The Scars That We Earned
by Sandrine Shaw
Chris has been a hunter long enough to know how to sneak up on a werewolf if he needs to, but when he parks the car in front of the burnt ruins of the Hale house, he's not even trying to keep his approach a secret. Derek steps out onto the porch before Chris has so much as opened the car door, watching his every movement.
"Are you here for me this time, Chris?" His smile is all teeth and no humor, and Chris thinks that maybe it's meant to look dangerous and intimidating and cocky. All it does is look bitter.
It's been two weeks since they temporarily joined forces to fight Jackson, two weeks since Gerard forced Derek to bite him, two weeks since Scott pulled a secret plan out of his ass that made the fragile status quo sway like a card house about to collapse. Two weeks. Chris thought it would be enough time for Derek and his pack to regroup, but now, judging from the way Derek looks so tightly wound as if he might start coming apart at the seams any minute, he realizes that he was wrong.
"If I was coming for you, you'd know it. You wouldn't have to ask."
In a roundabout way, he's trying to be appeasing. He's careful to keep his hands where Derek can see them as he approaches. He wasn't foolish enough to come unarmed. There's a gun inside his jacket, and he knows Derek can see that as well; probably smell the wolfsbane from the bullets, too. But he didn't plan on using it when he came here, though; hopes he won't have to, and even though it goes against his instincts, he's trying to convey the sentiment. "We need to talk."
"So talk," Derek says, voice flat, face expressionless, not giving an inch.
Chris stops a couple of yards away from the house, not exactly a safe distance because there is no such thing as a safe distance where werewolves are concerned, but enough that his fingers are not twitching towards the gun. Enough, hopefully, not to make Derek feel cornered and lash out.
The thing with Derek is, he makes it a hell of a lot easier to be his enemy than his ally. Chris can't exactly blame him considering his backstory, but Derek is all anger and hostility, and he doesn't exactly invite people to trust him enough to work together. Which is probably why Scott went and kept his plans a secret, and why Derek's pack is falling apart around him. Chris could tell him that, but Derek doesn't need him to, and Chris is probably the last person he'd be willing to accept advice from anyway.
He huffs out a weary sigh. "Look, I know you don't want me here any more than I want to be here, but there's a pack of Alphas in town. Right now they're laying low and they haven't exactly done anything yet, but you and I both know that's not gonna hold. This is my town and your territory, and I need to know what we're going to do about them."
Derek frowns at him. "We," he bites out the word like it's laced with wolfsbane and it physically hurts to say it, "are not going to do anything. The pack will handle it, and you're going to stay out of it."
His eyes flash red for a moment, and the only reason why Chris doesn't react, doesn't reach for the gun or stumble backwards, is because he saw it coming.
"This isn't up for debate," Derek growls, voice deep and not quite human before he gets himself under control again, plastering a fake smile back on his face and sounding far too casual for someone who was just two seconds from getting his claws out and jumping at Chris. "Nice talking to you. Now get off my property."
He turns and walks inside without another word. Chris can't help but wonder how much restraint it cost him to go against his instincts like that, to turn his back on an armed hunter, just to make a point.
"Fuck you, too, Derek," he mutters under his breath as he steps back to his car, trusting that Derek's sensitive werewolf hearing will pick up the words.
Rallying the forces to fight the Alpha pack turns out to be harder than Chris expected. Most hunters that used to be in their network are suddenly reluctant to work with him, half of them because they were not so much Chris's acquaintances as Gerard's and their values and priorities aren't the same as Chris's, and the rest are wary of striking a deal with the Argents when they've proven to be in the habit of going a bit crazy.
Either way, Gerard has fucked up most of the connections Chris used to have.
He tries not to involve Allison either, because she's been through too much for a seventeen-year-old girl within the past few months, but even though Allison has actively been trying to stay out of werewolf business since the night Gerard revealed his true colors, she's too clever not to know that something is up and too vigilant to let him get away with keeping it a secret.
He's down in the cellar working on an attack plan when she's suddenly there, hovering on the staircase. Her arms are wrapped around her body, every inch of her screaming discomfort. (And this, this is what he hates Gerard for the most: turning his confident, carefree, happy daughter into someone who looks like they're walking on broken glass with every step.)
"What are you hunting?" she asks, not coming any closer.
The urge to protect her clashes with his vow to be honest with her from now on. He chooses a compromise, going for a vague answer that makes the situation sound less precarious than it actually is. "There are some new wolves in town. I think they might be a threat."
Allison nods. "Scott mentioned something," she says, and that brings Chris up short because –
"I thought you and Scott had broken up?"
"We have," Allison says firmly. She offers an awkward one-shouldered shrug. "But, you know, we still talk. At school. He said that he was staying out of it. That they were probably coming for Derek and it wasn't his fight."
She only winces a little now when she says Derek's name.
After things had settled down, the day after the fight, Chris and Allison had sat together and talked about Victoria's death and Derek's role in it. Allison had told him about the letter Gerard had given her, and Chris had confirmed that he knew for a fact that her mother had not written any letters, that it was just another one of Gerard's lies.
The truth is, neither of them knows what really happened that night Victoria got bitten. Whatever misgivings Chris has about Derek, he can't imagine him randomly going off and attacking his wife, not without a good reason, and eventually he'll have to find a way to get the whole story. But until then, the target is off Derek's back. When he'd told Allison as much, her jaw had set and she'd looked like she was going to argue, but then she suddenly deflated and nodded. 'Okay, whatever you decide,' she said, sniffling. 'I think we can agree that my judgement has been pretty awful lately, so I guess I should leave the decisions to someone else.'
It doesn't mean she's happy with it, though, and Chris is pretty sure that she would like nothing more than to take a crossbow and keep shooting wolfsbane-coated arrows into Derek until he tells her the truth about how her mother got bitten. And really, if he had even the slightest hope that it would work that way, Chris would probably let her. Hell, he'd help her. But Derek is every bit as stubborn as Allison and they'll never find out the truth if they back him into a corner; he'd probably sooner let them kill him while staying silent out of spite, and that's an outcome Chris would preferably avoid, for everyone's sake.
He frowns at Allison. "I'm not sure if staying out of it is going to be an option," he admits. Neither for Scott nor for him.
He doesn't say that last part, but Allison seems to have heard it anyway because she asks, "Is there anything I can do?"
She still doesn't step any close to the table, though, and he knows that just like him, she remembers the last time they were down here, plotting together, and where it led them. He shakes his head. "Don't worry, I got it."
Allison looks relieved when she nods and turns away.
After everything that happened with Kate and Gerard, Chris knows he needs to abide to the code and interpret it more narrowly than he would have liked, given the current situation. He wants to go after the Alpha pack, but he can't, not as long as they haven't done something that warrants a reaction. He doesn't think they have, not publicly at least, and if they've already thrown the gauntlet to Derek and his pack already, Chris doesn't find out because Derek stubbornly refuses to cooperate and Allison has no news from Scott, who's adamant about staying out of pack business himself, which Chris thinks is commendable but naïve. But he can't exactly tell the boy to get involved when he's spent the past year threatening him with bodily harm unless he stayed out of things.
All he can do is wait for the other shoe to drop now, for some awful kind of disaster that turns this tense stand-off into a full-out war. He still holds on to the hope that maybe it won't happen. Perhaps the pack will get bored and move on. Perhaps they will turn on each other. Perhaps Derek can hammer out some sort of truce. Perhaps – but no, he knows that's wishful thinking. Years and years of experience have taught him that expecting anything but the worst will usually lead to disappointment.
He hates how right he is.
They find the girl's body, or what's left of it, on the steps of the Hale house. Chris is pretty sure that it was a message for Derek, meant for him to find, but what actually happens is that some kids from the neighborhood run around the forest on a dare and come upon the mangled body. They call their parents, who call the police, and within the hour the place is crowded by people who have no idea what's going on, police and coroners and an ambulance that gets nothing to do because there's no one to save and about a dozen gawkers, eager to look at the latest victim of an animal attack and share stories of mountain lion sightings.
It's a startlingly familiar set-up, and Chris is so fucking tired of it all.
An inhuman broken sound pierces the air, and he knows that Derek has arrived. He turns around to see Derek pushing through the crowd to stare at the beta's twisted corpse, her wide lifeless eyes and blood-matted blonde hair.
He's seen Derek tortured and defeated and angry enough to slash a man's throat and set him on fire, but in all the years Chris has known him, he's never seen him look quite this wrecked, and he knows it's a matter of seconds before Derek loses control and if – when – that happens, all hell is going to break loose.
Chris puts himself in front of Derek because there's no one else to do it. Because the rest of the pack, if he even has a pack anymore, is God knows where instead of standing with him. Because if Derek snaps here and now, more people are going to get hurt. Because Derek needs something to focus his anger on, and there's nothing – no one – else. Because even though he knows that this might very well end with him or Derek dead, it's still the lesser evil.
He steps between Derek and the body, grabs the Alpha's arm and does his best to push him away from the eyes of the crowd. For a moment, Derek lets him, and then suddenly Chris is flying backwards, crashing so hard against the side of the house that the impact forces all the air out of his lungs. And Derek is right there in front of him, immovable body holding him in place as hands grip him. Claws sink into the skin of his upper arms and Chris winces, struggling against the hold even though it only makes his flesh tear further.
Derek's face is shifting, hairy and red-eyed and fanged, and Chris thinks that it's a good thing the werewolf is standing with his back towards the crowd before he remembers that none of that will matter if Derek tears his throat out right here in front of everyone.
"Derek," he warns quietly. His teeth clench when Derek's grip tightens even more, and he wonders how long it'll take until his bones crack under the pressure. "Let go."
He holds Derek's gaze because the second he averts his eyes, the second Derek's instincts categorize Chris as weak, as prey, this will be over for him. He ineffectively kicks against Derek's legs while his hand reaches into the back of his jeans, trying not to give in to the pain the movement causes in his shoulders and arms where Derek's claws are still embedded in his flesh.
The crossbow has always been his weapon of choice, but he's good with a knife. He knows how to kill with it swiftly and without much of a mess, and he also knows how to not kill with it. So when he takes the knife he's always carrying and sticks the blade into Derek's chest in one smooth, quick motion, he knows exactly where to hit him to inflict enough damage to temporarily incapacitate a werewolf without killing him.
Derek wails softly and the grip on Chris's arms eases as his claws retract and his face turns human again, eyes wide and almost black and reflecting painshockbetrayal where there was only red-hot rage a second ago.
"You need to get yourself under control," Chris says, enunciating the words clearly and carefully as he twists the knife a little, because it's vital that he gets through to Derek.
And then Derek, rather than stepping away, sinks against him, into the knife, and it's only Chris's quick reactions that stop him from accidentally killing the other man.
"Why don't you end this once and for all? You've been wanting to do that since I came back." Derek's voice is a soft rumble, breath hot against the side of Chris's face. "Come on, I dare you. Just think of your wife."
The mention of Victoria makes Chris see red, as he's sure Derek intended. His hand clenches around the handle of the knife, and he feels Derek go still against him, waiting.
"I don't enjoy being manipulated." He pulls the knife out, and the wet little sound when it comes out makes him feel nauseated. Derek slumps forward, and Chris reaches out to steady him, the knife falling discarded to the ground.
Suddenly Peter Hale appears from out of nowhere, hands on Derek's shoulders pulling him away. "I must apologize for my nephew. He's been a little overwhelmed," he says slickly, fake charming smile perfectly in place, and Chris wants nothing more than to take the bloodied knife and stick it into the crazy bastard's heart. "I think I'll take it from here, Argent, but thanks for your help."
Chris is about to protest, because leaving Derek with someone even more unstable than him seems like the worst possible idea, but before he can get a word in, Derek is straightening and shrugging off his uncle's hands, swiftly recovering from the injury.
He turns to Chris.
"I'm not warning you again. Stay. Out. Of it."
He's glowering, but his features remain human and for now, he seems to have regained control. Without waiting for an answer he turns and leaves, disappearing into the crowd.
"Well, that was exciting." Peter smirks at him. "I'll be seeing you around."
Before Chris can reach for the knife, Peter too is gone.
Allison is waiting for him at the door when he comes home. Her eyes go wide when she sees the blood on his torn shirt, and she sounds anxious when she asks, "What happened?"
"That girl from Derek's pack," he begins, and Allison interrupts him.
"Yeah. They killed her. Left her body on his porch." He watches as Allison's face falls, and remembers that even though Allison may have shot half a dozen of arrows into the girl's body just a couple of weeks ago, they've been schoolmates all year. They might not have been friends, but it's yet another death that hits uncomfortably close to home.
He sighs and admits, "I was waiting for them to make a move, but I hoped it wouldn't be something like this."
Allison swallows, and when she speaks again her voice is almost steady. "What happened to you?"
Chris looks down at himself. The wounds are stinging, and moving his shoulders shoots a sharp kind of pain down his arms, but it looks a lot worse than it is, the blood from the claw marks mingling with a considerable number of stains left from Derek's blood. He shrugs. "I was making sure no one else got hurt. Things got a little out of hand. Don't worry, I'm fine."
He reaches out and presses a kiss to her temple, trying not to wince when her arms sneak around him and brush against the bruises on his back.
A week after the incident at the Hale house, he makes his move.
In hindsight, perhaps he should have listened to Derek's warning not to get involved. Perhaps he should have gathered more hunters to come with him when he went to stake out the Alpha pack's hide-out. Perhaps he should have been more patient, better prepared, less driven by the sight of the bloodied corpse of a sixteen-year-old girl.
Hindsight, they say, is 20/20.
Which is kind of ironic, because he can't actually see anything right now. It's too dark in whatever hole in the ground (some sort of cellar, he assumes, or possibly a tunnel) they threw him into, and even if it wasn't, his left eye is swollen shut from when he was thrown headfirst into the wall. He's pretty sure that he has a concussion too, and his left ankle may or may not be broken.
There are a couple of deep claw marks on his back and his leg, and they burn like fire when he moves and not much less when he doesn't. It could be worse, he tells himself: he could have been bitten. Then again, being bitten would mean that he'd heal. It would mean that he'd have a chance to escape.
He startles at the thought, telling himself that he can't think like that, mustn't think like that, wouldn't think like that, ever, if the situation wasn't so utterly desperate and hopeless. He's alone in the dark with only the throbbing pain from his injuries and the rattling of the thoughts in his head for company. For what seems like ages, no one is coming. It's dark and quiet and cold.
He thinks they're just going to leave him there to die alone, from thirst or cold or blood-loss, whatever comes first.
But they don't. They come back. And when they do, he wishes they had left him to die.
Consciousness is fading in and out. He thinks it might have been a couple of days since the Alphas got him. It might have been a week, or maybe just 24 hours. It's hard to tell.
He's still in the same cellar they pushed him into when they captured him and it's still pitch black around him, but he's chained to the ceiling now, metal cuffs chafing his sore wrists. They asked him all sorts of questions: about the town, about Derek, about the pack, about his family and their connections to other hunters, about Allison. Except 'ask' is the wrong term for what they did, and when they weren't happy with the evasive non-answers he was providing, they soon stopped asking altogether and seemed to content themselves with inflicting as much pain as they could without actually killing him.
Chris had asked them why they didn't, why they didn't just end it, and one of them answered – their leader, maybe, even though Chris isn't sure how the power dynamics exactly work in a pack of Alphas, the term alone a paradox in itself. The guy, a wiry, silver-haired man whose claws had left four bloody lines down Chris's chest, chuckled and told him that maybe Chris would prove to be useful, after all.
"There are people out there who care about you. Well, maybe not people, plural. More like person, singular." He smiles a sharp, toothy smile. "Keeping you alive could be an excellent incentive to keep sweet Allison in line."
It chills Chris to the bone, knowing that he might be used to turn Allison into a weapon, again, when the damage from the last time has barely healed. His daughter is strong, but if the Alphas use Chris as leverage to make her help get rid of the pack (and, by extension, Scott) and take over Beacon Hills or whatever their long-term plan is, this is not going to be something she'll be able to come back from, even if by some miracle she'd come out of it alive.
The response Chris is aiming for is a smile, but he knows he misses by miles. "My daughter is smarter than that," he tells the Alpha.
He hopes he's right.
By now, Allison will have realized that he's missing. She may have gone to the Sheriff, and she'll probably have told Scott, and she might have talked either of them into looking for him. Chris hopes she didn't, or at least he hopes they won't actually come here, because they're not equipped to handle this, they won't be able to defeat the pack and it'll only end with more bloodshed.
The Alpha reaches out and pats his cheek in what would be a condescending manner if his claws weren't out, mauling Chris's face.
"Keep telling yourself that," he says. He turns and leaves and Chris is once again alone with his pain and his fears and everything in between.
It's the noises that jar him awake, a crash and a terribly guttural cry and something that sounds like breaking glass, and Chris hears one of the Alphas call out an order, recognizing the voice (he will remember their voices for a long time, if he lives) without being able to make out the words.
The door is flung open, light bursting through the darkness so suddenly that even though he's desperate to see what's happening, Chris has to screw his eyes shut because the brightness is making the pain in his head explode. When he squints, he can make out Allison barrelling through the open door towards him, crossbow slung over her shoulder and knives in both hands. She looks every inch a hunter, determination written all over her face, but when she sees him, she falters. Horror descends on her features, and he can only imagine what kind of picture he makes.
"Dad," she whispers, and she sounds like she's about to cry.
He wants to yell at her to get out while she still can, to leave him because she cannot possibly take on the Alphas on her own, but just as he's opening his mouth, Derek comes through the doorway, wolfed out and bloodied. He's the last person Chris expected to see fighting at Allison's side. It's hard enough to imagine Allison and Derek working together, harder yet to think that Derek would come for Chris, and for a moment he wonders if he isn't hallucinating the entire rescue operation.
Derek's voice sounds real enough, though, throaty like sandpaper and commanding. "Hurry up," he growls. "We don't have much time before they get the others."
Red eyes flicker from Allison to Chris, giving him a quick once-over as if Derek is cataloging his injuries. Their eyes meet, and even though it's hard enough to read Derek on a regular day and infinitely harder when he's not exactly human, right now Derek's an open book and his emotions are all over the place, anger and fear and relief, and Chris has a hard time grasping the idea that it's all for him.
He feels like he should say something, but it's hard to find the appropriate words.
And then there's no time for talking because two of the Alphas, a bulky young man and a sharp-faced blonde woman, rush into the room, fangs and claws first. To his right, Allison stops trying to get him loose and quickly shoots two arrows at them, while Derek jumps at the guy, bringing him down with his full weight.
Allison is about to reload when the female Alpha suddenly spins around with one of the arrows in her hand and ducks underneath the bow, burying the arrow in the middle of Allison's chest. Chris sees it happening like it's all in slow motion, can hear the slick sound of the arrowhead burying itself in his daughter's flesh, watches her eyes go wide and she stumbles and bends over, and it's like time stops for him, the scene freezing.
He cries out Allison's name, and if he wasn't hanging from the ceiling, his legs would give out from under him.
Allison looks down her body, staring at where the end of the arrow is sticking out. When she grips it and pulls, Chris wants to yell at her not to, that she'll bleed to death. He doesn't understand how she's even managing to stay on her feet with a wound in her chest that looks pretty much fatal.
Except then the arrow comes out and Allison raises her head, straightening instead of crumbling. In the dim light of the room, her eyes are glowing amber as her features change.
Chris is at once gripped by stark horror (not my daughter) and swamped with overwhelming relief (she'll be all right, she's going to heal, she's strong enough to get out of here alive), the dichotomy of it feeling like a kick in the stomach.
Allison turns to the blonde Alpha, who clearly didn't see this coming any more than Chris did, and with what looks like no effort at all, sinks a clawed hand right into the woman's torso. "This is for my father, you bitch," she hisses, raising her other arm and bringing it down again and again over the Alpha's face and throat.
It's a bloodbath. Chris can't look away, and he knows he should probably be more disturbed by it, but after everything, it feels more like an afterthought.
Allison won't stop mangling the Alpha until Derek's low roar puts a halt to it. "Enough." His voice seems to cut through her rage and bring her back from the place her animals instincts have taken her to. At once she lets go, physically shrinking away. Her face shifts back and becomes the one he used to know, even when it's splattered with blood.
"You're wasting time," Derek tells her, and when she offers a "sorry" that doesn't sound a bit sincere, he growls at her until she looks contrite. Chris observes the exchange, recognizing the Alpha bond, but his mind is too numb to deal with it emotionally.
Derek steps closer, reaching for the chains. He doesn't bother with the cuffs, just ripping the chains loose from the ceiling with a hard tug. He catches Chris's body before he hits the floor. Released from the strain of the position, Chris suddenly feels the pain all the more acutely, like a wave that's burying him under it. He must have made some sort of unconscious noise, because Derek is fixing him with a stare that can't be described as anything but worried, and he feels Allison hold his hand with a gentleness he has a hard time associating with the feral creature who just mauled his attacker.
"Let's get out of here," Derek says.
On the way from the cellar to the outside, Chris passes out.
When he wakes up next, he's in a hospital bed. Allison is sitting crosslegged on a chair next to him, her head snapping up when he stirs.
"Dad." Her hand reaches for his, entangling their fingers. "How are you feeling?"
He squeezes her hand gently. "I've been better," he quips, offering her a smile that brings a hesitant twitch of her lips in response. It's good to see Allison smiling, however tentatively. It's a sight he hasn't been treated to since her mother died.
"How are you?" he asks, and immediately wants to take the words back because it's such a loaded question and he isn't sure if she's going to be ready to have this talk. He isn't sure if he's ready either.
But the words are out now, and Allison immediately stiffens in a way that makes his heart ache.
"It's—" It's okay if you don't want to talk about it, he means to say, but Allison is quicker, and she's talking over him before he has a chance to stop her.
"You were gone and I couldn't lose you. After everything, I couldn't lose you as well. And I couldn't ask Scott for help, and there was no one else, so I... I went to Derek. He said I couldn't come along. He was going to go after you all on his own, but I couldn't—I needed to be there. And he wouldn't take me if I was human, so I... I made him give me the bite."
Chris frowns and tries to imagine it. He has no trouble with most of the story, except for the part where Derek was going to come for him, with or without Allison, and the bit where Allison convinced Derek to give her the bite, because no matter how stubborn his daughter is, Derek is easily a match for her. "Made him?"
There's a guilty look descending on Allison's face, and Chris almost dreads her answer.
Her voice is soft when she replies. "I told him that he had no qualms giving Mom the bite, so he might as well give it to me as well."
"Mom tried to kill Scott," she says. "She was trying to kill my boyfriend, and Derek saved him, and they tried to protect me by not telling me, and then I went and guilt-tripped Derek into biting me even though he clearly didn't want to." She's starting to sound more and more choked up, like every word is wrenched from her throat and it hurts to speak until she's all but sobbing. "I mean, what awful kind of person does that?"
For a moment, Chris thinks that she means Derek, and he's ready to defend him because even though Victoria's death left scars that haven't healed yet, her punishment more or less fit the crime and he can't exactly blame Derek for protecting his own. He's about to say that to Allison when it kicks through the drug-induced haze of his mind that this isn't what she meant at all, that she was in fact talking about herself.
"No, sweetie, you can't— It's going to be okay." He reaches for her without having to think about it, and she buries her face in his shoulder and starts crying. They both know that the words are hollow because the ride ahead will be nothing if not bumpy. She's a hunter and a werewolf and a seventeen-year-old girl who lost too many people she cared about and saw too many horrible things, but Chris is convinced that if it hasn't broken her yet, she's going to come out of it stronger. No matter what, she'll always be his little girl.
"We'll be okay," he assures her, and he continues to hold her until he falls into an exhausted sleep.
It's dark outside when he opens his eyes again, and Allison's chair is vacant. There's a dark silhouette against the window, large and unmoving, and even though Chris is usually good with silences, unlike Allison or Stilinski's kid or even Scott, this one feels so tense that he'd rather fill it with words if he had the slightest idea how to begin.
He hasn't been awake long enough yet for a chance to sort through his conflicted attitude towards Derek Hale, which has long since graduated beyond a hunter's natural aversion of all werewolves. Chris hasn't been able to maintain this black and white world view for a while now, can't afford to now that Allison has firmly shifted herself into a gray area. He has chosen the alleged monsters over his own kind before, and chances are that he'll ally himself with them again.
But Derek... he's not just any werewolf. He suffered terribly at the hands of Chris's family, and he was instrumental in Victoria's death (however justified it may have been), and he saved Chris's life, and he bit Allison. Chris owes him and he's grateful, but he also cannot quite bring himself forgive Derek for some of the things he's done. And then there's a part of him that's irrationally, fiercely protective of Derek, always has been ever since the fire, even when he was throwing around threats and smashing car windows.
There is also a part of him that feels more than that. That notices the shift in the air whenever they clash, the heady tension. But he's not ready yet to examine that part. He's not ready for any of it, really.
Unexpectedly, it's Derek who breaks the silence, stepping out of the darkness into the beacon of light from the small bedside lamp. He's wearing his usual expression, halfway between anger and frustration, and Chris braces himself for confrontation.
"I told you not to get involved."
"Since when am I ever doing what you tell me," Chris shoots back, trying very hard not to think about the fact that he knows Derek is right and everything that happened – Chris almost getting killed and Derek risking his life for him and Allison– is all his fault.
He's fully expecting Derek to throw this at him in no uncertain terms, but all he does is make a frustrated, unhappy sound and flop down in the chair.
The silence once again stretches between them. Chris watches Derek's jaw work, as if he has to chew the words he's about to say. When they come out, they make him freeze. "I'm sorry about Allison."
"It's not your fault," he says carefully, trying to keep his voice and his face blank.
Derek snorts. "But you're still going to blame me for it."
It's not even a question. And even though Chris really wants to protest, he can't because Derek is right. It's not fair and he knows that Derek was put into an impossible situation and that he was only trying to do what's best, but it doesn't change how he feels. "She's my daughter, Derek," he says, feeling so, so tired.
Derek nods and stands, brushing himself off and making his way to the door. He's already halfway out of the room when Chris can't make himself hold back the question he's been meaning to ask the whole time, since he watched Derek barging into the cell where the Alphas held him.
"Derek," he calls out, watching the other man freeze. "Why did you save me?"
Derek turns back to look at him. "Why didn't you kill me the night we found Erica, when I was losing control?"
It's not really an answer at all – or perhaps it is. Perhaps it would be, if Chris knew the answer to Derek's question. He's still thinking of a reply when Derek slips out of the room.
His wounds heal more slowly than he would have liked, though this is probably something that's always true for everyone. The next eight days are a long painful progression of attempting to return to normalcy, or whatever passes for normalcy in his life.
His wife is dead and his daughter is a werewolf and there's still the rest of the Alpha pack, now decimated in numbers but all the more set on getting their revenge, to deal with. Not that he can deal with much of anything, considering the fact that even getting out of bed in the mornings makes his entire body ache and takes approximately three times as long as it usually does.
He hasn't seen Derek since the night at the hospital, which is nothing unusual. It's not like they run into each other much regularly unless they clash over something. But still, now it feels oddly like avoidance, enough to make Chris feel twitchy and uncomfortable when he thinks about it.
Allison has been at Derek's on and off, tentatively trying to figure out her place in the pack while Chris is trying to figure out a non-intrusive, non-judgemental way of showing his parental support for her predicament. When he asks how she's doing, she offers bland smiles and claims she's fine, and he's not sure if she's holding back because she doesn't want to tell him or because she thinks he doesn't really want to know.
All things considered, they're not doing too badly. They could do better, though.
It's almost a relief when, on the sixth night after he's been released from the hospital, pretty much exactly nine days after Derek left his room give or take an hour or two, Derek shows up on their doorstep, bruised and bleeding.
Allison is the one who answers the door, beating Chris to it, and he realizes that she probably heard Derek coming when she doesn't display any surprise at the sight of him. Or perhaps the surprise is just swallowed up by all the panic she's not even bothering to hide.
She skips the 'Are you okay?' and goes right to, "What happened? Did the Alphas get to you? Is Scott alright?"
Derek growls at her, low and warning, as far from a comforting sound as it could be, but it still works because Allison visibly calms down. "They didn't come after me. I went after them. Scott is fine, he wasn't with me. I went alone."
At that, Allison looks conflicted, probably half inclined to tell Derek what a monumental idiot he's been but thoroughly relieved because of Scott. She doesn't say anything, and neither does Chris, even though he thinks You stupid fuck, this is not the kind of situation you handle on your own. This is why you have a pack in the first place.Except, he gets it. He understands that Derek doesn't want to risk anyone else's life, not after what happened to the girl, Erica. From what Allison said, Derek would never have taken her along when he got Chris if Allison hadn't been quite so insistent, and Chris doubts that Derek has told his pack about his plans and given them the chance to weigh in.
"How did it go?" he asks, because from Derek's injuries, he can't exactly tell if he won or was just lucky to escape alive.
Derek's smile is sharp and self-satisfied and definitely not what anyone in their right minds would call pleasant, but it settles Chris's concerns.
"They're not going to be a problem anymore," he says, and that's all Chris needs to know. Next to him, he hears Allison let out a relieved breath of air.
He should send Derek away, but he doesn't. Instead, he ushers him into the kitchen and gets the first aid kit, because if those are Alpha wounds, they are going to take some time to heal and even if any infection would burn out of Derek's system within a matter of days, it's still better to be avoided. Maybe the Alphas are gone, but after the kind of year they've had, Chris doesn't delude himself that this is more than a temporary reprieve, because there are plenty of other bad things out there that can and will come after Derek. After all of them.
Allison hovers around for a bit while Chris starts to clean the wounds. He's half-surprised that Derek lets him, that he strips off his shirt without being prompted, that he lets Chris anywhere near him with a pair of tweezers that might well be used as a weapon and a bottle that contains disinfectant but could easily be something else instead.
"I've got this," Chris tells Allison after a few silent minutes, and even though he's sure she heard the unspoken you can go, she doesn't move an inch.
It's not until Derek makes a soft, low sound that Allison smiles and says, "Okay." She slips out quietly, and Chris suddenly remembers that Derek is Allison's Alpha now; he can't believe he's forgotten this, forgotten what Allison is, even if he can't quite wrap his mind around it yet.
He waits until his daughter is out of earshot, until he hears the front door slam and the sound of her car engine starting in the garage, before he asks the question that's been burning on his mind since Derek stumbled across the doorstep. "Why come here? Why not go and be with your pack?"
An Alpha is generally reluctant to appear weak in front of his pack, but surely it beats being injured around a hunter, even one who's previously shown hesitance to kill him and who owes him his life.
"Peter," is all Derek says, like that explains everything. And really, it does, because Peter clearly doesn't have Derek's best interests at heart – Chris remembers that the night Erica died, Peter probably stood by and watched Chris stick a knife into Derek's chest, waiting to see if he'd kill him – and he'd have no qualms of taking advantage of the situation.
It may not be the right time to address the matter, but there is no such thing as a right moment for this kind of talk, so Chris lays it out in the open. "I'll have to deal with Peter eventually. He killed a lot of people last winter." He could do it again, probably will, and it's Chris's job to stop that. He says "deal with" when he really means "kill", but it's not like Derek won't understand what he's saying.
Chris waits for the protest, the outrage, the bargaining, his hands momentarily stilling against the skin beneath.
The moment draws out too long, tension stretching until breaking point, until Derek turns his head to look at Chris over his shoulder. He raises an eyebrow, his expression blank. "I'm sorry, were you waiting for me to object?" His tone is snarky, but the way his jaw works and the hint of red around his pupils betrays his anger. "He killed Laura."
Chris nods and holds Derek's stare until Derek is the one who breaks it, turning his head forward again and letting Chris finish cleaning the deep gash at his side. It looks a little better than it did when Derek arrived, a little less like Derek is split wide open, but if it continues healing at this rate, it probably won't close properly for a day or two.
"You should get stitches. It's healing too slowly," Chris warns.
Derek makes a noise that's probably meant to be disagreement. "Just patch it up, it'll be fine."
He makes the words sound gruff and nonchalant, like the wound is little more than a nuisance to him, but when Chris starts wrapping the gauze tightly around his ribcage, he winces and clenches his fists, and Chris is pretty sure that the nails he drives into his palms are actually claws.
When he's done securing the bandage and wiping the last smudges of blood off the skin, Chris steps away, surveying his work. Derek doesn't move, sitting bent over with his forehead resting on fisted hands and his back taut in a way that makes the tattoo stand out even more than usual. Derek alters his stance imperceptibly and Chris can see the muscles in his back shifting, the triskele moving along with them, making Chris's fingertips itch.
He's not generally someone who lets himself be tempted to give in to reckless impulses, but the urge to reach out and touch is too strong to deny. Tentatively, he flattens his palm against the dark circles, feeling the strength of the muscles beneath his fingers. Derek's back is a tight curve, like a bow drawn so far that it's about to snap – and that's what Chris expects: for Derek to snap, to break away and spin around and try to tear Chris's arm off for daring to touch him like that. What he doesn't expect is the tension to bleed away, slowly but steadily, as Derek relaxes into the touch, allowing it.
Chris doesn't know what to do with this, whatever it is Derek is offering. It's not submission, but... something very akin to trust, and that's all the more dangerous and scary and downright impossible. But there it is: in the fact Derek has sought him out when he was injured and bleeding, in the way he's turned his back, in the warm, relaxed feel of his skin under Chris's hand.
It's simultaneously too much and not enough, and the white-hot burst of arousal he feels isn't entirely unexpected. The force with which it hits him and sets his nerve ends on fire like an arrow laced with wolfsbane is, however. It's so strong he can barely breathe, the hand on Derek's back trembling ever so slightly, and Chris knows that there is no way that Derek can miss his reaction.
Dislodging the touch, Derek abruptly rises, the motion fluid and graceful despite his injuries. There's no time for Chris to worry about what Derek is going to do before he's pushed backwards, the bulk of Derek's body crowding him against the counter, and he thinks he should be scared, he should be reaching for a weapon. The look on Derek's face is intense but not angry, though, and Chris feels light-headed and giddy with want.
Derek's skin is searing hot, even through the layers of Chris's clothing. He wants more, wants to feel it, once again overwhelmed by the need to touch. His hands fasten on the patches of skin between Derek's jeans and the bandage, the touch firm and just shy of bruising. And then Derek lowers his head, burying his face in the crook of Chris's neck and breathes in, and Chris can't stop his body from bucking up against Derek's.
The other man's name falls from his lips like a broken, breathless plea. "Derek."
He lets his head drop back against the cupboard, unconsciously offering his throat without even realizing what he's doing, the significance of the gesture only registering when Derek fastens his mouth on the tender skin and his low growl vibrates through Chris's entire body.
This is the worst idea either of us ever had, Chris thinks. When he says it out loud, voice shaky and broken, Derek looks up at him with a razor-sharp smile.
"Speak for yourself. I'm pretty sure I've had worse."
If Chris felt less wrecked, he'd tell Derek that, considering the amount of bad decisions he's made, this observation is less than comforting.
He reaches for the buttons of Derek's jeans because he needs to feel more skin, right now, and if his fingers are less than steady it could be because Derek has had the same idea and his hands are tearing at Chris's shirt and pants – though, no, not tearing at but actually tearing it. When Chris feels nails dragging over his upper arms they're in fact claws, which should not be a turn-on for a hunter, certainly never has been one before and neither have eyes the color of burning embers. But right now, they make Chris's arousal spike sky-high because of the way Derek clearly wants to lose control but doesn't. Red eyes and clawed fingers aside, he's not wolfing out, only allowing his instincts to take over so far, so that he's not actually hurting him, and Chris is keenly aware of how much self-restraint that costs Derek. It's one hell of a turn-on.
Winding his fingers through Derek's hair, Chris drags him in for a hard kiss that gets deeper and dirtier when Derek takes over, bending Chris backwards and licking into his mouth like he's unwilling to leave even a single spot on him untouched.
And Chris thinks, yeah, quite and this is crazy and thank God Allison left the house. He gets Derek's jeans off at last and they fall down and pool at his ankles, and finally they're both naked, the delicious, torturous slide of their hard cocks against one another almost making Chris's knees give out from under him.
He reaches down to wrap his fingers around them, but Derek bats his hand away before he has the chance to touch.
"No, let me—" he begins, fixing Chris with frenzied red eyes, and he sounds broken and half-delirious.
Chris doesn't even think to protest, much less to struggle, when large hands grip him and lift him up a few inches until he's on the counter. Chris's legs circle Derek's hips almost without conscious thought, pulling Derek in and bringing them together until a low moan is tearing from Chris's throat.
Derek's hand closes around both their cocks with just the right kind of pressure, and if Chris got off on the idea of Derek tearing through the fabric of his shirt before, it's nothing compared to the rush of arousal from seeing those lethal, sharp-edged claws framing his cock as Derek is jerking them both off, the claws not touching but still there.
He can't stop looking, watching, even when it gets harder and harder not to let his eyes fall shut and let the sensations overtake him. Derek leans forward and brings their foreheads together, and the comforting pressure of it is enough to root Chris when he's finally flying apart, coming with Derek's name on his lips. Derek follows him seconds after, sinking bonelessly against him, his mouth back against Chris's neck at exactly the same spot it was when this whole thing started.
It takes them a moment to catch their breaths, before Derek takes a step back.
He reaches out and drags a – now fully human – hand through the wet white stains on Chris's chest, smearing them wide. Chris thinks fuck!, and it's only in part because the possessiveness of the gesture goes straight to his groin. It's his job to know all kinds of things about werewolves, trivia that may or may not be helpful when hunting them, details about their behavior and their instincts and habits, and he understands what it means that Derek is scent-marking him like that. Maybe he understands it better than Derek does.
It scares him. A lot. But not as much as it probably should.
The first full moon after Allison was turned, Derek agrees to let Chris help handle it. They lock her into one of the holding cells underneath the Argent house – or rather, Derek does, because Chris can't bear to do this to his own daughter. She smiles a brittle smile and tells him she'll be okay, and even if both Chris and Derek know it's a lie, neither of them corrects her.
When she's secured and the door is locked between her and them, Derek turns to Chris, his jaw set and his voice steely. "No matter what happens, you will not go in there." He points his finger at Chris, like this is going to drive his point home, and it's all Chris can do not to roll his eyes at him. "This time, you're going to listen to me."
"Fine," Chris says, even though he knows he can't really make any promises.
"If it gets bad, call me," Derek tells him before he leaves to take care of the rest of his pack.
Chris doesn't go to sleep that night. He sits outside the heavy steel door with a tranquilizer gun at his feet, listening to the noises from inside getting progressively worse, and if he didn't think he might need a clear mind at some point tonight, he'd probably get drunk.
There's a heart-wrenching wail and a clash, and then he can't just sit there anymore, and he doesn't even think before he tears open the door and rushes in, gun drawn.
The first thing he notices is that the chains are broken and empty, and he expects Allison to come flying at him any second. When he finally spots her, though, she's huddled in a far corner of the room. Her eyes are yellow and her face is wolfed out and strained, but all things considered she looks... not okay, perhaps, but not like she's about to jump and tear his throat out either.
She growls, and he realizes his presence must be making it harder for her to keep the inner wolf at bay.
"I'll be outside," he tells her, aiming for soothing but unsure if he quite manages it.
Across the room, Allison makes a soft, almost purring sound that he interprets as assent.
When he opens the door five hours later, carrying a blanket and a bottle of water instead of the gun, he finds Allison sitting on the floor with her legs drawn up to her chest and her back against the wall, looking like her regular human self. Her smile when he comes in is a lot more genuine than the ghost of it that she offered him and Derek last night.
"Hey," she greets him in a hoarse voice, taking the blanket and quickly wrapping it around herself to cover her torn clothes.
"How—" Chris begins, but stops himself before he can finish the question. He wants to ask how she did it, how she didn't lose herself to her instincts, but to ask her what it was that made her strong enough to stop the wolf from taking over completely seems oddly invasive. After the night she had, she deserves all the privacy she can get. "Never mind, sorry."
Allison looks down at her feet and up again, her eyes flashing yellow. It's only because his hunter instincts are kicking in that Chris doesn't take a step back. He's glad for it because he doesn't want his daughter to think that he's scared of her. The yellow slowly bleeds away until her eyes return to their usual warm brown.
"Mum chose killing herself over turning into a wolf because she thought it was something that couldn't be controlled. I just—I needed to prove her wrong," she says firmly, and there is nothing he can say to that.
Later, after Allison has asked him if she could skip school today (and Chris is clearly failing at being a strict father just as much as he's failing at being a protocol-abiding hunter, because he only said, "sure, whatever you want") and left to check on the others, there's a noise from upstairs that makes Chris grab a gun before he goes to check it out.
Technically, he knows that werewolves will take any open window as an invitation. Even though he's never been able to prove it, he's sure that Scott was crawling in and out of Allison's window the entire time when they were not supposed to see each other. But it's a different thing knowing this, and actually finding Derek Hale standing in his bedroom.
Shaking his head, he lowers the gun. "Derek. Good of you to come by. Why don't you come inside?"
The smirk he receives in return makes Chris simultaneously want to punch him in the nose and jump him, which is probably a good thing because if it didn't cause such wildly conflicting urges but just one, he'd have no hope of resisting it.
"You shouldn't leave your window open. You never know what might get in."
Chris rolls his eyes and steps past Derek to close the window, which he knows Derek is probably going to take as an invitation to stay. It's all right though, because he wouldn't exactly be wrong.
"Allison is okay," Chris tells him, figuring that's probably why Derek is here.
"I know. She stopped by on her way before she went to see Scott."
He's not quite able to keep the frown off his face, and because Derek has all those hyper-perceptive werewolf senses and also because he's apparently become far too good at reading him, Derek picks up on it.
"You still don't approve, do you?"
"Not really, I just—" He knows Scott's a good guy, but irrational as it is, he wishes Allison could have something in her life that's normal and untouched by all this craziness, even if it's just for a while. "It doesn't matter. I don't exactly have much ground to stand on," he admits, offering Derek a wry smile and leaving it to him to interpret the words. Truth is, Chris can't really forbid his werewolf daughter to see a boy just because he's a werewolf. Even less since he's letting her Alpha climb into his bedroom window.
"Perhaps you don't have to worry about it," Derek says, and it appears that the ability to read the other goes both ways because there's a lightness to his tone, a nonchalance that Chris instantly realizes is utterly fake. "It might not last. These things rarely do."
Oh really, Chris thinks. It's rather obvious that it's not his betas' relationship Derek is making predictions about, and part of him wants to let Derek get away with the deliberately ambiguous statements and the way he's pretending not to be talking about what happened – what is happening– between them. But someone has to be the mature one, the one who's taking the risk and speaks things out, and it's obviously not going to be Derek.
"Are we still talking about Allison and Scott?"
"I don't know, are we?" Derek asks, fake smile stretching into a smirk and an edge of insolence creeping into his voice.
Chris just levels a glare at him, staring him down until Derek is the one who shuffles and averts his eyes, and the fact that Chris can do that, just like that without any threats or weapons or anything, makes the hunter in him feel a power rush like no other. It's short-lived, though, passing too quickly at the frustrated, almost pained tone of Derek's voice when he says, "I just don't know what this is. I didn't mean for this to happen."
"Really, Derek, and you think I did?" He's raising his voice even though he knows he shouldn't. He's old enough to know better and he's not the one who's running on instincts. He should be level-headed about this entire thing, but he can't, because Derek has this habit of making everything he thinks he should be and everything he should stand for crumble into pieces, and before he can stop himself, he's yelling. "You think I planned for any of this to happen? That I woke up one morning and thought, 'hey, how about I fall in love with an Alpha werewolf because that's going to make my life so much easier'?"
He stops short when he realizes what he's said. From the way Derek looks at him, wide-eyed and shell-shocked and a little broken, the words have already sunk in, and Chris can't really take them back. His tone is quieter when he adds, "Do you really believe that if I thought this was just some kind of temporary insanity, I would have let it happen? I wouldn't risk everything like that just to let off some steam."
And even though he knows he's putting himself out there, even though Derek looks like he's about to bolt, Chris isn't worried. Because if that's true for him, the same goes double for Derek. Perhaps Derek is failing pretty bad at being an Alpha, but he wouldn't compromise his position and his pack's safety by letting a hunter get this close. He might not be consciously aware of it, but on some deep instinctive level, he must know it, and even if he runs off now, Chris is fairly sure that he'll be back.
Derek doesn't run, though. "Fine," he grinds out.
"Could you sound any less happy about it?"
Derek sighs. "Chris, this may actually be the worst idea either of us had. We might just kill each other. And even if we don't, some crazy-ass bullshit is going to happen that's going to get us killed. We'll fight all the time and your hunter buddies will come for you and other wolves will challenge me because they think this thing between us means that I'm weak. But I'm..." He pauses, looks down and swallows, and when he looks up again, he meets Chris's gaze head-on. "I'm not unhappy."
From Derek, this is almost enthusiastic. It's not I'm happy, but it's already more than Chris expected, both in general and considering the way this conversation had been going. He nods and takes a step towards Derek, right into the Alpha's personal space.
"Okay," he says, firmly.
"Okay," Derek echoes, leaning in for a kiss.
Reviews are very much appreciated! :)