Stiles was tense as he sat on the bench.
The night was cool and clear, and the huge, full moon was quite visible.
Stiles wondered, briefly, if that would make a difference: being able to see the moon versus having it hidden behind a cloud. Probably not. Yet another thing to ask Derek when Stiles saw him next.
Derek was pretty scarce lately; his dad told him that Derek was at the station a few times, going over facts and suppositions about the fire case, but Stiles had only really seen Regina in the two weeks since Scott got shot by a crossbow in the woods. Stiles kind of missed him.
Especially now, when Scott was on the field during a Lacrosse match during the first full moon since being bitten.
Stiles sat forward and watched the action in front of him. The Glengary Academy team was good. And violent.
And they weren’t holding back.
Jackson had taken a few hits, and his shoulder had to be hurting. Stiles almost felt sorry for him, but he was the idiot that walked onto the field damaged. Even Danny, who was playing the goalie position, had taken a few hits—and that was just not done.
But Stiles’ eyes were on Scott.
He had been knocked down and around, and he was still standing. His werewolf strength was helping in that regard, but Stiles knew his friend and the temper was not holding. He was playing in the defender position, and even the mid-fielders were gunning for him.
Beacon Hills was up by two goals, and the timer was counting down fast. It was during the last play that Scott flipped his lid, and Stiles was almost not ready for it.
A Glengary Attacker rushed forward and hit Scott in the head with his stick, hard enough to snap Scott’s head back, and Scott bounced back with glowing eyes and sharp teeth. The attacker got past Scott and rushed the goal, but Scott turned on a dime and pushed the guy from behind. He went down.
He did not get up.
At the final buzzer, when the Beacon Hills Cyclones all rushed the field and a few of the defenders accidentally trampled the downed player, but Scott was not reacting in a victorious manner. Stiles got to him before he hurt anyone else, and shuffled him off to the locker rooms…again.
But this time, Scott was fighting the whole way; growling and snarling and half out of his mind with fury. His claws had punched through his heavy gloves and he almost snapped his stick in half from gripping it too tight.
And once they were in the enclosed locker room, he turned on Stiles. He was completely wolf-ed out: glowing eyes, sharp fangs, heavy brow and angled jaw. And he now saw Stiles as his prey.
Stiles ran, as far as he could in the small room, but Scott launched himself on top of the lockers and was hunting from above. Stiles was in a panic, and he started babbling—trying to distract or calm Scott; he wasn’t sure which.
“Come on, buddy! You don’t want to hurt me! I’m your bro!” Stiles ducked around a locker group, but Scott landed in front of him and grabbed him, pitching him across the room and knocking him into a wall.
Dazed and out of breath, Stiles watched through hooded eyes as Scott stalked toward him, claws outstretched. In a blind panic, Stiles wished. And wished.
And the fire extinguisher flew across the room and landed in Stiles’ hands. Without another thought, and hearing the approach of the rest of the team, Stiles pulled the pin and aimed, shooting Scott in the face with the nitrogen blast.
The effect was instantaneous. Scott calmed and choked a bit on the chemicals, but Stiles was safe.
Shaken, Stiles ran from the locker room as the rest of the team poured in. He would have to deal with this later, but for now he just wanted to go home.
“And there’s been no sign of her?”
“No, Sheriff. She hasn’t called in to work and she hasn’t been home. Her car is missing as well.”
John sighed and hung up the phone. The hunt for one Nurse Jennifer Weatherbee was still on. It had been weeks since anyone had seen her; since a supply of the digitalis was found in her locker at the hospital. John’s investigation into the mysterious deaths at the hospital had come to a stand-still once that evidence was found, and it turned into a manhunt (woman hunt?) instead. He had only one suspect, and she was a good one. John’s research into Weatherbee’s past showed a pattern of mysterious heart failures at her previous place of employment as well.
And she was in the wind.
John wasn’t sure if she had left Beacon Hills coincidently, just like she arrived, or if something had tipped her off about the investigation. Her previous employers had had no clue that Weatherbee could have been the cause of the deaths, and she left before she could be found out. It looked as if she had moved on once more.
“You really think it would be a good idea for me to stay here? Even knowing more hunters are on the way?” Derek’s look of disbelief belied his fear, but he was determined to stand firm.
Regina, however, remained calm. “Derek, the Hunter Council is coming as a show of good faith to you. Cybelle D’Argent must feel that the Argents were in the wrong when they targeted your family, and she is coming to deal with them personally.”
“Why? Her coming isn’t going to bring back my family, my Pack.”
“No, it won’t. But the Argents are outside of the law in this. For one thing, you can’t prove that Kate Argent set that fire. For another thing, you don’t know if she acted alone or if there were others with her. And if you could prove she did it, you’d have a hell of a time convincing a judge that she did, or why she did it. Especially why. But the Hunter Tribunal can take her and that entire family branch to task for it, and if justice should be done—well, who better than the Matriarch of the entire Argent Clan to take that justice?”
Derek looked so vulnerable to her; like a lost little boy. Regina hurt for him; for all that he had lost. He deserved his home back. He deserved a family. The Gallagher Pack would house him and give him work, but they could never bring him fully in. If Regina could help Derek rebuild in his own home territory, it would give her great pleasure to do so.
“Derek, this place is your rightful home. I believe that you can rebuild here. I believe that you can be happy here. Give me a chance to help you.”
Reluctantly, Derek nodded. “I’ll stay. For a while. I’ll need a place to live, and I’ll need a job. Any ideas about that?”
Regina smiled. “We’ll think of something for that job issue. For now, I have a Real Estate catalogue here. Did you want a real home, or an apartment?”
Scott tried to apologize for attacking Stiles. Every day for the next two days, Scott tried.
At least, Stiles assumed he was trying to apologize. Scott was so pre-occupied with Allison that he left half of his sentences unfinished, so it was hard to be sure, but certainly an apology was in there somewhere.
When Saturday rolled around, and their usual game date came up, Stiles was still expecting to hear that apology.
What he got was: “I’m double-dating with Allison, Lydia, and Jackson tonight. We’re going bowling!”
So, there was that.
Stiles’ dad was working late—something about some leads in a murder case—and Regina was having a conference call to Oregon and her Pack. Stiles needed to be constructive, so that his mind would remain clear of negative energy. He pulled out his mother’s old cookbooks and took inventory of the fridge and pantry, and he started making a list. A long list. A multi-faceted list.
He had a menu, so he needed a grocery list.
He had a long-term plan, so he needed a list for food storage containers. He didn’t have enough of his mom’s Tupperware for what he had planned.
He had to clean out the old stuff from the fridge, but it was mostly take-out containers anyway, so he had a to-do list.
It was Saturday afternoon, and every weekend since Scott and he had hit their teens, Saturdays were spent goofing off in front of the Xbox, or watching rented videos, unless there was a weekend Lacrosse practice. There was no practice this week.
And Scott had abandoned him in favor of his new girlfriend.
Every time Stiles thought about it, his handwriting got shaky and he couldn’t read his list.
Finally he picked up the phone and dialed a never-used number.
“Hey, Derek? It’s Stiles. Stilinski?”
“Yes, I know.”
“Yeah, um, I was wondering—are you busy today? Any time today?”
“Not really. Is something up?”
Stiles laughed a little sadly. “Not really. I was going to spend the day in the kitchen, cooking enough meals for a week, and I was wondering if you maybe wanted to help? You’ll get free food out of the deal.”
There was a long enough pause that Stiles thought Derek was trying to find a nice way to decline the invitation, then: “I need to clean up first. Have you done your shopping yet?”
“Nope. I just finished the list. I’m sort of going for a blast-from-the-past menu; making the good stuff from my mom’s collection.”
“If you give me half an hour, I’ll help you with the shopping.” Even to Stiles’ human ears, Derek sounded hopeful and eager for company.
“Yeah, I could take a shower myself. You come on over and I’ll drive us to the store.”
“Okay. See you in a while.”
Stiles did not fist-pump, because two lonely people seeking company did not merit a fist-pump, but he did rush to the shower. When he was dried and dressed, Stiles gathered the towels and all the dirty laundry from his and his father’s rooms and took them to the washer. He might as well do some real work while cooking.
The first load was starting pre-rinse when Derek rang the doorbell. When Stiles answered, Derek stood on the front porch looking slightly uncomfortable.
“Hey, I’m glad you came, because this kind of fun is best had with company. But if you had something better to do….”
“No, I didn’t,” Derek stammered. “I mean, I’m glad you called. Regina has been helping me find a permanent place to live, and I kind of needed a break from that.”
Stiles led a blushing Derek into the kitchen where coffee was to be had. “So, you’re sticking around, then?”
“Um, yeah. I’ll eventually need to find a job, because I like to be useful, but the insurance money from my family…I can find a good place, I mean.”
Stiles smiled and handed Derek a travel mug of hot coffee. “I’m glad. That you’re sticking around, I mean. Scott can sure use the help with his wolfie-ness.”
Derek snorted as he took the mug. “I don’t know how much help I’ll be. He stopped running with me after school started. I’ve called him about training, but he just blows me off.”
Stiles slammed his mug onto the counter. “He’s not training with you?”
“Um, no. I figured he would have told you.”
“No, he did not tell me! Instead, he managed to try out and make first-string on the Lacrosse team, and he attacked me after the game Wednesday night because the moon took hold and he lost control!”
Derek gaped at Stiles as he ranted and stalked around the kitchen. Finally Stiles stopped his frantic pacing and he reached for his own travel mug and the rather long list on the counter.
“Well, Scott is a problem I’ll have to deal with later. I can’t think about him right now, or my Spark might ignite. We have to hit the super store first, so I can get more storage containers. Play your cards right, and I’ll let you pick some out to fill for your own use.”
Stiles led Derek to the Jeep calmly, but he was inwardly fuming. Scott was his best friend, and Stiles wanted to stick by him. But that training was incredibly important, and Scott was baling on it. And what did that lead to? A manic attack in the Beacon Hills High locker room.
Derek took charge of the shopping list while Stiles pushed the cart through the grocery store. The list of ingredients was simple and common, but Derek had some idea that the combinations would not be.
“So, what are you going to be making?”
Stiles looked at him as they rounded the corner to the produce section. “My mom had this great collection of cookbooks, and she liked to pick traditional ethnic meals for us to try. I made this list from a Polish cookbook.”
“Oh? I’ve never had Polish food. Besides kielbasa, I mean.”
Stiles smirked. “Everybody has had kielbasa. Polish food isn’t really for everyone. I mean, Dad and I like it, but we’ve had it all my life. It’s really hearty food, though, and very tasty.”
They were silent as they shopped, except when Derek told Stiles which items to pull from the shelves. It was nice, shopping with someone else, and Stiles was enjoying the trip. They chatted quietly about Derek’s prospects for a new home and Stiles’ favorite school subjects.
“How is Lacrosse? I mean, it wasn’t a big deal when I went to school there.”
“Derek, you aren’t exactly a dinosaur. It really wasn’t that long ago. But Lacrosse is okay, at least from the bench. I don’t really see a lot of play.”
That turn of the conversation led to thoughts of Scott, and Stiles’ stomach turned sour.
“What is that?”
Stiles spun to face Derek. “What was what?”
“Your heartbeat jumped, like you were angry or something.”
Stiles heaved a heavy, cleansing sigh. “Okay, so here’s the deal. Scott blew me off today, when we’ve had a standing bro-date to play video games on weekends. And that game on Wednesday? It went fine until Scott got knocked around and lost wolfy-control—and he turned on me in the locker room! I had to blast him with a fire extinguisher to get away!” Stiles paused and regarded Derek carefully. “I don’t want to freak you out, because we kept a lot from Scott regarding werewolves and hunters, but Scott seems to have a new girlfriend. She’s new to the school, and her name is Allison. Allison Argent.”
“Shit!” Derek’s eyes grew wide and Stiles could see that he was starting to panic.
“Derek! Hey! I won’t let that family get to you. My dad won’t let that family get to you! You’re going to be okay, okay?” Stiles tightened his grip on Derek’s arm and Derek began to relax. “We’re friends, here, Derek. And asshole-Scott to the contrary, friends take care of each other.”
Derek nodded. “Regina told me that the head Argent was headed this way, and that I should be prepared for some kind of Hunter Tribunal. But she’s travelling from France and shouldn’t be here already.”
Stiles shrugged. “I don’t think she is. Allison—who seems like a perfectly nice, perfect girl—does not have a French accent when she speaks. And unless hunters can genetically sense werewolves—they can’t can they?”
“No, not as far as I know.”
“Okay, then I’m fairly certain that Allison doesn’t know about Scott. She’s never met you, so she doesn’t know about you. So—let’s not worry about that just yet, okay. Let’s finish shopping and get home to cook. I’ve got plans for all this food.”
Derek nodded. “Okay. Let’s do that. I’m curious to try authentic Polish food. And Stiles?”
“Thanks for telling me that there are Argents in town again. If I ran into any of them, I’m not sure what would happen.”
Stiles offered a wry grin. “No problem. The next talk I have to have about the Argents may be to tell Scott that his girlfriend’s father might have been the one to shoot him. I don’t think that is going to go well at all.”
“Yeah, probably not. Why did Scott blow you off anyway?”
“Oh, he’s double-dating with my long-time crush and her douche of a boyfriend. They’re going bowling. Scott can’t bowl for shit!”
The rest of the shopping trip went without a hitch, and soon enough Stiles and Derek were in the Stilinski kitchen separating ingredients for each recipe. The new food storage containers had all been washed and dried and were waiting for use, and Stiles had pulled out all of the pots and pans from the cabinets.
Derek followed instruction well, and Stiles lined up a peppy playlist on his I-Pod, and their moods lightened incredibly. By lunch-time, three full dishes had been finished and were stored in the fridge, and Derek was about to try stuffed cabbage for the first time.
“Hey, I have an idea,” said Stiles. “Why don’t we see if Dad is interested in lunch before we finish my culinary project? We can take some of these to him at the station.”
Derek took a deep sniff of the pot and smiled. “Yeah, that sounds good. We’ll have to tell him about the Argents in town anyway. And the Tribunal.”
“Sure, that’s true. Let me call.”
And moments later, they were back in the Jeep, headed for the Sheriff’s Station, with Derek lovingly cradling the plastic dish of stuffed cabbage.
“Hey, guys! Thanks for lunch! What brought this on?” John brought three bottles of water into his office while Stiles passed out paper plates and plastic forks.
“Well, I got stood up, so I thought Derek could use some company—because I needed some company—and I decided to load the fridge full of decent meals for re-heating.”
“Well, I’m not going to complain about good food that doesn’t come from a box or diner.”
Stiles smirked. “I aim to please!”
Derek was busy moaning into his food. “This is really good! I really want to risk getting used to this.”
“It’s not a risk, Derek,” said John around his own mouthful. “I already told you that you’re welcome in our home. If Stiles doesn’t mind cooking?”
“Nope, I don’t mind. I love cooking, but it’s really no fun for just us. Dad’s already had my best stuff. I can still impress you.”
Derek offered a genuine smile. “Thanks. I appreciate it, really.”
Stiles silently enjoyed his food for a while, reveling in the good company of his father and a new friend.
Which reminded him of his old friend.
Who stood him up in order to spend time with his new girlfriend.
Stiles sighed. “Dad? Did I tell you that Scott made first string on the Lacrosse team?”
John looked up. “No, you didn’t.”
Stiles nodded. “Yup, he tried out after Derek told him it would be too dangerous. And he stopped training with Derek, for some reason. And he has a new girlfriend—a new girl, named Allison Argent.”
John set down his fork. “Really?” He turned to address Derek. “Did Scott tell you why he was stopping the training?”
“No, sir. He just didn’t show up one night just after classes started. I didn’t really have his number, so I couldn’t call. I thought it might have something to do with school. My mother always said education was important, so I never thought to ask.”
John sighed. “And were you aware that there were Argents in town?”
“Not until Stiles told me. But,” Derek paused to sip some water, “Regina did call the Matriarch of the Argent Clan in France, and she is on her way here for a full Tribunal against Kate Argent.”
John raised an eyebrow. “But doesn’t Kate Argent have to be present for something like that? Not that I have any idea what I’m talking about.”
Derek gave a small smile. “Yeah, I don’t know anything about it, either. What I do know is that most hunter clans are matriarchal. The sons and fathers are the foot soldiers, but the women are the leaders. Kate’s mother, at one time, must have been the head of that faction of the clan. This woman, Cybelle D’Argent, according to Regina, is the head of all of the factions of the Argent clan. She is also the head of the Hunter’s Council. I’m pretty sure that if she summons someone, they’re going to come.”
John pointed his fork at Derek. “Am I going to have a war in my town?”
“Not if I have anything to say about it. The Tribunal was called, according to Regina, because Cybelle D’Argent did her own research into Kate Argent’s actions around the time of the fire, and she found that Kate is culpable. Whatever the Hunter’s Council has in mind, it won’t involve the humans in this town, and they warned us they were coming so the Wolves would stay out of the line of fire. I don’t understand most of it, but I do remember my mother telling us, when we were small, that hunters—respectable hunters that followed the code—had to obey the council.”
“Uh-huh. And if they don’t? Is my department going to have to deal with aftermath?”
Derek shrugged. “You can ask Regina, since she’s the one who called. Or you can speak to Cybelle D’Argent when she gets here. I’m sure she’ll answer questions from law enforcement.”
Stiles quirked an eyebrow. “Was that sarcasm? That sounded a lot like sarcasm!”
The rest of the day was spent restfully, with Stiles at the helm and Derek playing sous chef. The awkwardness between them had dissipated and a friendship was blooming. They laughed as they sliced vegetables and filled food containers, they fought over song lists on the I-Pod, and they discussed the merits of reading the book over watching the movie.
And Derek was pulling a pan of roast veal (a small splurge on Stiles’ part) out of the oven when Stiles’ phone rang. Stiles looked at the clock, then the caller ID, and grimaced.
“Hey, Scott! How was bowling with Jackson and Lydia?” Stiles rolled his eyes as he looked at Derek, and Derek smiled in return.
“Stiles! I totally forgot about video games today! I’m so sorry!”
“It happens. I found a project that kept me occupied all day.”
“Yeah, but you were all alone today!”
“No, I really wasn’t. I took lunch to Dad, and I had Derek over to help with my project.”
“Derek? Derek Hale? What could he help you with?”
Stiles looked at Derek, who was trying hard not to look like he was eavesdropping. It didn’t work—Stiles knew about werewolf hearing. “He helped in the kitchen. I pulled out some of Mom’s cookbooks and made a week’s worth of ready to heat meals.”
“But,” Scott whimpered—and Stiles could hear him pouting, “You never let me help in the kitchen when you cook!”
“Uh-huh! That’s because you burn water, Scott. And why did you stop with the werewolf training, anyway?”
There was a long pause before Scott replied. “I’m doing okay, Stiles. I haven’t had any dreams about mauling anybody lately, so I figured I was good to go.”
Stiles frowned and Derek glowered beside him. “Scott! Do you remember attacking me after the game on Wednesday?”
“What! No, I wouldn’t do that!”
“Yeah, you did! You got all wolfed-out on the field and knocked out one of the Glengary players, and you went after me when I got you off the field! I had to blast you with a fire extinguisher to stop you! And I waited for two days for you to apologize! My best friend tried to kill me, and I’m still waiting for an apology!”
“I…I’m sorry, Stiles! Really, I am! I don’t remember!”
“Yeah, and maybe you don’t remember because you still need that meditation and you still need that training. I have cookies to make, Scott, so I need to go now. I’ll talk to you tomorrow or something.”
Stiles disconnected the call and turned to Derek. “You’re going to have to call him and maybe force the issue on the training. Now, do you want chocolate chip or peanut butter?”
“Peanut butter sounds good.”
On Sunday night, as he was leaving the station, Sheriff John Stilinski got a call about a possible animal attack in a video store in the center of town. The call came from the 911 emergency system, and an ambulance was also called.
When John arrived with deputies in tow, he learned that the caller was Jackson Whittemore—and that he found a body inside the store when he went in to rent a movie.
He also found a large ‘mountain lion’ inside the store, but it rushed past him and jumped on top of his car as it escaped the area, Lydia Martin, Whittemore’s girlfriend was inside the car at the time, and she was scared into shock at the scene. Whittemore was treated for small abrasions on his arms, as he tripped over the body and fell against some shelves.
John called David Whittemore, Jackson’s father, and Natalie Martin, Lydia’s mother, so they could meet their children at the hospital. Jackson protested leaving his car behind, but John assured him that the Porsche would be well taken care of.
John went into the video store to survey the damage—and to examine the body before the medical examiner could get there. The clerk was male, in his forties, and mauled horribly. His identification named the man as Oscar Raymond—a name John thought was familiar.
After leaving the scene to the clean-up guys, John called home to Stiles, wanting to alert him that two classmates were almost attacked by a wild animal in the video store.
“Oh, yeah? Who were they and are they okay?”
“Lydia Martin and Jackson Whittemore. They’re both at the hospital, being treated for minor injuries. I know you’ve got a crush on Ms. Martin, and that she’s dating Mr. Whittemore, but you do you think you can maybe put all of that aside tomorrow?”
Stiles swallowed down his panic. “Yeah, of course. Do you think…do you think it was the Alpha?”
John sighed. “I don’t know. It’s very possible. I don’t see how an ordinary mountain lion could have gotten into the store to attack the clerk, and he was very clearly the targeted victim here. His name sounds familiar to me, so I need to check my files. Just…maybe you can act a little concerned tomorrow when you see them?”
“Yeah, Dad, of course I can. I’m not insensitive, you know!”
Much later, at the station, John found Oscar Raymond in his files: a petty arsonist that had done time in prison several years ago. He was actually questioned in regards to the Hale fire, but no evidence was found to implicate him. Of course, John knew that the investigators were questionable in that case, so Raymond may well have had a hand in the Hale disaster. John would have to do some deeper digging on Raymond to see if his hunch panned out.
Jackson Whittemore was at school the next day, but Lydia Martin was not.
Stiles usually went out of his way to avoid Jackson at all costs, but he shared enough classes with the popular boy to know that Jackson spent the day playing up the attack from the night before—and his part in it. By third period, Jackson had just about had everyone who would listen convinced that he single-handedly fought off the rabid beast and saved Lydia. Since Lydia was not around to refute or confirm the tale, nobody questioned him.
And the worst part of the day was when Jackson kept looking at Stiles as if daring him to tell a different story. Since the Sheriff was on the scene, Stiles figured that Jackson knew he might have heard differently about the attack. Stiles knew Jackson was full of shit, but he never said a word.
Instead, Stiles skipped out of his afternoon classes, missing only a study hall and Lacrosse practice, and he went to the Martin home to check on Lydia. He saw the concern Allison had for her friend, and he wanted to beat her to the punch with the visitation. If Lydia saw more than Jackson, Stiles wanted that information undiluted, before Jackson could force Lydia into her ‘dumb’ act.
Mrs. Martin seemed to be pleased to see him when he knocked on the door, even though Stiles had never personally met the woman. She was absent from Lydia’s party—that being the reason for the party—and she was unfamiliar with most of Lydia’s crowd.
“Hey, Mrs. Martin. I’m Stiles, Stiles Stilinski. I was wondering how Lydia was doing?”
Mrs. Martin smiled at him. “You’re the Sheriff’s son? It’s good of you to visit. Isn’t it early for class to be out?”
“Yes, ma’am, but I’m only missing study hall. I have Lydia’s assignments from English, Chemistry, and History. They’re the only classes that I share with Lydia that gave homework today.”
“That’s very nice of you. Come on up—Lydia is in her room.”
Stiles followed her up the stairs awkwardly, nervous about how Lydia might receive him. His fears seemed to be justified when Mrs. Martin knocked on Lydia’s bedroom door and announced that “Stiles is here to see you” and Lydia replied with “What’s a Stiles?”
Mrs. Martin looked at him in apology. “I’m sorry. She’s on a sedative, so she’s a little out of it. Go on in, and I’ll bring you some tea.”
Stiles wandered into the room and looked around a bit. Lydia was lying on the bed, facing away from him.
“Hey, Lydia, how’s it going? I mean, I hope you’re okay after last night. I brought some homework for you.”
Lydia shifted on the bed and looked at him with a vacant expression. “They said it was a mountain lion, but it was a big dog.”
Stiles started and walked closer to the bed. “Pardon? Did you see what attacked that clerk?”
But Lydia was asleep, the sedative having done its job.
Stiles began pacing the room, muttering to himself. Lydia had seen the animal, and it was dog-like. Did that mean it was the Alpha? Was it something else?
As he paced around the bedroom, the cell phone on the desk chimed with an incoming text, and Stiles reflexively looked at it to see the message. It was Allison, confirming that she was on her way to see Lydia, so Stiles made ready to leave. As he was replacing the phone, he noticed that the video icon was lit, indicating that something had been recorded.
“What are the odds…?” he mumbled as he clicked on the playback—and saw a huge, hulking creature springing from the store doorway and onto the car Lydia was sitting in. Stiles gasped in shock and sent the video to his own phone, and then he erased his number and the video from Lydia’s phone, leaving no trace of the creature behind.
“Hey, Lydia, I really hope you feel better, okay? It looks like Allison is on her way, so I’ll get out of here so you two can visit. I’ll see you later.”
Stiles passed Mrs. Martin in the hallway and explained about Allison’s text. “So I’ll go on home and let the ladies visit. Lydia’s pretty gone anyway, so she might not even remember I was here.”
“Well, it was good of you to visit. It’s nice to know she has such wonderful friends.”
Stiles called Derek on his way home and asked him to meet him at the house. Then he called his father and explained about the stolen video from Lydia’s phone. He wanted to show them both at the same time, to see if Derek could identify a werewolf from the shaky pictures.
By the time he reached his house, both Derek and his father were there waiting. Derek looked worried, but the Sheriff looked very disappointed.
“Look, Dad, Jackson Whittemore spent the entire day telling everybody how he practically ran off a mountain lion single-handedly, but was too late to save that clerk, so I was worried about Lydia because she was not in school today. I didn’t skip any important classes, and I took her some homework—which I didn’t think Jackson would think of.”
“Okay, son, but I’m more concerned about you stealing that video from her phone.”
“I doubt she even knew she took it. It’s at an odd angle, so it’s possible she was checking texts when the so-called animal frightened her.” Stiles busied himself with bringing up the video on his phone as he made his way into the living room. Once he was settled between Derek and his father on the sofa, he played the short clip. Since Stiles had already seen the clip, he paid more attention to the reactions of the other two men, and they did not disappoint.
John looked rather grim as he wiped a hand across his frowning mouth. Derek was shaking his head slowly in disbelief.
“That is…that’s just not right!”
“What isn’t right, Derek,” asked John, “aside from the obvious?”
Derek looked at the Sheriff thoughtfully. “My mother, when she was alive, could do a full shift into a wolf-form. It’s not something that every Alpha can do. We were told, when we were younger and in total awe of her shifted form, that the outer appearance of the Wolf matched the inner mind of the human. If an Alpha was incredibly disciplined and had great control, both of her-or-himself and of the Pack, then the shift could be complete.” Derek gestured at Stiles’ phone. “That, right there, looks as if the werewolf was trying to complete a full shift, but failed badly. It could be a sign of weakness of mind or body.”
“Or,” interjected Stiles, “It could be a sign of total insanity. This rogue Alpha is obviously not in a right mind, or he would not have bitten Scott in the woods that night. Or killed all of those people.”
John hummed thoughtfully, but said nothing.
“Hello, Sheriff, what can I do for you this evening?”
“Hello, Regina. I know you’re packing, but I need to ask some very important questions about werewolves—questions that I can’t ask Derek right now.”
“Very well. Are you asking as a concerned friend, or as a man of the law?”
John chuckled softly. “A bit of both, probably. I never do manage to leave my job at work when the day is over.”
“I understand completely. Do you wish to ask over the phone, or would you rather come to my hotel?”
“I should probably ask in person. Especially since Derek is helping Stiles make dinner right now. I’m fairly certain that he won’t eavesdrop, but if he caught one or two words of this, he wouldn’t be able to help himself.”
“Are you going to lie so that you can sneak out, or are you going to ‘fess-up’?”
“I’m actually headed out for milk since Stiles is using the last of ours for a sauce, and we’ll need more for morning. So I neither have to lie nor ‘fess-up’. I’ll see you in a few minutes, if that’s alright?”
“That is fine, John. I’m in room 314.”
Minutes later, John was sitting at the small table in Regina Kincaide’s hotel room, watching as she packed her suitcases. “I do wish you could stick around for a while longer.”
Regina looked up and smiled at him. “I know. But Stiles is doing well with his studies, so I feel confident that I can leave now. And as long as Derek continues to have good support from you and your son, he’ll be fine. And I’m only a phone call away.”
John nodded and fiddled with his fingers for a moment. “What I need to ask…it’s something that will probably impact Derek a great deal. If the Alpha that killed Laura and took her Alpha gifts was killed—not by another werewolf, would those gifts revert back to Derek? I mean, he’s the last of the Hale Pack, so would the Hale Legacy automatically go back to him?”
Regina paused and sat on the edge of the bed. “You mean, if this rogue Alpha was hit by a bus, or fell off a cliff, or suffered another natural death? Quite possibly the Alpha gifts would revert back to Derek. Or did you have another method of death in mind?”
John cleared his throat. “I think, but I’m not one-hundred percent positive, that I know where to find this rogue Alpha. And I’m certain we’re all of one mind that this Alpha needs to be taken out, and that Derek is not the one to do it.”
“Where do you…where is the Alpha, John?” Regina whispered, as if to ward off the answer.
“I’ve been looking into the Hale fire, as you know, because if I can bring a bit of human justice to Derek, I would like to. But all leads—arsonists and insurance investigators and possible co-conspirators—have come to very bloody ends. My investigations of these so-called animal attacks have led to deep background checks of the victims, and they were all seen, many years ago, in the company of a young-looking blonde woman who matches the description of Kate Whatshername. She used many aliases, but the description is the same.”
Regina nodded. “I always had assumed that she did not act alone. Of course, without witness statements, you could never charge her with the crime.”
“No, but the investigation into the fire just happened to coincide with another murder investigation that I have open—multiple murders at the local hospital, disguised as natural deaths. There is—or there was—a nurse, Jennifer Weatherbee, who was a kind of Angel of Death, using digitalis on long-term patients. I dug into her background, and there were several similar deaths at her previous places of employment—another hospital ward in Arizona and a nursing home in Texas. We found the drug in her locker at the hospital here, but we have not been able to find her.”
Regina frowned. “Do you think she was working with Kate Argent six years ago?”
John shook his head. “No. Six years ago Weatherbee was in Arizona. But she moved to Beacon Hills four years ago, and that’s when the first of what would become fifteen mysterious deaths by heart failure happened. The first few deaths were in the Intensive Care Unit, where Weatherbee began her employment here. She transferred to Emergency for a year, but the deaths continued in Intensive Care. But when she transferred to Long Term Care, her victims were more easily at hand.” John gave a rueful smile. “I didn’t get this job because I have a pretty face and a gentle smile. I’m a damned good investigator. Finding the hospital murderer was right up my alley. But I never anticipated that investigation to merge with the Hale case.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand, John. I’m not a police officer, so you’ll have to spell it out for me.”
John ran a hand over his face, rubbing his eyes for a moment. “All of the most recent victims at the hospital were long-term patients, and most of them did have heart conditions, so they were easy to hide in plain sight. But what if one potential victim was not a heart patient? What if, in fact, one potential victim was a burned and comatose werewolf who saw his entire family burn?”
Regina gasped, “Peter Hale! Do you really think it’s possible?”
John nodded. “It makes a sad kind of sense. If Weatherbee tried to poison him, the poison would not affect him like it would a human. He wouldn’t even get sick from it, most likely. But the digitalis, which is used to regulate heartbeats, could have revived him. And he’d have plenty of time to think about his family and possible revenge. All of the recent animal attack victims, aside from Scott McCall, had the Hale fire in common, and most of them were seen in the company of a woman matching Kate Argent’s description six years ago.”
“Oh, no! If you’re right, this would kill Derek! Knowing his own uncle killed his sister and then started attacking humans all over town.”
John nodded. “Yeah, but you and I both know that if it is Peter, then he’ll have to be taken out. Jail won’t hold him, even if we can prove that Peter killed all of those people. And Derek should not have to be in the position to kill his only living relative. But if Peter was killed by someone else….”
“Then would the Alpha legacy revert back to Derek? I’ll have to research it, of course. There are several ways of becoming Alpha: Naturally evolving, of course, is rare and takes time; having an Alpha give over the legacy deliberately would work, but Peter would have to be willing. Can you not say anything to Derek just yet? Let me get home and do some research first?”
John sighed. “I can only keep this quiet for so long, Regina. Sooner or later, we will find Jennifer Weatherbee. She could crack and confess to trying to poison Peter, and then the authorities would wonder why he survived and others did not.”
Regina nodded, resigned. “I’ll have an answer for you in three days, John—I promise. It will be my first and highest priority. I will,” she continued as she stood and recommenced packing, “have to tell the Gallagher Pack Alpha, of course. He knew Peter before the fire, and so he would be valuable in helping to contain Peter if you need to take him into custody. And Liam would also want to offer support to Derek.”
John stood and crossed to the door. “Anyone who wants to offer emotional and mental support to Derek is welcome here. I’ll try to wait until you have answers, but if Weatherbee shows up, all bets are off.”
Lydia was back at school the next day, and she said not a word to Stiles until lunch. Since Stiles was used to being ignored by her and the popular crowd, it didn’t really bother him. But when lunchtime rolled around, and Stiles was thinking that he would get to enjoy a quiet afternoon, Allison dropped her tray beside Scott’s and Lydia and Jackson and the rest of their friends soon followed.
“You were at my house yesterday,” said Lydia from her place across the table from him.
Stiles looked up, but Scott and Allison were too involved with one another to have noticed. Jackson, however, noticed too well, and he glowered from the end of the table.
Stiles swallowed a tater tot and nodded quickly. “Yes. Yes, I was. I took you some assignments. Your mom offered me some tea, but you were pretty out of it, so I just left.”
Lydia sniffed and tilted her chin at him, and then she dismissed him totally, changing the conversation to some fashion thing or another and drawing in Allison. Stiles breathed a quiet sigh of relief, as it seemed that Lydia didn’t really remember his visit or the video that had been on her phone.
His relief lasted until lunch period was over. He was at his locker, switching out some books, when Jackson slammed into him and knocked him into the wall of lockers.
“You need to stay away from Lydia!”
Stiles grimaced and rubbed a sore elbow. “What’s the deal, asshole? I know she’s your girlfriend. Everybody knows she’s your girlfriend! I just took some homework to her!”
Jackson snarled, “Stay away, Stilinski! She doesn’t need you panting around her like some dog in heat!” He stalked away, leaving Danny to offer an apologetic smile behind Jackson’s back as they headed for class.
Stiles shook it off and grabbed his books, looking around the hall for Scott but not finding him. He shrugged and headed to class, thankful that he only smashed his arm a bit, and that Lydia didn’t know about recording the Alpha at the video store.
“Hey, Scott! You up for some video games and dinner tonight?” Stiles was exhausted after practice. Coach had them running suicides for most of the hour, even the bench-sitters.
Scott lifted his head from his equipment bag. “Sorry, Stiles, but Allison and I are hitting the diner for some food and studying. Maybe later, okay?”
Stiles finished dressing as he watched his best friend leave the locker room. This had been the second time that week that Scott had pulled the Allison card. If Scott wasn’t hanging with Allison, Jackson, and Lydia as part of some Lacrosse Super-foursome, then he was ‘studying’ with her at the local diner. At least he hadn’t been invited to meet her parents yet. Stiles still wasn’t sure if hunters could sense werewolves or not, and he hadn’t found the time to mention Allison’s family to Scott yet.
Regina had gone back to Oregon two days ago, so Stiles decided to try some private meditation at home. It would be the first time since she left, but he was confident that he could do it on his own. He really needed to get his head in order. Stiles didn’t begrudge Scott a girlfriend. Who would, really? Stiles knew that if he found someone, Scott would be happy for him. But Scott was ignoring a huge thing—being a werewolf—and it was going to bite him in the ass one day. Stiles tried to be patient, but it was so hard.
“I’m sorry to call you at work, John, but I found the answer to your question.”
John relaxed in his office chair. “You can call me anytime, Regina. I’m glad you found the answer.”
“I’m not sure you’ll be glad of it when you hear it,” said Regina. “It’s not really a clear answer at all. If the offending Alpha, that is-an alpha without a Pack and without conscience-dies a natural death, the Alpha Legacy will be lost for all eternity. If the offending Alpha is killed in defense of another, the Legacy will pass to a worthy Wolf. It’s all very complicated, but that’s the only answer I could find.”
John rubbed his brow distractedly. “Well, I guess that means that if it is Peter, and he gets hit by a bus or falls off a cliff, then Derek won’t become Alpha.”
“Yes,” agreed Regina, “But that also means he can’t be killed in cold blood—not that it would exactly be that, of course. The lore is specific about the whole ‘defense of another’ part.”
“I’ll worry about that when I have to,” said John as he shuffled some files around on his desk. “I haven’t found Weatherbee yet, but I’ll be talking to Derek this evening. He’s asked my opinion about some houses and apartments in the area.”
“I wish you luck with that conversation, John. I’ll be in touch.”