A/N: This was supposed to be a one-shot, but Derek is just too fascinating to be left alone. The first chapter is largely inspired by Kelley Armstrong's online novella, Dangerous, so I recommend reading that first if you haven't already. Heck, I recommend reading it anyway. By the way, this is my first fanfic ever, so reviews would be exceedingly appreciated.
Disclaimer: I own nothing about the Darkest Powers series except the amusing little fantasies in my head. I gain nothing from this story except a some entertainment during the many moons until The Reckoning comes out. Cheers.
Chapter One: Wild One
It felt good to run.
Freedom was the taste of grass and rain-soaked rocks at the back of his throat. Sticks and low hanging branches snap at his legs, trying to hold him back, but he's too fast and too strong. Above him the wind moves through tree leaves like whispers, quiet murmurs behind his back. He knows if he stays still for too long those whispers might grow louder, turn into slithering voices saying things he doesn't want to hear. So he pushes on, muscles springing and coiling, like an unstoppable force of nature.
He revels in the power. It seemed like he'd been holding back his entire life, bottling up everything he was and everything he could be until he chokes on his own strength, suffocating under it. But now he's finally free. Strong. Unstoppable.
This is what he was always meant to be.
He runs without thinking or direction. The where doesn't matter, just this. Unlike all the other times when running was about being away, finding someplace new to start from the beginning. With the stares and the whispers. Everyone always watching you but never seeing you. Not really. They only see the monster, can sense it beneath your skin no matter how much you try, and they're frightened. Clogging your senses with their sickening smell of fear. Distrust because you're new and wrong.
He turns left after vaulting a fallen log and realizes there is a direction, after all. A destination he's been running towards though he tried to ignore it. Up ahead he sees a break in the trees, a small clearing where the whispering voices die away until all is quiet, peaceful.
And there—waiting for him. He knew better than to hope for presents, so he is surprised and pleased to see her. That solemn face more familiar to him than his own. He has memorized her with sideways glances. Stolen little pieces of her, bit by bit. Then at night, in the dark, he would put the pieces together like a puzzle—first examining each piece; learn its colors and contours until he understands how it fits to another piece. Adding to the picture, one by one, always stopping to make sure that, yes, he has it right. He knows what the picture really looks like.
Now, though, in this quiet space where everything is safe, he dares to look at her and see her for what he knows her to be: his. His to hold and protect, to keep by his side. His mate. All suspicious eyes, pale face, and cool hands. Hands that touch him when others stay far, far away. Showing him for the first time that he can be real person, too. Hands on his skin, cool and soothing, and yet they make everything so hot. He doesn't question why she isn't afraid of being too close. He just pulls her closer. Closer. Until he can smell that delicate lure—his own scent on her skin, her breath. Lets everything go and just falls. In this place where it's only the two of them he can let loose all that strangled passion and intensity. Wild impulses fire through his brain, transmitting instantly to feverish lips and grasping fingers that bite just hard enough into slick flesh. She embraces it, embraces him, because she already knows what's under his skin, and yet she comes back for more.
She feels so sweet under him.
And in the furious desire, the simple act of allowing himself to want…comes something clean, pure, sacred. A piece of his own puzzle he has never offered anyone else, not even the ones who matter. He could give her that. It would be hers and she would keep it. But will she know what it means? Maybe yes. He could tell her and she would believe, would want that. Him.
But the voices have come back. Quiet little voices that go around and around until he can't hear himself anymore. Voices that tell him no.
"Not for you. Never you. Too dangerous, that one. Can't trust him. Can't trust you. Hurts her. Makes her scream. Dangerous."
And she's there. Bruised up, flinching, bleeding in the dark. Wait. No…not her. A different one, yet the same. The same kind smile that means she sees him like anyone else. Only she's not smiling now. Eyes wide with fright and betrayal. She trusted him, and he hurt her. Backed into a corner. Screaming and screaming and screaming. Snarling growls and whispering voices, screaming until the blood seems to be everywhere—
"No! Stop! Someone make it stop!" Don't let them hurt her. Hurt her. Hurt. Hurt. You'll hurt her. You always hurt her. Even if you say you didn't mean to.
He wants to help, to make it stop, but fangs and claws and blood made it too hard to see clearly, and he's only a boy. Too young to protect her. Too young to be everything for nothing. He needs to find someone—someone who can be strong so he can just be a boy. But when he tries to run away the noises are worse, growls turning thick and wet in the night. Surrounding him, seeping into him. He feels the liquid pooling on his own tongue, his claws tearing through softness, silky hair tangled in his teeth. And the screaming screaming screamingscreamsshekeepsscreaming.
Derek slammed into consciousness with the sour threat of bile in his mouth. Throwing himself out of bed at a near-run, he was all the way across the room before he realized he was awake. And that running from nightmares only worked in an abstract, psychological kind of way.
He leaned back against the wall because his legs were trembling too much to be trusted with holding up two hundred-twenty pounds of hysterical werewolf. For a full minute he didn't move, just concentrated on breathing and thinking of nothing. Two minutes. Five. Maybe, could have been ten.
By the time he was absolutely, positively certain he wasn't going to lose it, the room had turned gray with the approach of dawn. The dim light was enough for his eyes to pick out the mismatched furnishings and out-dated wallpaper of his borrowed bedroom. In front of him stood the narrow bed, sheets and blankets dumped to the floor in his hurried escape. The luxury of a real bed in a real house should have been a comfort after days on the run. He should have been out cold, sleeping the sleep of the exhausted—just as his companions were, no doubt, at this very minute. But he was surrounded by unfamiliar scents, layered and faded traces of strangers gone by, reminding him that this wasn't home. Sometimes he worried he was starting to forget what home smelled like.
It didn't help that, for the first time since leaving home, he had a room to himself. True to Victorian architecture, the safe house was a cluster of small rooms crammed within the building's dimensions. With only two other supernaturals in residence at the moment, their band of five were spared the necessity of sharing rooms. It should have been a good thing. He knew the others relished some privacy after the last couple of days, especially the girls. Derek just felt…disoriented without Simon's familiar presence in the next bed. For so long now, his brother had been a constant in Derek's life. Taking care of Simon gave him something to focus on when everything else became uncertain.
So here he was now, the big, bad wolf, shaking and lost because he didn't have his little brother to hide behind. God, he was such a loser.
Figuring more sleep was a lost cause, Derek grabbed his jeans from the floor and an old, abandoned tee shirt from the near-empty closet. The fabric was worn thin and smelled strangely of broccoli, but he figured he was the only one who would notice. Besides, life on the run didn't lend itself to laundry duty, and all the shirts in his bag were uncomfortably ripe.
Feet still bare, he left the room silently, more from habit than any concern over disturbing anyone's sleep. He found himself in a cramped hallway at the top of a staircase leading down to the first floor. The hall extended to either side of him, connecting to five more bedrooms and a bathroom. He'd chosen the room at the top of the stairs so he could hear anyone coming up. Andrew was in the room on his left, across the hall from the bathroom. At the far end of the hall were Simon and Chloe's rooms. He'd heard Chloe claim the room next to the bathroom after Tori had taken the largest empty room down the other end of the corridor. Simon had waited for Chloe to pick and had simply taken the room closest to her. Derek felt his muscles tense at the thought and had to take a couple more meditative breaths.
At this hour there were no sounds circulating the house except the occasional snore or shifting mattress. Even still, the close proximity of six other people seemed to press on his awareness. Derek could practically feel their life energy crowding him, making the animal inside him nervous. It didn't help being in a house with too many walls and an endless collection of furniture and knickknacks tucked into every available spot. The house and the people in it were swallowing him whole, and the need to get out had him down the staircase in seconds. He took a left at the bottom and cut through an old-fashioned dining room to reach the connecting kitchen. For once, he wasn't interested in a snack raid. His target was the backdoor that opened onto the grounds. Without conscious thought his feet took him out door, down the wide steps that led from the porch to a fussy garden and the forest beyond.
Escape, the wolf told him. Get away from noise and smell of people. Go into the forest where you can run and be free.
But as he neared the trees which promised him relief from the claustrophobia of humanity, memories of the nightmare grabbed him like a hand around his throat. Derek stared out at his prospective sanctuary and couldn't breathe.