» Rating: T
» Classification(s): Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Romance
» Warnings/Tropes: Platonic Love, OCs Like Whoa, Backstory, Pre-Season One
» Summary: Three times Derek was gobsmacked, and one time it just sort of dawned on him.
» Author's Note: Love, be it romantic or platonic, doesn't often end well for Derek Hale. Mah poor wee bb...! :'(
"Not now, Derek," his mother says, without even turning her head in his direction.
She sighs, sets her glass down on the table. "Sweetie, why don't you go play outside? That's where Laura is, right?"
He's opening his mouth to say "That's why I came inside!" when the smoky-rich smell of alpha hits his nose, a second before a hand grips his shoulder. He looks up to meet his father's eyes before instinctually ducking his head.
"Why don't you go find your cousins, Der?" the man suggests quietly, lifting his hand to ruffle Derek's hair. "Your mom and I are a little busy right now."
"But..." Derek begins, looking back at her. They're not even doing anything, just sitting at the kitchen table with his aunts, drinking coffee and talking. One of the aunts is smoking, and the acrid scent of tobacco masks the familiar smells of food and family. He wrinkles his nose.
That tone brooks no argument, and Derek keeps his eyes down but drags his feet as he leaves the room, lower lip trembling a little.
Derek hates conclave weekends. Conclaves mean his parents disappearing, aunts invading his house, uncles standing around on the deck, and all his stupid, stupid cousins using his toys and swingset, running all over his yard playing Catch the Rabbit.
Derek is always the rabbit.
It's not that he's the youngest cousin, because Aunt Annie has a pup too little to run and Aunt Caroline's toddlers have just started, but he's the smallest of the 'big kids' and that means whenever all the cousins get together he's the one who ends up omega, last for everything and constantly getting jumped and chewed on.
He obediently goes outside, even though it's a million degrees out. He doesn't see his cousins anywhere, but he's careful anyway, sneaking around low and slow to the south side of the deck. There's a gap in the boards there, and he slips inside, curling up at the far end of the narrow crawlspace and listening to the boards creak and settle as his uncles move over them.
Ernesto, his newest uncle, is talking about his old pack in Mexico. For a long time, Derek listens and draws in the dirt with a finger, imagining running in a forest made of cactuses and sand. It sounds like it would be hard. Their forest is much better, dark and cool, the fallen leaves pooling so deep in some places you can bury yourself in them. He could run in their forest forever, when it's not full of cousins.
"Found him!" someone crows, and before Derek can get away they've got a hand around his ankle and are dragging him back out into the hot sun.
"Let me go!" he shouts, kicking at them, and manages to get free for an instant before they slam him down, pinning him by the neck and grinding his face in the dry, prickly grass.
He shifts, too angry not to, and that just makes them laugh harder. They let him go and he scrambles to his feet, turning to snarl and brace for the next assault.
"Where'd you go, huh?" Matthew, one of the biggest cousins, asks him. He stalks in a circle around Derek, eyes a solid, menacing gold. "Took almost ten whole minutes to find you this time."
"He went into the house," Laura calls from across the yard, jogging towards them. "That's cheating, Der!"
"Shut up," he yells, and swallows against the instinctive fear at challenging her. But he hates her, hates her, her and his stupid cousins, hates them all. "I don't want to play anymore!" The words come out slurred around his fangs.
"Aw, the little rabbit doesn't want to play," someone coos, and they all laugh, Laura and Matthew especially.
"C'mon, I'll give you a minute's head start," Matthew says, stepping forward, and Derek doesn't step back. Doesn't lower his eyes.
Matthew's eyes narrow.
"I don't wanna play," Derek growls, defiant and scared and a little proud of his own daring. He's going to get beat so bad, but—
But nothing, as it turns out. Matthew is on him in seconds, and his cousin is a teenager, he outweighs Derek twice over, and even shifted Derek is no match for him. Matthew gets him pinned again and just starts punching, lips drawn back over his own fangs as he shifts too. The blows land on Derek's face, on the soft, vulnerable parts of his stomach, and he can taste copper and bile in his mouth, smell Matthew's rage. Laura is yelling at Matthew to stop but the other boy doesn't seem to hear her, and Derek cries and coughs and thinks, He's going to kill me.
A growl, a real growl, cuts through the cousins like a silver knife and Matthew is suddenly dangling from one arm, twisting and squalling like a wounded polecat.
"Get lost," someone snaps, and tosses him aside. He lands a few feet away and scrambles towards the trees, the other cousins quickly following.
Arms scoop Derek up from the grass and settle him on a hip, and Derek smells pine sap and leather, lemonade on his breath as the man whispers, "Okay, kiddo?"
"U-uncle Peter," he whimpers, wrapping his arms around the man's neck.
"You shouldn't interfere like that, Pete," one of his other uncles calls out from the deck. "Let the pups sort it out between themselves."
"Oh, fuck you," Uncle Peter mutters under his breath, and Derek stares wide-eyed at him, tears forgotten.
"You swore!" he whispers. Uncle Peter smiles, lifts a finger to his lips.
"Shhh, don't tell the alpha."
"I heard that," his father says from the open kitchen window, and Uncle Peter's mouth flattens before twisting into a rueful grin.
"How about this, Derek," his uncle says, starting to walk around the side of the deck towards the stairs into the house. "You and me are going to go clean up, and then we can go down to the tunnels. It's nice and cold down there, and there are some really cool things I know you're going to like."
Derek's eyes go big and round. Only the adults are allowed in the basement tunnels; none of the cousins have ever gotten further than the first landing before.
"Does that sound good?" Uncle Peter asks, raising his eyebrows questioningly.
"Ye—yeah!" Derek nods enthusiastically.
Uncle Peter starts to grin, then purses his lips. He shifts away to put a hand under his shirt, and uses it to wipe at some of the wet on Derek's cheeks. The cloth comes away stained red.
When they pass through the kitchen, his mother looks up and sighs. "Derek, I wish you could just play nicely with the other children," she says as she starts to get to her feet.
Derek shrinks into himself, but Uncle Peter's already saying, "It's fine, Miranda, he's good now. No thanks to your boy, Sherrie."
One of the aunts says, "What can you do? They're pups," and the rest nod in agreement.
"Stopping them from beating each other to death seems like a good first step," his uncle says on a laugh, but his heart is beating fast and under the smell of pine and leather, anger smolders. His arm tightens briefly around Derek, and Derek turns his face into his uncle's shirt and inhales, breathing the scent in.
Derek decides in that split second that he loves Uncle Peter, more than his mother and the alpha, definitely more than Laura, more than anyone else in the whole world. No one else has ever been angry for him. At him, yes, because of him, more times than he can count, but never for him.
Uncle Peters carries him down into the tunnels, and even when he sets Derek on his feet he never once lets go of his hand.
A/N2: I have a personal headcanon that Peter is the youngest Hale brother and was often in the same situation as Derek (Official Title: Pack Punching Bag), hence his fixation on being the alpha, etc. As to why Derek's parents display such Grade A child-rearing skills, hopefully that will become clearer in the next chapter.