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 lack of breath.
“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.