He feels a kind of relief when Cora gasps awake and stays that way. When a healthy flush settles back over her skin. When her hand grips his arm more tightly than he can grip hers. It's relief, but it doesn't crash into him, doesn't knock him over. Instead it laps at him as if waiting for circumstances to become a little more absolute before it'll commit.
Peter approaches them. Derek doesn't look around to see, but their uncle comes around to sit on the other side of the bed and takes Cora's other hand.
"How do you feel?" Peter asks her gently, looking to Derek with what might be concern.
"I – what did you do?" She asks them, but before Derek can try to answer or deflect, her eyes flit to his and they widen. She has her answer.
"Are you alright?" He asks, his voice rough from screaming. "Do you – can you feel any...weakness? Any coughing?"
She shakes her head and takes a deep breath, the first she's taken in too long.
"I don't know what happened but I think I'm okay for now. Are you?"
"Yeah. I'm okay." He says, and he's being honest. The pain, the loss of power, it's nothing when his baby sister is clutching his hand hard enough to hurt him. "I have to go."
"Jennifer has taken Chris Argent as the last sacrifice, the others are trying to stop her." Peter says.
"I told them I couldn't—wouldn't," Derek amends, "leave before you were healed. I told them. I didn't leave your side."
She smiles softly then, and her eyes have a sheen to them he hasn't seen in a very long time without anger or frustration being the cause. He wishes Laura could have been here to see this. To see their little sister, who'd always been so cynical and unimpressed, even as a child, to see her so open and genuine for just the briefest moment. Because of him.
"I'm fine now." Cora says resolutely. "I'll come with you. Help them find their parents."
"I don't think that's wise," Peter says, laying a hand on her shoulder when she tries to sit up.
"Peter's right. We don't know that what made you sick is really out of your system. Give yourself a couple of hours. If you're still feeling fine by then...we'll see." Cora looks ready to protest but miraculously doesn't. And with a nod to Peter, he knows their uncle will stay and make sure she's looked after.
"Be careful," Cora says, squeezing the hand she's still holding. Behind her words, he hears, don't get hurt, dumbass, and it makes him smile. With a last squeeze of her hand, he grabs his leather jacket and makes for the elevator.
As he presses the button for the main floor, he catches his reflection in the metallic panelling. His eyes are blue. Are still blue. Out of habit he means to close them, but he can't. He can't look away. He hasn't seen this shade of blue in nearly eight months. The blue he'd hated, the blue he'd had to learn to live with. The blue he'd never been able to let Laura see, especially after the fire.
And yet he's looking at them now and that wave, that rolling, roiling wave of relief finally crashes into him with such tremendous force that he loses his breath. He has to lean his hand against the wall of the elevator cabin to keep upright and centred because he feels so suddenly and swiftly unburdened that he might just fall over.
For eight months he'd had to pretend. Had to pretend to be someone worthwhile. Someone who could lead and protect.
For eight months his eyes had reflected the red that took care of a murderer and said nothing of the innocence he'd stolen.
For eight months he'd had looked in the mirror, unable to see Paige or his mother or the rest of the family he'd killed in his reflection and the memory of them had haunted him for it every single day.
Now, in the distorted silver-grey of the metal in front of him, he sees himself. He sees the things he's done and shouldn't be allowed to forget. He sees the blood on his hands and the flames at his back and it finally feels right.
He can finally stop pretending.
And as the doors of the elevator open onto the parking lot, he feels for the first time in nearly a year that he might just be able to find the strength to beat this.