The air was still and damp as the dew settled with the rising moon. Stiles’ father had received an urgent radio transmission—code 10-54 in the Beacon Hills Preserve—and he left the house with barely a word.
Stiles knew he really shouldn’t, but he often used an old, hand-built radio to listen to Sheriff’s Department frequencies—it was the only way to monitor his father during working hours—so he knew the police code meant a possible dead body. Stiles listened long enough to find out that some hikers had found half of a dead girl along a trail just on the edge of town, so he knew his father would be out for most of the night, if not the whole night.
Since he would only worry himself into a frazzle if he stayed home alone, Stiles packed some game cartridges into his backpack and headed off to his best friend’s house. If Stiles was going to worry about his father searching for a possible killer, or at least the rest of the victim, in the woods, he could do it while playing video games with Scott. Scott would understand how much Stiles would need to keep his mind occupied. They had been best friend for a lot of years, since meeting in the hospital cafeteria while Stiles’ mom was undergoing treatment and Scott’s mother was working an afternoon shift. They were a year apart in age—Stiles was 7 and Scott was 6—and they desperately needed friends. Scott’s father worked too much and Stiles’ mother was dying, and they quickly became inseparable.
Stiles tossed the backpack into his beloved ancient Jeep and drove through the increasing darkness to Scott’s house. Scott’s mother would not be home, as she was on late shifts at the hospital this week, so they would be alone in the house, but alone with his best friend was better than alone alone. The house was mostly dark when Stiles pulled into the driveway, so he lightly skipped up the front steps and knocked on the door.
And knocked again.
And then he pounded on the door.
Finally, Stiles produced a copy of Scott’s house key and opened the front door. Stiles walked into the house shouting, “Scott! Scotty-boy! It’s me and my new favorite games!” There was no answer, but there was music playing upstairs, so Stiles followed the noise to his friend’s bedroom. Scott was dancing around his room while folding laundry. Stiles leaned against the door jamb for a moment, watching his friend and silently laughing. His patience was totally worth it when Scott turned toward him and screamed in alarm.
“Dammit, Stiles! What are you doing here?”
Stiles snorted and entered the room. “Dad got called to a crime scene, and I was home alone. I figured we could pass the time playing games until he gets home—or morning, whichever comes first.” Stiles brandished his backpack and tossed it on the bed.
Scott sat on the bed and opened the pack, looking through the games. “What kind of crime scene?”
“Some hikers found a body in the woods.”
Scott scrunched up his face. “That doesn’t sound good.”
Stiles shook his head. “Oh, it’s actually much more interesting than that. The hikers only found half of the body.” Stiles reached for Mario Kart, but Scott had gone suddenly still.
“Stiles!” Scott’s voice was excited. “You’ve got your Jeep, and you know where your dad will be.”
“So? So, let’s go out there! We can avoid your dad if we’re sneaky! I bet we can find the other half of that body!” Scott finished his statement with a sharp intake of his inhaler.
Stiles gave a considering look at his friend. “You want to go running around the woods at night, looking for a body?”
“No! Half a body! That’s much cooler!” Scott stood to find his shoes. “Hey! Which half of the body did they find?”
Stiles sighed. “I have no idea. There is no police code for specific body parts.” Stiles fished his keys out of his pocket. “Are you sure you want to do this? We could get caught, and then we’d both be grounded until school starts again.”
Scott finished tying his shoes. “Come on Stiles! We haven’t done anything cool all break! School starts in two weeks, and we’ve spent the whole time playing video games!”
“We tried to go sledding last week. Doesn’t that count?” They were currently enjoying the holiday break between semesters, and the weather was extremely capricious.
“Not if the pitiful snowfall has already melted and the rocks on the hill tear through the plastic sleds.” Scott bounded out the door and down the stairs. “Come on, Stiles! We’ll just be out for a little while, and then we’ll come straight back. And if your dad finds us, you can say it was all my idea. Okay?”
Stiles sighed. “Okay. But this is all on you.”
In retrospect, stomping through the dark woods with an asthmatic and one flashlight was not the best idea anyone ever had.
It had rained recently, so the ground was damp and slippery. Scott was panting along beside him, but Stiles saw no sign of a body, whole, half, or otherwise. And since they spent the entire time debating classes during the upcoming school year (“Of course Harris is still going to be an ass!” “How is he still teaching, anyway?”), then they were almost assuredly going to be found out by the police. Still, the sound of approaching search dogs—and handlers—did kind of catch them off guard.
“Crap! I bet my dad is with them!” Stiles dove for the ground and pulled Scott with him. “We’ll have to split up. If he only catches one of us, we should be fine.”
“Okay! Okay, I’ll head back to the Jeep this way,” said Scott, turning toward the hiking trails.
Stiles nodded. “Yeah, okay. I’ll head this way, and I’ll pray we both make it to the Jeep with no problems.”
After a feeble fist-bump, they parted ways.
And the search dogs found Stiles first.
Stiles was almost relieved to hear his father’s voice.
“Hang on there! I know this delinquent!” Sheriff John Stilinski heaved a rather bemused sigh when he got a look at his son. “So, where’s your partner in crime? I doubt you’re out here on your own.”
“Oh, no, Daddy-oh! I’m totally out here alone. I might have heard the radio call….”
“Jesus, kid! I told you not to listen in on official radio frequencies!”
Stiles sighed in relief. “I just…worry about you, you know? And finding a body is a big deal. I’m a teenager! That is, like, the coolest thing ever around here!”
“Okay, Stiles. Is your Jeep parked near here, or do I have to give you a ride home?”
“Really, Dad? You think I would attract attention to my presence by driving my rather distinctive vehicle near a crime scene area?”
“Okay, then,” said the Sheriff, grabbing Stiles’ arm, “Let’s get home then. I’ve got the rest of a long night ahead of me.”
Stiles shoved his hands into his jeans pockets. “Um, how about I walk to Scott’s house? I mean, if you’re going to still have to come out here again, I may as well stay with him tonight.” Stiles huffed a low laugh. “I can even regale him with stories of my exploits tonight.”
And while Stiles managed to circle around and find his Jeep, he did not find Scott again. And Scott wasn’t home when Stiles drove to his house half an hour later. He didn’t even answer his phone when Stiles called. There was the possibility that Scott had forgotten his phone when they left the house earlier, since the only one who ever called him beside his mother was Stiles, so there was no real need for it.
Stiles drove home alone, and spent the rest of the night listening for his father and wondering where his friend was.
It was a very long night.
Sheriff John Stilinski watched his son run off towards town with a bemused smile. This holiday break wasn’t exactly what either of them had planned, but John had figured that Stiles would at least spend quality time with his best friend. Instead, it seemed that Stiles was still focusing on John’s personal safety.
A deputy approached, telling him that the handlers wanted to take the dogs back to the kennels, so John turned back to his crew. He dismissed the dog handlers and the other deputies, promising them an early start with more volunteers the next day. Then John turned his attention to the young man standing stiffly next to the Sheriff’s cruiser.
The possible reason for the late-night body search in the woods.
He stood near John’s personal cruiser in a defensive pose, hands thrust deeply into the pockets of his leather jacket and feet planted wide apart as if daring anyone to try and move him. Derek was obviously suffering deeply personal pain, but he seemed determined not to let it show outwardly.
John thought back to his earlier meeting with Hale; when he was approached in his office by a face from the past.
(Earlier that day: Deputy Reid knocked firmly on the Sheriff’s office door, opening it a crack when summoned to do so.
“Sheriff? You’ve got a visitor out here.”
John looked up from his unending paperwork. “A visitor? Send him in, Deputy.”
With a nod, Deputy Reid backed away and opened the door farther, ushering in a young man in jeans and a leather jacket.
It had been six long years, but John recognized the young man in front of him. He was older, of course, and he had grown from a lanky, awkward boy into a strong man. His eyes were the same, however; the weight of loss filled them as much now as it did then.
John stood and offered a hand in greeting. “Derek Hale. It’s been a long time.”
Derek shook the offered hand firmly and sat in the offered chair in front of the desk. “I wasn’t sure if you would remember me.”
John sat again behind his desk and regarded Derek closely. “Of course I remember. I will likely never forget that day.”
Derek seemed to shrink into himself. “You said something, back then—you might not remember….”
“I said, if there was anything at all that I could do for you or your sister, I would move heaven and earth to do it,” said John, leaning forward over his desk. “I remember that as well. I was surprised that the two of you left town, what with your uncle still being in the hospital and all.”
Derek shrugged. “Laura thought it would be for the best if we got as far from here as we could. She thought…it was better if we went away, after. Peter was just…gone, to us. We couldn’t help him.”
John nodded in understanding. “Where did you end up?”
“Laura wanted to go to New York. She said it would be a fresh start for the both of us. She called every week to get updates on Peter. Not that there were any.”
“I know,” said John, surprising Derek. “I check in on him, too. His scars seem to be healing, but he’s still catatonic.”
Derek nodded. “We started making our way west last year. My family had friends in Oregon that Laura got in touch with, and we’ve been there with them for a few months now. Laura got a call last week. Someone from the hospital, telling her to come. Laura didn’t tell me what it was about; she just said she’d rent a car and be back soon.”
John frowned at Derek, because the young man was clearly becoming upset. “Okay.”
“No, it’s not okay,” said Derek. “She called before she reached the state line. Then I never heard from her again. After a day, I got in the car and drove all night to get here. I went to the hospital, but nobody there had seen Laura. I need to report her missing.”
John sat back in his chair. “Okay. I have the form for that somewhere on this desk. When did you last hear from Laura?”
They finished the report and parted ways. But when the call from the hikers came in and John called his deputies to the woods to search for that body, Derek Hale had been waiting for them at the entrance to the Beacon Hills Preserve.
John crossed the small clearing until he reached his cruiser—and Derek. As the other officers drove out of the parking area, John placed a gentle hand on Derek’s shoulder. “Let me give you a ride back to the station, Derek. There’s something I would like to talk to you about before we resume the search in the morning.”
Derek Hale had tossed and turned on his filthy, flimsy, water-worn mattress in his burned-out house. Part of the reason for his lack of sleep was the location, part was guilt; he had promised the Sheriff that he wasn’t, in fact, sleeping in the decrepit former family home—the place where his family died—and he hated lying to the man who wanted to help him.
And part of the reason he couldn’t sleep was the memory of the conversation he had had with the Sheriff in the police cruiser on the way back to the station.
“Derek,” the Sheriff began softly, “I want to tell you something that may or may not be helpful, but it’s something I think you should know.
“Back in 2003, when I was still just a deputy, I got called to a ‘disturbance’ near the Preserve. ‘Disturbance’ is a code word for ‘everything going to shit’, in case you didn’t know, and in this case there was body count—the dispatcher wasn’t aware of this at the time. What I can remember about the incident was that there was a fight of some sort, among four different people, and two of them were down and bleeding profusely. Both later died of blood loss at the hospital and severe wounds. A third limped away and was gone long before anyone thought he might have had anything to do with the incident. But that fourth man? I’ll never forget him.
“He was a huge, mountain of a man, almost as wide as he was tall, and hugely muscled. But what I really remember was the fact that he had claws on his hands. Not just long fingernails—they were sharp and pointed and dark, like what you see on a dog’s paws. And he had red eyes. Glowing, red eyes. And really, really sharp teeth. I could have played it off as some kind of costume, like for a movie or play, if not for the injuries on those two that died. Mountain Man ran off faster than any man should have been able to, and I was left with two people that looked like they were mauled by a wild animal.”
Derek remained quiet during the Sheriff’s monologue, but he remembered the ‘Mountain Man’ that the Sheriff was talking about. He was called Ennis, and he was one of the Alphas that came to talk with his mother that fall, before the fire took his family away. Ennis was the one to bite Paige and—Derek didn’t want to think about that.
But the Sheriff continued, unaware of Derek’s dark thoughts. “I had to report the whole thing as an animal attack, because the evidence went that way. But those glowing, red eyes haunted me, and I started doing some rather…esoteric…research. I’m pretty sure Stiles—that’s my son—gets the yearning for knowledge from me. I thought I was going into some fantasy, no-man’s land when I hit on the idea of werewolves, because who would think about something like that? And then someone came to me a few months later—your mother, Talia. She offered to buy me lunch, and we ate messy hot-water dogs in the park, and she explained werewolves and Packs and Alphas; everything I never wanted to know, but really needed to. After I was elected Sheriff a few months later, Talia and I would have lunch a few times a month, and she would keep me updated on anything ‘supernatural’ going on that I should be aware of.”
The Sheriff turned his head so that he could see the shock on Derek’s face. “I know about your family, Derek, and I’m not even remotely freaked out. I told you that for a very good reason: I want to take you into the Preserve early tomorrow, before the rest of the searchers get there, so that we can see if you can ‘sniff-out’ that body. You and I both know that it’s probably your sister, and I want to be there for you when or if you find her.”
Derek had agreed, of course, and went on his way after promising to meet the Sheriff at first light the next day. That was a promise Derek would keep. If the Sheriff knew about werewolves, then Derek might be able to talk to him about the fire that killed his family. The Sheriff was only human, but he may be able to help with a new investigation. And it would feel good to have someone else on his side. The Sheriff would believe him when Derek told him about hunters.
Laura had been distant ever since the fire and Derek was sure that it was because she, like him, blamed him for the deaths of their entire family. And the fact that she forced them to move away from their uncle—the only other surviving Pack that they had—had hurt both of them deeply.
And Derek had felt the Pack Bond snap earlier that evening. He was sure that meant that Laura was dead. So the idea that the Sheriff had for Derek to ‘sniff-out’ the body in the woods was not a bad one; Derek knew his sister’s scent very well. I would be heart-breaking to find her, but if he wasn’t alone it wouldn’t be quite so bad.
Derek tossed and turned on the beat-up mattress, but sleep would not come.
He really should not have come to the old house.
It was barely standing, and most of the walls and roof were missing. It smelled of charcoal and extinguishing chemicals and death. It offered no comfort to him, like he had hoped it would.
Sleep would not come that night.
Stiles’ phone rang from the bed-side table, sending him flailing from the bed, tangled in his blankets.
“What? Hello? What?”
“Dude! Are you still asleep?” It was Scott, sounding quite refreshed, which was so not fair.
“Yeah, I am. I was up all night waiting for you to call. Where the hell were you?”
“Come pick me up, and I’ll tell you all about it.”
So half an hour later, Stiles was pulling into the McCall’s driveway. Scott was waiting outside for him, bouncing quietly in place. Once Scott was seated in the passenger seat, Stiles turned to face him.
“Dude! Where were you last night? My dad caught me, but you weren’t back at the car when I got there!”
Scott smiled a bit, looking cocky and confused. “I know. I got turned around and ran deeper into the woods than I thought I would. And then I dropped my inhaler, and when I stooped down to find it—I found the body!”
“What? Holy cow! Why didn’t you call me?” They were supposed to share these things, dammit!
Scott shrugged, suddenly uncomfortable. “So much happened last night. But you have to take me back to the preserve, okay? I still didn’t find the inhaler, and those things are not cheap!”
Stiles put the Jeep into gear and backed down the driveway. “I’ll take you, but you have to tell me everything!”
“Okay,” said Scott, finally warming to the tale, “I found the body, and I got scared a bit. You know—dead girl. So I jumped and tripped, and I fell backwards down a huge hill. And when I stood up, this deer ran past me, scaring me again! And then I heard what I thought was thunder—and a whole bunch of deer ran right at me!”
“Herd,” said Stiles absently, wondering what could have caused a stampede like that.
“Yeah, I heard it alright. It was so loud! And then I saw these eyes looking at me from the bushes. They were, like, glowing, and this huge animal—like a bear or wolf or something—ran at me, and I think it bit me.”
Stiles slammed on the breaks, putting the Jeep to a sudden halt in the middle of the thankfully empty road. “You got bit in the woods? Dude, you need to go to the hospital or something! There are no wolves in California, but it could have been a rabid dog!”
But Scott was shaking his head. “I can’t let my mom find out I was out last night. I made my way to the clinic and cleaned and bandaged it there. It wasn’t deep or anything. But I really did lose my inhaler, so I need to find it.”
“Yeah, okay,” said Stiles, starting the Jeep again. “If you lost it near that body, then maybe I’ll at least get to see it myself. Which half was it, again?”
Scott rolled his eyes. “The top half, duh. That’s how I knew it was a girl.”
Stiles and Scott moved slowly through the underbrush, kicking aside piles of leaves and weeds, looking for a small, yellow inhaler.
“Are you sure this is where you were, Scott?” Stiles was busily looking around the ground, but seeing nothing remarkable.
“It had to be near here, but it looks different in the daylight. I don’t even see the hill I rolled down. I have to find it!”
A snap of broken twig caught their attention, and both boys looked up to see an older boy (man?) approaching from a clearing in front of them.
“What are you two doing here? This is private property!”
For a moment, Stiles was stunned at the sight of the man—dark and broody, wearing a black leather jacket and dark jeans and boots. He was gorgeous!
“Um, sorry, man. We didn’t know.”
“Yeah,” said Scott, unaffected by the stranger’s presence, “We’re just looking for something that I dropped….”
Scott was cut off when the dark man brought a hand out of a pocket and tossed something to him—a bright yellow inhaler.
But the man was walking away.
Scott happily inspected his inhaler and Stiles sidled up next to him. “Do you know who that was?”
Scott looked up. “Uh, no. Why should I?”
Stiles looked dumbfounded at his friend. “Dude! That was Derek Hale! His whole family died in a fire around six years ago! I bet we’re close to his old house.”
Scott shrugged. “So? We found the inhaler. Let’s go home.” And he turned and walked back the way that they came.
Stiles gaped for a moment before following.
Derek returned to his dilapidated house and began to gather his things. Not that he had many things to gather. A duffle full of t-shirts and Henleys and jeans, and a backpack with toiletry items and a battered paperback book. When he left Oregon, he only thought he’d be gone for a day or so—find Laura and bring her back to safety, and let life go on.
Instead, he found his sister in the woods—cut in half in the manner of hunters.
Because the Sheriff was with him when he identified the body in the woods, he was able to secure the scene officially and have Laura sent to the Medical Examiner’s office for autopsy—fast-tracked so that Derek could claim the body for burial quickly. The ME was sympathetic to Derek’s pain, and promised that he could have the body—Laura—by late afternoon.
While Derek planned to bury Laura on the grounds of the family home, so that she would be with the remains of the rest of the Pack, Derek could not stay there another night. He would move into a local hotel for the rest of his stay, until he could finish paperwork and get the insurance investigation started—he was the logical heir, since Peter was still catatonic and in a long-term care ward. Then he would check on Peter and make plans to move his only remaining relative back to Oregon, where Derek could keep a closer eye on him while he got on with his own life.
Meeting those two boys really threw him off, though.
When he originally found the inhaler not far from his sister’s body, Derek’s first instinct was to hide it quickly so that the Sheriff would not see it. Derek didn’t want anything to distract the Sheriff from his investigation, and Derek didn’t think the inhaler would lead to her killer.
And he was correct in that thought.
The boy that belonged to the device did not smell like a hunter at all. But he did have a distinct scent of Wolf.
The other boy—gangly and thin, with a scattering of moles on his face and bright, whiskey-colored eyes—he drew Derek’s attention the most. Thatboy had the faint scent of the Sheriff, so Derek figured he was the Sheriff’s son. And while Derek felt drawn to the boy in a way that was both comfortable and discomforting, he didn’t want to get him in trouble with the Sheriff.
As Derek began to drive away from his family home, he resolved to speak with the Sheriff about the two boys. If one was a werewolf, the Sheriff would need to know. It appeared that hunters killed his sister, and if that was the case then that boy would potentially be in danger.
When Derek walked into the Sheriff’s Station later that day, the receptionist gave him a sad smile and directed him to the Sheriff’s office. When Derek knocked and the Sheriff called for him to enter, Derek closed the door behind him and sat in front of the desk in the same chair he occupied the day before.
“What can I do for you, Derek?” The Sheriff was at ease now that the body had been found and identified. And now that Derek understood that The Sheriff knew about his family.
“Sir—is it safe to speak in here?”
One arched eyebrow rose high on the Sheriff’s forehead. “The place isn’t bugged, if that’s what you mean.”
Derek blushed bright red. “No. But I need to talk to you about—before. And about something that happened earlier today, after Laura was taken to be examined.”
The Sheriff took a deep breath and sat back in his chair. “Okay, then. Let’s grab a bite to eat and find somewhere quiet to talk.” And then the Sheriff pushed back his chair and stood. He grabbed his keys and motioned Derek to proceed into the hall. After announcing to the receptionist that he was taking “Mr. Hale to lunch so they could go over his plans to bury his sister, so call if there’s an emergency”, they left the building and climbed into the cruiser and drove to a local diner.
“I have to get something healthy, or my son will find out and kill me himself if the impending heart attack doesn’t.”
Derek snorted. “I, um, can hear your heartbeat, Sir. You sound healthy to me.”
The Sheriff smirked. “Three years ago I had a not-so-good health screening. My cholesterol was up, as was my blood pressure. Stiles—it’s a nickname, don’t laugh—took it all very seriously. Since his mother died, I’m the only family he has, so he’s determined that I live forever.”
“It’s not a bad goal, you know,” said Derek sadly. “It’s good that he looks out for you, even if it annoys you. I wish….”
“Hey—let’s order something mildly healthy and head out to a quiet, private place to talk, okay?”
Derek nodded and they both ordered the grilled chicken salads to go.
They took their food and drove to a secluded picnic pavilion far from the middle of town. As the Sheriff unpacked their meals, he said, “You didn’t have to order this for me, Derek.”
Derek took his chicken salad and shrugged. “Think of it as solidarity. If your son is trying so hard to keep you around, I figure I shouldn’t tempt you into a cheeseburger and damnation.”
The Sheriff chuckled softly. “Okay, so what did you need to speak with me about?”
Derek toyed with the salad for a moment. “I need to explain, as best as I can, what happened six years ago; what caused that fire.”
The Sheriff swallowed a bite. “The official report said it was an accidental electrical fire—some crossed wires or something.”
Derek shook his head. “It was a deliberate act. My whole family was werewolves, with a few born humans in the mix. And I was the cause of the whole thing. I was weak—a hurt teenager that was open to any kind of positive attention, and I was targeted by a hunter. Only I didn’t know she was a hunter at the time. Since the fire, and all the memorials, I’ve had time to look her up. Her name was Kate Argent, but she called herself Kathy Gold when I met her.”
Derek gave a humorless laugh. “She also told me she was seventeen and a student at a girl’s school near here. But she was really twenty-eight—very young looking, and pretty—and she was a true predator.”
The Sheriff put down his plastic fork and sat quietly observing the young man in front of him. Derek had withdrawn into himself slightly as he spoke, clearly reliving the whole incident from his past.
“Derek, it sounds as if you were as much of a victim as the rest of your family. If this woman was a hunter, then she knew what you are and she went after you. And if she was as old as you say, then anything she did was rape, or contributing to the delinquency at the very least. I’m not going to look down on you for any of that.”
Derek looked up with gratitude in his eyes. “I don’t know how she trapped everyone in the house, but she did. Laura and I were at a school assembly, but I had family in from out of town for a Wolf Moon celebration. Aunts, Uncles, cousins…I know what the official body count was, but it was way too low for the gathering there that day. I can only figure that the adult werewolves were whole enough to be identified, and the humans and the very young were burned to ash. Peter was burned and injured trying to get into the house; trying to save the family from the fire. Something kept him out.”
The Sheriff took a deep drink from his bottle of water and tried to get that image out of his head. “Do you know of anything that will form that kind of barrier against a werewolf? Anything that would keep your family trapped inside a burning building?”
Derek shrugged. “They were trapped in the basement. We had a safe room down there, with cages for the young Wolves who couldn’t control themselves during the Moon Shift. There is one thing that can be a barrier to Wolves—Mountain Ash. The Rowan tree, in solid wood or ash and sawdust form, is a magical barrier against a lot of supernatural beings.”
“And you think this hunter trapped your family in your basement and set the fire?”
“She came to me when I was in a dark place. She said all the right things, did all the right things. I got to trust her, even though she wanted to sneak around. She said her family didn’t want her to have a boyfriend until she graduated high school. But I told her about my family. Not that we were Wolves, but how we interacted. I told her about that family reunion in January, and I had sneaked her into the house before, when nobody was home, so she knew a secret entrance.”
Derek had begun to shrink into himself again, despair settling onto him like a blanket. The Sheriff reached across the table to grasp his shoulder with a tender hand.
“I repeat, Derek: This was not your fault. Even if you had never allowed this woman into your life, she would have found a way. Your mother explained hunters to me; how they were supposed to follow a code of honor or something, not to hurt werewolves that had done no harm to humans. But I know enough about people like that to know that there are extremist fanatics everywhere, for every cause imaginable. Talia told me about a family of hunters that strictly follow the code of honor, and if they had been aware of the attack on your family they would have come to help you. My main concern now is the possibility that this Argent woman would come back to finish the extermination of the rest of the Hale family. Could she have been the one to kill Laura?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. It would take a lot of physical strength to cut Laura in half like that, and I don’t think Kate has that kind of strength. She would have to be working with someone, and we would have heard if she was around here again. The Pack I’m staying with in Oregon keeps an ear out for hunter activity.”
The Sheriff nodded and began eating again. “So, what was Laura to you, in Pack hierarchy?”
“She was the oldest survivor besides Peter, so after my mother died, her Alpha gifts went to Laura. She was the Hale Alpha even though we lived within another Pack in Oregon.”
“Okay, so that makes you the Hale Alpha now, right?”
Derek frowned and set his fork aside. “No. The Alpha gifts didn’t pass to me when Laura was killed.”
“Well, that makes no sense at all. Why would that happen, Derek? If a hunter killed your sister, would the Alpha gifts pass to you or to your uncle?”
“They wouldn’t pass to Peter. He’s too damaged to become Alpha. But if another wolf killed her, a rogue Omega maybe, then it could take the Alpha gifts. That’s one way to pass the gifts.”
The Sheriff took a considering sip of water. “So, could a rogue Omega have cut your sister in half? Maybe to make it look like a hunter did it?”
“It is possible. Then that makes the other thing I need to tell you more important now.”
“Okay, what else do I need to watch for?”
Derek folded his arms on the table. “When an Alpha is made, either born or inherited, there is an urge to build a Pack. Solitary Alphas don’t fare well. They grow unstable, get crazy. Werewolves are always stronger with a Pack. The loss of Pack is one of the reasons Uncle Peter went catatonic. It’s why Laura took me and ran; I was the only stable Pack she had left.”
“So this rogue Omega-turned-Alpha could go around biting and turning people in a need to build a Pack? That’s just great!”
“It may have already happened.”
“What do you mean, Derek?”
Derek busied himself by gathering the remains of their meal together for the trash bin. “This morning, after I left the ME’s office, I went out to the old house to find a good place to bury Laura. I ran into two boys who were walking around and talking way too loudly. They wandered close to my property, so I warned them away. One of them had a scent of Wolf about him. December’s Full Moon has already passed and January’s isn’t for a few weeks, so if he was recently bitten I wouldn’t be able to sense it strongly yet.”
The Sheriff helped gather the rest of the trash and they disposed of everything, leaving the pavilion as clean as they found it. “You didn’t happen to catch this boy’s name, did you?”
“Uh, no. I just scared them off and went back to the house. As soon as all the paperwork is finished, I’d like to bury Laura close to the house. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel good about living here again, but Laura deserves to rest near the remains of the rest of the family.”
“And what about your uncle? You said Wolves fare better with Pack.”
“Yeah, I did. I meant it, too. I’ll be taking Peter to Oregon with me. There is a good facility there for his care, and I’ll be closer to him. It was one of the things that Laura was looking into when she got the call to come back here. I figure I’ll be here for a few weeks until all of the insurance paperwork is finished, and then I’ll head back. The Pack there were friends with my mother, so they’ll welcome Peter into the territory.”
“Okay, then, let’s head back to the station and I can finish those nasty reports on my desk.” The Sheriff stopped and laid his hand gently on Derek’s shoulder. “Derek, don’t be a stranger, okay? I meant it back then, and I mean it now: if there is anything you need, I’ll be there for you.”
“Thank you, Sheriff. That does mean a lot.”
“John, son. Call me John. We’re old friends, now.”
Stiles had been planning to spend part of the day with Scott, playing video games, but Scott said he wanted to go back to the clinic—the animal clinic he worked in part time after school, for Pete’s sake!—and check the bite wound on his side. Stiles offered to go with, but Scott said he would call later and they could get together after dinner that evening.
So, Stiles instead forced himself to write some of the essays that were due in school once Winter Break was over. He made a peanut butter sandwich and sat in front of his laptop and typed out a reasonable English essay about ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. Then he played a bit of World of Warcraft before beginning his history assignment.
It was a uselessly productive day.
His father would be proud.
Oh! Speaking of his father—Stiles stole a look at his alarm clock and noted the time. His dad would be home from work soon, so Stiles skipped down the stairs to start dinner. He was using ground turkey instead of ground beef for the meatloaf, but if he got rid of the wrappings his father would never know.
If he worked quickly enough, his father would also never know about the grated cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. The internet was a wonderful tool for planning healthy but tasty meals, and Stiles was lucky that the Sheriff had never caught on.
Stiles was just sprinkling freshly-grated parmesan cheese on the ‘mashed’ cauliflower when the front door opened. He called out to his father, “Hey, Dad! I’ve got dinner ready, so you can just go ahead and wash up, okay?”
He was not prepared for “Do you have enough for one more, kid?”
Stiles looked up from his task and watched his father walk through the hall into the kitchen, followed by an uncomfortable Derek Hale. “Huh? Oh! Yeah, I made meatloaf and stuff. If you give me time to toss a salad, we’ll have plenty.”
“Sounds good, son. This is Derek Hale. He used to live around here a while back.” John turned to his guest and said, “Derek, this is my son, Stiles. You can wash up in the downstairs bathroom. I’m going to go upstairs and change. I’ll be back in a minute.”
John headed for his room upstairs, leaving Derek alone with Stiles in the kitchen.
“Um,” said Stiles, nervously, “The bathroom is just down that hall. I’ll put another plate on the table. Is water okay for your dinner drink?”
“Yeah, thanks, water is fine. I hope you don’t mind….”
“Nah, I don’t mind the extra mouth to feed. I hope you don’t mind meatloaf.”
Derek grinned shyly, and it transformed his face greatly. Stiles could feel his heart skip a beat. “Meatloaf is fine. I can help with the salad, if you like?”
“No, man, you’re a guest here. Go wash up; I’ve got the salad under control.”
Derek backed down the hallway toward the bathroom and Stiles took a deep, calming breath. He released it noisily, hissing through his teeth as he pulled romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and bell peppers from the crisper. He chopped everything roughly, leaving a nice texture to the salad, and was finished by the time Derek and his father rejoined him in the kitchen. John ushered Derek to the kitchen table while he pulled glasses from a cabinet and filled them from a pitcher of filtered water. Derek took a seat on the far side of the table and watched as Stiles finished the simple salad by shaking a mixture of vinegar (red wine, for flavour), olive oil, and dried herbs over the greens, covering the bowl, and shaking it furiously.
Stiles carried the salad and a huge bowl of something that looked like mashed potatoes (but didn’t smell like it) to the table and John followed with a tray of moist, hot meatloaf. Derek couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten a home-cooked meal. Laura didn’t cook, and Derek had never learned. They existed in New York on the local delis and cheap take-out, and the local pizza delivery place in Oregon absolutely loved them. Everything on the table in front of him looked so good, but the scents were just a little off. Nothing was spoiled, Derek could tell that much, but it just wasn’t…right.
But he gamely took the offered plate of food when Stiles passed it to him, because you didn’t offend your host at an unexpected dinner party. He watched as first Stiles, then the Sheriff—John, scooped a bit of the mashed…stuff onto a fork-full of the meatloaf-ish stuff, and began to eat. Then, when neither of them began to gag, he followed suit.
And he moaned softly in delight.
Derek wasn’t sure what he was eating, but it was delicious! He happily continued eating, taking bites of salad with the simple dressing between bits of meatloaf.
“This isn’t mashed potatoes, Stiles,” said John, “But it’s pretty good.”
Across the table, Stiles was sipping water from his glass. “Thanks, Pops! Mashed potatoes have lots of butter and cream in them. That’s not really good for your heart.”
“Uh-huh. And what is this, then?”
“Steamed and crushed cauliflower with grated parm. Less salt and fat, same texture—mostly. I got the recipe online.”
Derek wiped his mouth on a paper towel. “It’s really good. Thanks for having me. I don’t really remember the last time I had home-cooking.”
Stile jerked his thumb in the direction of his father. “He would have take-out or delivery every night if I didn’t cook. He works too much and takes little care of himself.”
“I can take care of myself, Stiles. I’m a lot older and have plenty of experience.”
Stiles scoffed at his father. “So says the man who sneaks milkshakes from the least-healthy diner in town. And don’t try to argue with me, I read their last health rating!”
Derek smiled at the easy affection between father and son and returned to his meal. The conversation remained light while they ate, and Stiles was happy to offer seconds of the meatloaf (“its ground turkey, Dad, it’s not world-ending.”). Derek even offered to help with the dishes, but was waved back into his seat by both John and Stiles, so he just sat and enjoyed the happy banter between the two.
And he began to feel guilty.
Because he was enjoying being a part of a family—even on the periphery—and his own family was dead.
That sober thought drove the smile from Derek’s face and he hunched over the table, rolling his water glass back and forth between his hands.
Once the dishwasher was loaded and John started the coffeemaker, the Stilinksis sat at the table again.
John cleared his throat. “So, Stiles. Derek told me he ran into two teen boys in the Preserve this morning. Near his old house? Say, close to noon? Do you have anything to say?”
Stiles sputtered for a moment before replying, “We didn’t mean…to trespass?”
John’s face lost its jovial cast. “Stiles, tell the truth now. It’s important. Was Scott with you in the woods last night, body-hunting?”
Stiles shrugged. “Maybe? Yes. Yes, Scott was with me, but he ran back toward the foot trails when we heard the dogs. Why? Did something happen after I left?”
Derek leaned forward. “I think so, yes. I think your friend was bitten last night.”
Stiles’ eyebrows went up. “Well, yeah. He told me it was a big dog or something. I told him to go to the hospital, but he didn’t want his mother to know he was out, so he ran to the vet clinic and cleaned it there.”
John and Derek both blinked at Stiles’ confession.
“Stiles,” said John after a moment, “Did you see the bite? Or the ‘dog’ that bit him?”
“Nope. Scott wasn’t all about show and tell, and I don’t handle stuff like that too well, anyway. Remember that pig thing in Biology last year? Why are you asking? Is Scott going to die?”
John rushed to calm his son, while Derek finished the conversation. “He’s not going to die. He would have by now, if the bite wasn’t going to take. Did you say he went to the vet clinic?”
“Yeah. Scott works part-time for Dr. Deaton, cleaning cages and feeding the animals and stuff.”
Derek’s face clouded at the mention of Deaton, and John wanted to talk to him about that privately, so he refocused on his son. “Is Scott coming over tonight?”
“No. He was going to, but he texted while I was making the meatloaf. He said something about a headache, and that he’d see me tomorrow. Is something wrong? I mean besides us going out to the woods to find a body?”
“That body,” said Derek tightly, “Was my sister, Laura.”
“Oh, god! I’m so sorry, Derek. I meant no disrespect.”
“I think what killed Laura is what bit your friend. We really need to talk to him.”
Stiles looked from Derek to his father. “What’s going on? Before I drag Scott over here, I want to understand how hurt he could be.”
John nodded and stood. “Okay, let me get some coffee and we’ll go into the living room. Coffee, Derek?”
“No thank you. I never really liked the taste.”
“Okay, then, let’s go sit comfortably and talk.”
Stiles and Derek followed John into the living room and sat on the sofa while John took his usual seat in the recliner.
John took a sip of his coffee and then set it aside on an end table. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees as he looked earnestly at his son. “I need to tell you something outrageous, and I need you to keep an open mind about it, okay?”
Stiles narrowed his eyes. “Okay, I’ll be open-minded for now, but I reserve the right to call bullshit later.”
“Language! Now, about eight years ago or so, I was officially investigating animal attacks where two people died. They were definitely mauled, and there were claw marks, but it wasn’t a wild animal that killed them. What I saw, personally, left me shaken for a long time.”
“What was it,” Stiles whispered.
“It was a man. A dangerous man, with claws on his hands and razor-like teeth. And he got away, because I was in no way prepared to arrest him, and I had no place to keep him that he would not escape. That man, I would later learn, was a werewolf.”
Stiles snorted. “Really, Dad? A werewolf? Not some guy with a razor glove like Freddy Kruger?”
“Laugh it up, kid, but I’m being serious. I had to do a lot of research, and when I found that answer I wasn’t happy about it. I’m a rational man. Believing in something like werewolves was not a rational thing to do. Months after that ‘animal attack’, someone with lots of proof of werewolves came to me, and she explained everything she could about the real supernatural in our world. It was a lot to take in. I almost began drinking heavily, because it was so far out of the realm of reality for me. But that person was a godsend to me, because she gave me the information I needed to keep this county safe. Well, she told me how to keep the humans safe, anyway. I didn’t realize there was a large threat to her and her people looming around out there.”
“Who was that person, Dad? Who told you all of that stuff, because it sounds so…crazy!”
Derek shifted in his seat. “It was my mother, Talia Hale, former Alpha of the Hale Pack.”
Stiles scrambled madly, falling to the floor and scooting toward the far wall. “You’re a werewolf? A real werewolf?”
Derek looked at the startled young man on the floor and allowed his eyes, normally muted hazel, to flash electric blue. “I am. Most of my family was. We kept it a secret from most everyone in Beacon Hills, because of the dangers. Until your father told me yesterday, I wasn’t aware that he knew about us.”
Stiles regained his composure and sat back on the sofa beside Derek. “And you think Scott was bitten by a werewolf?”
Derek nodded. “I had originally thought my sister was killed by hunters, like the rest of my family, but the Alpha gifts didn’t pass to me. And when I saw you and your friend this morning, I could smell the scent of Wolf on your friend. It was faint, but it will get stronger as the full moon approaches.”
Stiles shook his head. “This is nuts. Scott is never going to believe it. I barely believe it!”
“He’ll believe it once his senses settle. I was born this way, but we had some bitten family members. They said it was difficult to control the hearing at first. And the strength. We’re stronger than humans—lots stronger. The closer we get to the full moon, the harder it will be for him to control himself. He may be filled with rage, too. The turning is like the worst of puberty, amplified.”
Stiles looked at his father. “This is going to be bad, isn’t it?”
John returned the look. “It could be. Scott is a pretty level-headed kid, but I’ve never been around a werewolf full time before, and I never knew one that was newly bitten. He’ll have our support, of course, but first he has to believe us.”
“No, he has to believe me. I’ll try to explain it to him, but if you two are here then he’ll feel threatened. But it will have to wait until tomorrow. Hey,” he said after a moment, “Do you think his headache is really this werewolf thing?”
Derek shrugged. “It might be. I haven’t been around bitten Wolves in a long time. If his senses are out of whack, it could cause a headache. But he’s going to need training. And there may be something worse out there for him as well.”
“Worse than being bitten by a werewolf?”
Derek looked at John directly. “If he was bitten by a rogue Omega, well, they aren’t the most stable werewolves out there. Mostly an Omega is a werewolf without a Pack. They go crazy after a while; stop being able to control their shift and stumble about in half-wolf form. Then they die an agonizing death, lonely but unable to be brought into a Pack. But if that Omega killed Laura and took her Alpha gifts? An Alpha has a certain amount of control over his Betas. A good Alpha, like my mother, will use that control to help a Wolf develop good skills. A bad Alpha will use that control to keep his Betas subdued and weak. An insane Alpha is something I would not like to think about.”
John frowned in concentration. “You think that this rogue Alpha could make Scott do things?”
“Yes, sir. A good Alpha would never force a Beta to do anything against their wishes, but a crazy Alpha could force a Beta to kill if the Alpha’s will is strong enough.”
Stiles wiped his hands down his face. “This is great! My best friend may be a werewolf, and a crazy Alpha could possibly force him to kill someone.”
“Now, Stiles,” said John in a placating manner, “We don’t know for sure about anything yet.”
“Wait,” said Stiles as he grabbed Derek’s arm. “Could we let Scott kill the werewolf that bit him? In the movies, that always cures the werewolf bite.”
Derek shook his head. “No. That’s a great old wives’ tale, but it doesn’t work like that. Killing an Alpha only passes along the Alpha gifts. Scott is a brand-new bitten Wolf. He is in no way capable of becoming an Alpha. The power would drive him insane very quickly. It would be worse than if he was Omega. The best we—I—can do for him is try and break the hold that rogue has over him before he hurts someone he cares about.”
“Okay, then,” said Stiles, “I’ll call Scott in the morning and have a very weird talk with him.”
The baying of the wolf called to him.
Running hard and fast, claws digging deep into the earth beneath him.
The night was cold and misty; the damp clung to tree branches and dripped on his shoulders.
Running hard and fast, turning toward the sound of his master.
His blood raced hotly through his veins; claws tearing through the undergrowth and kicking up leaves, he raced through the woods in the dark of the moon.
The wolf howled again and he turned to the call, snarling a reluctant response; his teeth were sharp and foreign in his mouth and his tongue bled through the howl.
Running hard and fast, out of the darkness and into the light of the rising sun.
Scott woke with a jagged breath. That nightmare was so. Real….
Just like the feel of leaves and twigs and dirt under his hands. Wiping the sleep from his eyes, Scott looked around in shock.
This was not his bedroom.
This was nowhere near his bedroom.
He was sitting in the middle of the woods, covered in dead and dirty vegetation, and wearing his sleep pants and a Captain America t-shirt. He was barefoot and sleep-confused.
How did he get here? Where was here?
Scott stood unsteadily and wiped his hands across his thighs.
He remembered the dream.
He had been some kind of animal, stalking through the woods and following the call of….
Of what? He couldn’t remember that part of it.
And how had he gotten out of his house without waking his mother?
And why was he in the woods? Scott had never had a problem with sleepwalking before.
Scott shook himself awake, much like the animal from his dream, and he headed toward the sunrise—toward the edge of town and his best friend’s house.
Stiles would help him.
Stiles would know what to do.
“Liam? It’s Derek.”
“Derek. Is everything okay?”
“No. Laura is dead. I reported her like you told me to, and I was with the local Sheriff when she was found.”
“Was it hunters?”
“I thought it was. She had been cut in half, just like Hunters do to Omegas. But there was a kid in the woods—and he was bitten.”
“Laura wouldn’t bite some kid.”
Derek sighed. “No, she would never give the bite to just anyone. She had plenty of opportunity to build a Pack. I’m pretty sure it was a rogue Omega that killed Laura and took the Gifts from her.”
“Are you coming back, Derek? You will always have a place with the Gallagher Pack, you know that.”
“I know. It’s just…there’s paperwork to do, for the insurance. And I need to do something with the old property. And the Sheriff…the Sheriff knows about Wolves. He ran into one years ago, before the fire, and my mom sort of mentored him on how to keep the humans safe. I was wondering…?”
“Anything, Derek. All you have to do is ask.”
“There is stuff I don’t know, that I was never taught because Laura was going to be the Alpha heir, and now that this kid has been bitten –he’s the friend of the Sheriff’s son. He’s going to need help, because that crazy rogue won’t help. I was wondering if you could ask Regina to come and talk to the Sheriff? Maybe give him some weapons so that he can take out the rogue?”
“Derek, what about the old Hale Emissary? Isn’t he still there?”
“He is…but Liam? I don’t trust him. I can’t trust him to do right for anyone in Beacon Hills. He knew—he knew about Kate, and he did nothing to warn us. I may have led her to us, but Deaton let us burn.”
“Alright, Derek. I’ll ask Regina to go and give your Sheriff friend as much of an education as she can. I’ll have her take weapons as well, so he’s not completely at the mercy of a rogue Alpha.”
“Thank you, Liam. I’ll be burying Laura later this morning, on the Hale property. I picked a good spot for her.”
“Say a blessing from the Gallagher Pack, Derek. We are there for you in heart if not in person.”
“Sheriff? There’s been a call from the Medical Examiner’s office.”
John Stilinski looked up in dismay as his deputy, Carla Price, leaned into his office.
“Is it the same MO?” John stood from behind his desk and began gathering his things—official weapon, handcuffs, jacket—and moved toward the outer office. His day was just getting better already.
“Yes, sir. Heart attack on the long-term ward. Patient had no prior history of heart ailments.”
“Right, then. Has the…patient? Patient been taken to autopsy?”
“Yes, sir. He was found at two o’clock this morning during late rounds. Resuscitation was attempted, but failed.”
“Right. Okay, call the ME and tell him to run a total tox screen. I want to know everything in this guy’s system. I just got off the phone with the DA, so we’re good to go.” John reached the front door of the station and called for his backup, waving a sheaf of papers in his hand. “Reynolds and Carter, you’re both with me. Judge Allman’s clerk faxed the search warrant this morning. We’ll start with the files in Long-term Care and work backwards if we have to.”
The urgency John felt was not out of place. There had been, over the past four years, fifteen suspicious deaths at the hospital—all in Long-term care. At first, there was nothing odd about them. The patients were weak and frail. Some had been comatose. All had died of heart failure of some sort or other.
But one of the nurses in the Emergency room, Melissa McCall, had become wary of all the deaths. She was a friend of John’s—the mother of Stiles’ best friend—and John had never known her to over-react to such things. She was used to death, working in the Emergency and Trauma units for many years, so she understood how to temper care with polite distance. She had taken a few shifts on the Long-term Ward to make some extra money, and she noticed that a few of the recently deceased did not have a history of heart problems. Ever.
So three months ago, John had started requesting a total toxicity screening performed on any patients from that unit that passed from Bradychardia or irregular heart rhythms.
The lab found traces of Digitalis in all patients.
Normally, that drug was used to treat heart patients, as it could bring back normal heart rhythm in cardiac patients. But as these were not cardiac patients, there should have not been any of that drug found at all.
John had always subscribed to one philosophy of police detective work: Once is an incident, twice is coincidence, but more than that is a pattern. All he needed was a warrant to search records for visitors and caregivers, so that he could find the pattern. Too many already had been lost, and John was tired of dead bodies on his watch.
Loud pounding on the front door startled Stiles awake, and he floundered for a moment before rolling onto the floor tangled in his blankets.
When the insistent pounding did not stop, Stiles struggled out of his bindings and stumbled down the stairs, absently rubbing his head as he went.
He threw open the door with a disgusted “What!”, only to find Scott standing on the other side—looking a total mess.
“Scott? What the hell happened to you?” Stiles stood back and allowed his best friend to enter the house. “You look like you got dragged by a bus!”
Scott slumped into the house and planted himself on the sofa. “I don’t even know, Stiles! I woke up like this!”
Stiles rubbed his eyes and sat beside his friend. “You woke up in bed like this?”
Scott frowned at Stiles. “No! I woke up in the woods like this!”
“Scott? Why did you decide to go camping in December, without a tent?”
Scott sighed and slouched deeper into the sofa. “I went to sleep in my own, warm bed, and I had this really weird dream about running in the woods. And I woke up. In. The. WOODS!”
Stiles sat back away from Scott when the yelling started, and he noticed a distinct lack of difficult breathing.
“Scott, when was the last time you used your inhaler?” Stiles knew he needed to tell Scott about werewolves, but he needed to ease into it. Scott was a bit dim sometimes.
“I used it last…” Scott trailed off, and Stiles could almost see the wheels turning. “I don’t really know when I used it last. It was after I got that nasty dog bite, I know that.”
Stiles could see the opportunity, and he rose to the occasion. “Yeah, about that bite. Have you noticed anything else going on besides breathing easier? Like maybe, can you hear any better? Or smell anything…different?” Yeah, that was bad.
“You know, my mom’s singing kept me up for a long time last night, and she usually is really quiet at night. And I think the neighbors were fighting in the yard the night before. Why do you ask?”
“Well, bro, I think I know what bit you. And if I’m right—and I am—then you are in for a world of change. But first, let’s get you cleaned up and make some breakfast. I’m starving and I really need some coffee.”
“Yeah…can I borrow some clothes? I didn’t want to go home first because my mom is on lates this week.”
˜ ˚ ˜
The two teens sat at the small kitchen table devouring scrambled eggs and toast. Stiles wasn’t kidding about being hungry. He’d spent all of the day and night before doing as much research into werewolves and the supernatural as Derek could help him with. Not that Derek Hale was much help, really. He was deeply in mourning for his sister, and Stiles totally understood that. He was, after so many years, still in mourning for his mother.
Stiles refilled his coffee mug as he watched Scott tear into more eggs than was dignified. Scott was a growing teenager, of course, and so could eat tons of junk on a regular basis. But Stiles could see a new metabolism settling on his friend. Werewolves could pack it in!
“Okay, so you think you know what bit me?” Scott wiped his mouth on a paper napkin.
“Mmm-hmm. And how is that bite, anyway? I bet it’s all scabby and gross right about now, huh?”
“No, dude! It’s totally healed.” Scott lifted the edge of his borrowed shirt. “See, no scar or anything.”
Stiles tried to appear interested, but really? “Scott, you do know that it is totally impossible for a bite that bad to have healed without a trace, right?”
Scott shrugged. “I’ve always been a quick healer.”
Stiles took a deep breath. “Okay, so run me through it again, Scott. You were running through the woods, trying to get back to the Jeep after Dad caught me, and you tripped across the dead body and fell down a hill….”
Scott nodded frantically. “And I almost got run down by a stampede of deer, and then this huge monster dog came out of the bushes and bit me.”
“Uh-huh. Where did it bite you?”
Scott gestured to his side under the shirt. “It almost took out my ribcage, man. It was a real mess when I cleaned it up.”
“Yessssssssssss, Scott. It was a mangled mess. And now it’s just…gone? Not a trace, no scar, nothing? Does that seem in any way logical to you? And you heard your neighbors arguing last evening?”
“Yeah, I did. They were really loud.” Scott was just not getting it.
“Scott,” said Stiles, exasperated, “Your neighbors are eighty and live on the edge of a corner lot. But, I do know what bit you. I know why you haven’t needed an inhaler, and why you can hear better—and I bet your sense of smell is better, too.”
Scott’s face screwed up in confusion. “So, what do you think it was.”
Stiles sat across from his friend and folded his hands together on top of the table. “Scott, you were bitten by a werewolf.”
“Ha-ha! Very funny, Stiles.” Scott scooted back from the table and began to pace the length of the kitchen. “I thought you could help! I haven’t slept well in two days! I have these weird dreams about an animal running through the woods and that coffee you’re drinking is really giving me a headache!” Scott’s eyes flashed a bright golden yellow as his anger and frustration grew, and Stiles could see the claws growing from Scott’s fingers.
Stiles stood and stopped Scott in his tracks. “Scotty, I swear I’m not messing with you, okay.”
Stiles reached out and held Scott’s clawed hand in front of his eyes. “See this? This is not normal, Scott. You were bitten by a werewolf. The bad news is: there is no cure for it. The good news is: you have me and I’m going to help you. I’ve been doing some research, okay, and I hope to have you fully in control of yourself by the time the full moon comes around.”
Scott stood and stared at his own clawed hand, and his breath turned ragged as he sank fully into a panic attack. Stiles lowered his friend to the floor of the kitchen and he reached into a drawer and found one of the ‘spare’ inhalers he kept because Scott was always forgetting or losing his. Stiles placed the nozzle into Scott’s mouth and pressed the plunger, and Scott inhaled deeply and began to calm. Stiles pressed the plunger again, and Scott settled further, nodding that he was getting under control.
“Another good thing is that your asthma is quite possibly cured. My information source said that most human ailments can’t withstand whatever magic it is that makes a werewolf.”
“If,” said Scott, gasping, “My asthma is cured, then why…did I need…the inhaler?”
“Because you had a panic attack. I got them all the time after my mom died. Your body just seized up, but simply taking the inhaler brought it back online, so to speak.” Stiles sat back against the cabinets and regarded his friend. “Look, Scott, I’ll do my best to help you. I was told that your anger will get really bad the closer we get to the full moon—something like puberty on steroids or something. And you’ll be stronger. A lot stronger. And faster, too. But you’ll have to be able to keep under control, or you could hurt someone.”
Scott squinted at Stiles. “Who is this ‘source’ of yours? How did you even know where to look for that kind of information, anyway?”
“I’ll have to make a phone call before I can answer that, Scott. It’s kinda not my secret to tell, you know?”
“Then why did you know about it?”
Stiles scrubbed a hand over the back of his neck as he considered the answer. Finally, he spoke. “My dad ran across a werewolf a long time ago, before my mom died. The guy was apparently a really bad dude and he killed a few people. Dad thought he was imagining things when he saw that guy’s red glowing eyes.”
“Like the eyes I saw the night I got bit!”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah, I guess it was like that. I don’t know. I’ve only seen the eyes of two werewolves, and you were one of them and your eyes are gold when they glowed just a bit ago.”
“What color were the other ones? And who did you see?”
“They were blue, and again—not my secret to tell. Hey, make yourself some chocolate milk and I’ll make that phone call, and then we can see if we can get you some help and training, okay?”
Scott stood up and pulled Stiles with him. “Yeah, okay. Oh, god! What do I tell my mother?”
“John? What’s going on? Why are the deputies searching our lockers?”
Sheriff John Stilinski looked up from his paperwork to see Nurse Melissa McCall walking toward him in the hallway outside of the Staff Lounge.
“Sorry, Melissa, I really can’t say. It’s part of an ongoing investigation. But if it makes you feel any better about it, your locker was the most tidy so far.”
Melissa smiled wanly at John. “Well, at least one McCall had the tidy gene. I just wish it would pass along to Scott.”
John snorted. “I think being a neat freak is against the teenager code or something. I’m going to leave these fine deputies here to finish their search, so can you try not to give them a hard time? I have some calls to make back at the station.”
Melissa smirked. “I’m not about to get into anyone’s way around here, especially the police. Try and get something to eat, too, John. And nothing too greasy or your son will have your head!”
John saluted her and walked briskly to his squad car, pausing long enough to call home and speak with Stiles.
“Hey, kiddo, how are things at home?”
“Hey, Dad. I’ve got Scott here. He, uh, showed up really early this morning after sleepwalking into the Preserve last night.”
John cursed badly enough to shock Stiles. “Is he okay? Have you told him anything?”
“Well, he kinda flaked out and his claws popped, so we got as far as werewolves before he had a panic attack. Now he’s pacing all around the house, fretting about what to tell Mama McCall.”
“Shit, I just left her. She obviously doesn’t know he was out of the house last night. Have you called Derek for support?”
“Yeah, I did. He’s coming over in an hour or so. I’m making grilled chicken for lunch. Do you want me to bring some to the station for you, or do you want to come home and get in on the ‘Scott’s a werewolf’ action?”
“You can bring it to me. I have some calls to make for another investigation I have going. There is some seriously crappy stuff going on around Beacon Hills lately, but I’ve got good information to stop at least some of it.”
“Good deal, daddy-o! I’ll get this food done and I’ll come by to drop it off after Derek gets here to answer questions for Scott.”
John disconnected the call and drove the twenty minutes back across town to the Sheriff’s station. By the time he made it back, Deputy Carter had radioed in to say that they found a rather large quantity of digitalis in Nurse Jennifer Weatherbee’s locker, hidden in a hollowed-out book. Very top secret of her, John was sure.
Nurse Weatherbee had been on duty during the night shift every time one of the patients had coded with cardiac arrhythmia. By the time she was off shift, the patient had coded and nobody could trace action back to her. But the clear pattern had her dead to rights, so all they had to do was find her. She was missing, and had not been seen by hospital staff since her last shift, two nights prior. John was going to place one of his deputies on her trail so they could track her and place her under arrest.
But John himself had other plans, other phone calls to make.
The Hale fire had been ruled accidental six years prior, but Derek Hale had mentioned a rather serious and hidden motive for arson, and after John looked into it he found it quite odd that both the original arson investigator for the Beacon County Fire Department and the original insurance investigator had quit their jobs within six months of the fire. It was too early in the morning to place the calls he needed to when the call from the ME’s office alerted him to the hospital disaster, but it was close to the lunch hour now and he had the rest of the day to restart that investigation.
His first order of business was to call the District Attorney’s office. He needed to have an official reason to re-open a closed accidental fire investigation. Davis Whittemore was an extremely abrupt but just man, and when John explained about Derek’s memories of the incident he was sure that Whittemore would see sense in at least looking superficially into the fire again. After all, if nothing new was found then nothing would be lost. The case was closed, the insurance paid out heavily to the remaining family, and the Hales had left the area years before. But if John could find evidence of arson, even after so long a time…well, Whittemore hated crimes against families. Even if John couldn’t push the Hate Crime title on it, because werewolves didn’t exist, Whittemore would want to prosecute anyone who could systematically destroy one single family no matter the real reason.
John liked David Whittemore and his wife, Anne. They did good community service and David’s stance on family rights and the protection of children made them very popular people. John could easily see a day where David would be appointed Judge, and woe to anyone found in thatcourtroom with charges of abuse against him. John just couldn’t understand why Stiles had such a problem with David’s son, Jackson. John had met the boy, and he was perfectly polite and respectful. Maybe it was because Jackson was dating the girl that Stiles had had such a crush on for so long….
No matter. Calls needed to be made. Heads were going to roll, and John wanted to see it happen. The Hales were good people, and they did not deserve to die like that.
Derek eyed the boy sitting across from him: crooked jaw line, broody brown eyes, pouty mouth, and slouched shoulders.
He would not take well to being a Wolf.
Stiles, someone Derek could see settling into werewolf-hood, was busy in the kitchen grilling chicken for healthy sandwiches, and Derek could hear him humming softly as he cooked. Actually, Derek was happy that Stiles wasn’t the one bitten. Derek would hate to see someone so filled with good energy changed so completely.
“I know you have questions, Scott. Why don’t you ask them, and I’ll answer as best I can.”
Scott squinted his eyes at Derek. “How do I know this isn’t all your fault?”
Derek sighed. “My sister was the Alpha, and only an Alpha can give a transforming bite.”
“So your sister bit me?”
“No. My sister is dead. She was killed by another Wolf, and that Wolf bit you.”
“How do you know that?”
Derek sighed. This kid was impossible. “Because that body you were looking for in the woods was my sister.”
Scott gulped, looking slightly guilty for the question. But he recovered quickly. “How do I know that you didn’t kill her and then bite me?”
“Jesus, Scott! What the hell is wrong with you?” Neither Derek nor Scott had heard Stiles come into the living room. “I asked him to come here to help you!”
Scott mulishly crossed his arms. “It could be a trick. He could be trying to get on your good side so he can bite you, too.”
Stiles rolled his eyes hard. “Really? Why would any werewolf want to bite me? I’m a total spaz, dude!”
Derek disagreed, but it wouldn’t help his case to say so. “The Alpha that bit you, Scott, was being driven to build a Pack. You were young, mostly healthy, and close to him. From what I gather, Stiles was with his father when you were bitten.”
Scott jerked his head in Derek’s direction. “Yeah, and you still could have been the one to bite me!”
“No, I could not have been. I was with the police, trying to find my sister. I had reported her missing that day, and the Sheriff called me when those hikers found the body. I was with him that night and the next day, when we actually found her.” Derek seemed to shrink into himself. “I buried her this morning, before I came over here.”
Stiles calmly walked to Derek’s chair and laid a comforting hand on Derek’s shoulder. “I’m sorry you had to do that alone, man. You could have come here. I would have helped you.”
Across the room, Scott cleared his throat loudly. “I thought you were supposed to be helping me!”
Stiles sent an ugly look at his friend. “Scott, I don’t know anything firsthand about being a werewolf. I asked Derek to come and answer questions for you, because he was born that way. If you can’t be nice to him, I don’t think I’ll feel good about asking him to stay. Now, play nice! I need to finish the food so I can take it to Dad. Derek, are you good to stay here with Scott, or do you want to come to the station with me?”
Derek eyed Scott warily. “I’ll stick around while you cook, but I’d like to see the Sheriff again, so I’ll come with you.”
Scott began to pout again, so Stiles retreated to the kitchen. “Play nice, Scott!”
Scott huffed in annoyance. “Fine! So, what do I have to do?”
Derek sighed softly. “First, you have to find an anchor, so that you don’t lose control of your Wolf.”
“Why do you say it like that? Like ‘Wolf’ is a separate part of me?”
“Because it is. You were born human. In humanity, there is always a savage part, but over many centuries of development and evolution, the human savage has mostly been tamed. There are aberrations, like serial killers and rapists and stuff, but humans are mostly controlled. The Wolf is another savage part, hidden deep inside of us, but it does get out. During full moons, the lunar powers release that savage beast, and without control we would be totally disastrous. We can kill easily. We’re predators, top of the food chain. My mother always told us that we may be predators, but we don’t have to kill. Having an anchor will help you keep control so that the Wolf in you doesn’t totally take over.”
Scott leaned forward unconsciously. “What does an anchor have to be?”
Derek shrugged. “It could be anything. A favourite scent, or color, or your family. My Pack was my anchor. When I felt my Wolf try to break free, I could think of my family—my Pack—and I would calm instantly. When my family was killed, my anchor became an emotion—anger, that they were killed. If you can find an anchor and focus on that one thing, you can calm the Wolf.”
“How do I find an anchor? That seems pretty hard, dude.”
“It’s not hard. What is important to you? You can focus on anything that is important: your mother, Stiles, the scent of your grandmother’s perfume. Anything that brings you peace can be an anchor.”
Scott snorted. “That leaves Stiles out! He’s a pain in the ass!”
“That’s not funny, dude!” said Stiles from the kitchen, where he was packing food for his father. “I am sunshine and rainbows and unicorns, and you would be lucky to have me as an anchor!’
Derek leveled a gaze at Scott. “He’s right, you know. Your mom would be a good choice, as well, if you have a good relationship with her—or your dad.”
Scott scowled. “My father is an asshole who ran out on us. So, if I feel antsy, I just focus on my mom and I’ll calm down?”
Derek shook his head. “There’s more to it than that. You need to meditate every day, to keep your mind calm and centered. You need physical exercise to keep your body conditioned. My family always went on deep runs together—through the Preserve on rough terrain. The harder, the better. If you keep in physical condition, you’ll find it easier to fight the Wolf and stay in control.”
Scott smiled. “That’s easy, dude! Lacrosse tryouts are right after the semester starts! I’m gonna try for first string this year!”
Derek frowned. “Close-contact team sports are not a good idea. You could get hurt and transform, or your emotions could get snarled and you could wolf-out. There is danger of hurting someone in those conditions.”
Scott scowled again. “I’m trying out for Lacrosse, man, and you can’t stop me! I’ve been sitting on the bench for two years, and I want to play!”
Scott’s eyes began to glow bright yellow-gold and his claws and teeth grew sharp. Stiles heard the outburst and ran to the living room in time to see Scott’s forehead broaden and thick fur to sprout along the sides of his face.
Stiles made to move closer to his friend, but Derek stood from his chair and grabbed him first.
“No! He could hurt you!” Derek turned to Scott and frowned. “This is why you need an anchor! You are a danger to everyone you care about right now! Look at yourself!”
Derek pointed to the hall mirror, and Scott loped over to it and gasped in shock at what he saw: No eyebrows, mutton-chops from hell, long and sharp teeth, glowing eyes, canid nose and mouth.
“Oh. My. God!” Scott turned frantically, his panic already transforming his face back to normal. “What am I going to tell my mother? I can’t go home like this!”
Stiles shook off Derek’s hand and walked to his friend. “Scott, Derek and I are willing to help you, and we’ll figure out what to tell your mom—although the truth might be the best thing there.”
“Scott,” said Derek calmly, “I made a phone call this morning, asking the Pack in Oregon to send someone down—to give information to the Sheriff about how to better protect the humans here if there is a rogue werewolf around. She’ll be better equipped to answer your questions, okay? I was a born Wolf, but I never had to counsel a bitten one before. Regina has been around born and bitten Wolves all her life.”
“Is she a Wolf, too? Are you asking another werewolf to come to town, after all this mess?”
“No, Stiles, Regina Kincaide is human, and she’s very important to the Pack. The Alpha up there agreed to send her down, and she’ll be here this evening.”
Stiles nodded. “Okay, then. I’ve got to take lunch to my dad. Scott, do you want to come along, or do you want to go home for a bit? Your mom is at work until supper, right?”
Scott shook his head. “She has a double today, so she won’t be home until late and she’s off tomorrow. Can I stay here?”
Stiles looked at Derek, and the older man nodded. “Okay, you can stay here and rest or play video games. If your wolfy-strength ruins my X-Box, I shall kill you, but you can practice Halo or something while I’m gone. We’ll all talk to this Regina person tonight, and we’ll tell your mom tomorrow after she’s had some sleep. Now—go eat that chicken sandwich I made for you. You need decent food in you so you don’t get wolfy-cranky later.”
˜ ˚ ˜
The drive to the station was quiet, mainly because Stiles could not think of a reason to interrupt Derek’s obvious mourning. That the man had chosen to bury his sister alone, with no emotional support, and Stiles thought that sucked.
Stiles’ mother had died not long after the fire that killed Derek’s family, so the pain wasn’t really that long gone. Stiles could have had the empathy to help Derek bury his sister—practically the only family he had left. Nobody should be alone when sending loved ones off to the great beyond. Stiles bet even his father would have taken the time to be with Derek, had he asked.
“So, I, um, packed sandwiches for all of us in there, so we can eat together with my dad. I want to let him know just how badly Scott is taking this, so he can be there when we tell Mama McCall tomorrow.”
Derek nodded. “Why do you call her ‘Mama’?”
Stiles shrugged as he pulled into a parking place in front of the station. “Scott and I have been friends since before kindergarten, so we grew up together. My dad actually helped his mom when his dad got out of control that last time and she had to toss his ass. Scott called my mom ‘Mama’, and I do the same. Since my own mother died, she really was another mother to me.”
“How did your mother die, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Stiles sat quietly for a long moment. “She had something called ‘Frontotemperal Dementia’. Part of her brain started to shrink. She’d be okay most of the time, but then she’d lose time or forget little things. Then she forgot me. Like, not like she forgot I was in a store and she went home, but she forgot I was ever there at all. She forgot she had a kid. I was ten years old when she was placed in the hospital. I would visit every day, and sometimes she knew me and sometimes she didn’t. She just kept getting weaker and weaker, until she just…was gone. It was really hard on Dad.”
“It was really hard on you, too,” said Derek softly. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
Stiles sniffed and wiped a hand across his eyes. “Thanks, man. I had Dad, of course, and Scott and Mama McCall, but it still sucked. Dad started drinking a bit too much for a while, but when he remembered that that was why Scott’s mom kicked out Scott’s dad, he stopped cold. He didn’t want to leave me like that, after everything. That’s why I worry about him so much; he’s all I have, you know?”
“I do know. I watched carefully over Laura, even though she was older than I was. I really didn’t want her to come back here alone, but she insisted—and she was Alpha, so I had to obey.”
Stiles reached into his back seat and grabbed the food containers. “Is that how it works? You have to obey the Alpha? All the time?”
Derek nodded. “Sort of? There is this power that an Alpha can put into his or her voice—like a strong subliminal suggestion. It forces obedience, but if the command goes against the law or against the Beta’s moral code, sometimes we can break the command. But Alphas are really strong mentally most of the time—even the crazy ones—so those commands would have to be really bad to be broken, and if the Beta was weak or brand new, then the Alpha would have enough control to force the Beta to do anything, even if it was against his moral code.”
Stiles climbed out of the Jeep and Derek followed. “So we need to help Scott break that Alpha’s control?”
“Yeah, we do. If the Alpha is insane because of Omega status, he could force Scott to attack or kill someone. If he was forced out of his house and into the woods last night, then he can certainly feel the Alpha’s influence.”
“Oh! I wanted to ask you about something! I know Alphas have red glowy eyes, and Scott has glowy yellow eyes—what does the different color mean?”
Derek blushed and looked distinctly uncomfortable. “I’ll tell you inside, when we talk to your father. It’s not something I’m comfortable with, okay?”
Stiles frowned. “Sure. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything.”
“It’s not…it’s not you—or the question, really. It’s just….”
“Private and uncomfortable? I get that a lot. Let’s go eat, okay?”
Stiles and Derek bypassed the reception desk with a wave and entered the Sheriff’s office after a brief knock. John was just hanging up the phone when they entered and Stiles placed the food on the large desk.
“Here ya go, Dad—grilled, seasoned chicken sandwiches and sweet potato fries! I baked those, but they’re still crispy.”
John smiled and reached for the plastic container. “I love those fries, even if they aren’t fried. Are you two joining me?”
Stiles took one container for himself and passed the other to Derek. “Yeah, if that’s okay. I needed to get out of the house for a bit, and Derek needed to talk to you. So,” he finished awkwardly, “I’ll go get some water from the break room and you two can talk.” And Stiles left the office with his sandwich and fries.
John smirked at the antics of his son and took a healthy bite of the sandwich. And moaned in delight. “I’m not sure when he took to watching all those cooking shows, but I’m sure glad he did!”
Derek nodded in agreement and swallowed his own bite of food. “You’re lucky to have this, sir. All I know how to make is a phone call to the local pizza place and slightly burnt toast. Laura wasn’t much better.”
John and Derek ate in quiet for a moment with John regarding Derek closely. “Stiles isn’t going to stay gone for long, and I’m getting thirsty. What’s on your mind, Derek?”
Derek wiped his mouth and looked up at John. “I called the Pack in Oregon. The Alpha has agreed to send their Emissary to answer any questions you have and to help you with defense against werewolves.”
John’s eyebrow rose slightly. “Isn’t having a werewolf giving me defense against werewolves counterproductive?”
Derek shook his head. “Regina Kincaide is a human witch and priestess. Emissaries have an important duty to the Packs, and she’ll be able to give you methods of defense against the rogue and answer questions for Scott McCall. She’ll be here this evening.”
John nodded and spoke around a mouthful of fries. “Invite her to dinner, then. She might as well get a decent meal for her efforts. And you need to make yourself at home with us until you decide what you’re going to do. Stiles will be back in school in another week, but we can keep you free from bad take-out while you’re here.”
“I appreciate that, sir—John, I mean. Stiles had an uncomfortable question to ask, and I think I should tell you something important about that topic—but I won’t say anything in front of him unless you think it’s okay.”
John frowned. “I don’t keep important information from my son, because he’s too wily and will find his own answers. Unless it will be detrimental to your own well-being, you can say anything to us both.”
Derek shifted in his seat, tilting his head a bit to the side. “Stiles is just outside, sir. Maybe you should let him in?”
John smirked and walked to the office door to open it. “Come on in, Stiles. Do you have our water?”
Stiles smirked as he walked inside and took the visitor’s chair next to Derek. “Of course I do. Nice and cold, too. How did you like the food?”
Derek gave a slight salute with a fry. “It’s very good, thank you.”
Stiles handed over water bottles and placed his empty food container under his chair. John took his bottle back to his desk and nodded to Derek.
Derek cleared his throat and set his unfinished food on the edge of the desk in front of him. “This isn’t really easy to say, so if you could be patient for a few minutes? When I was fifteen, before Kate Argent ever made herself known to me, I met this girl in school—Paige Krasikova. She was beautiful and talented—she played the cello—and she wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. She was very serious about her studies, and she wanted to transfer to the California Performing Arts School. I tried everything to get her to notice me: I’d interrupt her practice time and I followed her in the hallways. After a few weeks, I wore her down enough to talk to me. We started having lunch together, and I would sit with her during her practice times. She played so beautifully.
“But I was worried about dating her and being a werewolf. It can be dangerous to introduce humans to a Pack environment, because you just don’t know where Hunters will come from. But I really liked Paige, and I think she liked me. I really didn’t want to talk to my Alpha about it, because that was my mother and what teen boy wants to talk to his mother about girls? My uncle Peter—my mother’s younger brother—was only a few years older than me, and he was as close as I had to an older brother. All I had were sisters. And Peter had tried to convince me to have Paige take the bite, so that she would be a werewolf, too. And that way we could be together.”
John frowned. “You didn’t take him seriously, did you?”
Derek looked from father to son, finding them both to be appalled. “No, sir, I didn’t. I liked everything about Paige just the way she was, and I was sure that she’d still like me after she found out about werewolves.”
Derek paused to calm down and sip some water, and then he continued. “What I didn’t know was that Peter had already contacted another Alpha. That year several Alphas were in Beacon Hills, trying to speak to my mother about forming a treaty or something. The one you saw that night, John, was one of them. And Peter must have thought it was a great joke to convince this other Alpha to bite Paige, because I went to the school after hours to meet her when her practice was done, and I found her bleeding from a bite—and she wasn’t reacting well to it.
“I gathered her up and carried her out of the building, but I never saw which Alpha bit her. She was spitting bile and black blood, and I could tell she was dying. I took her to a safe place that I knew of in the woods so that I could hold her while she died. I felt like it was all my fault because I was worried about telling her my secret, and she…she told me she already knew. Then she asked me to take the pain away—to let her go in peace.”
Derek let out a soft sob, and Stiles wrapped his hand around one of Derek’s. The Stilinskis stayed quiet, giving Derek some time to collect himself. Finally, Derek spoke again.
“She was my first girlfriend, and the first person outside of family that I ever loved, and she asked me to kill her so she wouldn’t hurt anymore. She was dying anyway, because the bite didn’t take, and it was a horrible death. Her organs were rotting and liquefying inside her body, but she was still conscious and aware and begging me. So I dug my claws into her back and severed her spine. She died in my arms about two minutes before my mother showed up. Mom could sense my distress through the Pack bonds, and she came to me.”
Derek looked up then, eyes watery with tears and glowing bright blue. “That’s when my eyes changed. Alphas have red eyes and Betas—those without Alpha powers—have golden-yellow eyes, but when a werewolf kills an innocent person, his eyes turn electric blue—telling all other wolves that he has killed. Stiles asked about eye color earlier, so I thought you might find that relevant. Also, I wanted to let you know, sir, so you could understand what frame of mind I was in when Kate Argent found me.”
“You were a mess,” said John gently. “You were emotionally disabled, and an older, dangerous woman took advantage of that, and I find that reprehensible. Derek, from my point of view, you did something humane for someone you care about. You did not kill Paige. You may have quickened the passage, but the Alpha that bit her was the one that killed her. I do remember that incident, you know. She was found in the woods—an apparent victim of a wild mountain lion, but a toxicity screening showed some sort of poison in her system. I was only a deputy then, but I overheard the ME postulate that Paige Krasikova was suffering from severe food poisoning and wandered into the woods in her delirium, not that any of that matters. But, Derek, I certainly don’t blame you. I’m more likely to blame your uncle Peter than anyone—besides the Alpha that actually bit her.”
Derek nodded reluctantly. “Peter always said he was meant to lead a Pack, but my mom was older and more centered, so she was chosen to be Alpha by their grandfather. Mom said Peter had grand ideas, but he had no self-control. I guess convincing that Alpha to bite Paige proved that. But I wanted you to know that I have killed, no matter the circumstances. If a hunter tries to point that out—to say that I’m dangerous, like all other werewolves, and should be put down like an animal—then you can say that you’ve seen my true eyes. I’ll not ask for mercy or judgment, but I won’t hide my eyes for anyone, not anymore. Laura saw my eyes after the fire, and she never asked about them. She could sense my guilt about the fire, and she assumed that my eye color was because of that, and she believed that I was the one to directly kill my family. She took me as Pack, because I was the only one left, but she never treated me like family again.”
Stiles snorted. “Well, that’s just stupid! I would never turn my back on you, no matter what you did or what I thought you did. I’d ask questions. I’d ask all of the questions, until I got the truth. But blood is supposed to mean more than that, Derek.”
Neither Stiles nor Derek noticed the warm look they were getting from John as he quietly munched his fries.
As Derek had made himself scarce—literally running toward the woods at the edge of town—Stiles drove to the grocery store for supplies after calling Scott to tell him where he was. Since Stiles had not noticed Derek’s car anywhere near his house when he came to speak to Scott, Stiles figured it was keeping a place at a local hotel, and he briefly wondered what type of car a werewolf would drive.
Probably something responsible and eco-friendly.
Stiles decided that pasta and sauce would be a good and filling dinner, and quickly purchased the tri-colored veggie pasta that he favored and fresh basil and garlic for a home-made pesto sauce. He also bought new yeast for some home-made bread.
John had almost laughed at the request for a high-end food processor that Stiles wanted for Christmas when he was fourteen, but it was eventually well and often used: fresh salsa and salad dressing and bread were great additions to Stiles’ increasingly healthy menu goals.
When Stiles finally opened the door to his home, he found Scott napping on the sofa in the living room.
“Hey! Scott! Come help with the groceries, dude!”
Scott flailed off the sofa and landed in a crouched position, eyes flashing bright yellow, relaxing only when his eyes landed on Stiles.
“Sorry, bro. Not sleeping last night kinds caught up to me.”
Stiles shrugged. “Not a problem. Can you grab these bags, please? I want to get the bread dough started.”
Scott scrambled to the entryway and hefted the grocery bags easily. “You’re making bread? I love your bread! What’s the occasion?”
“Derek’s friend from Oregon is coming, remember? Dad said to invite her to dinner, so I thought I’d try to make a good impression.”
Scott began to rummage through the bags. “So what’s for dinner, and can I help?”
Stiles was pouring dry yeast into a cup of warm salt water. “I’m doing pasta and pesto, with fresh bread. I’m gonna make chocolate and yogurt fruit parfaits for dessert, too, so if you want to help you can grate the chocolate and wash the berries.”
Scott nodded and unpacked the rest of the food-stuffs, setting aside the bar of semi-sweet chocolate and the packets of berries. “Is your dad totally not freaking out about the werewolf thing, because I’m still freaking out?”
“He’s dealing. I think once he has more information he’ll be on track. He only wants to help you and to keep Beacon Hills safe from the crazy wolf that bit you.” Stiles looked at his friend as he poured the flour and water into his processor. “We can all be there to tell your mom, if you want. You have support, Scott. You aren’t alone, you know.”
Scott gave a wan smile. “I know. I just don’t want my mom to hate me.”
“She’s not going to hate you, Scott. She birthed you. She is contractually obligated to love you no matter what.”
“I don’t think that’s how that works, Stiles.”
Derek spent the hours between lunch and dinner reading in his hotel room. The Beacon Inn was a fairly upscale place, so the walls were not paper-thin and the bed was comfortable. Derek had tried to nap, but he was too keyed-up after his confession to the Sheriff.
Now he was just waiting for the arrival of Regina Kincaide, Emissary to the Gallagher Pack of Prospect, Oregon.
He should probably, he figured, feel nervous about having her come to Beacon Hills, but he was really anticipating her visit. Regina had been the first to make Derek feel welcome within the Gallagher Pack. Laura had been the one to contact their mother’s old friends and ask for sanctuary, and she had been the one to tell Liam Gallagher about the deaths of the Hale Pack—and Derek’s culpability in the fire. Liam was open to having the remaining Hales live within his territory, but he was always reserved with Derek. Regina was the one to spend time with Derek, asking him about his plans for schooling or employment, or talking about sports and literature. Derek was starving for positive female attention, and he really opened up to Regina. She was the first to hear the real story about Paige and she was the first person ever to not blame him for the fire—even after hearing about the hunter that he was involved with. Regina begged to be told the name of the woman who killed his family, but Derek was ashamed of the whole thing and would never tell her. He resolved to fix that omission during her visit to Beacon Hills. If he could tell John and Stiles Stilinski—who were practically strangers—then he could tell the Emissary that had befriended him during the past summer.
Regina called around five o’clock, letting him know that the drive was long and tedious, and that she was not driving any farther so where was his hotel, because she was getting a room near him and hiding her own car keys. Fifteen minutes later, Derek was carrying her very large and heavy suitcase into the room directly across the hall from his own, while Regina carried a carved wooden crate.
“This is a beautiful town, Derek. I’m sure you were very happy growing up here.”
Derek dropped the suitcase carefully onto the valet stand and backed toward the wall so she could walk past him. “From what I let myself remember, it was good here. Peaceful. I had friends in school, but I don’t know what’s become of them now.”
Regina turned toward him and placed fisted hands deliberately on her dainty hips. “Tomorrow, you will take me to your former home, so that I may lay blessing on your sister’s grave. I shall also take the measure of the place. I have a feeling you will want to leave us eventually, and return to your own territory, so I need to make sure there is a place for you here.”
Derek shoved his hands into his jeans pockets. “There’s nothing for me here, Regina. Peter is…not well, and I was going to follow Laura’s wishes and move him north to that hospital in Medford.”
Regina leveled a shrewd look at him and Derek felt the need to fidget. “I think, young Mr. Hale, that there could be good things for you here, if you open yourself to them. But,” she continued as she grabbed her purse, “That is to be established later. I was promised a meal, yes? And I need to councel a young, bitten wolf?”
Derek nodded and opened the door for her. “The Sheriff is a good man, and he invited us to dinner. His son is cooking, and the kid is on a ‘healthy-eating’ kick, but the food is good.”
“There is nothing wrong with not eating junk food, Derek. Is the new Wolf going to be there?”
“Yeah, I think so. He said something about his mother working late tonight.”
Regina tsked loudly. “She’ll have to be educated, I suppose? I hope she’s a clear-headed one.”
“I guess we’ll find out some time tomorrow.”
Stiles was still busy in the kitchen, trying to keep Scott from helping too much (the boy was a disaster in the kitchen, despite Stiles’ tutelage) when John stepped off the staircase in time to answer the doorbell. Through the frosted window, John could make out the tall form of Derek Hale, but it looked like he was alone.
Until John opened the door.
Regina Kincaide was nothing like John had let himself expect.
She stood just around five feet tall, so Derek towered over her, and she was thin as a rail. She had graying red hair and bright grass-green eyes that held a steely resolve that belied her apparent frailty. She carried a quilted purse and a walking stick that was as tall as she was, carved out of some dark wood with metal adornments and a faceted crystal on top. Aside from the walking staff and old-lady purse, Regina was dressed in a soft taupe sweater and faded jeans with worn-in walking boots.
She could have been someone’s cool grandmother, but she seemed oddly ageless.
John stepped back and permitted his guests’ entry. He held out a welcoming hand in greeting. “I’m John Stilinski, and you must be Regina Kincaide. It’s so good of you to come all this way for us.”
Regina returned the handshake, holding John’s hand for just a moment too long. “It’s is a great pleasure to meet you, Mr. Stilinski. Or should I call you ‘Sheriff’? Your energy is lovely.”
John gave a bemused grin. “Just call me ‘John’, please. I’m not one to stand on ceremony.”
Regina nodded. “Derek tells me your son’s name is ‘Stiles’? Was that intended sadism on your part, or that of your wife?”
Her eyes brightened with laughter as she said this, so John did not take offense. He glanced briefly at Derek as he responded, “His name is actually Mieczslaw—and that was intended sadism on the part of his mother. When I struggled with the name, she allowed me to call him ‘Son’, but when he struggled with it, she nick-named him ‘Stiles’, and that’s what stuck.”
“Then that is what I shall call him.”
John ushered his guests into the living room and Regina sat in place of honour in the recliner while Derek sat near her on the sofa. “I think dinner is almost ready, so I’ll go check. Can I get either one of you a drink first?”
Derek shook his head but Regina said, “I would not say no to some water. It was a long drive, and I did not allow many stops in order to get here in a timely manner.”
John nodded and headed into the kitchen, where he found Stiles and Scott leaning on the counter, watching the stove. Stiles turned toward him when he reached for a glass near the fridge. “So, Dad…what does an Emissary/Witch look like?”
John wrinkled his forehead in thought as he filled the glass with ice and water. “She looks like she could be very mischievous, but also very serious. Whatever she has to say, you both need to pay attention. I remember a college professor telling me, long ago, that ‘witch’ once meant ‘wise woman’, and Regina Kincaide fits that mould at first sight.”
Stiles nodded and reached a slotted spoon into the pot on the stove. “Well, dinner is just about ready, so you can bring them to the table. I cleaned off the formal dining table for the occasion.”
Scott huffed in annoyance. “You mean I cleaned it off.”
Stiles looked unimpressed. “Scott, I let you shave the chocolate for the dessert, and you helped knead the bread. That was all I was prepared to risk for this dinner. Cleaning was a much better use for your kitchen skills. Now, carry the bread basket and water pitcher to the table and then come back and help me with the plates.”
John chuckled as he traveled to the living room with Regina’s water glass. “Here you go. Dinner is, in fact, ready, so Stiles wanted me to show you to your seats.” Derek rose from the sofa and offered his arm to Regina, who left her walking stick behind in favour of her water glass.
John was amazed at the properly dressed table in the formal dining room. They rarely used this room, only for holidays with Scott and his mother, so it was often covered in John’s work files and stacks of junk mail.
Now, Stiles had pulled out the good china, crystal goblets, formal silverware, and cloth napkins. There was a centerpiece of glass candleholders and pillar candles of different heights and colors, but the main chandelier light was lit with dimmed bulbs. The bread basked was filled with still-warm sliced bread and Stiles had filled his mother’s butter dish with what looked like real butter.
John pulled out a chair for Regina, seating her on his own left, with Derek next to her. Stiles and Scott would sit on the opposite side of the table, leaving the seat at the end empty. John was just sitting when Scott appeared carrying plates covered with red, green, and white pasta and a bright green sauce. He smiled shyly at Regina and nodded at Derek as he sat the plates in front of them and returned to the kitchen. Scott returned immediately with two more plates, followed by Stiles, who was carrying his own plate and a bottle of…wine?
John raised an eyebrow at the bottle and Stiles smirked. “I thought sparkling red grape juice would taste good with the pasta. I also have water and lemon slices if you don’t want bubbles.”
Stiles nodded to the guests and raised his fork. “So, the pasta is boxed, but the pesto is home-made, as is the bread. Oh! Don’t fill up too much on the pasta, because there is dessert, too. I hope you like it!” And then he took a dainty bite, which served to allow the others to begin eating.
There was light conversation—how was your trip, where did you get this recipe, what is your favorite subject in school—but mostly they ate in silence, somehow knowing that the serious conversation would have to wait until the table was cleared. Regina kept an observing eye on Scott, noticing how he held himself stiffly, so as not to embarrass himself. Stiles had no such inhibitions, and he laughed freely, totally unconcerned with how often Regina looked at him as if she were uncovering a hidden treasure.
Derek helped clear the dinner plates while Scott carried in the parfait dishes and Stiles started the coffee-maker. John and Stiles both carried the coffee accoutrements—sugar bowl and creamer and spoons on two trays– and John, Regina, and Derek doctored their coffee carefully. Stiles took his black with a little bit of sugar, but Scott had a small glass of milk in front of him. The chocolate/yogurt and berry parfaits were a huge hit, and soon enough, those dishes were cleared away and coffee was taken to the living room.
It was time for the serious portion of the evening.
Regina had spoken with Stiles during dinner, getting a feel for his humor and intelligence, but she had not purposely touched the boy. As she stood in the entrance to the cozy living room, she reached out and touched his hand.
They both felt a small static-shock.
Regina leaned close to Stiles and murmured, “I must speak with you and your father privately tomorrow. It is nothing to worry about, child, but there is information you simply must have.” Stiles nodded in agreement and took a seat on the floor in front of his father, ignoring the questioning looks he got from both Derek and Scott–both of them had clearly heard the whispered comment, though John had not.
Regina sat back in the comfortably worn recliner and clasped her hands together in her lap. She watched Scott squirm for a moment before speaking. “What have you noticed about your body since your bite, boy?” Her voice was soft, but her tone was pure steel.
Scott swallowed deeply. “Um, I can hear, like, everything. All the time. And I can smell things better.” Scott frowned deeply and his forehead wrinkled. “Man—that locker room is going to be horrible when school starts again!”
Regina nodded and smiled. “Anything else, Scott?”
“Yeah—I don’t need my inhaler anymore. I thought it was a fluke at first, but I usually need it at least three times a day.”
Regina sighed. “You will notice, in a very short time, that you are stronger than you used to be. You will need to become very aware of your body; else you could harm someone unintentionally. Your vision will become more acute and your hearing will become more sensitive than it is even now. There are some Wolves in the Pack that I serve that claim to be able to hear the blood rushing through someone’s veins, and I know they can all hear heartbeats.
“Pay close attention to the heartbeats, Scott. You will be able to hear when a person lies to you, or when they have fear in their hearts. You will be able to scent when someone is aroused sexually, or when someone is taking illicit drugs. You will also be able to taste chemicals in foods, so you may want to start eating more organic and natural foods. Derek here has a fondness for take-out pizza, so all is not lost to you, but you will have to build up a tolerance for such artificial preservatives as are in fast food. You will also become sensitive to bright lights, so you may want to begin wearing lightly tinted glasses for a while. You can also look into contact lenses with a protective coating, if you like, as they will help you fit in better in a social setting.”
Scott frowned. “Why would coated contacts help more than tinted glasses?”
Derek looked up at Stiles and asked, “Do you have your phone on you?”
“Take my picture.”
Stiles shrugged, but pulled his cell phone from his pocket and aimed the camera at Derek, who only gazed blankly back at him. Stiles snapped the picture, and a small flash went off in the camera. “Okay? So what?”
Derek stood and crossed the room to Stiles and Scott. “Pull up the picture in the viewer.”
Stiles did and he and Scott were shocked at the bright glare that covered almost all of Derek’s face in the photo.
Derek pointed at the picture. “Werewolf eyes reflect the light in spotlights, camera flashes, and headlights—just like canine eyes. When I was in school, I had to wear these special coated contact lenses so that my mom could have school pictures of me each grade. I only wore them one day each year until I got my driver’s license. I can get you information on how to get them, if you want, but light hitting you now will reflect badly in your eyes.”
“Dude! Look over here!” Stiles lifted his phone again and took a picture when Scott looked in his direction. Stiles transferred the photo to the viewer and Scott could see the glare that blocked out his own distinctive features.
“My mother is going to hate that!” Scott looked positively stricken. “Oh, god! My mother is going to hate me! She’ll think I’m a monster!”
“Scott! Stop it!” Regina’s voice put a halt to Scott’s pitiful rant. “The Bite can be a gift to those wise enough to use it. You had human weakness, now you do not. With proper training, you will become successful at controlling your Wolf, and you can be a normal member of society. I will be here for a few days at least, so I can help explain to your mother what has happened. But the important thing is: you must learn to control yourself, so you do not attract the most dangerous of all creatures—the Hunter!”
Scott swallowed deeply. “What is a Hunter?”
Regina raised one regal eyebrow. “A Hunter is a human that views werewolves as abominations. Most Hunters work in a clan format, and they mostly adhere to a moral code—they only hunt Wolves that are feral and a danger to humans. An out-of-control werewolf will call hunters from far distances, and if the rogue that bit you continues to attack then hunters will come to Beacon Hills seeking to destroy it. I would hope that you do not intend to become a target of such hunters.
“Also, there are factions of hunters—very small factions—that do not adhere to that code. They would hunt all werewolves, no matter if they are peaceful or not. Hunters such as this killed Derek’s entire family, and they would be attracted to a rogue werewolf. They would see a rogue as an example of how horrible Wolves really are, and they would use it as an excuse to hunt any and all Packs. I would not have such hunters attracted to an area so close to my own Pack, do you understand?”
Scott nodded shakily. “Yes, ma’am. I understand. I need to get control, or I could get hunted.”
“Not just you, Scott,” said Derek softly. “Those kind of hunters would kill you, Stiles, your mom—anyone you hang around or hold dear. There were humans in my family and the hunters didn’t care. They killed them all.”
They sat there, the five of them, in the living room—discussing the changes in Scott’s body and mind and what he would need to do to become in control of the animal inside of him. Scott paid close attention to Regina as she told him of the meditation techniques she could teach him, but he kept shooting disapproving glances toward Derek, and Stiles couldn’t understand why.
After two hours had passed, Stiles could see that Scott was starting to glaze over, just like in history class, so he stood and stretched slightly. “Hey, guys, it’s getting late and Momma McCall is going to be home soon. Why don’t I drive Scott home and the three of you can talk some more. We can figure out when would be good to talk to Scott’s mom later, okay?”
John stood as well, picking up his coffee cup and gesturing to Regina’s cup—offering a refill, which she agreed to. “Okay, son, you do that. I think Regina has more information for just me anyway. Don’t stay too late.”
In the Jeep Scott settled back in his seat and leaned against the window, heaving a heavy sigh. Stiles shot him a look. “What is your problem with Derek, Scott? He’s trying to help you, you know.”
“Well, I wouldn’t need that kind of help if he hadn’t come back here after all this time, now would I?”
“What? What are you talking about? He didn’t bite you! He didn’t invite that crazy alpha to bite you!”
Scott huffed in annoyance. “There weren’t any werewolves running around until he got here, is all I’m saying.”
Stiles gripped the steering wheel tightly. “Scott, Derek’s sister was killed by that crazy werewolf. If it killed her, then it could have killed just about anyone and made it look like an ordinary animal attack. We don’t know how long it was around here, okay, so you can’t blame Derek.”
“He wants me to quit Lacrosse! How is that fair, Stiles? It’s all I ever wanted, and he says I can’t play.”
“No,” said Stiles patiently, “he said you should not play for a while. At least until you’re sure you won’t wolf-out on the field and hurt someone. It’s not unreasonable, Scott.”
But Scott was pouting and refused to answer. Minutes later, Stiles was pulling to a stop in front of the McCall house and Scott was releasing his seatbelt.
“Mom should be home soon, so I’m going to be in bed before she is. I’ll call you later, Stiles.”
And he closed the Jeep door firmly and ran inside the house, leaving Stiles to drive home confused; wondering what was going on with his usually fair-minded friend.
John held out the fresh mug of coffee to Regina and reclaimed his seat on the sofa. “So, I was hoping you would have some information for me about how I can protect against werewolf attacks.”
Regina swallowed a sip and smiled. “I have much to tell you in that regard. Tomorrow, when we have more time, I shall present you with the means to provide good offense and better defense in regards to the Wolf that has come to your town. I brought supplies for you, as well as the means to create your own arsenal.
“But, before your son comes home from his journey, there is something I must talk to you about. I felt a kinship with both of you from the moment I laid eyes on you. There is a hint of the ‘other-natural’ about you; a possibility that there is lineage in the supernatural that you may not be aware of. When I shook your hand in greeting, I felt only integrity and honesty. You are a good man, John Stilinski. I know that you will take my advice to heart. But when I touched your son’s hand, I felt…a presence.”
John frowned. “Like, he’s possessed or something?”
Regina chuckled. “No. But there is something inside of him, something powerful that is struggling to break free. Does he have any…difficulties? Does he struggle mentally?”
John nodded into his coffee cup. “He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was around five years old. He was held back in school for a year because of it—he just couldn’t sit still or concentrate. He still has trouble concentrating, even with the Adderall. I’ve had him to the doctor twice in the past three years to have his medication adjusted. He barely sleeps, and then he’ll crash so hard it’s like he just—unplugs.”
Regina nodded gently. “There is a Spark within him, and it is trying to get out.”
“A ‘Spark’? What does that mean?”
“He is likely magical. He will, once he is trained, be capable of great things. He will only be limited by his imagination.”
John sank into the sofa and ran his hands over his face. “And if he isn’t trained? Because I’m not sure I can handle that.”
“Handle it or not, it must happen, John Stilinski. Would you allow him to handle one of your handguns at this moment?”
“No, of course not! He’d shoot his own foot off!”
Regina smirked. “If he does not receive training for the magic inside him, he could likely blow this house off the foundation. The ADHD is likely a physical manifestation of the Spark struggling to get free. In a heavy emotional state, it could burst free. Anything he says in the heat of the moment could become reality.”
The color drained from John’s face as he sat forward. “About two years ago, we got into an argument about my working hours. I had to cover a shift for a sick deputy and broke plans Stiles and I had made together. As I was leaving the house, he screamed at me: ‘You could roll into a ditch and I’ll never know what happened to you!’. I blew it off, but not ten minutes later, both right-side tires blew on the cruiser and I went into a ditch. I didn’t roll, and I was able to radio for help right away, but I never told him about it.”
Regina nodded. “Yes, this is what I mean. The Spark makes things happen. It is not like spell work, where words and rituals are carefully crafted. He would see in his mind an action or reaction, and it would happen. Possibly not instantly, else you could have been seriously hurt, but only his mind and imagination would cause the effect.”
John swallowed more coffee, wishing he had doctored it. “Could you train him? Or find someone who will?”
Regina grinned widely. “I would be honored to train such a wild talent. But I would not presume to do so without your permission—or his. He must be gently told about his potential. He must also be tested, to see how strong the Spark is within him. If he is amenable, I will make time for him. But secrecy is paramount. He must not reveal what he has inside of him. Sparks are often used and abused, because the raw power is coveted. Trained witches and wizards often don’t obtain the power levels that a Spark is born with.”
John nodded. “I’ll talk to him tomorrow, before you meet with us again.”
“Derek,” said Regina as they drove back to the Beacon Inn, “Please tell me what is bothering you. I know you hid much from us when you came to the Gallagher Pack, but we only want to help you.”
“I don’t…Did Laura tell you what really happened that day?”
“Laura told us that there was a fire while you and she were at the school. The Hale family had gathered for a Wolf Moon celebration, and all perished.”
Derek swallowed deeply as he considered what he was about to say. “I had met a girl—she said she was two years older than me and attended Bridgemont Academy in Beacon Heights. We spent every weekend together for about a month. It was innocent at first, but she kept pushing me for more. I was totally unprepared for it the first time she pushed for sex, and I lost my virginity in the back of her car.”
Derek laughed mirthlessly. “It was all so cliché. I would sneak her into my room when the family was out, and I told her where we hid the key to the back entrance so she could come to me after Mom went to work. Tha…that day of the fire,” Derek choked on a sob, “the adults were locking the little ones in the safe-cages. They were all trapped in the basement when the house burned. She…she was a Hunter, and she used me to get to the family. I blamed myself, and Laura blamed me, too. I was thinking with my dick and I got my family killed!”
Regina reached across the seat to place a gentle hand on Derek’s leg. “It was not your fault, Derek. I assume she was much older than she claimed?” When Derek nodded, she continued. “Hunters with integrity would never target a child. If the Hale Pack had broken the laws and attacked humans, no hunter would have had to lie to hunt and kill. This woman had no honour and you were merely a tool to her. I wanted to ask you before, but will you tell me now, what was her name, this dishonorable hunter?”
“Her name was Kate. Kate Argent.”
After bidding Derek a good and peaceful night, Regina crossed to her suitcase and removed a white-noise machine and plugged it in. Derek would not, most likely, try to listen in on her as she slept, but Regina was used to having very young and adolescent werewolves sleeping next to her, and they had no such qualms.
Once everything was settled, Regina dressed for bed and meditated for no less than thirty minutes, until her mind and conscience were clear. As she settled against the fluffed pillows, Regina activated her cell phone and made several sequential phone calls, from Clan to Clan to Clan, until she finally reached Cybelle d’Argent in Le Mans, France. It would be seven o’clock local time, so Regina didn’t feel too horrible as she placed the call.
The phone rang only once, and then Regina spoke.
“Bonjour j’ai des informations urgentes pour la matriache.”
There was a brief transfer of lines before Regina could convey the information she had recently obtained.
“Un membre de votre famille a agit en dehors du code. Cherchez feu chez les Hale à Beacon Hills, Californie et croissez les références avec Kate Argent. Voila le numéro que vous pouvez utiliser pour me contacter.”
Regina disconnected the call after she was assured the matter would be dealt with.
Her sleep that night was restful and dreamless.
The dim light masked his approach as the drunken man stumbled along the aisle of the bus.
The memory of smoke and heat fogged his brain and his vision sharpened to red.
The old man finally saw him and turned to flee, but his feet were clumsy with his intoxication and he stumbled between the faux-leather seats.
Blood flowed and the man screamed.
Bright laser-lights and the sound of shouting.
Claws scrambled away from the man. The prey.
This was not over.
Scott McCall woke with a muffled scream and ran gagging to the bathroom, barely making it to the toilet before his stomach expelled the poor remnants of his dinner.
Mostly digested pasta and bile, and yet the coppery taste of blood was still lingering from the dream.
Kneeling trembling on the bathroom floor, Scott listened to the darkened house, but his mother had not roused from sleep. Scott stood on unsteady feet and washed his face with cool water, rinsing his mouth thoroughly, and then he walked back to this bedroom, taking note of the time: 05:59am. It was too early to call anyone, not that he had anyone in mind. He sat hunched over on his bed and tried to make sense of the disturbingly vivid dream.
There was an older man—someone Scott did not know—stumbling along the aisle of a…train? A bus? Scott wasn’t sure, because it was dark. He recalled the scents of damp and candy and sweat. Why did he know what that smelled like?
And the feel of his claws ripping through thin cloth and firm flesh. He very clearly remembered that.
Scott turned on his bedside lamp and inspected his hands. There was no blood, but he was sure he would have noticed that in the bathroom. The tips of his fingers weren’t tender, like they were the last time his claws grew out, so that was all really just a dream.
But it seemed so real.
Scott lay down and curled around his pillow. He’d try to get more sleep, and then he’d call Stiles later in the morning, when normal people were awake.
Sheriff? This is Deputy Reid. I’m sorry to call you on your day off.”
John wiped a hand over his face, struggling to fully wake up. “S’okay, Deputy. What’s wrong?”
“There was an animal attack at the school motor-yard. A man was seriously injured.”
That woke John up! “Is he alive?”
“Yes, sir, but we felt it was prudent to notify you about the attack. It’s a real mess, Sir.”
“Do you need me to come out there? Have you called animal control?”
“Animal control is on the way, but there is no sign of the animal. There were others out here, because this is the time the drivers inspect the buses before school starts after the break, so we figured the noise of the other drivers scared it away.”
“Alright, then, get someone to the hos—no, wait, I’ll go to the hospital and take a statement from the victim, if he’s awake and aware, and you make sure that there are no mountain lions laying in wait in the bus yard.”
“Yes, Sir. Again, sorry to wake you.”
John was standing and looking for his uniform pants. “I’m glad you did, Reid. Keep me posted.”
John disconnected the call and began to dress quietly, but movement in the hall drew his attention. He looked up to see Stiles standing in the doorway. “Did the phone wake you?”
Stiles nodded blearily. “Yeah. Is it bad?”
John shrugged. “Potentially. The school bus drivers were out early today, doing inspections on the buses before school starts again. There was an ‘animal attack’, and one of the drivers was hurt.”
Stiles straightened from his slouch against the door jamb. “Do you think it’s that rogue Alpha again?”
“I won’t know until I get to the hospital.” John put his wallet in his back pocket, and clapped Stiles on the shoulder as he passed by him on the way to the stairs. “I’ll call you when I learn anything.”
Stiles nodded. “Be careful, okay?”
The scene at the hospital was grim.
The victim, Garrison Myers, had been clawed savagely, and the doctors were not certain that he would survive the wounds.
But the worst part? He was conscious and he was talking.
Clearly, he was drunk. John was standing beside the ER doctor as the man tried to clean and suture the worst of the wounds, and he could smell the alcohol on Myers’ breath as he babbled. John was trying to get some sort of identification, any indication of what animal it was that attacked Myers on that bus, but the mutterings were indistinct and confused.
Except for some very clear words: Hale, fire, so sorry, deserved.
As far as statements went, this one wasn’t very informative, but it was clear to John that Myers wanted to absolve himself of some sin or other, and the Hale family was related to that.
John wasn’t surprised; Garrison Myers was the original insurance investigator to the Hale fire, and his statement tried to point blame onto the Hale family, clearly stating that they knowingly placed inferior wiring into their home and abused the housing codes. A secondary investigation was launched, at John’s prodding, and Myers’ statement was ruled out. If it hadn’t been, Derek and Laura Hale would not have received any insurance money because the tragedy could have been ruled a horrifying suicide.
John indicated that he was stepping outside to make a phone call, and he reluctantly dialed Derek Hale’s cell number. If Myers wanted absolution, then Derek was the best person to give it.
“Yeah, it’s me, Derek. Listen—can you come to the hospital? Someone here needs to talk to you, and it looks like he won’t live much longer.”
“Who? Um, yeah, I’ll be right there.”
“Good, I’ll meet you at the entrance to Emergency.”
John disconnected the call before Derek could ask more questions. He hated that the young man had to deal with this, but he desperately needed answers and this was the one way John could help him get those answers.
Only minutes later, Derek’s black Camero pulled into visitor parking, and Derek was joining John in a silent walk through the chaotic Emergency Room.
At the door to the trauma room that housed Myers, John knocked to get the doctor’s attention.
“Dr. Wright? This is Derek Hale. Mr. Myers mentioned him in his ramblings. I think, maybe, it would be important to the man’s peace of mind if he could speak to Derek?”
Wright stepped away from Myers’ bed and nodded reluctantly. “He doesn’t have much time left, gentlemen. I’m sorry you had to see him like this, Mr. Hale.”
Derek nodded toward the doctor, but his eyes were on the bloody man on the treatment bed. “It’s okay, Doctor. I don’t really know him or why he would want to see me.”
But Derek entered the room as the doctor stood aside, and he leaned close to Myers as the wounded man seemed to focus for the first time since he was brought in. John could see Myers’ mouth moving, but he heard nothing, and after only a minute Myers began gasping and shaking in some sort of seizure, and Derek backed away to allow the doctor to take his place. But the heart-monitor went eerily cold, and Myers drew his last breath.
John told Derek to wait for him in the hall and he asked the doctor to make sure blood work was done on Myers. “And can you bag his clothing for our technicians? There might be animal hair that can help us identify our dangerous attacker.”
John joined Derek and they walked into the parking lot together. “What did he say to you, Derek?”
Derek shook his head. “It didn’t make much sense to me. He said he was sorry and that ‘she paid him well’ but threatened his family.” Derek looked at John hopelessly. “I don’t know what it was all about. He was a school bus driver, and I never rode the bus at all when I went to school here. None of us did.”
John cleared his throat. “I may know something about that, actually. Since you came back and your sister was killed, I re-opened the file on your family’s incident. Myers was, long ago, one of the original insurance investigators looking into that fire. His original report said your family was at fault, and if it had prevailed, you and Laura would never have seen one cent of the insurance money. I butted in and asked for another review, and the new investigator found no indication that the wiring was done deliberately bad.”
Derek frowned. “So he felt guilty about saying my family wired the house on purpose? I don’t get it.”
John led Derek to a bench in the hospital’s smoking area, which was blessedly empty at that time of the morning. “Sit down, Derek. I’ll tell you what I found so far, but it’s only been a few days. Garrison Myers quit his very lucrative job about six months after the fire—long after you and Laura left town. When I looked into his financial records, I found that he paid off his mortgage and several high-interest loans—after he quit his job. And Myers was seen, a few weeks before the fire, with a young blonde woman who was most definitely not his wife.”
“And you think that woman might have been Kate Argent?”
John shrugged. “Could be. I’m not sure. I’m still looking into it. But that would explain why Myers felt the need to apologize to you, even if it was too little, too late.” John looked at his watch: 08:46am. “Look, I have the day off, and Regina wanted to give me some stuff and more information today when we had time. Why don’t you go get her, and I’ll make some of my special pancakes. Stiles actually allows me to cook, sometimes, and those are a real hit.”
Derek stood and thrust his hands into his jacket pocket. “Yeah, I can do that. I’ll take time to get properly cleaned up, too. We’ll see you in about an hour?”
John clapped him on the shoulder and moved to find his own car. “Sounds good. See you then.”
Stiles stared at his cell phone as if it had suddenly grown a head and was spouting Plato’s Republic.
“What did you say, Scott? Because I really don’t think I heard that correctly.”
“I think I killed someone last night.”
Stiles sighed. “Okay. Were you still in your bed when you woke up this morning?”
“And were you covered in dirt and/or blood?”
Stiles could hear his friend start to panic; Scott’s breathing got heavier and more erratic. “Why do you think you killed somebody?”
“Because…because I remember it. I can still taste the blood, Stiles.”
Stiles started. “Jesus, Scott! Was there…?”
“No. There wasn’t any blood anywhere on me or in my room, but that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t have cleaned up in my sleep.”
“Scott—were you wearing the same pajamas when you woke up as when you went to sleep?
Stiles sighed in relief. “Okay—then you didn’t sleep-kill and then sleep-clean-up. There is no way you would have done laundry in your sleep, and I’m sure you would have woken up your mom if you tried. The last time you did laundry alone was a disaster. Is your mom awake yet?”
There was a brief pause as Scott walked to his bedroom door and opened it. “I think so. She’s not moving around yet, but her breathing changed. And that is creepy that I know that.”
“Okay,” said Stiles as he began descending the stairs and walked to the kitchen. “Dad got a call at way-too-early o’clock, but he should be home soon. It’s his day off, but there was an incident that the deputies thought he should know about—and no, I do not know what it was. Why don’t you get a shower and dress in something comfortable and non-restricting. Do you want us to come over there and give you home-field advantage when we tell your mom about werewolves, or do you want to bring her over here and have your house be her safe-zone?”
“What are you talking about?” Scott finally stopped sounding freaked-out and started sounding confused, which was his regular setting.
Stiles poured some frosted corn flakes into a bowl and opened the fridge for some milk—finding none. He sighed and wrote ‘milk’ on the shopping list stuck to the front of the fridge and moved to the coffee-maker to start it brewing. “Scott, we’re going to tell your mother something totally unbelievable, and then we’re going to show why she has to believe it. Would you rather she was in our house, and had her own home as a safe-zone, or would you rather we told her in her own living room?”
“Oh. Um, maybe I should ask her? I mean, I could tell her that I have something important to tell her, and ask where she’d like to hear it?”
The front door opened and John walked in and stripped off his coat to hang it in the hall. Stiles looked up and waggled the empty milk carton in John’s direction. John heaved a sigh and put the coat back on. Stiles indicated that he was on the phone, mouthing ‘Scott’ at his father, and turned back to the grocery list. “Scott, whatever you think would be easiest, okay? But first, you need to calm down so you don’t wolf-out in front of her and ruin the whole thing. You don’t want to freak her out, do you?”
“No. Okay, she’s starting to get out of bed now. I’ll let her get the first shower. Maybe we can come to your place for lunch?”
“Yeah, that can happen. We have to go shopping first, and Regina wants to talk to Dad about something before you get here, so I’ll call you. How about taco salad for lunch?”
John nodded eagerly and Scott said, “Okay”, and Stiles quickly disconnected the call.
“Well,” Stiles said to his father, “We need to get food, and Scott had a dream that he killed someone.” Stiles moved past his father to grab his own jacket when he noticed the pensive look on John’s face. “What? That call earlier…?”
John nodded. “A bus driver was attacked by a mountain lion earlier this morning. At least,” he continued, seeing the look of disbelief on Stiles’ face, “That is what the official report is going to say. Unofficially, it’s part of an investigation that I re-opened, so don’t ask about it. Let’s get some shopping done, and I’ll call Derek and Regina when we get home.”
Regina Kincaide, if at all possible, looked totally imposing as she sat at the formal dining table in the Stilinski home. She had piled her long hair into an elegant knot on top of her head and she wore a pair of jeweled reading glasses on a chain around her neck. She was dressed in an emerald-green silk sweater and khaki linen slacks, with hand-tooled leather boots on her feet. Her jewelry was simple, but totally arcane: raw-crystal ear-bobs, silver bangles on her wrists, and a silver pendant shaped like a stylized tree hanging from a thick silver chain around her neck. Her towering walking stick was propped against the wall beside her.
For such a small woman, she had huge style, and Stiles liked her more the longer he knew her.
On the table in front of her was a huge wooden crate, and there was another on the floor beside her chair. Both were carved with runes and other occult symbols, and had heavy iron hinges and hasp-locks. Stiles eyed the crates as he took his seat across the table from Regina. He could almost feel the crates humming with some sort of electrical energy, but Derek and his father seemed not to notice. Regina smiled knowingly at Stiles, though, as if she could tell he felt something.
John and Derek sat at the ends of the table, with Derek as far from the crates as he could get and still be in the room. In fact, he looked incredibly uncomfortable just sitting there. Stiles could feel his unease and moved to try to make him more comfortable. “Derek? Would you like some cocoa, or something?”
Derek frowned at him. “No, thank you.” Derek turned back to Regina. “We’re not going to eat in here after this, are we?”
Regina laughed and reached down the table to pat Derek’s hand. “Relax, dear Derek. I would do nothing to harm you; you know that. But I’ll need the room to work, and this surface is the best place. Anything dangerous will not be placed on the table without protection.”
John frowned at the crates. “Is what’s in there poisonous?”
Regina smiled widely. “Of course it is! You need protection from werewolves, and they are strongly impervious to many things.” Regina used her staff to poke at the chest on the floor. “This is a gift, from me to you. It’s a blessed progressive press for loading your own ammunition. I assume you do know how to do this?”
John nodded. “Yes, I am aware of how to do this. I load my own target rounds for the firing range. Bullets aren’t cheap, you know.”
Regina grinned. “No, ammunition for public servants is most definitely not cheap. These rounds will be even more expensive, so there are precise instructions to follow. The bullet tips are a blend of copper and silver—which will cause minimal harm on their own. Silver is a small deterrent, but will not actually kill a werewolf. It will sting—a lot—but it is the load that is the most dangerous. The powder mix is infused with aconitum. That is Wolf’s Bane, and it is poisonous to humans—lethal in large doses, but mild in small amounts—but it is deadly to werewolves.”
Regina leveled a deadly gaze at John. “I have included powdered aconitum of five distinct varieties, because hunters rarely use the same one, and there are seeds for those five plus five more. You have a large yard, a good fence, and a lack of small pets and children. Your son could very easily grow you an infinite supply. And before you ask, having the supply can be a help to friendly werewolves as well. If a Wolf is shot with Wolf’s Bane rounds, having the blossom handy could mean the difference between life and death.”
John nodded, looking eagerly at the large crate on the floor. “So, in that rather elegant box is a complete bullet factory for anti-werewolf weapons? Pretty cool, and pretty expensive. Why give it to me?”
“Because, Sheriff John Stilinski, you were a friend to the Hale Pack and you are a friend to Derek Hale.” Regina folded her hands together on top of the table. “You are an honorable man, John. I do have a sense of these things. But you have a werewolf problem, and that usually brings hunters. I would rather have an honorable man armed against the threat than have hunters risking everyone in this town. There are precise instructions for loading the bullets, as well as precise instructions for growing the plants. A greenhouse is optimal, but you can have a yard garden if you can guarantee that animals or children will stay out of the yard.”
John looked at Stiles and Derek and shrugged. “I think I can find a place for a secured greenhouse in the back yard. Stiles can use it for vegetables, right?”
“Oh, yes, as long as separate beds are used.” Regina laid her hands on top of the crate on the table. “This, however, is personal protection—for you, your son, and anyone else you deem worthy.”
Regina opened the hinged top of the crate and pulled out several fabric-wrapped items. Long, thin, and flexible, she laid them side by side on the table and closed the crate, hiding the rest of the contents. She looked at Stiles, who was watching the process with undisguised curiosity, and raised one elegant eyebrow. “You have seen the rather entertaining television program about supernatural problem solvers?”
Stiles grinned. “Is any of that salt-coated iron?”
Regina laughed. “No, but they’re more painless than tattoos.”
Stiles’ smile brightened and John looked confused. “Tattoos? What are you talking about?” he asked as he watched the glee on his son’s face.
Stiles elaborated. “You know that show I watch about the demon-hunters? Those guys have special tattoos to keep from getting possessed. They also carry salted-iron weapons, because salt is a purifier and iron is good against the fae.” Stiles shrugged at his father’s incredulous look. “What? It’s the mythology of the show. I did some research on it, because I am ever curious, and most of what they used is traditionally sound.”
Regina nodded and began unwrapping the parcels. “They have several witches on their technical team, so most of what they do on the show is actually sound, but they throw in enough idiocy to throw off anyone trying to actually raise demons. No,” she said when John opened his mouth, “You can’t actually raise demons. But there is enough supernatural danger in the world without that anyway. I have several books that I can make available to you, if you are truly interested. These pendants are actually vessels of fae-silver—not made by the fae, but blessed against them—and they are filled with mountain ash and aconitum. You wear them on your person, somewhere easily accessible, and they are inert and very fashionable. But if you are attacked, you throw them at the monsters, and they break on contact.”
Regina unfolded the fabric and uncovered several inch-long, translucent, silvery pendants on leather thongs. They were all shaped differently; some looked like animal heads, some like totem carvings, and some like flowers. But they were all the same size, and Stiles could see a powdery substance inside each one.
“I make these with my coven, and all human members of my Pack wear them. They are unobtrusive and can be worn around the neck or on a key ring. Very handy, don’t you think?”
John reached out and took the pendant offered to him—a bear paw design—and smiled. “I’m not usually one for jewelry, but this is small enough to hide under my clothes. Thank you, Regina.”
Regina nodded to him. “You are very welcome, John Stilinski. The rest of the contents of this crate will wait until after we speak to Scott McCall and his mother, but I thought she would possibly want a few of these for after we explain young Scott’s condition.”
Stiles stood up and pulled a fox-shaped pendant over his head. “On that note, I need to start browning some ground turkey for taco salads.”
Stiles retreated to the kitchen, pulling out his phone and calling Scott on the way. “Hey, buddy! How are you doing over there?”
“I’m okay. I feel a little itchy, though. I hate disappointing my mom, you know?”
Stiles sighed. “It’ll be okay, Scott. My dad is on your side, and I am, too. She’ll be unhappy, and maybe a little scared, but she won’t be disappointed. Well—she’ll be disappointed that you and I went into the woods that night, but that’s just a ‘mom thing’. Anyway, you guys can come over any time now. I’m starting the meat now, so food will be ready when you get here.”
While Melissa McCall was pleased with the invitation to lunch at the Stilinski house, she was confused by the presence of the other guests.
Since Scott seemed to know them, however, she tried hard to be relaxed while meeting them.
“Hey, Melissa, Scott, come on in!” said John when he answered the door. “There are a few people here that I’d like you to meet.”
Melissa followed him into the house while Scott trailed along behind her. In the dining room, where they rarely ate since the four of them could fit easily around the kitchen table, were Stiles and an older woman and a young man who looked to be only slightly older than Scott and Stiles.
John performed the introductions. “This is Derek Hale. I think you might remember when he and his family lived just outside of town?”
“Of course,” said Melissa, reaching to shake the young man’s hand. “It’s good to meet you, Derek.”
“And this,” continued John, “is Regina Kincaide, a friend of Derek’s from Oregon.”
The older lady stood and offered her hand to Melissa. “It’s so nice to meet you, Mrs. McCall.”
“Thank you. How do you know John?”
“I only recently made his acquaintance. Derek asked me to come as a personal favor.”
“I…see,” said Melissa, confused. She looked at Stiles. “So, the food smells great!”
Stiles smiled easily. “Yeah, well, it’s simple but good and filling. Have a seat and I’ll get the tea pitcher.”
Stiles exited to the kitchen and John held out a chair for Melissa. “Hey, Scott wanted to talk to you about something, and we thought it would be better if you were with friends and people who understood the situation.”
Immediately, Melissa tensed. “So, what has my son done now that I need the Sheriff to be a buffer?”
Scott head-desked to the table and Stiles laughed as he entered the dining room.
“Mrs. McCall,” said Regina calmly, “It was not what your son did, but what was done to him. And you are here with friends because what you need to hear is so unbelievable that you would think it a horrible prank. I know you trust John Stilinski; that you know he would never lie to you. You don’t have to know or trust me. I’m merely here to give more factual information after you hear the impossible.”
Melissa fidgeted with her iced tea glass, ignoring the food in front of her. Finally, she looked at John. “Is it bad? Was he…” Melissa shot a sideways glance at her mortified son. “Was he molested in any way?”
Those words, spoken in a hoarse whisper, drove Scott out of his chair and to his knees in front of his mother. “Oh, god, MOM! No! I wasn’t…it’s bad, but that’s not what happened, okay?”
Melissa reached out and cupped Scott’s face gently in her hands. “Yeah? Okay, then, I’m ready to hear whatever it is, no matter what it is.”
Scott smiled and retook his seat, reaching for his tea and taking a sip. “Okay, mom, but you’re going to be really mad, and then you won’t believe anything I say, so you have to have a really, REALLY open mind.”
Melissa’s eyebrows shot up high on her forehead. “If I’m not going to believe it…wow, this must be serious.”
Stiles nodded. “It is, and I blame myself, even though it was mostly Scott’s idea.”
Melissa and John both frowned. “Okay, then, why don’t you start explaining?” said Melissa with new conviction.
Stiles took a deep breath, but Scott shook his head and began speaking before Stiles could start.
“A few days ago, while you were at work, Stiles came over to the house around seven o’clock at night. His dad got a radio call and was out on a crime scene, and he didn’t want to be alone. He told me that some off-season hikers found a body—or part of one—in the woods near the preserve…and I thought it would be cool if we sneaked out and looked for it ourselves.”
Melissa gasped and made sounds of disapproval, but Scott continued. “It was stupid, I know. But, at the time it sounded so cool! But it was cold and damp, and my asthma was acting up, so we found the search teams before we found the body. When we heard the dogs, I told Stiles that I would double-back to the Jeep while he went another way, so we wouldn’t get caught together.
“And I ran off and dropped my inhaler…anyway, that’s not the important part. I almost got trampled by a herd of deer, and then there was this…animal. A big one. And it ran at me, and it bit me.”
Melissa gasped. “Oh, my god! Scott! Was it rabid? Are you sick? Do you have stitches I don’t’ know about?”
“No! Mom! I went to the clinic and cleaned it up myself. It looked really bad, but by the next day it was almost healed, and yesterday it was completely healed—no scar or anything.”
“Scott,” said Melissa incredulously, “animal bites don’t do that! And you went to the vet clinic? Are you crazy?”
“Mom! It’s healed!” And Scott proved it by pulling up his shirt and exposing completely smooth skin. “And I don’t need my inhaler anymore, and I can hear…everything, now.”
“What are you talking about, Scott? You were bitten by a wild dog, and now you’re Superman?”
Scott took a deep, fortifying breath. “No, Mom, I was bitten by a werewolf. And now, I’m one, too.”
Melissa gaped at her son. Clearly, she wanted to say something; call him an idiot or a liar, or yell at him for telling tales. But she looked around the table—at the serious faces and the calm demeanors around her. None of the other occupants in the room seemed surprised by the declaration. She turned pleading eyes toward John—her long-time friend and co-parent to both teens. He looked right back at her with serious eyes.
“It’s true, Melissa,” said John gently. “It’s all true. I’ve known about the existence of werewolves for a long time now. I came across them during my later years as a deputy. I thought I was going crazy, at first, and then I was educated.”
Melissa looked from John to Stiles to Derek and Regina. “And you all are here, to ‘educate’ me?”
Regina nodded. “To give you information, yes. I am part of a Pack in Oregon, and I was asked to come by Derek here—so that I could help Scott with his transition if at all possible.”
Melissa laughed shakily. “Transition? Is that what it’s called? My son is suffering from some sort of delusion, and you’re all infected as well….”
Melissa broke off as Derek’s eyes began to glow neon-blue and his teeth elongated alarmingly. She looked at her son and saw that his eyes were glowing golden-yellow and his sideburns were growing rather long—and he was whining in a most inappropriate way.
“Scott?” Melissa gasped in shock. “Oh. My. God!”
John reached over and covered Melissa’s hand with his own. “Melissa. Hey! Look at me!”
Melissa turned to John. “Scott is okay, alright?” John was trying to calm her. “He’s not a monster, or a killer…yet. But!” Melissa tried to speak, but John interrupted. “He’s not going to be a killer, Melissa. Derek is going to help him get under control, so that he doesn’t lose control. And Regina is here to give you and I protection against the werewolf that bit Scott, because that one is a danger!”
Melissa nodded. “Okay. My son has had a…difficulty, but he is still my son.” She looked at Scott, who had de-wolfed in relief. “So, you’re not asthmatic anymore, huh?”
Scott shook his head. “Nope. But…I’ve been having these really, really bad dreams. And,” he continued sheepishly, “I think I might have…hurt someone late last night, or early this morning? I dreamed about it, and I could taste blood when I woke up.”
Derek inhaled sharply. “That. Is not good.”
Stiles clapped his hands together, breaking the tension. “Okay, people. The food, that I so lovingly prepared, is getting cold. The tea, that I…brewed from a teabag, is getting watered down. So, let’s eat and drink and be civil, and then we can talk about Scott’s new wolfy problem and how we can help him. Okay?”
They agreed, and lunch went off without a further hitch.
Melissa sat on the sofa in the Stilinski living room, holding hands with her son. He was calm now, and so was she, but things could change and the topic of the coming conversation was not going to be easy on either of them.
John was seated in the armchair next to the sofa, and Regina had place of power once again in the recliner. Stiles was seated on the floor in front of his father, trying to look comfortable and casual. Derek was leaning on the wall next to the entrance archway, and he was the one to start the difficult conversation.
“The dreams that Scott is having are…troubling. This rogue Alpha is trying to maintain some type of control over Scott. Alphas have a connection to their Betas. Usually, it’s just a Pack bond, and we can all sense each other through those bonds. But an Alpha has influence over the Betas. They can influence a Beta’s behavior and actions. If Scott is dreaming of the Alpha attacking people, then the Alpha is trying to exert that influence.
“It’s a rite of passage for bitten wolves: hunt with or be hunted by the Alpha. My mother, who was the Hale Alpha before she died, always told us that we are predators—but we don’t have to be killers. We hunted with our Alpha every full moon—mostly deer or small game like rabbits or foxes. We hunted carefully, and we celebrated the hunt together as a Pack. This Alpha is…insane, feral. That he attacked a teenage boy in the woods; that speaks much to his state of mind. Werewolves don’t just bite people, and they certainly don’t bite to transform. Consent has to be given, or Hunters come and destroy werewolves. And since the Alpha is the only one that can give the transformational bite, the hunters would take out entire Packs if the Alpha bit someone without consent.”
Melissa hesitated. “Is that…is that what happened to your family?”
Derek shook his head and hunched his shoulders. “No. My family was peaceful. We protected our territory—wolves and humans alike—and my mother was a respected community leader. They were killed….”
Derek broke off, so Regina continued. “The Hale Pack was killed by a disgraceful hunter that broke from the code that all reputable hunters follow: to hunt only wolves that harm humans. There are roughly a dozen hunting clans all over the world, and many factions of those that cover many territories, and they are all supposed to follow that code. When hunters go off the code, there is a council that rules them, and they are heavily…sanctioned.”
Stiles broke in with “Wait, wait, wait—there’s a council? Like Hunter cops?”
“If you like.” Regina paused. “The Hunter Council would come down hard on the hunters that took out the Hale Pack, if proof is made. But there is no real solid proof that Hunters killed the Hale Pack, only speculation.”
“I’ve been making inquiries into the case,” said John. “I’m looking into whether there is a case for arson instead of faulty wiring, but even then I might not be able to prove who committed the actual arson.”
Stiles noticed that no specific names were mentioned, and he recalled that Scott had never heard the name ‘Argent’, or the whole tale of the Hale fire. Recognizing that there was probably a reason for this, he interrupted that conversation. “Okay, then—we’re supposed to be telling Melissa about werewolves and helping Scott.”
Derek nodded in agreement. “Yes, of course. Regina has agreed to show Scott meditations techniques so that he can remain calm, and I will work on physically training him. Scott, you’ll have to learn to fight as a Wolf, because you may have to defend yourself. No place is really safe from hunters, so you’ll learn to keep a low profile. You can’t show off your new strength, or lose control in public, so you’ll need to lay low until you gain control. We’ll run together, and workout together, and you’ll meditate either with me, with Regina, or on your own.”
Scott began to pout again. “But I can help my mom around the house, right? Lifting stuff and carrying groceries and laundry?”
Derek nodded. “Just don’t show off, especially in front of people who know you have asthma and are not really physically strong. And if you have a girlfriend, you might want to give that a rest for a while. Your hormones will be completely out of whack for a while, and you could lose it with a girlfriend.”
Scott blushed and muttered, “No problem there.” And Melissa leaned over and kissed Scott on the forehead.
“It’ll happen, sweetie. Someone will find out just how wonderful you are, and you’ll never feel the same again.” Melissa smiled at her son, and then looked at Regina. “You said something about protection?”
“Yes. I brought several ‘magic bombs’ that you and Stiles and John can carry on your person to protect yourselves in case this rogue Alpha comes near you. They are small and fashionable, but very powerful.”
The conversation flowed easily after that, and Melissa kept physical contact with Scott the entire time. Scott reluctantly agreed to train with Derek, but Stiles could tell that Scott still didn’t want to trust the other man.
It hurt his heart a little bit, that someone so damaged wanted to help so much, and Scott wouldn’t move an inch to be gracious.
Stiles could see that Melissa wanted alone time with her son, if only to reassure herself that Scott was okay, and he knew that Regina had more in her bag of tricks that she didn’t want to show the McCalls, so he called an end to the meeting and sent Melissa home with plenty of leftovers.
Once Scott and Melissa offered hugs and farewells, Stiles sat on the sofa in their place. He knew something important was going to be discussed.
He just didn’t know he was the main topic.
“I’m a WHAT?” Stiles gaped as he looked from person to person in the living room.
John was sitting next to him on the sofa, looking for all the world as if they were discussing the latest basketball scores. Regina was smiling benignly in the recliner, hands clasped loosely in her lap. Derek was still standing uncomfortably against the wall next to the window. Out of all of them, Derek was the one who least wanted to have this conversation, although John was looking like a close second.
Stiles took a deep breath and checked the time on his phone, also noting the date: December 30.
With all the excitement, Stiles had managed to forget how little time had actually passed.School let out for break on December 20, and Stiles and Scott had scrambled for a few days,buying Christmas gifts for friends and family. John and Melissa always placed themselves on Holiday duty, because Stiles and Scott preferred to stick with each other over the holidays, so the Sheriff and the nurse worked longer hours to give families time together. The two small families spent Christmas Day together, having a small, cozy dinner and watching Die Hard and A Christmas Story and It’s A Wonderful Life (it was Melissa’s favorite), and Scott and Stiles spent the rest of break goofing off—playing video games and the ill-fated sledding outing.
The trip to the Preserve, looking for a body, was on December 26. After Scott got bitten, and bodies started dropping with alarming frequency, time seemed to have stood still.
And here it was, New Years Eve-eve, and Stiles had come to grips with werewolves,possible hunters—and the fact that he was a ‘Magical Spark’.
What. The. HELL?
Stiles cleared his throat and spoke to Derek.“Hey, um, this is awkward! But I’m apparently going to learn some super, special stuff here, and I think it’s time for fattening, sugary treats—so would you mind driving to the Beacon Bakery on Main Street and grabbing some bad- for-my- dad stuff? I’ll break out the good coffee that Dad doesn’t know about,” Stiles continued, ignoring his father’s gasp of outrage, “And we can talk without you looking like you’d rather sink into the floor. Um, it that okay?”
Derek nodded, abrupt, “Yeah—did you want anything in particular?”
John reached into his pants for his wallet. “They have this chocolate/peanut-butter crème cake that Claudia used to love but Stiles never lets me have anymore. Oh! Get some of the large cinnamon rolls for breakfast tomorrow. Here’s enough for a dozen, and you and Regina are invited for breakfast. I think Scott and Melissa will find their way back here before Melissa’s late shift.”
Derek nodded again and grabbed his leather jacket from the hall-tree, but he declined the offered money. “I can get this, Sir—John, I mean. You’ve offered me food and companionship and a friendly face when I needed one. I hardly think cinnamon rolls can repay that.”
Stiles snorted. “Dude, you have not had those rolls!”
With a muttered “Don’t call me Dude”, Derek was out the door, leaving Stiles and his million questions alone with Regina and his father.
“So,” he began, rubbing his hands together, “Why not start by telling me what a Spark is and how you know I am one?”
Regina smiled kindly. “A ‘Spark’ is an innate magic user. And before you ask, we’re not talking Harry Potter stuff here. There are several types of magic users in the world, and they each differ in style, strength, and ability. The first type is the witches, like me. We get our ‘power’ from the very earth we live on. I have studied long and hard to be able to feel and use the magic in raw stone, metal ore, and wood. I can create talismans and magical weapons, and I can create magical cures and poisons. The first lesson for every magic user should be ‘what can help you can also harm you’, but it rarely is. Nowadays, most magic users want power without consequence, and that is terribly dangerous.
“Another type of magic user is the Mage. Mages use elements like fire, water, and so-on,and they can be trained to control the weather—or to create earthquakes and other so-called ‘natural disasters’. There are bad Mages in the world, but mostly they are in Europe and Asia.Some tsunamis don’t just appear, you know, and so I try to avoid those at all costs.
“Then there are the Druids. They are supposed to harness the balances in nature—re-growing sacred forests after fires and honoring the Olde Rites. Stonehenge was once a major Druidic center of power, but the Druids have drifted into the underground and now it’s just a beautiful pile of rocks.
“Sparks,” she said, leaning slightly forward, “Are another story altogether. They are bound by imagination and physics only. They can’t create life from nothing, or make a small thing much larger, but they can do much. Sparks are usually a family thing, and the lineage is strong.Since your father is so down-to-earth, I’m thinking the traits come from your late mother. Could she grow healthy gardens?”
Stiles shook his head. “Nope. She couldn’t grow a thing. Black thumbs all around.”
Regina frowned slightly. “Could she anticipate phone calls?”
A snort of amusement. “She was always losing the phone in the house. That’s why we have so many cordless handsets around here.”
“But I’m sure she made friends easily, then?”
Stiles shook his head again. “Mom got along okay with her co-workers at the library, but she only had one or two close friends. Once her dementia took hold, she turned away from everybody, even me and Dad. I’m pretty sure all those people came to her funeral just because Dad is a good Sheriff and they wanted to honor him, not her.”
On the sofa beside him, John rubbed both hands over his face and groaned. “It was my mother! She could do all of that!”
Stiles looked at his father in shock. “Nana was a Spark?” Stiles’ paternal grandmother had died when he was only three years old, so he didn’t have any real memories of her.
John rested his elbows on his knees, hands clasped together, and leaned a cheek on his folded hands so he could watch his son. “My mother could plant a tomato on a Monday and harvest the fruit on Saturday. Every flower in her beds could have won ribbons at the county fair, but she’d never enter. We had a drought one year, when I was fifteen, and there were water restrictions. Her flower and vegetable gardens flourished despite that, and her neighbors called the city council on her. We had to turn over our water bill to prove that she wasn’t watering the plants while everyone else in town slept.”
John leaned back and placed a gentle hand on Stiles’ shoulder. “When you were born, she held you tight against her chest and kissed your head, and she called you her little spark of joy. I only thought that she was so happy to have you, a grandson. She had such joy in her eyes every time she saw you.”
Stiles offered a sad smile in return. “I wish I could remember her.”
John returned the smile. “She also never missed a phone call.” He laughed out loud. “I remember watching her run into the kitchen from the yard one day, and she was muttering about some work emergency, and she picked up the phone before the first ring even finished—and it was my dad calling with a work emergency, and he was going to be late for dinner. I grew up thinking my mother was fantastic, and some kind of nut, but I never knew magic existed.”
“That is probably because you never manifested as a Spark yourself,” said Regina kindly.“I have met only a few Sparks, but it is largely left to family to train them, so the family secret could be kept within the family. It is likely that your mother would have wanted to train your son personally once he was old enough to manifest.”
Stiles frowned. “And how old would I have to be to ‘manifest’? Because I’ve noticed nothing magical in my life right now.”
“I believe,” said Regina, “that you began to manifest at age four or five. Your ADHD is likely a symptom of the magic trying to escape your body. If you could concentrate and focus, then the magic will settle and your brain will not be under so much strain. I think you will find that there have been many instances where you thought or said something, and then that thing happened. It is your Spark—the magic of your imagination—that makes those things happen.”
Stiles opened his mouth to refute that, but he paused to think.
In kindergarten, Stiles was pushed down on the playground and he skinned his hands and knees, and he wished the boy who pushed him would have an accident—and he was hit in the head by the teeter-totter.
In second grade, after Stiles had made friends with Scott, an older boy in school took Scott’s inhaler—and then he tripped over air and cracked his chin on a metal trashcan.
In freshman year, Scott wanted so badly to be on the Lacrosse team that he badgered Stiles incessantly until he agreed to tryout with him—and they both miraculously caught enough tosses to make the team as bench-warmers.
It wasn’t much—only small stuff, inconsequential—but there was a possibility there. If he could concentrate enough to ‘make things happen’ when he was scattered with ADHD, then what could he do with training?
“Okay, then,” said Stiles with determination, “What can we do to train me up? I’m assuming that I’ll need it.”
“You will indeed,” said Regina. “Untrained, you could be a danger. Raw magic such as yours will have to come out somehow. Luckily it has manifested only in creativity, and nobody has been hurt. Ideally, since the Hale Pack had lived here for so long, you could have been trained by their Emissary. But that, unfortunately, is no longer the case.”
“Why not? Is this Emissary still here?”
“He is here, yes. Derek does not trust the man, however, so I did some research of my own. The Emissary, Deaton….”
“Wait!” John interrupted Regina with indignance. “The Hale Emissary is the town vet?”
Regina raised an eyebrow. “Do not disparage our occupations and callings, Sheriff. I am a Certified Public Accountant, and I’m going to be very busy come February, when tax season starts. I know other Emissaries that own bookstores, or drive delivery trucks, and the Emissary I took over for owned a bakery. How we pay bills is of no consequence. Deaton had a calling to aid animals, and that fits in with being a Druid—which he most certainly is.”
“But,” said Stiles, “Learning from a Druid would be a good thing, right? Not that I wouldn’t be happy to have you train me.”
“And I would be honored to train you, Stiles,” said Regina with a smile. “As I said, my time will not be my own in just over a month, but until then, I can spare the time. I had to study much for my talents, so I have obtained very good methods for meditation, concentration, and implementation. As to the Druid, well, things there are complicated. Derek did not, and does not, trust the man, and his reasons are valid. Liam Gallagher, the Alpha of the Gallagher Pack, was a long-time friend of the Hales. He went to college with Alpha Talia Hale before she attained Alpha-hood, and he was a key speaker at Talia and Robert’s wedding. Liam told me that Robert often complained about how secretive and enigmatic Alan Deaton was; how he never gave a straight answer unless pressed with great force. Talia did not believe in pressing with great force, so she often had her younger brother, Peter, seek out the information needed for negotiations when Deaton held back. Peter was young and ambitious, and he possessed a certain charm—according to Liam—that made it possible to get secrets from the unsuspecting.
“Druids have a calling. To Keep the Balance is to maintain the integrity of the Pack. Druids are sought often for Emissary positions for this very reason. They are entrusted to make sure the Alpha is not driven mad by the deaths of their Betas. And they are entrusted to make sure the Betas have the support of the Alpha in order to thrive. A Pack out of Balance is a Pack doomed to extinction.”
Regina paused to collect her thoughts. She sipped the tepid water that she brought from the lunch table. “Recently,” she continued, “in the past thirty years, a faction of Druids began to turn insular. They refused to teach more than the most basic of magic. They gave cryptic half- answers rather than true counsel. And they held that ‘Keeping the Balance’ meant that enough Evil had to be set free so that too much Good would not take over the world.”
John frowned. “It sounds to me that having Good take over the world wouldn’t be a bad thing.”
Regina nodded in agreement. “In my spiritual teachings, we say that there can be no light without darkness; that the sun shines brighter with the help of the moon. This Druidic faction took these teachings and turned them to the extreme, artificially introducing Darkness where they felt there was too much Light. They held the Universal Knowledge sacred and shared with few.
“But knowledge unshared grows stagnant. Magic cannot flourish if new ideas are not introduced. A teacher is only as good as her students, so my own teacher told me. If I know a thing, but have no one to pass that knowledge to, then that thing will die. This Druidic faction only seeks to pass along knowledge to those they deem ‘worthy’. I fear that Stiles, who is a natural Spark, would not be deemed worthy.” Regina focused for a moment on Stiles. “If you do encounter this Alan Deaton, do not allow him to touch your skin. He will know, as I did, what you are with such contact. I feel he may try to hinder your gifts before they can fully be mastered.”
Stiles tilted his head in confusion. “And I want to master this gift why, exactly?”
“Because,” said Regina with a flourish of her hands, “I believe that Derek Hale would like to return to Hale territory, and if he does then he will need a new Emissary.”
For the past four years, since Stiles and Scott were deemed old enough to take care of themselves without burning down a house or two, both John Stilinski and Melissa McCall worked on New Year’s Eve, leaving Stiles and Scott to eat loads of pork barbeque and chips, and to play video games until it was time for the electric ball to drop in Times Square.
This year, Scott got bitten by a werewolf and Stiles had his own secrets to keep, so he broke into his father’s home office and stol—appropriated—a bottle of whiskey and took Scott back into the Preserve (“are you sure this is a good idea, Stiles?” “Why, do you think you can get bitten twice?”) so that they could build a small campfire and get drunk and bemoan their problems.
And what was problem number one? Scott’s new werewolf metabolism made it impossible to get drunk.
“This sucks, man! I mean, it tastes horrible, but I would at least like to get the effect, you know?” Scott pouted.
Stiles giggled at his friend’s misfortune, but inwardly he agreed. Stiles took another swig from the bottle and swallowed deeply. He could feel the burn of the alcohol, and his mind was going slowly muzzy, but he kept re-thinking everything he heard from Regina and Derek in regards to Deaton-the-Druid—who was also Scott’s employer.
He had new rules about Deaton now, and he had never really even met the man.
Do not engage.
Do not touch him. Do not talk to him.
Do not mention magic at all.
That last one was going to kill Stiles, because Regina was emphatic that he not even tell Scott about the magic. Scott was Stiles’ bro! They went way back, almost to diapers.
But Scott couldn’t keep a secret very well, and Stiles knew it.
He took yet another swig, and waved the bottle in Scott’s direction, but Scott refused.
“Well, if he don’t want it,” said a different, foreign voice, “Then I’ll take the damned thing!”
Two men in dark clothing stumbled out of the woods, knocking together as if they were both already drunk, and headed straight for Stiles and Scott. Stiles struggled to stand, pulling on Scott’s arm to balance himself, and Scott recklessly stood in front of Stiles to protect his friend.
“Hey!” said Stiles, clutching the bottle close to his chest and eyeing the intruders with clarity he didn’t understand. “This is our party! We never invited you!”
One man, the one who spoke, leered at Stiles in a way that made him want a serious shower. “I think it’s a fine party! Just hand over the bottle and we can all have a good time!”
Since Stiles was standing so close to Scott, he could hear the rumbles in Scott’s chest as he began to Wolf-out. Stiles pressed a hand against Scott’s shoulder and he braced against his friend, holding out the bottle to the stranger. “It’s all good, man. We were just leaving, so it’s all yours!” Stiles tossed the bottle, not wanting that man or his friend to come any closer, and he pulled Scott away from their little fire. “We’re just gonna go now….”
The next day, while Scott was still sleeping in Stiles’ room, Stiles sipped coffee in the kitchen and pondered the presence of hunters in the woods on New Year’s Eve. They were clearly hunters, because their dark clothing in the woods said so. But they weren’t hunting deer, or bear, or even mountain lions. They had no weapons, at least not last night where Stiles could see them, and Scott didn’t report smelling any other campfires in the area. Stiles and Scott had gone to a section of the Preserve that high schoolers all over the area went to party, so it was far from the town limits—and far from the old Hale property—so there shouldn’t have been anyone out there.
Meeting the hunters had sobered Stiles quickly and he had gotten them back home before Scott totally had a Wolfy accident and mauled someone, but his mind was twirling all over the mystery of this.
So Stiles was almost prepared for the look on his father’s face when he walked in the front door.
Grim. Very grim.
“What’s up, daddy-oh?” Stiles poured his father some coffee, because John looked like hecould use it. “Was it a rough night?”
John took the mug and poured sugar into it, ignoring Stiles muttered protests. “The night was okay. Just the usual noise complaints and a few driving infractions. This morning, however, was not okay.”
Stiles’ eyebrows raised high in concern. “What happened this morning? Because it technically hasn’t been ‘morning’ long enough to have a problem.”
“Stiles, it’s eight o’clock.” John took a deep drink of hot coffee and winced at the burn. “I got a call at six: two hunters were mauled in the woods last night. Anything you want to tell me?”
Stiles’ eyes widened in shock. “What? No! No, no, no, Dad, really. Scott and I went out last night, I do admit that, but we were back here before two o’clock, I swear!”
John nodded. “Uh, huh! Were you near the woods at all last night?”
Stiles squinted at his father. “Do you care about legalities if we were in no way involved with the mauling?”
“Stiles, dammit! What were you up to last night?”
Stiles winced and sat at one of the kitchen bar stools. “I may have, theoretically, stol— appropriated a bottle of your illicit booze last night, and we may have gone to build a fire to get drunk. Don’t look at me like that! We have stress now, okay! But—Scott can’t get drunk now, and I wasn’t really feeling it myself. So we were going to head back…when these two drunks came out of the woods at us. They made some crude remarks at us, and I tossed them the bottle and we left.”
John set down his mug and regarded his son for a moment.“And you were with Scott the whole night?”
“I swear! We came home and played Mario Cart for a few hours—oh, and we ate the leftover Chinese—and then we passed out for a bit. Scott’s still out cold upstairs.”
John wiped a hand over his face and stood up, leaving his mug in the sink. “Okay. I believe you. I need a shower, food, and sleep, so I’m going to get the first now. You can make breakfast. The smell of food should wake Scott. Don’t say anything to him unless he mentions one of those ‘dreams’ again. Do you need any school supplies before classes start next week?”
“Nah, I’m good on that front. I even have all my homework done. I think I’m going to start reading those books Regina left here, after Scott leaves.”
Since Scott did not mention any dreams of mauling and vivisection, Stiles and his father decided not to mention the two hunters from the night before, and Scott went home to his mother on January first none the wiser.
It was for the best in any case, since Derek was planning on beginning Scott’s training later that night. And while Scott was running around the Preserve acting all wolf-y, Stiles would begin his Spark training with Regina. John had wanted to supervise those lessons, but he now had several concurrent investigations going so he could not be home. But he trusted Regina to not allow Stiles to burn down the house.
Stiles was glad for his father’s absence during his first lesson. He had to practice clearing his mind in meditation, and sitting still was never his strong point. He had struggled with his ADHD all his life. As he grew older he was able to channel the rough energy into research, which was not always a good thing. He learned far too much about his mother’s illness, for one thing, and he rarely slept during school breaks because he was constantly on his computer, seeking out Wikipedia and the most obscure topic links he could think of. Once classes started in a week, Stiles knew there would be a Parent/Teacher conference coming up, and he cringed inwardly at the thought of his father finding out about his Economics essay. That was a bit of research that totally got away from him.
Stiles sat comfortably on the floor of his living room, legs stretched out in front of him and arms loose at his sides. He leaned his head slightly backward and closed his eyes, imagining a well-lit room—like Regina told him—with the separate lights going out one by one, until the room was dark. It had sounded odd when she first told him what to do, but he did manage to clear his mind of all extraneous thought. His mind was as black and empty as the room he imagined.
“Very good, Stiles,” said Regina from somewhere far off. “Now, slowly let a bit of light back in. As the room brightens, feel the raw energy fill your body, starting at your feet. Feel the tingles rise up your legs from toe to ankle, and from ankle to knee, and from knee to thigh.”
The guided meditation continued slowly, for what seemed like hours, until finally the tingles filled his arms, neck, and head. Stiles was buzzing from the energy, but he managed to keep his eyes closed when he really wanted to look to see if he was visibly vibrating.
“Now,” said Regina, “Think of some small thing; some impossible thing that you could only imagine. Focus that raw energy on that small thing, and once the impossible becomes clear; open your eyes to see what your Spark has done.”
Some small impossible thing? Stiles almost broke his concentration to ask for more clarification. She might as well have asked him to float to the moon!
In that moment, his mind settled to a calm Stiles had never felt, and the buzzing energy that was making every nerve in his body vibrate stopped and focused.
Stiles slowly opened one eye, just to a slit, and then opened the other. He could no longer feel the floor beneath his hands and butt, but that could mean that parts of him had fallen asleep. Dead nerves, however, could not explain why the living room ceiling was so close to his nose once his eyes were fully open.
Taking in a shaky breath, Stiles looked around him.
He had levitated to the ceiling.
Stiles could feel his concentration slipping with his shock, and he carefully ‘imagined’ himself floating gently to the floor again. Once he was settled in front of the sofa, he looked across the room to where Regina was staring at him in mild amazement.
She blinked twice at him and then said, “A small thing, Stiles. I told you to think of a small thing.”
Stiles huffed in startled laughter. “Sorry! You said to imagine a small, impossible thing, and all I could think was that you might as well have told me to fly to the moon!”
Regina raised one elegant eyebrow at him. “Then it is just as well that we are indoors.” She leaned forward, folding her arms over her knees. “Stiles, your Spark is very strong. And, as I said before, you are only fettered by your imagination. You can’t change the base atomic structure of anything, or alter any DNA, but you can accomplish many things. For that reason, you MUST concentrate! You can NOT allow the Spark to get away from you! You could cause damage to yourself or to others. If you act in anger, you could cause damage to yourself or to others. If you act rashly and without thought….”
“I can hurt myself or someone else. Yeah, I’m starting to get that, thanks.” Stiles rubbed his hands over his face. “This is both amazing and frustrating. I have the power to do literally anything, and I’m afraid to do anything!”
Regina smiled gently. “Your fear will temper your will at first. If you are afraid of hurting anyone, then you won’t be tempted to do anything dangerous. Keep the caution at heart, Stiles.”
Stiles and his father were side-by-side at the kitchen sink, washing and drying the dinner dishes, when a loud and hard thump was heard at their back door. Stiles looked at John and shrugged, and John rolled his eyes and walked to the door, peering through the window to see into the darkness of the back yard.
With a sharp gasp, John turned the doorknob and threw open the door, revealing a panting Derek and a bleeding Scott. “What the hell happened to the two of you?”
Derek dragged Scott into the house and Stiles ran to his friend with clean towels and a glass of water. “Hunters!” said Derek in frustration. “We were running through the Preserve, and a hunter shot Scott with a crossbow bolt. It pinned him to a tree, but I got it out of his shoulder before they got close enough to see us clearly.”
“Okay,” said John, “Let’s get his shirt off and see to the wound. We need to clean that up.”
Derek helped Scott remove the shirt, but said, “Unless there was Wolf’s Bane on the bolt, he’ll have healed already. I think he’s in shock because of the attack.”
Scott rolled his eyes at Derek. “You think so? A guy just SHOT me! Of course I’m in shock!”
Stiles snorted as he helped wash the blood from Scott’s shoulder. “Dude! It looks all healed up, so I think you’re okay. Did the hunters see you? How many were there?”
Scott shook his head. “They didn’t see me clearly. They were pretty far away from us. I don’t think they even saw Derek, and we were gone before they could see us clearly. But I sure saw the one who shot me!”
John frowned. “Did you see him well enough to make an identification?”
Scott nodded, but Derek broke in. “What good will that do, Sheriff? If Scott identifies the shooter, then he’ll be outed as a werewolf, and that does no good for anybody.”
“That’s true, Derek,” said John carefully, “and I don’t want him outed to anyone. But if I can find out the identity of any hunters in the area, then I might be able to trace them back to any suspicious crimes around here—or the Hale fire. I still have that one opened, Derek. I’d like to find a legal solution for you, even if it’s too little, too late. I think you deserve that much.”
Stiles looked up as he wiped the blood from Scott’s shoulder, and he met his father’s eyes. Once again, in the presence of Scott, the name ‘Argent’ was never mentioned. At first, Stiles had wondered about that—if his father was deliberately shielding Scott from that information. Now he understood that ‘the Sheriff’ had reopened the Hale case and couldn’t let information get out to the general public. Stiles knew about it because Derek told him, but Scott hadn’t been there for that. Stiles nodded almost unobtrusively at his father and got a wink in return. Stiles would keep the secret until any arrests were made.
“Dude, you gotta tell your mom!” Stiles gathered up the bloody towels and carried them to the laundry room. “She’s gonna be pissed if she finds out and it wasn’t from you.”
“Yeah,” Scott sighed. “I know. Can I borrow a shirt, since this one is messed up?”
“Sure—and then I’ll drive you home. I think your training is over for tonight.”
“Just as well,” said Scott as he followed Stiles into the hall. “Classes start tomorrow, and I could use some sleep!”
John beckoned Derek to follow him into his home office while the others were upstairs. Derek took a seat in one of the worn chairs while John closed the door behind them.
“I have a few hard questions to ask you about the fire and your family. I hope this won’t be a problem?”
Derek shook his head. “I’m fine; go ahead.”
John sat in the other chair and pulled a manila file across the desk and opened it. “Were you aware of any other hunters that might have been working with Kate Argent?”
Derek frowned in concentration. “I don’t really remember seeing her with anyone else. She was pretty focused on me. I remember her telling me that her family wouldn’t understand if she had a boyfriend, so we had to keep things quiet.”
John made a few notes in the file. “So you never saw where she said she lived?”
“No, sir. She would pick me up in her car—a black SUV. I still remember the license plate, if you think that will help.”
“It just might. I’m trying to find where she was staying while she was stalking you. If I can figure that out, then I might be able to find accomplices. There is no way she set that fire by herself, so I need to find the people she was working with.”
Regina Kincaide sat at the small table in her hotel room, making a list of books and websites that Stiles could use for reference during his training. While she had no problems at all personally training the boy—his talent and power were far greater than she had ever imagined—tax season was coming up and she did have obligations to her clients. She could make arrangements to stay for a short while, and for possible future visits, but in the long term Stiles would be on his own. Ideally he could be trained by the local Emissary, but Regina’s own investigation into Deaton’s past and present behavior put that thought out of her head.
Her phone rang beside her, and the caller ID was a mystery, so she cautiously answered.
“Yes? Hello? This is Kincaide.”
A velvety smooth female voice answered her, the message short and to the point: “Je viens chez vous bientôt. Dis à vos loups d’être prêt – j’apporte le tribunal. La question des Hale sera réglée.”
The message was clear: Regina had to make two phone calls and set off a chain of defense. Cybelle D’Argent was coming across the ocean, and she was bringing the full power of the Hunter Council Tribunal with her. Regina quickly dialed Liam Gallagher in Oregon, because he was the Alpha of her own Pack and he would not be pleased that she called the actual head of the Hunter Council.
“Hello, Regina. Are you coming home soon?” Liam’s voice was relaxed and it put Regina on guard.
“I’ll be home soon enough, Alpha. But there is much to discuss before I get there, and you won’t be happy with me.”
“What have you done, Emissary, and will it put my Pack in danger?”
Regina shook her head and smiled to herself. He always thought of his Pack first. It made him a good Alpha, but he was very insular. “The Gallagher Pack will be safe, as long as they keep clean in word and deed, my Alpha. But I made some serious inquiries on behalf of Derek Hale, and a Tribunal has been called.”
There was a long pause, and for a moment Regina thought the call had been disconnected. “Perhaps,” said Liam, dangerously calm, “You should tell me what caused those inquiries, when the Hale Beta was the one to cause the demise of his entire Pack?”
Regina could feel her ire grow. “Liam Gallagher! Before you pass judgment, perhaps you should learn all pertinent facts!”
“Fine!” Liam growled at her over the phone connection. “Tell me the facts that have led to a full Tribunal so close to my home!”
Regina took a soothing breath. “I realize that Laura Hale may have indicated that Derek was guilty of setting that fire so long ago, but she was sensing his residual guilt and knew only very few of the facts herself. The plain matter is: Derek, as an impressionable youth who yearned for positive attention, was seduced by a much older woman in the guise of an adolescent. This woman was Kate Argent, but Derek knew nothing about that, and during her seduction she gained all the information needed to trap the Hale Pack and family in the Pack house and burn them alive.”
Liam began cursing in several languages, and the growling made it all seem so much more violent. “Why did Laura Hale not tell us this?”
“Perhaps,” said Regina dryly, “She was eager to place the blame and never bothered to ask why Derek felt so guilty. In any case, I was able to do some research into Kate Argent’s past actions before this tragedy, and she and her father have been instrumental in the destruction of several peaceful Packs throughout California, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. I don’t know about the son’s participation, but father and daughter have acted deplorably.”
“I agree with that, and I am sorry that the Gallagher Pack has treated Derek as an outsider. But how did you manage to call Tribunal?”
Regina sighed. “I made some calls and got hold of Cybelle D’Argent in France. Since she is head of the main Hunter Council, and the head Matriarch of the Argent Clan, I felt she should know of the allegations against her kin. I merely suggested that she do her own research into the matter, and she has done. I just received a call from her, and she is headed this way. She told me to warn the Wolves and that she was bringing full Tribunal. She didn’t want any of the local Packs to feel persecuted by the presence of the Council.”
“Fine,” said Liam less aggressively. “It was good that you are doing this for Derek, but he still has to come back here to live, so I’ll make sure the others don’t blame him for the Tribunal or the presence of the Hunter Council.”
“I think,” said Regina thoughtfully, “that Derek may want to stay in his old family territory. His uncle is still here, even if he is infirm, and this was always his home. Even if he is a Beta, he could build a Pack here once again. The rogue Alpha still has to be dealt with, but there is a potential new Emissary here for Derek.”
“And what is wrong with the former Hale Emissary?”
Regina sighed deeply. “So many things are wrong with Deaton, Liam. For one, did you know that both Talia and Robert Hale complained often about Deaton keeping pertinent information from them during Pack meetings? And Deaton seems to have fallen into the Druid Trap, where he feels that ‘balance’ must be kept at all costs.” Even Liam made a disgusted sound at that. Regina continued. “Derek was also of the brief opinion that Deaton may have been the bitten Omega that killed Laura to take the Alpha Gifts. I have dissuaded him from that line of thinking. Deaton is as human as I am, and I did verify that personally. He has a Mountain Ash counter top in his veterinary clinic so that he can use the back office as a safe shelter against the supernatural dangers that may come calling.”
“There are other dangers there besides the rogue Alpha? And you wish Derek to stay in that territory?” Liam sounded aghast at the idea.
“I have seen the power structure here, Liam, and it is in disrepair. There is a World Tree here—or rather, there was a World Tree. It had become infected, possibly back before the fire when Deaton turned from the True Druid path, and someone has cut it down to a stump. But the power is still there, even if it is corrupted, and it will call the supernatural to come. If a strong Pack can be rebuilt here, the danger can be kept at bay.”
Liam hummed in thought for a moment. “What about this possible new Emissary? Do you not fear he will be turned to the False Druid path?”
Regina snorted rather undignified. “This new possible Emissary is a Spark, and he is raw and untrained. I am trying to fix that while I am here, and I may have to travel back here frequently in order to see the boy fully trained and capable. His power, as it is now, is stronger than Deaton’s and it will become stronger than mine. My main goal is to make certain that the boy does not level this town totally with unrestrained power. He performed a full levitation during his first meditation.”
Liam whistled sharply in shock. “I give you leave to make whatever arrangements you need to see to his training, then. If he is so powerful, he could become a danger to the entire west coast if left untrained. I will call the Pack together and warn them about the Tribunal’s imminent arrival, and I shall call the Winslow Pack and warn them as well.”
Regina smiled and settled back in her chair. “Then I’m left to tell Derek about it—and the local Sheriff, as well. He’s far more in the ‘know’ than we figured, and it is his son that is the Spark.”
**A/N—the monologue spoken by the Argent Matriarch is: “I am coming to you soon. Tell your Wolves to be ready. I am bringing the Tribunal; the Hale matter will be settled!” Thanks to Marlislash for the translation!”**
Classes started the next day, and with a new semester came new team try-outs for Lacrosse. Technically, Stiles and Scott were already part of the team. They sat on the bench together, anyway. But Scott, despite Derek’s warnings against it, was determined to make first line—and he wanted to drag Stiles along with him.
Stiles talked himself blue on the drive to school, but Scott was wearing his own ‘Resolve Face’, and Stiles struck out on that front.
Stiles tried again after they parked, but Scott pretended to be more interested in the English paper he forgot to finish before break ended.
Stiles tried again in class, but the teacher shut him up and Scott seemed distracted anyway. Stiles watched the way Scott cocked his head to the side as he obviously listened to something outside the classroom. It was amusing, in a way, just like a puppy hearing a whistle. When Scott perked up and reached into his bag for a pen—when he had a pen on the desk beside him—Stiles started watching the classroom door. Soon enough, it opened and a pretty brunette with huge dimples walked nervously into the room and handed an office slip to the teacher. When the teacher introduced her to the class as ‘New Student Allison Argent’, Stiles mentally floundered and almost missed her taking the seat behind Scott—and Scott handing her a pen.
An Argent! In his school! Suddenly that shooting in the woods made a lot more sense!
Stiles got to spend the rest of the day being ignored by Lydia Martin (his not-so-secret crush from the third grade), trying to ignore Jackson Whittemore (jackass extraordinaire, Lacrosse Captain, and Lydia’s boyfriend), and watching Scott moon over lovely Allison. By the end of the school day, Stiles’ nerves were shot and he was helpless against Scott’s begging about Lacrosse try-outs. So he found himself in the locker room, changing into his gear, listening about Allison’s attributes.
“She’s just got this happy little laugh, you know? And her smile….”
Stiles wanted to warn Scott about Allison’s family history, but there was no good way to do that. Plus, there was always the chance that Allison didn’t know anything about werewolves and hunters and stuff. It was a small chance, but Stiles was willing to take it. His main concern was not allowing Scott to Wolf-out during try-outs.
The thing was—Jackson Whittemore just had something against Stiles, and by association Scott. Maybe it was because everyone knew Stiles had had a crush on Lydia since she started attending the same school as Stiles, but he never stalked her or came on to her. He admired from afar, okay? She was brilliant in word and mind, unless she was letting Jackson treat her like an empty-headed trophy. If Stiles had ever had a chance at dating Lydia, then he would totally understand the animosity. But she was out of his league and he knew it—and so did everyone else—so he had no clue why Jackson sought to bully and intimidate him.
Jackson never went beyond harsh words, because while he wasn’t a genius—he wasn’t stupid enough to physically bully the son of the Sheriff. But he was rich and popular and everyone loved him (so it seemed) and they all followed Jackson’s lead. Some of the more idiotic members of the Lacrosse team, in order to garner Jackson’s favour, did use physical intimidation—shoving Stiles and Scott into lockers and knocking books onto the floor and generally being assholes. Before break, Stiles and Scott were adept at avoiding all the trouble, but now Scott was stronger and transformed, and he had a bit of a temper now. Stiles didn’t want Scott to hurt anybody, even if they were assholes and deserved it.
And try-outs were a bear!
“McCall!” The coach stood on the sidelines, shouting orders and glaring at his clipboard. “Take the end zone! Bilinski! You’re on goal!”
Stiles muttered to himself as he took Danny Mahealani’s position in the goal area. Three years taking gym classes and Economics classes and bench-sitting classes (really?), and Coach still didn’t know his name? Really?
Danny gave him what might have been a pitying look, but Stiles was too concerned with keeping an eye on Scott. It was almost amazing, how good Scott’s reflexes were. He caught shot after shot, never letting one ball drop, which was good for him—really. Stiles was proud of his buddy. Scott was playing like it meant the world to him, and Stiles supposed it did. Scott was a social nobody, just like Stiles, but he had aspirations. High aspirations.
Movement in the bleachers caught his eye, and Stiles turned his head slightly to see Lydia Martin dragging Allison Argent to a seat high enough to watch the entire field. Of course, both Jackson and Scott saw them, too, and that’s when the action ramped up.
Since Stiles hadn’t caught one shot, Coach sent him back to the bench, so he had a great view of what happened.
Jackson, buoyed by the presence of his girlfriend, amped up the assholery and charged Scott from behind, knocking the ball and stick from Scott’s hands. Scott, kneeling on the grass, shuddered in sudden anger and rose to his feet quickly. Stiles saw the flash of Scott’s eyes under the helmet and he knew trouble would come quickly. He got to his feet in time to watch Scott thrash Jackson hard to the ground, and he was on the field fast enough to hear a snap come from Jackson’s arm.
Stiles grabbed Scott and hustled him off the field and into the locker room, ignoring Coach’s yelling and Jackson’s pained moans. Inside the locker room, Stiles shoved Scott into the showers, fully dressed, and hit the cold tap, cooling the other boy’s ire.
“You good, man? You under control now?” Stiles kept a good distance from his friend because he knew he was no match for a werewolf.
Scott stood shivering in the showers. “Yeah, I’m good. Thanks, dude! That was almost harsh!”
Stiles stopped pacing and glared at Scott. “Almost harsh? Are you serious? You broke Jackson!”
“It’s not broken, thank goodness!” Both Stiles and Scott startled as Coach burst into the locker room, dragging Jackson along with him. “But it’s dislocated at least, so Whittemore is going to the medics. Right NOW!” Coach screamed as Jackson made to brush him off. “But as McCall seems to have gained some hot skills since last year, he’s now on first line as Co-captain of the team, along with Whittemore! Just keep the aggression to a minimum unless you direct it to the other team!”
Scott beamed as Coach pushed Jackson into Danny’s arms and sent them away. Stiles refrained from rolling his eyes, but only just.
“Thanks, Coach! I won’t let you down!”
Coach leveled a look at Scott. “Just don’t kill the rest of the team! And why didn’t you take off the uniform before showering?”
Coach shook his head and headed into his office, leaving a happy Scott and perplexed Stiles standing in the shower area while the rest of the team filed in.
The next day at lunch, Stiles and Scott were sitting at their usual table when a tray landed on the table in front of Stiles. He looked up to see Lydia Martin seating herself across from him, followed by Allison Argent. Jackson, glowering as usual, followed to sit at the end of the table and Danny sat across from him. Several other members of the Lacrosse team filled in the rest of the table and Stiles looked to Scott with a question in his eyes. Scott shrugged in response and turned to his mystery meat and fruit cocktail.
“Um,” said Stiles nervously, “Not that I don’t appreciate the extra company, but why are you all here instead of at your usual table?”
Jackson, as usual, ignored him. Allison smiled and waved at Scott, and Stiles rolled his eyes. Danny shrugged in disinterest, and the other players just dug into their meals. But Lydia, for the first time ever, graced him with actual words.
“The captains of the Lacrosse team needs to sit with the other players, so we’re here to sit with the other co-captain.”
Stiles raised his eyebrows at her, but she was done talking to him. The conversation ran around him, but never was he included. Eventually the conversation turned to a party Lydia was having on the weekend.
“Of course, you’re coming,” she said to Allison. “All of my parties are well-attended. Everybody who is anybody at this school, and the nearby college, will be there.”
Allison blushed prettily and smiled at Scott. “Are you going to the party, Scott?”
Lydia did not look pleased and Scott looked flustered. “I, uh, I don’t….”
“Of course he’s coming!” snapped Lydia. “He’s co-captain, so he’ll be there!”
Stiles opened the calendar function on his phone and made note of the date: January 15. The next full moon was slated for January 19, but that meant that the moon was waxing—getting more powerful in influence, according to Regina and Derek. Scott’s control was not the best right now, and a party was not the optimal place to be until he had full control of himself. And the first scrimmage of the year was on the 19th—this day is just getting better and better!
Scott was stumbling over an answer for Lydia’s declaration, and she, of course, misinterpreted his difficulty.
“I suppose,” she sneered, “That your friend can come, too.”
And it actually took Stiles a moment before he figured that he was the friend in question. “Um, what? No. No, that’s great of you, really, but….”
“C’mon, Stiles!” Scott nudged Stiles with his elbow. “It’s a party! And Allison wants me to go!”
Stiles looked at his best friend and he was almost knocked out by the puppy-eyes. He groaned inwardly, knowing that keeping Scott under control at this party was going to be Stiles’ job.
“Fine,” he said with a bright smile, “The party sounds like fun!”
The party sounded like anything but fun!
The party was not fun.
Stiles sat on a chair in the corner, nursing a watered-down beer, and watched the party happen around him.
It had taken very little to convince his father to allow him to come. He had to promise that illegal activity would not happen (he was pretty sure his father wasn’t that much of an idiot) and that he would not allow Scott to hurt anyone.
Scott was laughing with Allison in the center of the living room. The rest of the partiers were flowing around them like ants, drifting from the kitchen to the back yard and back again, but Stiles managed to keep an eye on Scott. He was, for the most part, being ignored by everyone in the house. Being the son of the Sheriff pretty much made Stiles persona non grata among the party crowd.
At least Scott looked like he was having fun. Allison was whispering into his ear and Scott was blushing as red as Stiles had ever seen him. Stiles was mildly amused.
Scott was a teenage boy, that much was clear. So when Allison’s hand drifted to Scott’s thigh and her lips moved too close to Scott’s ear, Stiles could see the effect from across the room.
Scott’s eyes were glowing golden-yellow in the dim light. And his fingernails were becoming rough claws.
Stiles was up and across the room in an instant, pulling Scott from the sofa and out of Allison’s arms.
“Dude! I got a text from your mom! She’s getting off early, and she’s bringing pizza for us during our video game break! We gotta jet, man!”
With a shouted apology to Allison, Stiles had Scott out of the house and into his Jeep in minutes, bypassing Lydia and Jackson and saving Scott’s fledgling reputation.
Stiles looked at Scott as he drove back into town. “You got this, man? Because I’m sure your hormones were way out of whack!”
Scott nodded shakily, his claws still digging into his own leg. “Thanks, Stiles. I really wouldn’t want Allison to find out like that!”
Stiles snorted as he drove towards home, thinking ‘No, you really don’t’.
The next week was back to normal for Stiles. He had classes and homework, he ate lunch in the cafeteria, and he sat on the bench after school during Lacrosse practice. Sometimes Scott was beside him (during classes and lunch) and sometimes Scott was in front of him (on the Lacrosse field), but mostly Scott’s attention was on Allison.
After getting carried away during the party, Scott and Allison were keeping it cool. They met at each other’s lockers between classes and held hands at lunch. It was almost too sweet. And Allison was at every practice after school, sitting right next to Lydia—her new best friend.
Lydia was back to ignoring Stiles, but Allison always said hello when she saw him. Stiles found it hard not to like her, although he tried on general principle. Stiles’ best friend was a werewolf now, and he was pretty sure Allison’s family was full of hunters. How many families had that name, really? Coincidence? Stiles thought not.
Right now, Stiles was more concerned with watching Scott on the field in front of him. During practice, the team was split into two parts and Scott was playing against friendly players. His control was still mostly shot, and Stiles could see him struggle not to hurt anyone during play. Jackson had gotten his doctor to shoot him up with cortizone so he wouldn’t miss any practices or games, and Stiles could tell that he really wanted to turn the hurt back onto Scott. Stiles watched time and again as Jackson plowed into Scott on the way to the goal, and Scott was barely managing to keep cool. Stiles found he was worried about the upcoming game on Wednesday. It was only a scrimmage, but it was against another school’s team. Scott had no loyalty to them and his control was going to be shot due to the full moon.
Stiles knew there was no way he could convince Scott to miss that game. But he really wanted to.
Behind him, Stiles could hear Allison and Lydia talking about the upcoming game.
“At my previous school, football was the big sport. I’ve never seen a Lacrosse match before. My dad is coming to the game Wednesday. He’s never seen it, either.” Allison’s happy chatter chilled Stiles to the bone.
Could hunters ‘sense’ when a werewolf was near? He needed to ask Derek or Regina. It was information that he needed to know.
“I just hope,” said Lydia, “That we give them a good show on Wednesday. Jackson needs to get himself together out there!”
Stiles could hear the scorn in her voice and he was surprised. He had always thought that Lydia was unconditionally in love with Jackson. Why else would she hide her brilliance and allow him to talk down to her?
Just then, Jackson limped off the field holding his arm close to his chest and Stiles blocked out all other conversation, instead choosing to join Scott on the field.
“You’re looking good out there, buddy!” Stiles clapped Scott on the shoulder.
Scott grinned hugely in return. “Thanks! Do you think Allison was watching?”
Stiles refrained from rolling his eyes. “I’m sure she was quite impressed, Scott. But, um…are you sure you should play on Wednesday? It’s the full moon and you’re barely holding on now?”
Scott huffed in annoyance. “I’ll be fine, Stiles! I’m running with Derek every night and I’m getting better! I haven’t even had any dreams about that Alpha anymore!”
Stiles shrugged. “Okay. If you say so. I’ll be here, rooting you on!”