“I’m a WHAT?” Stiles gaped as he looked from person to person in the living room.
John was sitting next to him on the sofa, looking for all the world as if they were discussing the latest basketball scores. Regina was smiling benignly in the recliner, hands clasped loosely in her lap. Derek was still standing uncomfortably against the wall next to the window. Out of all of them, Derek was the one who least wanted to have this conversation, although John was looking like a close second.
Stiles took a deep breath and checked the time on his phone, also noting the date: December 30.
With all the excitement, Stiles had managed to forget how little time had actually passed.School let out for break on December 20, and Stiles and Scott had scrambled for a few days,buying Christmas gifts for friends and family. John and Melissa always placed themselves on Holiday duty, because Stiles and Scott preferred to stick with each other over the holidays, so the Sheriff and the nurse worked longer hours to give families time together. The two small families spent Christmas Day together, having a small, cozy dinner and watching Die Hard and A Christmas Story and It’s A Wonderful Life (it was Melissa’s favorite), and Scott and Stiles spent the rest of break goofing off—playing video games and the ill-fated sledding outing.
The trip to the Preserve, looking for a body, was on December 26. After Scott got bitten, and bodies started dropping with alarming frequency, time seemed to have stood still.
And here it was, New Years Eve-eve, and Stiles had come to grips with werewolves,possible hunters—and the fact that he was a ‘Magical Spark’.
What. The. HELL?
Stiles cleared his throat and spoke to Derek.“Hey,um,this is awkward! But I’m apparently going to learn some super, special stuff here, and I think it’s time for fattening, sugary treats—so would you mind driving to the Beacon Bakery on Main Street and grabbing some bad- for-my- dad stuff? I’ll break out the good coffee that Dad doesn’t know about,” Stiles continued, ignoring his father’s gasp of outrage, “And we can talk without you looking like you’d rather sink into the floor. Um, it that okay?”
Derek nodded, abrupt, “Yeah—did you want anything in particular?”
John reached into his pants for his wallet. “They have this chocolate/peanut-butter crème cake that Claudia used to love but Stiles never lets me have anymore. Oh! Get some of the large cinnamon rolls for breakfast tomorrow. Here’s enough for a dozen, and you and Regina are invited for breakfast. I think Scott and Melissa will find their way back here before Melissa’s late shift.”
Derek nodded again and grabbed his leather jacket from the hall-tree, but he declined the offered money. “I can get this, Sir—John, I mean. You’ve offered me food and companionship and a friendly face when I needed one. I hardly think cinnamon rolls can repay that.”
Stiles snorted. “Dude, you have not had those rolls!”
With a muttered “Don’t call me Dude”, Derek was out the door, leaving Stiles and his million questions alone with Regina and his father.
“So,” he began, rubbing his hands together, “Why not start by telling me what a Spark is and how you know I am one?”
Regina smiled kindly. “A ‘Spark’ is an innate magic user. And before you ask, we’re not talking Harry Potter stuff here. There are several types of magic users in the world, and they each differ in style, strength, and ability. The first type is the witches, like me. We get our ‘power’ from the very earth we live on. I have studied long and hard to be able to feel and use the magic in raw stone, metal ore, and wood. I can create talismans and magical weapons, and I can create magical cures and poisons. The first lesson for every magic user should be ‘what can help you can also harm you’, but it rarely is. Nowadays, most magic users want power without consequence, and that is terribly dangerous.
“Another type of magic user is the Mage. Mages use elements like fire, water, and so-on,and they can be trained to control the weather—or to create earthquakes and other so-called ‘natural disasters’. There are bad Mages in the world, but mostly they are in Europe and Asia.Some tsunamis don’t just appear, you know, and so I try to avoid those at all costs.
“Then there are the Druids. They are supposed to harness the balances in nature—re-growing sacred forests after fires and honoring the Olde Rites. Stonehenge was once a major Druidic center of power, but the Druids have drifted into the underground and now it’s just a beautiful pile of rocks.
“Sparks,” she said, leaning slightly forward, “Are another story altogether. They are bound by imagination and physics only. They can’t create life from nothing, or make a small thing much larger, but they can do much. Sparks are usually a family thing, and the lineage is strong.Since your father is so down-to-earth, I’m thinking the traits come from your late mother. Could she grow healthy gardens?”
Stiles shook his head. “Nope. She couldn’t grow a thing. Black thumbs all around.”
Regina frowned slightly. “Could she anticipate phone calls?”
A snort of amusement. “She was always losing the phone in the house. That’s why we have so many cordless handsets around here.”
“But I’m sure she made friends easily, then?”
Stiles shook his head again. “Mom got along okay with her co-workers at the library, but she only had one or two close friends. Once her dementia took hold, she turned away from everybody, even me and Dad. I’m pretty sure all those people came to her funeral just because Dad is a good Sheriff and they wanted to honor him, not her.”
On the sofa beside him, John rubbed both hands over his face and groaned. “It was my mother! She could do all of that!”
Stiles looked at his father in shock. “Nana was a Spark?” Stiles’ paternal grandmother had died when he was only three years old, so he didn’t have any real memories of her.
John rested his elbows on his knees, hands clasped together, and leaned a cheek on his folded hands so he could watch his son. “My mother could plant a tomato on a Monday and harvest the fruit on Saturday. Every flower in her beds could have won ribbons at the county fair, but she’d never enter. We had a drought one year, when I was fifteen, and there were water restrictions. Her flower and vegetable gardens flourished despite that, and her neighbors called the city council on her. We had to turn over out water bill to prove that she wasn’t watering the plants while everyone else in town slept.”
John leaned back and placed a gentle hand on Stiles’ shoulder. “When you were born, she held you tight against her chest and kissed your head, and she called you her little spark of joy. I only thought that she was so happy to have you, a grandson. She had such joy in her eyes every time she saw you.”
Stiles offered a sad smile in return. “I wish I could remember her.”
John returned the smile. “She also never missed a phone call.” He laughed out loud. “I remember watching her run into the kitchen from the yard one day, and she was muttering about some work emergency, and she picked up the phone before the first ring even finished—and it was my dad calling with a work emergency, and he was going to be late for dinner. I grew up thinking my mother was fantastic, and some kind of nut, but I never knew magic existed.”
“That is probably because you never manifested as a Spark yourself,” said Regina kindly.“I have met only a few Sparks, but it is largely left to family to train them, so the family secret could be kept within the family. It is likely that your mother would have wanted to train your son personally once he was old enough to manifest.”
Stiles frowned. “And how old would I have to be to ‘manifest’? Because I’ve noticed nothing magical in my life right now.”
“I believe,” said Regina, “that you began to manifest at age four or five. Your ADHD is likely a symptom of the magic trying to escape your body. If you could concentrate and focus, then the magic will settle and your brain will not be under so much strain. I think you will find that there have been many instances where you thought or said something, and then that thing happened. It is your Spark—the magic of your imagination—that makes those things happen.”
Stiles opened his mouth to refute that, but he paused to think.
In kindergarten, Stiles was pushed down on the playground and he skinned his hands and knees, and he wished the boy who pushed him would have an accident—and he was hit in the head by the teeter-totter.
In second grade, after Stiles had made friends with Scott, an older boy in school took Scott’s inhaler—and then he tripped over air and cracked his chin on a metal trashcan.
In freshman year, Scott wanted so badly to be on the Lacrosse team that he badgered Stiles incessantly until he agreed to tryout with him—and they both miraculously caught enough tosses to make the team as bench-warmers.
It wasn’t much—only small stuff, inconsequential—but there was a possibility there. If he could concentrate enough to ‘make things happen’ when he was scattered with ADHD, then what could he do with training?
“Okay, then,” said Stiles with determination, “What can we do to train me up? I’m assuming that I’ll need it.”
“You will indeed,” said Regina. “Untrained, you could be a danger. Raw magic such as yours will have to come out somehow. Luckily it has manifested only in creativity, and nobody has been hurt. Ideally, since the Hale Pack had lived here for so long, you could have been trained by their Emissary. But that, unfortunately, is no longer the case.”
“Why not? Is this Emissary still here?”
“He is here, yes. Derek does not trust the man, however, so I did some research of my own. The Emissary, Deaton….”
“Wait!” John interrupted Regina with indignance. “The Hale Emissary is the town vet?”
Regina raised an eyebrow. “Do not disparage our occupations and callings, Sheriff. I am a Certified Public Accountant, and I’m going to be very busy come February, when tax season starts. I know other Emissaries that own bookstores, or drive delivery trucks, and the Emissary I took over for owned a bakery. How we pay bills is of no consequence. Deaton had a calling to aid animals, and that fits in with being a Druid—which he most certainly is.”
“But,” said Stiles, “Learning from a Druid would be a good thing, right? Not that I wouldn’t be happy to have you train me.”
“And I would be honored to train you, Stiles,” said Regina with a smile. “As I said, my time will not be my own in just over a month, but until then, I can spare the time. I had to study much for my talents, so I have obtained very good methods for meditation, concentration, and implementation. As to the Druid, well, things there are complicated. Derek did not, and does not, trust the man, and his reasons are valid. Liam Gallagher, the Alpha of the Gallagher Pack, was a long-time friend of the Hales. He went to college with Alpha Talia Hale before she attained Alpha-hood, and he was a key speaker at Talia and Robert’s wedding. Liam told me that Robert often complained about how secretive and enigmatic Alan Deaton was; how he never gave a straight answer unless pressed with great force. Talia did not believe in pressing with great force, so she often had her younger brother, Peter, seek out the information needed for negotiations when Deaton held back. Peter was young and ambitious, and he possessed a certain charm—according to Liam—that made it possible to get secrets from the unsuspecting.
“Druids have a calling. To Keep the Balance is to maintain the integrity of the Pack. Druids are sought often for Emissary positions for this very reason. They are entrusted to make sure the Alpha is not driven mad by the deaths of their Betas. And they are entrusted to make sure the Betas have the support of the Alpha in order to thrive. A Pack out of Balance is a Pack doomed to extinction.”
Regina paused to collect her thoughts. She sipped the tepid water that she brought from the lunch table. “Recently,” she continued, “in the past thirty years, a faction of Druids began to turn insular. They refused to teach more than the most basic of magic. They gave cryptic half- answers rather than true counsel. And they held that ‘Keeping the Balance’ meant that enough Evil had to be set free so that too much Good would not take over the world.”
John frowned. “It sounds to me that having Good take over the world wouldn’t be a bad thing.”
Regina nodded in agreement. “In my spiritual teachings, we say that there can be no light without darkness; that the sun shines brighter with the help of the moon. This Druidic faction took these teachings and turned them to the extreme, artificially introducing Darkness where they felt there was too much Light. They held the Universal Knowledge sacred and shared with few.
“But knowledge unshared grows stagnant. Magic cannot flourish if new ideas are not introduced. A teacher is only as good as her students, so my own teacher told me. If I know a thing, but have no one to pass that knowledge to, then that thing will die. This Druidic faction only seeks to pass along knowledge to those they deem ‘worthy’. I fear that Stiles, who is a natural Spark, would not be deemed worthy.” Regina focused for a moment on Stiles. “If you do encounter this Alan Deaton, do not allow him to touch your skin. He will know, as I did, what you are with such contact. I feel he may try to hinder your gifts before they can fully be mastered.”
Stiles tilted his head in confusion. “And I want to master this gift why, exactly?”
“Because,” said Regina with a flourish of her hands, “I believe that Derek Hale would like to return to Hale territory, and if he does then he will need a new Emissary.”
For the past four years, since Stiles and Scott were deemed old enough to take care of themselves without burning down a house or two, both John Stilinski and Melissa McCall worked on New Year’s Eve, leaving Stiles and Scott to eat loads of pork barbeque and chips, and to play video games until it was time for the electric ball to drop in Times Square.
This year, Scott got bitten by a werewolf and Stiles had his own secrets to keep, so he broke into his father’s home office and stol—appropriated—a bottle of whiskey and took Scott back into the Preserve (“are you sure this is a good idea, Stiles?” “Why, do you think you can get bitten twice?”) so that they could build a small campfire and get drunk and bemoan their problems.
And what was problem number one? Scott’s new werewolf metabolism made it impossible to get drunk.
“This sucks, man! I mean, it tastes horrible, but I would at least like to get the effect, you know?” Scott pouted.
Stiles giggled at his friend’s misfortune, but inwardly he agreed. Stiles took another swig from the bottle and swallowed deeply. He could feel the burn of the alcohol, and his mind was going slowly muzzy, but he kept re-thinking everything he heard from Regina and Derek in regards to Deaton-the-Druid—who was also Scott’s employer.
He had new rules about Deaton now, and he had never really even met the man.
Do not engage.
Do not touch him. Do not talk to him.
Do not mention magic at all.
That last one was going to kill Stiles, because Regina was emphatic that he not even tell Scott about the magic. Scott was Stiles’ bro! They went way back, almost to diapers.
But Scott couldn’t keep a secret very well, and Stiles knew it.
He took yet another swig, and waved the bottle in Scott’s direction, but Scott refused.
“Well, if he don’t want it,” said a different, foreign voice, “Then I’ll take the damned thing!”
Two men in dark clothing stumbled out of the woods, knocking together as if they were both already drunk, and headed straight for Stiles and Scott. Stiles struggled to stand, pulling on Scott’s arm to balance himself, and Scott recklessly stood in front of Stiles to protect his friend.
“Hey!” said Stiles, clutching the bottle close to his chest and eyeing the intruders with clarity he didn’t understand. “This is our party! We never invited you!”
One man, the one who spoke, leered at Stiles in a way that made him want a serious shower. “I think it’s a fine party! Just hand over the bottle and we can all have a good time!”
Since Stiles was standing so close to Scott, he could hear the rumbles in Scott’s chest as he began to Wolf-out. Stiles pressed a hand against Scott’s shoulder and he braced against his friend, holding out the bottle to the stranger. “It’s all good, man. We were just leaving, so it’s all yours!” Stiles tossed the bottle, not wanting that man or his friend to come any closer, and he pulled Scott away from their little fire. “We’re just gonna go now….”
The next day, while Scott was still sleeping in Stiles’ room, Stiles sipped coffee in the kitchen and pondered the presence of hunters in the woods on New Year’s Eve. They were clearly hunters, because their dark clothing in the woods said so. But they weren’t hunting deer, or bear, or even mountain lions. They had no weapons, at least not last night where Stiles could see them, and Scott didn’t report smelling any other campfires in the area. Stiles and Scott had gone to a section of the Preserve that high schoolers all over the area went to party, so it was far from the town limits—and far from the old Hale property—so there shouldn’t have been anyone out there.
Meeting the hunters had sobered Stiles quickly and he had gotten them back home before Scott totally had a Wolfy accident and mauled someone, but his mind was twirling all over the mystery of this.
So Stiles was almost prepared for the look on his father’s face when he walked in the front door.
Grim. Very grim.
“What’s up, daddy-oh?” Stiles poured his father some coffee, because John looked like hecould use it. “Was it a rough night?”
John took the mug and poured sugar into it, ignoring Stiles muttered protests. “The night was okay. Just the usual noise complaints and a few driving infractions. This morning, however, was not okay.”
Stiles’ eyebrows raised high in concern. “What happened this morning? Because it technically hasn’t been ‘morning’ long enough to have a problem.”
“Stiles, it’s eight o’clock.” John took a deep drink of hot coffee and winced at the burn. “I got a call at six: two hunters were mauled in the woods last night. Anything you want to tell me?”
Stiles’ eyes widened in shock. “What? No! No, no, no, Dad, really. Scott and I went out last night, I do admit that, but we were back here before two o’clock, I swear!”
John nodded. “Uh, huh! Were you near the woods at all last night?”
Stiles squinted at his father. “Do you care about legalities if we were in no way involved with the mauling?”
“Stiles, dammit! What were you up to last night?”
Stiles winced and sat at one of the kitchen bar stools. “I may have, theoretically, stol— appropriated a bottle of your illicit booze last night, and we may have gone to build a fire to get drunk. Don’t look at me like that! We have stress now, okay! But—Scott can’t get drunk now, and I wasn’t really feeling it myself. So we were going to head back…when these two drunks came out of the woods at us. They made some crude remarks at us, and I tossed them the bottle and we left.”
John set down his mug and regarded his son for a moment.“And you were with Scott the whole night?”
“I swear! We came home and played Mario Cart for a few hours—oh, and we ate the leftover Chinese—and then we passed out for a bit. Scott’s still out cold upstairs.”
John wiped a hand over his face and stood up, leaving his mug in the sink. “Okay. I believe you. I need a shower, food, and sleep, so I’m going to get the first now. You can make breakfast. The smell of food should wake Scott. Don’t say anything to him unless he mentions one of those ‘dreams’ again. Do you need any school supplies before classes start next week?”
“Nah, I’m good on that front. I even have all my homework done. I think I’m going to start reading those books Regina left here, after Scott leaves.”
Since Scott did not mention any dreams of mauling and vivisection, Stiles and his father decided not to mention the two hunters from the night before, and Scott went home to his mother on January first none the wiser.
It was for the best in any case, since Derek was planning on beginning Scott’s training later that night. And while Scott was running around the Preserve acting all wolf-y, Stiles would begin his Spark training with Regina. John had wanted to supervise those lessons, but he now had several concurrent investigations going so he could not be home. But he trusted Regina to not allow Stiles to burn down the house.
Stiles was glad for his father’s absence during his first lesson. He had to practice clearing his mind in meditation, and sitting still was never his strong point. He had struggled with his ADHD all his life. As he grew older he was able to channel the rough energy into research, which was not always a good thing. He learned far too much about his mother’s illness, for one thing, and he rarely slept during school breaks because he was constantly on his computer, seeking out Wikipedia and the most obscure topic links he could think of. Once classes started in a week, Stiles knew there would be a Parent/Teacher conference coming up, and he cringed inwardly at the thought of his father finding out about his Economics essay. That was a bit of research that totally got away from him.
Stiles sat comfortably on the floor of his living room, legs stretched out in front of him and arms loose at his sides. He leaned his head slightly backward and closed his eyes, imagining a well-lit room—like Regina told him—with the separate lights going out one by one, until the room was dark. It had sounded odd when she first told him what to do, but he did manage to clear his mind of all extraneous thought. His mind was as black and empty as the room he imagined.
“Very good, Stiles,” said Regina from somewhere far off. “Now, slowly let a bit of light back in. As the room brightens, feel the raw energy fill your body, starting at your feet. Feel the tingles rise up your legs from toe to ankle, and from ankle to knee, and from knee to thigh.”
The guided meditation continued slowly, for what seemed like hours, until finally the tingles filled his arms, neck, and head. Stiles was buzzing from the energy, but he managed to keep his eyes closed when he really wanted to look to see if he was visibly vibrating.
“Now,” said Regina, “Think of some small thing; some impossible thing that you could only imagine. Focus that raw energy on that small thing, and once the impossible becomes clear; open your eyes to see what your Spark has done.”
Some small impossible thing? Stiles almost broke his concentration to ask for more clarification. She might as well have asked him to float to the moon!
In that moment, his mind settled to a calm Stiles had never felt, and the buzzing energy that was making every nerve in his body vibrate stopped and focused.
Stiles slowly opened one eye, just to a slit, and then opened the other. He could no longer feel the floor beneath his hands and butt, but that could mean that parts of him had fallen asleep. Dead nerves, however, could not explain why the living room ceiling was so close to his nose once his eyes were fully open.
Taking in a shaky breath, Stiles looked around him.
He had levitated to the ceiling.
Stiles could feel his concentration slipping with his shock, and he carefully ‘imagined’ himself floating gently to the floor again. Once he was settled in front of the sofa, he looked across the room to where Regina was staring at him in mild amazement.
She blinked twice at him and then said, “A small thing, Stiles. I told you to think of a small thing.”
Stiles huffed in startled laughter. “Sorry! You said to imagine a small, impossible thing, and all I could think was that you might as well have told me to fly to the moon!”
Regina raised one elegant eyebrow at him. “Then it is just as well that we are indoors.” She leaned forward, folding her arms over her knees. “Stiles, your Spark is very strong. And, as I said before, you are only fettered by your imagination. You can’t change the base atomic structure of anything, or alter any DNA, but you can accomplish many things. For that reason, you MUST concentrate! You can NOT allow the Spark to get away from you! You could cause damage to yourself or to others. If you act in anger, you could cause damage to yourself or to others. If you act rashly and without thought….”
“I can hurt myself or someone else. Yeah, I’m starting to get that, thanks.” Stiles rubbed his hands over his face. “This is both amazing and frustrating. I have the power to do literally anything, and I’m afraid to do anything!”
Regina smiled gently. “Your fear will temper your will at first. If you are afraid of hurting anyone, then you won’t be tempted to do anything dangerous. Keep the caution at heart, Stiles.”
Stiles and his father were side-by-side at the kitchen sink, washing and drying the dinner dishes, when a loud and hard thump was heard at their back door. Stiles looked at John and shrugged, and John rolled his eyes and walked to the door, peering through the window to see into the darkness of the back yard.
With a sharp gasp, John turned the doorknob and threw open the door, revealing a panting Derek and a bleeding Scott. “What the hell happened to the two of you?”
Derek dragged Scott into the house and Stiles ran to his friend with clean towels and a glass of water. “Hunters!” said Derek in frustration. “We were running through the Preserve, and a hunter shot Scott with a crossbow bolt. It pinned him to a tree, but I got it out of his shoulder before they got close enough to see us clearly.”
“Okay,” said John, “Let’s get his shirt off and see to the wound. We need to clean that up.”
Derek helped Scott remove the shirt, but said, “Unless there was Wolf’s Bane on the bolt, he’ll have healed already. I think he’s in shock because of the attack.”
Scott rolled his eyes at Derek. “You think so? A guy just SHOT me! Of course I’m in shock!”
Stiles snorted as he helped wash the blood from Scott’s shoulder. “Dude! It looks all healed up, so I think you’re okay. Did the hunters see you? How many were there?”
Scott shook his head. “They didn’t see me clearly. They were pretty far away from us. I don’t think they even saw Derek, and we were gone before they could see us clearly. But I sure saw the one who shot me!”
John frowned. “Did you see him well enough to make an identification?”
Scott nodded, but Derek broke in. “What good will that do, Sheriff? If Scott identifies the shooter, then he’ll be outed as a werewolf, and that does no good for anybody.”
“That’s true, Derek,” said John carefully, “and I don’t want him outed to anyone. But if I can find out the identity of any hunters in the area, then I might be able to trace them back to any suspicious crimes around here—or the Hale fire. I still have that one opened, Derek. I’d like to find a legal solution for you, even if it’s too little, too late. I think you deserve that much.”
Stiles looked up as he wiped the blood from Scott’s shoulder, and he met his father’s eyes. Once again, in the presence of Scott, the name ‘Argent’ was never mentioned. At first, Stiles had wondered about that—if his father was deliberately shielding Scott from that information. Now he understood that ‘the Sheriff’ had reopened the Hale case and couldn’t let information get out to the general public. Stiles knew about it because Derek told him, but Scott hadn’t been there for that. Stiles nodded almost unobtrusively at his father and got a wink in return. Stiles would keep the secret until any arrests were made.
“Dude, you gotta tell your mom!” Stiles gathered up the bloody towels and carried them to the laundry room. “She’s gonna be pissed if she finds out and it wasn’t from you.”
“Yeah,” Scott sighed. “I know. Can I borrow a shirt, since this one is messed up?”
“Sure—and then I’ll drive you home. I think your training is over for tonight.”
“Just as well,” said Scott as he followed Stiles into the hall. “Classes start tomorrow, and I could use some sleep!”
John beckoned Derek to follow him into his home office while the others were upstairs. Derek took a seat in one of the worn chairs while John closed the door behind them.
“I have a few hard questions to ask you about the fire and your family. I hope this won’t be a problem?”
Derek shook his head. “I’m fine; go ahead.”
John sat in the other chair and pulled a manila file across the desk and opened it. “Were you aware of any other hunters that might have been working with Kate Argent?”
Derek frowned in concentration. “I don’t really remember seeing her with anyone else. She was pretty focused on me. I remember her telling me that her family wouldn’t understand if she had a boyfriend, so we had to keep things quiet.”
John made a few notes in the file. “So you never saw where she said she lived?”
“No, sir. She would pick me up in her car—a black SUV. I still remember the license plate, if you think that will help.”
“It just might. I’m trying to find where she was staying while she was stalking you. If I can figure that out, then I might be able to find accomplices. There is no way she set that fire by herself, so I need to find the people she was working with.”
Regina Kincaide sat at the small table in her hotel room, making a list of books and websites that Stiles could use for reference during his training. While she had no problems at all personally training the boy—his talent and power were far greater than she had ever imagined—tax season was coming up and she did have obligations to her clients. She could make arrangements to stay for a short while, and for possible future visits, but in the long term Stiles would be on his own. Ideally he could be trained by the local Emissary, but Regina’s own investigation into Deaton’s past and present behavior put that thought out of her head.
Her phone rang beside her, and the caller ID was a mystery, so she cautiously answered.
“Yes? Hello? This is Kincaide.”
A velvety smooth female voice answered her, the message short and to the point: “Je viens chez vous bientôt. Dis à vos loups d’être prêt – j’apporte le tribunal. La question des Hale sera réglée.”
The message was clear: Regina had to make two phone calls and set off a chain of defense. Cybelle D’Argent was coming across the ocean, and she was bringing the full power of the Hunter Council Tribunal with her. Regina quickly dialed Liam Gallagher in Oregon, because he was the Alpha of her own Pack and he would not be pleased that she called the actual head of the Hunter Council.
“Hello, Regina. Are you coming home soon?” Liam’s voice was relaxed and it put Regina on guard.
“I’ll be home soon enough, Alpha. But there is much to discuss before I get there, and you won’t be happy with me.”
“What have you done, Emissary, and will it put my Pack in danger?”
Regina shook her head and smiled to herself. He always thought of his Pack first. It made him a good Alpha, but he was very insular. “The Gallagher Pack will be safe, as long as they keep clean in word and deed, my Alpha. But I made some serious inquiries on behalf of Derek Hale, and a Tribunal has been called.”
There was a long pause, and for a moment Regina thought the call had been disconnected. “Perhaps,” said Liam, dangerously calm, “You should tell me what caused those inquiries, when the Hale Beta was the one to cause the demise of his entire Pack?”
Regina could feel her ire grow. “Liam Gallagher! Before you pass judgment, perhaps you should learn all pertinent facts!”
“Fine!” Liam growled at her over the phone connection. “Tell me the facts that have led to a full Tribunal so close to my home!”
Regina took a soothing breath. “I realize that Laura Hale may have indicated that Derek was guilty of setting that fire so long ago, but she was sensing his residual guilt and knew only very few of the facts herself. The plain matter is: Derek, as an impressionable youth who yearned for positive attention, was seduced by a much older woman in the guise of an adolescent. This woman was Kate Argent, but Derek knew nothing about that, and during her seduction she gained all the information needed to trap the Hale Pack and family in the Pack house and burn them alive.”
Liam began cursing in several languages, and the growling made it all seem so much more violent. “Why did Laura Hale not tell us this?”
“Perhaps,” said Regina dryly, “She was eager to place the blame and never bothered to ask why Derek felt so guilty. In any case, I was able to do some research into Kate Argent’s past actions before this tragedy, and she and her father have been instrumental in the destruction of several peaceful Packs throughout California, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. I don’t know about the son’s participation, but father and daughter have acted deplorably.”
“I agree with that, and I am sorry that the Gallagher Pack has treated Derek as an outsider. But how did you manage to call Tribunal?”
Regina sighed. “I made some calls and got hold of Cybelle D’Argent in France. Since she is head of the main Hunter Council, and the head Matriarch of the Argent Clan, I felt she should know of the allegations against her kin. I merely suggested that she do her own research into the matter, and she has done. I just received a call from her, and she is headed this way. She told me to warn the Wolves and that she was bringing full Tribunal. She didn’t want any of the local Packs to feel persecuted by the presence of the Council.”
“Fine,” said Liam less aggressively. “It was good that you are doing this for Derek, but he still has to come back here to live, so I’ll make sure the others don’t blame him for the Tribunal or the presence of the Hunter Council.”
“I think,” said Regina thoughtfully, “that Derek may want to stay in his old family territory. His uncle is still here, even if he is infirm, and this was always his home. Even if he is a Beta, he could build a Pack here once again. The rogue Alpha still has to be dealt with, but there is a potential new Emissary here for Derek.”
“And what is wrong with the former Hale Emissary?”
Regina sighed deeply. “So many things are wrong with Deaton, Liam. For one, did you know that both Talia and Robert Hale complained often about Deaton keeping pertinent information from them during Pack meetings? And Deaton seems to have fallen into the Druid Trap, where he feels that ‘balance’ must be kept at all costs.” Even Liam made a disgusted sound at that. Regina continued. “Derek was also of the brief opinion that Deaton may have been the bitten Omega that killed Laura to take the Alpha Gifts. I have dissuaded him from that line of thinking. Deaton is as human as I am, and I did verify that personally. He has a Mountain Ash counter top in his veterinary clinic so that he can use the back office as a safe shelter against the supernatural dangers that may come calling.”
“There are other dangers there besides the rogue Alpha? And you wish Derek to stay in that territory?” Liam sounded aghast at the idea.
“I have seen the power structure here, Liam, and it is in disrepair. There is a World Tree here—or rather, there was a World Tree. It had become infected, possibly back before the fire when Deaton turned from the True Druid path, and someone has cut it down to a stump. But the power is still there, even if it is corrupted, and it will call the supernatural to come. If a strong Pack can be rebuilt here, the danger can be kept at bay.”
Liam hummed in thought for a moment. “What about this possible new Emissary? Do you not fear he will be turned to the False Druid path?”
Regina snorted rather undignified. “This new possible Emissary is a Spark, and he is raw and untrained. I am trying to fix that while I am here, and I may have to travel back here frequently in order to see the boy fully trained and capable. His power, as it is now, is stronger than Deaton’s and it will become stronger than mine. My main goal is to make certain that the boy does not level this town totally with unrestrained power. He performed a full levitation during his first meditation.”
Liam whistled sharply in shock. “I give you leave to make whatever arrangements you need to see to his training, then. If he is so powerful, he could become a danger to the entire west coast if left untrained. I will call the Pack together and warn them about the Tribunal’s imminent arrival, and I shall call the Winslow Pack and warn them as well.”
Regina smiled and settled back in her chair. “Then I’m left to tell Derek about it—and the local Sheriff, as well. He’s far more in the ‘know’ than we figured, and it is his son that is the Spark.”
**A/N—the monologue spoken by the Argent Matriarch is: “I am coming to you soon. Tell your Wolves to be ready. I am bringing the Tribunal; the Hale matter will be settled!” Thanks to Marlislash for the translation!”**
Classes started the next day, and with a new semester came new team try-outs for Lacrosse. Technically, Stiles and Scott were already part of the team. They sat on the bench together, anyway. But Scott, despite Derek’s warnings against it, was determined to make first line—and he wanted to drag Stiles along with him.
Stiles talked himself blue on the drive to school, but Scott was wearing his own ‘Resolve Face’, and Stiles struck out on that front.
Stiles tried again after they parked, but Scott pretended to be more interested in the English paper he forgot to finish before break ended.
Stiles tried again in class, but the teacher shut him up and Scott seemed distracted anyway. Stiles watched the way Scott cocked his head to the side as he obviously listened to something outside the classroom. It was amusing, in a way, just like a puppy hearing a whistle. When Scott perked up and reached into his bag for a pen—when he had a pen on the desk beside him—Stiles started watching the classroom door. Soon enough, it opened and a pretty brunette with huge dimples walked nervously into the room and handed an office slip to the teacher. When the teacher introduced her to the class as ‘New Student Allison Argent’, Stiles mentally floundered and almost missed her taking the seat behind Scott—and Scott handing her a pen.
An Argent! In his school! Suddenly that shooting in the woods made a lot more sense!
Stiles got to spend the rest of the day being ignored by Lydia Martin (his not-so-secret crush from the third grade), trying to ignore Jackson Whittemore (jackass extraordinaire, Lacrosse Captain, and Lydia’s boyfriend), and watching Scott moon over lovely Allison. By the end of the school day, Stiles’ nerves were shot and he was helpless against Scott’s begging about Lacrosse try-outs. So he found himself in the locker room, changing into his gear, listening about Allison’s attributes.
“She’s just got this happy little laugh, you know? And her smile….”
Stiles wanted to warn Scott about Allison’s family history, but there was no good way to do that. Plus, there was always the chance that Allison didn’t know anything about werewolves and hunters and stuff. It was a small chance, but Stiles was willing to take it. His main concern was not allowing Scott to Wolf-out during try-outs.
The thing was—Jackson Whittemore just had something against Stiles, and by association Scott. Maybe it was because everyone knew Stiles had had a crush on Lydia since she started attending the same school as Stiles, but he never stalked her or came on to her. He admired from afar, okay? She was brilliant in word and mind, unless she was letting Jackson treat her like an empty-headed trophy. If Stiles had ever had a chance at dating Lydia, then he would totally understand the animosity. But she was out of his league and he knew it—and so did everyone else—so he had no clue why Jackson sought to bully and intimidate him.
Jackson never went beyond harsh words, because while he wasn’t a genius—he wasn’t stupid enough to physically bully the son of the Sheriff. But he was rich and popular and everyone loved him (so it seemed) and they all followed Jackson’s lead. Some of the more idiotic members of the Lacrosse team, in order to garner Jackson’s favour, did use physical intimidation—shoving Stiles and Scott into lockers and knocking books onto the floor and generally being assholes. Before break, Stiles and Scott were adept at avoiding all the trouble, but now Scott was stronger and transformed, and he had a bit of a temper now. Stiles didn’t want Scott to hurt anybody, even if they were assholes and deserved it.
And try-outs were a bear!
“McCall!” The coach stood on the sidelines, shouting orders and glaring at his clipboard. “Take the end zone! Bilinski! You’re on goal!”
Stiles muttered to himself as he took Danny Mahealani’s position in the goal area. Three years taking gym classes and Economics classes and bench-sitting classes (really?), and Coach still didn’t know his name? Really?
Danny gave him what might have been a pitying look, but Stiles was too concerned with keeping an eye on Scott. It was almost amazing, how good Scott’s reflexes were. He caught shot after shot, never letting one ball drop, which was good for him—really. Stiles was proud of his buddy. Scott was playing like it meant the world to him, and Stiles supposed it did. Scott was a social nobody, just like Stiles, but he had aspirations. High aspirations.
Movement in the bleachers caught his eye, and Stiles turned his head slightly to see Lydia Martin dragging Allison Argent to a seat high enough to watch the entire field. Of course, both Jackson and Scott saw them, too, and that’s when the action ramped up.
Since Stiles hadn’t caught one shot, Coach sent him back to the bench, so he had a great view of what happened.
Jackson, buoyed by the presence of his girlfriend, amped up the assholery and charged Scott from behind, knocking the ball and stick from Scott’s hands. Scott, kneeling on the grass, shuddered in sudden anger and rose to his feet quickly. Stiles saw the flash of Scott’s eyes under the helmet and he knew trouble would come quickly. He got to his feet in time to watch Scott thrash Jackson hard to the ground, and he was on the field fast enough to hear a snap come from Jackson’s arm.
Stiles grabbed Scott and hustled him off the field and into the locker room, ignoring Coach’s yelling and Jackson’s pained moans. Inside the locker room, Stiles shoved Scott into the showers, fully dressed, and hit the cold tap, cooling the other boy’s ire.
“You good, man? You under control now?” Stiles kept a good distance from his friend because he knew he was no match for a werewolf.
Scott stood shivering in the showers. “Yeah, I’m good. Thanks, dude! That was almost harsh!”
Stiles stopped pacing and glared at Scott. “Almost harsh? Are you serious? You broke Jackson!”
“It’s not broken, thank goodness!” Both Stiles and Scott startled as Coach burst into the locker room, dragging Jackson along with him. “But it’s dislocated at least, so Whittemore is going to the medics. Right NOW!” Coach screamed as Jackson made to brush him off. “But as McCall seems to have gained some hot skills since last year, he’s now on first line as Co-captain of the team, along with Whittemore! Just keep the aggression to a minimum unless you direct it to the other team!”
Scott beamed as Coach pushed Jackson into Danny’s arms and sent them away. Stiles refrained from rolling his eyes, but only just.
“Thanks, Coach! I won’t let you down!”
Coach leveled a look at Scott. “Just don’t kill the rest of the team! And why didn’t you take off the uniform before showering?”
Coach shook his head and headed into his office, leaving a happy Scott and perplexed Stiles standing in the shower area while the rest of the team filed in.
The next day at lunch, Stiles and Scott were sitting at their usual table when a tray landed on the table in front of Stiles. He looked up to see Lydia Martin seating herself across from him, followed by Allison Argent. Jackson, glowering as usual, followed to sit at the end of the table and Danny sat across from him. Several other members of the Lacrosse team filled in the rest of the table and Stiles looked to Scott with a question in his eyes. Scott shrugged in response and turned to his mystery meat and fruit cocktail.
“Um,” said Stiles nervously, “Not that I don’t appreciate the extra company, but why are you all here instead of at your usual table?”
Jackson, as usual, ignored him. Allison smiled and waved at Scott, and Stiles rolled his eyes. Danny shrugged in disinterest, and the other players just dug into their meals. But Lydia, for the first time ever, graced him with actual words.
“The captains of the Lacrosse team needs to sit with the other players, so we’re here to sit with the other co-captain.”
Stiles raised his eyebrows at her, but she was done talking to him. The conversation ran around him, but never was he included. Eventually the conversation turned to a party Lydia was having on the weekend.
“Of course, you’re coming,” she said to Allison. “All of my parties are well-attended. Everybody who is anybody at this school, and the nearby college, will be there.”
Allison blushed prettily and smiled at Scott. “Are you going to the party, Scott?”
Lydia did not look pleased and Scott looked flustered. “I, uh, I don’t….”
“Of course he’s coming!” snapped Lydia. “He’s co-captain, so he’ll be there!”
Stiles opened the calendar function on his phone and made note of the date: January 15. The next full moon was slated for January 19, but that meant that the moon was waxing—getting more powerful in influence, according to Regina and Derek. Scott’s control was not the best right now, and a party was not the optimal place to be until he had full control of himself. And the first scrimmage of the year was on the 19th—this day is just getting better and better!
Scott was stumbling over an answer for Lydia’s declaration, and she, of course, misinterpreted his difficulty.
“I suppose,” she sneered, “That your friend can come, too.”
And it actually took Stiles a moment before he figured that he was the friend in question. “Um, what? No. No, that’s great of you, really, but….”
“C’mon, Stiles!” Scott nudged Stiles with his elbow. “It’s a party! And Allison wants me to go!”
Stiles looked at his best friend and he was almost knocked out by the puppy-eyes. He groaned inwardly, knowing that keeping Scott under control at this party was going to be Stiles’ job.
“Fine,” he said with a bright smile, “The party sounds like fun!”
The party sounded like anything but fun!
The party was not fun.
Stiles sat on a chair in the corner, nursing a watered-down beer, and watched the party happen around him.
It had taken very little to convince his father to allow him to come. He had to promise that illegal activity would not happen (he was pretty sure his father wasn’t that much of an idiot) and that he would not allow Scott to hurt anyone.
Scott was laughing with Allison in the center of the living room. The rest of the partiers were flowing around them like ants, drifting from the kitchen to the back yard and back again, but Stiles managed to keep an eye on Scott. He was, for the most part, being ignored by everyone in the house. Being the son of the Sheriff pretty much made Stiles persona non grata among the party crowd.
At least Scott looked like he was having fun. Allison was whispering into his ear and Scott was blushing as red as Stiles had ever seen him. Stiles was mildly amused.
Scott was a teenage boy, that much was clear. So when Allison’s hand drifted to Scott’s thigh and her lips moved too close to Scott’s ear, Stiles could see the effect from across the room.
Scott’s eyes were glowing golden-yellow in the dim light. And his fingernails were becoming rough claws.
Stiles was up and across the room in an instant, pulling Scott from the sofa and out of Allison’s arms.
“Dude! I got a text from your mom! She’s getting off early, and she’s bringing pizza for us during our video game break! We gotta jet, man!”
With a shouted apology to Allison, Stiles had Scott out of the house and into his Jeep in minutes, bypassing Lydia and Jackson and saving Scott’s fledgling reputation.
Stiles looked at Scott as he drove back into town. “You got this, man? Because I’m sure your hormones were way out of whack!”
Scott nodded shakily, his claws still digging into his own leg. “Thanks, Stiles. I really wouldn’t want Allison to find out like that!”
Stiles snorted as he drove towards home, thinking ‘No, you really don’t’.
The next week was back to normal for Stiles. He had classes and homework, he ate lunch in the cafeteria, and he sat on the bench after school during Lacrosse practice. Sometimes Scott was beside him (during classes and lunch) and sometimes Scott was in front of him (on the Lacrosse field), but mostly Scott’s attention was on Allison.
After getting carried away during the party, Scott and Allison were keeping it cool. They met at each other’s lockers between classes and held hands at lunch. It was almost too sweet. And Allison was at every practice after school, sitting right next to Lydia—her new best friend.
Lydia was back to ignoring Stiles, but Allison always said hello when she saw him. Stiles found it hard not to like her, although he tried on general principle. Stiles’ best friend was a werewolf now, and he was pretty sure Allison’s family was full of hunters. How many families had that name, really? Coincidence? Stiles thought not.
Right now, Stiles was more concerned with watching Scott on the field in front of him. During practice, the team was split in two parts and Scott was playing against friendly players. His control was still mostly shot, and Stiles could see him struggle not to hurt anyone during play. Jackson had gotten his doctor to shoot him up with cortizone so he wouldn’t miss any practices or games, and Stiles could tell that he really wanted to turn the hurt back onto Scott. Stiles watched time and again as Jackson plowed into Scott on the way to the goal, and Scott was barely managing to keep cool. Stiles found he was worried about the upcoming game on Wednesday. It was only a scrimmage, but it was against another school’s team. Scott had no loyalty to them and his control was going to be shot due to the full moon.
Stiles knew there was no way he could convince Scott to miss that game. But he really wanted to.
Behind him, Stiles could hear Allison and Lydia talking about the upcoming game.
“At my previous school, football was the big sport. I’ve never seen a Lacrosse match before. My dad is coming to the game Wednesday. He’s never seen it, either.” Allison’s happy chatter chilled Stiles to the bone.
Could hunters ‘sense’ when a werewolf was near? He needed to ask Derek or Regina. It was information that he needed to know.
“I just hope,” said Lydia, “That we give them a good show on Wednesday. Jackson needs to get himself together out there!”
Stiles could hear the scorn in her voice and he was surprised. He had always thought that Lydia was unconditionally in love with Jackson. Why else would she hide her brilliance and allow him to talk down to her?
Just then, Jackson limped off the field holding his arm close to his chest and Stiles blocked out all other conversation, instead choosing to join Scott on the field.
“You’re looking good out there, buddy!” Stiles clapped Scott on the shoulder.
Scott grinned hugely in return. “Thanks! Do you think Allison was watching?”
Stiles refrained from rolling his eyes. “I’m sure she was quite impressed, Scott. But, um…are you sure you should play on Wednesday? It’s the full moon and you’re barely holding on now?”
Scott huffed in annoyance. “I’ll be fine, Stiles! I’m running with Derek every night and I’m getting better! I haven’t even had any dreams about that Alpha anymore!”
Stiles shrugged. “Okay. If you say so. I’ll be here, rooting you on!”