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 his is bitten by a rogue Alpha Werewolf.
**December30–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 afterwards—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 shrugs. “Mr. Becker 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. Hanson 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’s 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 almost 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 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 I 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.