Derek shifted uneasily in the doorway. “Scott,” he gave the Alpha a small nod, “Isaac,” Derek’s eyes flicked uncertainly to where Isaac sat.
Without saying a word, Isaac got up, crossed the room, and enveloped Derek in a hug. Derek tensed, obviously uncomfortable with all the physical contact he’d been experiencing lately, but eventually returned the embrace. Isaac pulled away and put his hands on Derek’s shoulders. “I’m so sorry Derek. What I said at loft-” his voice shook, “I didn’t think it would be the last thing I said to you. I didn’t want it to be how you remembered me.”
“I shouldn’t have left without saying goodbye. I should’ve come to see you before I left, but I couldn’t do it. You were already drifting towards Scott and I couldn’t help you as a Beta. You needed someone strong to lead you, and that obviously wasn’t me.”
Isaac spoke softly, “Derek you have to know that I look up to you, that I care about you. You pulled me out of the hell that was my life and gave me a new family. I will never be able to repay you for that, whether you’re my Alpha or not. I was angry when I said those things to you. I knew it wasn’t about the power, or even about Jennifer; I know what it’s like to be lonely Derek.”
“No, Isaac you were right, about all of it. I was lonely, but that doesn’t excuse what I did. You were all out there trying to stop Jennifer, and I did nothing. It was my fault she killed so many people, that she almost killed Scott and Stiles’s parents,” his gaze shifted toward Scott and Stiles and then focused back on Isaac, “I was only worried about myself and C-Cora.”
“You were just trying to keep her safe, we all know that.”
“Yeah, and look how that turned out.” For a horrible moment it seemed like Derek was going to break down right there in Stiles’s kitchen, but he recovered himself and looked past Isaac, “Do I smell bacon?”
Once they were all settled at the table with obscene amounts of breakfast foods, a slow tension began to build. None of them wanted to be the one to bring up Cora or what had happened during Derek’s three-month absence. Stiles groaned; well, he thought, I guess it falls to me to do the talking. Again. Maybe talking really was his super power.
“So Derek, you said you and Cora went up the coast?” Stiles broke the silence. He noted how Derek winced slightly when he’d said Cora’s name.
“Yeah,” he said hoarsely, “We were driven up there, chased.”
“By what?” Scott chimed in.
Scott snorted, “Seriously, what doesn’t exist? Are we talking like wicked witch of the west type of thing, or...?”
Stiles shook his head, "Think more Practical Magic, dude." Stiles had done his research; his computer sat open on the table, with a ridiculous number of witch-related tabs open. “They organize themselves in what’s called a Coven, which can consist symbolically of thirteen members, but can be larger or smaller than that.”
“This one had thirteen members,” Derek said grimly. Stiles and Derek shared a look; they both understood why Derek knew exactly how many people were in the Coven. The exchange didn’t go unnoticed by the other two, but they didn’t question it, for which Derek was grateful.
“So what did they want with you and Cora?” Isaac asked, concerned.
“They wanted bits of us. Fur, fangs, claws, saliva,” he paused, “Blood. Things they could use in spells and rituals. We realized very quickly that natural-born werewolves make for excellent potions ingredients.”
“That’s sick,” Isaac pushed his plate away.
“Yeah,” Stiles quipped, “if they wanted a born wolf they should’ve saved us some trouble and just gone after Peter.”
Isaac ignored the comment, “So these witches...they-they killed her?”
Derek just nodded, overcome with emotions.
Stiles squeezed Derek’s hand under the table and cleared his throat. “But a lot of what I’ve read about witches describes them as being mainly peaceful, you know, connected to nature and concerned with maintaining balance, kind of like Druids,” Stiles squinted at his computer screen, “Yeah, listen to this, ‘A majority follow a code that is usually interpreted as a declaration of the freedom to act, along with the necessity of taking responsibility for what follows from one's actions and minimizing harm to oneself and others.’ Doesn’t sound like these gals believed in following the code then.”
“Great,” Isaac slumped in his chair, “It’s the Argents all over again!”
“Careful, that’s your girlfriend’s family you’re talking about,” Scott shot at him.
Derek raised an eyebrow, “Really?”
“She’s not really my girlfriend,” Isaac blushed.
“She’s basically your girlfriend,” Scott said, reaching for the last piece of bacon, “So Chris and Gerard are your problem now.” He placed a hand on Isaac’s shoulder and feigned gravity, “Good luck bro.”
Isaac wiggled out of Scott’s grasp. “You’re such a jerk,” but they both knew he was grateful to have Scott’s blessing while still remaining friends with the Alpha.
“Not that this isn’t touching,” Stiles interjected, “but getting back to Derek’s story...”
“Yeah so what are we going to do about the Coven?” Scott looked to Derek, not waiting for an answer, “I mean, did they follow you here? Should we be worried about this? I could talk to Deaton and see what he knows. It seems like witches and Druids aren’t so different, so maybe we’re dealing with a rogue Coven, similar to a Darach-”
“Scott,” Stiles began quietly.
“-And I could go and fill Allison and her dad in on what’s going on,” Isaac jumped in, “They vowed to keep Beacon Hills safe from whatever was attracted to town. They’ll definitely want in on this.”
Both boys made to rise, but Derek stopped them, “Sit down.”
“But Derek,” Scott protested, “if the Coven’s out there we have to act, we have to tell-”
“You don’t have to worry about the Coven,” Derek’s voice was hollow; he sounded worn out.
“What?!” Isaac sputtered, “How can you say that? Scott’s right-”
“Isaac,” Stiles shot the Beta a warning look, “Derek took care of them.”
Isaac seemed to understand then, but Scott wouldn’t let it go, “What do you mean, took care of them? If people are in danger, then we need to do something about it! We can’t just sit here chatting over breakfast!”
“I killed them, Scott,” Derek said flatly.
“Wha-” Scott hesitated, “All of them? You said there were thirteen-”
“Yes, all of them,” Stiles took Derek’s hand again, this time on the surface of the table, in plain view of his best friend. “I don’t really want to get into it, but they’re gone. It’s done, taken care of. We don’t need to worry about them.”
Scott and Isaac sat speechless and silence permeated the room like thick, white fog.
Stiles spoke first, “Scott, I think you should still talk to Deaton. Isaac, you do the same with Allison; it’ll be good for them to know what we’ve learned in case we ever run into any more witches down the road. Besides, just because Derek got rid of one Coven, doesn’t mean there aren’t more heading our way.”
“Okay, yeah,” Scott nodded and Isaac was already pulling out his phone. Both still looked a little shell-shocked, as if they shouldn’t look too closely at Derek or talk too loudly around him because he might break into a million pieces right in front of them.
“As for you,” Stiles rounded on Derek.
Derek gave him a tired look, but played along anyway, “Got a job for me too, huh?”
Stiles failed to hold back a grin, “We’re going apartment-hunting.”
Derek’s eyes widened in horror, “What? Stiles. No.”
“Well you can’t exactly stay here,” Stiles reasoned, “I mean I know my dad is down with the whole werewolf thing now, but I doubt he’d be cool with you just chilling in my room. Besides, he’s allergic to most household pets.”
Scott and Isaac chuckled, and the mood lightened considerably, but Derek just scowled.
“Don’t act like you don’t need my help; your last few real estate choices have been less than accommodating. The loft was a step in the right direction - at least you had a bed - but, dude, it was a little grimy, if you know what I mean.” Derek grumbled, but Stiles just plowed ahead; he hoped his jokes would come off as caring and not as actually poking fun at Derek, “You and I are going to sit down and find nice, affordable apartments for you to look at that aren’t abandoned warehouses or have suffered any kind of fire or water damage. I’m thinking lots of windows, you need some light in your life. Exposed brick. Maybe even rooftop access.”
He glanced at Derek, who was still scowling, “Come on man, exposed brick is like real estate porn. How can you possibly resist that?”
“Because I’m not staying,” he said simply.
“What?!” Isaac and Scott shouted in unison, “Don’t be stupid,” Scott said, “Of course you’re staying.”
“No, I’m not,” he argued, “I came to say my goodbyes and straighten things out, but then I’m heading out again. I was just going to crash at my family’s old house in the meantime.”
“But Derek,” Stiles said softly, “what about what you said-” he spoke the next words through his teeth “-last night?”
“Oh God,” Scott made to jump out of his chair, but Isaac forced him back down. “What did he say last night?” the Beta asked eagerly.
Derek ignored Isaac’s query, “I’m sorry Stiles, but bad things happen around me. People get hurt. It’s better for everyone if I pack up and leave as soon as possible.”
“You’re not leaving,” Stiles said hotly.
“Stiles-” Derek started.
Stiles got out of his seat next to Derek and sat in his lap instead. “You’re not leaving-” Stiles leaned down and kissed Derek full on the mouth, slow and sweet “-and that’s final.”
Scott actually did leap out of his chair and made a beeline for the living room. Isaac just sat with his chin in his hand and beamed at the two of them.
Stiles sighed, “I’d better go talk to him.” He got off Derek’s lap reluctantly.
“No, let me,” Derek walked past the younger boys and called over his shoulder, “You can tell Isaac all about our night last night.”
The boys exchanged a glance, grinning in spite of themselves.