind of things?” Derek asks.
“The Gerard kind,” Peter says.
They’re racing along the highway, breaking speed laws unless the limits are different in this world. Her cousin is a worse driver than Cora, which is a terrifying thought, but Peter doesn’t seem concerned, like it’s natural to be driving maniacally in the dark on a Wednesday evening.
Laura examines Peter from the backseat. His hair is shorter than her uncle’s and leaner with a tight expression in his eyes as he fiddles on his phone. He looks the same, but Laura can’t bring herself to think of him as her uncle, not when this man essentially ripped her other self in half. She understands Derek’s reluctance, now. This man is coiled tightly, smug and dangerous in a different way than her uncle Peter.
“Where are we going?” she asks because Derek isn’t willing to, obviously preoccupied by other things on his mind.
“The edge of town,” Peter says. “There’s an old mining station from the early 1900s. It’s hard to get to and it’s hidden so not many people know about it which is ideal.” He turns in his seat, scanning their attire. “You ready to run?”
“It’s the full moon.” It’s the only answer she needs to give. “We have to be back at the house by midnight,” she adds.
Peter narrows his eyes, then watches Derek. “Is this a visit or...”
“It depends,” Derek says.
“If you can be trusted,” Derek says. It’s not the reason, obviously, but he doesn’t want to share the truth with these two. Derek catches Malia’s eye in the rear-view mirror, like they have an entire conversation in a blink. Her nod is almost imperceptible but it’s there.
“A lot has changed, nephew,” Peter says, facing forward.
“Are you going to share what that is?” Laura asks. “When did the house get rebuilt?”
Malia turns off the highway onto a dirt road, the bushes scraping along the side of the Escalade. It’s more of a path than a road. They inch forward about fifty yards before they come to a stop behind another black SUV. Peter and Malia are out of the vehicle before Derek and Laura can undo their seatbelts. She snags his arm.
“What the hell is going on?” she asks Derek. “Is this normal?”
“Not at all,” he says. “But I haven’t sensed any lies.”
“Because they haven’t told us anything!”
“Maybe you should stay here,” Derek offers.
“Oh, hell, no.” She opens the door, glancing at the backpack on the seat. Peter and Malia are dressed for speed and it’s not like she needs anything in it, it’s personal stuff and spell books. She leaves it behind with Derek’s, joining the others.
“It’s about four miles down this trail.” Peter focuses on his watch. It’s a fancy, military grade one with a timer that’s counting down. “We have about fifteen minutes before the others will worry and call it off.”
“Can’t you text or call them?” Laura asks.
“Can’t risk it.” Malia shakes her head. “So, try to keep up or we’ll leave you behind.”
Laura snorts, side-eyeing Derek. “Our cousin is lovely.”
“And some of us haven’t had the luxury of an easy life,” Malia says, prompting Laura’s anger to surface. She steps toward Malia, fists clenched, ready to show just how fragile Malia thinks she is but it’s Peter who intervenes.
“We don’t have time for this.”
“What kind of trouble are you expecting?” Derek asks.
“Hopefully, none. We’re the backup.” He flashes his eyes briefly, rolls his neck and takes a deep breath. He presses a button on his watch and the beep resonates in the silent night. “Let’s go.” He’s gone before Laura can argue and Malia is hot on his trail.
“I thought our Peter was cryptic at times,” Laura says, expecting Derek to provide some clarity except he’s started the chase, too. After everything he’s told her about Peter, he cannot be trusted under any circumstances, and yet, here he is blindly following him without any hesitation. Derek’s not afraid of him, she didn’t scent fear from him but it’s easy to see why Derek was manipulated by Peter in this world. He’s ambiguous but compelling, which is a terrifying combination.
She speeds ahead to catch up, running alongside Derek. They’re pushing themselves hard, harder than she’s pushed herself in a while, but all the full moon runs with Derek as a wolf are helping her keep up with these two hardened rogues.
Her lungs are burning, her legs feel wobbly because despite the popular belief werewolves don’t get tired, they most certainly do. They’re running faster than she’s ever run and just when she’s about to let Malia have her satisfaction and drop to her knees, Peter slows, head tilted toward the wind, scenting the air. He motions for silence, waiting for whatever signal is headed their way. Laura strains her ears and uses her nose, she was never as good as Uncle Peter at honing her senses, though. Malia is right, she has lived a life of luxury compared to whatever world this is. Derek’s death was sudden and without warning and after that her parents and Uncle Peter, and the rest of the packs protected them from dangers their kind faced. They took matters into their own hands, or claws, and Laura was sheltered from it.
Malia and Peter smile at each other, gesturing for them to follow. Laura’s still not sure what they heard or sensed but they’re relaxed, so now she’s following in her brother’s footsteps and trusting them and whatever mess they’ve gotten them into.
They walk a few hundred yards before they hear guns cocking in the darkness. Derek stops, hands in the air while Laura’s heart races thinking this is it, and what the hell was she thinking by wanting to come here. Damn her romantic heart and damn Stiles Stilinski. If she hadn’t wanted to see another glimpse of the love between Stiles and her brother, she wouldn’t be facing certain death.
“Stop right there.” The voice is male and somehow manages to come up behind four weres without any of them knowing.
“Really, Christopher?” Peter sighs. He turns, hands on his hips.
“You know the rules, Peter. You made them.” He uncocks his gun, big and imposing and she smells the wolfsbane in the bullets. “Uninvited guests have to be vetted.”
Derek steps into the moonlight, hands still raised as he smiles at the bearded man armed to the teeth.
“Derek?” His eyes go wide with a grin on his face. He shakes his head, stifling a laugh as he pulls Derek into a hug with a quick slap on his back and a fond look on his face. “It’s good to see you.”
With his hand on Chris’ shoulder, Derek introduces Laura and they shake hands. She’s never met an Argent before so this must be significant, especially if her brother can hug one after six years of absence. Another man comes out of the woods, heavily armed and dressed in black as well. Laura recognizes him instantly and doesn’t hide her happiness.
“Jordan!” she says without thinking because it’s not him, not the deputy she used to flirt with who was shy and too polite to ever make a move on her. This version of Parrish moves with purpose, guarded toward the strangers in front of him. When he sees Derek, though, his face cracks into a smile.
“Hell, Derek Hale. Someone’s going to be happy to see you.”
There’s the sound of a high-pitched engines, two, in fact, racing through the woods from the south. The others immediately snap into action, sinking back into the darkness of the trees in different directions. Peter gestures for Laura and Derek to follow him, crouched along a path until they’re leaning against a large tree next to a dilapidated wooden structure that’s covered in moss and hidden under a rock outcrop. Laura hears heartbeats, eight of them when there should only be six. She focuses on the other two coming from the shack, squeezing Derek’s arm, nodding in the direction. Brow furrowed in concentration, Derek listens, and then in an instant his expression is open and soft and there are tears in his eyes. Peter has a grip on his arm, like he knows Derek’s about to rush toward whoever is inside.
The engines are close, only a few hundred feet away. By the way they’re traveling over the terrain, they must be ATVs, she’s just not sure if they’re friend or foe. There must be another signal she’s not aware of because Peter is moving, walking toward the structure at ease more than he should be for how this is all playing out.
Laura can see the two ATVs now, no lights to speak of but there’s more than one person on each of them. The closer they get she can make out three men, a woman and three children. How they travelled that distance on those vehicles, she doesn’t know.
Peter’s eyes flash blue in the night and there’s answering red and yellow sets of eyes from the two drivers. Before she can stop him, Derek has left the cover of the tree, marching toward the alpha who just arrived.
She curses under her breath, skipping toward Peter because at least he’s familiar. She’s never been this excited and terrified in her life. The thrill of it all, the clandestine meetings and secrecy calls to her, wanting to rise to the challenge.
The alpha helps the man and the two young children dismount, mutterings of safety and comfort when the children are reluctant to jump down. The wind shifts, ruffling the alpha’s hair and his back stiffens as he takes in the intruder’s scents who shouldn’t be here. Laura holds her breath. Derek is only a few feet from him and before he can get any further, the alpha is upon him, wrapping his arms around Derek, lifting him off the ground and swinging him around. The sound of his laughter is what Laura recognizes. She’s never known this Scott McCall, the true Alpha. She’s only known Stiles’ dorky asthmatic best friend who’s thin and shy, who can barely meet her eye, not this formidable presence who is every bit the alpha her mother is.
“Derek, man!” Scott says. “What are you doing here?”
“I hate to break up the bromance,” Peter says, “but we’ve got to move if they’re going to make the rally point.”
“Shit, yeah, sorry,” Scott says, turning his attention to his passengers. They’re frightened and travel weary, like they’ve come a long way on a hard journey. The woman, dark-haired and olive skinned, is a were, but not a wolf, two of the three children are as well. The man holding the youngest is human, dressed in clothes that were not meant for this kind of environment, like he was plucked from his accounting office and thrust on the ATV without a choice. But then he reaches for the woman's hand, holds her and the child in his arms with reverence and love without an ounce of fear or regret in his eyes.
Scott hugs them. “This is where we part ways.” He leads the family toward the wooden building that doesn’t look much like a building at all, and definitely not where children should venture inside. “We have everything you need: supplies, clothes, food. It’s all taken care of. Come on.” He introduces them to the two new werewolves, the ones who were inside waiting when they arrived.
“This is Isaac and Anna. They’ll keep you safe.” At the name, Laura clutches her chest as she glances at Derek. Isaac is the reason for his emotions earlier. He’s watching Derek, waiting just as patiently for Scott to finish the introductions and when he does, Scott and Anna lead the family inside to change clothes. And then Derek and Isaac get their reunion.
Derek has his arms around Isaac, scenting him more than he did with the others, holding tight like survivors, and they are that. This homecoming is special. Laura isn’t sure she can take anymore, and they haven’t even had the most important one. All these people popping out of the woods and into their lives and none of them are the one they came for but they’re all just as meaningful to her brother, chipping away at that facade he’s held on to for so long.
“We never thought we’d see you again,” Isaac says.
“What the hell have you gotten yourself into?” Derek cuffs his head gently.
“This?” Isaac holds out his arms, also clothed in black, and seriously, she stands out in her soft, pink sweater and gray wool coat. “This is your legacy, Derek,” Isaac says and laughs.
“Me?” Derek glances around. “What?”
“Time to go, Isaac,” Scott says. Isaac gives Derek one last hug, telling him he’ll see him in a few days and then he’s next to Anna, kissing her temple. They hear Scott give instructions to his betas, mostly about keeping to coastlines and messages for people named Jackson and Ethan.
“How can we repay you?” the woman asks.
“Stay alive,” Scott says. “Don’t let them win. Your family deserves a place in this world. We all do and we’re here to make sure that happens.” Scott focuses on the people gathered around them, his eyes settling on Derek. “My pack and I fight so you don’t have to.”
He tells them not to slow down until they’re beyond the state border and then Isaac and Anna lead them through the shack’s opening into the rockface and they’re gone.
Laura wraps her arms around her head, bending at the waist. She wasn’t prepared for this apocalyptic vibe where people wear leather and lurk in the shadows smuggling children through state lines. How could so have much changed in six years? It makes no sense, like they’ve landed in another alternate universe, not the one Derek came from. This was supposed to be a simple ‘pop-in,’ a check to see how Stiles was and whether or not Derek was willing to stay. Now they’re caught up in reunions and warfare and some real cloak-and-dagger shit. The adrenaline pumping through her veins is a rush. She’s never felt so alive.
“Is this some kind of underground supernatural railroad?” she asks, her voice high-pitched sounding nothing like her usual self.
“You must be Laura,” Scott says with a smirk. “Come on. Liam and I have been traveling for hours and we need showers, our part is done. Chris and Jordan will keep watch for a while, so let’s head back to the house. We’ll explain everything.”
“I’m staying,” Malia says. “And yes, you stink.”
“Aw, thanks, babe,” Scott says, kissing her soundly on the lips, rubbing his armpits over her shoulders.
She easily shoves him off her. “You’re disgusting.”
Liam volunteers to stay, as well, muttering about kids moving slower. It leaves Peter, Scott, Derek and Laura in the Escalade driving back to the house. The journey is quiet. Laura has a million questions but the way her brother is staring out the window, worrying at his lip unsettles her enough that for once she doesn’t want to barrel through and take over. It’s his decision and she would never fault him for choosing to go back where it’s safe and so very normal, where they’re surrounded by family and his only care in the world is what kind of job he wants to spend the rest of his life doing.
She thinks about his degree, what he studied, the criminal aspects of behavioral sciences, and the other languages he learned, like he knew he was coming back. He kept one foot in both worlds to grow and learn to be loved so he could become the man he wanted to be. It's a ridiculous thought, except the reality of the last few hours leads her to believe he was preparing for his return, to be ready for what would be waiting for him. His conviction is awe-inspiring, and she wonders when he made the decision or if he always knew.
Peter turns onto the gravel road to the house. He’s done an amazing job of replicating their home, the shape and the style are the same but there’s obvious upgrades in the windows and the materials used on the exterior. It’s more formidable somehow, like a fortress with the trees cleared around it, giving clear sight lines from every angle of the house.
“The house is amazing,” she says to break the tension.
“Thanks,” Scott says. “It took a while, but Peter was insistent on certain features.”
“Like what?” she asks.
“Fireproof for one,” Peter says, meeting her eyes in the mirror. “Escape routes, you know. Warded against evil. The usual.”
“Yeah,” she snorts, “the usual.”
“Who lives here?” Derek asks, the first thing he’s said since they got in the car. He must have an idea, scented them when they arrived.
“The pack comes and goes,” Scott says. “I live here with Malia, Peter, Liam, Isaac and Anna. Come on, I’ll take you on a tour.”
“I’ll check in with the others,” Peter says, leaving them at the door. It’s odd he would leave but then Derek’s demeanor relaxes as soon as Peter disappears down the hallway.
“He’s different,” Scott says softly. “When you left...” He runs his hand through his hair. “It kind of broke him. He needed reminding he wasn’t the only one left. Malia and Peter grew close and he changed.” Scott shrugs. “I know it’s hard to believe, Derek, and it took a long time, but he rebuilt the house for the pack, included all of us in the designs.” He tilts his head toward the stairs, leading them onward. “There’re eight bedrooms, all the same size with their own en-suite. There’s no hierarchy in the house.”
“Eight?” Laura says. “How many are in your pack?”
“In Beacon Hills? Eleven.” Scott smiles. “Across the country? Another twelve and growing.”
“Twenty-three?” Derek grips Scott’s arm at the top of the stairs. “Scott, that’s...that’s amazing.”
“It takes a lot of manpower to do what we do. Gerard has hundreds.”
The hallway is filled with picture frames lined on either side. Photos of people she doesn't recognize and some that she does. The house is lived in, it smells familiar in a way that shouldn’t. Derek stops at a closed door, hands pressed to the frame as he breathes deeply with a low grunt in his throat, a choke almost.
“Is this—” Derek clears his throat. “This is Stiles’ room?” Laura’s not sure what he’s smelling, she can’t make out all the different scents from all the strangers, and even if she does catch a faint trace of him, Scott never said Stiles lives in the house. And now that she comes to think of it, no one has mentioned him, like they’re skirting around everything to do with him. She has a sick feeling in her stomach that this isn’t going to turn out like they hoped. The clock is ticking, so they’ll need to make a decision soon.
“He waited for you,” Scott says. “Three years ago, the last Blue Moon. He came back to the old house hoping you’d be here, that maybe you decided to come back. He even thought about following you, but Deaton advised against it.” Scott waves his hands around. “That whole occupying the same space thing. He waited until the sun came up and when you didn’t show he sort of accepted you were gone.” Scott leads them further on the tour to another set of stairs opening to a loft that’s large enough for a pool table, and shuffleboard with bean bags and game consoles scattered in front of a huge TV. It’s lived in and loved with empty glasses sitting on coasters and patterned cushions strewn everywhere.
“Lydia hates this room. But we spend a lot of pack nights here. It helps when things get bad.”
Laura is overwhelmed by it all and one glance at Derek has her wanting to wrap him up in his arms.
Derek clears his throat as he takes a turn around the room. He must be recognizing scents in all the fabric, seeing the history of what this room holds. “You did what I couldn’t,” Derek says.
“What? Dude, are you kidding?” Scott laughs. “This is all because of you. If you hadn’t tried to help me, if you hadn’t been there, I’d be dead and countless others, too.” Scott picks up a few pillows, placing them back on the couches. “After that Blue Moon, Stiles went to Peter about restoring the house. He’s the one who wanted to see it done. This house is here because of you. All of this.”
There’s a clatter on the porch downstairs, a bunch of footsteps followed by the door opening. Scott laughs, shaking his head. “Guess word’s gotten out that you’re back.”
They’re on the main floor, and standing in the entryway is the sheriff dressed in his uniform and Melissa McCall in hers. At least some things haven’t been warped in this universe. They’re laughing as they remove their jackets hanging them in the closet. Following them is Chris Argent and Jordan Parrish telling the house that Malia and Liam have things under control. Chris kisses Melissa on the mouth in greeting and Derek is utterly surprised by that development.
“Derek Hale,” the sheriff says, hands on his hips, lips pursed. “Never thought we’d see the likes of you again.” He assesses Derek from head to toe as everyone holds their breath waiting to see what he’ll do next. She’s not sure what he sees when he examines Derek. Her brother has more gray hairs in his beard, and a few wrinkles around his eyes, but he’s built the same even though he’s not as rigid as he once was, less guarded and she wonders if it’s enough of a change for them to notice.
“You look good, kid,” the sheriff says, smiling. “Real good.”
“Well, I’m so happy to see you,” Melissa says, pulling him into a hug. “John is, too. He still likes to play the protective father role, even though the kids are grown. It’s the sheriff in him.”
Laura gets introduced and before she knows it, they’ve shuffled into the kitchen, sitting around the table having drinks, coffee and tea and whisky for the humans, even Peter has joined them. It’s how it should be, how this house should always be.
Scott and Chris tell the tale of how they got involved in what they’re doing, how it started with Chris’ father declaring all-out war on the supernatural, recruiting more renegade hunters who wouldn’t follow the old code of honor. The first group they helped was from Mexico with an unlikely alliance with the Calaveras, old school hunters like Chris. They warned him a war was brewing in parts of Central and South America and sought him out to smuggle a pack of werewolves across the border, a pack who had lived peacefully in southern Mexico for centuries. They were being ruthlessly hunted and their large numbers were decimated in days.
It began from there with more stories cropping up of torture and murder of innocent weres until eventually it spread to the United States and to all supernatural beings. Bounties were placed and with the egregious gun laws across the country, it was fight or flight for their kind. After a neighboring pack near Beacon Hills was killed, Scott’s pack had come up with a way to fight back.
As they tell the tale of how their wayward home became an actual Beacon, Derek listens to every word, taking everything in, and without the need for a discussion, Laura knows he’s staying. It would be impossible for him to go back to how they were living knowing his friends, his former pack, were here fighting a righteous fight.
“Stiles orchestrated most of this,” Chris says. “With Lydia’s help and Danny. We have pack members all across the country. Lydia’s in D.C. working diligently to change the gun laws. It’s not a solution, but it’s a start.”
“Danny’s in New York with Mason and Corey,” Scott says. “They’re doing what they can out there. Networking, finding more people. We have a couple in L.A., too.
“Jackson and Ethan are in Seattle,” Chris says. “They’ll meet Isaac in a few days and take the family across the border.” The way Chris’ eyes soften at Isaac’s name has Laura feeling emotions she shouldn’t for people she’s never met. It’s obvious how much they respect each other, and the love in the room is astonishing.
“The border?” Laura asks.
“Canada,” Scott says. “It’s safe up north.”
“Not as many zealots,” Chris offers. “Stricter gun laws.”
“Is it always like that?” Laura asks. “All the precautions?”
“Not always,” Scott says. “It’s different with kids, harder to cross the border. We can’t move as fast or take risks like we might otherwise. We don’t use the mining tunnels if we can help it.”
It’s a lot to take in but from what they’ve shared it’s a well-oiled machine. Beacon Hills has gained a reputation for neutral fighting ground. With the Nemeton awake and the magic that surrounds it, the place is warded from hunters and others who would cause harm. She doesn’t fully understand it, but she doesn’t have to. It’s unbelievable what they’re doing, and they’re remarkable for doing it.
John sits back in his seat, hands on his whisky glass. “It’s not foolproof,” he says. “We’ve lost a few and some have been unjustly incarcerated, but we have a network of people who are committed. Paramedics, doctors, nurses, law enforcement, computer hackers, pilots, a banshee, a druid and even a few FBI agents on our side. We’re gaining a reputation for good or bad.”
No one has told them anything about Stiles and it’s killing her. She can't take it anymore.
She squeezes Derek’s knee, going for it. “And Stiles?”
“Oh, you mean Agent Stilinski?” Peter smirks. “Our not-so-little, Spark is one of the youngest field agents assigned to San Francisco.” Everyone turns their gaze to Derek whose cheeks and ears are flaming red.
“He’s our front line,” the sheriff says. “He trained with Deaton, vigilantly through highschool, and then went to Quantico. Scott’s dad and Stiles have teamed up, to everyone’s surprise, believe me, but it works. They give us a heads up if anything suspicious comes through their offices.” Derek’s staring intently at his hands. There’s a tiny smile, though, and his scent is warm and receptive.
“This is all because of you, son,” John says, tapping the space in front of Derek. “We’re here because Stiles was adamant we use the money you left him for a purpose. He knew that at your core you only wanted to help, so that’s what he made sure happened with it.”
“It’s your legacy,” Chris says. “The Hale legacy lives on.”
Laura cries, can’t hold back her tears, chokes on them as she watches her brother finally take a breath that isn’t weighed by guilt and torment or indecision. It’s all been lifted and once again, Laura has to thank a kid who she’s only met for a few hours one night on a Blue Moon in another universe. It’s surreal that after all this time Derek was celebrated, he wasn’t forgotten, but then how could anyone ever forget him.
Once they’ve collected themselves, John and Derek break away to have a private word. John walks with a hand on Derek’s shoulder, leading him down a hallway that is likely the same office space her mother occupies in their house. She’s a little resentful she’s not privy to the conversation but happy the sheriff is so welcoming and at ease with Derek.
Malia and Liam return with Liam’s dads and they must be the doctors the sheriff mentioned since they smell of the hospital. The house is full, loud and celebratory. And she has to make a decision soon.
She turns her attention to Peter. Folding her arms, she says, “You killed me.” The kitchen goes silent waiting for the backlash.
Peter’s eyes wash over her. “A version of you, yes.”
“Why should I trust you, trust you with Derek?”
“Perhaps you shouldn’t,” he says. His answer reminds her a lot of her uncle, the straightforward way he makes her question her own logic by being vague at the same time. It’s frustrating.
She narrows her eyes at him. “How can we know you’ve changed?”
“You can’t, but from what I’ve seen of my nephew he’s not who he was when he left. Six years being surrounded by a version of my sister and the family has changed him. It’s in his eyes and the way he holds himself, surer of his actions, he even smells different, as do you. If he’s capable of change, shouldn’t that mean I am as well?”
She wants to believe him because despite the short hair and the other subtle differences he’s like her uncle in many ways, and she wants to have that relationship, but this man is guarded, his eyes a little less trusting, so it’s too difficult to decide in one evening.
“If it helps,” Chris offers, arm around Melissa in a casual, comforting way, “he hasn’t tried to shank me and leave me for dead in years.” It breaks the tension as everyone laughs and even Laura finds it amusing. If an Argent and a Hale can be allies and friends—pack—then maybe there is a chance for reconciliation.
Derek and John emerge from the hallway. Derek’s eyes are red-rimmed, but he smells joyful. He meets her eyes, a tiny smile on his lips that has the air tasting of hope on her tongue. He slips out to the porch like he’s always done when things are overwhelming.
She follows him, sitting beside him on the porch swing. “You’re staying?”
“I’m staying,” he says.
She wants to ask what they talked about, ask about Stiles and if he’s still pining for Derek like Derek’s pined for Stiles. It’s on the tip of her tongue but one peek at his face and she has her answer. “Even though you don’t know for sure?”
“This feels right, Lo. Every second I got to spend with you and the family was a miracle. I’ve loved every bit of it, but this is where I belong, where I’m supposed to be and now it’s for the right reasons.”
“I’m so proud of you, baby brother. You have no idea.”
She hugs him, squeezing the ever-loving life out of him. He’s at peace. He’s not the fearful and cautious person he once was. He got to live a life he wasn’t meant to, heal himself in ways he never could have if he had stayed here. He’s ready and open for what lies ahead, and she has a sneaking suspicion what that path is. “God, I love you so much.”
“I love you, too,” he says. “And saying ‘I’ll miss you’ is an understatement. You have no idea what you mean to me, what our time has meant.”
“What?” She pulls back, scrutinizing his words. “I’m not going back.”
“Yes, you are."
“Not a chance.” She punches his shoulder. “I’m staying, too. I’ll have purpose here.” She’s not sure when she made up her mind definitively, but she planned for the prospect before she left. It must’ve happened when she heard what Stiles had done that she knew for sure. She wants to be a part of this, she wants to get to know Stiles and be on his side, help him in this fight he’s entrenched in just as he helped them.
“You have to go back,” Derek argues, pushing away from her. “You can’t stay. It’s too dangerous. It’s not a quick fix, this is a way of life.”
“Which is why I’m staying! I can do some good here, Derek. I can help people. My law degree will come in handy.” She peeks through the window, spots Jordan on the other side. She taps on the glass, raising her voice. “You don’t have any lawyers in your army, do you?” Jordan’s eyes go wide, confused by what she’s asking. “No lawyers here, right?”
“Ah, no, ma’am,” he answers, ducking his head.
“He called me ma’am.” She snorts, smacking Derek’s chest. “We’ll have to fix that.” She ogles Jordan, appraisingly from head to toe, making him blush to the tips of his ears.
“Hellhound, huh?” She nods her head and winks which does nothing to help that blush of his. “Our Parrish was so shy. Hope this one’s willing to take chances.”
“Laura,” Derek scoffs, likely appalled by her interest in the deputy, which she absolutely is. Absolutely interested. She always was a sucker for the wholesome type.
“What? Only you can get some loving?” She leans away from the window, nudging her brother, playfully. A weight’s been lifted off her shoulders, too. She takes a deep breath, clean and free of any guilt or second guesses. He was right, this feels right. “I’m staying, Derek. Mom and dad understood I’d stay with you. We had that conversation without you because we knew you’d argue. They were okay with it. We planned it. They even sent contingency plans with me. They’d rather have us together than have you on your own.”
Derek searches her eyes for any untruths, listens for the lie but it’s not there. He gives her a beaming smile, the kind he always reserved for her mother, lighting his face in wonder and now he’s passing it on to her. The notion of being on his own must have terrified him which speaks volumes about his feelings for Stiles. He’s willing to lose the sanctuary of family for Stiles, and now, Laura doesn’t have to let him. Her life has been on hold for the last thirteen years—the seven years they lost Derek and the six years they found him. Here, she can start that life, make something meaningful out of it and have the adventure she always wanted with her brother by her side. She can be happy here. She knows it, believes it and her parents did, too. They loaded her up with everything she needed. It’s all laid out on the hard drive sewn into her jacket. Photos, family messages, along with everything her mother and Uncle Peter could think of to pass on in terms of the Hale history, secret stashes even, as well as their own bestiary of sorts to help them fight the darkness in this world. It might not be the same or translate in this world, but they wanted them armed, to survive and thrive with Derek, and this sibling duo is sure as hell going to do that.
She pulls back, gripping his forearms. “Besides,” she smiles, “I look damn good in black leather and now I have a reason to wear it.”
* * *
The moon sets. Laura and Derek stay. The household is gathered around the table, snacking and drinking until the sun peeks it’s head over the horizon. It’s wonderful, yet terrifying, to look across the table and see strangers where family should be. Despite the peculiarities, it’s familiar and the parallels are uncanny. These people will be her pack, her found family. She’s heard countless stories about them and now she’s the outsider. But she has a place here, this world that isn’t hers, she can make it hers, she believes it and she questions if Derek ever felt that when he came with her all those years ago.
Stomachs begin to growl and talk of breakfast is thrown around. Melissa and the sheriff raid the pantry when they hear the rumble of an engine driving along the gravel road. The werewolves in the room smile, looking at Derek with knowing expressions. His face has gone pale and his heart is racing.
Laura grips Derek’s shoulder. “It’s him, isn’t it?”
The brakes come to a squeaking halt, making the wolves wince. The door slams with a tinny sound that means it’s old, made of real metal not a mix of what cars are made of today.
“Scott!” Footsteps clatter up the steps, a body shoves open the front door. “Malia? What the hell happened? This was supposed to be an easy—” Stiles comes into the kitchen, skidding to a halt when he sees everyone sitting around the table. “Oh, my god, who died?” His eyes land on his dad, breathing a sigh of relief as he steps forward to hug him. “Scott texted 9-1-1,” he says into John’s shoulder. “Told me to get here as soon as I could. I’ve been driving all night and no one else would answer my calls. I swear to god, you guys, could no one pick up their goddamn phones? I have two very important meetings today, that I—”
“Stiles,” John says, trying to push him away.
“—cannot miss, well shouldn’t, obviously I can miss them because I'm here, right?"
“Stiles!” John clutches him by the shoulders. “Shut up.”
His mouth falls open and he snaps back. “Rude.”
Derek’s heart is pounding, deep and so fast Laura thinks he might run before Stiles even sees him.
“Would you just breathe for a second, kiddo? And, I don’t know, read the room for a second?” Stiles turns, and it’s like the moment slows in motion, his eyes circle the room, silently greeting everyone with a nod and when his eyes pass over her, he falters, his face ghastly pale. And then he spots Derek in the corner sitting between Malia and Peter and Stiles’ knees give out. Luckily his dad anticipates his reaction because he holds his arms, laughing at his son’s jelly-legs.
“What the—” He slips again, and this time John doesn’t have a firm grip on him, and he goes down hard. The entire table stands with a chorus of concern.
Laura laughs. She can’t help it. She knew her Stiles and she will always have a soft spot for him, but this Stiles she loves, or at least knows she’ll love, unconditionally and with fervor. She gets it now, she understands why Derek could never accept the other Stiles, because this is a one-of-a-kind, one-shot package deal. There is no other like him.
They get him up, make him drink some juice and when he finally has his senses about him, he scrambles to stand.
He’s taller than she remembers, and he’s grown like the other Stiles, but this one is filled out a little more, leaner and toned, harder than the other Stiles, probably from their differences in career choices. He still has the same smile, the same moles and expressive hands, though.
“Derek.” He takes a step then stops. “The Blue Moon. It was last night!” He squints at the window even though it’s daylight. “You’re really here? What happened?” His focus slips from Derek to Laura, but he doesn't rest long on her, swinging back to Derek to make sure he’s still there.
Her brother moves out from behind the bench, hands at his sides and he’s brooding, his eyebrows drawn together with a hard line on his mouth. She’s laughing inside at how he’s playing this because he’s grown so much since he was last here. He’s no longer that guy, and it’s blatantly obvious to her, but to everyone else, they don’t know this new Derek, the one who’s not angry or broken, the one who’s beautiful and brave, and a good man. This is going to be another one of those moments she’s so unbelievably excited and privileged to be a part of.
Derek takes a few steps closer to Stiles. The room holds their breath waiting for the inevitable reunion they’ve been waiting hours for. Stiles is frozen to his spot, heart jack-rabbiting in his chest. But then Derek smiles, full teeth and crinkled eyes, the one that makes him go from serial killer to fluffy kindergarten teacher in seconds. He takes another step toward Stiles. And another until he’s inches from him, standing in front of him looking ever the dork in love that he is. He takes a deep breath, licks his lips as he clenches his hands to keep from fidgeting or reaching out to grab Stiles.
“I thought I’d take a chance on that maybe,” he says, and Laura’s heart feels ready to burst. She holds back the squeal that she wants to let go, waiting for Stiles to really hear the words.
His chin tilts, meeting Derek’s eyes. He’s staring at him through his long lashes and it’s kind of breathtaking. A slow grin emerges on his face, his tongue peeking through his lips.
“It’s not a maybe.” He launches himself at Derek, who catches him easily, swinging him around as Stiles legs come up to hook around his waist. They’re kissing and Laura is watching with tears in her eyes. They should give them some privacy, but screw that, she’s waited six years to see her brother happy like this. She’s going to have her fill...well until it gets uncomfortable. Okay, it’s getting uncomfortable now. She doesn’t need to see that much tongue.
“All right.” The Sheriff shuts his eyes. “I don’t need to see that.”
They split apart, heavy breaths and chests rising and smiles that can’t seem to stop.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” Stiles says. “I’ve spent a lot of energy imagining you and the other me together, living a life with a house and white picket fence, maybe looking at adoption options and arguing about whether our dog was secretly a shapeshifter who raided our pantry every night even though you swore to me he wasn’t but I was sure he was because full boxes of Pop-Tarts would go missing. And...I’m embarrassing myself.” He takes a breath. “It was all so domestic. I wanted it. Wanted it so bad, all of it. We’d have mad-crazy sex, and morning sex and then shower sex, basically there was a lot of sex, okay? And I was fine with imagining it, I had to because at least you were with a version of me, right? Somewhere out there we were together. It meant I could sleep at night knowing I did the right thing.” Stiles rambles, his voice cracking as he continues and someone needs to put him out of his misery.
“It didn’t take,” Laura says.
“What?” Stiles questions her.
“The other Stiles. It didn’t take,” she says, with a shrug and a smile. "Believe me, I tried."
Stiles turns to Derek, hiccupping on a breath.
“He wasn’t you,” Derek says. “He just wasn’t. And never could be.”
And they’re kissing again. Even more disturbing than before. It’s loud and uncomfortable, especially with the sheriff and Laura standing right next to them.
“Okay, come on,” the sheriff says, reaching blindly for Laura’s arm. “Let’s give them some privacy and go get some breakfast. It’s on me.” He herds everyone from the room, arm around Laura, squeezing her gently. “Thank you,” he whispers. “Thank you for helping to make him whole. Both of them.” And it’s this moment right here that Laura will remember on the nights she misses her mom and dad, and Cora and the rest of them, the days where she doubts her decision to stay in this world where everything is turned upside down. She’ll recall this feeling of found family, of pack, and she’ll remember that love is love in any form and it’s worth jumping worlds for.
‘Cause maybe in three years' time Derek is wearing nothing but his underwear, standing in the McCall-Hale Pack kitchen on a warm summer evening of the Blue Moon drinking milk from the carton when three familiar faces suddenly ‘pop’ into existence.
And they all lived rather happily ever after.