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 one 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.