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Derek and Laura, at the end of the road. Very loosely based on Eliot's "The Wasteland". Probably AU and certainly depressing. Non explicit dubcon, violence.

They were always supposed to run. Derek had known since he was six-- if the hunters came for them, and the adults were dead, they were supposed to run. They had always known this was a possibility. Derek had never believed it, and that was why most of his family was dead.

They waited for almost a week after the fire. Long enough to bury the dead, long enough to sit in a hospital waiting room and listen to a doctor tell them that Uncle Peter wasn't coming back, long to realize how very fucked they were.

Werewolves didn't buy life insurance, or long term care insurance; they didn't write wills or deposit money in banks. They didn't pay taxes. They didn't assimilate, they stayed out of the system as much as they could. They were prepared for anything but betrayal by one of their own.

They died and they didn't leave anything but land and half- burned houses and awkward questions. Laura and Derek drove south and east in Laura's ancient Jetta with the dangling fender and the five thousand dollars emergency money that was buried under the daffodils in the front yard. They sold the Jetta outside Tahoe and bought a Suburban. Derek didn't talk and Laura didn't notice.

They drifted north and east, paid cash or stole anything they needed, slept in the car or camped. Waited for a call from Peter that never came, for some kind of divine intervention, because they were always supposed to run, but it wasn't supposed to be forever. The thing about worst case scenarios is that no one ever plans for the end of the world without planning to survive it.

Laura was a shitty Alpha, too young, too green, and too grief-stricken to do more than survive from one day to the next. Derek was a worse Beta, caught up in his guilt, uninterested even in that much. They were in northern Ohio when she asked him about the fire, the weight of compulsion behind the words, asked him as his Alpha. Derek tore the inside of the car apart trying not to answer, which was answer enough.

After that neither of them talked; they drove west again, but still north, a stuttering arc across half the country. The summer was hot and dry and endless, the fields they passed full of yellowing and withered corn and wheat and barley.

In Couer d'Alene, Idaho, she asked him again and this time he ran. She left him.

It was what he deserved, what he'd wanted. He melted into the woods, let his wolf take control.
The air was thinner than he was used to, and it burned his lungs when he ran. The sun came weakly through the stunted pine trees and cast odd shadows on the rocky ground. It was beautiful, and lonely, far more than he deserved and exactly what he needed.

He had been raised as a human, in most of the ways that mattered. He had gone to school, played with human children, eaten food bought at a grocery store, worn clothing, lived by human rules. Now that slipped away from him, a little at a time. He learned to hunt, to eat the things he killed, to sleep when he was tired, wherever he found himself.

He crossed from Idaho into Montana, alone and on foot and in the snow. He broke into cars at rest stops and stole a coat, gloves, boots, candy bars and sodas and a sleeping bag. He ate from trash cans and dumpsters sometimes, when game got scarce; he drank from streams and puddles and learned to melt snow in a plastic bag under his clothes.

He was cold and hungry and gloriously happy, that first winter. In the spring he learned to catch fish in his hands in a river still crusted with ice. He ate rabbits and brought down an elk and ran from a bear. He kept nothing he could not carry, lived without fire, speech, company of any kind. Laura was in his mind, constant as a star, a steady light somewhere far to the east. Peter was much closer, much dimmer, a guttering candle that never quite burned out.

Derek loved them, but he did not miss them. Being alone was both punishment and a chance to heal. The smoke he had never quite stopped smelling blew away in the bitter wind. The dreams came every third night, every fifth; he forgot what it was like to wake screaming. He had seen Kate Argent in the face of every women that he met, in the shape of his sister's strong hands and the swell of her breasts. Now it was only the dead who haunted him, who ran at his side when he hunted, who howled when the moon was full.

It was not precisely peace. And by the time winter came again he had begun to miss the sound of voices, the warmth of other bodies. Wolves, and humans, were not meant to be alone. This winter was colder still, but he did not quite starve, and in the spring he walked until he found a road that pointed the way he wanted to go.

Somewhere outside Kalispell he climbed in an unlocked window and walked out with thirty dollars in cash, a shirt and jeans that almost fit, a razor and soap and a ragged duffel bag. Only a born werewolf could have done it, and perhaps not even a born werewolf without an Alpha, but Derek folded the wolf away and became something close to human again.

The coldness of winter would always be with him, the weight of his guilt, the distance of the stars. He had gone too far to come all the way back. But he could pass, when he was clean and somewhat better fed, and when he put out his thumb a trucker stopped to pick him up.

Derek had seen his own face in a mountain stream, and had not recognized it. He managed something that might have been a smile when he climbed into the rig. The driver talked, and he answered when he had to. He had lost the habit of human speech, his words unnatural. This was what he was giving up: running alone under trees that had stood while ten generations of Hale werewolves were born and lived and died, the scent of wind untainted by car exhaust and cooking and human bodies, the silence of a world in which he was the biggest and most dangerous predator.

He wasn't sure it was worth it, but he knew if he waited much longer he would never go back. And balanced against it was the weight of Laura, of Pack, the warm gold presence in the back of his mind that he could never quite escape. “Pack is where you go, and they have to take you in,” his uncle Peter had said once, a little ruefully. That was what Derek wanted more than anything. Not forgiveness, which was too much to ask, but to belong to something, to have someone else to make decisions for him and give him orders.

There were only so many miles Derek could ride for free before he ended up on his knees behind an all night truck stop, but in a way that was what he wanted, too. It should have been up to Laura, as his Alpha, to punish him. But he already knew he couldn't tell her, would never be able to bring himself to tell her. This was a way he could punish himself.

That his wolf did not want it, his wolf that had panted after Kate, welcomed the pain she gave him, made it all the sweeter. Even an Alpha could not have forced him to do what he forced on himself. The fat trucker was the first, but there were others in the weeks that followed.

None of them made him feel the way Kate had. None of them made him feel much of anything at all. They hadn't made him love them; they hadn't burned his immediate family to death. Being fucked by them was like rolling in something dead. Afterward he felt disgusting, but it was only skin deep. And it got him where he needed to go.

And then in Michigan, Andrew picked him up. He was different from the others, younger and fitter, with a silver Corvette and a silver belt buckle and lizardskin boots. He hurt Derek in ways that Kate hadn't thought of, or that were too unsubtle for her. He hurt him in ways that would have killed a human, and he left him somewhere in southern Georgia, farther from Laura than ever, behind a dumpster in an alley.

Derek woke up with his jeans around his knees, sticky with blood, broken fingers and smashed cheekbones, reeking of garbage and raw meat. For the first time since Beacon Hills he wanted Laura-- not in the way a wolf wants its Alpha but in the way a child wants his sister-- not for protection or guidance but for comfort.

But all he had of her was the sense of her presence, the way a compass needle senses true north. He could spin blindly and end pointing toward her but he had no way to find her from where he was. His wolf was waiting; it could have tracked Andrew by scent across concrete if he had let it, torn out his throat in a single bite. Forbidden vengeance it dreamed only of escape, and Derek's ruined hands moved in the dirt as if he were running through snow again, with nothing before him but endless winter.

When he opened his eyes again it was dark, and he was almost healed. He had nothing left, no money, no clothing, no way to find food or shelter in a city he didn't know. He washed the blood away in a gas station bathroom, careful not to let anyone see him. He stole a battered gym bag from a man waiting for a bus, and he started walking north toward Laura.

This time there were no rides, no sex. He stayed away from people as much as he could, kept the hood of his stolen sweatshirt pulled up to hide his face, shoplifted food from convenience stores when he could and went hungry when he couldn't. He kept the wolf buried deep, and it stayed willingly. He thought it might hate him as much as he hated himself.

Derek slept during the day, under the trees on the edge of rural highways, the roar of cars always with him. He kept his eyes on the ground, careful now as a soldier in a field of landmines. He felt his mother's hand in his, sometimes, heard his father's voice, smelled the baby powder softness of youngest brother and cousin. But he dreamed always of Kate, and he woke hard and aching and sick.

It seemed to take forever and no time at all, but the leaves were changing by the time he crossed into New York. He almost turned back at the edge of the bridge into the city. Laura was so close he could imagine hearing the beat of her heart on the other side, and in the end he went. It was more than a mile, and he ran across it just before it closed at midnight, a strange shambling figure in ragged filthy clothes and worn out sneakers.

He was so close to Laura now that he couldn't find her. It felt as though she was everywhere. He wondered if she could sense him, and if she could, if she was looking for him. All this time he had spent coming to her, while she stayed in place-- he had to wonder if she wanted to see him, or if she was waiting in the manner of an Alpha-- waiting for Derek to crawl to her so that she could rip out his heart.

It was the kind of thing he should have thought of a thousand miles ago, three thousand miles ago. He never thought, they wouldn't be here if he ever thought.

New York was all iron and asphalt, and wolves weren't meant to live in cities. Derek couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, couldn't think of anything but Laura. Couldn't think how to find her, or even summon the humanity to ask for help. He walked aimlessly for days, a thin, hunched figure growing thinner.

He caught her scent in Williamsburg, in the hour just before dawn, and it was so familiar that he turned despite himself. She still smelled of home, of California trees and grass and sun, so different from where he was and where he'd been. He was a hunter, but not a hound, and her trail wasn't strong enough to follow.

Instead he denned close by, in the shelter of a dumpster, and waited. His wolf had risen to take control and it made him eat, scraps from the trash that it recognized as food. It wanted to live, even if Derek wasn't sure. The next night he saw her, going into a small dark bar across the street, the center of a small group of people. She looked happy, healthy, beautiful, but he saw when she smelled him. Her stride broke, and her head came up, and her eyes flashed. For a sliver of a second she was not the laughing girl but the Alpha werewolf of one of the oldest packs in America.

He waited, tense, not sure if he should go to her, but then she turned away and went inside as if nothing had happened and he sank back down. He was shivering, or the wolf was, but with anticipation and not fear. He wanted this over.

People went in and out. It rained. Finally Laura came out, alone, not wearing her coat. She crossed the street, moving straight to him, and stopped at the entrance to the alley. “Derek,” she said, and he scrambled toward her on his hands and knees, whining.

When he was in front of her he tipped his head and bared his throat to her, submitting willingly and gladly. If she turned away, he wouldn't follow. If she turned on him he wouldn't fight. He wanted her to take his choices from him, because he was tired of ruining everything he touched, tired of being broken and alone.

“Derek,” she said again, and her fingers smoothed the line of his throat before she reached down and took his hands and pulled him to his feet.

A man came out of the bar. “Laura?”, he called. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah,” Laura answered. “Everything's fine.” Her eyes were filled with tears, but she was smiling. “Everything's better than fine.”


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February 2015

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