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 into 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,” Regina agreed. “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 traveling 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.
John sighed. “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!” the blond menace growled harshly.
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.”
The Saturday after Regina left Beacon Hills, Stiles and Derek were sitting in the Stilinski living room discussing Pack and the importance thereof.
“Pack can mean the difference between being a healthy werewolf and going feral,” said Derek seriously. “We argued like all families, but without them I would have gone totally insane. That’s why it’s so important for Scott to train and form a Pack bond.”
Stiles frowned. “Could Scott’s ‘Pack’ be his mother and friends?”
“Yes. Familial bonds are stronger than anything. Most of the Hale Pack was related, either by blood or by marriage. Even though Laura and I were not close after the fire, the family bond kept us both strong.”
“But you left your uncle here, in the hospital. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
Derek stood and held out his hand. “Come with me, and maybe I can explain.”
Stiles bundled himself into Derek’s Camero and Derek drove to Beacon Hills General Hospital. They bypassed the front reception desk and wandered the halls to the Long-term Care Unit. Derek waved to the nurse on duty and she waved back, indicating that he and Stiles could go down the corridor.
Derek knocked briefly on door 213 and then he opened the door. “Uncle Peter? I brought a visitor to meet you.”
Derek opened the door further and invited Stiles inside. Stiles glanced around the room, which was plain and undecorated, until his eyes fell on the figure sitting in a wheelchair next to the bed. The man was dark-haired and badly scarred with burns along the right side of his face and neck. He could have been tall, and he was definitely thin, and he was staring out the window.
Derek walked to the chair next to the window and sat facing his uncle, and Stiles stood behind him. “Uncle Peter, this is Stiles. He’s become a friend since Laura was killed.”
Stiles waved awkwardly before shoving his hands into his jeans pockets. “Can he hear you at all?”
Derek shrugged. “I don’t know. When we were on the road, Laura would call twice a week and ask the nurse on duty to hold the phone to his ear so she could talk to him. I talked to him once a week or so myself. Laura said it was important that the Pack maintain contact, even if he couldn’t hear properly. He never made a sound, but I hoped he was listening. Once we moved closer, I wanted to visit, but Laura never permitted it.”
Stiles perched on the arm of Derek’s chair. “It’s nice to meet you, Peter.”
Peter never moved an inch.
“I don’t think Scott will ever be Pack,” said Derek. “He’s willful and stubborn and selfish. I do try with him, but I’m at a loss.” Derek laughed once, sadly. “I think you would have made a better wolf than Scott.”
Stiles quirked a grin. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. You’re smart. Smarter than Scott. You’d be able to see the advantages and you’d try to overcome the hardships.”
Stiles shrugged. “Yeah, well, I don’t see the point in trying to avoid the bad stuff that happens in life. After Mom died, I was in therapy for a while. I had awful panic attacks, but I tried to work through it. I still get them, sometimes, but I don’t let it get me down.”
Derek nodded. “I come here three times a week, at least, so I can visit with my only family. I try to give Peter updates on the Alpha, but I still don’t know much. I hated that I had to tell him that Laura was dead. Now we only have each other.”
Stiles and Derek sat with Peter for half an hour, telling him all the new news stories and what was happening around town. Derek vented about his lack of progress with Scott and Stiles complained about his Chemistry class. When the nurse knocked on the door to let them know it was time for Peter’s bath, Stiles took Derek’s hand and pulled him from the room.
“Take me somewhere?”
Derek narrowed his eyes at Stiles. “Where?”
Stiles shrugged. “I’ll show you. There’s someone I want you to meet.”
Not much later, Stiles and Derek were standing shoulder-to-shoulder next to a grave in the Beacon Hills Cemetery.
“This is my mom.”
Stiles’ hands were shoved deep into his pockets, and Derek could tell that his hands were clenched into fists.
Derek wrapped a friendly arm around Stiles’ shoulder. “Tell me about her.”
Stiles took a deep breath. “Claudia Elizabet Duszynski-Stilinski. She was a Librarian here in town, but she was mostly a mom. She liked to bake cookies for days—I still use her recipes—and she was the best cook.” Stiles huffed a small laugh. “She said she fell in love with Dad’s last name before she really knew him, so it was a surprise that he wasn’t as ‘Polish’ as she was. I think she would sing in Polish to me when I was little, but I don’t really remember. She was my whole world. Then it went to shit.”
“What happened to her?”
Stiles shook his head. “I don’t really remember how it started. I would come downstairs for breakfast sometimes, and I would find her in the living room staring at the walls, still in her nightgown. Some days she would look at me like she didn’t know who I was.” Stiles sobbed a bit, running a hand over his eyes. “When I was eight, I woke up in the middle of the night one night, and she was standing over my bed holding a big kitchen knife, and she was saying that I’d never kill her if she got me first. Dad had just come home and was coming in to check on me like he always did. If he…if he hadn’t….”
Derek pulled Stiles into a tight hug. “Hey, it’s okay. You’re okay.”
Stiles pulled back a bit. “I’m okay now, but it was long coming. It was hard, losing her while she was still alive. After she went into the hospital, I would visit after school. Sometimes she would know me and sometimes she wouldn’t. And sometimes I would stand in the hall and listen to her screaming at the doctors to keep me away because I was trying to kill her.
“It was Frontotemperal Dementia. Part of her brain was shrinking, and there was no cure. Do you know,” Stiles said as he wiped his eyes, “I’m still not sure how she died? I mean, I understand the cause of death, but neither me nor Dad was there when it happened, so I don’t know if she died naturally or if she managed to kill herself. I try not to think about it.”
John Stilinski sat awkwardly in the McCall kitchen. He had rarely spent time here, finding no comfort in the home of his son’s best friend. He had been there often enough in the past, helping Melissa McCall deal with her often out-of-control ex-husband, an FBI agent who drank hard and got loud and violent.
Now he was sitting across the table from Scott and Melissa, ready—with Derek’s permission—to tell them the truth about the Hunter situation in Beacon Hills. Melissa looked eager to learn more about the werewolf ‘thing’, but Scott looked mutinous, as if he would rather be anywhere else on this bright Saturday afternoon.
“Look, guys, I don’t have all the answers, but I have a few. And I do have important information that you should have been told a long time ago.”
“Why didn’t you tell us a long time ago?” asked Melissa as she picked up her coffee mug.
“I didn’t know that Scott didn’t have the information until recently. I thought, as did Stiles, that Scott was training with Derek in the afternoons and that Derek was telling him all of the important information.”
Melissa frowned at her son. “You told me you were training!”
Scott slouched down in his chair. “I’m doing okay! I have Lacrosse practice, and that helps a lot!”
“Scott McCall! Lacrosse practice isn’t going to help you be a werewolf!”
Scott scowled at his mother. “I never wanted to be one anyway!”
John cleared his throat, stalling the confrontation. “In any case, Scott, you were bitten and you can’t go back to normal from here. Derek offered to train you how to control the Wolf inside of you and teach you how to fight if you were in trouble. For some reason, you’ve decided that that isn’t worth your time. But, and this is serious here, you need to get under control. There are hunters in Beacon Hills again, and we’re pretty sure it’s the same family that targeted the Hale Pack six years ago.”
Melissa gasped. “Can they tell that Scott’s a werewolf? Will they go after him now?”
John shook his head as he sipped his coffee. “I seriously doubt they know Scott is a werewolf at the moment, but they’re going to find out. You remember Regina Kincaide?”
Melissa nodded. “She was very nice and helpful to me.”
“Yes, well, she is very protective of Derek Hale, and when she learned how that fire was started, she called some people—some very powerful people. As it turns out, there is such a thing as a Hunter Council, and somehow Regina got hold of the person who heads it—and she managed to get this powerful person to investigate the Hale fire. There’s this thing called a Council Tribunal, and this person is bringing it down here to bring justice on the Hunter that took out the Hale Pack.”
Melissa opened her mouth to ask many, many questions, but John held up his hand to stall her. “I don’t know anything about it, and I will not be a part of it. All I know is, there is a code of honor, and those hunters broke it. Hunters exist to stop rogue werewolves, like the one that bit Scott, from doing damage to humans. If the hunters had been around, and properly doing their job, then they might have killed the rogue before it bit Scott. Who can know for sure? But this family of hunters—the ones in town now—have a habit of going off the code and killing peaceful werewolves who have never attacked anyone, and the Tribunal is going to deal with them.”
“Is this Tribunal going to kill the human hunters?” Melissa looked ill at the thought.
“I don’t know. And I don’t want to know. I do know that they’re going to keep me out of it. I highly doubt that I’ll ever know they are here. I only know about it because Derek told me about the Hunter that used him to get to his family, and I re-opened the case trying to bring human justice for him. I did find several links that were never uncovered six years ago, but I really can’t talk about it.”
Melissa sat back in her seat and crossed her arms defiantly. “But you know who the hunters in town are, don’t you? Have you spoken to them?”
“And what should I say, Melissa? ‘Welcome to Beacon Hills, I know werewolves are real so please don’t kill my son’s friend?’ It doesn’t work that way. It sounds crazy every time I think about it.”
Melissa scowled. “You could tell us who they are so we can avoid them.”
John frowned in Scott’s direction. “I could tell you, but you would never believe it. And then you’d argue about it. And maybe you’d try to cause a scene with them. But,” he said as he leaned forward over the table, “Derek did give me permission to tell you his very personal story—and you are not to use this information to attack Derek, okay?”
Melissa gasped. “Why would I attack Derek?”
John held up one hand in supplication. “Just listen, okay? Six years ago, when Derek was only fifteen, he was in a bad place emotionally. Stuff that you don’t need to know about went down in his life, and he was hurting badly. And this girl, a supposedly beautiful girl, reached out and snagged Derek, giving him all sorts of positive attention. She told him some line about her parents not wanting her to have a boyfriend while she was in high school, so they would sneak around a lot. He told her things—important things, like where the secret entrance to his house was and when his family was getting together for some big reunion. It was all first-love stuff, and ordinarily it would have been innocent and cute.
“But this ‘girl’ wasn’t a slightly older seventeen-year-old looking for a first boyfriend. She was twenty-eight and very young looking, and she was a hunter out to kill an entire pack. She seduced Derek and gained his trust, and then she used the information to trap his family in their home and set it on fire while Derek was at a school function.”
Melissa gasped. “That’s horrible! That poor boy! He must feel terrible!”
John nodded. “He feels worse than terrible. He blames himself, and his sister Laura blamed him as well. This Hunter did not act alone, and I’ve found links to the arson investigator and several known arsonists. But this woman was a member of a very prominent hunting clan, and she knew what she was doing.”
Scott frowned. “Why didn’t they just fight back? How can you trap a werewolf anywhere? We’re so strong; they could have fought their way out or broke down some doors or something.”
John raised an eyebrow. “There are ways to hurt werewolves that are not fire, Scott. That was some of the stuff Derek was supposed to be teaching you. Now,” John took a deep breath and prepared for what would surely follow, “This woman was related to the family that is now in town, and you do know that family.”
Melissa reached out and grasped Scott’s hand protectively. “Who is it? Is Scott going to be in danger?”
John looked at the McCalls. He’d known them for a very long time. Melissa was a strong woman; she would fight to the death to protect her son. Scott used to be a shy child, quiet and eager to please. John didn’t know when he had grown up, just like he missed his own son growing up, but Scott would not take this news well. John could see it in his eyes.
“The family name is Argent. The person in charge of the Hunter Council is Cybelle d’Argent, and that is who Regina called so that justice could be done.”
Scott’s reaction was immediate. He jumped to his feet, pulling his hand from his mother’s grasp, and he began shouting, “NO! That’s not true! Allison is not like that!” Then he ran from the room and up the stairs, slamming the door to his bedroom.
Melissa sat shocked in her seat. She turned to John and asked, “Is it true? Scott’s new girlfriend is a hunter?”
John shrugged. “Regina is of the opinion that most clans don’t educate their children about the supernatural until the age of eighteen, so this Allison might not know a thing about it, but I am serious about that family. The hunter that effectively raped Derek and killed his family was called Kate Argent. Derek said she went by ‘Katie Gold’ back then, but he found out who she was shortly after the fire. I think the fact that the Argent family moved to Beacon Hills just before this rogue Alpha began attacking people is no coincidence. There is a possibility that they were coming to make sure there were no more Hales. And then Laura Hale came to check on her uncle, and she was killed. The whole thing doesn’t sit well with me.”
Melissa massaged her temples with slow-moving fingers. “No, I imagine it doesn’t, knowing that some Tribunal is coming to possibly kill another family.”
John looked at his friend. “Don’t get me wrong, Melissa. I don’t want innocent blood to be shed in my town. But if this Tribunal is coming to deal with Kate Argent and anyone who had a hand in killing the Hales, then I’m all for it. As long as I don’t legally know anything about it. I knew Talia Hale and her husband. They were good people. If I had proof, I’d string-up Kate Argent myself.”
Late Saturday night, while John was at work, Stiles’ phone rang, startling him out of his desk chair.
“Stiles! Help! Shot!”
Stiles scrambled into a sitting position on the floor. “Derek? Is that you?”
“I need help! I’ve been shot! It’s Wolf’s Bane!”
Stiles jumped up and grabbed his keys. “Hold on! I’m coming! Where are you?”
Stiles got a location from a woozy-sounding Derek, and he called his father while he pulled out of the driveway. “Derek’s been shot, Dad! I’m going to get him and bring him home. He said there was Wolf’s Bane in the bullet!”
“Call me when you get home, Son! And don’t drive crazy!”
Twenty minutes later, Stiles was bundling a bleeding Derek into the front seat of the Jeep in the old warehouse district. Derek was pale and shaking, and Stiles was worried for his friend.
“What were you doing out here, anyway?” Talking would keep Derek awake, and Stiles feared that if Derek passed out he would never wake up.
Derek’s head rolled back and forth along the headrest. “I could sense the Alpha, so I was tracking him. I followed him out here and had almost caught up to him, when this car pulled up in the alley and someone shot me.”
Stiles nodded, navigating the blessedly empty streets. “Where were you hit?”
“In the shoulder, below the joint. If the poison reached my heart, it’ll kill me.”
“Well, you’re not going to die on my watch, buddy! Regina gave me a whole bunch of Wolf’s Bane, and instructions on the proper use. We just have to get back home. Try to slow your breathing and heart-rate. Too much panic and anxiety will cause the poison to move faster through your veins.”
Derek nodded and tried to calm down. “If you don’t know which variety to use, you might have to cut off my arm.”
Stiles shot an incredulous glance at Derek. “Are you gonna be able to grow another one if I have to do that?”
“No, don’t be stupid!”
“Then let’s not talk about having to cut off an arm, okay! We’re almost there!”
Stiles parked gently in his driveway and ran around the Jeep to help Derek out and into the house. In the kitchen, Stiles helped Derek out of his leather jacket (“Gonna have to get a new one, Dude! This one has a nasty hole in it.”) and shirt, and settled him into a chair while he ran to gather towels and a first aid kit. Then Stiles ran into his bedroom and pulled out a wooden chest from his closet. Regina had gifted him with packets of seeds for many varieties of aconitum plants, and he would be helping his father build a greenhouse in the back yard once the weather got better. But now, Stiles needed some of the actual blossoms, and he had a dozen varieties to choose from.
Choosing the wrong one would mean a painful death for Derek. Choosing none would mean a painful death for Derek.
Stiles took a deep, cleansing breath, and focused his ‘spark’, reaching mentally into the chest and asking for the correct flower. The chest shuddered and shook for a moment and then a vial containing light purple flowers flew into his hand. Stiles gripped the vial and ran down the stairs to the kitchen, pausing at the counter to pull a lighter from the junk drawer.
“I’m gonna clean some of the blood away so I can see what I’m doing, okay? You still with me?”
Derek, pale and drawn, nodded weakly, moaning in pain as Stiles wiped a clean, damp cloth over his bloody shoulder.
Stiles looked at the revealed wound and shuddered. “I’m gonna have to cut this a bit, so I can get the bullet out. It’s going to hurt, so I would appreciate it if you didn’t claw or bite me, okay?” Pouring alcohol over the blade of his pocket-knife, Stiles dug the blade into Derek’s bullet wound, cringing when Derek gasped in pain. Stiles located the bullet with the tip of the knife and he dug further until he could pry it free from the skin and muscle. He placed the slippery bullet onto a clean towel and opened the vial, pulling three small petals out and lighting them on fire as per Regina’s instruction. Once they were ash, Stiles gathered them in his fingers and shoved them into the slowly closing wound.
Once the ash met the poison in the wound, black ichor began to ooze out of the bullet wound and Derek began to shudder violently. Stiles wrapped his arms around the older man to steady him in the chair until the ichor ran clear. Then the wound began to heal in front of his eyes, closing until there was not even a scar to show.
Derek was still pale, so Stiles got a shoulder under him and helped guide him up the stairs and into Stiles’ own bedroom.
“Sorry, man, but the guest room isn’t made up at all. You rest here and I’ll take the sofa. If you need anything, give a yell, okay?”
Derek passed out mid-nod, and Stiles left him to sleep and heal.
Derek was still sleeping the next morning when John came home from work. Stiles passed a restless night on the sofa, mostly only dozing, so he was awake and making breakfast when John walked in.
“How’s Derek doing?”
Stiles turned and offered his father a mug of hot, fresh coffee. “He’s still sleeping, but I think he’s going to be okay. Can I talk to you seriously for a bit? Not about Derek.”
John took his coffee to the kitchen table and waited while Stiles fixed a plate of eggs for him. “You can talk to me about anything. You know that.”
Stiles grabbed his own plate and a glass of juice and joined his father. “So, yesterday I took Derek to meet mom. We were talking about family and Pack and important people, so I thought I’d introduce him to my other important person, you know? Anyway, we were at the cemetery and I saw Isaac Lahey there. He’s in my year at school and he’s on the Lacrosse team, but his dad owns the company that does landscaping at the cemetery.” Stiles paused to shovel a forkful of egg into his mouth. He was aware that he was rambling, and he needed to stop. “Anyway, Isaac maybe works there, too? I don’t know if it’s legal or not, but a job is a job. But lately, Isaac has been coming to school hurt. I’ve tried to talk to him about it, but he says it’s sports injuries, but it’s not, because Coach doesn’t play that way. He’s a nut, but he doesn’t let us get hurt bad. And Isaac missed a lot of school last semester, and was out last week for a day. And he was limping at the cemetery yesterday. So.”
John chewed slowly and swallowed, watching his son as he spoke. Stiles cared well and deeply, and this could be a case of over-reaction. Or it could not.
“So, what? You think he’s getting hurt somewhere but not at school?”
“Dad, I’ve seen guys get smashed around at practice and at games, and it’s never too bad. But Isaac has had a broken arm that did not happen during Lacrosse, and he’s got cuts and bruises on his face that could not happen at practice. Could you maybe look into it?”
John smiled and sipped his coffee. “Yeah, I’ll see what my legal options are tomorrow. Let me finish this and go to bed. I’m exhausted!”
On Monday morning Scott willingly approached Stiles at his locker. This was a rather odd occurrence since Scott had taken to avoiding Stiles around the same time he stopped training with Derek. Stiles was admittedly cautious.
“Hey, buddy! Where ya been?”
Scott frowned a little. “I’ve been busy, you know?”
Stiles nodded as he removed books from his locker. “I do know. We have a Chemistry paper due this week, and a quiz in Econ. Are you studying for that?”
Scott shrugged. “I’ve been studying with Allison. She comes to the clinic while I’m working.”
“Good. That’s good. You know, I’ve kind of missed….”
Scott interrupted with “Allison has invited me to dinner to meet her family this week. She says her favorite Aunt has come to visit for a while.”
Stiles frowned. “Scott, I know my dad talked to you and your mom about the Argents. Do you really think it’s safe to go to their house?”
Scott rolled his eyes. “I’ll be fine, Stiles! Allison isn’t dangerous.”
“Nooooo, she’s probably not. But her family….”
“How do you really know any of that is true, anyway?” Scott interrupted.
Stiles gave Scott an incredulous look. “Because Derek told us, and Regina confirmed the history.”
“You don’t really know, then, for yourself? They could be making it up.” Scott had a stubborn set to his face.
Stiles gaped at his friend. “Why would Derek make up something like that, Scott? What purpose would he have to make up something like that? That family killed his family, Scott, and you could be in danger, too, if they find out what you are!”
Stiles was hissing, trying hard not to be heard, but he was rapidly losing his temper. Scott was clearly blinded by first love here, and refused to listen to reason.
Scott hiked his backpack higher on his shoulder. “I don’t think there’s anything to worry about, and I’m going to dinner at Allison’s.”
“Uh, huh! And what did your mom say when you told her?”
Scott was turning red, a clear sign that he was hiding something. “I’ll be fine!”
Stiles’ mouth dropped open. “You never told her that you’re basically walking into enemy territory! Holy shit, Scott, do you really want to die?”
Scott reddened even further. “You’re just jealous! I don’t believe there is any danger there, and I’m going!”
“Jealous? What are you…?”
“You never wanted me to have a girlfriend. You never wanted me to become popular. You never wanted me to leave you behind, and that’s what is happening! I think you got your dad to tell a horrible story to my mom so that she’ll keep me from seeing Allison, and it’s not going to work!”
Stiles stood in the hallway, watching as Scott stormed off toward his first class.
What the hell?
Stiles shook his head and went to his first class, wondering how bad this day was going to get.
It got bad. Very bad.
Scott avoided meeting Stiles’ eyes in every class they shared that morning, although Allison seemed to always have a smile for him. Scott even went out of his way to change his regular seat in Economics class, moving to the far back of the room and displacing Vernon Boyd, a rather large and quiet dark-skinned boy that never talked to anyone.
Stiles tried to let it blow over, but by lunchtime Scott was still giving the silent treatment, and Jackson jumped right in to take advantage of it.
Scott and Allison were already seated at Stiles’ usual table when he got in line for food, so he girded his nerves to try to talk with them, but by the time he got out of the lunch line, Jackson and Lydia and Danny had joined them. Resolutely Stiles approached the table, only to be stopped by Jackson.
“We’re having a team lunch here, Stilinski. You’re not needed.”
Stiles frowned. “Um, Lydia and Allison aren’t on the team, and I am.”
“I’m co-captain of the team, and so is McCall. Lydia and Allison are the captains’ girls, so they can be here. But you’re just barely on the team, so you might as well not be here. You just sit on the bench. You don’t play. Hell, Coach doesn’t even know your name! Get. Lost.”
Stiles looked around the table, but Lydia was back to ignoring him and Danny shrugged him off. Allison looked apologetic but Scott wouldn’t even meet his eyes.
Stiles squared his shoulders and backed away from the table, turning before he tripped. He looked around and found a mostly empty table near the doors to the cafeteria, occupied only by Vernon Boyd. Stiles slunk over to the table and gently placed his tray on it. Boyd looked up at him with challenge in his eyes.
“Um,” Stiles said softly, “I know I’m not known for being quiet, but if I promise not to talk, can I sit here?”
Boyd regarded him for a long moment before conceding and allowing Stiles to sit. Of course, Stiles wasn’t really hungry anymore, but he sat. He actually pushed his tray away from him and closed his eyes, reaching for the calm place inside of him. His feelings were all out of whack and he needed to center himself before he ‘sparked’ and did some damage.
Stiles began the simple meditation that Regina taught him, picturing an open meadow and slowly populating it until he felt calmer and in more control. When he opened his eyes, he found Boyd staring at him.
“What?” Stiles asked defensively.
The other boy shrugged. “I’ve never seen you be this quiet before.”
Stiles shrugged back. “I’m trying to keep my thoughts pure and centered. I have to live with conscious thought now.”
Stiles paused to consider his response. “Thoughts cause words, and words cause actions. I don’t want to say anything that I might regret because that might lead to something happening that I might regret even more.”
Boyd nodded in understanding. “How do you do that?”
“Lots and lots of meditation. I was taught an easy technique: I picture a clear meadow with a lake in it. Then I picture the sky and clouds, then the trees nearby. By the time I get to putting fish in the lake, I’m calmer and centered again.”
“Sounds pretty easy,” said Boyd mildly.
Stiles laughed softly. “It’s harder than it sounds. The first time I tried it, I had a mountain and waterfall and birds all over the place, and a rainbow, before I was calm. On a good day, I can just get the lake and meadow with a few daisies.”
“Does it help?”
Stiles stood and grabbed his untouched tray. “Yup. I haven’t needed my Adderall for a month and my essays don’t ramble all over the place anymore.”
Stiles nodded a good-bye to Boyd and dumped his abandoned lunch on his way out of the cafeteria. He headed to the library for the rest of the period so he could finish the reading for his History class.
Scott had drawn some sort of line in their friendship, choosing a girl over a best friend and personal safety. Stiles could deal with that. Really, he could.
He would deal better if he went to visit Peter Hale at the hospital. Since Derek explained the importance of Pack, and hinted that Stiles was now part of that Pack, Stiles figured he would extend a sort of friendship to the last of Derek’s family.
John settled into his desk chair and lifted the phone receiver. Since Stiles brought up the possible abuse of a classmate, John was unsure of how to approach the issue. He figured he’d place a call to the District Attorney’s office, so he could see if there were legal options available to him.
Also, District Attorney David Whittemore absolutely hated abusers, so he would probably want to be all over this case, if in fact there was a case.
John explained the problem, and Stiles’ suspicions, to the D.A. Whittemore was, indeed, incensed at the idea of a man–any man– abusing his own child. He respectfully requested that John do everything he could to build a case and find out the truth of the matter, so John sent a few deputies to investigate the allegations.
On Tuesday morning, Deputy Reid met John at his office door with a long list of Domestic Disturbance complaints against Douglas Lahey. They were all investigated, but Lahey had managed thus far to deflect any accusations and Isaac—the son—denied any acts of abuse.
John sent her back to interview any neighbors that might have physically seen anything questionable at the Lahey residence, and he decided he would go to the school to interview any teachers to see if they had suspicions. On a whim, John called D.A. Whittemore to see if he wanted to go to the school with him. Sometimes just knowing that authorities were taking threats seriously made people want to open up about evidence or observations in a child abuse case.
They agreed to meet at the school near the end of the day so as not to arouse suspicion or alert the Lahey boy, and John spent the morning working on his endless pile of paperwork. Whittemore was at the school before him, gathering Isaac’s class schedule from the front office, and John joined him as they systematically moved from teacher to teacher, saving the Lacrosse Coach for last.
Practice was just finishing, so John and Whittemore headed for the boys’ locker room and Coach’s office. As they opened the door, they could hear several voices talking at once, but one was very clear.
Whittemore smiled. “That’s Jackson, my son. He’s captain this year, you know.”
John nodded. “Stiles has mentioned it,” he said. Stiles had mentioned more than that, mostly about how insufferable Jackson Whittemore was as captain, but he figured the man beside him didn’t need to hear that.
Whittemore started to walk into the locker room, but something in the tone of Jackson’s voice alerted John and he held the man back, waiting for the words to register.
“Look, Bilinski,” the cruel tone carried across the crowded room to the doorway, “When are you going to realize that you’re just not good enough to share the air in here? You’re a bench-warmer, for god’s sake! Coach only keeps you around to keep the numbers up!”
Whittemore startled at the anger in his son’s voice and he made to move forward, but John kept him unseen.
There was an unintelligible response, and then Jackson continued, “Coach even plays Greenburg, and he’s worse than dirt! Face it, you’re a loser, and you’ll always be a loser, and we don’t need losers around here to infect us! You’ll never get off the bench, you’ll never get the girl, and you’ll never be as good as me!”
John heard footsteps coming toward them so he pulled Whittemore out into the hallway so they would not be seen eavesdropping. They hid around the corner as the Lacrosse team filtered out of the locker room, Stiles slowly bringing up the rear, and then they moved back to the door. Whittemore appeared to be in shock, and he tried to move forward to catch his son, but John held him back again.
“You can say whatever you want to your son later, at home, but I won’t have my son more embarrassed by a Whittemore, any Whittemore, right now, okay?” John tried very hard to bury his sudden anger.
“I can’t believe my son would say such things!” said Whittemore in shock. “I thought we raised him better than that!”
John, also in shock, frowned. “Now I know why Stiles has had such a problem with Jackson lately. I thought it was because of Lydia Martin, but now I’m not so sure.”
Whittemore shook his head. “Lydia is a lovely girl, but she’s a bit vapid. I never really knew what Jackson saw in her, other than a pretty face.”
“Really?” asked John in disbelief. “Stiles always said she was some kind of mad genius that would someday take over the world. He’s often sarcastic, but never about her? Maybe she’s different around Jackson and your family.”
Whittemore shrugged off his anger. “With what I just heard, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Jackson doesn’t have her cowed as well. I will be talking to him about his attitude and bullying tendencies when I get home. Let’s talk to Coach and get this over with.”
John opened the locker room door and ushered Whittemore through first. “Yeah, let’s do that. If he can corroborate what the other teachers have said, or if he can add more information, we have a good case to investigate that household.”
If Coach Bobby Finstock was surprised to see them, it didn’t show.
“Are you two here about the McCall boy’s steroid use? Because Jackson has been hinting at it since tryouts, and I’m not sure if his claim holds water or not.”
John snorted. “Scott McCall is the last person to ever use steroids, but by all means—go ahead and have him tested. It’ll come back negative of all drugs, even aspirin, and you can keep Scott on the team.”
Finstock nodded and made a note on some form on his desk. “So, why are you here? It can’t be for booster sales.”
John let Whittemore take over with Finstock, merely standing aside and taking notes as the two men talked about Isaac Lahey.
Finstock confirmed that Isaac’s injuries were not from Lacrosse and that he was keeping Isaac off the field until said injuries healed. “He’s a liability right now, but he won’t tell me how he’s getting hurt. I can’t have him playing, but attending practice seems to make him happy. I think he likes not having to go home right after school.”
John and Whittemore thanked the man and left, promising to follow up and get help for the teenager.
John looked at Whittemore as they parted ways in the parking lot. “Finstock is a bit of a flake, Stiles was right about that, but he shows real concern for Lahey.”
Whittemore nodded as he opened his car door. “I just wonder if he’s as concerned about the bullying in his own locker room, or if he’s blind because Jackson is a star player. Go—talk to Lahey and find out if he’s as much of a monster as your son thinks he is. I’ll get your warrants for searching his house and workplace.”
“You’re a pretty good listener, you know?” Stiles sat in a chair across from Peter Hale’s wheelchair, talking to the man about everything. It was rare that he had such a captive audience.
He chattered away about school work, and college applications, and whether or not he wanted to be a librarian like his mother once he was finished with school. He left out anything to do with his ‘Spark’ or the werewolf issue. Peter was in a hospital, after all, and he didn’t need nurses or orderlies walking in and overhearing anything they shouldn’t.
Stiles did talk about Scott, though, and how he was leaving Stiles behind because of a girl—mostly because of a girl. “I get that he’s good at Lacrosse now, really. It’s all he really wanted; to be normal at something. But he’s ignoring some really important stuff! Like the fact that his girlfriend’s family might really kill him! And I’m not being hyperbolic about that! If they find out—and they will—he’s gonna be screwed. And all Derek and I want to do is get him all trained up and keep him safe, but he’s blowing us off all the damned time!”
Stiles sighed. “I’m sorry to load you down with all this, Peter. I could talk to Derek, but he knows all of this already and he’s at a loss as to what to do. My dad is cautious, thinking that Scott will come around, but I’m not so sure. He’s got everything he wants now, right? No more asthma, a pretty girlfriend, a position on the team. He doesn’t need me anymore.”
Stiles stands and hefts his backpack to his shoulder. “Well, I have a load of homework to do, and some meditation to get to, so I’ll see you around, okay? Thanks for listening.”
As Stiles left the hospital room, he did not notice Peter Hale’s hand clenching into a fist.
On Wednesday evening, Stiles is preparing dinner while Derek sets the table. John has this evening off, so it’s family dinner time.
“Am I setting for three or four, Stiles?” asked Derek from the table.
“Um, four, I think. Melissa should be coming over, but she hasn’t called yet.” Stiles looked up as his father entered the room. “Do you want to call Mama McCall and entice her with my lasagna, or should we take for granted that she’ll just show up?”
John laughs and pulls out his cell phone. “I’ll give her a call. That smells wonderful!”
As he is dialing, the doorbell rings and Derek alerts. “It’s Melissa, don’t bother calling.”
John makes a show of putting his phone away as he walks to the front door. Sure enough, Melissa McCall is standing on the porch holding a bottle of wine.
“I brought this for the adults at the table, I hope you don’t mind.”
John laughed and allowed her to enter the house. “Derek and I won’t mind, but Stiles might. He’s made lasagna tonight. Derek made the garlic bread. Kid can cook a little; who knew?”
Derek laughed as Melissa and John rejoined him in the kitchen. “It’s not really cooking if all you do is read the re-heat instructions. Hello, Mrs. McCall. It’s good to see you again.”
Melissa smiled at Derek—a genuinely happy smile. “It’s good to see you, too. I miss dinner here! Being on nights is rough, but the money is good. I’m just sorry Scott is busy studying to be here.”
Stiles looked up and frowned at her. “Scott’s not at work tonight?”
“No, he said he would be late at the library. Something about a History test.”
Stiles’ heart must have jumped, because Derek was suddenly by his side with a comforting hand on his shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
Stiles shook his head. “We had an Econ quiz today, but I’m not in his History class. He’s not really talking to me right now. But,” Stiles swallowed and looked at Melissa, “He did say something about going to dinner with Allison’s family. She wanted to introduce him to her favorite Aunt, who just came into town.”
Melissa’s face clouded in anger. “He lied to me? After everything we were told about the Argent family, I told him to stay away from that girl, and he lied to me?”
John touched her arm to calm her. “You can’t do anything about it now, but we’ll deal with it. I promise, okay? Maybe we can reasonably assume that he’s not in danger at dinner, and you can lay down the McCall law when he gets home.”
“Oh, you can bet I will! I’m just so…so….”
“Pissed?” offered Stiles. “Yeah, I was too, when he told me. I was even more angry when I figured that he lied to you. I should have said something, I know….”
“Stiles, no,” Melissa interrupted. “It’s not your place to keep tabs on my kid. I just…do I have any control over him now that he’s a werewolf?”
The question directed at Derek surprised him. He nodded jerkily. “Yes. You’re his mother. If he has a Pack, it’s you, and technically you would be Alpha even though you aren’t a werewolf. He shouldn’t disrespect you at all, no matter what. But there’s no magic powder to make him obey. You just have to be a mom.”
Melissa nodded. “I can do that. I can demand respect from my teenage son. Now, no use being upset about it now, when we can’t do anything aside from driving to the Argent house and pulling him bodily out of there. That lasagna smells wonderful, and so does the garlic bread, so let’s eat!”
Dinner wasn’t as strained as it could have been.
They kept the conversation light; no work topics allowed. Derek told them about the short list of possible apartments he had, and John promised to look them over and give his opinion. Melissa offered to help decorate so that his new home had a comfortable feel to it. Derek also talked about job options.
“I need to find something to do all day. I finished my degree in Physical Therapy while I was in New York, but I could always continue my education. But the Sports Therapy clinic in Beacon Heights is hiring, and I have an interview next week.”
“That’s pretty cool, dude! I never would have guessed you’d be into physical therapy.”
Derek smirked. “Don’t call me ‘Dude’. Physical therapy seemed like a logical thing. Werewolves can sense pain better than humans, so I can pinpoint where to touch and how gentle to be. I can hear and sense stress, so if a patient is hurting but won’t say so, I can tailor treatment to fit. Werewolves make very good doctors and lawyers because of how we can sense human responses.”
John smiled at both young men. “Well I, for one, am happy that you’re settling back in around here. It’ll be good to have you around, Derek.”
Derek nodded in agreement. “Regina was right about me needing to find my place back in my home territory. Eventually, I’d like to tear down the old house and maybe rebuild out on our land. Hales belong here, in Beacon Hills. I may not be Alpha, but this is my territory and I should be here to defend it. I understand why Laura wanted to leave before Hunters found us, but we should have come back a long time ago.”
After their guests left—Derek to his hotel room and Melissa to ream Scott for lying about his plans—Stiles sat with his father in front of the evening news. And he fidgeted on the sofa during the weather report.
“Something on your mind, son?” John was mostly amused at his son’s efforts to not speak.
“Um, yeah? Maybe.” Stiles shifted until he was facing his father. “I was thinking—I have a lot of training to do, learning about my Spark and what it can do; what I can do. And I’m not really playing, so…I think I’d like to quit the Lacrosse team and maybe try out for track instead? Running in the early morning is helping me to concentrate more, so maybe track would be better for me.”
Stiles looked so guilty, like he was afraid of disappointing John, so he decided to let Stiles off the hook. “Whatever you want to do, I’m behind you, okay? I’d rather see you being happy than suffering in silence. You don’t do silence well,” he joked as Stiles heaved a sigh of relief.
“Yeah, okay, thanks Dad.”
“Sheriff? We got a call from a patrol in the Preserve. They found Weatherbee’s car parked in the woods.”
John looked up from his desk as Deputy Reid opened his office door. “Is there any sign of Weatherbee?”
Reid shook her head. “No sir, but they haven’t fully checked the car yet. They were calling for back-up and confirmation.”
John stood and grabbed his jacket from the hook by the door. “Right then. Radio that I’m on my way. Tell them to check the perimeter for signs of her near the car.”
On the way to the preserve, John called Derek, hoping the younger man would be able to sense Weatherbee nearby. He still hadn’t told Derek about his instincts about Peter, but there didn’t seem to be a need at the time. Jennifer Weatherbee had disappeared and there had been no more attacks. Other than Derek spotting the Alpha the night he was shot, things had been quiet.
John had an idea that that was about to change.
If his deputies thought it was odd to have a civilian at a possible crime scene, they didn’t say anything. As John approached the vehicle, he was informed that there were no tracks and no sign of Jennifer Weatherbee. The car was locked tight and the keys were inside.
Derek stood at John’s side, surreptitiously scenting the area, when John ordered that the window be broken and the trunk popped open. Derek shook his head, indicating that he hadn’t scented anything, and John led him to the car. Once the trunk was popped open, the deputy gasped.
Jennifer Weatherbee’s badly mauled body was inside.
John and Derek both looked inside and they observed that the mauling was similar to that of the video clerk and the bus driver: her throat was ripped open and her chest was mangled. If she hadn’t been stuffed into her trunk, she would have appeared to be another animal attack victim.
Derek frowned as he examined the trunk and body. “She smells familiar somehow, but I can’t quite place it.”
John grasped Derek’s arm and led him away from the body and the other deputies, who were calling for an ambulance and a tow truck.
“Derek, there’s something I wanted to tell you, but I needed to wait until Weatherbee showed up. I’ve been looking into her for suspicion of murder. She was a long-term care nurse, and she was apparently poisoning patients at the hospital.”
“Okay? Why are you telling me?”
John sighed and wiped a hand over his face, a sure sign of his distress. “I had a theory that your uncle Peter was one of her intended victims. The digitalis she used was deadly for humans, but it wouldn’t be for a werewolf.”
Derek’s eyes widened in understanding. “Digitalis would have helped to revive him, if she used it on him. Peter could have been awake and aware all this time?”
John nodded. “Yeah, and if he was only catatonic before the alleged poisoning, then while he was physically unresponsive in the hospital—he could have been left there thinking about the fire and the deaths of his family. Being trapped in his own body for so long would have injured his mind badly. Maybe badly enough to drive him insane.”
Derek frowned. “You think Peter woke up crazy and killed Laura to become Alpha?”
John shrugged. “It sounds crazy, but it makes a sick kind of sense. All of the victims of the Alpha were connected to the Hale fire in some way. After I re-opened the investigation, I found that the original insurance investigator was seen with a woman resembling your description of Kate Argent, and that video store clerk was a known arsonist. Who else would have had a reason to target people related to the fire?”
“Oh, god! Stiles!” Derek turned and stalked back to his car.
“What about Stiles, Derek?” John jogged to keep up with him.
“I took Stiles to meet Peter a few days ago. I explained how important Pack was to a werewolf’s mental and physical health, and how I visit him often so that it’ll help him heal. Stiles has taken to visiting him, too.” Derek shoved his hands into his hair in frustration. “I might have mentioned that Stiles would have made a better wolf than Scott because Scott has become so flaky lately.”
John grabbed Derek’s arm and directed him to the Sheriff’s cruiser. “Come with me! I’ll use lights and sirens if I have to, but I’ll get us to the hospital faster than you can.”
The drive to the hospital was eternally long, and John was worried about his son. If he was alone with Peter Hale, and Peter was the Alpha, then Stiles was in danger of being bitten and turned. Derek was right that Stiles would make a good werewolf, but he and Stiles had talked about it and Stiles was happy as a human with a magical Spark. And if he was turned by Peter, then there was a chance that Peter could use the Alpha Gifts to control Stiles the way he was trying to control Scott.
John could not let that happen. As he drove, he patted the gun in his holster at his side. He had taken to loading one clip with normal bullets and a spare clip with Wolf’s Bane bullets, just in case he was confronted by supernatural dangers. He reached for the holster clip and released his gun. He handed it to Derek.
“Take this and pull the clip. There is another in the glove compartment full of Regina’s special ammunition. Load that up for me, okay?”
Derek nodded and carefully released the clip and reloaded the gun, handing it back as they pulled into the hospital parking lot.
Derek and John walked briskly through the corridors, not wanting to attract too much attention. Stiles was in danger, but they didn’t want him hurt by their own actions. If Peter knew they were coming for him, he would attack if possible.
But when they reached the Long-term Care Unit, there were no nurses at the station. Derek scented the area, and detected blood near the storage closet. He nudged John and pulled him to the closed closet door and opened it, finding the call nurse and two orderlies with their throats slashed.
They heard a noise behind them in the hall and turned around to find Stiles leaving Peter’s room.
“Hey, Dad, Derek—what are you doing here?”
John breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m just checking on you, son. Are you okay?”
Stiles looked confused. “I’m fine, Dad. I was just looking for a nurse. There wasn’t anyone here when I got here, and I wanted to get Peter some water.”
John nodded and moved to the middle of the hall, beckoning to his son. “I need you to come here, now, Stiles.”
As Stiles moved to walk to his father, a silky voice from the room behind him made him pause.
“Nephew, is that you?”
Stiles turned and watched as Peter Hale, less scarred than he was the first time Stiles saw him, walk casually out of the room.
“I could smell the scent of Pack in the hallway. It’s so good of you to visit. It was even better for you to bring me a new potential Pack mate.”
Moving more quickly than Stiles would have thought possible, Peter grabbed his arm and held sharp claws to Stiles’ throat.
“Peter? How can you be so…well?” Derek asked, partially to distract Peter. “I came as often as I could, and you seemed so weak.”
Peter laughed cruelly. “You left me here to rot! You and your Alpha sister! Pack is supposed to protect each other, and you left me behind while you ran away to save your own hides. And then that evil witch of a nurse tried to kill me while I was down.” Peter tutted at Derek, pulling Stiles closer to his own body. “I was abused, dear nephew, and you didn’t care enough to stop it.”
Derek stepped forward but John held him back. “I didn’t know, Peter! I went where Laura told me, because she was Alpha. I never wanted to leave you. We’re family and family sticks together.”
Peter laughed again, and Stiles was starting to panic. “As much as I do love a good Disney moment, you were right about one thing: this young man has far more potential to become a good werewolf than my last unfortunate choice. With young Stiles at my side, I can make the Hale name something to be feared!”
Peter’s eyes glowed fiery red and his teeth elongated into dangerous fangs. Stiles gasped as the hold on his arm tightened and he sent a pleading look to Derek, who moved to help.
But John gripped his weapon tightly and called out to his son “Fly Ball!” using a code from Stiles’ old little league days, and Stiles responded quickly, just like he did when he was seven years old.
Stiles threw his full weight downward as he headed toward the floor and Peter released his hold in surprise. When Stiles was clear, John pointed the gun and fired two shots into Peter’s chest, staggering the dangerous werewolf backward into the wall.
Peter laughed. “Really? A gun? Against a werewolf? How quaint.”
But his laughter faded to pained groans as black ichor began to flow from his mouth.
John stepped forward to draw Stiles further away from the danger. “Not just a gun, Peter Hale, but a gun loaded with Wolf’s Bane. I take no chances when it comes to the safety of my family.”
Peter’s Alpha-red eyes widened in surprise, then faded to electric blue before the life faded from them completely. Stiles scampered to a standing position and gaped at the mess of a man behind him. “How did you know it was Peter?”
John kicked at Peter’s body, making sure he was truly dead. “Detective work, Stiles. It’s what I do, you know.”
“Well, yeah, Dad, but there weren’t many clues leading to Peter. And those gunshots are going to bring security any minute, so you have to figure out a reason to have shot him.”
John nodded at an upturned supply cart nearby and indicated an unwrapped scalpel. “I think that will do. Derek and I found the dead nurse and orderlies in the closet when we got here; the security cameras will show that. He threatened you, so I was shooting in defense.”
Behind them, Derek gasped in shock. Stiles and John turned to find Derek bent over, shaking violently. Stiles ran to him and wrapped his arms around him.
“Derek! Are you okay?”
Derek moaned and lifted his head. He opened his eyes slowly, and Stiles saw them glow bright, vivid red. “You killed Peter, and now…I’m the Alpha!”
Because he discharged his firearm toward a combatant without backup—and because shots fired in a hospital would attract attention—John had Derek call 9-1-1 from the reception desk. While Derek explained that the Sheriff was involved in a shooting to protect his son, Stiles—out of view of the security cameras—and John acted quickly to set the scene before the inevitable witnesses arrived.
Stiles used the computers at the reception desk to find and erase the security footage of the previous four hours in the Long-term Ward. John opened the top part of the scalpel wrap and cut the lines to the cameras in order to kill the feeds. Then he quickly dipped the blade in the blood of the victims in the supply closet. John then placed the newly opened and bloodied scalpel in Peter’s lifeless hand.
By the time back-up arrived a scant fifteen minutes later, a crowd of hospital personnel had filled the corridor and Stiles and Derek were suitably freaked-out.
Neither one was acting, but both were freaked for different reasons.
Stiles was upset and anxious about having accidentally put himself in danger and causing his father to fire a weapon in his defense. Stiles had been proud of the fact that, in all the time he had served with law enforcement, his father had never discharged his weapon outside of the shooting range. Now, he had not only fired, he had killed—and Stiles was saddened and angered by this.
While Stiles and John were giving their statements to new deputies, Derek was also answering questions and struggling not to lose his shit.
“No, Officer, I was not aware that Uncle Peter was awake and aware.”
Holy Shit! He was Alpha!
“No, Doctor, I was not aware that Nurse Weatherbee might have tried to kill my uncle.”
Holy Shit! He was Alpha!
“Yes, Officer, the first hint we had that anything was wrong was when we saw those bodies in the supply closet.”
Holy Shit! He was Alpha!
Through the crowd, Derek could see matching pairs of chocolate brown eyes—one narrowed in suspicion, the other wide with concern—watching his interaction with the police.
Scott McCall must have been visiting his mother while she was on shift in another part of the hospital. Derek could sense the distress coming from Melissa McCall and he offered her a wan smile in response to her obvious concern.
Scott’s feelings, however, were different. Derek assumed that Scott had felt the Pack–Bond break when Peter died. He coolly watched as Peter’s body was loaded on to a gurney and carried away for inquest. Derek watched as Scott shrugged and murmured to his mother too softly for anyone near to hear—but Derek could hear the words: “Well, that’s that, then.”
As if everything was really over.
As if the death of Peter Hale was the end to all the danger.
As if Scott could be normal now.
Scott’s mutinous eyes met Derek’s from across the room and Derek lifted his chin with a confidence he was not sure he really felt. Once he was sure that no-one but the McCalls were watching him, Derek flashed Alpha-red eyes at them (Holy Shit! He was Alpha!) to let them know where things stood.
Scott huffed and withdrew, forcing his way through the gathered crowd to get away from the crime scene.
Melissa frowned after her son, but eventually moved closer—first to check on Stiles and John, and then to check on Derek.
“Can you tell me what happened?” she asked gently, wrapping her arm around Derek’s shoulder in a comforting gesture.
The officer taking Derek’s statement verified Derek’s contact information and moved away to help secure the rest of the scene, and Melissa drew Derek away from the bloody remains to sit in the family waiting area. She sat next to him and held his hand gently between both of hers in a painfully maternal gesture.
“We, um,” Derek stammered, clearing his throat. “We were in the Preserve near my old house—that was where they found Nurse Weatherbee’s car, but it wasn’t there before. John asked me to, you know, see if I could sniff out where the nurse might be hiding. The deputy popped open the trunk and they found her body, and the Sheriff—John—told me about his theory that Peter was the Alpha that killed Laura and bit Scott.” Derek paused to take a breath. “I remembered that Stiles might be visiting Peter because I brought him here a few times. John and I raced over here as fast as we could, and we found this mess!”
By this time, John had turned in his service weapon and extracted Stiles from the clutches of a determined deputy. He pulled his son over toward Derek and Melissa and got their attention.
“Hey, Derek,” said John softly, “Why don’t you take Stiles’ keys and drive him home, okay? It’s been a stressful time for all of us.”
Derek nodded in agreement and stood, thanking Melissa and accepting Stiles’ frantic hug as he pulled the teen away from the bustle.
Melissa followed their progress until they were out of sight, then she turned to John and asked, “So Peter Hale was the rogue all along?”
John scrubbed a hand over his face and sighed. “Yes,” he said in a ragged voice, “But I didn’t put it together until a few weeks ago. I needed to be sure, but I had to find Weatherbee first.”
“Are you finished for now,” asked Melissa as she stood from her chair. When John nodded, she wrapped a comforting arm around his shoulders and pulled him to the hall exit. “Come on, then,” she said with the finality of someone used to being obeyed. “I’ll buy you a coffee and a donut, and you can tell me all about it.”
Derek kept a wary eye on Stiles as the younger man busied himself in the kitchen of the Stilinski home. Stiles prepared the old-fashioned copper tea kettle and set out two large mugs with teabags. Then he rifled through a cabinet and pulled out a well-hidden package of fudge-covered cookies.
“Are you okay, Stiles?” asked Derek bemused as he accepted a mug and a cookie. “I know it’s been a wild night….”
Stiles spun around quickly, almost spilling his own tea. “A wild night? A wild night? Derek, my friend, you just may have mastered understatement!”
Stiles flounced to the kitchen table and he sat heavily in a wooden chair. “Did you know?” he asked as he glowered at Derek. “Did you know that Peter was going to go all psycho and try to bite me?”
Derek huffed and shook his head, sipping lightly at the hot tea. “Nope. I honestly had no clue. I thought Peter was still an innocent coma patient.”
Stiles leaned his elbows on the table, cradling his mug between his hands. “So, what happened, then?”
Derek sighed and sat back deeply in his chair. “Your dad had this whacked-out theory based on a murder case he was working. This nurse, Jennifer Weatherbee, was slowly killing long-term patients with poison. Your dad didn’t know who it was, actually, until she killed too many people in one place—and then she disappeared.”
Stiles frowned. “So what does a killer nurse have to do with crazy-Alpha Peter?”
Derek snorted into his tea. “Jesus, Stiles! Okay, so according to your father’s theory, which turned out not to be crazy after all, when Weatherbee tried to kill Peter, the poison actually jump-started his heart and broke him out of the coma. But he still had all those years to stew in his own brain and think about the fire.”
“Yeah, okay,” said Stiles around a cookie. “I can see how all that time thinking about losing his family like that would drive him bonkers.”
“Yeah,” Derek sighed. “And then, once he was aware, he placed a call to Laura to get her back here. Maybe he tried to convince her to help him get revenge, or maybe he just decided to kill her outright. Whatever happened, he did kill Laura and he gained her Alpha Spark. And being Alpha meant he was driven to have a Pack, so he bit Scott.”
Stiles huffed. “And then you drag me to meet him and play up how much better I would be than Scott as a werewolf.”
Derek leaned forward and locked serious eyes on Stiles. “I never, ever,” he said slowly, “would have allowed him to hurt you. If I had had any idea that you would be in danger, I never would have taken you to meet him. Believe me.”
Stiles reached out and covered one of Derek’s hands with his own. “I believe you, Derek. I know you’d never hurt me or allow me to get hurt; not if you could help it.”
They sat there, Werewolf and Spark, and sipped tea in silence, both thinking about Fate and how freaky it was.
“Liam? It’s Derek.”
“Derek? Are you well?”
Derek sighed. “No, not really. I’m Alpha now, and I’m freaking out.”
The silence on the line was both comforting and disconcerting.
“Regina told me of the Sheriff’s query. Is there anything I can do for you, Derek?”
“I’m…not sure, Alpha Gallagher. I was prepared to kill Peter in defense of his latest victim, but the Sheriff intervened. I wasn’t meant to be Alpha, and I don’t know if I’ll be a good one.”
“Derek,” said Liam Gallagher, voice clear and authoritative through the phone line. “You were groomed to become the Pack Second, to be the right-hand of the Alpha. Your job was to bring strength and stability to the Pack. Use those scant skills that your former Alpha was able to teach you and become a great Alpha. You only need a stable Pack behind you.”
Derek snorted. “I’m not about to go out and bite a bunch of people to create a Pack, especially with a full Hunter Tribunal about to happen in my back yard.”
Liam Gallagher laughed. “No, that would be a poor course of action. But after the Hunter business is over? Perhaps you can build a strong Pack then.”
“Derek, I am not suggesting that you find humans to bite, with no regard for their safety. There is a family here, two adult Wolves with two children, which would be interested in moving. The male was offered a job as an EMT in Beacon Heights. They would be good Betas for you and your new Pack. The job will not go into effect until the end of February, and the Tribunal should be long over by then.”
Derek sighed in relief. “That would be….yeah, that could be good. If they will accept me as Alpha, then I would accept them as Betas. Thank you, Alpha Gallagher. I hope I can continue to turn to you and Regina Kincaide for help.”
“I was friends with your mother, Derek. I would be honored to be friends with you, as well.”
Stiles hadn’t seen Scott at the hospital after Peter attacked him, so he was unaware of Scott’s attitude toward the whole deal.
In fact, Stiles hadn’t heard from or about Scott since he accidentally snitched to Melissa about Scott’s dinner at the Argent’s.
So, of course Stiles was fully prepared for the cold-shoulder at school. He was also prepared for nasty looks and empty stares.
He was not prepared to be slammed into his locker before first period.
“What the hell, Stiles!” Scott snarled as Stiles stumbled away from the lockers and scrambled to pick up his fallen notebooks. “I thought we were friends!”
Stiles frowned up at Scott from his kneeling position. “Yeah? And I thought you had some survival instinct! What the hell are you talking about, Dude?”
Scott took a huge step backwards and looked around the hall to make sure he hadn’t attracted too much attention. “I’m talking about you telling my mother about my dinner with Allison on Wednesday!” Scott hissed. “I’m grounded now, thanks to you!”
Stiles stood and re-opened his locker to gather his books before turning back to Scott. “No, Scott,” he said with finality, “You’re grounded because your mother forbade you to go near Allison’s family and you lied and went anyway. That’s not on me, pal! I thought you had enough sense not to lie to your mother, and I had hoped you would have listened to Dad and Derek and avoided the Argents altogether!”
“Allison is not like that!” Scott hissed. “And her family seemed perfectly nice!”
Stiles raised one unimpressed eyebrow. “Uh-huh! And did you wolf-out in front of the family, or just out-right tell them that you’re a werewolf?”
“No, of course not!” Scott scowled. “It’s supposed to be a secret, right?”
Stiles shook his head in disbelief. “Scott, it’s a secret because nobody would believe you anyway. And Allison might be sweetness and light, but her family is possibly full of psychos who would kill you in an instant!” Stiles gathered his backpack and books and closed his locker before turning away from Scott. “You know, Scott, I was behind you all the way. I only wanted you healthy, happy and safe. But if you want to throw your life away because you’re too stupid to listen to people who know better, then I can’t help you.”
Stiles spent the first half of his day avoiding Scott’s gaze in the classes they shared. It wasn’t difficult because Scott seemed happy to avoid Stiles as well. From the corner of his eye, Stiles could see Allison glancing at him, and even Jackson Whittemore was giving interested looks in his direction, but Stiles kept his cool and never said a word.
At lunch, instead of going to the cafeteria and not eating, Stiles went directly to the library and focused on his homework. He passed a quiet hour with no panic-attacks and no dirty looks shot his way, and he was mentally fortified for getting through the rest of the day.
At the end of the day, when the locker-room was noisy and crowded with boys getting dressed for Lacrosse practice, Stiles casually walked into the coach’s office and gave his resignation. The coach stammered and strained over the whole deal, but Stiles was steadfast in his determination.
The coach asked why, and Stiles gave a nonsense answer, but he was adamant not to be on the Lacrosse team anymore. Fortunately, the coach did not press too hard. Stiles didn’t want to have to explain that he wasn’t comfortable sitting on the bench anymore in an effort to pad the team for a man who didn’t care enough to learn his damned name.
Stiles left the locker-room behind, ignoring the stares of the Co-Captains as he passed.
Stiles had always maintained that Jackson Whittemore could kiss his ass, and he was starting to feel that way about Scott McCall as well.
John Stilinski was finishing some rather tedious paperwork in order to tidy-up two interconnected disasters: the murder case involving Jennifer Weatherbee (the murders she perpetrated and her own murder, of course) and the shooting of Peter Hale. The paperwork was a drag, but was entirely necessary. John had, of course, been cleared of the shooting, but he had some rather hard questions to answer concerning his reasons for connecting the two cases.
But as John had often said, he wasn’t Sheriff because of his good looks. Once he explained Peter Hale’s occupation of the Long-term Ward and Jennifer Weatherbee’s proclivity for poisoning her patients, the State Internal Affairs officers were convinced that John was just that talented an investigator.
He was finishing his last bit, with signatures and official seals, when his direct-to-office phone rang.
“Hello,” he said wearily. It had been a long day.
“This is Sheriff John Stilinski?” the slightly-accented voice asked.
“Yes, this is Sheriff Stilinski. Who is this?” John did not recognize the speaker; he only knew that the caller was male and quite possibly French. The accent was difficult to discern.
“I am Duquesne d’Sorcière of famille d’Argent. You are aware of the impending visit?”
John swallowed deeply and sat rigidly upright in his chair, even though he could not be seen in his office. “I know the purpose of the visit, yes. I do not know the timing.”
“The Tribunal will be arriving very soon. This is the only courtesy call you shall receive. I shall give you your terms of involvement; please write them down.”
John scrambled for a blank notepad and grabbed his pen. “Very well; I’m ready. Go ahead.”
“First, do you intend to stand advocate for the remaining Hale Pack?”
John paused. Did he intend to stand as an advocate for Derek? He had promised Derek to be there for him, no matter what. This seemed to be the least he could do. “Yes, I intend to stand as an advocate for the remains of the Hale Pack.”
“Mais oui! Prepare your files, if you have any. You will not be asked to testify, but you may have to answer specific questions. Bring your Wolves to building 813B in your Industrial District, Level Three, at eight o’clock in the evening next Tuesday. We are aware that there is only the Hale Alpha and one unrelated Wolf in residence. Officially, Maitresse d’Argent mourns for your territory. Do not bring your badge. Do not bring weapons. Do not bring legal files. All legalities will be dealt with by Maitresse d’Argent; she does not require interference by local law enforcement.”
The mysterious caller disconnected the call with no formal good-bye, and John had a few more questions that were unanswered. John drew out his personal cell phone and quickly dialed Regina Kincaide.
“Hello, Sheriff,” Regina quickly answered. “What can I do for you today?”
John smiled in spite of himself upon hearing Regina’s lilting voice. “I just got a call from someone called Duquesne d’Sorcière, in regards to the Tribunal.”
“Oh, well then,” Regina stammered. “What do you need from me?”
“Well, this man was rather abrupt, you see, and after he gave me my ‘instructions’, he disconnected before I could ask any questions. Do you think you might be able to answer some for me?”
“I’ll certainly try. I’ve only heard of one true Tribunal in recent times, and that one was over fifty years ago.”
“Fair enough,” said John as he looked over the set of instructions he wrote down. “It says here that I’m to leave weapons and badge behind, which I sort of understand, but it also says not to bring any evidence—but I can bring any files I have. What’s up with that?”
“Hmmm—it sounds like they’re leaving official courts out of this, which makes sense because Werewolves. So they don’t need official court documents or evidentiary files, but if you have personal research, you can bring that.”
John nodded to himself. “Okay, yeah. He also mentioned that I’ll be advocating for the Hale Pack.”
“Oh, well, that probably means that you’ll have to answer for any actions of the Hale Pack since you’ve known about them. You know,” she said, “If they’ve attacked anyone. There should not be a problem with that.”
“Yeah, no,” said John. “The only Hale to attack anyone around here was Peter, and he’s dead now. So, I just have to take Derek and Scott McCall and all of my personal research into the Hale Fire, and show up at this warehouse next week.”
“John,” said Regina hesitantly, “I should probably take this time to prepare you for the actual Tribunal itself. It’s not like a court-room.”
“Okay,” John frowned, “So what’s this going to be like?”
“Well, anyone under investigation from the Tribunal will likely be placed in chains in a location away from the accusers, so don’t expect to actually see Kate Argent in front of you. And the Argent Clan will not be the only Hunter Clan there. A full Tribunal means members of every viable Hunter Clan there is.”
“Oh,” said John, “I didn’t realize it would be so crowded.”
Regina laughed. “Oh, I don’t mean that every member of every Clan will be there, but there will be at least one from each big family—so about thirty people or so. A few more, perhaps. You will also only be allowed to speak when spoken to, so it’s sort of like being in Sunday School.”
“I think I can manage that,” said John seriously. “It’s a formal thing, then?”
“Oh, it’s very formal, John,” said Regina. “You might be asked questions that you can be certain they already know the answers to. And Madame d’Argent is totally in charge. She is the LAW in this case, so you’ll not be able to question any decision that she makes in this case. If she finds that the Argent family is not at fault, then you have to go with it.” Regina sighed. “I’m sorry if you find that distasteful, but that’s the way it has to be. Of course, it could very well go the other way.”
“Okay,” said John as he gathered the rest of his paperwork together. “Thanks for answering my questions. Will you be coming here for the Tribunal, or are you staying away?”
“As much as I would like to actually see justice done for the Hale Pack, Emissaries are not permitted to attend Tribunals. In fact,” said Regina quietly, “It’s rare that actual werewolves are permitted to attend, so this will be a fine sight that I won’t be allowed to see.”
On his way home that evening, John stopped by the hospital to explain the Tribunal to Melissa, since John had to take Scott with him for the ordeal.
“He’s grounded, you know,” said Melissa as she crossed her arms over her chest defensively. “And I don’t know how happy I am knowing he’ll be with the Argents again.”
John massaged the bridge of his nose between two fingers. “Yeah, I know, Melissa. I’m not thrilled about it, either, but I was—ahem—requested to bring Derek and Scott to the Tribunal.” John sighed. “Actually, what the spokesman actually said was, bring the remaining Hale Wolf and the Unrelated Wolf, so they’ve done their research very thoroughly.”
Melissa huffed. “Well, you’ll have to honor the grounding, John. You’ll have to act In Loco Parentis during this Tribunal and protect my son. So far, as far as I know, the Argents are not aware that Scott is a werewolf, and I’d rather keep it that way.”
“Oh, Melissa,” sighed John, “That’s just not going to be possible. This woman—this Mistress d’Argent—she’s good. I’m sure she knows things we don’t even know about. Hiding Scott’s Wolf-side is not going to ever happen. But I’ll do my best to protect him; I promise, Melissa!”
Melissa frowned. “I know you will, John. You and Derek have been great since Scott got bitten. I just wish my stubborn son would get with the program and figure out who was best to trust.”
“Yeah, I know, Melissa,” said John sadly. “I know.”
On Friday afternoon, Stiles once again spent his lunch hour in the library. This time, Vernon Boyd joined him, and they sat quietly doing their homework on a table near the rear stacks. The normally stoic Boyd (I don’t use ‘Vernon’, because it’s my father’s name) spent the time asking Stiles about the meditation that he does to calm his mind.
“Do you do it every day?” the dark-skinned teen asked as he outlined an English essay. “I mean, I can see how it would help you study, but what else does it do for you?”
Stiles chewed on his pen for a moment before answering. “Well,” he said eventually, “I already told you that I haven’t really needed my ADHD drugs in a while. My dad is really happy about that. Not about the expense, of course, but because it means I’m getting my head on straight.”
Boyd chuckled softly and Stiles offered a huge grin in return.
“I also get myself centered before running, and I don’t get tired as quickly, so I run farther.”
Boyd nodded. “Yeah, I guess that could be good. Are you going out for track next month?”
Stiles shrugged. “Maybe. I’m certainly thinking about it. I, uh, just quit the Lacrosse team, and I’m not sure if I’m really feeling team sports, you know?”
Boyd nodded in agreement and went back to his essay.
They worked in silence for a while longer until the noisy arrival of a bunch of students interrupted their solitude. Stiles looked up and watched as Lydia, Jackson, Allison, and Scott took seats at a nearby table and opened textbooks. Stiles looked up at Boyd and smirked as he proceeded to ignore the other foursome.
It was hard.
From the corner of his eye, Stiles could see Scott glaring at him, and Lydia kept shooting glances his way.
Jackson and Allison were oblivious.
The after-lunch bell rang and Stiles and Boyd gathered their books and headed for the door. Stiles was pleased to note that Boyd shared two afternoon classes with him—two classes that neither Scott nor Lydia shared—and after that first fateful lunch when Jackson banned him from the Lacrosse table, Stiles and Boyd sat near each other in those classes. As they passed Scott’s table, Stiles noted that Scott was watching him go—and Lydia was watching Scott watch him.
As Stiles walked through the doors to the parking lot after school that day, Boyd was beside him chattering softly about his younger siblings (one natural and one foster kid) and his job at the ice rink. Stiles listened intently, relishing the company of his new friend. Boyd had asked for meditation lessons, and Stiles agreed to make some time soon. His father had told him about the Tribunal occurring the following Tuesday, and Stiles didn’t want to start any new projects until he knew what the outcome of that would be.
Suddenly Boyd nudged Stiles’ shoulder with his own and Stiles stopped walking. “What’s up, Buddy?”
Boyd pointed to the parking lot. “Who’s the dude next to your car?”
Stiles looked up and smiled widely when he saw Derek standing next to his blue Jeep. “That, my friend, is a dear Family Friend.”
Boyd looked doubtful, but Stiles just laughed. “Seriously, Dude! My dad totally knew Derek’s mother way back when. Come on, I’ll introduce you!”
Stiles grabbed Boyd’s sleeve cuff and dragged him over to the Jeep, where Derek was watching bemusedly.
“Derek!” Stiles called as they drew nearer, “This is Boyd, my new bestie!”
Boyd rolled his eyes good-naturedly, but offered his hand to the older man in greeting. “Hi, man, I have no idea what he’s talking about.”
Derek laughed as he shook Boyd’s hand. “Stiles is a good guy. You just have to get to know him.”
Boyd nodded. “Yeah, I kind of took him in when the cool kids dumped on him.”
Derek frowned at Stiles, but Stiles just shrugged. “Jackson Whittemore is an ass,” Stiles said. “What can I say?”
“And what about Scott?” asked Derek cautiously.
Again, Stiles shrugged. “He’s so far into his girlfriend, he’s practically on his way back.”
Derek growled softly as he glanced toward the school exit. Stiles turned back and watched as Scott left the building with his arm around a pretty and dimpled brunette. Stiles tilted his head towards Derek and murmured “That’s Allison Argent. She’s pretty cute, and she seems really nice, but Scott is totally obsessed with her.”
Derek frowned but turned back to Boyd as if nothing bad had happened. “Well, it’s good to meet you, but I have to steal Stiles for a bit. We’ll get together again, yeah?”
Boyd shook Derek’s hand again and slapped Stiles lightly on the shoulder. “Yeah, man. I’ll catch you later.”
Once Boyd was out of earshot, and Stiles was reasonably certain that Scott would not overhear them, Stiles asked, “What’s the occasion, Derek? You never come here.”
Derek shrugged. “I was bored, and I know your dad is stressed, so I figured that we could go shopping and cook a decent meal for him?”
Stiles’ smile was wide and genuine. “That sounds like lots of fun! Let’s go!”
Two hours later, Stiles was standing in his kitchen teaching Derek the art of braising. Stiles was learning to love the days when Derek would come over to cook—and then to eat—and they had spent several Saturdays pouring over Stiles’ cookbook collection (formerly his mother’s), finding things that looked tasty but not too difficult.
And always healthy.
Stiles maintained healthy eating did not have to be boring or bland, and John loved every experiment that crossed his desk when he had to work over dinner.
On this particular Friday evening, John did not have to work over dinner, so he sat at the kitchen table sipping a beer while he watched Stiles and Derek cook. The conversation fluctuated between the lean pork roast and the upcoming Tribunal.
John had made it clear that Stiles would not be going, but only because Emissaries were not permitted. That proclamation made Stiles hum a bit in happiness, because it meant that John had acknowledged Stiles’ future position with Derek’s Pack.
Not that he had a Pack at the moment.
“Oh,” said Derek as he popped a bit of beet in his mouth, “I forgot to tell you: Alpha Gallagher told me that there is a Wolf family that would be willing to join up with me after the Tribunal is over. I’ll have the seed of a good Pack that way.”
John raised an eyebrow at the news. “Oh, really? How would that work?”
Derek shrugged. “They would have to submit to me as their Alpha, which Alpha Gallagher said they are willing to do, and then I would give a bonding bite to seal the Pack. The husband is accepting a job in Beacon Heights as an EMT, and they have two children under the age of ten years. It would be a very small Pack, but I wouldn’t be biting humans to get it.”
“But it’s going to wait until the Tribunal is over, right?” asked John. “I mean, this family isn’t going to be moving in the middle of this mess?”
“Nope, the job doesn’t start until the end of the month, so it should be all good.” Then Derek shrugged again and said, “Of course, if the Tribunal goes against me, it won’t matter because the Hunters could probably just kill me outright.”
“That,” said Stiles, flinging his spoon in Derek’s direction, “Is not going to happen. I have faith that you will be safe.”
Derek shoved a piece of beet in Stiles’ mouth and said, “You’d better hope so because they could kill Scott, too, just on principle.”
Stiles spent a wonderful weekend with Derek, shopping and cooking and storing-away meals enough for two weeks. Since the very first time Stiles invited Derek to help him in the kitchen, it was the one place both Derek and Stiles could drop any artifices and just be themselves. They would laugh and talk about music or movies or books (Derek was an avid reader), or they would talk about Derek’s family (Stiles loved learning what they were like when Derek was a child), or they would talk about school and Stiles’ ambitions for college (Stiles was leaning toward law enforcement or library studies—a blend of both his parents’ occupations).
It was really too bad nobody else was around to see it.
As Stiles pulled into a parking spot in the student lot, he mentally debated inviting Boyd to join them the next time Stiles felt like having a mass-cookery incident. The quiet boy was a good friend, and if Stiles was not mistaken—and he rarely was—then Boyd could use a few new friendships. Stiles knew Boyd wouldn’t feel out of place in a kitchen since one of the classes they shared was Home Economics.
Stiles mentally shrugged and reached into the back seat for his backpack. When he leaned forward again, he spotted Scott staring at him from the entrance area to the school. “Great,” Stiles sighed as he opened his car door, “I do not need this this morning!”
Stiles squared his shoulders and hitched his backpack high over his shoulder. Holding his head high and proud, Stiles walked gracefully toward the school. Scott left his perch and intercepted Stiles before he reached the building.
“What do you know about Tuesday?” Scott asked petulantly.
Stiles raised an eyebrow at his friend and said, “It’s the usual day after Monday, which is today, which means Tuesday is tomorrow.”
Scott huffed in annoyance. “Allison told me that her parents were going to be out Tuesday night, and I was going to go over to her house while they were out, but Mom told me this morning that I had to be somewhere Tuesday night. She wouldn’t tell me anything, and Allison doesn’t know anything, but I know you know something. So tell me what’s going on!”
Stiles tried hard not to roll his eyes when he answered, “I do know that something is going on tomorrow night. I might even know why something is going on.” Stiles screwed his eyes in contemplation for a moment. “I also,” he continued, “know that Derek tried to tell you what was going on, but you had better things to do than to listen. So I’ll just let you find out when you find out, okay?”
Scott seemed about to lose his temper for a moment, but he calmed enough to ask, “Are you going to be there?”
Stiles shook his head. “Nope, I’m not allowed to be there, for various reasons. So you’ll know how it all turns out before I do.” Stiles allowed his backpack to slide off his shoulder and into his hand. “Now,” he said as he turned to the door, “I have classes to get to if you don’t mind.”
And he left Scott behind as he walked into the building and headed for his locker.
Scott wouldn’t be alone for long. Before Stiles turned away, he saw Allison’s car pull into the student lot just ahead of Jackson’s Porsche.
Since Stiles’ first class was English, and he had that class with Scott, Allison, and Boyd (Stiles had taken to sitting in the rear of the class with Boyd when Scott became besotted), Stiles was sure to hear anything interesting about the next night’s Tribunal.
What he had not anticipated hearing was Allison’s almost hysterical rambling about how her “mother went out after dinner last night and never came back.”
Scott was trying—and failing—to calm Allison, but she was too distracted to take the comfort.
Stiles leaned forward in his seat to hear more, but the classroom soon filled and the noise level rose too high.
And Boyd ambled in and took his attention when he asked an opinion about the essay the class was assigned.
The school day went swimmingly for Stiles. He was able to hand in assignments completed because of his work in the library. He passed a pop quiz in Calculus, and managed to ignore the incredulous look Lydia Martin gave him when they were handed back. He even made it to lunch with no more than a snide look from Jackson as they passed in the hall.
When he entered the library, Stiles held up a paper lunch bag in front of the librarian. He opened it to show that it only contained a few wrapped sandwiches, and she waved him away toward his usual table, where Boyd was already seated.
“Hey, Boyd,” he said when he sat down, “I brought some actual lunch since we’ve not been eating in here for a while.”
He placed the brown paper bag on the table between them and opened it to pull out a sandwich. Boyd looked around as if waiting to be caught and tossed out of the room, but Stiles just shrugged. “I already got the okay to eat in here if we’re not messy. I made fairly un-messy sandwiches if you like left-over meatloaf.”
“Thanks, man,” said Boyd as he helped himself to a sandwich. He took a bite and moaned lightly in appreciation. “This is good,” he said around a mouthful. “Did you make this?”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah. My dad cooks for shit, so I took over the kitchen duties after Mom died. It’s not beef, but you can’t tell, really.”
Boyd took another bite and chewed thoughtfully before swallowing. “If it’s not beef, then what is it?”
“Ground turkey. I stay away from beef as much as possible because I’m trying to keep an eye on Dad’s cholesterol. I’ve been really creative with my recipes, but I have no complaints.”
Boyd nodded in understanding. “I need to learn to cook better for my siblings. Mom works hard, but sometimes I’m the one who provides the meals because she has no time or is asleep.”
Stiles smiled. “Actually,” he said pleasantly, “That is a great segue for this conversation. You see, after Scott went wonky for Allison and blew me off for our usual Saturday video game marathon, I decided to go through my mom’s recipe books. I invited Derek over, and we went shopping and spent the whole day cooking.
“We do it every now and then, making enough meals to last all of us for a week or so, and Derek is learning to cook as well. I was going to ask if you maybe wanted to join us sometime.”
Boyd ate silently for a few moments before speaking. “You mean, you’d like if I came over and cooked with you and your boyfriend?”
Stiles sputtered, almost spraying chewed meatloaf all over their table. “Derek,” he gasped, “is not my boyfriend!” He looked frantically around the library, but there was nobody around to watch him. Still, he lowered his voice to a whisper when he continued. “Look, there’s a tragic back-story there, okay? But Derek is a friend right now, and if there is anything more there—well, it’s not happening yet.”
Stiles sat back in his seat and took another bite of sandwich, chewing thoroughly before swallowing and speaking again. “Look, Derek has had a very bad romantic history. It’s his story to tell, not mine, so I won’t go into it.” Boyd nodded in understanding, so Stiles continued, “I like him a lot, but he’s a lot older than me and we’re both gun-shy, so he’s not boyfriend material just yet. I’m happy to be a friend to him. I’d like to invite you to our cooking days because I can use more friends, and Derek can use more friends, and maybe you could, too?”
Boyd smiled at Stiles and took another bite of the last sandwich. “If we can make stuff like this, then I’ll accept the invitation.”
Stiles smiled in return. “Well, I’ll let you know when the next cooking day is, then. Now—are you at all ready for the History test next week?”
The study session went well, but Scott once again gave Stiles intense glares in the hallways after lunch. And Lydia was once again watching Scott watch Stiles.
That was getting tedious.
Once again, Derek was waiting beside Stiles’ Jeep when school let out for the day. When Boyd pointed it out, he asked, “Does he just walk over here? That’s very odd, you know?”
Stiles shoulder-bumped Boyd even as he smiled widely at Derek. “He’s got this incredible car, Boyd,” said Stiles carefully, aware that he could be overheard in the student lot, “but it’s a bit of a gas-guzzler. Not,” he quickly said to prevent Boyd from commenting, “unlike my own car. But Derek spends a lot of time just walking around to keep his head clear and to get used to Beacon Hills again after being away for the last six years. So, if he wants to walk over here to meet me, instead of driving his Camero around just to end up at my house, I’m okay with that.”
“But why is he going to your house at all?” asked Boyd.
Stiles shrugged. “Well, like I said, my dad knew his mother a long time ago. So when he came back to town to try to find his sister, my dad offered to help him out any way he could. Right now, Derek’s staying at the Beacon Inn, which is a nice place but it’s still a hotel. Dad is helping him look over prospective houses and apartments. Derek has a realtor, but he’s not been here for six years, so Dad is telling him about different neighborhoods and amenities. And I feed him because his favorite thing for dinner used to be take-out pizza.”
Boyd chuckled. “That explains why he does your cooking-day thing.” When they reached Stiles’ Jeep, and Derek, Boyd once again offered his hand politely and said, “It’s nice to see you again, Derek. Stiles invited me to join you for your next all-day cooking expedition, if that’s okay?”
Derek nodded in greeting and shook Boyd’s hand in greeting. “Yeah, that’s good. As long as Stiles’ kitchen can hold us, I say the more, the merrier.”
Stiles laughed loudly. “Let’s not get carried away. But you might want to refine your house search to include a large kitchen. Then we can just do it at your place—once you find it.”
The three chatted for a short while before Boyd excused himself, saying he needed to get home to start the spaghetti (with sauce from a jar, which Stiles scoffed at). Once Boyd was on his way, Derek and Stiles piled into the Jeep. As he was pulling out of the parking lot, Stiles saw Scott and Lydia standing near Allison, appearing to comfort her, while Jackson glowered nearby.
Stiles nodded in that direction and asked, “What’s up with that, do you think? I overheard Allison say her mom went on an errand last night and never came home.”
Derek looked at the group but shook his head. “I have no idea, really. It might be about the Tribunal tomorrow night, but I wouldn’t know why.” Derek focused his attention on Stiles as the teen drove them away from the school. “So, I should look for a place with a big kitchen, huh?”
Stiles shrugged. “Well, if you’re going to have a Pack soon, you need a place to meet, right? And meetings sometimes need food. And don’t think I haven’t noticed how much werewolves actually eat. So.”
Derek nodded. “Yeah, okay. It’s a good point.”
Because he was a detective by nature as well as profession, John did a bit of research on the warehouse the Tribunal would take place in. It was a rudimentary internet search, but it yielded a good bit of information.
Buildings 810 through 815 in the industrial park were all owned by Cygnet Corporation, whose company motto seemed to be “Building a Strong Today for a Better Tomorrow”.
The warehouses are largely empty at all times, but they do accept shipments from various companies for a holding period before the stock is moved out again. John was able to find out that those transactions were legitimate; mostly inventory for mercantile shops all along Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. It was all general goods merchandise; no weapons or drugs that he could tell. The company employed a lot of people in Beacon Hills, Beacon Heights, and Hillery, and as far as John could tell they paid fair wages and had a good incentive plan.
But ‘cygnet’ meant baby swan, and according to Regina Kincaide, Swann was the name of a prominent Hunter Clan from Canada—with roots in Germany and Sweden. Regina said the Swann Clan was the historic Clan that first came up with the Hunter’s Code of protecting innocents from feral Wolves:
Wir schützen gegen die verheerenden Dunkelheit
Which means “We protect against the ravaging darkness”.
John figured it was a good motto to have, all things considered. Knowing that gave him some hope for the Tribunal. It also gave him knowledge of another family that would be there: the Swanns. He had no idea who else would be there. Regina couldn’t really give him a list as she only knew of a few of the Clans.
John did a bit more research on the name Argent, and found the American branch of that family. There were three families with that name that caught his eye: one in Massachusetts, one in Minnesota, and one in Nevada. Since the Argent family that recently moved to Beacon Hills owned handguns—the head of the family had a job selling weapons to law enforcement agencies—they had to register with the Sheriff’s Department. John brought up the name Christopher Gerald Argent in his police files and retrieved a former address in San Francisco.
Public Records brought up the marriage license for Christopher Gerald Argent and Victoria Anne-Marie Swann in St. Paul, Minnesota twenty years prior, and the birth of a daughter, Allison Katherine Argent, two years after that.
John sat back in his chair and stared at his computer screen. Argent and Swann, united in marriage. He supposed it made sense; the families would keep the Hunting secrets together, and they’d never have to explain it to outsiders.
Still, John frowned. Stiles told him over dinner the night before that he overheard that Allison’s mother had gone out and not returned. Since the Sheriff’s Department had not received a missing-persons report, John guessed that Christopher Argent wasn’t too disturbed by his wife’s disappearance. Perhaps it had to do with the Tribunal?
However it was, John would learn all about it in two days time. For now, all John could do was gather his personal files—his unofficial research on the Hale fire and his notes about Peter Hale’s victims—and head to the McCall house to prepare Scott as best he could for the Tribunal.
“But I still don’t see why I have to go! I’m a victim, too!”
Scott McCall’s whine was beginning to give John a headache. From the look on Melissa’s face, it was grating to her as well.
John sighed deeply and rubbed a hand over his tired eyes. “Scott, when I was contacted about being an advocate, I was instructed to bring you to the Tribunal. I don’t know why they want you, because they hold all the cards here and they don’t have to tell me anything.”
“But you’re the Sheriff!” Scott exclaimed. “Don’t these people have to listen to you?”
John leaned his head far enough back to bang it lightly against the wall behind the sofa. “Scott, you are a werewolf now. That world is not part of the normal world, and the normal law has no bearing in this instance. It’s out of my hands. I’m going to be there as some sort of courtesy, but that is all.”
Melissa leaned forward and wrapped an arm around her disgruntled son. “Scott, you have to go. But John is going to do his best to protect you. Just listen to what they say, and don’t speak unless they ask you. And be respectful and polite!”
John knew Melissa wanted her son safe, but Scott seemed to want to fight every step of the way.
He only hoped everyone got to walk away from this alive.
Stiles went to school on Monday and Tuesday like nothing was going on in his life.
He took pop quizzes and handed in homework, and made a fine soufflé in Home Ec with Boyd as his partner (“You do know that was an advanced recipe, right?” “Eh, I had faith in us.”)
The whole time he surreptitiously watched Allison for signs of cracking under undue pressure, but she showed none. Oh, he overheard her talking to Scott and Lydia in the halls and before classes (Jackson never paid attention, since he was still brooding heavily about having to co-captain with Scott), and she only mentioned that her grandfather was supposed to be coming for a visit and that she barely knew the man.
After school, Stiles would fix a filling and healthy dinners for his father and Derek, but both men were often found with their heads bent together over their plates as they discussed the Tribunal. Stiles didn’t mind, really, because he could bring them out of it easily enough. He was just trying hard not to stress about it all because there was really nothing he could do about it.
While John and Derek attempted to plan for any contingency, Stiles meditated and practiced his “sparkage”, as he called it. Stiles had learned much from Regina while she was in town, and his bi-weekly phone calls gave him unofficial homework to hone his gifts. Magic was strange to Stiles, because he never really needed to recite a spell or use special ingredients to make something happen. He always figured that he’d need to say some rhyme for a spell to work, or have an iron cauldron on a small fire at all times.
But Regina was right—Stiles was only fettered by physics and his imagination. If Stiles wanted a magical circle set with mountain ash, all he needed was a pinch of ash and determination. If Stiles needed something from another room, and his hands were busy with dinner or homework, all he needed was to concentrate—and hope that nobody was in the way—and what he wanted would come flying to him.
So, while his father was preparing himself for a Tribunal he might never understand, Stiles did small magical exercises in the living room or his bedroom. It kept his mind occupied and it prevented him from worrying about the Tribunal.
For a little bit, at least.
“Do you want to ride with me and Scott, or would you rather take your own vehicle?” John asked at seven-thirty on Tuesday evening. It was time to head out, and John had to pick-up Scott first.
“I’d like to go with you,” said Derek as he grabbed his leather jacket. “If it all goes well, I still would rather none of the Hunters knew what my car looks like just yet. If the Argents are going to be staying around, they’ll find out soon enough.”
John nodded. “That’s fair.” He gave Derek a sideways look. “You’ll have to sit with Scott on the way there and back. Is that going to be okay?”
Derek scowled. “I’m not the one that backed away from training. I tried to do my best by him, you know.”
John returned a grim expression. “I know that. Melissa knows, too. I never knew Scott to be as stubborn as he was when he stopped training with you.”
Derek shrugged as he opened the front door. “He wants to be normal, and he’ll never be normal again. I understand that this is difficult for him, but Stiles told me that Scott attacked him during the Full Moon, so he has to get that under control.”
John rolled his eyes. “Yeah, we’ll work on that. I just hope the Argents haven’t found out about that yet. That could possibly be bad news for us if they have.”
Scott pouted the whole ride across town, so it was at least a silent trip.
The tension could have been cut with a butter knife, however.
John drove his Sheriff’s Department SUV around the industrial park until he found the 800 block, and then he slowed to read the address marks until he found 810. There were a lot of vehicles parked around 812A and 812B, and even more around 813A. The area around 813B was suspiciously clear of vehicles—except for a large armoured van with darkly tinted windows. John parked his SUV across the lot from the van, not wanting to be anywhere near it, and he exited the vehicle. Scott and Derek followed, and the three made their way to the warehouse door.
As soon as they reached the building, the loading door opened and a tall, thin man dressed in a black suit (with a silver tie and kerchief no less) stepped out to meet them. He nodded to Derek and Scott, but spoke directly to John.
“I am Duquesne,” he said in lightly-accented English. “I spoke to you briefly, Sheriff. Do you understand how you are to comport yourself?”
John nodded. “Yes, I understand.”
Scott opened his mouth to say…anything, but Derek covered his mouth quickly.
Duquesne smirked at Derek before returning his attention to John. “The Maitresse is waiting in the jury room. She will address the issues that have been raised. The accused have been sequestered for your…comfort.” Duquesne turned his back, leading them to the open loading door. “I must tell you, however, that unforeseen matters have arisen during our investigation. The safety of your territory is at stake, so you shall be witness to a True Tribunal. Hold your tongue during Judgment, as this is out of your hands, Sheriff.”
With no further words, Duquesne led the three outsiders through the loading door and into a large cargo elevator. They rode up to the third floor in silence; John and Derek were contemplative and Scott was glowering. When the cargo door opened again, they were faced with what could only be described as a medieval chamber.
There were torches on the walls—actual torches—that provided the ambient light. John looked up to see several chandeliers lit with flaming candles to provide more light. The floor was carpeted in red or dark purple—it was hard to tell in the provided light. The edge of the carpet was decorated with silver arrows, which made John struggle to stifle laughter. The tension of the event was finally getting to him.
They followed the carpet to a furnished ‘chamber’ that was lined with heavy wooden tables and chairs. There was a small platform where sat another table with a regal, throne-like chair behind it. John was shown to a table directly to the right of the platform and Derek and Scott were seated at a smaller table behind him.
John settled his file folder on the table in front of him and folded his hands together on top of it. He tried to look unconcerned, but he was certain he failed.
Duquesne took his position, standing beside the ‘throne’ on the platform, hands clasped loosely in front of him. John looked briefly at his watch; it was now eight-thirty-one and several seconds.
A bell pealed sharply in the quiet space, and a door opened behind John, spilling diffused light into the candle-lit chamber. John turned to watch as people began filing into the room. He noted Derek kept his eyes forward but Scott had turned his head to watch. Derek nudged him to get him to turn back around, so he finally did. But his eyes were wide with fear.
John then recognized the tall, light-haired man walking up the aisle as Christopher Argent, the father of Scott’s girlfriend, and he remembered why Scott was grounded. Once Argent saw Scott seated with Derek Hale, he would know why the boy was there. Since John didn’t see any other young people walking into the Chamber, he figured Allison did not know about werewolves or this Tribunal.
Or if she did, she was at home worrying, just like Stiles.
The parade of stiff-backed persons ended when everyone was seated in stiff-backed chairs. While John had been watching the Hunters file into the room—and boy, were there a lot of them—a woman had entered from a door to the rear of the platform. She was quiet and regal.
And she was quite stunning.
John could not have placed her age if he were asked. She was older than him, he was certain, but she appeared ageless—much like Regina Kincaide upon first meeting. This could only be the Argent Matriarch, Cybelle d’Argent.
She was a tall woman, around five-foot-ten, and she was slender but not skinny. She had what Stiles would call fierce cheekbones, and wide, dark eyes. Her mouth formed a cupid’s bow, but John could see smile lines on either side of it, so she was not always so stern. Her hair, which she wore loose and wavy, was dark, with one silver lock that ran from the edge of her brow to below her shoulder. She was dressed all in white, from her white leather boots to her white leather tailored jacket.
She definitely stood out among this sea of black clothing.
Even John and Scott were wearing dark clothes in honor of the somber event.
Cybelle d’Argent raised her hand and slammed a gavel (an actual gavel!) onto a wooden block on her table, and silence filled the room. The Maitresse looked around the chamber with cold, serious eyes, and everyone in front of her met her gaze bravely. Once she had satisfied whatever curiosity she had, she lifted her chin regally and took her seat. Only after she was seated did everyone else take their seats.
Never once did it occur to John that he should stand in her presence, at least in deference to her position, but no-one corrected him. He was not one of them.
“We are here,” said the Maitresse in un-accented English, “to deal with a disgraceful breach of the Hunter Code.” As she spoke, her eyes found Christopher Argent, but John noticed that Argent looked confused by the statement. “I was contacted,” she continued, “in confidence, with a plea to perform my own investigation. I take allegations such as this very seriously, so I now call upon Christopher Argent to face this Tribunal.”
Christopher stood from his seat and walked to the center of the Chamber.
Once he was standing center-stage, several other Hunters rose to stand around the Maitresse in a semi-circle. All were women, and John remembered Regina telling him that Hunter Clans were matriarchal. Behind the matriarchs, another semi-circle of men formed, and John surmised that they were either Seconds or were high-ranking foot-soldiers. At any rate, Christopher seemed startled to see two of those people standing at attention in front of him.
The Maitresse spoke again, loudly to the gallery, but clearly to the Hunter pair to her right.
“Abigail Swann and Michael Warwick Swann, you have been called forth to testify in regards to your daughter, Victoria Argent nee-Swann. Explain the marriage contract.”
A fierce-looking red-head, tall and arrogant, stepped forward to stand beside the Maitresse, her spouse just behind her. She nodded to Christopher in order to acknowledge his presence in front of her. Christopher returned the nod. The tall man behind Abigail Swann made no moves whatsoever.
“My daughter,” said Swann, “was raised to follow the Hunter’s Code that we all aspire to follow, hunting only the feral and dangerous wolves that would kill humans without reserve. Her brother and sisters all aspired to this ideal, and we were a proud family. When Victoria was only fifteen, she witnessed a werewolf attack, and she saw her father take down the beast with extreme prejudice. I did not know that this instance would turn Victoria’s heart away from the Code, but it did, and Victoria was found not much later standing over the body of a young werewolf that she had shot full of Wolf’s Bane. He was only thirteen years of age, and in a stable Pack, and he was no danger to any human.
“I thought that reconditioning would be best for Victoria, and I reached out to Arnelle Argent for assistance. Victoria was sent to her as an apprentice, and Arnelle told me that Victoria was doing well, that she was renewing her belief in the Code. When Arnelle was tragically killed, Victoria found comfort with Gerard Argent and his family as they all mourned her together. I reached out to Gerard and sought to arrange a marriage between Victoria and Gerard’s son, Christopher because I believed that the Argent family that I knew would keep her on the good and righteous path.”
After she finished her statement, Abigail Swann stepped back to her original position behind the Maitresse. Once she was settled with her husband behind her, the Maitresse spoke again.
“The matter that brings the Tribunal to peaceful Beacon Hills, California is the outright slaughter of a well-known and well-appreciated Pack, the Hales, which was done six years ago. An Emissary, not of the Hale Pack, brought to my attention that the perpetrator was from an old and respected Hunter Clan.”
The Maitresse stood from her chair and braced her hands on the table in front of her. “Is there an advocate for the Hale Pack with us?”
John took that as his cue and stood behind his table. “I am here to speak for the Hale Pack,” he said.
“Who are you?” the Maitresse asked.
“My name is John Stilinski. I am currently the Sheriff of Beacon County.”
“I see. And how do you know of the Hale Pack?”
John took a moment to gather his thoughts. He could not afford to ramble on in this inquest. “Several years ago, when I was a deputy officer in the police department, I was investigating what was reported as a domestic disturbance or animal attack. In the course of my investigation, I encountered a red-eyed giant of a man who was fleeing the scene. Later, Talia Hale came to me and explained the world of Werewolves and Hunters. We became good friends after that, and Talia and I would meet every other week or so to discuss any supernatural happenings in this area.”
The Maitresse nodded in acknowledgment of the arrangement. “Would you say the Hale Pack was full of raging, murderous beasts?”
John gave a rueful laugh. “Not at all, Maitresse. The Hales were well respected citizens of Beacon Hills. Talia was a respected advocate of children’s rights in her duties as a lawyer, and her husband’s bakery was always full of happy customers. I never had any formal complaints against any of them.”
The Maitresse gestured for John to retake his seat and asked, “Is the Hale Alpha prepared to answer to this inquest?”
Derek stood from his seat and answered, “Yes, I am so prepared.”
The Maitresse smiled slightly. “You are so young to be Alpha. My heart weeps for the choices taken from you.”
Derek offered a nod of thanks.
“How old were you at the time of the massacre?” she asked gently.
“I was sixteen years old,” said Derek clearly.
“And how many people were in the house when the conflagration took hold?”
Derek cleared his throat before answering. “There were, um, twenty-four people in the house.”
There were murmurs of dissent in the gallery, but another sharp bang of the gavel put a stop to that. The Maitresse spoke again, clearly so as to be heard. “The official body count was eleven. Tell me why this is wrong.”
Derek looked uncomfortable as he stood in front of all the Hunters, but he answered just as clearly. “There were eight children under the age of ten years, and several members of my Pack were human. The fire was very hot and it took most of the house to ash. I believe that the adult werewolves remained whole after the burning, and that those were the bodies found by emergency workers. The children and humans would have been burned to ash with the house.”
The Maitresse gestured for Derek to take his seat, saying, “I again grieve for your loss, Alpha Hale. Now,” she sat in her chair and folded her hands together on top of the table, “we shall begin the Tribunal. Please darken the witness and advocate tables.”
The torches around the tables in John’s section of the Chamber immediately went out, leaving John sitting in a pool of darkness.
Two sharp bangs of the gavel brought an elderly gentleman into the chamber, escorted by two rather large and imposing young men. Christopher Argent barely acknowledged the man who was brought to stand next to him. John found it odd that Christopher never once turned to look at him or Derek when they were speaking, but that might have been part of the official protocol of the Tribunal. So, it was possible that Christopher did not see Scott sitting there.
John somehow doubted that.
“Gerard Argent,” said the Maitresse, “Do you recognize the authority of this Tribunal?”
The old man answered, “I so recognize.”
“You have been reported as being rather industrious in your pursuit of feral Omegas. What say you?”
Gerard Argent stiffened his posture. “They’re all beasts, so they deserve all the attention I can give them. I make no excuses. I’ll kill every single one that I find, because it’s what Hunters are supposed to do.”
“I see,” said the Maitresse. “And how do you find these feral Omegas?”
“I have my sources. I travel extensively, so I am able to keep an eye out for word of dangerous animal attacks.”
“And what of the peaceful werewolves?”
Gerard scoffed. “There is no such thing. They are all less than human. They don’t deserve to breathe the same air as we do.”
The Maitresse waved a hand in the air and the large, well-muscled men took Gerard back from where they came. The Maitresse banged the gavel another two times, and two different large men brought out a woman—a very pretty blonde that John suspected was Kate Argent.
“Christopher Argent,” said the Maitresse, “you may retake your place.”
Christopher moved back to his seat in the gallery and the new Argent took his place at center stage. She stood there arrogantly, flipping her hair over her shoulder without a care in the world. Her arms were crossed defiantly, but she lowered them with one quirk of the Maitresse’s eyebrow.
“Katherine Marie Argent,” said the Maitresse, “you know where we are this night?”
Kate smirked. “Of course I know. Up until yesterday, I was visiting my dear brother and my favorite niece.” Kate twisted to look behind her and said, “Have you finally decided to allow Allison out of the Dark Ages, Chris?”
The Maitresse slammed the gavel sharply against the wooded base and shouted “Katherine Argent! You will face the Tribunal!”
Kate turned forward again and cocked a hip in a jaunty fashion. “Yes, Madame! I am here to serve!” The sarcasm rolled off her tongue, but the Maitresse chose to ignore it.
“Tell the Tribunal about the Hale Pack.”
Kate shrugged. “What do you want to know? They were rabid wild dogs, and they were put down. Nothing more to it, really.”
John looked around the gallery and saw the furious expressions on the Hunters’ faces. Either Kate was an idiot, or she was not aware that the Tribunal had researched the Hale fire.
“And how,” continued the Maitresse as if no disrespect was given, “did you come to the conclusion that the entire Pack was to be ‘put down’?”
Again Kate shrugged, but this time she looked unsure of herself just a bit. “I figured that if the youngest was a murderer, then the Alpha should be held accountable.”
“And was the youngest a murderer?”
Kate nodded and smirked. “A young girl was killed by a werewolf. She was known to be in the company of the youngest Hale. That’s all I needed to know.”
The Maitresse frowned slightly. “You had proof that the youngest Hale killed the girl? That Paige Krassekova was killed by five year old Brian Hale? Who was, by my research, a human child of Alpha Hale?”
Kate flinched only slightly, but John could hear the sound of hard claws digging into wood behind him as Derek reacted to the proclamation.
The Maitresse was not finished. “How did you manage to ‘put down’ the Hale Pack, Katherine?”
“I, um, set them ablaze. It was a fair kill.”
The Maitresse nodded. “I see. You, a single Hunter, overpowered seventeen Wolf and Human Pack members and subdued eight children, and kept them contained long enough to set a fire?”
“I had a little help,” said Kate weakly. “And I used Mountain Ash, of course.”
“Yes,” said the Maitresse, “you had a ‘little help’ from some hired thugs that were banished from other Hunter Clans for their dishonor, and you used Mountain Ash and magic to create a barrier that held the Hale Pack captive. Very honourable for an Argent that was raised to uphold the Code.”
Kate lifted her chin defiantly and said, “The Argents have always had a different Code to follow.”
“Yes,” said the Maitresse coldly. “’Nous chassons ceux qui nous chassent.’ Who do you think I am, girl, to not understand that above all else? ‘We hunt those who hunt us’. It is very clear.” The Maitresse stood behind her table and glowered at Kate, who seemed to shrink in her place in the center of the Gallery. “What is not clear is just who the Hale Pack was hunting that you felt the need to destroy the entire family—INCLUDING THE HUMANS!!”
Christopher stood in his place and muttered, “Kate? What did you do?” But when the Maitresse turned her furious attention to him, he sat and was quiet. But Kate turned her attention to him anyway.
“I did what you are too cowardly to do, Chris! I did what you should have done! I did what Daddy has done, and what your precious wife has done, and what we should all do! They are animals! They are all animals! And they do not deserve to live!”
A single shot rang out from behind the platform, and Kate’s head snapped back. A rose-like bloom of blood formed in the center of her forehead and she dropped where she stood.
Nobody in the Gallery moved. Nobody in the Gallery spoke.
John could see Christopher register shock, but then he schooled his features completely.
“Thank you, Marcel,” said the Maitresse as she sat again. “Now that that has been taken care of, I will reveal the findings of the Tribunal.” She gestured with one hand and the Swanns once again stepped forward.
“While Victoria,” said Abigail Swann, “had been apprenticing with Arnelle and Gerard Argent, there was an attack by a band of rogue Omegas—very rare for the Pacific Northwest—and Arnelle was mauled badly. She later died of her injuries. Victoria was not with them during this attack, and Christopher and Katherine were studying in Japan, but they all received the news at the same time. Christopher went to his father’s side to bury his mother and train a small band of Hunters, but Victoria came home for a short while, and her anger festered.
“The loss of Arnelle was a difficult thing to accept for Victoria, but she hid her feelings well. Christopher tried to hold the family together, but he would not succeed. He was much like his mother, and he held her ideals in high regard. But Gerard was twisted badly by the death of his wife, and he turned his daughter into a raging killer. He also worked on turning Victoria into what he considered a ‘strong Hunter leader’. In time, she and Christopher were married, and he settled into his career as a legal weapons dealer. While he went on a few hunts, he went only when necessary and was happy to stay close to home. We had thought the same of Victoria.”
“But this was not the case?” asked the Maitresse.
“It was not,” said Swann. “During her time at home, she went to college and studied Fashion and Merchandising. It was an odd choice for her, because she always enjoyed wearing fatigues or hunting gear when out of school, but we were happy to see her moving on.” Swann paused for a moment, lost in thought. “We later learned that Victoria would use her position as a fashion buyer to attend unsanctioned hunts with Gerard, and that she did not discriminate in her killing. We had hoped that having her own child would temper her, but Victoria was sometimes a cruel mother. She maintained the Hunter rule of keeping a child out of the life until they were old enough to use good judgment, but she would withhold love and affection at times, and I was not permitted to see my grand-daughter at all.” Swann sighed sadly. “We learned that Victoria had decided to move the family to Beacon Hills on the recommendation of Kate Argent; that Kate had determined there was unfinished business here. We were ready to intervene when we were contacted by the Tribunal.”
The Maitresse again gestured and the Swanns stepped back into place. “Dispose of this mess, please,” she said, and Duquesne and another man stepped from behind the throne and carried Kate’s body out of the Chamber and into the service elevator. Once the service doors closed, Duquesne returned to his place and the other side door opened, revealing Gerard Argent once again. He seemed totally unaware of the happenings in this Chamber, and John had to wonder what kind of security this place had. Certainly it was sound-proofed, at the very least. He made a mental note to send periodic patrols here to make sure the warehouses weren’t used for illegal purposes; he would ask Regina to contact Cybelle d’Argent about it at a later date.
“Gerard Argent,” said the Maitresse, “tell the Tribunal of the ‘unfinished business’ your daughter left in Beacon Hills.”
The old man looked confused for a moment. “Is that what this is all about?” he asked. “This seems a bit excessive for a few remaining Wolves. Kate had heard that two of the Alpha’s pups were not in the fire, and she wanted to return to make sure the injured one in the hospital never got out.” Gerard shoved his hands carelessly into his pockets as if he had not a care in the world. “I wouldn’t have called a Tribunal over it. After all, we would have made sure there were no more Wolves left here to risk the human population.”
“Oh,” said the Maitresse with equal lack of concern, “but there are other Wolves here. While it is true that two of the Alpha’s children survived, one was lured here and killed by an Omega. A very dangerous Omega that killed her and stole the Alpha Spark.”
John was impressed. He had no idea how the Argent Matriarch got her information, but it took him a long time to figure all of this out.
“And that very dangerous Omega also killed several of your daughter’s lackeys,” she continued. “And in its quest for a Pack, the Omega bit an innocent young boy, turning him against his will.”
“Oh?” asked Gerard. “Well, I’m sure we can take care of that. Shame about the boy, though, but he’ll have to die as well.”
John would forever remember the look of disgust on the Argent Matriarch’s face. She looked as if she wanted very much to vaporize Gerard where he stood, and John understood that feeling a lot.
“Gerard Argent, this Tribunal has found you guilty of abandoning the Hunter Code, of violating all that we hold holy and right, and killing where mercy was needed! What say you?”
Gerard was stunned, that much was clear. “I don’t understand! We hunt Werewolves! That’s all we do! He have to protect humanity!”
The Maitresse stood and banged her gavel once, then once again, and silence fell in the gallery.
“Nous chassons ceux qui nous chassent,” she said, and another single shot rang out.
Gerard Argent fell backwards with his hands still in his pockets.
Without a word, two strong men, dressed all in black (which is why John couldn’t see them behind the throne) came and removed Gerard’s body just like they removed Kate’s.
Once the room was cleared, the Maitresse dismissed her main Tribunal from their positions behind her throne. When they were seated, she spoke directly to Abigail Swann.
“You know our findings on your daughter. How would you like us to proceed?”
Swann stood from her chair. “If it please you, my husband and I would like to personally deal with her ourselves. If you could arrange transport, it would be appreciated.”
The Maitresse nodded. “Of course. Christopher Argent, would you like a chance to say good-bye to Victoria before Judgment is passed?”
A clearly shaken Christopher stood and said, “I thank you for the offer, but I think it would be best if I returned to my daughter to explain as best I can what has happened here tonight.”
“Very well,” said the Maitresse. “The Gallery may be cleared.”
As the Hunters filed out of the chamber, John pulled his files together and made ready to leave, but Duquesne blocked his way. “If you would,” he said softly, “please stay. The Matriarch would like to speak with you all.”
John nodded and settled back in his chair. Derek left his seat and moved forward to sit next to John, pulling a shocked Scott with him. When the last Hunter exited the chamber, the Maitresse stood from her throne and walked softly to stand in front of John’s table. She took a moment to consider the three figures sitting in front of her, and then she spoke.
“I apologize for the brutality that you all had to witness here today,” she said. “We are not monsters, as I am sure you think we are. We live in a hard world. We live among the monsters by choice, in order to keep the darkness at bay. Unfortunately, sometimes the darkness creeps in anyway.”
“You just killed those people!” said Scott in outrage. “They were just sitting there, and you killed them.”
The Maitresse leaned forward on the table, towering over Scott. “Those people, that you are so concerned for, would have you skinned alive if they saw you on the street and they knew what you were. Do not question our motives or actions. We fight the monsters, but sometimes we must act monstrous.” She leaned back again and stood tall and imposing. “Do you think that you can hide what you are forever? Do you think you will be safe, just because we removed the direct threat?”
Scott pouted. “I just want to be a normal kid, that’s all. I want to do well in school and have a girlfriend and play some sports—I just want to be a kid.”
“And I understand that,” she said. “But do you not think Derek Hale wanted to be normal also, when a hunter seduced him and used stolen information to kill his entire family? The Argent Clan—My Clan—is old and mostly honourable, but there are bad eggs. There always have been; that is why we have Tribunal. We have to police ourselves because often we work outside the law. Kate Argent could have, long ago, been tried and sentenced for statutory rape—possibly arson, if the facts were known. But we would have had to keep the truth of werewolves out of the reports, and without that information there would have been a small case for murder. She would have been released, and she would have returned—and she would have hunted and killed.
“You, Scott McCall, would have been a victim, and you would not have been able to defend yourself. What we did in this room tonight—it had to happen. If not here, it would have had to happen elsewhere. Before I received the call last month, already I was investigating Gerard and Katherine Argent. The Swanns already were making moves against Victoria. But we would not have moved quickly enough to stop what happened to you, and had you killed when you lost control, we would have had to move against you.”
The Maitresse turned to John and offered a hand in friendship. “I thank you, Monsieur Sheriff, for being so diligent in your investigations. And I appreciate what you did for Alpha Hale. I am sorry we had to bring such violence into your town and county.”
“You know, don’t you?” asked John. “You know how Kate tricked Derek, and you know that Peter was the one to kill Laura.”
She nodded. “And I know that you prevented Derek from having to kill his only surviving family. Duquesne. He is my, what is the word? Ah! He is my Spark!” When John’s eyes got big she smiled. “You know what I mean when I say that, yes?”
“Yes,” said John, “I do. Can, um, all Sparks do research like that?”
A mischievous glint lit her eyes. “A Spark can do many things, Monsieur Sheriff. But I will keep silent on this matter, non ? There are those who should not know of this, I think.”
John stood and took her hand, kissing the back of it in an uncomfortable gesture. “Thank you, Maitresse. For everything.”
“Yes,” said Derek, “thank you.”
The Maitresse gave him a very direct look. “If you want to thank me, Alpha Hale,” she said, “then see to it that young Monsieur McCall is trained and in control.”
Derek gave Scott the side-eye. “I’m trying. He’s not Pack to me, so I can’t force him, but I have offered.”
“Keep trying,” she said. “I think Christopher Argent will be remaining in this area. You will be watched.”
The ride back through town was tense and quiet.
John was contemplating what all he had witnessed. Derek was pondering his future as an Alpha in his mother’s old territory.
Scott was brooding again, probably over Allison and being a teenager.
John walked him to the door so that he could speak with Melissa. Scott stormed past them at the entrance and ran up to his room. Melissa watched him with sad eyes. “Do I want to know how it went?”
John sighed. “Well, I brought him back alive, so I guess you could say it went well.”
Melissa gave him a sharp look and he shrugged. “Look, Melissa,” John said, “these people, the Hunters, they have this whole different system of justice, okay? They asked me direct questions, and they listened to my answers. They questioned Derek and heard him out. But they had already done their own very deep and intense research, and they knew the answers already. Before we left, the woman in charge told Scott to get trained. She knew he wasn’t.”
“Are they going to hurt my son, John?” Melissa asked, fearfully.
“I don’t think so right now,” said John honestly. “But if he hurts someone…yeah, they could hurt him right back. Derek admitted that Scott wasn’t part of his Pack, but that he had offered to train him. It’s all on Scott right now.”
John patted her on the shoulder and turned from the house, walking back to the SUV, where he was surprised to see Derek still waiting.
“I would have thought you might have run to the house by now,” said John as he turned on the ignition.
Derek snorted. “If I turned up without you, Stiles would have a fit.”
John chuckled in return. “Yeah. Yes, he would.”
Author Notes: About ages of our cast of characters: Stiles Stilinski is 16 years old at the start of this story. His father has explained that he was held back a year in school due to ADHD issues. I have his birthday as being in April, so he’ll eventually turn 17 before he starts his Junior year of high school. This explains how he is driving as a Sophomore. Jackson Whittemore’s birthday is in late Autumn in my mind, also explaining how he is driving (legal age is 16 to drive in California). Derek Hale was 16 at the time of the Hale fire, but 15 when he met Kate Argent. The fire was in January, six years prior to the start of this story, so I place Derek’s birthday at December 25—I actually think that’s canon—and he is 22 at the start of this story. Yes, there will eventually be dating happening between Stiles and Derek, and it will be with the Sheriff’s blessing, but there will be no sex happening. Scott McCall’s birthday is in September, and he is 15 at the start of this story.
Our story so far, in a timeline:
**December 2010—Derek Hale returns to Beacon Hills, California, in order to find his sister, Laura, who has gone missing. He makes contact with Sheriff John Stilinski.
**December 26—Stiles Stilinski and Scott McCall enter the Beacon Hills Wildlife Preserve to hunt for a body that hikers reported earlier that day. Scott gets separated from Stiles when the police find them, and he is bitten by a rogue Alpha Werewolf.
**December 30–An Emissary from an Oregon Pack comes to explain Werewolves and Sparks and Hunters to the Stilinskis and McCalls. She tells John and Stiles that Stiles has potential for great Magical Power.
**January 3—First appearance of the Hunters, as Scott is shot while running in the Preserve with Derek.
**January 10—Scott makes first-string on the Lacrosse team, but mauls Jackson Whittemore in the process.
**January 19—Scott attacks Stiles in the locker room after the first scrimmage, on the night of his first full moon.
**January 24—John speaks with Regina as she is packing to leave for Oregon; he tells her his theory about Peter Hale being the rogue Alpha and asks if Derek would receive the Alpha Spark if someone other than Derek killed Peter.
**January 30—John sits down with Scott and Melissa McCall and explains about Hunters and the Argent family.
**January 30, that night—Derek is shot by a Hunter while tracking the Alpha. Scott later reveals that Allison has invited him to a family dinner, where he will meet her favorite Aunt. Stiles also reveals that a classmate, Isaac Lahey, may be a victim of child abuse, setting John to investigate.
**February 1—John begins his formal investigation into the Lahey matter. He and D.A. David Whittemore overhear Jackson loudly berating Stiles in the locker room after Lacrosse practice.
**February 3—John’s deputies find the missing nurse’s car in the Preserve, with her body in the trunk. John tells Derek about Peter possibly being the Alpha, and they rush to the hospital because Stiles is visiting Peter. John shoots and kills Peter and Derek becomes Alpha.
**February 8—The Hunter Tribunal comes to Beacon Hills, and Gerard and Kate Argent are executed for their defiling of the Hunter Code. Victoria Argent, Allison’s mother, is taken away by her parents to be dealt with privately for the same offense.
On Wednesday morning, Derek offered to drive Stiles to school—with a promise to pick him up afterward—because he has houses to visit with a realtor. Stiles took him up on the offer, mostly because he was overly tired. Stiles had not slept much the night before.
He started the evening worrying about how his father and Derek—and Scott—would handle the Tribunal. Then he remembered (belatedly, how silly of him) that he was a Spark, and that there was not much he could not do if he put his mind to it, so he concentrated, and CONCENTRATED, on seeing through his father’s eyes—and hearing through his father’s ears—and, suddenly, Stiles had an up-close and personal view of the entire proceedings. He halted his ‘remote viewing’ just after the Swann matriarch told the Tribunal that she would be taking her daughter home for punishment, so he was unaware of anything after that. Not knowing if his father could ‘feel’ his intrusion, Stiles confessed to everything when John and Derek returned home.
The Sheriff seemed to be not surprised; not because he could ‘feel’ Stiles in his head, but because he knew that if Stiles could have found a way to be there, he would have. What followed was a lengthy discussion of the Tribunal, possible repercussions, and what Cybelle d’Argent said to them after the other Hunters left the Chamber. Coffee was drunk, Derek freaked out some more, and John told Stiles that ‘officially’ nothing unlawful happened, because no reports would be filed—and he was satisfied that Derek got the justice that he deserved for the slaughter of his family. He also alluded to the fact that Derek might want to consider therapy to help him deal with the fact that he was the only Hale left alive from a rather large family.
So, yeah, Stiles was a little tired. Not enough not to drive, but enough to be compliant about Derek driving for him.
They rode along in comfortable silence. Derek was struggling to deal with Alpha-hood, but he had a stable Pack—just John and Stiles for now—so the power was settling softly. Not like with Peter, who was already insane and was driven even more so by the sudden surge of Power. John and Stiles were happy to be Pack. John was beginning to feel quite ‘fatherly’ toward the young man who had lost his entire family, and Stiles?
Well, he was now willing to admit that his placement on the Kinsey Scale wasn’t as set in stone as he first thought.
Derek pulled right up to the drop-off, and he and Stiles both ignored the incredulous looks they were receiving from the students gathered there. Well, Stiles mostly ignored the looks. He was mostly enjoying the gaping face of Danny Mahaleani, the only openly gay student that Stiles knew. Danny was good-looking, friendly, sexy—and Jackson Whittemore’s best friend. Stiles knew from locker-room talk that Danny could get just about any guy that he wanted (being open and friendly did that for a guy), and he was almost drooling over the sight of Derek—or Derek’s Camero; it was hard to tell which.
“So,” said Derek, regaining Stiles’ attention, “I’ll see you around three-thirty?”
“Yeah,” Stiles nodded as he gathered his backpack. “I’ll meet you here—or in the parking lot, whichever. So, you’ve decided on a house over an apartment?”
“Yeah. What you said about a large kitchen made sense. With your dad’s help, I narrowed it down to a few choices, so I have to go see the properties now.”
Stiles climbed out of the car, studiously ignoring the fact that Danny—and Jackson and his little gang—was coming closer. He leaned into the open window and said, “Make sure you get a nice yard. Out-door picnics are fun, too.” And then he turned and made direct eye-contact with Jackson and smirked.
Then he turned his attention to Danny and said “Hey!” before stepping around the small group and walking into the building. He skirted around milling groups of students gathered at lockers before first period, and he immediately noticed three things:
- Allison Argent was not in school; Lydia and her popular-girl cohorts were looking around for her, but she was nowhere to be found.
- Scott McCall is not brooding near his locker because Allison is not in school, because he is also absent.
- Red and pink hearts and streamers were everywhere, advertising the upcoming Winter Ball/Valentine’s Dance.
Boyd met Stiles at his locker and asked, “Are you going to invite your boyfriend to the dance?”
Stiles scowled. “No. Why would a twenty-one-year-old want to go to a High School dance? But,” he continued when Boyd opened his mouth to say something, “I am going to invite you—to my place this Saturday. Bring a list of food restrictions and some Tupperware, and be prepared to cook!”
Boyd offers a small grin and says, “I’ll have to check with my folks, but I think I’ll take you up on that. I’m pretty sure this weekend is good for me.”
Classes pass as usual. Nobody asks Stiles why Scott is absent, because pretty much everybody has noticed the rift between the formerly close boys. At lunch, Boyd is waiting for Stiles at their usual table in the library. They eat bananas and orange slices while they check each other’s homework, until they are interrupted by a freshman girl asking for help with Algebra.
“Um,” says Stiles hesitantly, “I’ll help, but I gotta ask; why not go to your teacher for help?”
The girl shrugged. “Mr. Benson told me that you were really good with math, and the librarian told him that you’ve been spending your lunch period in here instead of the cafeteria, so Mr. Benson suggested that I ask you for help.”
Stiles nods and then turns to Boyd, who shrugs indifferently. “Okay,” Stiles says after a moment, “let’s see what you’ve got there.”
When the post-period bell rings, and the girl leaves, Stiles spends a small amount of time gathering together his books, totally missing the smug look on the Librarian’s face.
After school, Stiles and Boyd walk to the parking lot together, again ignoring the puzzled look Lydia is giving them from the doorway.
Derek has parked his Camero right near the door, and he is leaning against the passenger door when the teens reach him.
“Hey, Boyd,” he says with a smile, holding out a hand for a greeting shake. “Do you need a ride home? I have plenty of room.”
“If you don’t mind,” Boyd replies, “I’ll take you up on that. The bus is crazy in the afternoon.”
Stiles gamely climbed into the back seat against Boyd’s protest, commenting that Boyd needed to give directions and Stiles would just take his place after they dropped him off.
“Besides,” said Stiles carelessly, “It’s not like Derek and I aren’t going to walk you to the door. We have to meet your folks so they can check us out before we steal you away on Saturday.”
Boyd, as it turned out, lived on the far side of town—away from the Preserve—and he took the public bus to and from school every day.
“My dad is a CPA,” said Boyd, “and he works from home, but my mother needs the car for her job in Hillery. She’s gone from five o’clock in the morning until after four o’clock in the afternoon, so it’s just easier for me to grab the bus.”
Derek pulls to a stop in front of a cluttered two-storey house in a quiet, orderly neighborhood. The house was aged but in good repair, but the driveway was cracked and there were toys all over the small front yard.
As they piled out of the car, a large, burley man that could only be Boyd’s father pushed open the front door and stepped out onto the porch. Behind him, two small children—one dark with emerald eyes, the other pale with blonde hair and freckles—popped into view. They shyly huddled behind the storm door as the large man stepped forward.
“Vern,” boomed the man, all even bass and authority, “who are your friends?”
Boyd shouldered his backpack and gestured toward his companions. “This is Stiles—I told you about him—and his friend Derek.”
Stiles stepped forward to shake the man’s hand. “Stiles Stilinski, sir. I’m the Sheriff’s son. This is Derek Hale—old friend of the family.” And Derek stepped forward to offer his hand as well. “Derek has recently moved back to Beacon Hills after a long absence. I thought he and I should meet Boy—uh, Vern’s folks.”
The large man stepped back and regarded them carefully. “Oh, yeah? And why is that?”
“Well,” said Stiles as he shoved his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels, “because this Saturday is a Cooking Day, and I’m inviting Boy–Vern to come and cook with us.”
Dark eyes narrowed. “What exactly is Cooking Day?” asked Mr. Boyd.
Stiles grinned. “Well, I’ve been doing Cooking Day since I was twelve. I start early in the morning, making lists and gathering recipes—my dad took me shopping before I got my license– and then I spend most of the day in the kitchen making meals for freeze and re-heat. I usually make enough for a few days—up to a week, sometimes.
“I invited Derek to join me after he moved to town, and he brings his own food containers for his portions. All Vern has to do is bring some storage containers and be willing to learn some new recipes. Of course, depending on how many are in your family, you might only get one or two dinners out of it. Since Vern’s my partner in Home Ec, I figured he’d be up to the challenge.”
Derek broke in with “It’s just a day spent hanging out in the kitchen. I couldn’t do much more than make toast before I joined in. Or, you know, dial for pizza.” Derek’s self-depreciating grin brought a smile to Mr. Boyd’s face in return.
“There’s five in our family,” he said. “Is that going to be a problem? And is your father really okay with all of this? This isn’t just some excuse for a party, is it?”
Stiles snorted. “Nah, my dad is totally cool with this. He’s got this weekend off, anyway, so he’ll be there while we cook—not that I’ll let him in the kitchen. He can boil water, but that’s about all. When Dad is at work, Derek acts as ‘adult supervision’. Not that I’m not totally responsible.”
Mr. Boyd refrained from asking Derek’s age, but Stiles could tell that he wanted to. Instead, he agreed that Boyd could join them for a day of cooking, and Derek promised to pick him up Saturday morning around seven-thirty, as Stiles would still be making the shopping list.
When Derek and Stiles pulled into the driveway of the Stilinski house, they saw Melissa McCall pacing on the porch, waiting for them, and she was clearly distraught.
Stiles pulled his backpack from the back seat of the Camero and cautiously approached the woman. “Hey, Mama McCall. Have you been here long?”
“Just a few minutes,” she replied. “I wanted to be here when you got home from school.”
“Sorry you had to wait,” said Stiles. “We gave a friend a ride home after school.” Stiles ushered Derek and Melissa to the front door, which he unlocked and opened. “Derek, why don’t you make some coffee, and I’ll take my homework upstairs.”
With a small nod, Derek headed into the kitchen with Melissa on his heels.
When Stiles returned downstairs, Derek was leaning against the counter by the coffeemaker and Melissa was sitting at the kitchen table with her hands clasped tightly in front of her. Stiles shot Derek a look but received only a shrug in response.
Stiles took a seat next to Melissa while Derek gathered coffee cups and the sugar bowl.
“Okay, Melissa,” said Stiles, “you look really upset.”
“I am upset,” she said as she shot a side-eyed glare toward Derek. “Scott was really troubled about what happened last night, and from what he told me—I really don’t blame him.”
“Okay,” said Stiles, “that’s fair. Dad and I had a long talk about it when he got home. What did Scott tell you?”
“He said a bunch of people sat around saying nothing while somebody shot Allison’s grandfather and aunt to death for no reason.”
Derek cursed and loudly dropped the sugar bowl.
Stiles had just finished sweeping the spilled sugar and picking up the tin sugar bowl (“Chill, Derek. There’s a reason we don’t have a ceramic sugar bowl. I was not a graceful child.”) when John came in from work and took in the whole dismal scene.
“Okay, what have I missed?”
Derek passed him a fresh cup of coffee and said, “Scott basically told Melissa that we witnessed cold-blooded murder last night—for no reason.”
“Excuse me?” John looked at the troubled woman. “He said what?”
Melissa huffed in annoyance. “He said that you all just sat in the dark while two people were killed for no reason, and you didn’t even say anything to stop it.”
Stiles growled a little under his breath as he refilled the sugar bowl. “I just don’t understand what’s going on with him!”
“Okay,” said Melissa, “obviously something is wrong about that. Would you care to enlighten me?”
“Sure,” said John. “Let’s have a chat. But let’s have a real chat, with all the facts.” He looked at Stiles and Derek. “Do you think we need to add Scott to this discussion, or should we allow him to dig himself in deeper?”
Derek sat across from John and Melissa and said, “I don’t think I can deal with Scott right now. He seems determined to piss me off.”
“Right,” said John, and he turned to Melissa. “So, let me give you the full rundown on what happened last night. First, we arrived and were greeted by what I assume was the Argent Clan Wizard—and that sounds incredibly racist and wrong.” John sighed and took a deep swallow of coffee. “Okay, so Duquesne—that was his name—is apparently some very magically powerful person, and he gave us the rules for the evening, which were to keep our mouths shut unless we were spoken to. This was not our fight, Melissa, and Derek and I understood that. Scott managed to keep quiet with some prodding.
“Then we were shown to a vast formal chamber, like a courtroom crossed with a royal audience hall, and we were seated away from the main gallery, and after a short while, all these people filed in. These were members of the world-wide Hunter community, and they were very dangerous people. The head of the Hunter Council addressed the group to explain the purpose of the gathering, and then she asked one of the families to come forward and explain how their daughter was involved in the actions on trial. This was the Swann family, and the daughter in question was Victoria Argent—I guess that is Allison’s mother. Christopher Argent had to stand front and center through the whole thing like he was supposed to be some sort of witness or something. He had to listen to the reasons his wife was chosen for him, and how his father and sister had turned ‘Darkside’ and started killing for no reason—and how they affected Victoria and her choices.
“Then Kate, and then Gerard, was called separately to tell about how they Hunted. And they admitted to killing innocents just because they were Werewolves—no reason needed. And Kate admitted to slaughtering the Hale family, with a little help, and that she saw no problem with it. She was taken out of the room, and Gerard was brought in and told that there was a teenage boy that was bitten, and he said that killing the boy would be no problem.”
John sighed and drank more coffee, watching as Melissa grew more and more pale and horrified. “Yes,” he said finally, “they were executed. And the Swann family said they would be taking Victoria home to deal with her there. Was it murder? Honestly, I’m not sure. It was outside of the law, but it was justice as they saw it. Afterward, the head Matriarch stopped and spoke to all of us, Scott included, and she told us that the people killed would have had no problem with skinning Scott alive if they knew what he was. She was very clear that the matter would be dropped, and that she was sorry for everything Hunters—especially the Argent Family—did to Derek and his Pack. And she told us that we would be monitored, to make sure Derek was a good Alpha and that Hunters had no reason to kill here again.
“So, no, Melissa, two people were not killed ‘for no reason’. Yes, Scott witnessed it, but I think he was there so that he could see just how serious this situation is.”
“My god!” Melissa gasped. “Scott made it sound so much worse! I mean, that’s bad, but it’s not like he said!”
“No,” said Derek. “No, it isn’t as bad as Scott said. Hunters have a code to live by. There are a few different Codes, I think—we can ask Regina, if you want—but they all come down to one thing: They only Hunt Werewolves that are a danger to humanity. They aren’t supposed to kill innocent Wolves, and they are only supposed to kill entire Packs if the Alpha has gone bad. If Peter hadn’t been dead already, the Hunters would have come and taken out every Wolf in Beacon Hills that he was associated with. And that means that Scott was in danger as soon as he was bitten, because Alphas have influence over their Betas.”
Melissa nodded. “And now you’re the Alpha, so do you have influence over Scott?”
Derek snorted. “No. He’s not my Beta, because I didn’t give him the Bite. And he’s never submitted to me. I don’t think he ever will submit to me, because he’s too pig-headed. He’s Omega right now.”
“That sounds really bad, Derek,” said Melissa. “Is he in danger?”
“He could be,” said Derek. “He could be a danger to himself and others if he doesn’t find an anchor and get some discipline in his life. He’s seen how bad it can get, but unless he comes to me and asks to become my Beta—to be part of my Pack—then I really can’t help him.” Derek looked Melissa straight in the eye. “That has to be up to you, now. He should still listen to you as if you were his Alpha.”
Melissa frowned. “He’s willing to lie to me now, so I’m not sure what influence I have over him.” She sighed sadly. “And now, I feel bad for you, too, because you don’t have a Pack either.”
Derek raised an eyebrow and lifted his cup to drink. “Oh, I have a Pack, Melissa. It’s a Pack that chose me—just John and Stiles right now—but there will be more members soon. A Werewolf family is moving here from Oregon, and they will submit to me and become Pack, and I’ll build off of them. I’ll find a new anchor—I’m working on it now—and I’ll be stronger than Peter ever was.
“And I’ll be healthy, because I’m building from a good place, and not revenge and hate.”
Melissa smiled a small, sad smile. “Then I’m glad for you. But what am I going to do about Scott?”
“Well,” said Stiles, breaking his abnormal silence, “first you have to find a way to get him through his second Full Moon. It’s coming up really fast, and I won’t be in the locker room for him to attack this time.”
“Hey, um, Dad, I think there’s a problem here.”
“Where is here, exactly, Stiles?”
“Well, I’m at school. But Isaac Lahey is not.”
John cursed. “When did you see him last, Stiles? Think hard; this is important.”
“I, uh, he was here yesterday. But we got our Econ papers back, and he looked a little green when he saw his grade.”
John stood from his desk and gathered his weapon and a folder of paperwork, his phone tucked under his chin. “Okay, you stay there and act as normal as you can. I’ve got a phone call to make.”
After disconnecting from his son, John called the District Attorney’s office and spoke to David Whittemore, explaining what he thought was going on. Fifteen minutes later, John left the Sheriff’s station with three deputies in tow.
Five minutes after that, he met up with D.A. Whittemore outside of the Lahey home, ready to execute a search warrant on suspicion of abuse. John knocked on the door and was soon faced with a very drunk Daniel Lahey, former coach of the Beacon Hills Swim Team.
“Whadda ya want?” the man slurred, and John presented the search warrant.
“I’m here to speak with your son, Isaac. Is he home?”
The disheveled man stumbled slightly and shook his head. “He’s at school.”
John stepped forward, forcing Lahey further inside. “No, Mr. Lahey, Isaac is not at school. And I have a piece of paper here that says I can come inside to look for him.”
Lahey stumbled forward to clutch at the warrant. “I wanna talk to the D.A. You just can’t come in my house.”
John stepped forward again, lightly guiding Lahey aside with a firm hand on his shoulder, and the rest of the group followed. “The District Attorney is right here, Mr. Lahey, and we will be searching this house.”
John and Whittemore kept Lahey occupied in the living room while Deputy Reid went upstairs to look for Isaac. Deputies Michaels and Cohen went through the rest of the house, and Lahey got extremely upset when Michaels reached a door in the kitchen. John nodded at him, indicating that he should open it and investigate.
Once the door was opened, Lahey rushed forward, stumbling and swinging his fists in an effort to keep the deputy from the door, and John grabbed his arm and subdued the man, pulling out handcuffs he’d rarely ever needed. He had just managed to wrestle Lahey out the front door when Deputy Michaels gave out a shout of dismay from what turned out to be the basement.
Stiles was directing Boyd in choosing fresh produce while Derek took part of the shopping list to the local butcher. Boyd had shown up with a case of brand-new family-sized containers and an envelope of cash, explaining that his parents figured they should pay for the food they would be getting. Derek was also paying for some of the food, so Stiles adjusted the list to include fresher cuts of meat.
Boyd also had a short list of dietary requirements, as his sister was allergic to strawberries and peanuts and his foster-sister needed a high-protein diet due to malnutrition issues. Thankfully, nothing had to be gluten-free, so Stiles’ list of recipes was going to be good for everyone.
“So,” said the usually laconic Boyd, “we’re getting a new foster kid sometime in the next week or so, depending on what the doctors say.”
“Oh, yeah?” asked Stiles. “That’s cool, I guess.” Boyd had explained that, since the death of his sister four years prior (she was kidnapped from a school trip and found beaten three days later, still in the presence of her kidnapper), his mother and father decided to heal the family by taking in children in need. In the past three years, three children had made their home with Regina and Vernon Boyd III. Two were over eighteen, and able to age-out of the system, though they kept in contact with the family that cared for them, and one was still living there—a six-year-old girl that was born to a drug addict.
“Well,” said Boyd, “I’m not so sure how good it is. Isaac Lahey is the new kid.”
“Oh,” said Stiles after a moment. “Well…it’s good that he’ll be going somewhere good for him. I mean, your dad seemed really cool, and your sisters were cute. And I doubt anyone would be, you know, locking him in a closet or anything.”
John had told Stiles only that Isaac was indeed beaten by his father.
Stiles was observant, though, so he saw the way Isaac shied away from small spaces in school—and avoided the bus altogether if possible because of close quarters. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Isaac was locked away somewhere small, and Stiles didn’t even have to use his Spark-o-Vision to find that out.
“Yeah, it’s just going to be weird,” said Boyd. “I mean, we’re not exactly friends, you know?”
Stiles snorted. “Boyd, before I invaded your space, you didn’t exactly have a lot of friends. But I only know Isaac from bench-warming. He’s too quiet for the likes of me, you know?”
Boyd chuckled softly and said, “So, tell me how to choose a pepper again.”
Boyd went home that day carrying four casseroles—enough for the entire family for four meals. Mr. Boyd was so happy, he said Boyd could attend Cooking Days whenever Stiles invited him.
Stiles and Boyd decided to pre-plan the next Cooking Day, so on Monday they spent their lunch hour in the library looking over archived cookbooks.
“You want to try something medieval?” Stiles asked as Boyd perused a book on popular dishes from the Middle Ages.
“No, man,” Boyd replied. “This one calls for fresh goat. I’m not eating goat, fresh or otherwise.”
Stiles laughed and flipped a page, glancing slightly at a table on the other side of the library. Lydia Martin and Allison Argent were in some deep discussion, possibly about a new sweater, while Jackson and Danny discussed Lacrosse plays. They weren’t exactly being quiet, but the library was mostly empty so the librarian didn’t say anything.
In fact, she only objected once, when Jackson tried to open a bag of chips.
Scott was nowhere to be found.
That didn’t really surprise Stiles, as Melissa had told them days before that she was going to forbid Scott from dating Allison—at least until after the Full Moon.
Which was on February 17th. Which was just before the Winter Ball.
Stiles had mentally shrugged and thought it was tough luck for Scott, but he really had brought it all on himself. If he had continued training with Derek, he might be ahead of the game right now.
It had been almost one week since the Tribunal, and Allison seemed to be taking things in stride. Sure, she was teary-eyed on her first day back to school, but she walked straight and spoke often, and by Monday morning she was laughing with Lydia again.
Stiles wondered what her father had told her, about the whole dead-grandfather-missing-mother deal.
Stiles knew for certain what Scott had told her: that he couldn’t date her anymore until his grades came up. Since most of their studying was most likely making out, Stiles had no doubt she believed him.
So there she was, making plans to attend the Winter Ball alone—or with someone Lydia decided was good enough. Stiles thought it was pretty shallow, plotting a replacement date like that, but the shine had long since worn off his infatuation with Lydia Martin.
He’d loved her brilliance once, but he had spent too long watching her play dumb for her boyfriend. Stiles figured she would still rule the world one day, but she’d have to do it as a shadow dictator since her image as a vapid fan-girl was so important to her.
Shaking his head in disgust, Stiles flipped a page and said, “Hey—here’s one for real Shepherd’s Pie. I bet we can find lamb at a decent price if we look.”
Derek cautiously but confidently stepped to the imposing oak door and knocked.
He was here as a courtesy, nothing more. The occupants of the house were nothing to him.
He had time to tell himself that several times before his knock was answered.
“Hello?” said the man who opened the door. Derek took time to take his measure.
He was tall, but not overly so, and slender but muscled. He had graying blond hair and glacial blue eyes and severe cheekbones.
Derek squared his shoulders before speaking. “Christopher Argent?” he asked. When the older man nodded, he continued. “My name is Derek Hale.”
The older man’s eyes widened and he stepped outside of the house rather than welcoming Derek to come in. Derek expected no less. “And what can I do for you, Mr. Hale? Or is it Alpha Hale?”
“It’s both,” said Derek calmly. “I’m here to tell you that I know who and what you are. I am here to inform you that I have come to regain my family’s territory and that I am building a solid Pack. And I will not tolerate behavior from you like what I witnessed in your sister.”
Argent’s eyes narrowed. “I had nothing to do with what my sister did, Alpha Hale.”
Derek nodded. “I know. I saw your face and heard your heart when she spoke at the Tribunal. That is the only reason I have not petitioned to have you removed from my territory by the Hunter Council. It would be within my rights.”
Argent sighed and leaned heavily on the door jamb, running a hand over his eyes. “Yes, it would be within your rights.” Argent looked up, finally, seeking who knows what within Derek’s eyes. He must have found it because he spoke again. “In one fell swoop, I’ve lost my father, sister, and wife. All I have is my daughter, and I had hoped to keep the issue of Werewolves from her completely. I had to tell her, much sooner than I had hoped, that her favorite aunt was a bloodthirsty murderer, and that her mother and grandfather shared the bloodlust. And do you know what she asked me, Alpha Hale?”
Derek squared his shoulders. “I’m sure I don’t know, Mr. Argent.”
“She asked me,” continued Argent, “if I was the same way. She asked me if I killed for sport, even if the prey was half-human.” Argent sighed again. “She asked me if we would have to move away, just when she was finding friends for the very first time, since surely people would know what had happened to her relatives—and what they had done.”
Derek’s expression softened slightly. “It’s not my intention to run you off unless you decide that my Pack is a risk. I might take offense to that, after everything that’s happened. My mother had allies with a Hunter Clan—not that I’m asking you for that. I just think we might be able to exist in the same town if we try hard enough.”
Argent nodded thankfully. “And this Pack of yours?”
Derek smirked. “I’m not telling you who they are—or who they will be. That would just be inviting trouble, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter in the past six years.”
“Fair enough,” said Argent. “Although, I should tell you—I shot a Wolf a few weeks ago, in your territory. I thought it was a rogue Omega, and I think I did some damage to it, but when I went searching I only found some blood on a tree.”
Derek smirked again. “Oh, yes, I remember that. I wasn’t sure who did the shooting, but you didn’t kill the Wolf in question. I managed to get him to help. And he wasn’t ‘my Wolf’—he was the boy bitten and turned by the Rogue that killed my sister.”
Argent inhaled sharply through his nose. “Right, then. So there’s a teenage boy in your pack.”
“Oh, there is,” said Derek, “but not that boy. The Wolf you shot is fighting his Wolf, and has rejected my offer of help. I’ll not force him into my Pack. If I can get him to be in control, then I’ll be happy to have him as an Omega, provided he shows stability. I won’t let him kill, before you ask, and I won’t let you Hunt him. Madame d’Argent is aware of his situation, and she is willing to let him be.”
“Very well,” said Argent as he reached for the door. “I appreciate you coming to give me this information personally. Normally, it’s the Emissary that does the talking to Hunters.”
Derek shrugged. “My Emissary is…busy, right now. And he’d probably have my head if he found out I came to talk to you alone.”
Argent turned and frowned. “I thought Alan Deaton was too…genteel for such threats.”
Derek’s expression clouded. “Alan Deaton, the man who knew about your sister but did nothing to warn me or my family, is no Emissary of mine,” he growled. “So, if you please, don’t associate him with the Hale Pack again.”
Argent nodded and then opened the door and disappeared inside the house.
On the night of the Winter Ball, Stiles happily hosted a post-Full Moon dinner at his home. Derek was present, of course, as was the Hanson family—the family that was soon to move from Oregon—so that they could meet the rest of the Pack. Stiles had invited Scott and Melissa, and Melissa had accepted the invitation—but Scott was still moping about Allison, and he refused to come to dinner.
Dennis Hanson was an affable man with bright eyes and a hearty laugh. He had studied pre-med until he was bitten by an Alpha in a power struggle. He survived the Bite, but quit his studies in case he accidentally infected a patient. Once he learned that he could not pass on the Werewolf Spark accidentally, because he was not an Alpha, then he began training to become an Emergency Medical Technician.
Dennis’ wife, Stacy, was a stay-at-home mother to two children: six-year-old Melanie (Werewolf) and five-year-old Sam (human). Stacy was a born-Wolf from an old, wealthy Pack in Canada, and she had inherited enough money and property to support the family. She fell in love with Dennis in college, where she was studying Art History. She fell in love with him when he was human, and stood by him when he became a Wolf.
Melissa almost gushed when she heard their story. Mama McCall was a romantic—who knew?
The dinner was mostly to welcome the Hansons to the area, as they were shopping for a home now before their final move in two weeks. John and Dennis talked ‘emergency services’ and Stacy and Stiles talked recipes and Pack life—dragging Melissa into the latter discussion as well.
“My uncle, Stan, is the Alpha,” said Stacy, “and we all took care of each other. That’s what Pack is. Since your son is a Bitten Wolf, you’ll have to be Pack for him unless he finds an Alpha on his own.”
“See,” said Melissa, frowning, “that’s what I don’t understand—how an Alpha is in charge, even if there are smaller family units in the Pack.”
Stacy hummed for a moment before answering. “Okay, let’s put it like this: There is a Police Chief, and a Fire Chief, and a Director of Emergency Services, right?” Melissa nodded, so Stacy continued. “The Police Chief is in charge of the Police Department, and so on and so forth, but the Mayor is in charge of all the ones in charge. The Mayor is the Alpha, but he doesn’t directly control the police or the firemen—they still have their chiefs.
“So, Derek is Alpha, but Dennis is the head of our family. Derek wouldn’t tell me how to raise the kids, or tell me what job to have or what color to paint the living room; all of that would be for Dennis and me to discuss. But if I went loco and started threatening the neighbors because their cat ate my tulips, then Derek would assert authority over both me and Dennis to bring me under control.”
Melissa laughed and threw her hands in the air. “See!” she said, “Now that makes sense!”
Stacy laughed as well. “I guess it’s all in perspective. From what I gathered by talking with the Gallagher Emissary, Derek was being trained to be the Second—the support staff, so to speak. He would have been taught to help the Alpha, and to keep the peace—like a counselor or something. So, if you had any questions about what a Second does—or what an enforcer does, for that matter—then he would have known how to answer.”
“Does it make you nervous,” asked Melissa, “coming here to follow a brand-new Alpha?”
“Nope. Not at all.” Stacy sent a secret smile across the room to where Dennis and Derek were talking with John. Stiles looked up and saw that Derek was smiling back. “You see,” Stacy continued, “I’ve only lived within a Family Pack, and Dennis was trained by my uncle and my father—within that same Family Pack. So we’re learning, too. Derek will support us, and we’ll help him as best as we can.”
Melissa offered a smile to Derek as well. “I just wish my son would come around and realize that Derek doesn’t want to hurt him.”
Stiles was happily translating his Economics babble into a cohesive paper during lunch when Lydia Martin marched over to his table and loomed over him. He looked up to see her very intense gaze locked onto him. “Yes,” he said. “Can I help you?”
Her eyes narrowed with focus. “I know you know what’s going on with McCall. He hasn’t been concentrating on the game, and you know how to fix it.”
Stiles set his pen down to keep from scribbling on his paper and leaned back in his chair. “And I should care why, exactly?” He kept his tone even, but something must have leaked in because Boyd had stopped writing as well and was watching with open interest.
“Because,” said Lydia, “he’s your best friend, and because our team needs to beat Rockway High next week.”
“I’m not on the team anymore,” said Stiles, “so I’ll be hard-pressed to care how the team does. Besides, you used to be smart, Lydia; I’m sure you can figure it out.”
Lydia bristled and stood as tall as she could manage. “What do you mean ‘used to be smart’? I’ll have you know, I am a brilliant light that this school is lucky to have gracing its halls!”
Stiles stood as well, shrugging and gathering his books together. “You could have fooled me, Lydia. For a long time, I worshipped you. You were beautiful and brilliant and totally unobtainable. I loved that about you.” When he was finished stuffing his backpack, Stiles faced her directly. “I fell in love, in the third grade, with beautiful and aloof you. Since then, you’ve become a pretend-ditz with a cruel streak made just for the people you think are beneath you. That’s not attractive at all.”
With a nod to Boyd, Stiles shouldered his backpack and pushed past Lydia to leave the library. When Boyd snorted softly, Lydia turned on him.
“And just what are you laughing at?” she asked haughtily.
Boyd shrugged. “A Queen Bee without a hive.”
“I know what happened to you, McCall.”
Jackson’s voice, even lowered to a stage whisper, carried across the near-empty classroom, and Stiles barely managed to keep himself from entering the room to witness what promised to be an interesting confrontation. Instead, he hovered just outside the open door, watching for new arrivals—like the teacher, for instance.
After leaving the library, Stiles stalked through the halls trying to calm himself. He made two full laps of the main floor before giving up and making his way to the Chemistry classroom, figuring he could be early and avoid another face-down in the halls. Instead, Stiles found himself to be a witness to Jackson cornering Scott over something.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Scott replied petulantly. “Nothing happened to me.”
“Sure it didn’t,” said Jackson derisively. “You just suddenly went from being a total loser like your friend Stilinski to being a total jock overnight. I’m not stupid, you know. I’ve been watching you. I know what I felt when you flattened me during that first practice.
“And I’ve noticed that you get a little moody once a month, and it’s not like Lydia does.”
Stiles almost snorted out loud, and ducked around the door so that he wouldn’t be seen. Of course, if Scott had been paying attention—or if he had been properly trained—he would have heard Stiles anyway, no matter how quiet he was.
Stiles heard Scott make some sort of reply, but he couldn’t hear what it was—so he leaned closer to the doorway and listened more closely.
“I’ve seen you get stronger, McCall,” said Jackson, slowly and deliberately. “I’ve seen you get faster. And in the late afternoon sun, when you get a little tired on the practice field, I’ve seen your eyes glowing.”
Stiles could feel his eyes growing huge with shock at this proclamation. Jackson had figured something out? No. Way.
“Now,” Jackson was saying, “you can either get me what you have, or I’ll tell everyone. Every. One. Got it?”
“It doesn’t work like that, Jackson,” said Scott. “I just can’t get it from anybody. There was someone special; someone that had, like, this infection….”
And with that, Stiles loudly entered the classroom, disrupting the bickering duo before Scott said something that Derek would regret.
Both boys stared at him when he walked between them and headed to his seat at the back of the room; Jackson looked like Stiles was something to be scraped from the bottom of his shoe and Scott had a momentary look of relief on his face—until he remembered that he was supposed to be fighting with Stiles. Stiles mentally shrugged off the feeling of regret that hit him when Scott’s eyes met his.
Mere minutes before the bell sounded, Boyd loped into the classroom and took the seat next to Stiles’ station. Neither one spoke as they waited for class to begin, and they worked silently until class ended.
Even though the tension in the room was thick enough to taste, Boyd never asked any questions.
He was rapidly becoming one of Stiles’ favorite people.
“I really appreciate you guys coming with me,” said Derek as he, John, and Stiles climbed out of the Camero to stand in front of the burnt-out husk of the old Hale manor.
John walked over to him and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Nobody should have to face something like this alone, Derek. Besides, I thought you said we were Pack, so we kind of have to be here to support you.”
Stiles walked to the base of the porch stairs—or what remained of them—and shuddered slightly. “Yeah, you shouldn’t really be out here alone, Dude. The creepy factor is high.”
“Don’t call me ‘Dude’,” said Derek as he approached the stairs. “And be careful where you step. I’ve been inside and walked through part of the house, but I haven’t gone over everything. The main staircase is still pretty solid, and the first room at the top of the stairs is intact—even though the roof is missing. But most of the second floor is gone, and the attic is mostly dust and ash.”
John nodded grimly. “Okay. So why are you here, then?”
Derek turned to face the older man. “My family was trapped in the basement safe-room; kinda like a dungeon rather than a root cellar. We kept all sorts of stuff there. There were cells with chains, to confine newly transformed Wolves before they got anchors and control. There was also a vault. It wasn’t the main vault, but my mother kept some photo albums and family records there. If the vault managed to survive the fire, then I might be able to salvage some of my family history.”
John nodded and wrapped one arm around Derek’s shoulder. Together they walked carefully up the porch stairs and into the gaping maw that once was the front door. Stiles followed slowly, eyes drifting over the form of the once great house. John was here because he felt it wasn’t healthy for Derek to search the house alone. Stiles was here because he wanted to try and use his Spark to locate the important things that Derek had hoped to find.
“You said you were already in here?” asked Stiles when he caught up with the other two. “Did you look around then?”
“Not really,” said Derek. “I came here mainly to see if Laura had been here, but her scent was not here. At least, I couldn’t find it.”
“I imagine not,” said Stiles as he wrinkled his nose. “I don’t have your super-sniffer, but all I can smell is dust and ash.”
“Yeah,” Derek said thickly, swallowing hard. “There’s ash, dust…and death. It’s all almost as fresh as it was six years ago.” Derek turned in a wide circle, looking forlornly around what might once have been a living room. “That’s another reason I wanted to get a better look at the place. Regina suggested—and I think it’s a good idea—that I might want to tear it down and rebuild. Not in the same spot, but close. That way, I can truly regain my family’s territory and land.”
Stiles walked forward and bumped his shoulder against Derek’s. “Yeah, and you can honor your family, too. Putting a Pack house near where the other one stood—that’s pretty cool.”
They stood in silence for a long moment, each remembering—in his own way—the Hale family before they died. Derek remembered family gatherings in the large family room; opening presents in front of a Christmas tree or dividing candy hauls after trick-or-treating. John remembered sitting with Talia Hale in the park across from City Hall, talking about supernatural happenings or the Sheriff’s Department fund raiser. Stiles remembered visiting the Hale bakery with his mother and choosing brightly frosted cupcakes for a special Saturday picnic on their lawn.
Different perspectives of the same family, all serving to draw the three men closer together.
Finally Derek snapped out of his reverie. “So,” he said, “If you and Stiles want to check out this floor, I’ll head carefully upstairs to see if anything survived.”
John nodded. “Is there anything we should be watching out for?”
Derek shrugged. “I think most of the photos are long gone, so just concentrate on checking the supports and floors. I’d like to see just how easy it would be to tear this place down safely. Later, I’ll try to find the sub-basement entrance. I’ll need…support…with that, because that’s where they were all trapped.”
John nodded and headed toward the back of the house. Before he made it into the hall, however, Derek called for him to stop.
“There’s a car headed this way,” he said. “It’s still far enough out, but I think it’s pretty clear they’re headed to this house. There’s nothing else out here.”
John frowned and Stiles stepped forward so that his arm was touching Derek.
“Do you want me to stand with you?” asked John.
Derek shook his head. “No, not yet. I went to see Christopher Argent a few days ago, just to let him know that I’m sticking around and that I’m being nice enough not to petition the Hunter Council to have him removed from Beacon Hills. If there’s a Hunter in that car, it will be to my advantage if they don’t know you’re here with me.” He pointed to the hall to the left of the entryway. “Can you wait there? You’ll both be out of sight, but you’ll be able to hear clearly.”
“Alright,” said John as he pulled Stiles along with him. “I’ve got my back-up weapon, so don’t do anything stupid, okay?”
Derek offered a small grin. “I won’t, I promise. I’m doing better about being smart now.”
With an encouraging smile from John and a small fist bump from Stiles, Derek turned and walked out onto the ruined porch of his former home. A few moments later, a silver Porsche roared into view and parked roughly close to Derek’s Camero.
Derek watched as a tall, well-muscled blond boy—almost a man, but for the petulant look on his face—climbed out of the over-priced ego-boost and shoved his hands into his pockets. A small noise behind him told him that Stiles and John had crept slightly closer to the door so they could see the intruder. Stiles’ whispered “Jackson!” told Derek who his visitor was, but not why the boy was there.
Derek walked to the edge of the porch, staying on the higher level, and carefully leaned against a scorched rail post, thumbs hooked carefully into the front belt loops of his dark jeans. He knew, from practicing this pose in a mirror in New York, that he looked imposing and dangerous, and he wanted the advantage.
“What do you want?” he asked the interloper.
The boy, Jackson, squared his shoulders and quirked an eyebrow. “I know your little secret.”
Derek snorted. “What secret? That this was the house I used to live in? Or that I’ve moved back to Beacon Hills? Neither one is a huge secret. I’ve even been seen around town. I’ve had job interviews, and I’m buying a house. You’re behind the times.” A soft snort behind him let him know that Stiles was enjoying Derek’s snark.
“I know the big secret,” said Jackson with a smirk. “I know you’re a werewolf.”
Derek paused and Jackson laughed. “Yeah, not so funny now, is it. I know about you, and I know about McCall.”
“So what?” asked Derek.
“So—I want in.” Jackson struck a cocky pose that made Derek want to rip his head off. “I know it made McCall stronger and faster, and I want in.”
Derek stepped forward onto the first step, and Jackson backed up a few paces. “Or what? I give you the bite, or what? That’s why you’re here, right? To threaten or blackmail me?”
Jackson recovered his cockiness and straightened his shoulders, planting his feet firmly in the ground. “I can tell. I can tell my dad—he’s the D.A. around here. Or I can tell the Sheriff. I’ll tell everybody, unless you give me what I want.”
This? He could handle this.
Derek stepped backwards onto the porch and took his previous post against the porch rail. “Go ahead. Tell them. Better yet, why don’t you let me tell them?” Jackson seems to stumble in his place, so Derek continued to mock the boy. “Who do you think will believe you? After all, Werewolves just. Don’t. Exist. So why don’t you just run along and play your little game elsewhere.” Derek once again stepped forward and had the pleasure of seeing Jackson stumble toward his car. “And you might want to leave Scott McCall alone, or I might have to deal with you anyway.”
Jackson tripped over himself to get into the Porsche, and when he finally turned over the engine, he sprayed dirt and leaves in a wide circle as he peeled away from the house.
Once he was out of sight, Derek slumped onto the front steps and dropped his head to his knees. John and Stiles wasted no time getting to his side, and each Stilinski sat on either side of him on that ashy porch, arms around him in support.
“Jackson Whittemore is an ass!”
John chuckled at Stile’s announcement. “I’m not even going to argue with you.”
Derek looked up to meet Stiles’ eyes. “What the hell was that?”
“That,” said Stiles with a sigh, “is something I was hoping to avoid. I overheard Jackson talking to Scott in school, and he was making noises about knowing what had happened to Scott. Jackson’s not totally stupid; you can’t date Lydia Martin and be totally stupid. It’s been two months since Scott was Bitten, and he’s gone through two Full Moons since then. He’s been really stupid since then, too, attacking me in the locker room and thrashing players on the Lacrosse field. Jackson had to have noticed something. Even with all the bullshit stuff on the internet, I was able to look up stuff that was real.”
Derek nodded and sighed. “Right, so Scott threw me under the bus. Great!”
John patted his shoulder and stood up. “Well, we’ll have to figure out a way to deal with Scott later. Right now, let’s check out this house so we can get home and eat. You promised me real meat tonight, and I’m not forgetting it!”
One week after the Full Moon, and two days after Jackson Whittemore attempted to goad Derek into giving him the Bite, Derek walked past Stiles at the end of the school day—on his way into the school.
Stiles back-tracked to follow, ignoring the questioning look from Boyd. “Hey, Derek! Whatcha doing?”
Derek turned toward the locker rooms and said, “I’m going to deal with the Jackson/Scott issue. And, no, I don’t need witnesses.”
Stiles huffed. “As if! But, as Emissary and Pack member, it is my job to support you in whatever foolhardy thing you do, so I am coming with you. I won’t interfere, but I will stand with you.”
“Stiles,” said Derek patiently, “I can do this on my own. I’m not going to kill anyone, you know.”
“Well, yeah, not on school grounds.”
Derek stopped at the locker room door. “Look, Stiles, for now, Jackson doesn’t know about you or your connection to me. And Scott doesn’t know about your Spark, right?”
Stiles shook his head. “Nope. Scott can’t keep a secret—obviously—so I never mentioned it. What are you going to do?”
Derek smirked. “I’m going to make a very large show of walking into Coach’s office, so that Jackson and Scott both see me. And then I’m going to remind Bobby Finstock who I am, and who my mother was.”
Stiles flailed for a second. “Wait! Coach knew your mother?”
“Yeah,” said Derek. “I know he dealt with her for legal purposes. My mom was a lawyer that specialized in family law. Coach had some trouble way back before I was in high school, and Mom helped him out. None of it was his fault, I do remember that.”
“Huh. Did he know she was a Werewolf?”
Derek shrugged. “I don’t know if he knew about her, but I’m going to make sure he knows about me—and about Scott. Scott isn’t Pack, but if he’s being hassled he could bring trouble to me by default. I need to make sure Jackson stops giving him grief.”
“He won’t thank you, you know,” said Stiles. “Scott is still trying to find a way to blame all of this on you. I really wouldn’t be surprised if he actually went to Allison’s father and tried to plead his case against you.”
“Yeah,” Derek sighed. “Well that wouldn’t work because I’ve already spoken to Christopher Argent.” Derek listened to the door for a few moments before turning back to Stiles. “Look, practice is going to start soon, so I have to get in there. If you want an assignment as Emissary, why don’t you talk with your father about confronting Argent yourself. If he insists, take your father as back-up, but Argent knows I have an Emissary and it isn’t Deaton anymore.”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah, okay. I’ll talk to him tonight at dinner. As long as Christopher Argent isn’t a danger to me, Dad should be okay with me speaking to the man.”
“Okay,” said Derek as he pushed open the locker room door. “Take any magical precautions that you need to. I don’t want you unnecessarily hurt.”
Derek tried very hard not to inhale deeply once he was inside the locker room. There were some scents that just never left once you caught them.
He did manage to stride purposefully into the midst of the Lacrosse team, not making noise, because that wouldn’t have been heard over the regular din anyway, but by standing tall and walking at a sedate pace and pausing in front of Coach’s office door. By the time he knocked on the closed door, Jackson and Scott were eying him warily from opposite sides of the room. Derek didn’t acknowledge them at all.
Coach Finstock called for him to enter, so Derek pushed open the door and walked in.
“Who are you?” asked the frazzled man behind the desk.
Derek smiled as he took in the visage before him. Bobby Finstock had wild blue eyes that always seemed to be focused miles away and dark hair that was in permanent disarray from agitated fingers running through them.
Ten years prior, Finstock was a junior assistant coach for the basketball team, and he had a bit of a drinking problem. One night, after a long bender, a young lady went to the police to tell a tale of how Finstock attacked her. She looked pretty rough, and the police were almost willing to take her seriously—until Talia Hale found surveillance video evidence that place Finstock at a local hotel sleeping off his drunk, and the woman in another part of town with known drug offenders. The reason for the lie was never uncovered, but Finstock was released and Talia found him a rehabilitation center, and she paid for it herself.
“I’m not sure if you remember me,” said Derek. “I’m Derek Hale.”
“Of course I remember you!” Finstock stood and held out his arms, pleading for a hug. Derek awkwardly stepped into the embrace and returned the gesture. “I’m so sorry about your sister. It was in the paper, of course. And after what happened to the rest of your family, too.”
“Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.”
Finstock sat back in his chair and asked Derek to sit as well. “What brings you to my hovel in this hellhole?”
Derek chuckled. “Well, I’m here to tell you about a problem you might have with one or two of your players.”
Finstock frowned. “They’re not doing drugs, are they? I knew McCall had to be doing something to get that good so fast.”
“Coach,” said Derek, “as far as I know, nobody is doing drugs. But McCall is one of the players I’m talking about. What do you remember about my family?”
“Well,” said Coach thoughtfully, “your mother was a fine lady, who saved my life. And your father baked the best scones. I didn’t really know the rest of them. You were a fine ballplayer, as I recall.”
Derek smirked. “Thanks. But what do you remember about what they were—what I am?” As he spoke, Derek allowed his eyes to bleed Alpha-red and his forehead to broaden into Werewolf ridges.
Finstock didn’t bat an eye. “So…McCall?”
Derek’s appearance faded back to normal and he rolled his neck to release any tension he had felt. “Scott McCall had the misfortune of being in the very wrong place at the very wrong time, and he was attacked by the monster that killed my sister. Very long story short, I’m Alpha, but McCall is not part of my Pack. And Jackson Whittemore somehow figured it out, and he tried to blackmail me into giving him the Bite.”
Finstock ran his hands over his face in exasperation. “Oh, yeah, that’d be just what we need: Whittemore with super powers.”
Derek snorted. “Yeah, well his big threat was to tell everyone that we were Werewolves, like anyone would believe him. But I think he might want to goad McCall into acting stupidly, and it really wouldn’t take much. I need you to take precautions with Scott. He’s been dangerous already and he’s refused any help from me.” Derek reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out four of Regina’s magic pendants and placed them on the desk in front of him. “These are like magic bombs—they explode on contact and will contain Scott if he gets out of control. If you need…other, magical help, my Pack Emissary is a student at this school. He might be willing to help you.”
Finstock raised one eyebrow. “You’re not turning into some kind of Fagan are you, Hale?”
“No, sir,” Derek laughed. “The Emissary was chosen because he has incredible magical power—more than you could imagine. I would never have chosen him myself, but a witch friend of mine said he was the best of all possible choices, and he’s incredibly loyal to me and those he cares about.”
“So, who is it?” Finstock asked.
Derek shook his head and stood up. “Oh, if you need help in any way, he’ll find you. But I’m not giving out his name. Jackson would find out and make his life miserable—until he had to defend himself.” Derek opened the office door and stepped half-way through. “It was good seeing you again, Coach. I’ll be in touch.”
With that parting word, Derek fully stepped into the locker room and made eye contact with Jackson Whittemore and smirked meanly. Then he nodded to Scott McCall and walked over to him. “You’ve got a problem, and it’s coming back on me. You either get it under control, or allow me to help you—or I will take care of you permanently. Do you understand?”
Scott nodded mutely, and Derek left the locker room.
Finstock left his office and began screaming to get his players onto the field.
“Derek? It’s Melissa McCall. I need you to get to the hospital right away!”
The phone call came in the middle of the school day, while Derek was unpacking his new kitchen. He was reading the instruction manual for his new high-tech coffee machine (how he let Stiles talk him into it, he never knew) when Melissa’s frantic voice sent him flying out his front door—almost bypassing the car altogether.
When he pulled into visitor parking, Derek realized that he had no idea where he was supposed to go once inside the hospital. He paused to ask someone at the information desk to page Melissa, and then he paced frantically in the lobby until she arrived.
“What happened?” he asked when he saw her. “Is it Scott? Stiles?”
Melissa grabbed his hand and began pulling him toward the elevators. “It’s not them, Derek. It’s something else. Something I think you can help with.”
Derek was confused, but he allowed her to lead him through the halls until they reached the MRI Imaging Center. She held him back just outside the waiting area, where an anxious couple was huddled together in a couple of chairs. Derek turned to Melissa and asked, “What’s going on?”
“Derek, inside the MRI is a young girl in Scott’s grade at school. Her name is Erica Reyes.” Melissa gestured to the huddled couple. “Those are her parents. Erica has severe epilepsy. She’s in and out of the hospital so much she has her own assigned room. The medications aren’t working, and her parents are thinking about brain surgery.”
“So?” said Derek. “What does that have to do with me?’
Melissa grabbed his arm in a hard grip. “I think you can help her, Derek,” she hissed. “I think, since the surgery might actually kill her, she might be better off as a Werewolf!”
Derek pulled away from the older woman. “Melissa, I just can’t go around biting kids! Stuff like that will bring Hunters, and we just got rid of the lot of them!”
“But…Derek,” she said desperately, “that’s why I asked you to come. Talk to her parents—tell them what you are and how you can help Erica.”
“Melissa,” said Derek forcefully, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but it was great luck that Scott actually Turned. The Bite does not always take! I lost a very….a very dear friend when an Alpha’s Bite poisoned her instead of Turning her.”
Melissa’s expression softened. “Then tell them that, too, Derek. Give them the choice, and then give Erica the choice. Bring in a new Beta that is yours by your own hand.”
Derek shook his head and leaned against the wall to think. “I need other advice on this matter, Melissa. Can I make a phone call from here, or should I leave and return later?”
Melissa nodded toward the couple and said, “They’ll be on this floor for a while, I think. Call me when you come back—if you decide to come back.”
Derek nodded and called the elevator again.
Thirty minutes later, Derek was walking through the Sheriff’s Station toward John’s office. He knocked on the door and entered when called.
“John? Do you have a minute?”
John looked up and smiled in surprise. “Derek! I thought you’d be unpacking right about now!”
Derek closed the door behind him and took a seat in front of the desk. “I was, until I got a call to go to the hospital.”
John leaned forward. “Who’s in the hospital?”
Derek held up a hand and said, “Nobody that you know. At least, I don’t think you know her. Some girl named Erica Reyes. Melissa says she’s in the hospital a lot.”
“Okay,” said John. “So why did she call you to the hospital, and what did you need to talk to me about?”
Derek sighed. “It’s the same thing, actually. Melissa thinks that if I give the Bite to Erica, it will cure her epilepsy—and it might. It might also kill the girl. Melissa wants me to talk the girl’s parents and explain the risks and benefits and let them choose.”
John stood and crossed in front of his desk so that he was closer to Derek. “Do you think she’ll survive if you give her the Bite?”
Derek looked at John and shook his head. “I don’t know. She might. I just keep thinking about Paige, and how I felt to hold her as she died. I don’t want to put anybody else through that, John.”
“But you think it will work, don’t you?”
Derek nodded. “Maybe. Paige might have had some health concerns that I wasn’t aware of back then. Scott wasn’t totally healthy, and he survived the Bite.”
John leaned forward and rested his hand on Derek’s shoulder, squeezing gently. “Do what you think is best, Derek. If that means walking away, then do that. Nobody will blame you. If Melissa tries to strong-arm you, I’ll deal with her.”
Derek smiled a little. “I just feel the strong Pack bonds between myself and Dennis and Stacy, and it feels right. The kids are too young for it, but I can feel the bond forming with them. The Pack is strong, and I am strong because of that.”
“I never asked; did you need or want to have a claiming mark on me or Stiles? I don’t know if humans in a Pack did that.”
Derek shook his head. “The only time a human gets a Mark is if he or she is married to an Alpha Werewolf. We inter-marry with humans all the time, and sometimes divorce happens—but with Alphas, the union is permanent. So the Alpha will give a Claiming Bite to the human spouse, unless the human wants to be Turned. My mother gave a Mating Mark to my father before he was turned.”
“Hmmm,” said John. “I thought the choice for the more optimistic of newlyweds was to get tattoos instead of wedding rings, but that works, too. Go on, Derek, and do what you’re going to do. I’m behind you, no matter what”
John prodded Derek out the front door and into his Camero, and Derek thought long and hard on his return trip to the hospital.
His first order of business was to collect the Reyes family and take them away from the hospital. He could talk until he was blue in the face about Werewolves and their healing abilities, but they would never believe him unless he transformed. Derek was not about to transform in the middle of a hospital room.
Melissa performed the introductions right before her shift ended, so that she was able to go with them for The Talk. Alberto and Cheryl Reyes were confused to be meeting him, but Erica was sleeping and Melissa told them that Derek might be able to help her without surgery, so they left their daughter behind and followed Derek to an abandoned car park near the Preserve hiking trails.
“What are we doing out here?” asked Mr. Reyes. “Are we going to talk about an exercise program for Erica?”
“Not exactly,” said Derek as he removed his leather jacket despite the chill in the early March air. “I brought you out here to show you how I might be able to help Erica.” Derek stood in front of the confused couple and held out a hand, slowly allowing his claws to extend from the tips of his fingers. “Melissa knows about this, because her son was attacked just after Christmas, and he became like me.”
Mrs. Reyes gasped in shock as she watched the partial transformation. “What are you?”
Derek looked up, eyes glowing red, and said, “I’m a Werewolf. Almost my entire family were Werewolves. Scott McCall was bitten by a rogue Alpha—the only type of Wolf that can give a transforming bite—and he became like me.”
“And you want to do this to our daughter?” asked Mr. Reyes. “You want to turn her into a monster?”
Derek ceased his transformation and reverted back to his human form. “I’m not a monster, Mr. Reyes. Scott McCall is a sometimes-dumb kid, but he’s not a monster. In fact, most Wolves in healthy Packs are safe and sane and not monsters at all.”
Derek leaned back on the hood of his car and crossed his arms over his chest. “There are some exceptions to the rule, however, so Melissa was acting very foolishly by asking this of me. She came to me as a last resort, because if the Bite takes and Erica survives, her epilepsy will be a thing of the past. No more seizures, no more medication. There is the risk of failure, just like with anything, and she could die. I’ve personally witnessed that kind of death, and it’s not pretty or painless.
“But I decided to bring you out here to show you what I am—to explain away from the hospital environment, because you were so focused on Erica that you would not have heard me. You needed to see for yourselves. I’m not going to take this choice from you; you’re her parents. But if I do this—if you give permission, and Erica gives permission—then I’ll be her Alpha, and everything she does will be a reflection on me.”
Mrs. Reyes stepped closer to Derek and hesitantly reached out to take one of his hands in hers. She poked the fingertips lightly until Derek allowed claws to grow out. She ran her thumb lightly over the claws. “What does that mean—that you’d be her Alpha?”
“It means that I’d be more than a parent to her. I’d be responsible for training her how to control her Wolf, and how to fight. If she got out of hand, I’d be the one to punish her. And if she went feral somehow, I’d have to be the one to kill her.” Mrs. Reyes moaned in distress, but she never took her eyes off of Derek’s claws. “Mrs. Reyes,” Derek said softly, and she looked up to see his human, hazel eyes watching her closely. “Mrs. Reyes, if you give permission, and if Erica chooses for herself, then I will do everything in my power to make sure she stays grounded and in control. I’ll make sure that she finds an anchor and that she stays as human as is possible.”
Mrs. Reyes nodded and reached behind her for her husband. “Do you honestly think this will work and that she’ll survive?”
“I think there’s a very good chance, Mrs. Reyes.”
She gave a tremulous smile. “Then let’s go back and talk to her.”
Erica Reyes could have been a very pretty girl if her disease hadn’t taken its toll on her body. Her blonde hair was limp and straggly due to the medications. Her eyes were dull and lifeless, when they should have been a bright green. There were dark circles under her eyes and her cheeks were sallow, giving her the gaunt appearance of a POW survivor.
She still smiled when she saw her parents.
“Hey, Mom! Usually you bring me flowers. Today, you brought me a hot guy! I like this better!”
Derek snorted in spite of himself, so he let Mr. Reyes introduce him. “Erica, this is Derek Hale. We think he might be able to help you”
“Help me how, exactly?” she asked as she struggled to sit higher in the hospital bed. “You gonna take me to the prom?”
Derek smiled down at her. “You’ve got spunk, I’ll give you that. I think my friend, Stiles, would like you a lot.”
Erica’s eyes widened. “You know Stiles? I had the biggest crush on him in middle school.”
Derek smiled wider. “Yeah, I can see how that could happen. Well, Erica, how would you like to never have another seizure again?”
Erica’s smile faded quickly. “That’s not funny, teasing me like that. Seizures suck!”
“I imagine so,” said Derek seriously. “But I showed your parents how I could possibly help you to never have one again. But it’s dangerous, and there is a small possibility that it could kill you.”
Erica looked past Derek to her parents. “Is he for real, Dad? Can he really help me never have a seizure again?”
Mr. Reyes reached out and settled his hand on Erica’s leg. “Honey,” he said, “I think, if you are willing to go through some serious changes, then this will help you.”
Erica eyed Derek suspiciously. “What kind of changes?”
Derek allowed his eyes to glow red and his fangs to extend and sharpen. “You have to become a Werewolf.”
Erica’s eyes grew almost comically huge. “Are you serious? That’s really a thing??”
“It is,” Derek said, “And I’m an Alpha Werewolf. And if you agree, I can give you the Bite. If you survive, you’ll be a Werewolf as well.”
Erica nodded. “And it could kill me? That’s for real, too?”
Derek stepped back and shoved his hands into his jacket pockets. “Yes, that’s a very real danger. I already told your parents all of the risks, and they agreed that it would be your choice.”
“Uh, huh. And if I agree?”
“Then there are rules and training that you have to follow. Your parents are still in charge of you, but I will be, too. You have to keep your nose clean and not do anything to draw attention to yourself as a Werewolf. You have to stay calm and train hard. It won’t be easy, but I have a strong Pack and we’ll all help you.”
Erica licked her lips as she thought it over. “You know,” she finally said, “I always figured a seizure would kill me. And there was no guarantee that the surgery we were thinking about would work.” She nodded to her mother. “I think we should go for it, yeah?”
Mrs. Reyes gave her a watery smile. “Okay, baby. We’ll make arrangements for when you get out of the hospital.”
Derek left Mrs. Reyes to talk with Erica and he pulled Mr. Reyes into the hallway to speak with him. “Mr. Reyes, it would be best if she was given the Bite in a place she’s comfortable. And I would rather give her the Bite well before a Full Moon, so I can give her a lot of training before we have to deal with that.”
“Is the full moon a big deal?” Mr. Reyes asked as he tried to get his mind around what was about to happen to his daughter.
Derek nodded. “Werewolves can transform at any time, really. Especially during times of stress or panic or pain. When our emotions are high, it’s easy to lose control, but during the Full Moon, we really feel a pull on our inner Wolf.
“When I was younger, my mother had to lock up the younger kids during the Full Moons until they got control. Some Bitten Wolves have the same issues no matter how old they are. If I can begin training early enough, I might be able to avoid using chains.”
“You won’t hurt her, right?” Mr. Reyes asked. “I couldn’t stand it if she was hurt after all of this.”
“I’ll be as careful as I can, but the first transformation is going to be painful. She might lash out and try to hurt you or herself. If she gets upset—and you and I both know teenagers get upset easily—she’ll be stronger and more able to hurt people. That’s why training is key.”
“What kind of training are you talking about?”
Derek shrugged. “Ideally, she’s going to need a lot of physical exercise. I’ll have her running the trails in the Preserve a lot. And I’ll start her on Judo and maybe Tai Chi, to teach her control. Martial Arts are good for body and soul, and I started studying in New York after my family was killed. She’ll have to learn meditation techniques as well, so that she’ll be able to control her Wolf.”
Mr. Reyes nodded. “That sounds good. Maybe you can train me as well, huh? My doctor says I need to get more exercise.”
Derek smiled at the older man. “I’m just starting a job at a clinic in Beacon Heights—physical therapy—so, let me concentrate on Erica before I add you to my training schedule, okay?”