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.”