“Erica Reyes—how well do you know her?”
Derek and Stiles were puttering around in Derek’s new kitchen, preparing the room for the inaugural Cooking Day on the following Saturday. Derek had a set of good-quality pots and pans, but Stiles would have to supply the food processor as Derek hadn’t seen the need to have one full time.
“Um,” Stiles hummed for a moment. “Not well, actually. I know she’s in some of my classes, but she’s really quiet and I’m…not. Plus, she misses school a lot because of a medical issue. Some of the other kids are—not nice about it.”
Derek nodded. “She has a severe form of epilepsy. Her parents were considering surgery to stop the seizures.”
“Yeah, I guess they would be, because the seizures are really bad. She had one in the lunch room last year, and some asshole took a video of it with his phone and posted it everywhere. Her folks kept her out for a week after that.”
When Stiles looked up, Derek had fanged-out and his eyes were totally red. “Dude! What’s up with that?”
“That will not happen again,” Derek growled. “If anyone goes after her again, they’re mine!”
Stiles nodded, confused. “Anything you say, big guy. What’s going on?”
Derek slowly calmed and Stiles passed him a set of measuring cups. “Melissa called me a couple of days ago because Erica was in the hospital again. She asked me if I could Turn her to cure the epilepsy. I talked to her parents, and they agreed.”
“Huh. You’re gonna have a lady Werewolf now. That’s cool.”
Derek gave Stiles the side-eye. “I have Stacy Hanson. She’s a lady Werewolf.”
Stiles turned to lean against the counter, fidgeting with a dish towel. “Yeah, but Stacy comes with a husband and two kiddies. Erica would be single and available.”
Derek leaned beside Stiles and gave him a hip-check. “She might be single and available, but she’ll be my Beta first. And she’s young.”
Stiles bumped Derek’s hip in return. “I’m young. I’m older than Erica, but I’m still young. But I’m friends with you—and I’m Pack, so that’s good between us….”
“Stiles,” Derek interrupted. “You’re rambling. And I’m not at all interested in Erica beyond helping her and making her Pack.” Derek nudged Stiles’ shoulder, and the teen turned his head to meet Derek’s eyes. “I like you, and I like hanging out with you, and I’m glad we’re friends. If you weren’t my Emissary, I’d ask you to be my Second. You’re strong, so I’d keep you human—but I trust you, and I trust your father, and I’m glad I can call you Pack.”
Stiles blushed rosy pink and he smiled with pleasure. “I like you, too, Derek. Now, are you sure you want to have Cooking Day here?”
“Yeah, I’m sure,” said Derek. “I’ll be giving Erica the Bite on Sunday afternoon, after the Reyes’ come home from church—I’ll want you and your father there, if possible—so this Saturday will be a good de-stressor for me. Besides, I’m really looking forward to making the full Tex-Mex menu!”
Stiles half-smiled. “Why do you want us there?”
Derek shrugged. “I want the entire Pack to be there, to welcome Erica in. And having the Pack there will help her settle into her Wolf, because she’ll be able to scent all of us. I want the transition to be easy for her.”
Stiles grimaced. “That’s something Scott never had. But I guess his Alpha wasn’t in a mindset to make things easy, huh?”
“No,” Derek replied, “he really wasn’t. Anyway, having you all there will let Erica know that she isn’t alone, and it might reassure her parents if they know the Sheriff is in on the Big Secret.”
“You know,” said Stiles as he checked off ticks on his prep list, “I could almost hear the capital letters when you said that.”
Boyd was waiting in front of the school when Stiles pulled into the parking lot. He handed Stiles a piece of paper when Stiles approached. “What’s this?” Stiles asked as he unfolded the paper.
“It’s a meal request for the Tex-Mex experiment this weekend. My mom is really looking forward to this.”
“Hmmm—enchilada casserole…stuffed mushrooms…beans and corn…Boyd?” Stiles asked as he looked up from the list, “Has your mother been haunting Epicurious-dot-com?”
Boyd shrugged. “I don’t know, but she bought me an apron the other day that said ‘Head Cook’, so guess who got a promotion at home!”
Stiles laughed and slapped Boyd on the back as he herded the larger teen into the school. “There are worse jobs in the world than making sure your family has nutritious, healthy food to eat. Just make sure you implement the ‘Stilinski House Rule’.”
“Whoever cooks does not have to wash dishes.”
Boyd chuckled. “Yeah, that works.”
Stiles and Boyd parted ways to hit their lockers, and Stiles found himself alone in the hall. Loud laughter caught his attention, and he turned to see Lydia, Allison, Scott, and Jackson making their way down the hall. Allison was holding Scott’s hand, so that relationship was back on. Jackson had one hand in his jeans pocket and the other on the strap of his backpack and his shoulders were hunched over, so Stiles assumed he was pissed that Scott had an advantage over him. From the wide, happy smile on Scott’s face as he laughed with Allison, Scott wasn’t particularly worried about anything.
Stiles flipped open his phone and thumbed the calendar function to check the moon phase. It was March third, and the New, or Dark, Moon would be the following night. That meant it was roughly two weeks before the next Full Moon. Derek had given Scott that long to get his act together before he called in The Big Guns.
Stiles knew that meant Derek was going to talk to Christopher Argent about keeping a Hunter’s Eye on a possible uncontrolled Omega Wolf.
Stiles shot one last look at Scott’s happy face before he turned toward the stairwell and his first class. He really hoped Scott had found an anchor by then.
Stiles slid into his chair beside Boyd and opened his notebook to find the day’s assignment. “Isaac hasn’t come back to school yet. Has he settled into your house yet?”
Boyd shook his head. “Mom and Dad have been in court a few times, and they said Isaac would be home next week. I’ve got a camp bed in my room waiting for him until they can get his real bed out of his house.”
Stiles turned in his chair to face his friend. “How does that work, anyway?”
“If the kid is in foster-care due to a family death, there isn’t usually any property transfer and stuff is put into storage until the kid ages out.” Boyd shifted in his seat a bit. “But if there’s a domestic reason for the kid to be put into the system, then the property will stay in the family home, and the kid can have some of it in the foster home. So Isaac’s stuff will remain in his father’s house, except for his clothes and anything he might want that we can fit into our house. The utilities will be shut off if Mr. Lahey goes to jail, but if he doesn’t then he’ll go back home and we keep Isaac until a therapist says he’s good to go.”
“That’s good,” said Stiles. “Isaac should have stuff to make him more comfortable.”
Boyd just shook his head slowly. “You gotta understand, Stiles. In cases of abuse, when the parent is the abuser, having stuff from home is not always a comfort. They could bring bad memories or panic attacks. One of my foster brothers had those really bad. It got so bad that Dad took Brian’s father’s watch away for a month until the therapist said he could have it back. Isaac is going to be in therapy for a long time, so having mementos from that house might not be a good thing.”
“Okay, so…maybe we can invite him to cook sometime.”
“Yeah, sure,” said Boyd easily, “just on a regular day, okay? I don’t think a troubled kid needs to experiment with different strange food. I saw the way you were looking at that haggis recipe last week.”
“I was wondering,” said Stiles to his webcam during his regular weekly Skype call to Regina Kincaide, “How do you decide when or if to tell anyone about being Magical?”
“Is there a ‘special someone’ in your life now, Stiles?” came the sly response.
Regina was back in her home in Oregon, where tax forms ruled her daily life, but she still trained Stiles with weekly drills over the Skype sessions. She didn’t need to be in the same room as Stiles to tell if his results were satisfactory. Stiles had a very expressive face—and an extensive vocabulary. He tried to censor his words, so he tended to be creative when cursing.
Regina was learning a lot of colorful phrases in exchange for the training.
Stiles dropped the book he was levitating and glared at Regina’s image on the laptop. “No—it’s not like that. I have a new friend, Boyd, and we’ve been cooking together and sitting in class together since Scott went stupid. And I think he’s trustworthy. And…I don’t want to betray his trust by keeping this huge secret.”
“Stiles,” Regina said, leaning closer to her camera, “you’re already keeping this ‘huge secret’ from Scott McCall, and he’s supposed to be your best friend.”
Stiles scoffed. “Scott hasn’t been my best friend since he became a Werewolf and got a girlfriend. Plus, Scott can’t keep a secret to save anyone’slife. I think I can trust Boyd.”
Regina smiled softly. “This means a lot you, doesn’t it—having another friend or two?”
Stiles shrugged and levitated the book again, raising it higher and lower to the beat of Bob Seger’s ‘Strut’. “I like the fact that my social circle isn’t revolving around someone that would rather avoid me. Boyd’s quiet—like painfully laconic—and he sets my mind at ease. Since I’ve been meditating and exercising the Spark, I don’t feel the need to talk all the time and I can just sit with Boyd and share space. And when he does talk, it’s about his family or his weekend job.”
Stiles lowered the book one last time and looked at Regina. “He’s asked me to teach him those meditation techniques. I’m already teaching him how to choose produce and how to eyeball ingredients in a stew.”
“You do know that you just can’t teach him how to perform any magic, right Stiles?” Regina flipped open a notebook and made a few notations about Stiles’ levitation of small objects. “What you can do—all of these little tricks, and all of the big stuff you don’t want to tell me about through the computer—they’re an intrinsic part of you. It’s part of your spirit and mind and body, and it all would have come out whether you were training or not, and you can’t just teach that to someone.”
“Yeah,” said Stiles. “But he can watch and monitor me while I practice. And he can take notes while I’m doing stuff. I’d just like to let him know something about me—something special—like when he told me about how his little sister was killed. That’s big stuff, Regina, and he trusted me with it.”
“Well, then,” said Regina thoughtfully, “if he trusts you that much, and you feel you can trust him, then you should break it to him slowly and gently. Having a Spark is no small thing, Stiles. If you feel safe telling this Boyd person, then you can make that judgment. And I’ll be back down your way before the Full Moon, so I can meet him and judge for myself.”
“That’s a good deal,” said Stiles. “Hey! Maybe we can rent the bowling alley, and I can practice levi-juggling bowling balls!”
“Don’t push it, Stiles. You can barely walk and talk at the same time.”
“So, how goes the unpacking?”
John and Derek had decided to give Stiles the night off and they were picking up Chinese from a Stiles-approved restaurant. They were waiting for their order to be ready, and were just chatting in the lobby.
“It’s good,” said Derek. “I need to find some decent living room furniture, but I have a dining table and chairs, and the kitchen is set up. Stiles wants to help me pick out the living room stuff.”
“Well,” laughed John, “Stiles does know how to find a comfy sofa!”
Derek nodded in agreement. “He also wanted to have a housewarming party after I officially move in, but I nixed that idea.”
“Oh, yeah,” asked John in surprise, “why is that?”
Derek cocked his head to the side. “I do plan on rebuilding the Pack House in the Preserve. The house I’m renting is just temporary, so I’d rather have a housewarming when I have a permanent place. Oh! The food’s ready!”
John chuckled as Derek strode purposefully to the cashier, ready to pay for the meal before John could even reach for his wallet. “You don’t have to keep paying for the food, Derek. I can afford it, even with as much as you eat.”
The tips of Derek’s ears burned bright pink and he shrugged both shoulders. “Actually,” he said lowly so nobody could overhear, “I kind of do. It’s instinctive for me. It’s the Alpha’s prerogative to provide for the Pack. You have a job, and Dennis and Stacy have their own family, so this is my way of ‘providing’. If you don’t want me to….”
“No,” interrupted John. “Now that you’ve explained it to me, it does make sense. But, as part of this Pack, I fully expect to be able to reciprocate.” John clapped a hand on Derek’s shoulder as the younger man picked up the take-out bags. “You’re family, now, Derek, so I fully expect to treat you like it.”
Derek followed John out of the restaurant with a happy smile on his face.
He almost tripped and dropped the food when John followed-up with “And don’t think I haven’t noticed how you look at Stiles lately.”
“This is a really nice place,” said Boyd as he walked around the kitchen and living room areas. “But how come it’s so empty?”
“Because I’m moving in in stages,” said Derek as he unloaded some of the grocery bags. “I’m still sleeping in the hotel, but I signed the lease for this place before the first of the month; I figured I should at least partially occupy it.”
“That’s cool,” said Boyd. “I have an uncle that owns a furniture store in Hillery, if you haven’t picked anything out yet. It’s all solid wood stuff; unfinished but good quality. Tables, cabinets, stuff like that.”
Derek looked interested. “What kinds of wood?”
Boyd tilted his head and thought for a moment. “I know the dining table we have is maple, and our entertainment center and bookcase are oak. There’s pine stuff, of course, because good pine is inexpensive, but he had a really cool teak table the last time I went. He does bed frames, too, with matching nightstands and dressers, but you’ll have to go to a mattress place for that.”
“Thanks for telling me,” said Derek. “I want good quality stuff that will last for a long time, and I’m definitely looking forward to buying a bookcase or two. Once I get settled more or less, I’ll be bringing the rest of my stuff from Oregon.”
Just then, Stiles bounded into the kitchen carrying the last of the grocery bags and shaking water from the torrential downpour out of his hair. It had been raining all morning, and the forecast was for rain the rest of the day, so the three young men were looking forward to staying warm and cozy and dry in the kitchen.
“I’m still going with you to find a sofa and some chairs,” Stiles said as he unpacked the bags. “I’m thinking a sectional would be nice.”
Derek leaned through the archway and looked into the empty living room. “I don’t think it’s big enough for a sectional. Maybe once the big house is built we’ll do that, and put what I get for this place into a den or entertainment room.”
“Hmm, okay,” hummed Stiles as he reached for a notebook. “So—Tex-Mex. I picked some recipes that can be altered easily for individual taste, so none of what we’re making today will be really spicy. That way, everyone who eats can add peppers or cheese to their own liking. My dad isn’t really into super spicy food.”
“Cool deal,” said Boyd. “My youngest sister can’t have anything spicy at all yet, but my dad likes it HOT.”
Stiles smiled. “Do you have a gas or electric stovetop?”
“We have electric,” said Boyd, “why?”
“I’m going to show you how to roast chilies on a burner, just like you do on a grill.” Stiles clapped his hands together. “Okay, I do have a special treat—something none of us picked to make: Melissa McCall, after extracting a promise to supply her with lunches this week, gave me the recipe for her grandmother’s tamales.”
“Okay?” asked Boyd with a skeptical look. “Why is that special?”
“Because,” Stiles smirked, “Melissa only makes them for Christmas—ever. I had to majorly beg for that recipe. Even Scott doesn’t know how to make them, not that he could.” Stiles shook his head slowly. “I fear poor Scott is destined to live on ramen and delivery pizza if he doesn’t take kitchen time seriously.”
Boyd walked to the sink to wash his hands. “How come you never cooked with him, if you were such good friends?”
Stiles shouldered his way to the sink. “Because the two times I tried, he almost burned down my kitchen. He actually let the water boil out of the pot when I left him to make the macaroni while I ran to the store for more cheese. Melissa’s not patient enough to teach him, and he thinks Home Ec is for girls.”
“Then maybe you should tell his girlfriend to sign up for it next semester so he can follow her to class.”
Boyd was in the bathroom when Stiles approached Derek with the idea of explaining the Spark.
“Do you think he’ll freak out?” asked Derek. “Because I drove him here, and I’d rather he not storm off on his own in this rain.”
Stiles gave him a pointed look. “Boyd is really level-headed, so I don’t think he’ll storm out of the house. Besides, I think he’ll be cool with it.”
“I’ll be cool with what?” asked Boyd as he returned to the kitchen.
Stiles turned to face his friend. “I have a kind of secret. It’s the kind you can never, ever share with just anyone. It’s not like I have some disease, or anything, but it’s a pretty big deal—and it has to do with my meditation. Since you asked me to teach you that stuff, I figured you could know the secret…if you think you can handle it.”
Boyd crossed his arms and leaned against the archway from the hall. “Is it a dangerous secret?”
Stiles shrugged as the oven timer went off and he opened the oven door. “It could potentially be dangerous if someone unscrupulous found out. Or someone evil. My dad knows. Derek knows. A few other important people know, but nobody in school knows.”
“And you think you can trust me with this secret?” asked Boyd.
Stiles set the hot pan on a trivet to cool and turned to his friend. “You trusted me with what happened to Alicia. That was a pretty big deal.”
“Yeah,” said Boyd, “but that was a matter of public record. There was a trial and some reporters were at the funeral.”
Stiles placed his oven mitts on the counter and leaned forward on his elbows. “Boyd, seriously, I could have read any of the public stuff in the library or the police reports. You shared what happened with your family because of what happened. That was personal and totally private. Youtrusted me with that.”
“Fair enough,” said Boyd after a moment. He looked over at Derek, who was portioning the casserole into plastic containers and acting as if he couldn’t hear what was going on less than five feet from him. “Is this secret something Scott McCall knows about?”
Derek and Stiles both snorted. “No,” said Stiles. “This is something that came up after Scott went by the wayside. And he can’t really keep a secret sometimes.” Stiles looked at Derek and said, “Well, he’s mostly kept one important secret, but then he let Jackson Whittemore find out about it.”
Derek glanced from Stiles to Boyd and back again. “Maybe we can trust Boyd with two secrets, then.”