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 that 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 leaves the hospital room, he does 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!”