Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize. Lyrics belong to Christina Perri.
A/N: Well, I have no excuse. Did NaNoWriMo – that killed me most of November, but other than that – I have literally no excuse. Sorry and once again, thank you for being such awesome readers.
Special shout-out to everyone who hit me up on tumblr, asking if I was continuing this. Each one flooded me with guilt and also inspiration and a desire to give you what you wanted. So, here it is!
Big Ugly Lofts
I know I can't take one more step towards you
Cause all thats waiting is regret
Don't you know I'm not your ghost anymore
You lost the love I loved the most
I learned to live, half alive
And now you want me one more time
When Derek glanced at her for the third time in five minutes, Paige knew that it wasn't doing any of them any good to be cooped up like this. After Isaac's phone call, they had opted to lay low and stay in Peter's living room until such time as the rest of the team could reconvene. But the tension was too thick to deal with.
"So, one of the alpha's is in fact dead?" Paige spoke up. Peter was situated on a recliner, tapping away at his computer.
"If Kali's howl of anguish was any indication of Ennis's demise, then the answer is yes," Peter responded. "One down, four more to go. Well, three if the twins decide to do their weird combining thing."
"It's creepy," Cora said. "I've never heard of that being possible."
"It is," Peter assured her. "You were probably just too young to hear about it."
Cora glared at Peter. Paige glanced between the two and then looked over at Derek. He was frowning and it occurred to Paige that this was the first time all of the Hales were alone – well, if Paige wasn't part of the equation. She had basically decided not to be a part of that equation, anyway. With that thought she glanced down at her lap to keep her face neutral.
Maybe, if things hadn't ended up like they had with Derek, she would have been excited, or at least anxious, to be in a room full of Derek's family members. Sure, one had bitten her and turned her into a werewolf, only to try to kill her a few times and the other had been missing for a long while, but Paige would have liked the symbolism. She was linked with this man forever – for better or for worse. And she knew she would probably never be able to sit comfortably in a room with her parents and Derek at the same time – he would never be a member of her family now that her parents were convinced that he had poisoned her mind. Their only chance for a true extended family experience would come through the Hales.
But now… she wasn't excited. Wasn't anxious. She was suffocating and abruptly she stood. Apparently, her recovery wasn't as far along as she had hoped and she swooned a little bit. Derek was at her side in a moment, steadying her.
Paige barely spared him a look before gently removing herself from his grip.
"I'm going to get some air," she told the group.
"Wouldn't suggest that," Peter piped up. Paige glared at him.
"I'll be right outside," Paige argued.
"It only took them a few minutes to snatch you the first time," Derek reminded her.
She flashed back to her GED test date – those dumb alpha twins who had snuck up on her. She almost snarked that it had taken two to bring her down – but then she recalled that there were still at least three alphas still in town. One twin was without his other half – according to Isaac – and Deucalion was blind – but that didn't mean that that made them any less dangerous. According to Derek, Deucalion was the strongest of them.
"Agh," she groaned, throwing herself back down on the couch. Little black dots swam in front of her vision, but she blinked them away.
"Sorry my apartment doesn't accommodate your vast needs," Peter mocked.
"I have work tomorrow," she reminded him. "Am I supposed to just hide in here forever?"
"You have a job?" Derek asked, suddenly.
"Yes," she replied, exasperated. Her boss was a nice lady but Paige didn't want to get on her bad side. She knew from her distant relatives that the Irish could have a nasty temper.
When Paige didn't expand on her new employment, Derek asked another question, "Why did you get a job?"
"Because Peter expected rent," she snapped, more brutally then she intended. "And I had living expenses."
Derek shot a look at Peter, but his uncle didn't even bother to glance up from his computer. Paige knew the man was making money, but she had no idea how – not that she really had any desire to know. But she did often wonder just how illegal his business was. "You made her pay rent?" Derek demanded.
"I'm not a boarding house for wayward werewolves unless my life is also as stake," Peter replied smoothly.
"She's basically family," Derek argued.
This time, Peter did look up. His fingers paused as well, tapping absently on the arm of the recliner. "She's the mate you basically disowned," Peter reminded him. "Not family – not according to you." There was ice in his words and Paige turned to him, startled. He almost sounded… defensive – for her sake.
The alpha had no response but his eyes did briefly make contact with Paige's, then he abruptly glanced away.
"So where are you working, Paige?" Cora broke the ice. Sometimes Paige was uneasy around the girl, and sometimes she just wanted to smother the girl in kisses and hugs. Even Peter began to start typing again.
"Patty'," Paige said.
"Ah, I had dinner there a few days ago," Cora said. "They have pretty good food. Surprised I didn't see you there."
"I work days," she clarified. "Figured it'd be easier to get the full moons off that way."
Cora nodded in appreciation. "If we survive all this, I'll probably need to get a job too. Unless you want to give me an allowance." She addressed that last part of Derek with a cheeky grin.
"You should be focusing on school," Derek said. Then he turned his attention to Paige. "And you should be focusing on the GED."
"Yeah…" Paige shrugged. "I'll get around to it. If we survive this."
His eyes darkened after that last comment and he crossed his arms.
"I always enjoy your bright outlook," Peter chimed in.
"Cora started it," Paige pouted. A dizzy spell waved over her and she leaned farther back into the seat cushion. Instantly, Derek reached out and pressed a hand to her forehead. His hand felt cool but logically Paige knew that he had had them stuffed between his chest and arms – his hands should be radiating warmth from the body heat.
"You have a fever," Derek said.
"Residual energy from healing you," Peter speculated. His typing hadn't stopped, but it had slowed.
"How long will it last?" Derek asked. Paige tried not to think about the fact that his hand had slipped down from her forehead and was cupping her cheek tenderly. She especially tried not to think about the last time he had done that.
They had just had sex. He had been lying on top of her, still inside of her, his head resting in the crook of her neck. Paige had slid a hand up from the curve of his ass cheek, along the sculpted plains of his back, and buried her fingers into his dark hair. Derek had pushed himself up, slipping from her. Maybe he had seen the look of longing on her face now that her body had lost his or maybe he himself was craving physical contact. Without a word, he pressed his big paw of a hand against her cheek and she had leaned into the touch.
Abruptly, she pulled herself from the memory and from his touch.
Peter made eye contact with her and then shrugged at Derek. "No clue," he admitted. "Probably a few hours."
"You're making that up," Derek accused, not unkindly.
"I'm estimating," Peter snarked back. "I've only heard tales about what happened between you two." A sarcastic smirk slid across his face. "Your love is the stuff of legends."
"I don't trust you. I never have and I never will."
Paige winced and glanced away. How could that even begin to be true when he didn't trust her?
Suddenly, she stood up and was grateful when she didn't immediately tip over. With grace she was utterly faking, she strode to the door. "Need a breather," she explained. "If they try to kidnap me again, you'll hear me scream." Derek stood up and opened his mouth to argue. "Please," Paige tried. Slowly, his mouth shut and his jaw flexed – but he sat back down.
She took her time going down the stairs. There was… a lot to think about. Derek had been nothing except nurturing and gentle with her since she had returned. But that didn't stop the constant nagging in her heart. Everything he had told her, everything he had said to push her away just kept coming to the forefront of her mind. It was especially difficult when she was with him, could see him, could feel his skin on hers and then those words would wrap around her brain.
Some part of her, upon review, knew that he had probably exaggerated, maybe even lied. She knew that. She understood it. She had just been… some dog he was throwing things at to shoo away for her own good.
And for a while she had been wondering why she couldn't just accept that he was doing what he thought was best for her. She wondered why she couldn't just brush what he had said off as lies.
But now, after almost losing him, after almost becoming the alpha of a werewolf pack, she knew the answer. She had come so far. Looking back at just half a year earlier, she recalled the kind of person she had been. There was a reason she and pre-bitten Erica had gotten along so well – they were both awkward, shy, social outcasts. Paige hadn't been anything exceptional. She hadn't thought of herself as strong, or resourceful, or pretty.
Now she did. But all of those revelations had begun after she had encountered Derek. When she had first met the man, he had been so intimidating she had pressed herself up against the lockers of the high school and cowered. He had glanced at her and looked at her as though she was a freak.
Over the course of knowing him, hanging out with him, she had been bitten and had transformed into more than just a werewolf: she'd become a strong young woman who was confident in her beauty. That was how she felt now – even after cutting her hair so short. She felt sophisticated and classy. And some part of her was hoping that those feelings weren't tied to Derek, that without him her confidence would crumble.
When Derek had told her all those things, it didn't matter how self-confident she had been. In that moment, she had been brought back to the timid, weak person she had once been. She was that girl again – pressed against the lockers, like her personal growth had meant nothing.
Even now, she was brought back to every doubt she had ever felt about her relationship with Derek. She was the girl being told her lover could never trust her. She was the girl being told her lover never wanted to have children with her. She was the girl being told her lover had bound them together forever without telling her. And not for the first time, she wondered if she would be happier if she had never gone to return those movies that one night.
Leaning against the doorframe, she closed her eyes and enjoyed the fresh air. It had been a breezy day like this one, the day Derek had told her he loved her.
She had ingrained that day in her memory so fondly…
Not for the first time, a lock of light brown hair got caught in her mouth. Paige gasped, and yanked her hair out of her mouth, finally conceding that a hair tie could really benefit her right now.
"You could just close the window," Derek suggested.
"I'm part dog," Paige shot back. "I feel at peace when the wind is blowing in my face."
"Part wolf," Derek reminded her, withering at her joke. One day she'd train him to take a joke. He was, after all, part dog as well.
Paige howled out the window, bracing her hands on the window and sticking her head clear out of the Camaro.
Derek yanked her back in and gently pushed her back into her seat. "Sometimes I think you're a puppy," Derek teased.
"Better invest in some puppy pads," Paige joked. "I don't think I'm potty-trained just yet and I'd hate to stink up the loft before we've really broken it in."
Her mate had just rolled his eyes and turned his focus back on the road.
Once again, a wad of hair blew into her face and Paige groaned. "I should have remembered that damn hair tie," she said. Derek didn't reply because she talking more to herself than anything else. Something occurred to her. "Aren't you glad you didn't trade this in?"
"Oh, come on," Paige sighed. "Admit it – you would have hated giving up the Camaro. This car is like… it's like a part of you. I can't believe you'd ever consider getting rid of it."
"It's not good for the pack," Derek argued back. It was an old excuse. Derek had decided the Camaro wasn't big enough or efficient enough to support the pack. At the time, he'd been planning on finding both Erica and Boyd alive. But in all honesty, there wasn't a need anymore. Boyd and Erica hadn't been found and Derek had already invested in Paige's car. There was more than enough room in the Prius for Isaac, Paige and Derek.
"Yeah, but it's your baby," Paige pat the dashboard affectionately. She was a bit nervous saying that word, given all they had talked about in terms of kids, but Derek didn't flinch.
"It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make," Derek responded.
Paige remained silent for a moment. "You're so willing to give up things that are important to you for the sake of this pack," she mused. "It's something I love about you." Another chunk of hair smacked her in the face and she cursed, brushing the hair out of her face aggressively.
"The fact that you are too stubborn to close the window even though you know your hair is just going to keep doing that is something I love about you," Derek mused.
At first Paige chuckled, but then the words melted into her brain a bit more deeply. "You…" she stuttered out. "Did you just…?"
"Yeah," Derek shrugged. "I guess I did."
"Can…" she trailed off and glanced out the window.
When she didn't continue, Derek pressed, "Can, what?"
"Can you…" she paused once more and then finally pressed forward. "Can you – would you be willing to say it… properly?"
Her heartbeat sped up as nervousness gripped her. But then she noted the smile playing on his face. She knew this man – he had probably decided he loved her a week or so ago but was waiting for a special occasion to say it. Either it had slipped out now and he had decided to just roll with it or he had planned to slip it in somewhere to throw her off her game.
"You're an ass," she snapped.
"And I love you," he simply replied.
Paige had admired the way his lips easily lifted into a smile as he said those words. The way the breeze played with his hair and the sun lit up his beautiful, expressive eyes.
In her minds eye, he glanced over at her and his smile only widened. And then suddenly, he was no longer just in her minds eye – Derek was right in front of her. His stubble was thicker and the bags under his eyes were deeper. There were more lines around his eyes and he looked older.
For a moment, he just gaped at her.
"Your heart rate sped up," he explained.
Paige gestured around and told him, "I'm obviously fine."
He nodded quickly and made to go back upstairs. Suddenly, he paused on turned back to her. "Paige…" he began.
"Save it," she snapped. An idea burst into her brain and before she could even begin to think it over, the idea manifested itself right out of her mouth. "After this is all over, I'm going to Chicago."
She didn't know what she expected – him to put up a fight, argue with her, try to convince her to stay. But that would have made everything so much harder. Instead, he did the easiest thing for both of them: he nodded. He nodded and went back up the stairs.
A tear slid down her cheek and she quickly brushed it away. She wouldn't cry. Not anymore.
Maybe she had put too much on her relationship with Derek – too much of herself was riding on Derek. And that didn't leave a lot of room for her to be whoever she wanted to be. Calmly, she brushed another tear away. Yes, she would go to Chicago after these alphas had been handled – and this darach, apparently. Maybe she'd die in the process, maybe Derek would die and her problem would be solved. But if they both lived, she would leave and go back to live with her parents and Wyatt.
They were mated – bound for life. Neither could take another mate. So maybe they'd stumble upon each other later in life when they'd both grown. Maybe Paige would return to Beacon Hills later when she had finally established herself separately from Derek.
Or maybe, she'd pass the GED in Chicago, go to university there, meet a nice human man and fall in love. It wouldn't be nearly as passionate and fiery as her first love and she couldn't imagine a man more handsome than Derek. But, she'd be happy and he would tell her he loved her without any conditions or prompting and he'd get along well with her parents and be overjoyed she had their first child. By that time she'd have to tell him about her condition – but she'd keep her she-wolf under wraps well enough that no hunters would come to bother them. It would be peaceful and quiet and nice.
Two more tears fell before she finally allowed her heart to steel over enough to go back inside. Her decision was final.
Finally the cross-country boys were back from their trip. They reconvened at the loft. Isaac gave Derek a cautious hug and Boyd gave him a pat on the back. Scott graced him with a significant nod and Stiles smiled. Paige frowned, recalling a time when Stiles had actively hoped Derek was dead or actively tried to make him dead.
Scott recalled the events that had transpired at the motel and Derek had nodded thoughtfully.
"You said the alpha twin was also affected?" Paige asked.
"He nearly chainsaw-ed himself in half," Stiles piped up.
"And you stopped him?"
Stiles shrugged. "We were all a little flustered."
"And Danny really likes him," Scott threw in.
Paige nodded and hummed thoughtfully.
"What?" Boyd pressed.
"If the darach is behind your attack in the motel and also attacked a member of the alpha pack…" Paige trailed off.
"You think the darach must not be working for the alphas, then," Scott finished for her. Paige blinked at him, surprised that he would make that connection. Sometimes she forgot that he wasn't an idiot.
"Or," Paige allowed, "The darach was just careless and included him by default, or the alphas were looking for a reason to get rid of that particular member and the darach was killing two birds with one stone." She shrugged. "We don't have enough information."
"Why would the alphas have a reason to kill Ethan?" Isaac asked.
"No clue," Stiles sighed. "Anything's possible right now."
After that, the conversation quickly winded down. Isaac was offered his room back – not by Paige, she didn't feel like she had much jurisdiction here anymore – but he turned it down. Quietly, everyone else filtered out. Peter lingered briefly, giving Paige a very distinctive look. When she shook her head, he knew she was returning to live in the loft and would no longer need to bunk at his place.
Cora glanced between Paige and Derek before retiring to her own room.
"I'll take the couch," Paige offered.
"Please," Derek breathed. "You're still weak – you should take the bed."
"Derek," she sighed. "Take the bed."
"You pay rent on this place," she snapped, her voice rising abruptly. She startled both herself and Derek. Even Cora paused whatever she was doing in her room – Paige could hear the rustle of her clothing cease. "You… you take the bed," she concluded and stalked off to the couch.
And in that moment she knew Derek realized why she had chosen to get a job – she wanted her own money… she wanted her own way out of her reliance on him. She ignored the look on his face and reclined on the couch.
She had forgotten a blanket, but was too prideful to get up and grab one. Instead, she closed her eyes and curled in on herself. She was on the cusp of sleep when Derek's hesitant footsteps approached her body and he gently placed her favorite blanket over her.
Paige only let one more tear leak from her eye and then promised herself that she would never cry again.
It took so long just to feel alright
Remember how to put back the light in my eyes
I wish I had missed the first time that we kissed
Cause you broke all your promises
And now you're back
You don't get to get me back