Light floods my vision and my chest burns as I gasp for air, pulling my body up into a sitting position as I ride out the waves of pain coursing through my chest. I hear a similar sound through the thudding in my ears coming from my right, a deep rattling inhale of long-needed oxygen filling Derek's lungs as we both turn and stare at each other.
The only thing I'm able to notice before people start rushing in the small entrance to the exam room is the tattered and bloody shirt stretching across a lean, muscular, fully healed torso. Our hands instinctually reach out for each other as our friends pile in the room, yelling and crying and hugging, but I only hear Derek's smooth voice floating across the space between cold metal tables and enthusiastic pack members.
"You look so much like her."
I give him a smile that could melt gold.
"She is so beautiful. Just like you."
He squeezes my hand at my words, something shining in his eyes that I had never seen before in him.
I mentally whisper my thanks to Talia, assuming that she had spoken to him about the fire and finally abolished him of his long-standing guilt. It didn't take a genius to figure that one out; he looks more relaxed and happy than I've ever seen him.
Then again, I'm sure I'm mirroring his expressions exactly.
I run my thumb across his knuckles gently before dropping his hand, finally allowing myself to pay attention to my surroundings. Scott is squeezing me in a supernaturally-strong embrace, Allison and Lydia both have hands on my shoulder, and Deaton is shining a penlight in my eyes, attempting to see past the flare of my reflective retinas.
Derek is being embraced by Cora, HARD, while Peter is staring at him from behind, trying (and failing) to hide the actual emotions of happiness from flitting across his face. Isaac has his hands on Derek's lower thigh, holding on as if he were afraid to ever let go again.
It takes a few minutes of the loving affection, but finally I'm able to speak.
"What happened after… after…" I find that I can't finish the sentence, not because of the memory of my death itself but mainly because it seemed almost unthinkable to imply that it was a bad thing when it led to… well, what it led to.
Deaton is the first to speak up. "After Deucalion broke your back and neck and severed your spinal cord, you fell to the floor and your heart stopped beating. I didn't know what had happened until all of the wolves suddenly stopped and stared at you."
Scott speaks up next, his voice cracking slightly as he elaborates. "It was deafening, Stiles. It felt like the room temperature dropped ten degrees." He buries his face into my shoulder as Allison rubbed his and my back simultaneously before piping up.
"Even the humans could feel it, Stiles. You and Derek, lying side by side like you were on the floor… It actually made the Alphas pause too for a brief second. But that was all we needed. Scott rushed Deucalion, and fought him while my father and I took out Aiden and Kali." She pauses a moment, taking a deep breath to lower her steadily increasing heart rate. "He held him still just long enough for Peter to rip his head off."
With that, I snap my head over to Peter at the same exact time Derek does. I open my mouth to speak but Derek beats me to it. "So you're an Alpha again?" I can hear something in his voice, not fear exactly… more like understandably intense trepidation.
Peter only chuckles as he pats Derek on the shoulder. "Unfortunately for me, my whole 'use a banshee/human girl to raise me from the dead' campaign prevented me from gaining any of his power." I can hear, rather than see Lydia shudder slightly at his words. Peter shot her a seemingly-sincere apologetic look before continuing. "Apparently one of the side effects of being a were-zombie is that I'll never gain back more power than I was given in my re-birth." He allows his eyes to flash blue, reiterating the fact that he's still a beta.
Derek and I both audibly sigh with relief. It's not that Peter hasn't actually been proving himself to us all time and time again, because he has. It's just that… well, it's Peter. Some things are just too difficult to overlook.
"So what happened after the fight?"
Deaton finished his check-up on Derek before turning around, poising his lips in a straight line and grimacing slightly. "We all came over to you two as Chris took it upon himself to dispose of the other bodies. I checked for pulses." Deaton looks behind me, and I turn my head to see Chris Argent standing in the doorway, curtly nodding his head at Deaton. "Scott picked you up, Stiles, while Isaac lifted Derek. They walked you two all the way here. They didn't even let us drive them."
I give Scott's hand a small squeeze on my shoulder and smile at him warmly. His return smile is as goofy as ever, but the sadness I can see in his eyes behind the plastered up-curve of his lips sobers me immediately.
"They brought you in here. Your hearts never restarted…" Even Deaton has to take a breath now to steady his emotions. Huh. "Scott and Cora had just finished their goodbyes and walked back into the waiting room when we heard you both wake up. It was… shocking, to say the least. You had been dead for so long."
"You always had a flair for the dramatic, little nephew." Peter punches Derek on the shoulder, albeit much lighter than he usually would have. His smile drooped though, something in his eyes shifting before he suddenly wrapped Derek up into an extremely uncharacteristic hug. "You scared the shit out of me."
More hugs ensued on both sides of the room at Peter's confession, and surprisingly even Mr. Argent gave me a strong squeeze from the side. The hug-fest was much shorter than the last interlude though, because everyone suddenly turned their questions to me about my kidnapping and their other ones to Derek about how he found me.
Emotions swelled up in me as I remember watching the way Deucalion's claws slashed through Derek's chest and heart like butter. I do my best to choke out answers, but it's getting difficult to breathe under all the memories. Before I know it I'm pulled up into Derek's lap, and his fingers are running through my hair in a very soothing manner.
Scott, God bless his little puppy ass, began shuffling everyone out of the room to give us privacy while Derek whispered reassurances into my ear. I only speak up after I hear everyone leave the clinic and gather in the parking lot to talk amongst themselves.
"I miss her already, Derek. So much."
His lips press gently against my ear, whispering softly so only I can hear. "I know. I miss my mother too."
My heart twists painfully as I wrap my arms around his neck, leaning in and burying my face deeper into his neck. "I'm so glad though. So glad I got to see her again; glad I got to meet your mother… Glad my mother met you. She already loves you, you know."
His lips curl up against my ear, a small chuckle escaping his lips before his breath tickled my cheek again. "My mom considers you part of her pack. I think she loves you more than I do."
I give him a little shove at that, genuinely grinning when he smiles and presses his soft lips against mine and moves. His tongue gently swipes across my lower lip, slowly parting my mouth until his tongue sweeps gently across the tip of mine.
Before I know what's happening I'm being pulled over his lap, straddling his hips over the table as he clutches me against his chest like a lifeline. There's nothing sexual about our position, only absolute security and understanding and love that's burning like a fire in my heart as I tuck his head into my chest, deeply inhaling the woodsy scent of his skin as he keeps me pinned to him.
"I am so deeply, deeply in fucking love with you Stiles. And I'm so sorry for all of the shit that I've put you through this last month. I should have been there… I should have protected you-"
I do the only thing I can think of to get him to stop talking, to stop apologizing for something already so long ago forgiven.
The kiss is excruciating, simply for the fact that I knew it would have to stop eventually and it honestly hurt to think of my lips separating from his at any point in the near future. But all too soon it's over, and Derek gently pulls away before the rest of my pack streams back into the room to laugh and cry and talk some more.
My pack. I look around at each of them individually: Isaac, with an arm around Cora's shoulder as he stood in front of me talking. Cora, pretending to hate the contact but betraying herself with the blush slowly creeping into her cheeks. Allison, swinging her legs over the table where she sat next to me, listening to something Peter was saying as Scott rested between her legs. Scott, absentmindedly rubbing both mine and Allison's shins while trying to tone down the huge grin shining on his face. Lydia, deep in conversation with Mr. Argent about something, taking a moment to wink at me and smile one of the most genuine smiles I had ever seen from her beautiful face. Deaton, still checking me and Derek out to try and make sense of what happened. And even Peter, holding up the conversation in such a non-creepy and engaging way that I decide I need to rethink my reservations on forgiving him.
And finally Derek. Derek, the man I couldn't be crazier about. The only person who could truly match me sarcastic remark to sarcastic remark, wit to wit, love to love. The man who died for me, who put up with me, who loves me in ways no one else ever would.
I can't stop staring into his eyes, remembering how they looked with the gold shining so intensely in our own personal heaven. He is so beautiful, an actual smile plastered across his face as he stares back at me.
As he wraps his arms tighter around me, I feel a warm breath of air brushing over my neck as he lets out a content hum into my skin.
"I'm never leaving you again, Stiles. I swear. I love you."
And with that, I just know things are going to be okay.
Seven Years Later-
"Derek, look at her. She's… She's perfect."
I can't keep the crack of emotions out of my voice as I hold our baby girl in the hospital, once a place that meant only death to me but now a place that holds more than love. A tear slides down his face as I hand her over gently, careful not to wake her as I lay her in his sturdy arms.
"I think we should name her Claudia."
My breath hitches as he says those words, indescribable emotions welling up in my chest as I clutch him to me, sandwiching our perfect baby girl in between our bodies.
"Claudia Laura Hale."
He snaps his head up to look at me, his eyes barely containing the tears threatening to spill down his cheeks.
I lean down and kiss her on the forehead before pressing my lips to Derek's, giving him his emotional release as hot tears drift on to my cheeks from his own.
"No one will ever love her more, Stiles."
"No one," I agree.
"Derek, you can't rip his throat out because he stood her up for prom. And trust me, I want to hunt him down as bad as you do. But we can't."
Derek sighs from beside me, Claudia's sleeping body curled up in his arms, still in her dress.
"Can you at least arrest him?"
"Maybe an overnight stay in a cell… I'll see if I can get anything on him."
He grunts, planting a soft kiss on her temple as he wipes a tear from her face.
"Fine. But if you can't find anything, I'm at least going to chase him full-wolf."
I snicker slightly at the image. "Yeah, fine. As long as you record it for her to watch."
He smiles down at her. "She'd definitely like that."
"Takes after your sick sense of humor, after all."
He playfully flicks my ear at the fake insult and gets up to take her to her room as I stare after them with nothing but absolute fondness and admiration spilling out from my heart.
"Come on baby, you got this, PUSH!"
Goddamn, she can squeeze hard for a human.
I take as much pain away as I can from one side while Derek does the same with her other hand, and in four more minutes I'm staring into the green eyes of our first grandson.
Derek leans down and gives Claudia a kiss on the cheek as Talia holds the baby to the side for a moment.
"You did so good, sweetheart."
She looks up at us both and grins with all of her teeth.
"Yeah, I did, didn't I?"
Hell yeah you did, is all I can think when it's finally my turn to hold baby Scott.
Many Years Later-
I softly squeeze the wrinkled hand in mine, looking into the clear green eyes of my soul mate lying next to me in bed. His eyes keep flashing red, a last ditch (failing) effort of his wolf to heal his body of the demons of old age.
His reply is weaker than it had been an hour ago, but then again I suppose mine is too.
"Stiles." It's barely a whisper, pressing out of his throat with most of the energy he has left.
Hands are putting slight pressure all down my body. Claudia clutches my other hand gingerly, while Talia and John hold on to Derek.
I tilt my head slightly, looking back at my three children and their children and even one of Claudia's grandchildren. They look up at me, eyes wide and scared, as I turn back and look at Derek.
His breathing has become uneven, shallow and raspy in the dim evening sunlight. "Derek, it's almost time."
I hear a few of the children let out cries and sobs at my words, but all I can feel is an overwhelming sense of peace.
"Stiles… she's gonna kick your ass… for getting me into so much trouble… you know that right?"
I let out a weak chuckle, feeling heavy and sleepy as my heart begins to slow. "She'll roll out the welcome wagon… and you know it…"
I manage a weak smile at our children before my eyes begin to close, lidding halfway down as I squeeze his hands again.
"I know, Stiles."
I give him the best grin I can before I close my eyes and allow my heart to stop beating.
"Hello, baby. Glad you finally made it."
"Yeah, took you long enough kiddo. But damn, thank you for giving us some cute grandkids."
Derek's young, firm hand squeezes mine in support from my left. Slowly, I open my eyes and let the white light and familiar faces in front of me flood my vision as I take a step forward, breathing in the scents of mother and father and husband and pack long since passed away and home.
Thank you all SO much for sticking with me on this! I hoped you loved reading it as much as I loved writing it. I've had so much fun with this, but now it's time for me to do some work on new projects. I have a new Sterek fiction in the process, so keep an eye out for when it gets posted! I love you all so much, your reviews and follows and favorites inspired me to write this every day. Keep being as awesome as you are!