Two days later, a Monday, found Derek and Stiles driving back to the storage unit, a trailer hooked up to Stiles’ beloved truck. The boy had suggested another wolf come with them, or Derek just going with another wolf, because it would be easier to load everything if there were two people able to lift ridiculously heavy items of furniture, but Derek had declined. He didn’t want to keep the rest of the wolves from their training, which consisted of chasing each other through the preserve, so it was just Stiles who accompanied him.
“You know, I might have wanted to join in the running through the preserve” Stiles quipped, trying to sound offended that he had been excluded from the pack activity in order to help Derek move his stuff. In reality, he didn’t mind. He knew he would never be able to keep up with the wolves, and he didn’t necessarily like the thought of staying behind with Lydia. Even though they had started their rocky path of becoming really good friends, Stiles knew Lydia would say or do something that would drive him mad sooner or later. How he could have had a crush on the girl for so long he didn’t understand anymore.
Derek snorted hearing Stiles’ nagging. He turned his head to look at the boy driving the car and trying to keep a pout on his face.
“I’m pretty sure you would fall over a branch in the first five minutes and had to be taken to the emergency room. I think it’s better for all the parties involved that you are coming with me” he said drily, and Stiles shot the older man a glare.
“I am very agile, just so you know” he noted, then turned back to watch the road. “Like a rabbit, always sidestepping left and right.”
“If you’re the rabbit, then you would probably end up being chased by a pack of wolves sooner or later. And now shut up and drive” Derek replied, ending the conversation. Stiles huffed. He would have liked to keep this talk going for a little longer. He liked seeing Derek try and be funny, or sarcastic at least. The pack didn’t get to see that side of their alpha very often. In fact, Stiles guessed some had never seen that side of Derek before. It seemed the alpha only let his humorous side out with certain people, namely Isaac and Stiles.
Stiles would lie if he said this didn’t make him feel at least a little bit special. He was in Derek Hale’s ‘inner circle’. At least he told himself that!
Once they had arrived at the storage unit, the pair made quick work of loading the rest of the boxes and furniture into the trailer.
“You know, whenever I thought about the furniture in here, I always imagined there would be a grandfather clock. Don’t ask me why, I just felt like you would be the person to have a random grandfather clock standing around somewhere” Stiles said once there were only a few boxes and a bureau left in the storage unit. Derek turned to look at the teenager, looking incredulous.
“Why would I have a grandfather clock?” he asked, his brows raised in question.
“Well, I don’t know, why do you have an old-school bureau?” Stiles asked back, pointing at the piece of furniture in the back of the trailer. At the mention of the secretary Derek’s face lost all emotion.
“Because it was my father’s. It’s one of the few things that survived the fire” he said, and immediately Stiles felt like a complete idiot. He shouldn’t have said anything. He could see that dealing with his past was difficult for Derek, and here Stiles was, practically making fun of him.
“I-“ Stiles started to say, but Derek held up his hand to stop the teenager from saying anything.
“It’s okay, you didn’t know. After the fire, we put all the things that were rescued from the fire in here, so we wouldn’t have to deal with them back then. Laura and I knew we would come back to Beacon Hills eventually, but for the time being we just wanted to get away from the tragedy… from the guilt. When Laura had told me it was time to come back because of the trouble with the rogue wolf, she had said we would get to going through these things in our own time. Instead I now have to do that on my own as well as going through her stuff from New York” the alpha explained, turning away from Stiles.
Stiles was sure he had never heard Derek say that much, and about his family none the less, in one go. But he could understand that sometimes it wasn’t possible to stop what you wanted to say, especially when you hadn’t talked much about it before. It had been like that the week before when he had talked to Isaac about his mother. It would just all come out sometimes.
“Let’s just… let’s just finish packing up the things and get home again” Derek said gruffly after another moment of silence. Stiles was glad Derek had been the one to engage into the conversation again, and not him. Obviously Derek still had a lot to work through, but it would be on his own terms.
“Yeah, come on, big guy, lug that chest of drawers into the trailer! Grr, you’re the big bad wolf!” Stiles commented, trying to dissolve the tension that was still left in the air. He grabbed a box himself and walked over to the car to push it in the backseat, since the trailer wouldn’t hold much more.
An hour later the pair arrived back at the Hale house. There was no sign of any of the other wolves, so they had to resume to unpacking on their own again.
“Where do you want to have the things? I’m not down with carrying all the boxes upstairs! Those are heavy for the non-wolfy population” Stiles stated with a chuckle, setting down the box he was carrying on the porch while Derek searched his pockets for a key and opened the front door.
“Put them in my room. I’ll see later where I want to have them” Derek replied, pushing open the door and letting Stiles walk through into the house before him. Stiles did how he was told and carried the box into the large bedroom downstairs. Just as he was about to put it down on the ground, he heard a ripping sound, though, and the bottom of the box gave in. All of the things inside the box came tumbling down and onto the floor.
“Aw, shit!” the teenager exclaimed and crouched down to claw together the various pieces of paper and folders that had been in the box.
“What happened?” Derek asked from where he entered the room, a side table in his one hand and a high backed chair in another.
“Derek, I’m sorry, man, the box ripped! Really, it’s not my fault, so don’t hit me, or rip my throat out… with your teeth! I’m going to collect everything and just put it on that table there” Stiles rambled, simultaneously collecting the rest of the papers in a pile.
“Shut up, Stiles” Derek growled, set down the furniture he was carrying and then crouched down on the floor next to the boy, helping with collecting all of the things that had been in the box. His hands stopped moving when he spotted a picture sticking out of a stack of legal papers. Stiles noticed Derek freezing up and moved the papers away to reveal a small stack of photographs.
“What are those?” he asked quietly, but the answer was obvious.
“They’re pictures” Derek still stated, and life came back into the man. He lifted the first picture from the stack and locked his gaze on the people depicted.
“Is that… is that your family?” Stiles continued to ask, but Derek didn’t react. He was focused on the faces of the people in the photograph, his finger moving over the edges.
Stiles moved from looking at Derek to looking at the picture. It looked like a picture taken by someone professional in a photo studio. In the picture Derek was holding where seven people, two children, two teenagers, a young adult, and obviously, their parents. All of them had black hair and were, to be honest, beautiful. All children looked like carbon copies of their parents, the two girls looking very alike, as did the brothers.
“Derek?” Stiles asked the man, who was still frozen next to Stiles, looking at the photograph.
“Hmm?” Derek came back to himself, looking up and at Stiles, who was starting to worry about the alpha. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea for him to have to go through all of these things.
“Is that your family?” Stiles repeated his question from before and Derek nodded.
“Yeah… my mom and dad… and my brothers and sisters” he said, pointing to the children in the picture, first at the oldest of them all, “that’s my older brother Logan” he moved to a girl that looked close in age to the Derek in the picture, “that’s Laura.” Stiles could see the resemblance of the girl Scott and he had found in the woods, which made him quite sad. Before, he had never really associated the dead body with an actual person, but now that he had seen the same person smiling up at him in a picture, it made it all the more real.
Derek moved on to point at the younger girl, sitting on the lap of the older boy. “That’s Cora, my younger sister. She and Laura used to argue all the time! Cora always wanted Laura to take her with her to everything Laura did. There wasn’t a day where they didn’t fight about the smallest things” he explained, a slight smile edging its way onto his face. Stiles was happy to see that there were still a few fond memories about his family in Derek. It was good to see something about his family causing the werewolf to smile, even if only a little bit.
The alpha moved his finger to the youngest member of the Hale family, sitting on the younger Derek’s lap. “That’s Tristan… he was only five years old. He hadn’t even started kindergarten yet, but he was so proud of knowing the whole alphabet already” he said and his voice choked up slightly and the trace of joy Stiles had heard when he had talked about his sisters was completely gone now.
Stiles shook his head. How could anyone have done that to a family? To kids? They had been innocent people and still they had died. The anger and hatred Stiles felt bubbling up in his chest surprised the boy a little bit. He hadn’t thought he would be this angry about what Kate Argent had done to the Hale family, had done to Derek. Still, Stiles tried to swallow down his emotions again. There was no use in him getting angry about this; it would only fuel Derek’s emotions. He would have to be positive about the memory of his family, not drown it in sorrow.
“You and your siblings look a lot alike” Stiles said and Derek nodded.
“Yeah, everyone always said Laura and I could be twins, but Laura was always quick to correct them that she was in fact older than me” he said and shook his head slightly, probably caught up in the memory.
“How… how did these pictures survive the fire? I mean…” In hindsight this probably hadn’t been the most sensitive thing to ask, but Stiles couldn’t stop himself. He was happy Derek had these memorabilia of his family, but he still wondered how a stack of pictures could have survived a fire as large as the one that had cost Derek’s family their lives.
“They had only been taken a week before the fire… My mom hadn’t picked them up yet, so they were still in the photo studio. The owner called Laura when he heard of the fire and we picked them up before we left for New York” Derek explained, not noting on how inappropriate the question had been.
In fact, Derek looked completely defeated in that moment. Stiles had never seen his pack’s alpha look this done with the world. As if he’d just now accepted the fact that he was the last of his immediate family.
“But it’s great that you have these last moments to remember them by, isn’t it? That it’s not something from years ago, right?” Stiles asked, just to fill the silence. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do, so he picked up another of the photos. It depicted another small family, with one character looking very familiar.
“Is that… is that Peter?” he asked incredulous. The man in the picture was smiling brightly, standing close to a woman with reddish blonde hair that looked a lot like Lydia’s, holding a toddler in his arms. The woman next to him was carrying an infant, not even a year old.
Derek looked at the picture Stiles held in his hands and nodded.
“Yes, that’s Peter, and my aunt Caroline and my cousins, Ayleen and Savannah… They lived with us here in the house, because my father and Peter were working together to start up a business and Peter and Catherine didn’t have enough money to buy their own house yet” he told the boy next to him, then pulled another picture from the stack.
“That’s my other uncle, Brandon, and his wife Claire. They had been visiting from San Francisco. They weren’t even supposed to still be here, but Aunt Claire hadn’t felt well so they had waited until she felt better to go back home…”
Silence stretched over Stiles and Derek. The alpha was caught up again in memories, and Stiles simply didn’t know what he could say in this moment. For the first in a long time, he was speechless. How could all this have happened to a completely innocent family?
Stiles continued to think about what Derek had said about his family, until the clearing of a throat brought him back to his senses. Derek had put the pictures back to the pile of papers that had fallen out of the box and moved everything together to be picked up and disposed on the table he had carried inside.
“Let’s just get the rest of the things inside” the alpha said gruffly, his face a stony mask again.
“Yeah, let’s just unload the trailer” Stiles conceded, feeling it was the best not to prod Derek about his family any further. He couldn’t believe the older man had actually told him anything about the people he had lost. Stiles had thought Derek would close up as soon as he found the picture, snap at Stiles and send him away, but he hadn’t, and Stiles was thankful the werewolf had trusted him enough to open up to him, even if only a little bit.
Stiles followed Derek back outside and to the trailer, where the wolf continued to lift the furniture out into the open and Stiles made to carry the remaining boxes inside.
Once they had unloaded everything from the trailer and car, in complete silence, the pair went outside and sat on the patio, much like they had done the morning after the move. They didn’t say anything for a long time, just sitting and listening to the noises they could hear from the forest close by. Stiles thought he could hear laughter come from within the woods, if only faintly. The betas were still nowhere to be found, so Stiles guessed they were still running wild, letting their senses get the better of them. Eventually the teenager turned to the man beside him.
“You know, I think you should get those pictures of your family framed and put them up somewhere in the house. They are a part of you, and you are a part of this pack, so your family is a part of this pack as well. We should start a wall of pictures in the sitting or dining room. Of all of us. Maybe we could take a group picture as well. Not such a professional one, that wouldn’t really fit for our group of weirdos, but a casual one, with all of us” Stiles stated, feeling like he had let go of a bout of word vomit. Derek turned to look at Stiles for a moment, then turned back to look at the forest again.
“Yeah, maybe we should do that.”
It was later in the day when Stiles heard a commotion from downstairs. The teenager was helping Isaac assemble his new desk, when a lour roar and a crash was heard from the hallway.
Stiles first exchanged looks with the younger wolf, then hurried to get down the stairs, worrying that something serious was going on. Knowing his pack, the commotion could range from Scott and Jackson arguing about a bag of chips to a new threat endangering everyone. Stiles hoped for the former. He was disappointed, however, when he saw what was happening.
In the hallway downstairs, Peter was holding Boyd against a wall, a clawed hand at the younger wolf’s throat, growling and flashing blue, iridescent eyes. Peter’s fangs were elongated and he was at the verge of turning completely, growling at the beta, who was looking surprised at what was happening. Next to the two stood the secretary Derek and Stiles had brought to the house earlier.
“Where did you get this from?” Peter snarled from behind his teeth, the longer canines making it harder for him to speak clearly. Instead of answering, Boyd clawed at the hand still at his throat, his claws protruding now as well.
Stiles was a little proud to see that he hadn’t changed yet, though. Boyd was getting better at the control thing.
Before Peter could do anything else, though, he was pulled away roughly at his neck, and in turn slammed into a wall opposite Boyd. Derek’s eyes glowed red, Stiles could see that even from where he stood, and Isaac behind him cowered a little at the display of superiority of the alpha.
“Don’t. Touch. My. Betas” Derek ground out, leaning closer to his uncle with every word. “Never touch them again.”
Stiles was surprised when Peter conceded to the alpha’s words and the man changed back to his completely human form. Derek didn’t let go of him for another minute though.
“Where did you get it from? I thought… the fire” Peter said quietly after Derek had released the hold on his uncle.
“It was one of the few things that survived. It was in a storage unit for the whole time” Derek explained calmly. Stiles could imagine that the alpha knew exactly what the piece of furniture meant to Peter. It was one of the few things that survived the fire that his whole family hadn’t made it out of.
Thinking about it now, Stiles could understand why Peter had gone so completely off the rails after the fire. He hadn’t just lost a sister, but also his wife and children. Surviving while others didn’t would take a toll on anyone, Stiles guessed. Still, it didn’t excuse Peter’s behavior; it just… made it a bit more understandable.
Peter walked away from the wall he still stood against and towards the bureau. He didn’t notice that all the other members of the pack had gathered around the display, standing out of the crazy wolf’s way, Lydia partially hidden behind Jackson. The older man stopped in front of the piece of furniture and slowly, almost reverently, stroked a hand over the smooth and cool wood. He kept standing and just staring for a long moment, before lifting the secretary up from the floor and carrying it into the sitting room, away from the prying eyes of all the betas and humans.
Sensing that it would probably be best if Peter was left alone for the remainder of the day, Stiles clapped his hands together twice, hopping down the last two steps to stand in the hallway as well.
“Okay! Great, why doesn’t everyone go back to the things they did before this… little show! Come on guys, if you continue to work this slowly, this house won’t be ready to properly live in by the time school starts again” he announced, making shooing motions towards where the betas stood, still looking at where Peter had almost lost it only a few minutes earlier.
One after the other filed out of the hallway, going back to the things that they had been doing before, leaving only Isaac, Boyd, Derek and Stiles himself in the foyer. Stiles turned to Boyd, who was still leaning against the wall Peter had slammed him into.
“You okay?” he asked, and Boyd simply nodded, then walked to where Erica had vanished.
After the tall teenager had left, Stiles turned to Isaac, who was still standing on the last step of the staircase, looking slightly spooked. The young wolf didn’t like conflict, no matter who was involved in it.
“Isaac, why don’t you go back upstairs, okay? I’ll be with you in just a moment” Stiles ordered the wolf in a calm and placating voice and Isaac hurried back into his room.
“Do you know what that was about?” Stiles asked Derek when they were the only ones left in the hallway. Derek heaved a sigh and leaned against the wall he had slammed Peter in only moments before.
“I don’t really know. Peter used to work at the desk sometimes… but I didn’t think it would hold such value to him…” he said, shaking his head at the memory of what had just happened. Derek didn’t want to be this violent. He had never experienced violence in his family before the fire, but in the last few months, so much had changed in that aspect. He just wanted a calm pack life, nothing more, nothing less.
“Does… does Peter have anything to remember his family by?” Stiles asked again after a moment of leaving Derek to his thoughts.
“I don’t think so. All the things that were able to be saved had been retrieved from the house and put in our storage unit…” the alpha said closing his eyes and breathing in deeply.
“Well, maybe it would do him good to have something. Maybe you could… I don’t know, give him the picture of him and his family?” Stiles suggested, holding his breath, afraid he could be the witness of another outburst. But Derek stayed quiet, his eyes stayed shut.
Without another word the alpha left the hallway a moment later, leaving Stiles standing on his own.
“Well… that went well.”
Stiles had gone back upstairs to help Isaac with his room after being left alone in the foyer downstairs. The pair had made quick work of assembling the desk Isaac had chosen and had then moved on to the second nightstand that hadn’t been set up yet.
The two were in the middle of screwing one of the table’s legs to the surface when Derek entered the bedroom, sitting down on the desk chair in one corner of the room. The alpha didn’t say anything until the nightstand had been assembled and Stiles and Isaac had turned to him. He was holding two pictures in his hands.
“Which one?” Derek simply asked and Stiles walked over to where he sat and took the photographs from his hands. One was the one he had seen earlier that day, the other one of the whole Hale family.
“Do you have another copy of this one?” Stiles asked, pointing at the one depicting all of the Hales. Derek shook his head no.
“Then give him the one of just his family. You ought to have a picture of your whole family as well. You can have another copy made and then give that to him as well later, but for now, I think the other one is okay” Stiles decided, pushing the photographs back into the alpha’s hands.
“Good. Then I’ll just give it to him now” Derek declared, standing back up from his seat, but stopped his movements when Stiles held up his hand and called out a ‘no’.
“No, let Isaac give it to him.”
“What?” both wolves exclaimed staring at the human between them.
“Don’t worry. Let Isaac go downstairs and give the picture to Peter. No one can be mad or snap at our puppy!” Stiles reasoned, but he could see that his opposites didn’t buy his arguments. “Come on, no one can be a better bearer of nice memories than Isaac! And if you’re so worried, Derek, then go downstairs with him and supervise to your heart’s desire! Seriously!”
Derek and Isaac seemed placated by these words, at least partly, and left the room together.
At the foot of the stairs Derek gave his beta the picture he was to hand over to his uncle, and Isaac stared at the happy family for a moment. It was unreal to think that the nice young man in the picture had turned into a crazy psychopath that had killed numerous people.
“I’ll be in the kitchen, have to start on dinner anyway” Derek grumbled and shoved Isaac in front of him towards the door leading to the sitting room.
Timidly Isaac walked into the sitting room and towards Peter. The older wolf was sitting against the wall, his stare fixated on a small stack of papers in his hands. The bureau’s doors were standing open. The papers had probably been inside all this time.
“Uhhm… Derek… Derek gave me this… to give to you” Isaac stammered once he had reached Peter’s side. The former alpha’s eyes were ripped from the paper he was staring at, settling on the teen. Isaac felt hot under the scrutiny of Peter’s eyes. He had never been really comfortable in the man’s company, but right now, he just looked… sad and defeated. Without another thought, Isaac held out the photograph towards the man on the floor, not saying another word. He didn’t feel like there was anything appropriate for him to say in this situation.
Peter slowly lifted one of his hands and received the picture. As soon as he saw the faces in it, he let the stack of papers fall to the floor around him, revealing them to be drawings done by a child, his child probably.
Isaac had never seen Peter sport an expression such as the one he was seeing on the man’s face in that moment. Gone was the stoic impassivity. Instead, his face was filled with something akin to joy, albeit dampened by a bout of sadness as well. Looking into the faces of his family obviously brought back good as well as tragic memories.
Isaac wasn’t sure what to do now that he had handed the picture over to Peter, but something told him that he could stay with the man for another moment. Leaning down, the boy gathered the fallen pieces of paper together, putting them into a neat pile. Looking closer at the papers, he saw that these must have been drawn by a little girl, who couldn’t have been in school yet. The picture on top of the pile depicted an array of colorful butterflies in a field, all done in crayon. On top of the paper stood in bold, slightly crooked letters ‘To Daddy’ followed by a large pink heart.
“Were these from your daughter?” Isaac asked quietly and Peter looked up at him through hazy eyes.
“Yes” he said quietly, his voice scratchy as if he was holding back tears, “Ayleen loved to draw.”
Isaac nodded at that. He debated with himself to leave then, but he had the feeling that he should say something else.
“I’m… I’m sorry you lost your family… Maybe… maybe we could all be a family one day…” he rushed out and then ran from the room.
Late that night, after everyone had gone home and Isaac was already in bed, Derek sat on the back patio, looking out at the forest. He just wanted to leave the day and all the emotions behind. He knew he had had to deal with his past, and he was glad he had started going over his things from before the fire, but it still took a toll on him.
The alpha’s ears perked up when he heard someone else stepping onto the patio from the sitting room. Derek turned and saw Peter in the shine of the lamps that were turned on inside. Without saying anything he turned back to watch the forest.
“Thank you for the picture” Peter started after a moment of silence between the two Hales.
“Nevermind. It was Stiles’ idea that you should have something to remember your family by” Derek replied, still not looking at his uncle.
“It still meant a lot, no matter whose idea it was” Peter insisted. “And I found something that is yours.”
Derek finally turned at hearing these words. Peter walked closer to his nephew and held out a hand. Derek took the folded piece of paper from him and slowly opened it. It was a drawing, of three male figures, two tall and the third one shorter. They all sported large grins and dark hair. Above the figures were three names written, ‘Logan’, Derek’ and ‘Tristan’, and on top of the page stood in bright pink ‘To Derek, From Ayleen’.
Derek smiled fondly at the drawing. He remembered his cousin drawing countless of these depictions of their family, dedicating all of them to various members of the family. Derek had gotten one of these drawings at least once a week.
“Thank you” the alpha said quietly, folding the paper back into a small square.
“It’s yours” Peter simply replied. The older man sat down next to his nephew at the lip of the patio and looked out at the woods in silence. After a moment he turned to look at Derek, though.
“Isaac said that maybe we could all be a family one day” he stated quietly, looking back down at his hands after he had spoken.
Would Derek like to have a family again? Of course. Would Peter be included in this family? Probably. He was his only remaining blood relative after all. But would it take time? Most definitely.
“Yes, maybe one day.”