“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 lunchroom 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 dishtowel. “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’s life. 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 one of those.”
“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. You trusted 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.”
Boyd sat quietly in the front seat of the Camero while balancing the tote of casserole pans between his feet.
He hadn’t said much after the Big Reveal other than being suitably impressed when Derek half-transformed to his Beta form and Stiles made two baking pans disappear from the counter and reappear in the hot oven. All he said at that point was, “Man, you don’t even need extra hands in the kitchen” before changing the topic to the next recipe.
So now Derek was driving Boyd home and Stiles was uncharacteristically quiet in the back seat, leaning his head against the window.
“You’re being unusually calm about all of this,” said Derek after a few minutes.
“I’m mulling,” Boyd replied. “It’s a lot to take in, you know.” Boyd half turned in his seat to better see Stiles. “I’m glad you felt that you could trust me with all of this—and you really can. I’m just wondering if this has anything to do with the fight you’re having with McCall.”
Stiles sighed. “It does and it doesn’t.”
Stiles and Derek proceed to tell Boyd how Scott got bitten and how he tried to blame Derek for his misfortune, and how Derek became Alpha.
“So he thinks you’re jealous of him instead of scared for him?” Boyd asked.
“Well, yeah,” said Stiles. “But he hasn’t taken any of this seriously yet. On his first Full Moon he attacked me in the locker room after he practically disabled an opposing player during the scrimmage game, And that was after Derek told him to hold off on the sports until he got control of himself.”
“During his second Full Moon,” said Derek, “I basically had to sit on top of him in the McCall’s basement instead of running with my Pack. Scott’s not my Beta, but he’s taking my time from my Pack.”
“That’s just stupid,” huffed Boyd.
“Yeah,” agreed Stiles. “He’s gotten more stubborn since the Tribunal. He basically witnessed two executions—the Hunters that killed Derek’s family paid for their crimes—and Scott acted like they should have been rehabilitated and set free.
“He’s been lying to his mother, too. And when Jackson figured everything out, Scott basically told him to find Derek and get the Bite.”
Boyd’s eyes grew comically large. “You didn’t, did you?”
“No!” Derek exclaimed. “I took care of Jackson and I told Scott to get his act together. If he hurts my Pack in any way with his foolishness, I’ll make him pay!”
After a few more minutes of silence, Boyd asked, “If I’m Pack-adjacent, do I get to know about the other Pack members?”
Stiles started laughing in the back seat.
“Pack-adjacent?” asked Derek. “Okay, I like that. We’ll keep it. Stiles and the Sheriff are Pack, because they brought me into their family and protected me. About a week ago, a small family moved here from Oregon—two Werewolf parents, one Werewolf child, one human child—and they submitted to me and are now Pack. And I’m giving the Bite to someone tomorrow.”
“Oh, yeah?” asked Boyd as he again swiveled in his seat. “Anyone I know?”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah, maybe. You know Erica Reyes? She’s in out Econ class. Has seizures?”
“Yeah,” said Boyd, “she’s the blonde in the back row.”
“Yuppers! Scott’s mom asked if Derek could give Erica the Bite to cure the epilepsy. Her parents agreed, so….”
Again Boyd nodded as he processed. “So, Erica and her parents are going to be Pack, too.”
“No,” said Derek. “Erica will be Pack. Her parents will be Pack-adjacent. They can come to Pack meetings if they want to, but I’m not going to force the issue. We’ll all be there to support them as their lives change.”
Boyd sighed. “If I’m not Pack, I guess I don’t get the cool jacket.”
After they dropped off Boyd, Stiles asked Derek to take dinner to his father at the station house.
“What are you going to do,” Derek asks after he agrees.
Stiles held up a disposable foil pan of chicken enchiladas. “I’m taking a peace offering to the Argents—and I’m performing my first official duty as Emissary to the Hale Pack by explaining about Erica.”
Derek helped Stiles carry all of the food containers into the house and divided up two portions of enchiladas for him and the Sheriff. “You should be fine, but call me if you get into trouble.”
Stiles nodded and turned away from Derek. Once his back was turned, Stiles concentrated and CONCENTRATED—and he thought, ‘I hope I don’t need to rely on cellphones in an emergency.’
Derek gasped and grabbed Stiles’ shoulder, spinning him around. “Do that again!”
Stiles closed his eyes and pushed, thinking ‘Do this again?’
When he opened his eyes, Derek was smiling widely.
“So,” Stiles said with a grin, “I guess that worked, huh?”
“Yes!” Derek exclaimed. “That was great! Now, if your car breaks down and you have shitty reception or your phone is dead, you can contact me!”
Stiles laughed. “I only hope that’s the worst emergency we’ll have.”
Stiles balanced his foil pan on one hand as he rang the doorbell beside the thick oak door of the—well, it was a mansion. There was no other word. While he waited for the bell to be answered, Stiles glanced around what he could see of the neighborhood. He and Scott used to trick-or-treat here when they were younger. The wealthy inhabitants had the best candy. Stiles knew the Whittemores lived close to this house—and beyond that was the large cemetery that divided Beacon Hills.
The door behind him opened and Stiles turned around to see… “Allison! Hey! How are you?”
Allison’s forehead wrinkled in confusion. “Stiles? What are you doing here? Did you need to speak with Scott?”
“Scott’s here? No, I don’t need to speak with Scott.” Stiles scratched the back of his head. “I’m, um, actually here to see your father. Oh! And I brought dinner,” he said brandishing the pan of enchiladas. “So-ooo…can I come in?”
“Allison?” A rich baritone voice broke into the awkward exchange. “You left your guest alone in the living room. Who’s at the door?” The owner of the voice came around the corner, and boy was he something. Ice-blue eyes, salt-and-pepper stubble on a firm jaw, strong shoulders; if Stiles wasn’t positive that he might be attracted to Derek, he could really go for a guy like this…aaaaaaand this was probably who he was here to see.
Allison blushed in embarrassment. “Sorry, Daddy. This is a…this is someone I know from school.”
Stiles held out his right hand in greeting. “Hello, sir. I’m Stiles Stilinski, the Sheriff’s son.” Stiles gave the man a significant look and his eyes widened slightly in recognition. “I brought chicken enchiladas,” Stiles continued. “We were experimenting with Tex-Mex recipes, and I made extra.”
Stiles handed the foil pan to the older man, who then passed it on to Allison. “Sweetie, why don’t you take this into the kitchen and feed your boyfriend. I apparently need to speak with Mr. Stilinski.”
Stiles offered a small smile to Allison as she left the entryway, then he followed Argent into an office near the front of the house. Argent ushered Stiles into the room and then closed the door after him.
“I take it you’re from the Hale Pack?” asked Argent.
Stiles shrugged and shoved his hands into his jeans pockets. “Yup.”
“And you’re the boy that was Bitten by the rogue?”
Stiles laughed. “Oh, no. That was not me. I’m the Emissary for the Hale Pack.”
Argent gave him an incredulous look and crossed the room to sit behind a large chrome-and-glass desk. “Really? Aren’t you a little young to be Emissary?”
Again, Stiles shrugged. “Well, I’m a little young, yeah. But I can totally do the job. An Emissary is supposed to protect the Pack, and I can do that.” Stiles crossed to the front of the desk and sat in a stiff leather chair and crossed his arms over his chest. “An Emissary is supposed to speak for the Pack, and I can totally do that.”
Argent smirked. “But I was taught that Emissaries were Druidic or Shamanistic, and quite magical.”
Stiles held out his right hand and pushed, forming a four-inch round ball of flickering purple flames in his palm. “Oh, I’d say I have that covered as well.”
Argent leaned forward over the desk in interest. “That’s not Druidic Magic.”
Stiles shook his hand and banished the flame-ball. “No, it’s not. I’m not a Druid, nor do I want to be, although I’m sure they’re not all like Dr. Deaton.” Stiles leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “I’m what’s called a Spark—and I can do anything to protect my Pack.”
Argent leaned back in his chair and pressed his hands together under his chin. “I understand. Now, what brings you here?”
Stiles hitched a shoulder and leaned back as well. “I know Derek was here to announce his presence in Beacon Hills. I’m here to offer condolences on the passing of—well, of your family, I guess. I can’t imagine what that would be like, and I don’t want to try.” Argent nodded his head in acknowledgment of the sentiment and Stiles continued. “Alpha Hale’s Pack is growing. This should not be news to you. Alpha Hale hasn’t gone nuts and started biting innocent people, but he needs to build a Pack to survive. Two adult Wolves have joined us, and my father and I make up the human contingent so far. But Derek is going to give the Bite to one of my classmates, and I don’t need you to freak out and try to kill her. Or Derek.”
Argent shook his head. “I began pulling away from the Hunting life a long time ago. By the time I married, I was only attending business meetings between other leaders in our community. I have no need to kill an innocent to prove a point.”
“Okay,” said Stiles. “I just needed to be sure. This girl tomorrow is really sick—like life-threatening sick, and her parents are willing to risk having the Bite fail in order to heal her. Look, I know De—Alpha Hale would never ask you for a treaty, not after what your sister did to his family, but I’d like to know that if anything hugely bad went down around here, that you’d at least be willing to defend the innocents.”
“Yes,” sighed Argent. “I will be willing to protect the innocents in this place, should any supernatural danger come calling.” Argent stood from his chair and walked to a large mahogany bookcase. “After my father’s estate was settled, I received custody of his immense library. He had it from my mother, as she was Matriarch of our family faction.” Argent chose a thick tome from a higher shelf and opened it, extracting a small, shiny object. He turned and offered it to Stiles. “That’s a flash-drive copy of the Mid-western American Argent Beastiary. Most of it’s in archaic Latin, with some medieval French thrown in for good measure, but there is a lot that has been translated. Consider it a peace offering.”
Stiles turned the flash-drive over in his hands, running his fingers lightly over the surface and trying to send his magic into it to search for hidden traps. “What’s a ‘Beastiary’?” he asked after finding no baneful spells on the drive.
Argent cocked his head to the side as he considered the boy in front of him. “It’s a long list of every supernatural encounter my branch of the family has had since the beginning of…the beginning. Werewolves, Wendigoes, Berserkers…any- and every-thing; it’s in there, along with their strengths, weaknesses, and mythology.”
Stiles quirked his mouth in a half-grin. “It’s John Winchester’s Diary.”
Argent looked surprised. “I…okay, I have no idea what that means, but it’s for you. All you have to do is translate it.”
Stiles slumped slightly. “Yeah—languages are not my thing. I guess I’ll learn—or I’ll find allies. Thanks for this. I’ll make sure you get the credit for it.”
With no coordination at all, everyone in the Hale Pack managed to arrive at the Reyes house at the same time. The Hansons greeted the Stilinskis with hugs and handshakes as Derek knocked on the front door.
Erica answered the door, but her mother was hovering nervously over the girl’s shoulder. Derek looked at her questioningly. “You haven’t changed your mind have you?”
Erica laughed as she opened the door wider. “Oh, no!” she exclaimed. “For a minute I was afraid it was all just a dream. And now, here you are—and it’s not!”
Derek led the others as they filed through the front door and into the living room, with John bringing up the rear.
“Sheriff,” Mrs. Reyes asked, surprised, “are you a…?”
“Werewolf?” John sighed and shook his head. “No, I’m one of the humans in the Pack. So is my son there, but he’s something special as well. We’re here so you don’t feel so out of place with what’s going to happen.”
“Oh,” she replied deflated, “that’s so…nice of you.” She led the Sheriff into the living room wringing her hands. “We prayed about this today—that it will work and Erica will survive. I suppose I just have questions.”
John patted her shoulder gently. “That’s what we’re here for.”
Once they were all situated in the living room, with Stacy on the floor with her children and Derek standing by the front window, Derek introduced the Hansons and explained why they were all in the house.
“I brought the Pack for three reasons,” he said. “First—so they can welcome Erica to the Pack after the Bite has taken, second—so you can meet the people Erica will spend at least one night a month with, and third—so we can answer any questions you have about Werewolves and Packs.”
Both Mr. and Mrs. Reyes looked relieved at that statement. “I have so many questions!” said Mrs. Reyes. “I know we agreed to let you do this for Erica because it would save her life, but there is still so much we don’t know.”
Stacy smiled up at the woman and said, “I’m a born Wolf from an old, established Pack, and my husband is a Bitten Wolf. We can answer anything you need to know.”
“But first,” said Derek, “I’d like to get the Bite out of the way. If it doesn’t take, the results will be instantaneous, but if she Turns successfully she’ll need an hour to heal. I want her to be comfortable in any case.”
Mr. Reyes nodded and headed for the hallway. “Erica’s bedroom is on the first floor, because of her seizures. We thought it best to do this in there.”
“Okay,” said Derek as he moved to follow. “The Bite will bleed a lot, even if it takes, so it might be best if you have a lot of old towels to put under her. I’d also like to have you in the room instead of her mother. I know the sight of your daughter in pain will affect you, but I think you might be better at hiding it.”
Mrs. Reyes waved her husband along. “You go. I’ll sit here and ask as many questions as I can.”
Erica gave her mother a hard hug and bounded out of the room ahead of her father and Derek. Mr. Reyes followed at a much more sedate pace, and Derek gave one last reassuring look at Mrs. Reyes before he, too, stalked into the back hall.
Mrs. Reyes gave a shaky sigh and turned to Stacy. “So, what exactly can I expect from Erica after the Bite?”
Stacy laughed at the unexpected question. “Well! There are so many things!” Stacy pulled coloring books and crayons from her bag and handed them to the children before rising and sitting next Mrs. Reyes on the sofa. “The first thing you’re going to notice is that Werewolves are comfortable in their skin. Since Erica has spent so much of her life betrayed by her own body, this is going to be a significant change. She’ll start to feel more confident and self-assured. And Werewolves put off a lot of body heat—so she’s going to start wearing less around the house.”
At the alarmed look she received, Stacy laid a reassuring hand on Mrs. Reyes’ arm. “Look, she’s not going to become a sudden exhibitionist, okay? But for your peace of mind—and for hers—you might want to invest in some comfortable full-coverage sports bras and yoga pants. That way, Erica will be comfortable and you won’t be scandalized by your own daughter.”
Mrs. Reyes laughed uneasily. “Okay—I can do that. Sports bras don’t sound so bad. Anything else?”
“Oh, yes,” said Stacy. “We’re constantly scenting Pack—it keeps us sane. So, she’ll sniff you a lot, because the scents of you and your husband will form her first anchor. And Werewolves are very tactile, so she’ll hug you more.”
“That would be nice,” said Mrs. Reyes. “Because of the epilepsy, Erica doesn’t much like us to touch her. Hugs are very rare in this family.”
Stiles laughed. “Well, that’s going to change. I mean, Derek doesn’t hug us, per se, but he does touch a lot—you know, rubbing shoulders or bumping arms.”
Mrs. Reyes nodded. “So Erica will be physical with all of you?”
“Yes,” said Stacy. “We’re Pack, so she’ll seek comfort from all of us. So if you see her hugging me or my husband, or even the Sheriff even though he’s not a Wolf, don’t be alarmed. It’s not inappropriate at all for us. There will be no hanky-panky going on, I promise you.
“But that does lead into more uncomfortable information that you should have. Werewolves are very sensual, and sometimes they seem highly sexed. That doesn’t mean that Erica will suddenly become boy-crazy or sexually active, but she will become more interested in a possibly physical relationship. But before you panic, Werewolves don’t become sexually active unless a relationship is serious. It doesn’t mean that she’ll wait until marriage, but she won’t sleep with everything that moves, either. Getting that close to someone is risky, and it can muddle the scents, so once Erica finds someone special she’ll likely stay with that person for a very long time.”
Neither Stacy nor Dennis nor Mrs. Reyes noticed the bitter and sad expressions on John’s and Stiles’ faces. They both knew how hard it was for a Werewolf to trust in a physical attraction—and how badly one could be betrayed.
“Erica will also need more privacy,” said Stacy, “so her room will become her ‘den’ so to speak. Werewolves need a safe place to be alone, so don’t just allow anyone to wander in there while she’s living with you. She’ll be able to tell. She’ll also be able, with training, to tell when you’re nervous or scared or lying to her—so just be easy around her. Erica will still be your daughter. She might be part of Derek’s Pack, but she’s yours first and always.”
Mrs. Reyes gave a watery smile as she wiped a tear from her eye. “I think I was most afraid that Derek would take her from us, you know?”
“That might happen if you were abusive and cruel,” said John, “but then again, I would take her away in that instance. Derek has always cared about family, and he would never try to break yours apart. Just think of the Pack as an annex of sorts—a larger family for Erica to turn to in case something happens to you or your husband.”
“That’s right,” agreed Stacy, “we’re not trying to replace you. But Erica is going to need things now that only Pack can give her. We’ll train her and teach her, and while you can’t be part of all of it, you will always be there. She’s going to need your support most of all in this, because being Bitten is a huge change.”
“Is it going to hurt?”
Erica busied herself arranging old towels on her bed, but she was still a bit worried about receiving the Bite.
“Yes,” Derek answered honestly. “It’s going to hurt, and while all of your other scars will fade or disappear, this mark will leave a permanent scar.”
Erica’s face brightened. “All of my scars will fade? Really?”
Derek nodded seriously. “Werewolves heal very quickly. Unless there is a specific poison involved or the wound is made by an Alpha, you won’t have scars, and any scars that you do have will fade away. The older scars will take longer, of course, but the Turning Bite will never heal fully.”
Erica ran one hand over her face and shoulder. “I’ve got a lot of scars. When I fall with a seizure, I’m not always in a good place to land. And my medication is hell on my complexion, as you can see.”
Mr. Reyes wrapped his arms around his daughter to comfort her. “You’re beautiful, Erica. You always have been.”
Erica sniffed and rubbed her face on her father’s shoulder. “But I’m not strong. And I don’t want to be weak anymore.”
Derek rested his hand on Erica’s shoulder. “You won’t be. Your body will be stronger, of course, but you’ll have the strength of the Pack with you at all times. Once you form the Pack Bonds, you’ll always be able to sense us and you’ll know when we’re near. You’ll also know when one of us is in trouble—and we’ll sense you, too—so you’ll be able to help if needed.”
Erica lifted her head and smiled at Derek. “I’ve never been part of a team like that. I think I’ll like it.”
“Good,” said Derek. “Now, because this may be the only scar you have, where do you want the Bite?”
Erica twisted and turned her body as she looked into her mirror. “Um, I’m not sure. What do you think, Daddy?”
Mr. Reyes lifted her hair and pulled her shirt collar aside. “How about on the shoulder? Nobody would really notice it there, and when you take swimming lessons this summer, it won’t show too badly.”
Derek nodded in agreement. “Dennis’ Bite was on his forearm, but his thick watchband covers it for the most part. Bitten Werewolves aren’t usually self-conscious of their scars, but Dennis was Bitten during a hostile situation and it wasn’t his choice. The Bitten Wolves in my family wore their scars on the back of the neck so they would show when they bowed their heads in submission to the Alpha.”
“So the shoulder is okay, then?” she asked.
“Yeah,” said Derek, “the shoulder is fine. But you might not want to wear a shirt that you actually like, because this is going to bleed a lot.”
Derek left the room long enough for Erica to change her shirt, offering her the privacy and modesty that she would soon shed the need for. Once she called for him to return, he looked at her father and said, “This is going to look incredibly horrific. I’m going to need you to not panic, okay?”
Mr. Reyes nodded. “Yes, okay. I know it’s for the best, so I’ll leave the panicking for later.”
Derek opened the door to walk inside. “You might not have the luxury later, either. Erica’s senses will be stronger soon, so she’ll hear your heartbeat if you panic later.”
Mr. Reyes sighed. “Right,” he said as he followed Derek in to his daughter’s bedroom, “it’s for her own good…it’s for her own good…it’s for her own good….”
Alberto Reyes left his daughter’s bedroom shaken but relieved. Erica had survived the Bite, so she was recovering with her new Alpha—and now he was returning to his living room so that he could console his wife.
Cheryl Reyes looked up when her husband entered the room. “Is she…?”
“She’s okay,” he said. “There was a lot of blood, so she and Derek are cleaning it up while they ‘Bond’, but she’s okay.”
Mrs. Reyes sobbed in relief, and Stacy wrapped an arm around her shoulder.
Stiles stood up and clapped his hands together. “Well,” he said, “I’d better go get that ‘welcome to the Pack’ present from Derek’s car, then. Oh, and maybe we should clear out one of the upstairs rooms?”
“Why would we do that?” asked Mr. Reyes.
“Because,” said Dennis from where he was coloring with his children, “Erica deserves a new bedroom away from the main floor of the house. Having her on the main floor was fine when she was sick, but she’s all better now.”
“Oh,” said Mrs. Reyes, “yes, of course. There’s a nice bedroom at the opposite end of the hall from us that we’re only using for storage.”
Stiles left the house while they were all making arrangements to clean out the new room, and when he returned with a wrapped garment box, Erica had emerged from her room with Derek.
“Hey, beautiful, look at you!” Stiles smiled at the girl because the transformation was extraordinary. Gone were the bruises and shadows from under her eyes and her hair was bright and wavy instead of dull and limp. Her skin was clear, too, and she had a rosy glow about her face.
Erica greeted him with a bright smile that shadowed her bloody shirt. “Hey, yourself! What’s in the box?”
Derek took the box from Stiles and presented it to Erica. “It’s protection and camouflage.”
Erica opened the box to reveal a black leather motorcycle jacket. “It’s cool, but I don’t understand.”
Derek gestured for her to try it on. “We’re going to train hard, and this will act as a sort of armor for you. Leather like this can take a beating. But, if you have an incident while in public—like if you scrape your arm on a brick wall at school, for instance—people are going to see you get injured. A scrape like that will heal immediately, but humans shouldn’t see that. People will expect you to have a scar or scrape, so the leather will hide the fact that you don’t.”
Erica ran her hands lovingly down her chest and arms, caressing the leather. “This is so cool! Oh!” she said, looking at her parents, “I’m going to need clothes! I mean, I’m going to need clothes that aren’t baggy beyond repair.”
Mrs. Reyes looked panicked, but Stacy stepped in. “Don’t worry; I’ll go with you when you shop.” Stacy looked at Erica seriously. “You can get new stuff, but you can’t draw too much attention to yourself. Change small things at first: a new haircut and better-fitting jeans and t-shirts. I know having what amounts to a new body is pretty heady, but attracting attention now would ultimately be bad for the Pack.”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Reyes, “That would be good. We can wait until after school tomorrow, okay?”
Erica nodded, her smile still bright. “Yeah, I can do that.” She spun around in a circle laughing. “I feel so…alive!”
Mr. Reyes hugged his daughter. “You look so alive!” He turned to Derek and asked, “So what do we do now?”
“Now,” said Derek, “Erica has to know the scents of the Pack members and our heartbeats, and we form Pack Bonds. And the Pack has to fully accept your scents and the sounds of your heartbeats, so we’ll all know that you are Pack-adjacent and important. Then Dennis and Stacy and I can carry Erica’s furniture to her new room, and we’ll let you Bond as a family. I’ll start training Erica this week, starting before school on Tuesday. Since you’re shopping for her, as Alpha I want to provide work-out clothing for her, as we’ll be running a lot in the mornings and evenings.”
Mr. Reyes was about to object, but John held up a hand. “Don’t argue with the Alpha, sir. I tried that, but it’s Alpha instinct to provide for the Pack. Derek buys groceries for us when he and Stiles spend all day cooking.”
Stacy laughed. “Derek gave us the down payment on our house when we moved here, just to make sure his Pack members had a safe and decent place to live.”
Derek blushed but agreed. “I’m not going to take over or anything, but good quality work-out clothes are an expense you don’t need right now. Once your bank account recovers from hospital payments and buying Erica’s medication, you can better afford clothes for her. Right now, her appetite is going to grow, because Werewolves have a higher metabolism and she’ll eat more, so your money will be better spent on food.”
Mrs. Reyes’ hand was shaking as she stroked Erica’s hair. “I think we can do that. Erica never had much of an appetite.”
Derek was careful to outline a training schedule for Erica that did not disrupt her schoolwork. He made sure her parents understood the need for fight training, stating that Erica might only need to help protect the Pack and territory but she would need to know how to stay alive.
The hardest part of his talk was explaining Hunters. Mr. and Mrs. Reyes looked horrified that someone might try to kill Erica just because of how and what she was, but Derek assured them that the Hunter family currently in town was not a danger. Still, he made sure Erica understood the dangers of dramatically changing her appearance or revealing her physical condition.
“You’ll be sixteen next year, and I know you want to get your driver’s license,” he said, “but the law says you have to be seizure-free for five years before that can happen. It’s annoying, but we have to stick to the laws.”
Erica shrugged. “But I can get a bike, right? I mean, I never learned to ride, but I can now, right?”
Derek laughed. “Yeah, you can learn to ride a bike. Maybe I’ll help you get one for your birthday—with your father’s permission, of course.”
After the furniture was moved, with the Wolves doing all of the heavy lifting (“How awesome is this, Dad?”), the rest of the day was spent making sure Erica had plans for her first Full Moon, which would be in two weeks. “If I can get her under control,” said Derek carefully, “then she should be good to run with us that night. If not, then we might have to chain her so she doesn’t hurt herself or someone else.”
Mr. Reyes frowned. “The chaining thing sounds bad, but I understand the need. We don’t have a basement, so you couldn’t do it here.”
“No,” agreed Derek. “But I would want her to be with Pack in any case, so if that is necessary then I’ll do it where we can all be with her.”
Erica beamed at Stiles when she passed him in the hall on her way to her first class. She was still wearing her baggy mom-jeans and an over-sized sweatshirt under her new leather jacket, and her hair was pulled back in a messy pony-tail, but she was glowing.
Stiles was chuckling softly when Boyd found him at his locker. “I see things went well,” said Boyd, nodding in Erica’s direction. “And she got the cool jacket, too.”
Stiles turned to his friend. “Yeah, she survived okay. Her parents seem to be taking it well, too.”
“I bet it’s just a relief knowing she’ll never be rushed to the hospital again.”
Stiles shrugged. “Yeah, but she’s missed a lot of school. I told her that she could join us in the library at lunch and we’d help her catch up on her work.”
“Yeah,” Boyd nodded, “I can help with that.”
As they took their seats, Stiles saw that Scott looked confused; tilting his head toward the door like a puppy that hears a can full of coins being shaken somewhere. Stiles knew that Scott would soon figure out that there was another Wolf in the school. He might be untrained, but his senses would not lie to him. Stiles only hoped that Scott would keep it to himself this time. Jackson was not beyond hurting an innocent girl in his assholery, and Erica was just new enough not to strike back.
Still, Scott seemed not to be able to scent-out Erica in the halls, and she only shared two classes with him, so her first day back at school passed quietly. She studied with Stiles and Boyd at lunch time, happily eating the neat sandwiches that Stiles provided while catching up on her homework. She quietly scented Scott in the hallway, sniffing the air around him when she passed by on the way to class, but she said nothing to the other Wolf.
She did corner Stiles about it after school, though. “I didn’t know McCall was in the Pack.”
Stiles turned a stony face to her. “He’s not, but that’s a very long story. We’ll tell you during training some time, though, because I’d rather not talk about it where he can hear.”
“Sure,” said Erica, “anything you say. I’ve got a shopping trip to get home to anyway.”
Stiles gave her a hug, allowing her to scent him. “Have fun, but don’t come to school looking like a tramp, okay?”
Erica laughed. “Not a chance! Mom and I spent, like, two hours looking through catalogues last night after dinner. While I like the Rockabilly look, we decided that it would only be for special occasions, and I’d stick with classy and understated for everyday stuff. It’ll all look good with the jacket, and I’m aiming on getting a killer pair of boots to go with. Dad said he’d think about it.”
Erica’s training had been going well, and she had established her mother as her Anchor, but by the nineteenth, she still didn’t have full control of her Wolf, so she spent her first Full Moon in chains, surrounded by Pack.
They were in the woods near the old Hale house, staying well away from the ruins that were marked for demolition. Stacy stayed near Erica, to keep a strong hand nearby in case she needed it, but her children, Melanie and Sam, were playing nearby.
Erica was wrapped securely in chains that Stiles had to handle because they were laced with Mountain Ash—something Regina Kincaide taught him to make—but she was docile and in good spirits, joking with Stiles the whole time. Only occasionally would she pop-claw and try to draw blood on herself, but her motions were hindered by the chains.
Derek and Dennis had run several miles through the woods, and they were returning to the small campfire Stiles had built to roast marshmallows over when Derek’s cell phone rang with a general ringtone. He reached into his jacket pocket to answer checking the display for the caller.
“Melissa? Why are you calling?” he asked confused.
“Derek! You have to come now! I…I need help!” Melissa McCall’s voice was frantic and hysterical. Stacy could clearly hear her and motioned for Stiles and Derek to leave at once.
“I’ve got Erica! Go! It could be important!”
Derek nodded and told Melissa he was on his way. He disconnected the call and dragged Stiles to his car.
“What’s going on?” asked Stiles as Derek peeled out of his parking spot.
“I don’t know,” said Derek. “Melissa sounded like it was an emergency.”
“Oh, shit!” exclaimed Stiles. “She was supposed to be home with Scott tonight.”
Derek drove quickly to the McCall house while Stiles called his father at the station. “Look, Dad, just act like this is a regular disturbance call and meet us there, okay? We don’t know what happened. It could be anything.”
“Alright,” said John, “I’m on my way now.”
John beat them to the McCall house only by a minute, but he was waiting at the front door for them when they pulled up outside the house. Once they reached the door, John knocked once and turned the knob, opening the unlocked door.
“Melissa?” he called when he entered, “It’s John. I have Derek and Stiles with me. Where are you?”
Melissa came from the kitchen in tears. “Oh, thank goodness you’re here! He just…and I just…”
“Melissa,” interrupted John as he gently took hold of her shoulders, “calm down, okay, and tell us what happened? Was it Hunters?”
Melissa started to cry, surprising both Stiles and Derek because she had always seemed like nothing got to her. “I was trying to make Scott stay in the basement so he wouldn’t break anything, but he kept fighting.” She took a deep breath and got herself under control, running a shaking hand through her hair.
And that’s when they all saw it: her shirt sleeve was torn and a set of four long, shallow gashes were bleeding along her left arm.
“He said that he was going to Allison’s and that I had no right to keep him here,” Melissa took another deep breath, “and he started to shift…and he reached for me…and I was wearing one of those pendants that Regina gave me, so I threw it at him….”
Stiles and Derek ran for the kitchen, where they found a partially-shifted Scott trapped in a circle of Mountain Ash. When they entered the room, he turned terrified eyes to them.
“I just…I just attacked my mother,” Scott stammered. “Please…you have to help me!”
Scott had curled into himself, whimpering, while Derek paced furiously in a circle in the kitchen. From the living room, Derek could hear Stiles and John calming Melissa from her panic.
Derek could not believe…no, actually he could.
Scott had attacked his own mother, probably because she had forbidden him from leaving the house and finding his Hunter girlfriend. So Scott had wolfed-out and attacked and he made Melissa bleed.
Derek could feel his claws pop and he reined-in his own Wolf. It would not do to lash out at the boy, not now. Not when Melissa was crying in the other room.
“Hey, Derek,” said Stiles cautiously as he entered the kitchen, “Me and Dad are going to take Melissa back to our place. I have some herbs that can make her scars disappear…and she really doesn’t need to be here.”
Derek nodded tersely and Scott whimpered again. “You go. I have some work to do here.”
Once the others were out of the house, Derek rounded on Scott, still trapped in the Mountain Ash circle.
“How could you?” Derek yelled. “How could you attack your own mother? Melissa has stood by you through everything and you attacked once she acted like a real Alpha and parent and did something you didn’t like?”
Derek returned to his pacing, back and forth in a tight circle in front of Scott. “I have a new Beta, Scott. A beautiful girl that was hurting and fighting for her life, who was brought to me so I could try and save her, and she has more control over her Wolf in just two weeks than you have in two months.” Derek crouched in front of the miserable boy. “She has control, Scott, because it’s important to her. I thought it was important to you, too.”
Scott wiped clawed hands over his teary eyes. “It is important to me,” he rasped.
Derek snorted and stood. “Really? Because I offered to train you, and you quit on me. I gave you good advice, and you ignored me. What part of that is important to you, Scott?”
Scott moaned as if in physical pain. “I just wanted to be normal.”
“But you’re not normal, Scott,” Derek said gently. “I know it wasn’t your fault that you were Bitten, but it did happen, and you’re not going to be normal anymore.”
Scott huffed and sat down hard in his little circle. “I can’t do this, man. I thought I could handle it, but….”
Derek sat cross-legged in front of him and folded his hands over his knees. “I think I can still help you. You’ll have to follow every instruction I give you, but I might be able to help.”
Scott pounded his fists on his head. “I’m going to have to quit Lacrosse, aren’t I? And stop seeing Allison?”
Derek snorted. “You almost killed your mother, and that’s what you’re worried about?” He shook his head at the boy. “I might be able to work with Lacrosse—if you train hard. But do you really think Allison Argent is a good choice, knowing it was her father that shot you?”
Scott’s eyes grew wide with horror. “But he doesn’t know it was me, right? I mean, he didn’t say anything after the whole Tribunal thing….”
Derek’s eyes narrowed as he considered the boy in front of him. “He doesn’t know what you are now, but that’s going to change. I have to tell him, Scott. If I don’t, and they find out, it will be worse for you in the long run. And it will be worse for me and my Pack if Argent finds out without me. You’re not worth that risk to me.”
“But…but you said you’d help me!”
“Yes,” agreed Derek, “but I’ll not help you at the risk to my own Pack. And you made it very clear that you won’t submit or become Pack, so you are a secondary concern to me. I have others to protect now.”
Scott almost looked betrayed. “You already have a Pack? But you just became Alpha!”
Derek rolled to his feet with a deep sigh. “Unless or until you submit to me as your Alpha, Scott, my Pack is of no concern to you. Do you have enough room in there to sleep?” he asked, nodding to the circle of Mountain Ash.
Scott looked around the tight space. “I guess so, why?”
“Because,” Derek said as he walked to the front door, “Melissa is most likely to be staying at the Sheriff’s house overnight, and I really don’t feel like asking Stiles to come back and break the circle.”
The Saturday after the Full Moon had unofficially become Cooking Day. If all had gone well during the Run, then Derek would be in a great mood and ready to try something ‘new and exotic’—or new, at least. If things went sideways—or pear-shaped like this month—then Derek would want comfort-food stand-bys.
Stiles and Boyd had compiled two folders of recipes since Boyd had been joining them for their Cooking Days, which had become a twice-a-month deal, and while one folder contained recipes for dishes they found interesting (not that Stiles would ever have tried Haggis, even if the ban had been lifted), the other was full of hearty-but-healthy fare that was familiar. Boyd was happy to comply with Stiles’ edict that ground turkey was just as good as beef and herbs in the place of salt was a good choice, so the meatloaf with riced cauliflower was top on the list for this day.
Since the March Full Moon was on a Saturday, Cooking Day was moved to Sunday, and Boyd had to prove that his homework was finished before his family released him to his ‘duties’. Actually, the Boyds loved the fact that ‘Vernie’ was learning to cook so well, as the food was delicious and it took some of the burden from his parents.
The kitchen staff was back in Derek’s kitchen again, and it was proving to be a bit crowded.
Isaac Lahey had moved into the Boyd household without any fanfare, and he pretty much kept to himself—just like at school. So when Cooking Day rolled around, Boyd thought nothing of inviting the other teen along ‘just to get out of the house for a while’, and Isaac agreed almost sullenly. If either Derek or Stiles were surprised to see him, they said nothing. Derek made room in the backseat for Isaac by moving the plastic storage containers to his trunk, and Boyd took the front passenger seat quietly. Once at the grocer’s, Stiles handed Isaac part of a list and a shopping cart and shooed Derek and Boyd off to the butcher.
Isaac said nothing.
He pushed his cart and filled it with the requisite items, pausing only when Stiles corrected a choice for a healthier option, and he never spoke.
Once at Derek’s house, Isaac was handed a paring knife and instructions on how to deal with various vegetables, and he peeled and chopped and minced (a tinier chop, Isaac), and he never spoke.
Derek and Stiles and Boyd carried on a conversation about school and casseroles and how big Derek’s ‘real kitchen’ should be (“I’m meeting with an architect next week, so I’ll see what my options are.”), and Isaac listened but never spoke.
Many hours later, when canvas totes were filled with plastic containers—five meals total for each ‘family’—and Derek was helping Boyd carry his portions into the house, Isaac stopped him on the sidewalk.
“Thanks for letting me come,” the boy said softly, and Derek graced him with a gentle smile.
“We do this twice a month, Isaac. It’s Stiles’ way of mothering us and making sure we eat right. You can come anytime.”
“How is Melissa doing?” Derek asked as he climbed out of his Camero to join John. They were standing in front of the old burnt husk of the Hale Manor, where Derek would be exploring the hidden basement with John’s help.
“She’s still a little shaken up,” said John with a sigh. “She’s ready to forgive Scott, because he’s her son, but she needs assurances that that incident won’t happen again.”
Derek shoved his hands into his jacket pockets and squared his shoulders. “I can’t make those assurances, John. It’s all on Scott now. As it is, I have to speak to Argent about him, and I doubt that is going to go well.”
John nodded and ducked down to reach in through the window of his cruiser to grab a flashlight. “Yeah, I know. Melissa knows, too. She’s just….”
“She’s just come to realized that her happy human son is now capable of doing great harm.” Derek sighed deeply. “Scott’s not a monster. I’m not a monster. But Scott needs to learn control, and I think he has a lot of issues with authority.”
John snorted. “You could say that. Melissa is strict, of course, but she gives in a lot. And he doesn’t really have anyone else to answer to.”
“His father?” Derek asked.
John shook his head. “His father, Rafael, is an FBI agent, but he’s out of the picture. Has been for a long time, actually.”
“Why is that?”
John frowned. “He was a hard worker, and a hard agent. But he internalized a lot of things from work, and then he’d go home and get drunk. He got too drunk one too many times, and he accidentally hit Scott and knocked him down the stairs. Melissa called me for help, and I got Rafe out of the house that night. She told him he needed to get his act together, and Rafe took that to mean she wanted him out for good—so he left. I haven’t seen him for years, and Melissa’s never mentioned him again after she received divorce papers in the mail.”
Derek turned to the house and began to climb the porch stairs. “I don’t want to be his father, John. I just don’t want him to bring more Hunters down onto my Pack.”
Derek paused when he reached the front door, waiting for John to catch up with him. His shoulders were tense and his back was stiff when John reached him.
“What’s wrong, Derek?”
Derek reached out and ran one hand down the closed front door, over a deeply etched sigil of a squared triskele. “I know this, but I can’t remember from where. I know it’s not a good thing, though.”
John clapped a gentle hand onto Derek’s shoulder. “Well, let’s worry about it when we’re done here. I’d rather the house didn’t fall in on us while we’re digging around underneath it.”
Derek nodded and took his phone out of his pocket and snapped a photo of the sigil. “I’ll send this to the Gallagher Pack. Maybe Regina or Liam will know what it means.”
Derek led the way across the ruined floor and deep into the wreck of a house. They skirted ash and rubble, stepping carefully around burned spots on the floor. Derek easily found the house entrance to the basement, and he pulled the door from the hinges deftly so that it wouldn’t close and seal them in. Derek took the lead again as they descended the stairs.
The fire had ravaged the main floor of the house and completely destroyed the top floors and roof, but here in the sub-floor area, the devastation was horrific.
Ash coated the walls of the stairwell and some steps were completely burned through. The stone floor of the basement was scarred from flames and worse. John wrinkled his nose at the sight of greasy stains that could only be human—or werewolf—remains. Along one wall in the basement was a line of strong metal cages. Not steel, John knew, unless they were magically reinforced, but they were obviously there to hold Wolves that had no control of their own. There were ash-coated chains inside the cages, and they were also coated with a thin layer of black grease.
John fought to keep the bile from rising in his throat as he thought of all the innocent people that lost their lives in this house—in this basement. His eyes pricked with tears as he followed Derek past the cages and toward a bricked vault.
“Thanks for coming with me, John,” said Derek as he shoved fallen bricks aside. “I’m not sure I could have done this alone.”
“I’m not sure I would have wanted you to do this alone, Derek. Is that the vault you were talking about?”
Derek nodded and shoved his claws into a hidden recess in the wall. “It’s not the main vault, though. The Hale Pack has been here in this part of California longer than Beacon Hills has been here. Our main family vault is hidden underground in another part of the city. This is just where Mom kept some family treasures.”
John’s brow wrinkled with the information. “You have another vault?”
Derek pulled several boxes from the opened vault and laid them on the floor at his feet. “The Hale Pack Vault holds financial information for the Pack, dating back generations. There is also a collection of rare herbs that Stiles might want, as well as several books on our Pack history. There’s a lot of other stuff in there, too. I really need to go through it sometime soon, but I need to do it after dark.”
“Why after dark?” asked John as he knelt to help Derek go through the boxes. They held several photo albums and birth records and a few journals.
Derek started piling the boxes for transport. “The entrance to the vault is under the entrance to the high school.” When John gaped at him, Derek shrugged. “The vault was there first, remember? The Hales owned a lot of land in this region, and my great-grandfather leased some of it to the county for the education department. If I can find the right files—probably in the main vault—I can probably prove ownership of a large part of Beacon Hills.”
John chuckled softly. “That could ruffle a lot of feathers around here.”
Derek nodded in agreement. “I don’t really need the land or most of the money. Once I find the titles and deeds, I’ll look into donating a lot of it. I might have to keep the high school, though, because of the vault.”
The two men carried their burden up the scarred stairs and out of the damaged and haunted house. John helped Derek stow the boxes in the trunk of the Camero and looked back at the house. “Do you have an appointment with the demolition company yet?”
“Yeah,” said Derek as he closed the trunk. “I’m meeting with the owner of the company on Tuesday so I can give him details about the basement and hidden tunnels. I’m hoping they’ll take it down by the end of the month.”
“And when is your appointment with the architect?”
“I’m meeting with Veronica Dempsey on Thursday morning. Her particular style is akin to the classic Victorian-style homes you see in San Francisco. I’ve always liked those houses, and I think a house like that will look good in this setting.”
John turned to look at the shell of a house behind them. It was a large Georgian manor-type house with a large porch, and it was rather boxy. If it had had columns in the front, it would have looked like a plantation house. John could see a Victorian house sitting there in its place, with a covered porch and large windows and turreted rooms. John doubted Derek would paint his home in the wild Grand Lady style of San Francisco, but he wouldn’t have it looking like the Addams Family house, either.
“I see your point, Derek. That would look nice out here in the woods. Well, I’ve got to get to work soon, so I’ll see you later, okay?”
Derek lifted his hand in a good-bye wave as John climbed into the cruiser and drove away. Derek opened the driver’s door of his Camero but stood still with his elbow resting on the roof of the car as he considered the symbol carved into his door.
Bad news. He only knew it meant Bad News.
“This symbol is indeed bad news, Derek,” said Liam Gallagher over the phone later that evening. “It is the symbol of the Alpha Pack.”
“What’s an ‘Alpha Pack’?” Derek asked as he opened a blank notebook. He had adopted that habit from Stiles: always having a notebook and pen ready in case he needed to write anything important down. This seemed like it would be important.
“They claim to be Werewolf Enforcers that make sure Packs are following laws and rules and are not drawing attention from humans. I’m not too sure about that claim, though.”
“Why is that, Liam?”
“The leader is an old Wolf named Deucalion, and he has a deep hatred for humans. The rumor is that he killed his entire Pack in order to make himself stronger. And he has encouraged other Alphas to do the same.”
Derek felt the bile rise in his throat. “That’s…that’s hideous! Why would they do that? A Pack is an Alpha’s true strength.”
“I know that Derek. I also know that this Deucalion seems to enjoy corrupting new Alphas and recruiting them. He came to visit an ally of mine in Colorado and was turned away very quickly. That Pack had a strong structure and an extremely strong Emissary, and Deucalion could not stand up to them.”
Derek ran his hand over his face and sighed. “Great. I remember that name now. He came when I was a kid, and asked Mom to help him make a treaty with some Hunters. She refused him. He had some other Alphas with him back then, too.” And one of those Alphas had bitten Paige Krasikova at Peter’s behest; Derek remembered that, too.
“Be careful, Derek. It seems this Alpha Pack may have targeted you. You are certainly a young Alpha, but I believe you are strong enough to stand them off.”
“Yes, well, I’m glad you’re confident in me. I’m having all sorts of issues, though, right now and I really don’t need this Alpha Pack in my territory while I deal with everything.” Derek sighed again, causing Alpha Gallagher to chuckle.
“Is all not well, Derek? Regina led me to believe that you and your strong Emissary had your Pack in order.”
“It’s not my Pack that is the issue. The Hansons have settled in just fine, and Erica is doing well with her training. But that other boy, Scott McCall, has decided not to be in my Pack and he’s causing me some trouble, so now I not only have to train him as well—I have to go and talk to Argent about him. That is not going to go well I think.”
“Is the Hunter giving you trouble after the Tribunal? I had thought he might have recognized the folly in that.”
Derek huffed a small laugh. “Stiles went over there and basically demanded a treaty—before telling me, no less. So Argent is keeping his distance. The problem is that McCall is dating Argent’s daughter.”
“I do not envy you that conversation.”
“So, Mom said it would be okay if I babysat for Stacy this weekend so she and Dennis could have a date-night.” Erica was practically bouncing down the hall between Boyd and Stiles as they headed to the library during lunch period. “I’m gonna make a little money for my Dad’s birthday present!”
Stiles smiled at his new friend and held out a chair for her at their usual table. “That’s great, but do you think you can handle two little kids on your own?”
Erica grinned up at him. “You’ve met Melanie and Sam, right? They’re sweet kids, and they really like coloring and blocks. Besides, it’s only for a couple of hours. Since it’s the first time, and Stacy said I might get overwhelmed, they’re only going to dinner at that Italian place on Winmont Street.”
Boyd pulled out his History book and notebook. “I bet we can make better Italian food than that place.”
Stiles regarded his friend for a moment before saying, “I’m not trying to put every restaurant in town out of business, Boyd. But I kind of have wanted to try making my own pasta. I’ll have to look up recipes for that. Oh, and I need a pasta machine or attachment for the stand mixer.”
Erica looked swiftly back and forth between the two of them. “What are you talking about? Like Home Ec stuff? I wasn’t allowed to take that class, in case I had a seizure around a hot stove.”
“Nah,” said Stiles as he pulled out his Calculus homework. “After my mom died, I sorta took over cooking to keep Dad from surviving on take-out and delivery. And we did this thing called Cooking Day, where we’d spend a whole day in the kitchen making a week’s worth of dinners to freeze. I mean, I did most of the work, cuz Dad is great in front of a grill but not much else.” Boyd chuckled softly and Erica grinned in response. Stiles looked up and smiled at them both. “Anyway, we’d do it every other month or so. And after winter break, when Scott blew me off for Allison, I invited Derek to join me—and it turns out he can’t cook either. Or couldn’t,” he said after Boyd’s reproachful look. “And then I asked Boyd to join us and now we do it twice a month.”
Erica’s eyes lit up. “I wanna come! I’ve always wanted to bake a cake!”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “I’ll make a note to have a dessert day or something, then. And I don’t have a problem with you coming sometime, but I think we should wait until Derek’s new house is built. My kitchen is not large, and the kitchen in Derek’s rental is kinda…cozy. With three of us, space is tight, and Boyd brought Isaac along this week and we were really packed in.”
Erica slumped in her chair for a moment before perking back up. “Okay, I’ll wait. But you have to promise to show me how to bake a cake. And not from a box, either!”
Stiles smirked. “I can do that, but believe me—from a box is so much easier, and once it’s done, you can tweak it with special additions. It’s so much more fun!”
“I’ll risk it,” said Erica proudly as she held out her math homework, “now explain this to me.”
“So the basement is here,” said the man in the white hardhat as he walked the perimeter of the old, burned house, “and tunnels run along this way?”
Derek walked silently beside the man, hands clenched into fists inside his jacket pockets. “Yes; the escape tunnels run away from the house for half a mile.”
The man raised one eyebrow in query. “How old are those tunnels?”
Derek lifted a shoulder in response. “I’m not sure. The house is generations old, but I think it was a re-build, so the tunnels are older. My family has held this land for well over two hundred years. Those tunnels were originally in case of attack before this area was finally settled and ‘civilized’. One of the old journals I found mentioned that the tunnels were reinforced with concrete in the 1920s, and I’ve been in the basement recently to check for damage; it’s all pretty solid.”
The man nodded as he took notes on his clipboard. “Okay, then the question really is: do you want to collapse the tunnels or preserve them? The ground is solid, so that’s in our favour. Collapsing the tunnels will weaken the land, and if they stretch as far as you say then rebuilding will be difficult.”
Derek frowned. “I’m actually planning on rebuilding, just not on this exact site. I want a new family home, but I thought a memorial garden would be better on the site of this old house. I don’t want to put a new family in the exact same place my own family died.”
The man grimaced but nodded in understanding. “What we can do, if you really want to maintain the integrity of the land, is tear down the house and fill in the basement and the very end of the tunnels with strong rock and concrete. You’ll have to dig a new basement, and you’ll not be able to use the tunnels—although I hear stuff like that make good wine cellars and root storage.” The man smiled when Derek gave him a blank look. “Houses with passages for the Underground Railroad or Prohibition trade tunnels have great re-sale value because of the history and interesting storage options.”
Derek shook his head. “I’ll dig a new cellar if I decide I need one, but I doubt I’ll ever need those tunnels again. I’d hate to think of anyone getting lost down there, anyway.”
The man made a few more notations. “Okay, so we’re tearing down the house and filling in the basement. Is there anything we need to salvage?”
“No. I’ve retrieved everything of value. There is nothing here but memories, and I hope the bad ones fade more quickly once the house is gone.”
The man gave him a compassionate look. “Okay, then, I’ll put you on schedule for next week. The concrete will need a week to cure, so any new construction will have to wait until the beginning of the month.”
“Do I have to go with you?” Scott whined as his shoulders slumped in defeat.
Derek crossed his arms and frowned at the boy. “Do you really want me to tell Christopher Argent about you without you there to defend yourself?”
Scott sighed. “I don’t want you to tell him at all!”
“You brought this on yourself, Scott,” Derek said sternly. “You thought you could be in control by now, and you failed that. If you had been, then everything I already told Argent would not be untruth, and I wouldn’t have to go back to him to tell him about the uncontrolled Omega in my territory.”
Scott sulked. “But Allison will hate me!”
Derek turned away from Scott and headed to his Camero confident that the boy would follow. “That’s not my problem, Scott. It’s really not.”
The drive to the Argent house was silent but heavy. Scott slouched in the front seat, frowning. Derek ignored him. Neither was happy with the other; Derek was pissed about Scott’s lack of control and Scott was pissed that Derek threatened his teenage romance. There was nothing to be done for it—Derek was in the right and Scott would just have to deal.
At Stiles’ insistence, Derek had called ahead to warn of urgent business, so Christopher Argent was waiting for them when they arrived. He seemed resigned to deal the Derek but was surprised to see Scott.
“Allison is studying at Lydia’s house today,” he said when he opened the door.
Scott opened his mouth to respond, but Derek beat him to it. “Our business is with you, sir, if you don’t mind. It has to do with the treaty my Emissary has instigated”
Argent nodded and opened the door wider to admit them. They followed Agent through the house to his private study and Derek nodded to the older man to show that he understood he was in a submissive position here. The acknowledgment of such made Argent reconsider his opinion of Alpha Derek Hale; this was an honourable man.
Argent seated himself behind a glass-and-steel desk that allowed no weapons to be hidden and gestured for Derek and Scott to sit in the stiff leather chairs in front of him. When they were seated Derek spoke first to indicate the urgency of the visit.
“I have two issues to bring to you,” Derek said confidently. “The first is a warning and a plea for assistance as per the treaty: I have been sent a warning of the impending visit of an Alpha Pack.”
Argent’s eyes widened. “I’ve heard rumors, but I thought that was all they were.”
Derek shrugged slightly. “I don’t know much more than that, I’m afraid. What little information I could get said they were all Alphas that tested new Packs in some way, but that information also said that these Alphas have all killed their own Packs for power—and that they might try to force me to do the same.” Derek raised his head higher and looked Argent in the eye. “I’m not willing to do that. I may not have wanted to be Alpha, but I am now, and I will keep my Pack safe.”
Argent nodded his head. “I’ll find what information I can. Despite the ruling of the Tribunal, I have very good contacts with reputable Hunter clans. They don’t blame me for the failings of my family and they will help if I ask.”
Derek’s eyes softened as he looked at the older man. “For what it’s worth, I am sorry for all you have suffered. Nobody should have to lose their entire family.”
Argent snorted. “As it turns out, my family was full of monsters and murderers, so losing them was a weight from my shoulders. The best of my family was born when Allison came to me, and I’ll do everything to protect her.”
Scott, of course, couldn’t keep his mouth shut, and blurted out, “But your wife! Allison misses her mother so much—don’t you miss her, too?”
Argent turned his attention to the younger boy. “My marriage to Victoria was arranged to join two Hunter Clans. I did feel kinship with her, yes, but she was far more interested in the hunting and killing than I was. I never realized how bad it was with her because she lied and hid her activities. I know she married me because of the arrangement. I know she was relieved when she became pregnant, because she ceased all relations with me soon after. I also know she was a stern and distant mother who would have treated Allison differently if I hadn’t been there to love my daughter. Allison misses the mother she thought she knew, and I regret that, but she didn’t know Victoria like I did, and she never knew the cruelty Victoria was capable of.”
The fight seemed to leave Scott with that declaration, and he slouched further into his chair.
Derek cleared his throat and brought the older man’s attention back to himself. “There is another reason I’m here. The rogue Omega that killed my sister and became Alpha—the Alpha that killed the ones who helped your sister—was my uncle. He also bit Scott one night two months ago. He is the Omega that refused my help, but that has changed.”
So too had Argent’s expression changed, from blank confusion to stony anger, and Scott sank even further into his chair as if hoping it would swallow him whole.
“Scott’s stubborn,” continued Derek before Argent could explode, “and he fought the Bite and the Change. That hasn’t worked out so well for him so far. I tried to train him two months ago, and he refused my help. Now he has had no choice but to accept my help. He’s not Pack, not yet, and I would never reveal my Pack to you in any case, but you needed to know about Omegas in the territory.”
Argent looked like he was about to launch himself over the desk. “You’re a Werewolf,” he asked Scott, “and you’re dating my only daughter?”
Scott turned miserable eyes to the older man. “I didn’t know about you or Allison, I swear! And I never wanted to be a Werewolf! I kept hoping it would go away. I thought I would be normal once the Alpha was dead, but I wasn’t.” Fat tears began to roll from Scott’s eyes. “I sat in that dark room and I watched Hunters kill other Hunters for no reason, and I was scared.” Scott ignored Derek’s snort of disgust and Argent’s look of confusion. “I was hoping that I could just be a normal kid, but I’m not.”
“Scott,” said Argent gently, “those people weren’t killed for no reason. My father and sister have annihilated entire Packs—innocent people, including humans—just because Werewolves are real. My wife’s family took her home to their own territory so they could deal with her there because she did the same thing. My father—hell, Allison’s mother—would have killed you on sight if they knew what you were, and it would not have mattered at all to them.”
“I need help, sir,” said Scott sadly, more tears falling across his cheeks. “I wanted to be near Allison this weekend, but my mom said no—and I attacked her. If she hadn’t…if Derek didn’t come,” Scott hiccupped and shuddered, looking at Derek, “I need help, and I know it.”
Derek turned to Argent and steeled his resolve. “I think, sir, that Allison might be Scott’s anchor. She might reject him once she knows his nature, but I’d ask that you not prevent him from seeing her. He’ll need a strong connection to his Anchor in order to be in control of his Wolf.”
Argent sat back in his chair and templed his hands under his chin. “Alright,” he said after a moment, “I won’t forbid Allison from seeing Scott. But,” he said before Scott could say anything, “if Allison pulls away after learning what you are, you have to abide by her wishes. I won’t stand for a Werewolf to force a relationship onto my daughter.”
Scott wiped his eyes and nodded eagerly. “When will she be home, do you know? I need to tell her as soon as possible.”
“I think,” said Argent as he stood from his chair, “that it can wait for another day. You should go home and think about what you need to say to her. Alpha Hale, I’ll contact you when I get more information about the Alpha Pack.”
Derek also stood and offered his hand to the older man, who took it with some discomfort. “Thank you, sir. We’ll be in touch.”
Argent showed Derek and Scott to the door and watched from the doorway as they climbed into the Camero. As Scott fastened his seatbelt he sighed. “Allison is going to hate me!”
Derek scowled at the teen as he pulled away from the Argent house. “Not really my problem, Scott.”
Veronica Dempsey was a ball of fire, and her passion was all for her designs.
And once she heard the words ‘money isn’t really a problem’, her eyes brightened with even more fervor.
She rolled out her sketches onto the Stilinski kitchen table and Derek, John, and Stiles all bent over them eagerly.
“As you can see,” she said as she used a pencil as a pointer, “I’ve given you a commercial-sized kitchen with a breakfast nook. This window will bring a lot of light into the room as well as provide a great view. Of course,” she said looking up, “I’ll need to see the actual site for the home to get a better sense of my design.”
Derek grinned as he looked up. “The old place is still there, but I can take you out tomorrow if you want. I don’t want to build directly on top of the old site, but I’d like the new house to be close to the old one. This is really great!”
“Yeah,” agreed Stiles as he flipped a page. “How many bedrooms do you have here?”
Veronica leaned over and pointed out several rooms on the second page. “There is one master suite as part of the turret. The rounded room is actually the bathroom, which I think adds a bit of style, don’t you?”
Stiles looked more closely at the sketch. “Oh! The tub and shower are separate. That’s pretty cool.”
Veronica nodded. “There are three other bedrooms and one bath on the second floor, and there is room for another bath and two more bedrooms on the third level.” She flipped back to the first page and said, “The entryway leads directly into the great room, with the staircase beside the entry. Did you want standard stairs or a circular staircase?”
Derek looked over the sketch to see where the stairs would be located. “I think I like the standard staircase better if you can have exposed banisters. My family would drape evergreen branches on the banisters at Christmastime.”
Veronica smiled. “I left room in the design for a fireplace and hearth in the great room, and there’s a formal dining room just off the kitchen, with a butler’s pantry/wet bar between them. I know you wanted a family home, but I threw in a few details from Victorian manor houses to make it more elegant.”
John and Stiles were transfixed by the design, which was not quite a blueprint. That would have to wait until Veronica could see the possible building site so she could get a feel for the land. Right now, the sketches showed a large, roomy house with a huge kitchen/prep area, a formal dining room, a great room, which took up most of the first floor, and a mudroom/washroom at the rear of the house. There was a wrap-around porch big enough for rocking chairs or hammocks. The laundry room was on the second floor, where most of the bedrooms were located—which made a kind of sense.
“For a rough design,” said John with admiration, “this is really good! I can’t wait to see the final blueprints.”
Veronica blushed with pleasure. “All I really need right now is to see where we’re going to plant my lovely flower, and I can have blueprints ready for a builder. I also know a very good interior decorator, unless you’d like my input on that as well.”
Derek looked up in surprise. “You know—I’ve been so worried about the shell that I almost forgot that I have to fill it.”
Stiles laughed. “Well, big guy, I can definitely see room for that sectional I wanted. And your bedroom furniture is good. I think you have time to figure out what you want for décor.” He reached over and pointed to the kitchen area. “What’s this?”
“Ah,” said Veronica smugly, “that’s the double-size range. There is room for a large gas unit with two cook ovens and a warming oven. And over here I have room for an industrial fridge and freezer combo and pantry.”
Stiles swooned. “This is the kitchen of my dreams!’ he sighed.
“Yeah,” said John sardonically. “Too bad it’s Derek’s house and not yours.”
Scott seemed surprised to see Erica standing next to Derek in front of his house before school on Friday morning.
This was to be his first ‘real’ training session with Derek, as the older Wolf had given him a week to get his head on straight. First, he had some major groveling to do with his mother. Then he had to come clean with Allison.
Both prospects frightened the life out of him.
Melissa was eventually forgiving because she was his mother. But he had to promise to follow Derek’s instructions at all times when it came to training, and he was grounded for a month. He could play Lacrosse (if Derek said he could) and he could stay after school to study in the library, but there would be no hanging out with friends. He wasn’t even allowed to spend time with Stiles, and that proclamation cut deep because Scott really couldn’t remember the last time he spent time with Stiles.
Of course, Scott agreed. He was terrified that he would really hurt someone if he didn’t get control, so he would abide by Derek’s instructions.
Allison was another story altogether.
First, she was horrified, thinking that Scott had been Bitten by the new Alpha in town—the one that caused the deaths of her family. When Scott admitted that he was bitten before she had ever met him, Allison was very angry.
“I can’t believe you lied to me!” she screamed at him.
“I had to,” Scott tried to explain. “I didn’t understand it at first, really. And I didn’t know about Hunters or any of it. I just wanted to be a normal kid!”
Their discussion was long and almost tedious. He wanted to not be a Werewolf. She only learned about Werewolves after the Tribunal—and learned what happened to her mother. It wasn’t Scott’s fault what happened to her mother. It wasn’t Scott or Derek’s fault what happened to her favorite aunt.
At one point, Christopher Argent had to step in and give some unvarnished home-truths so that Allison understood how horrific some Hunters could be.
When the whole thing was over, Allison was in tears and telling Scott that she needed some space for a while, and Scott was in tears and telling Allison that he understood and would give her time, but he hoped they could get over this.
Scott spent two very miserable days at school mooning over Allison in the halls, in the classroom, in the cafeteria. She would return his sad gazes with soft, mournful smiles, but she would not sit next to him if she could avoid it.
Jackson almost gloated, until he realized that not only didn’t he know what was going on, he actually didn’t have anything to do with it. Lydia was trying to prove that she was a good friend, but it was all too clear that she was really trying to find out what was going on. Allison caught on quickly and told her that she and Scott had had a bad argument, but they were working it out.
So Scott stayed on the outskirts of their clique until Allison was ready to bring him back in.
Stiles watched all of this silently. Scott never asked for help or advice. Not that Stiles could have given him any advice, since Scott had ignored everything that Stiles had tried to tell him since he received the Bite. The only time Stiles had anything to say about the whole thing was on Wednesday morning when Allison cornered him in the hall before classes.
“Did you know about Scott?” she asked without preamble.
Stiles snorted. “Yeah, I knew. I knew when it happened, and I tried to help him back then, but he ignored me.”
Allison frowned. “Are you one, too? A Werewolf, I mean.”
Stiles shook his head in denial. “Nope. Pure human here. But I am part of a Pack.”
“How?” she asked confused. “How can a human be part of a Pack?”
Stiles turned to her and frowned. “I thought your father was supposed to explain things to you, Allison. Didn’t he tell you anything? Humans are Pack as well as Werewolves. Sometimes a Werewolf will give birth to a human baby. Do you expect that they kill the baby outright, or Bite them at birth? Humans are very important to Packs, Allison.”
She bit her lip in consternation. “I’m so confused. Daddy tried to explain, but he was too upset to make it make sense.”
Stiles looked around the hallway to make sure they weren’t overheard. Once he was sure, he leaned closer to Allison. “Look,” he said quietly, “I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I might just have more questions. But if you ask nicely—and you get your father’s permission—I might be able to help you understand Pack structure and Werewolves a little better. One thing I do know: Scott is totally besotted with you, and you just might be able to keep him a little more human if you try.”
“How do you know so much if you’re just a human?” she asked softly.
Stiles smirked. “I’m not ‘just a human’, and I know where to ask the right questions.”
Stiles ambled off to class, leaving Allison to Lydia’s tender mercies, and he spent the rest of the week watching Scott try not to trip over himself in his quest to impress Allison with his earnestness.
And Scott knew he was being ridiculous. He knew he really needed to improve his own control, and he knew he needed to give her space. But he really missed being close to her.
So on Thursday evening, Derek called his house and informed him that his brooding time was over. He was to be ready at five o’clock in the morning for an early run and training session with Derek and his Betas, and Derek would personally pick him up.
Scott groaned when he set his alarm and informed his mother of his plans. He whimpered when the alarm went off and he struggled to leave his bed. He clumsily dressed in sweats and sneakers and opened the front door to weak daylight—and the sight of Derek Hale standing next to his Camero with Erica Reyes by his side.
“What’s she doing here?” Scott asked drowsily.
Erica smirked at him and climbed back into the Camero. Derek turned away from Scott and opened the driver’s door. “She’s one of my Betas, Scott. Now get in, we have to meet the others and we’re burning daylight.”
Stiles managed to stay off Scott’s radar the whole weekend, only hearing about his training sessions from Derek.
“He needs to work harder,” said Derek with a neglectful shrug. “And he resents Erica because she has so much more control.”
And she did have more control, too. Stiles had watched on Monday as she proudly flicked her claws out one at a time during lunch period. She also flashed her gold-yellow eyes at Stiles in the hallways between classes if no one was looking.
So Scott had runs with Derek and Erica and the Pack all weekend, and he had no idea how important Stiles was to the Pack. Nobody mentioned it because Scott was adamant that he would not be joining the Pack unless there were dire circumstances, so he only knew the other Wolves on sight and had never been required to meet the Emissary.
Scott didn’t even know what an Emissary was.
Stiles was busy over the weekend as well. He spent his time planting seeds for magical plants and varieties of Wolf’s Bane in starter pots, using his Spark to strengthen the roots and make them sprout. His father had already promised, with help from Derek, to have a greenhouse built in time for Stiles’ birthday the following month, so Stiles wanted a good start for it.
He also spent some time Skyping with Regina and brainstorming how to power-up the Magic Bomb pendants that Stiles still had from her very first visit. After Melissa’s encounter with AngryFeral Scott, Stiles thought it would be better to knock out a Werewolf as well as contain it. Derek agreed, albeit reluctantly, to test a prototype, and by Tuesday Stiles had successfully made a Werewolf Tranq and Bind Bomb which shimmered like liquid green-gold glitter, and John and Melissa both wore them under their shirts full-time.
Early on Wednesday morning, Coach Bobby Finstock unlocked his office door before the start of school, and found a bulky padded mailer on his desk stuffed with seven of the glittery glass pendants and a note that read ‘In Case of Werewolf Shenanigans’. Finstock examined the lock on his office door but found no signs of forced entry. Nothing else was disturbed—not even the dust around the files on his desk. He shrugged to himself and lifted a sun-shaped pendant hanging strung on a leather thong and hung it around his neck.
Scott continued to sulk between classes and Allison continued to simper—until Friday, one week after Scott began his training with Derek in earnest. Christopher Argent had finally broken down and told Allison about important Human members of Packs, with emphasis on Emissaries. He told Allison that Emissaries were the speakers for the Pack; the public faces when Werewolves had to remain secret, and he told her that Emissaries were always powerfully magical in some way or other.
Then Christopher gave permission for Allison to speak with the Hale Emissary so that she could ask her own questions, and he called a hidden number and invited the Emissary to come to the Argent home on Saturday morning—while the Pack was training and Scott would not be an issue. On Friday evening, Christopher warned Allison that this particular Emissary’s identity was to remain secret for as long as possible because of what had happened in the past to the Hale Pack and because the Pack was rebuilding.
Allison was confused by the requirement but agreed.
Allison was even more confused when, on Saturday morning, she answered the doorbell and found Stiles standing on the front stoop holding a coffee carrier containing three steaming cups.
“Stiles,” she asked, “what are you doing here?”
Stiles offered a huge grin and presented the carrier to her, keeping one cup for himself. “I’m here to answer questions.”
Allison’s eyes widened as she absently accepted the coffee. “You’re the Emissary?”
Stiles bounced a bit in place. “Yup,” he said, popping the ‘P’. “I might not have all the answers that you want, but I can certainly get you in the right direction. If,” he said slowly, “you let me come into your house.”
Allison started a bit and hissed, “You mean Emissaries have to be invited in like vampires?”
“No,” Stiles chuckled, “but it’s rude to keep me out here and I think it’s going to rain.”
Allison blushed prettily and backed into the house to open the door wider so Stiles could enter. “I’m so sorry! I’m just….”
“All out of sorts and facing stuff that should be myth and legend. It’s okay, Allison. I’m a bit weirded out, too, and some of the stuff I’m facing is about me!” Stiles nodded to the cardboard carrier in her hand and said, “One of those is for your dad. I figured he might want to sit in on some of this and offer opinions and observations. Or he just might be done with it all.”
Allison turned and began walking down the hall toward the main part of the house. “So, when you were here a while ago asking to talk to my dad…?”
“It was official Pack business,” Stiles continued. “I really can’t go into it, because that part was private. But I promise to answer what I can today without revealing secrets.”
“That’s fair, I guess,” she said when they entered the living room. Christopher came in from his office and greeted Stiles warily, accepting the offered coffee from his daughter and sitting in the over-stuffed armchair near a neatly decorated mantle.
Allison took a seat in another armchair, leaving the sofa for Stiles. He sat gingerly, not wanting to mess the upholstery, and sat his coffee on a coaster on the coffee table. Then he tugged off his coat and pulled a leather notebook from a pocket and set it next to his coffee.
Stiles leaned forward slightly, resting his elbows on his knees and folding his hands together, and looked from one Argent to the other. “So, what would you like to know first?”
Allison took a slow swallow of her coffee, black and slightly bitter, and blushed again. “I suppose I want to know about Scott. I mean, I really can’t ask him, you know? And you said you’ve known from the start.”
Stiles nodded and glanced to Christopher, seeing a question in the older man’s eyes as well. “Okay, well…before I tell you about Scott, I need to tell you about the Hale fire. I know you probably know a little about that, so I’ll skip the gruesome details—especially as they really make me sick. What you need to know about that is: there were three survivors. Derek and his older sister Laura were at some school function, and their uncle Peter was away on family business. Peter came back in time to watch his family burn, and he was severely injured trying to get them out of the house.”
Allison gasped in horror, but Stiles plowed on, knowing that to stop now meant not telling her what she wanted—no, what she needed—to know.
“Laura received the Alpha Spark when her mother died, and she feared that the Hunters that set the fire would come back to make sure they were all dead. So she packed Peter away in the hospital, knowing that the round-the-clock care would keep Hunters away, and she dragged Derek across the freaking country to put as much distance between her remaining Pack and the Hunters as possible.
“So—six years passed, and the two of them had eventually made their way back to the west coast, and Laura had kept in contact with the hospital to monitor Peter’s condition because she was planning to move him to a hospital near where they settled. And then one day—December 24th, to be exact—Laura gets a mysterious call from the hospital telling her that there has been a change in Peter, and she left Derek to come see for herself.”
At this point, both Allison and Christopher were leaning slightly forward in their seats as they absorbed the information Stiles was dealing out. He knew they would want as much back-story as possible, and Derek had given permission to tell about Peter. They were both hoping it would bring enough sympathy that the Argents would leave Scott alone long enough to get control of himself.
Of course, it could all backfire.
“Now, what we didn’t know until it was way too late was that Peter was recovering quite nicely. But time alone in the burn ward, and then in the long-term care ward, was time away from the Pack—and a wolf without a Pack or an anchor goes insane. Peter had six long years trapped inside his own head, and all he thought about was the destruction of his Pack and getting revenge on the Hunters that did it. We, Derek, my dad, and I, all figure that Peter maybe asked Laura to join him in his search for revenge, but Laura said no. Maybe that happened, maybe it didn’t. In any case, Peter killed Laura and ripped her in two—just like Hunters like to do. And when a Beta or Omega kills an Alpha, they receive the Alpha Spark—and Peter became a strong, insane Alpha with a desire for revenge and a need for a new Pack.
“And Scott and I were in the wrong place at totally the wrong time, and Peter found Scott in the woods and bit him. So, that’s how Scott became a Werewolf. And because Peter was his Alpha and Peter is dead, Scott has no Pack.”
Christopher leaned back in his chair and frowned. “But there is a new Hale Alpha. Did he kill Peter?”
Stiles smirked and shook his head slowly back and forth. “And I thought you were at the Tribunal. Look, for whatever reason—and I’m not asking because he’s a genius with a mysterious mind—my father had Peter pegged as the killer after the second attack in town after Laura’s body was found. He waiting until he had more proof, but by the time he did, I was unaware of the danger and was with Peter. When Peter threatened me, Dad shot him with ‘special’ bullets, mostly to keep Derek from having to kill his only surviving relative because nobody should have to do that. As it turned out, the Spark went to Derek because he was worthy of it; because the Magic decided he would make a good Alpha. It was a good guess on Dad’s part, but it was just a guess.”
Throughout the entire tale, and Christopher’s question, Allison sat quietly, frowning. Stiles couldn’t tell if she was processing the information or if he had killed her brain. He watched her closely, waiting for everything to sink in and preparing answers for when it did.
Finally she asked, “So, is Scott dangerous?”
Stiles sat back and slouched against the back of the sofa, sighing deeply. “Not normally, no. But there has been a…setback. Before classes started for this semester, Derek offered to help Scott because the boy was floundering. Basically, Scott was in denial about being a Werewolf. He wanted to be a normal kid, so he tried to act like one. He went on one or two runs with Derek, didn’t ask any questions, made plans to play Lacrosse as usual, and ignored everything that didn’t fit into his plan. Then you came to school and Scott fell in love, or something like it. He began to ignore me, which, okay, I could understand because a pretty girl was interested in him. He blew off Derek and the training because he thought he could handle everything himself, but he couldn’t.
“I tried to help him, but he figured if we could find and kill the rogue Alpha that bit him he’d be fine. As you can imagine, it didn’t work that way. And when your Aunt Kate came to visit and you invited him to dinner, I think he panicked a little bit.” Stiles looked at Christopher and said, “On one run with Derek, Scott was shot in the shoulder with a crossbow bolt and pinned to a tree, but Derek got him free before he was found and killed. I guess that ‘shoot first, ask no questions’ thing is a family trait?”
Christopher had the grace to look ashamed of that action, so Stiles let it go.
“Anyway, there’s Scott, sitting at a dinner table with his girlfriend, staring down Hunters in their own territory. And that was before he knew there were Hunters. After we told him, he refused to believe that the Argent family would harm him. And then Peter was killed—in the hospital, no less—and Scott acted like everything was going to be fine. He had this new power and strength, a new girlfriend, and was co-captain of the Lacrosse team. Everything was going his way–until the Tribunal. Once he faced the actions of Hunters and Hunter Justice, he started to freak out again.”
“So my Aunt Kate really did kill the entire Pack here?” Allison looked so despondent.
“Yeah, and more besides them,” said Stiles, holding nothing back now. “Kate Argent was the instigator of the destruction of several Packs in quite a few states, and Gerard Argent was no better. And now Scott, who is still a bit in denial, has no Pack because he refuses to join with the Hale Pack. So, he’s an Omega—a Wolf without Pack—and Derek’s trying to help him find his anchor so he’ll stay in control.”
“But,” said Allison, her frown deepening, “I thought an Omega was dangerous; a killer?”
“Nah,” said Stiles with a quick shake of his head. “Omegas that have anchors and control aren’t dangerous. But if the anchor is gone, the Omega can go insane, and that’s very bad. Feral Omegas are the dangerous ones, and they are the reason there are Hunters.”
“And you think I’m Scott’s Anchor?”
Stiles lifted a shoulder in indifference. “I don’t really know, Allison. I do know Scott really likes you. I know he’d rather lose a friendship that he’s had his whole life than lose you. So if you’re going to break up with him, just do it and stick with it so we can get him trained without distractions. But if you’re going to stick with him, you have to accept him as he is, Wolf and all. I know that won’t be easy in this family.”
Allison nodded sharply. “Can you tell me why you don’t want anyone to know you’re the Emissary?”
Stiles again leaned forward. “I don’t want anyone to know because it’s nobody’s business. The reason you and your father know is because of the treaty I set up between the Hale Pack and the Argent Clan representative. If the two of you hold true, you will one day be Matriarch of this faction of the Argent Clan and then I’ll have to set a treaty with you.”
“But Scott’s your best friend. Don’t you want him to know?”
Stiles sighed. “I love Scott, really. Like a brother. But he has trouble sometimes keeping important secrets, and my Magic is too important to me.” Stiles leaned forward and willed Allison to pay close attention. “If you can’t keep the secret, I’ll take it from you—along with all the information that you gained today. It’s too important to get out, Allison. Scott already dropped the ball on Werewolves and Jackson Whittemore found out. We took care of him, so he won’t be a bother anymore than he usually is.”
“I promise,” Allison whispered fiercely. “I won’t tell anyone, not even Scott.”
Stiles nodded and sipped his tepid coffee. “Good deal. I mean, I’m sure Scott will find out eventually, but not while I can’t trust him.”
They talked more after that; Allison asked about Magic and Werewolves and Packs, and Stiles gave what answers he safely could. Never did he betray the identities of the other Pack members, nor did he mention his own almost limitless abilities. Instead, he explained Pack structure and dynamics, and told the Argents about Derek’s plans to rebuild on Hale land in the Preserve. Both Christopher and Allison seemed interested in keeping the Treaty and Christopher gave Stiles the file he had compiled on the Alpha Pack, which he found in his father’s papers.
In the end, Allison decided to give Scott a chance, but she vowed to make him promise to stick with his Werewolf training if he wanted to be in a relationship with her. Stiles had no argument with that logic, nor did Christopher—although the man seemed determined to keep a stern eye on Scott to keep Allison safe.
Stiles did not offer the Magic Bombs to the Argents. He figured they had enough fire-power to fight Werewolves without his help.
While Stiles was having his heart-to-heart with the Argents, Derek was watching his own heart be ripped from the earth as a demolition crew dismantled the husk of the Hale Manor. Derek was the picture of nonchalance, but his hands were clenched into fists inside his jacket pockets and his spine was so stiff with stress that he would later find sleep hard to find.
Stiles had been here earlier in the week, in the company of his father, and he used his Spark to force bolts from hinges so that the cages in the basement were easily dismantled. The demo crew would have to enter the basement to pour some of the concrete, and it would not do to allow them to see the Werewolf-proofing that was left behind. Derek, John, and Stiles carried the dismantled cages away with help from Dennis and Stacy Hanson while Erica sat with the children (“I know you want to help, Erica, but you should not have to see this.”) Now the way was clear and the house was coming down.
Back at the Stilinski house, a manila folder sat on the kitchen table—and it contained the permits for the demolition of the old house and the construction of the new one. Veronica Dempsey had been to the site in order to see the lay of the land, and she worked closely with Derek to draw out the final blueprints for new construction. A few more trees would have to be taken down, but they would be milled and kiln-dried, and the lumber would be used for accents on the house and a new gazebo (“We need a gazebo, Derek! And a porch swing and hammock!” “You have a lot of opinions for a kid, Melanie, you know that?”) The large plot of land that held the old house would be partially utilized due to size constraints, but Derek was working with another contractor and land planner in regards to that. He wanted a memorial garden for his family, and Stiles was choosing plants and flowers for specific meaning for that purpose.
So—this part of his life was finally over, and Derek maintained the need to see it done personally. The wrap-around porch of the new house would overlook Laura’s grave, unmarked for the moment so the workers would ask no questions, and the planned swing would be a pleasant place to remember her.
Stiles frowned over his computer as he poured over the notes Christopher Argent gave him. The Alpha Pack was a mess, if this was anything to go on. But the real kicker was the leader, Deucalion.
He was awful.
He was terrible.
He was bat-shit crazy, is what he was!
And he was crazy because of Gerard Argent.
Stiles sighed and rubbed his hands over his face in disgust.
“It’s not that bad, is it?” asked his father from behind him.
Stiles turned to face him, taking in the fresh pot of coffee with a grim look. “Oh,” he said, “it is that bad.” Stiles stood from his chair and walked to the coffee maker with determination, filling his cup with hot, bitter brew before facing his father. “Remember when Derek said there were Alphas around back then, asking his mother for some kind of help?”
“Yeah,” John nodded as he sipped from his own cup, “what about it?”
Stiles leaned back against the counter and cradled his mug in his hands. “Well, this really old Werewolf named Deucalion had it in his head that having a treaty with Argent would be good for everybody. I assume he thought that all Argents were equal to the High Matriarch Cybelle d’Argent, but the Argent he picked was Gerard—since the old fart was de facto leader after his wife died.” Stiles shook his head and sighed again. “So Deucalion did not know how truly crazy Gerard was. Keep in mind I’m getting this straight from Gerard’s own journals, okay?”
“Okay,” said John. “Was he really narcissistic enough to write all of this down?”
Stiles snorted. “I’m not sure about narcissistic, but he was insane enough. I don’t know if Christopher has actually read this all the way through or not, but if he had—well, I’ve got a really good idea as to why he took the deaths of his father and sister so well.”
John’s look was grim, eyes narrowed and lips pressed tight together, so Stiles continued.
“Okay, so Deucalion comes to Beacon Hills because the Hale Alpha was powerful, and he says ‘I want a treaty with the Argent Family, and I need you to join me’, and he’s got three other Alphas with him. But Alpha Hale says no—probably because she knows Gerard is crazy and dangerous. And Deucalion goes to the meeting with Argent with only one Beta at his side, and Gerard has him ambushed at the old distillery. And here’s the kicker about that ambush, okay, because Gerard has this weapon—an Ash club studded with Werewolf claws—and he had some magic put into it, and he used it on the Werewolves and his own men, making it look like the Werewolves attacked and killed seven men before Gerard killed the Wolves.”
John hissed in displeasure and Stiles nodded in agreement. “Yeah, but he didn’t kill Deucalion. Instead he had these Ash spikes wrapped in silver, and he took Deucalion’s eyes out, leaving him blind.”
“Why not just kill him,” John asked wonderingly. “He obviously could have gotten away with it.”
“Yeah, well, that’s in the journal, too.” Stiles drank deeply from his mug before refilling it. “Gerard had another son, you see. His name was Alexander, and he was older than Christopher and Kate—a lot older, and in 1978 Alexander was bitten by an Alpha during an unsanctioned Hunt. I guess that was a thing with this branch of Argents, even before the Matriarch died. And the Alpha that bit Alexander was Deucalion. I guess Gerard figured that if he blinded Deucalion, one of his Betas would kill him as a mercy and take the Alpha Spark, leaving the Pack unstable with the change-over.”
“But that didn’t happen, did it?”
Stiles shook his head and sat down in front of his computer again. “Nope, it did not. From the information we got from the Gallagher Pack—and who knows where they got it—Deucalion killed his Beta and regained strength, but not his sight, and he decided to kill his entire Pack to become stronger. And he somehow convinced other Alphas to do this, too. So, this Alpha Pack has been roaming around acting like some sort of Werewolf Police, judging Packs and trying to gain power.”
Stiles looked up as his father sat beside him to better see the files. “You’re not planning on letting him get power from Derek, are you?”
Stiles huffed. “As if.” He pushed aside the computer and opened a file folder instead. “This information came from another Pack, and it basically says the Alpha Pack doesn’t really hold up against strong Packs. They can come in and ‘judge’ all they want if there is a weak Alpha or the Pack is in some sort of disarray, but if the Pack is strong and the Alpha is strong then they have no way to convince someone to kill their entire Pack. And they really don’t stand a chance around a magically strong Emissary. They can’t deal with those at all.”
“Why is that?” asked John as he pulled the file from Stiles’ hands.
“Well,” said Stiles softly, “because this Alpha Pack doesn’t just kill their Betas. They’ve killed the Emissaries as well, so they’ve broken whatever protective magic there was that made them Alphas. They might have the glowy-red eyes and the physical strength, but they can’t give a Transforming Bite and they can’t influence Betas like a healthy Alpha can. Magically, they are not considered Alphas at all—just really strong Omegas with influence.”
John looked at his son and saw the anger in the tightness of his eyes. He placed a comforting hand over Stiles’ own hand and squeezed gently. “You’re not taking them on by yourself, Stiles.”
“What? No!” Stiles stammered, stunned. “I would never even try! But I can lend my Magic to the fight if they try to take Derek. It’s my job, kind of, and Derek is…he’s finally got something good here, okay?”
John nodded. “I understand. But I don’t want you in any undue danger, okay? So, what else is in those files?”
Stiles pulled the computer back to him and pressed a few links with his mouse. “Well, Gerard was sick. I mean, legitimately sick. Like—he had some sort of brain cancer, okay, and he was totally fixated on capturing an Alpha. I think he wanted the Bite, to cure the cancer, but I’m not sure how that would work for him.”
“Well,” said John reluctantly, “we know that killing an Alpha is one way for a Beta or Omega to gain Alpha status. Maybe he wanted to force an Alpha to give him the Bite just so he could kill the Alpha later.”
“Yeah, okay,” said Stiles. “That makes a sick sort of sense. Well, he’s dead, so it doesn’t matter. What does matter is what’s in these journals and notes. There’s a whole slew of supernatural creatures around here, and they’ve been drawn by something called a Nemeton. It’s a mystical convergence of magic, like when a Ley-line super-highway comes together at a junction. There’s one here—or there was, anyway. Regina says that’s why this town is called Beacon Hills: the Nemeton was a beacon to the supernatural, and they would all find their way here.”
“Great,” John huffed. “Is there a lot of danger here, other than the Alpha Pack?”
Stiles shrugged and clicked through a few more pages. “I’m not really sure. I mean, there’s a small clan of Wendigoes around here, and they eat the dead, but there’s no information on whether or not they kill to eat or if they rob graves. I know it’s gross, but I think I’d rather they just collected bodies instead of actively killing for food, so if they don’t kill they aren’t dangerous.” Stiles clicked on a link and shuddered. “Of course, if their food source is cut off, they will eat ‘fresh meat’, so yeah…we might want to find them.”
John returned his shudder from the seat beside him. “Why do I feel like I’m suddenly inside one of those Harry Potter books?”
Stiles laughed. “Really, dad? Harry Potter’s worst nightmare was a Dementor not a Wendigo, and the Werewolves we know are less trouble than that Greyback fellow. And I do not need a wand to do my magic!”
John gave Stiles the side-eye. “Are you sure about that, son? I do recall Regina telling you to use a focus object for a while.”
“Yeah, sure,” said Stiles indignantly, “but I could use a feather for that, or a kitchen knife or even my finger. Yeah, I could use a wand if I wanted, but I don’t need one. You’re actually my ‘focus object’, Dad. You’re my anchor. Knowing that you believe in me is what gives me the confidence to do anything.”
John blushed and wrapped his arm around Stiles’ shoulder, pulling him close and pressing a kiss to his temple. “I am proud of you, Stiles. And I do believe in you.”
Boyd closed in silently by Stiles side as they walked through the doors to the school before morning classes, and he passed Stiles a thin sheaf of papers.
“What’s this?” Stiles asked as he looked at the folded papers.
“Print-outs from the family computer. My mom has been ‘haunting’ the internet cooking pages again.”
Stiles dropped his backpack in front of his locker and unfolded the papers, flipping through them swiftly. “This is some pretty high-end stuff,” he said when he finished. “I mean, like Four-star recipes from some high-end celebrity chefs.”
Boyd shrugged and turned toward his own locker. “You saying we can’t do it?”
Stiles barked a sharp laugh, drawing attention from a cluster of Lacrosse players further down the hall. “I’m not saying that at all, buddy-boy! I’m just saying it’s gonna cost a lot, it won’t feed as many people as what we’re used to making, and Mrs. Clairmont will have our heads if we don’t bring any to Home Ec to prove what we did.”
Boyd paused, thinking, before nodding in agreement. “Okay, so maybe we’ll make one of those dishes for my mom, and we bring in something for class—because extra credit is fine—but we stick to the regular plan.”
Stiles shoved his books into his backpack and closed his locker. “Yeah, that’ll work. I think we’ll do the Asian stuff this week: fried rice and fish dishes. But Derek has requested enchiladas again and Dad wants that pot pie we did.”
“Yeah, those are good,” said Boyd. “I think my mom really wants to try coq au vin, though. I have no idea why, but I think she read about it in one of her romance novels.”
Stiles rolled his eyes and bumped shoulders with Boyd as they moved through the hall. “I’ll have to get Dad or Derek to buy the wine, but I don’t think it will be a problem.”
A rustle of fabric was all the warning he had before a laughing Erica launched herself and landed on Stiles’ back. “Wine? When are we having wine?”
“Oof!” Stiles buckled under the extra weight, but steadied quickly enough. “We’re not having wine, Erica. But we might be cooking with it.”
Erica pecked a kiss on Stiles’ cheek before hopping off his back, making him stumble again. “I can’t cook with wine. Dad’s an alcoholic and he’s been sober since I was two-years-old. We don’t even have wine vinegar in the house.” She moved away from Stiles and ducked under Boyd’s arm to give him a side-hug.
“Okay,” said Stiles. “We have a few days before shopping gets done, so Erica gets to tell her folks to pick a different chicken dish or Boyd tells his folks that we’ll have to make the coq au vin at their house on a different night. I can go either way, but I’m pretty sure the little kids won’t like it, even if it is chicken.”
“Or,” said Boyd easily, “I can pick another snazzy dinner from that list my mom made, and we can forget the wine dish altogether. I have no opinion either way.”
“Fine,” Stiles huffed, “we’ll talk about it at lunch.”
Erica gave a wave as she sauntered off to her own class, and Stiles and Boyd turned into the doorway of their English class—only to stop short as they faced the teacher.
Instead of grey-faced and grey-haired Mr. August, he of the oft-mis-named pop quizzes, they saw a dark-haired beauty with big brown eyes and a dimple in her cheek.
“Hello, boys,” she said in a light, clear voice. “You’re early, so take your seats while I get my bearings, okay?”
Boyd grunted and moved to the back of the room, but Stiles hesitated for a moment. There was something about this woman….
Stiles stepped toward his regular desk while sending a soft tendril of Spark toward her. He watched as the phantom web trailed lightly around the desks and chairs, keeping close to the floor until it reached the teacher’s desk, then twisting along the furniture leg until it brushed along her foot before retreating.
She did not react, but clearly she should have. The phantom train of Stiles’ Spark turned bright green-orange before fading to grey again; a sign of magic, but faint and unused.
And orange was a color of disease. And green was a color of Druids.
She would not, Stiles knew, react to any magic that he used around her because his magic was not tied to Druid magic, but he would have to be sure not to allow her to touch him in any way.
Stiles leaned back in his chair and whispered to Boyd, “If we have to hand in any papers while she’s here, you’ll have to take mine to her, okay?”
Boyd just raised one sardonic eyebrow and offered a half-nod, knowing Stiles would explain as soon as possible.
Before long the rest of the class had filtered in, and the new teacher stood behind her desk to address the class.
“Hello, everyone,” she said clearly. “Mr. August has taken ill, and I’ll be taking over his class. My name is Miss Blake, and I’ll be honest—I’m pretty much very new at this, so it might take a while for us to get used to each other.”
Stiles ignored the general laughter that remark had caused among his fellow students, paying more attention to the words she was saying:
*She was not a teacher
*His normal teacher was put out of commission
*When she had achieved what she was after, the regular teacher would be back
Stiles needed to do some major research when he got home. He made a mental note to contact Regina as well, because there was something not right about this woman teaching about Keates.
He hated Keates.
Scott and Allison were holding hands in the halls again, so Stiles figured everything was right in their world at least.
Derek had told him that Scott was really taking his training seriously this time around, and he had great hope that Scott would not need to be restrained at the next full moon.
When he walked past them in the halls between classes, Allison would catch his eye and offer a soft smile, but Stiles knew that she would never reveal his magical secret to anyone.
Stiles passed them again at lunch period, when he was making his way to his regular table to meet Boyd and Erica. Lydia had apparently decreed that ‘her people’ should study together during lunch, and they were seated at a table near the door: Scott, Allison, Jackson, Danny, and Queen Lydia herself, all taking over a large workspace and chattering loudly. Stiles merely rolled his eyes as he passed by, heading to where Boyd and Erica were already reviewing notes.
“You wanna explain about English class already?” asked Boyd as he quickly corrected one of Erica’s math problems.
Stiles shot a quick glance to the loud table by the door and said, “I just really don’t like depressing poetry.”
The trio spent the first half of the lunch period doing homework, easily sliding around the table when Isaac slouched into the library and hesitantly approached them. Isaac was slowly making ground after his abuse, and neither Stiles nor Boyd had a problem adding him to their ranks. Erica was slower in coming around, but Isaac proved to be just a sassy as she did, so they soon became like brother and sister.
The second half of the class period was spent arguing over possible menu items for the next Cooking Day. The small offering of Asian items was okay for most of them, and Stiles could keep it all healthy. His mention of the pot pie received huge smiles, so he figured it was going to be a continued hit. Stiles produced the list of ‘hopefuls’ from Boyd’s mother.
“Okay, so Boyd’s mom has decided to see if she likes stuff found in classy restaurants without paying for waiters or valet parking,” Stiles said with a smile. “Now, none of this stuff is hard to make, really. It’s all just regular ingredients and following recipes, just like always. But, the portions are small for the most part, so we’d have to make more of it.”
Stiles looked up to see Boyd’s fallen face—the boy was so not reflective—and he powered on. “I’m not saying we don’t do this. I propose to keep Cooking Day for making large-quantity meals for families, but we make one day—or two, if it’s popular—a month for making special dishes. I’m sure we all have one night during the week where we’re not too busy to make dinner.”
Boyd offered a smile at this news. “Yeah, that’ll work. That way, Mom and Dad can save up for the special meals they want to try for special occasions.”
Isaac hesitantly raised his hand, then blushed when he realized what he had done. “Um, I’d like to help more, if I can.”
Erica snorted and said, “Pick a day, pal! They have small kitchens that won’t fit all of us, so we have to take it in shifts.”
Which was totally true. The Stilinski kitchen would fit Derek, Stiles, and Boyd, and Derek’s kitchen in his rental home would fit the three of them plus Isaac or Erica. Both of them had partaken in one Cooking Day each, and they all had fun and got much done, but to have both of them joining in would not work. Not until Derek’s new house was built.
When Isaac slouched back in his chair, Erica coo-ed over him to make him smile again.
“Look,” said Stiles, “I’m happy you’re all wanting to make meals for your families. But until we get a bigger place to work in, yes we’ll have to take it in shifts. And since the two of you are the newbies, I’m afraid you’ll have to take turns. But that does not mean you can’t cook on your own at home once in a while, and put what you learn to use. I’ve been cooking at home since my mom died; that’s how I got good at it.”
Boyd reached over and patted Isaac on the shoulder. “You can help me at home anytime you want. I know it’ll give Dad a break.”
Isaac merely smiled in gratitude.
After school, while walking to his Jeep, Stiles sent a quick text to Derek to tell him they needed to talk. Boyd waited until the text was sent before asking again about English class.
“That substitute, Miss Blake?” Stiles began. Boyd nodded, so he continued, “She’s some kind of magical person. But her magic is corrupted somehow and it reeks. And I can’t let her touch my skin at all, because she’ll feel what I am, and I can’t allow that.”
“So you need me to hand in your papers so she doesn’t touch you,” said Boyd. “I can do that. Do you think she means trouble?”
Stiles nodded and started the engine, waiting for Boyd to buckle his safety belt before pulling out of the parking lot. “Oh, yeah. Trouble is definitely coming, and Miss Blake is no coincidence.”
Stiles dropped Boyd off with a happy wave to Boyd’s father from the driveway, and he drove immediately to the Sheriff’s station. His father was working a late shift that day, and he would want to be in the information loop in regards to any possible trouble coming to Beacon Hills.
He strode through the doors of the Sheriff’s station with a happy wave to the front desk receptionist and navigated his way through the open office to his father’s private office. He exchanged words of greetings with several deputies and laughingly took ‘orders’ for cookies or lunches, vaguely promising to make something for the whole office to share. His happy façade faded once he was behind his father’s office door.
John looked up and noted Stiles’ now grim expression. “What’s going on, son?”
Stiles plopped himself in the chair in front of the Sheriff’s desk and dropped his backpack by his side. “We had a substitute teacher in English today, and she’s evil.”
John laughed abruptly. “That’s a bit harsh, Stiles. She’s only a substitute teacher.”
Stiles frowned and rethought what he had just said, shaking his head to clear it. “No, I mean she’s really evil. She didn’t feel right, so I Sparked at her just to check. She came up as diseased somehow, and she’s some sort of Druid.”
John frowned at his son. “And with the Alpha Pack making some sort of move into Hale Territory, that can’t be good.”
“Nope. I need to do a bit of research, but I figured you can help with that—in an official capacity.”
John nodded and opened his office computer, ready to enter information for an official background check. Typing in the name Jennifer Blake from San Jose, California (Stiles got the information from school personnel files, and please don’t ask how), John glared at the screen when it produced…nothing.
“She’s not in the system, Stiles. No former address, no DMV records, nothing.”
Stiles’ lips pressed together tightly. “Yeah, that’s not suspicious at all.”
John looked up sharply. “What are you going to do?”
Stiles squared his shoulders and flexed his fingers. “I’m gonna do what isn’t possible. But I’ll need something of hers to do it.”
John pointed at his son. “No stealing! I mean it!”
Derek sat at the Stilinski kitchen table, silently watching as Stiles threw together fresh ingredients with jarred pasta sauce to add to the chicken in the oven. Even though he hadn’t stayed with the Stilinskis in a month, it still felt like a piece of home—and they never once begrudged him that. He was always welcome, morning or night, and the guest room was his when he wanted it even though he primarily lived in his rented house on the other side of town. Some days, Derek would head directly there after work instead of his own place, and he felt like he was with family.
On this day, Stiles had left a message on his cell that he needed to speak with Derek as soon as possible, so instead of driving to the Preserve to check on progress there, Derek headed home/here after work. He had somehow worried that he would miss dinner, but Stiles had apparently gone to see John at the Station after school and was just now getting the meal ready.
“I can help, if you need me to,” said Derek mildly from his seat. In response, Stiles shot him a glare before turning to the pot he was stirring.
“I appreciate the offer, Derek,” said Stiles breathlessly, “but I need to keep my mind busy as well as my hands.”
Derek sipped from his glass of tea and crossed one leg over the other. “Okay, I’ll just watch you do all the work. But your message said you needed to speak to me, so can you do that while you cook?”
Stiles blushed in embarrassment. “Yeah,” he said, “I can do that. Sorry. I just…this is going to sound really weird, okay?”
Derek snorted. “Stiles, never in my life will I disregard anything you have to say to me. Not after you and your father have given me so much support and aid.”
Stiles seemed to slump in relief. “Okay, so there’s a new substitute teacher in my English class, and she has a weird feel to her. I mean, magically she feels…off.”
Derek nodded to keep Stiles talking. “Okay, so what’s the big deal about this?” He wasn’t mocking Stiles, and the teen knew it. Derek only wanted Stiles to explain, and Stiles complied.
“Well, from the package we received about the Alpha Pack, I have learned that the Alpha Pack can’t stand against a Pack with a magically strong Emissary. And the reason they can’t is because they broke their own magic when they killed their own Packs—Emissaries included. Because of that, the Alpha Pack has gone against Magic-with-a-capital-M. And this substitute teacher has a sense of corrupted magic; Druidic Magic, specifically.”
Stiles stopped speaking and stirred the pot vigorously for a short while before turning off the heat. He sat the pot aside and pulled the chicken from the oven to rest before speaking again.
“Regina told me that most Emissaries, for some reason or other, are Druidic. She’s not, obviously, and I’m not, but most are. And you heard what she had to say about some of the Druidic factions and how they’ve split off from the natural order of things in order to ‘Keep the Balance’.” Stiles sneered when he spoke the last bit, and Derek could feel the disgust rolling off the young man. “Anyway, this teacher, Miss Blake, feels like ‘Sick Druid’ to my Spark. And I can’t help but think her arrival around the time the Alpha Pack has decided to invade your territory is not a coincidence.”
Derek leaned forward in his chair and held Stiles’ gaze. “You and your father do not believe in coincidence.”
“No,” said Stiles, leaning against the counter. “No, we do not. And I want to charm you somehow, to protect against ‘Sick Druid’.”
Derek smiled a secret smile, because Stiles had already ‘charmed’ him in so many ways, but he took the offer seriously. Stiles was as protective of the Hale Pack as Derek was. “Okay, what do you need to do?”
Stiles wrinkled his nose in concentration. “Well, if it was my dad or someone else, I’d give them a charmed pendent or something to carry. But if you’re the target, and there is a Druid involved, she could magically influence you to remove a pendant, and then you would be under her control.”
Derek frowned thoughtfully. “So you would have to charm something that I couldn’t be forced to remove. What about a tattoo?”
Stiles gaped at him. “I can’t give you a tattoo, Derek. I’m not trained and it’s not legal because I’m underage, and it’s unsanitary….”
“Stiles!” Derek shouted to interrupt the ramble. “Calm down. I already have a tattoo. I got it after we’d been in New York for a while, to represent my lost family and Pack.”
“Oh!” Stiles deflated in relief. “That’s different, then.”
Derek smirked. “Yeah, it is. So, can you charm a tattoo? I can’t be forced to remove it, magically or otherwise, because it’s a part of me permanently.”
Stiles nodded and turned back to the chicken. “I’ll have to do some research, but it should be do-able. I mean, I can do anything, but I want to do it with the least possible amount of pain.”
“And I appreciate it,” said Derek. “Really. So, what’s for dinner?”
The only unfortunate thing about the conversation was the date: April First.
Other than that, Derek and John had been amicably chatting about work and construction projects. The ground-breaking on Derek’s new home was set for the following Monday, and John was clearing his back yard for the coming greenhouse. Derek had been coming over after work to help clear the ground at the rear property line. John was hiring a professional contractor to build the greenhouse, but Derek had asked to help pay for it.
“There is something I’d like to talk to you about, John,” said Derek. “Something I’d like your permission for.”
John laughed and shook his head. “Look, you’ve offered enough money for the greenhouse, Derek. I can’t allow you to spend more.”
“Um, no,” Derek stammered. “It’s something else. Something for Stiles’ birthday.”
John’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Oh, yeah? What about it?”
“I’d like to take Stiles out, maybe for dinner?”
“Just the two of you?” John asked and he leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms. It was his ‘I’m the Sheriff’ look, and it was very intimidating.
“Um, yeah? If that doesn’t sound too weird.” Derek was sweating a little, and it was a bit ridiculous. “I’d just like to take him someplace nice, to show how much I appreciate how much he’s done for the Pack.”
“Uh-huh,” John grunted, and he just stared at Derek. For a long time.
A very long time.
Stiles was bopping around the kitchen, slamming pots and pans around as he rearranged his cabinets for more efficiency, and John was watching in bemusement even as the volume of the music made him wince.
“Son,” he yelled, “is everything okay?”
Stiles startled and turned down the volume on the CD player. “Sorry, Dad. I didn’t notice you there.”
“So I see,” said John sardonically. “What’s bothering you, son?”
Stiles slammed another pot onto the counter and leaned forward on folded arms. “I’m just so…I’m just trying to figure people out, Dad. I mean, I thought I knew what I wanted out of life, and then it turns out I’m MAGIC, and everything has changed. And I thought I knew what I wanted to do when I got out of high school, but now that has changed.”
“Because of the Magic?”
Stiles screwed up his nose in consideration. “Not…entirely. I mean, that has something to do with it, sure, but…I wanted, for a long time, to be a cop, like you. But now, I don’t. Not that being a cop is a bad thing.”
John smirked at his floundering son. “It’s okay, Stiles. Law enforcement isn’t for everyone. What would you like to do?”
Stiles shrugged. “Teach, I think. I’d like to be a teacher of some sort.”
John nodded. “That’s good. Teaching is a noble profession. Not everyone is cut out for that one, either.”
Stiles sighed. “I’d like to work with little kids. Troubled little kids. Like some kind of therapy deal or something. But I need to understand people first, and they just….ARRRGH!!”
John chuckled at Stiles’ antics and he grabbed his favorite coffee cup and headed for the coffee maker. “People aren’t hard, Stiles. You just have to observe and listen. The motivations are there if you know where to look.”
Stiles looked up and frowned. “And how do I observe and listen to myself, Dad? How do I understand my own motivations?”
John took a long drink from his mug as he considered his son. He was so much like his mother; it was almost heart-breaking. Stiles would give of himself until it hurt, especially where his friends were concerned. That’s what made his break with Scott so sad; Scott and Stiles had been almost inseparable until Scott was Bitten—and until Scott had found a girlfriend.
“So,” said John abruptly, “you haven’t mentioned Lydia Martin recently? Isn’t she still the love of your life?”
Stiles huffed a surprised laugh. “Not exactly, Dad.”
John took a seat at the kitchen table and gestured for Stiles to join him. Once Stiles was seated, John leveled a concerned gaze at him. “So, how not exactly?”
Stiles shrugged, “I fell in love with Lydia Martin in the third grade, Dad. She was bright like the sun, and so very sassy.” Stiles smirked a bit. “She was a little like Mom, you know, and I just knew we would be soul mates. Of course, she didn’t know I existed back then, but I just knew I could win her over.
“And then Jackson Whittemore took an interest in her, and everything changed. Jackson liked to tell everyone that he had the best because he deserved the best—and Lydia was the best.”
“Stiles,” John interrupted, but Stiles plowed on.
“No, Dad, it’s cool. Jackson’s got the looks and the money. If he had the brain, he’d be a real threat. I guess that’s why he chose Lydia. And why he changed her.”
Stiles sighed and walked to the sink for a glass of water. “I guess I began noticing things at the start of high school. Lydia was still bright and shiny, but she’d dumb-down her act around Jackson. She kept her test scores high, because education is actually important to her, but in the classes she shares with Jackson she never raises her hand or talks.
“I also noticed a lot of other things—like Danny Mahaleani, the Lacrosse goalie. He’s hot like the sun, too, and he’s funny and smart and everybody likes him. But Jackson doesn’t like me, so Danny doesn’t either. But I can’t help but notice him.”
Stiles hesitantly looked at his father, but all he saw was acceptance. The bad-ass Sheriff didn’t care if his son was gay, straight, or pear-shaped. Stiles took his water glass and sat at the table again.
“So anyway,” said Stiles, “After Scott got Bitten, he started to act like a fool, and of course Lydia noticed. I mean, I was surprised that Jackson noticed, but I thought Lydia might have overlooked him, just like she always did. But she confronted me one day after the Tribunal and after the following Full Moon and asked me what was up. It was knowledge that she didn’t have, and she wanted it.”
John sipped more coffee and asked, “What did you tell her?”
Stiles snorted. “I didn’t tell her anything. She tried to say that as Scott’s best friend, I should want to help him so he could concentrate on the Lacrosse team, like that was the only thing in the whole world that mattered.” Stiles looked up to find his father’s kind eyes watching him carefully. “Dad, I haven’t really liked Lydia since she decided to become a mindless bubble-head. You always told me to be genuine, and to look for someone ‘real’ to make my life whole—like you found Mom. Lydia’s not genuine anymore—if she ever was. When we were younger and she wasn’t afraid to show how smart she was, I thought she was so wonderful, but I think she was taught over the years that the pretty girls get everything and the smart ones write papers. I don’t want that in my life. I want someone….”
“You,” said John confidently, “want someone who is real and grounded, and not necessarily female—but is aware of their own worth.”
Stiles smiled. “Yes, that! Exactly! I want what you and Mom had before her mind went. I want someone who values themselves the same way they value me.”
John reached over and patted Stiles on the shoulder. “You’ll find him, Stiles. And don’t ask me how I know it’s a ‘him’.”
John thought back to that conversation with Stiles and thought that his son would be thrilled to have Derek to himself for a birthday dinner.
That didn’t mean that John was going to go easy on Derek and his request.
“So, just dinner, and just the two of you?” John knew he sounded stern and official. It was a trick he had learned long ago to throw off a suspect’s game.
Or a werewolf’s.
“Yes, sir,” Derek stammered again. “Or maybe a movie or something. Just as a birthday treat.”
“Just as a birthday treat.” John could feel his eyebrow lift in doubt, and he didn’t even try to stop it. “Derek, just out of curiosity, do I ‘smell’ like I believe that you don’t have designs on my son? Does my heartbeat stutter or shift when I ask you these questions?”
“Um…no…sir.” Derek shifted in his seat and he fought the urge to clench his hands into fists.
John leaned forward and folded his hands together on top of the table. “Derek, I don’t mind if you ask Stiles out on a date. Really. Because I know, deep in my heart, that you will not do anything untoward or forceful to him if you are dating. I only have one request.”
“Yes, sir?” Derek relaxed just a bit. “And what is that?”
“Ask him first,” said John carefully, “and make sure he’d like to date you. I’d rather neither of you got broken hearts over this.”
Getting something personal of Miss Blake’s, without stealing anything (like he promised his dad), did not turn out to be difficult. After she had been teaching for a week, and she was really quite good at it, Miss Blake had a pop quiz on her poetry unit, and she hand-wrote personal comments on every one as she graded them.
Stiles’ test came back graded with an ‘A’ and a little note that read ‘Keates really isn’t as bad as you make him out. Even the sad poems show a love of life.’. The handwriting was all Miss Blake, and it was all the ‘personal item’ that Stiles needed to do his own magical research.
While he was researching how to charm Derek’s tattoo, he placed that personal note in a quartz geode and lit several gold and silver candles at corner points around it. He visualized the geode as a personal fire-safe, and it would hold the handwriting sample in a tamper-proof field until he was ready to ‘send’ for the information. The candles would burn until he needed the information. Stiles was always amazed at how long he could keep a candle burning, no matter what size it was.
It was a trick he was planning on using for Erica’s birthday in August. Those fancy trick candles had nothing on him!
“Okay,” said Stiles as he bent over his laptop, “I have to mix a few herbs with some almond and rose oil—and I have to blend the oil first—and then I’ll paint the runes onto the tattoo with a feather. So I’ll need to see how big the tattoo is.” Stiles looked up at Derek and grinned. “It’s not in a ‘very private place’, is it?”
Derek rolled his eyes and stood up. “It’s on my back, Stiles,” he said as he stripped off his shirt and turned his back to the teen. He totally missed the astonished gape that Stiles offered, but he clearly heard Stiles’ heart skip a beat. Derek smirked to himself.
Stiles recovered quickly and stumbled out of his chair to examine the tattoo more closely. He hesitantly lifted a hand to trace the triple-spiral that held prominence in the center of Derek’s back. “What does it mean?” he asked reverently as his finger lightly traced the thick lines.
“It’s, uh, it’s a triskele,” Derek stammered. “It’s a Celtic symbol that has been used by my family for a long time. It means a lot of things.”
Stiles hand was hot on his skin as he asked, “What does it mean to you?”
Derek cleared his throat. “To me, it means Alpha-Beta-Omega; that any of the one can become the other.”
Stiles stepped back to allow Derek to redress and he nodded. “Yeah, I can see that,” he said softly. “A Beta can become Omega or Alpha, and an Alpha can just as easily become Omega. I like it.”
Stiles sat again at his desk and spun around to face Derek, who was perched lightly on Stiles’ bed. “I also like how thick the lines of the tattoo are. It’ll be easy to paint the runes.”
Derek nodded. “Okay, so once the runes have been painted, what then?”
Stiles chewed on his thumb for a moment. “I’ll have to load the runes with my Magic. It’ll feel really hot for a few minutes as the protection sets in, and then you’ll never notice it.”
“And you’re only going to protect me against this evil teacher of yours?”
Stiles grinned at him. “Did you want me to protect against anything else while I’m at it?”
Derek shrugged and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. “Well, the Alpha Pack is going to be a problem, so a bit more protection on that front would be nice.”
Stiles nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I’m still working on that. I’m not able to sense werewolves like you are, and I wouldn’t trust Scott to be aware. Not yet, at least. But I’ll find it hard to protect against werewolves if I don’t know what they look like. I don’t want to accidentally damage a friendly Wolf who is just visiting the territory.”
“Well,” said Derek, “any Wolf that was visiting would have to find me for permission. And if they were really friends, they would call first before showing up in the territory. But I agree that it would be better if you could visually identify a target.”
“I’d at least like to know a few more names,” said Stiles as he spun back to his laptop. “I mean, I know Deucalion. That’s it. And what kind of name is ‘Deucalion’ anyway?”
“An old one, I think.” Derek stretched out his arms, flexing his shoulders and wiggling his fingers, and Stiles turned in his chair again to witness the act. He blushed when he saw that Derek was watching him, and Derek smirked. “I had a conversation with your dad the other day.”
“Oh, yeah?” asked Stiles, meeting Derek’s eyes. “What were you talking about?”
“You, mostly. And your birthday.”
Stiles perked up and grinned. “Are you getting me an awesome present? Like a leather jacket, perhaps?”
Derek chuckled and sat again on the edge of the bed. “What would you do with a leather jacket, Stiles? No, I had another idea, but your dad wanted me to talk to you first. In case I had the wrong idea, or you weren’t interested….”
Derek trailed off into silence and Stiles scooted forward on his desk chair to place a hand on Derek’s shoulder. “If I’m not interested in what?”
“Who,” Derek said. “If you’re not interested in, maybe, dating…someone.”
Stiles eyes widened in surprise, but Derek was busy watching his own hands. This seemed so easy before, when he was discussing this with John. John seemed to think Stiles would want to go out with Derek, at least for dinner. But now?
“Derek?” said Stiles, “are you trying to ask me out?”
Derek nodded quickly. “Just for, maybe, dinner—for your birthday. As a thank-you for everything you’ve done for the Pack.”
“Is that the only reason you’d ask me out?”
Derek’s head snapped up and he sought Stiles’ eyes. “No! But I’m a lot older than you are, and maybe there’s someone else you’d rather spend time with. But….”
“But—but you’re awesome and smart and sensitive and gorgeous. And, yeah, you’re older than I am, but you’ve got life experience that I can learn from. And you’re smart and responsible enough to keep me from making your old mistakes.” Stiles grinned at Derek. “Why wouldn’t I want to date you? Besides, Boyd already calls you my boyfriend.”
“He what?” Derek gaped.
Stiles chuckled. “He might only be joking, but he’s referred to you as such a few times now. I can’t wait to tell him you’re taking me to dinner for my birthday!”
Derek dropped his head to his hands and shook it back and forth. “This might be a huge mistake.”
“Oh, no!” exclaimed Stiles indignantly. “No take-backsies! You might not have officially asked yet, but you did proclaim intent, and that totally counts!”
Derek reluctantly laughed at Stiles’ antics. “Okay, so where would you like to go for your birthday dinner date? I might have to call ahead for reservations.”
A horrified look crossed Stiles’ face. “That means I’ll have to dress nice! Can I have a few days to think about it?”
Derek smiled and stood, heading for the door. “Yeah, call me and let me know. I need to head home; I have an early shift tomorrow.”
Stiles watched as Derek descended the stairs before he ran to his closet. He began tossing hangers left and right, cloaking his bed and floor with discarded clothing. He was tossing through his dresser drawers when John came home and found the disaster area.
“Whatcha doing, Son?” he asked and watched as Stiles stumbled into a wall in shock.
“Dad! You’re home!”
“I am,” said John. “And your room looks like a tornado ripped through it. What are you doing?”
Stiles blushed deep pink. “Um, Derek maybe asked me out for my birthday. And he wants to go someplace nice—but my choice. And I realized that I have no actual ‘date clothes’.”
“So…you decided to destroy your wardrobe to punish it for your poor sartorial choices?”
Stiles slumped against the wall and twisted a t-shirt in his hands. “No,” he pouted, “but I don’t want to embarrass Derek when we go out together.”
John nodded and shoved some clothing aside so that he could sit on Stiles’ desk chair. “Okay, so you’re now realizing that dressing like a member of a Seattle garage band is not the way you want to go through life. What would you like to do about that?”
Stiles considered his father for a moment. The Sheriff did not bat an eye when told that Derek Hale—22-year-old Derek Hale—had asked Stiles on a date. He had not, in fact, raised any objections at all.
“Do you think we can, maybe, take some money from the college fund and go shopping?”
John was astonished. Stiles hated shopping of any kind unless comic books were involved.
“Yeah, sure, son,” he said calmly. “We can do that. I’m off Tuesday, if you want to go after school.”
Stiles smiled and began to place articles of clothing back into his dresser and closet. “That’s great! Thanks, Dad. Maybe I should do some research online, so I can get an idea of what my ‘style’ might be.”
“Okay,” said John. “Can you do that after dinner? I’m starving!”
Stiles went to school on Thursday wearing his new duds, receiving a wolf-whistle from Erica.
“What’s the occasion, Stiles?” she asked when she met him in front of the school. “You’re looking awfully spiffy for a school day.”
Stiles shrugged. “I’ve gotta get used to dressing like a real boy some time. Besides—I have a date tomorrow for my birthday.”
Erica’s eyes widened in joy. “Really? With whom do you have a date?”
Stiles looked around to make sure nobody was listening and paused to allow Boyd to catch up with them at Stiles’ locker. “Derek is taking me to dinner tomorrow. I picked a Chinese place in Hillery so we won’t get stared at.”
“Stiles,” Erica tutted, “you’re going to get stared at. Derek’s hot like burning, and you! Well,” Erica began to walk around him in a circle, eyeing him like a prime piece of meat. “You’ve turned into quite the hottie!”
Stiles blushed, very pleased. He did look good, and he had a secret accomplice to pull it off. On Sunday night, after speaking with his father about a shopping trip, Stiles called Allison Argent. She was the most fashionable female he knew other than Lydia Martin—and Stiles would never ask a favour of her. Allison agreed to e-mail him links to several men’s fashion websites—sites he had never even heard of—and then Stiles and John had poured over the links and photos, pulling together a look that Stiles and John both approved of: Bright colors, no tight pants, no skinny jeans, an odd tie or two, and suspenders instead of belts.
Today, Stiles was wearing neatly fitted black Chinos with red suspenders, a dark blue button-down shirt with a red tie, and red Chuck Taylor high-tops with black toes. It was almost retro/almost hipster, and ultimately comfortable.
And girls were looking at him like he was a new student rather than the same geeky kid they’d been in school with all along.
It was rather unnerving. But both Erica and Boyd looked at him like they approved of his new look—not that he asked. He was pleased, and that was all that mattered.
But the look Lydia Martin gave him when he walked into first period English was priceless.
Stiles sat across from Derek, sipping water in the dim light of the restaurant. Pleasant scents wafted from the kitchen, and Stiles was anticipating the dinner he had ordered. This was no buffet place that he chose; rather it was filled with glass-covered tables with real cloth napkins, and the serving staff wore unstained clothes. On each table was an unlit candle in a crystal holder, but Stiles liked the hint of atmosphere without the fire. Derek was unlikely to freak out—he had managed to deal with the candles in his bedroom after all—but why risk a nice meal over the possibility.
“Happy birthday, Stiles,” Derek murmured softly. “I’m glad you chose this place.”
Stiles smiled, pleased. “I wanted to not be stared at for our first date. I mean, if this is a first date. Anything back in Beacon Hills would be populated with people who know me or my father, and they would all feel a need to stop by and say ‘hello’ while we ate.”
Derek grimaced, wrinkling his nose in a cute gesture of distaste. “No, that would not be good. I’ve never been here before.”
Stiles nodded, bopping his head to a tune only he could hear. “Yeah, this place opened about two years ago, I think. I’m not up on all the eateries in the county, but Melissa brought Scott here for a good report card when we first got to high school. He hasn’t really had a good one since then.”
Derek scowled at the mention of Scott. “Let’s not talk about Scott right now. Tell me about you, okay? What would you like to do with your life after school?”
They sat there, in that restaurant, talking and eating and making plans. Derek told Stiles about his job as a physical therapist and Stiles talked about wanting to go into early childhood development or child therapy. Derek gave Stiles another update on the house construction and Stiles talked about the epic shopping trip he went on with his father. They got to know one another on a far deeper level, and both admitted that the attraction was new to both of them (neither had ever considered being attracted to men before).
They held hands on the way to the car after dinner, and Derek kissed Stiles on the cheek at his door when they arrived home.
It was a good date.
On Monday morning, Stiles pulled into his parking spot with a huge smile on his face. He’d had a wonderful first date, followed it with a Cooking Day with Boyd and Isaac and Derek, and finished the weekend by printing out an epic History essay that he had spent two weeks researching.
Isaac was beginning to open up more, and he spent more time smiling and laughing while chopping vegetables or rolling dough. He even came prepared with his own list of possible dishes to make, and Stiles and Derek were happy to comply.
Boyd was thinking about asking Erica out for a movie or pizza, and Stiles was fairly certain that she would say yes. The only obstacle might be her parents, but they’d been attending Pack meetings and were honestly happy for the changes in Erica since the Bite. Mrs. Reyes was becoming fast friends with Stacy Hanson, and she would help Erica babysit when Dennis and Stacy wanted a date night. (Two children under the age of 10 were too much for Erica alone, and that was the only reason.)
Stiles had two phone calls over the weekend that changed his personal relationships: one from Scott—to apologize for his behavior, the other from Allison—asking more questions about Pack dynamics. From those two calls Stiles began to understand that Scott might never be his best friend again, because he really didn’t understand what he did that was so wrong, and he only called because Allison said he should, and that Allison might become his best ally in the Hunter community. She had been in recent contact with her maternal grandparents—people her mother never allowed her to know—and she would be planning a trip to visit them during summer break. Stiles had high hopes that Allison would be able to learn about the more reputable Hunters in the supernatural community so that she would pass the information on to him.
He was smiling when he walked into the school building.
He was smiling when he met up with Boyd and Erica in the hall before class.
He was even smiling when he walked to his seat in English class and faced down Miss Blake.
But five minutes after the class bell rang, Stiles was no longer smiling. Because two new students had walked into the class and sat near the front of the room.
They were huge, both of them, and very well-muscled. They were blond, from what Stiles could see of their close-cut hair, and they had low foreheads over close-set eyes. And they were identical twins.
And, after Stiles sent a Spark-trail to the new kids, Stiles could tell that they were Werewolves.
Not once did they look at Stiles, all during the day, but they kept an eye on Scott. And during lunch, Stiles made sure to keep Erica out of their range of influence. In fact, he called her parents during lunch period and asked them to pull her out of classes for a ‘family emergency’. They obliged, and Stiles called Derek to pick her up. By the time lunch was over, Erica and Stiles were meeting Derek in the administration office and neither had seen the twins at all.
“What’s going on, Stiles?” Derek asked as he escorted Erica from the building.
Stiles slipped a note to Derek and kissed Erica on the cheek. “I’ll call you after school, okay Erica? I’ll have assignments picked up for you.” With a deliberate nod, Stiles left Derek and Erica in the parking lot and re-entered the school.
The twins turned up in his Economics class and his History class, but he avoided them the rest of the day. After school, Boyd called his father to tell him that he would be spending some time with Stiles, doing homework, and Stiles drove them first to the Stilinski house, so Stiles could pick up something special, and then to Derek’s rental house. Derek and Erica were waiting there with Dennis and Stacy Hanson and Mr. and Mrs. Reyes.
They were all looking to Stiles for answers. The first thing Stiles did was hand Erica a leather thong with a pewter locket hanging from it. After a pointed look, Erica slipped the locket over her head and sat between her parents.
Stiles took center stage and addressed Derek. “The Alpha Pack has made a move. Today we got two new students; identical twins, built like brick houses and totally werewolves. Since you never told me about any incoming newbies asking for admittance, I know they aren’t here under your authority. They’ve already scoped out Scott, but they didn’t have any classes with Erica before lunch.”
“Is that why you got us to pull Erica from afternoon classes?” asked Mr. Reyes.
“Yes,” said Stiles. “This Alpha Pack could mean trouble for us, at least for a little while. I want to give us a clear advantage, and that means hiding our true numbers as much as possible.” Stiles nodded at Erica’s pendant and she opened the locket to reveal the silhouette of a baying wolf. She gave him a questioning look and he simply said, “That is going to hide your Wolf from the Alpha Pack. I bet, right now, none of the Werewolves in this room could sense what you are, no matter how close you’re sitting to them.” When they all tried, Stiles just smirked.
Derek nodded in approval. “Okay, so what else do you have planned?”
Stiles handed Magic Bomb necklaces to Mr. and Mrs. Reyes and explained their use, and they both slipped the pendants over their heads. For the Hanson family, Stiles had braided leather bracelets charmed to hide the Wolf magic.
“I don’t have anything for you, Derek, because they already know you’re the Alpha. It’s too late to hide Scott, because they’ve already seen and scented him, but since he doesn’t want to be Pack I’m not going to worry about it. I’m sure he barely smells like you, anyway.”
“That’s fine, Stiles, and I thank you.” Derek settled into his chair and accepted Erica into his lap as she sought to scent her Alpha. The Reyes’ didn’t even flinch anymore when she did that because they had become used to her new behavior. “What do we know about these twins?”
“Well,” said Stiles, “they’re incredibly butch, in a caveman kind of way. And their names are Aiden and Ethan McGuire. I can do an internet search if the last name isn’t fake, just to see where they might be from. One was scoping out Danny Mahaleani and the other was leering at Lydia Martin, so one is straight and the other is at least Bi—maybe gay. That’s not unusual in twins, actually. And they have to be very intelligent—or able to fake it—in order to test into the classes they have with me because I saw them all damn day.”
“So they’re trying to find my Pack,” said Derek. “According to their M.O., the Alpha Pack will try to force me to kill my Betas, but that’s not going to work for them. I’m stronger than that, and I have strong allies. This Pack will withstand the Alpha Pack; I’ll make sure of it, and so will Stiles.”
So that they couldn’t be proven to lie to parents, Stiles handed Erica her afternoon assignments and she, Boyd, and Stiles all sat in the living room to do homework. Derek ordered take-out for everybody, and he sat and reassured Erica’s parents that he would do everything in his power to protect their daughter. It was all happy families for the next three hours, until Stiles had to drive Boyd home—and Boyd was wearing a new shimmery green-gold star-shaped pendant around his neck.
“Is it normal to get so excited over seed packets?”
The sarcasm dripped from Boyd’s mouth like slow molasses, but Stiles managed to ignore him. Instead, he kept his focus split between the sauce bubbling on the stove and the sheet of graph paper on the counter in front of him—and the small stack of seed packets beside it.
“The greenhouse is almost finished,” said Derek as he portioned out servings of lasagna, “and he’s getting ready to plant the regular vegetables.”
“My garden,” said Stiles as he absently stirred, “is going to be awesome! I have heirloom tomatoes and several varieties of squash and kale—all of which my dad has agreed to eat willingly if I can make it taste good. It won’t come up until mid- to late summer, but I have to plan it all now because some plants will do better next to others in a plan.”
Boyd nodded absently and piled filled containers into the fridge before pulling out the chicken for the next dish. Erica and Isaac were sitting at the kitchen table, flipping through recipe cards.
They were situated in the Stilinski house that day in the middle of the week. It wasn’t quite a ‘Cooking Day’, but three of the students had school projects due by Friday, so they decided to study together and make extra food while they were at it. One of the meals was going to be an extra-credit Home Ec project for Stiles and Boyd, and they were making enough for each student in the class—and the teacher—to have a small taste, but not to fill up. Their class was after the lunch period, after all.
Erica and Isaac shared a History class, and they were working at the table while picking over recipes for the next official Cooking Day. The Reyes’ and Boyds were happy to have their children working together after school, because neither Erica nor Boyd had had many friends growing up, and Isaac was isolated because of his abuse.
Isaac still was ignorant of the issue of Werewolves. Stiles was happy to keep him that way.
In the back yard, not far from the skeletal shell of the greenhouse, a large piece of yard was plotted off with string and colored flags. Behind the plotted ground stood several wooden racks that Stiles was going to use for raised beds, so that he could grow shallow-root herbs. Some of his garden was going to be edibles, and some was going to be purely magical, but the herbs in the raised beds were a combination of both. The greenhouse would have a special lock, and that would be where Stiles would grow many varieties of Aconitum, as well as rare magical herbs and plants. The seeds for those plants were currently in the garage, in small grow pods for starter plants.
They were already doing quite nicely, thanks to the magical Push Stiles had given them.
After dinner was finished and Stiles had taken Boyd and Isaac home for the evening (and Derek had returned Erica to her home), Stiles would be sending his Spark out with a plan to find everything he could about Jennifer Blake and her possible plans in Beacon Hills. He was already planning to go into the Preserve before the Full Moon so that he could search for the Nemeton, whatever that was. John wanted to go with his son, to help him search since Derek would be busy with his Pack. The Full Moon was on Sunday, and Stiles wanted protections in place before then if at all possible.
“Are you going to let us sneak veggies from the garden when they’re ready?” asked Isaac as he placed his folder into his backpack.
“Well, I’ll share some of it,” said Stiles as he carried plates to the table, “but I’ll be using most of it here at home. I don’t just cook for you guys, you know.”
Erica chuckled and helped pass around the plates. “My mom has never been happier to be able to eat regular food! And she’s happy to have me help in the kitchen.”
“Why couldn’t you eat regular food?” asked Isaac, confused.
Erica sheepishly looked at Stiles for help, but he merely raised an eyebrow and walked to the fridge for a pitcher of tea. Erica shrugged and dipped her head as she answered. “I’m, uh, having new treatments for epilepsy. I had a very strict diet my whole life because certain foods can cause problems with seizures.”
Isaac’s eyes widened in shock. “Wow! I did not know that. But this new treatment means you can eat new stuff?”
Erica nodded. “Yeah, but mom still wants to stay away from processed foods. Since Stiles has been keeping his father healthy, the stuff we make together is on my new list. It just tastes better. It tastes a lot better than what I’m used to.” Erica looked at Boyd with wide-eyed innocence and said, “I never knew pizza could be so yummy!”
Boyd chuckled long and hard as he poured his tea.
Stiles stood in front of the coffee table in his living room. On it he had placed the graded paper with the hand-written comment, a white candle, a black candle, a red gel ink pen, and a blank piece of copier paper. The geode and gold and silver candles were carefully discarded under the table in a neat pile. Stiles could use those later if he needed them. The candles had not burned down too far, and he knew how to magically ‘cleanse’ the geode.
Stiles situated the pen on top of the paper with the cap off before lighting the candles. Once the candles were burning brightly, Stiles sent his Spark into the handwriting on his quiz. He concentrated on the personality of the woman who wrote the note; the way she walked around the classroom, the way she tucked her hair behind her ear, the way she leaned against the front of her desk with her hands tucked behind her back. Stiles pictured Miss Blake in his mind as he focused his Spark, and the test paper flashed brightly three times.
And then the red pen began writing automatically on the blank paper. The red ink filled the page with a name and personal information about the woman; her real name, her address, her personal relationships, her educational background. And the information was in Miss Blake’s handwriting.
When the pen was finished its task, the candles extinguished by themselves and Stiles fell back onto the sofa, exhausted.
John and Derek found him there, napping lightly, an hour later. John gently shook Stiles shoulder, and the tired teen pushed himself into a seated position. “You need to go to bed, son.”
Stiles wiped a hand over his eyes and nodded sleepily. “Yeah, Dad. But I got what I needed.” Stiles gestured to the paper on the coffee table, and John picked it up. “Of course, I haven’t read it yet, but there’s a lot there.”
John nodded over the paper. “Yes, there is a lot of information here. I’m going to take this into work tomorrow and try to verify at least some of it.”
Stiles nodded and glanced at Derek, who was frowning at him. “What’s up, Derek? Why the frowny-face?”
“When you put the protection on me, is it going to wipe you out like this?”
Stiles shook his head. “What? No! No, that’s completely different, okay? What I did here was pull the information out of nowhere. I used a personal item—her handwriting—and I forced it to reveal her true self. When I put the protection onto you, I’ll be using my magic in a more direct way. It’ll be perfectly safe, okay?”
“Okay,” Derek conceded reluctantly and reached out to pull Stiles to his feet. “We can do that tomorrow before you go into the Preserve on your conduit hunt?”
Stiles nodded and yawned loudly. “Yeah, I’ll be all rested for that. G’night all!”
After Stiles had shut his bedroom door firmly, Derek reached out to take the paper from John.
“So, this is the evil substitute teacher?”
John nodded. “Apparently her name is really Julia Baccari. That name rings a bell for me, so I’ll have to dig into my files at work tomorrow.”
Derek nodded and returned the paper to John’s hand. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then. Are you sure you don’t want me to go into the woods with you?”
John smiled wanly. “I think we can handle it, Derek. As much as possible, considering I have no idea what we’re looking for. Stiles has a pouch of Mountain Ash and several silvery thingies for protection, and I’ll have my reserve weapon loaded with anti-werewolf ammunition. Whatever we find out there—if we find it—Stiles needs to make it safe and unusable for the Alpha Pack and this evil teacher.”
Derek frowned. “And you don’t know how he’s planning on doing that?”
John laughed grimly. “I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be looking for.”
“You’re not ticklish, are you?” Stiles asked as he brandished a turkey feather at Derek like a sword.
Derek smirked. “If I was, I don’t think that thing is going to do it for me.”
Stiles shrugged and dropped the feather on the kitchen table next to a shallow bowl of shimmery red/blue stuff that looked like liquid opals.
Derek prodded the bowl with a finger and asked, “What’s in this?”
Stiles leaned over the bowl and wrinkled his nose. “Believe it or not, it’s crushed herbs and sunflower oil. It looked like pesto sauce until I pushed my Spark into it and whispered a few intentions.”
“Huh,” Derek huffed. “I guess that’s pretty cool, then.”
Stiles smirked. “Yeah, it’s pretty cool. Now, take off your shirt so I can paint you up.”
Derek smirked back at him and pulled his sweater over his head, enjoying the small increase of Stiles’ heartbeat. At Stiles’ prodding, Derek straddled a kitchen chair backwards, folding his arms over the high back and resting his head on his arms. Stiles picked up the feather and dipped the pointed end into the viscous brew.
“This might be cold, but I’m not sure. I couldn’t test it because it’s not meant for me.”
Derek nodded against his folded arms but said nothing, and Stiles began to paint sigils and runes within the boundary of the tattoo in the middle of Derek’s back. The symbols glowed pearl-white while he was painting, until the glow filled the whole room. Derek’s eyes were closed, so he missed the show, but Stiles hummed in mild delight at the proof of magic.
“Okay,” said Stiles after a few minutes, “I’m done with the messy part. Now you should brace yourself, because I need to push the magic into the sigils and it’s going to get really warm.”
Derek grunted softly, but he visibly braced himself per Stiles’ order.
Stiles dropped the feather onto the table and held his hands lightly over the tattoo and he concentrated on ProtectMagicPackSafetyLove, and he pushed pure energy into the tattoo and sigils. The pearly-white glow changed to a bright, sunny yellow before burnishing to gold and then fading to nothing, leaving only the black ink of the tattoo visible. Not even Stiles’ Spark could detect the magic it held.
Derek struggled to not move as the heat sank into his body, but he sagged in relief in the cool absence of magic once the spell was done. He straightened away from the back of the chair and stood up to redress. When he looked at Stiles, Derek expected to see the young man slouched and exhausted. Instead, Stiles was leaning against the table, smiling brightly and energized.
“Was that it?” Derek asked.
Stiles nodded. “Yup. I worked on that very hard, just so I could get it right. How do you feel?”
“Pretty good,” Derek answered. “What are the protections, exactly?”
Stiles shrugged and gathered his supplies for clean up. “Well, your gorgeous hide is now impervious to Druid magic, so this woman can’t cast spells on you or mind-whammy you in any way. And you’ll be able to withstand any outside Alpha influence, in case they try to get to you that way. It’s also as permanent as your tattoo, now, so you’ll be covered for a long time.”
Derek smiled at Stiles, and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. “Thank you, Stiles. Our Pack will be strong with you by my side.”
Stiles kissed him back, saying, “That was the idea, wolf-boy. I don’t plan on going anywhere.”
Derek watched as Stiles gently washed the bowl, cleansing it of the herb and oil mixture that was no longer shimmery and glowing. Stiles then used corn starch to clean the feather, leaving it pristine and shiny.
“So,” he said once Stiles was finished, “what are your plans for the evening? Do you know how you’re going to find this magical conduit?”
Stiles shrugged. “Well, I thought I’d take Dad along the deeper trails in the Preserve, and I’d send out a SparkTrail to see where it leads. Regina was not exactly helpful in identifying what a Nemeton actually was, so I have no idea what I’m looking for, and I probably won’t know until I trip over it.”
“I still wish you’d let me go with you.”
Stiles shook his head and crossed the room to wrap his arms around the Alpha Werewolf. “No can do, Derek. If this Nemeton is a convergence of power, and the Alpha Pack could possibly be drawn to it, I don’t want to lead you right to them. And before you go all Alpha on me, I will have protections in place in case Dad and I meet unfriendly werewolves in the woods. We both have MagicBombs on us, so we’ll be okay.”
Derek tightened his embrace around Stiles, and Stiles reveled in the touch. Since their date on Stiles’ birthday, Derek had become more tactile with Stiles, touching and hugging more often. Stiles loved it; loved feeling cherished and wanted and safe. They’d only kissed a few times, chaste pecks on the cheek or lips that showed slow affection, but Derek was always reaching for Stiles when they were together. Stiles was still surprised that he could have this. He was almost certain that he’d have to get used to watching Derek and longing from afar, just like he had for Lydia Martin before he regained his sense and saw her for the shallow person she had become.
Derek wanted him, too. He was cautious and gentle, not wanting to give the impression that he was a predator like Kate Argent. The fact that he sought and asked for John’s permission to date Stiles went a long way to impress both Stilinskis. Stiles never had the fear that Derek would try to pressure him in any way, and he knew Derek respected and trusted him.
Stiles kissed Derek’s cheek and he stepped away from the older man. “I know you’re going to worry, but try hard not to, okay? Nobody can really connect me and Dad to the Hale Pack, and we’re going to look exactly like what we are: a father and son going for a hike in the woods.”
Derek nodded reluctantly. “Okay, I’ll try not to worry. But you’ll have to let me know if you find anything.”
“I can promise that. I’ll call you when we get home because there will be no cell service in the woods.”
John stared in confused horror at the sight in front of him. “I’m not sure what I thought we’d find, but this is not it.”
“Yeah,” Stiles whispered solemnly.
After two hours hiking in a north-westward direction in the darkening evening, Stiles’ Spark lit up within him and he took off running due north, leaving John to stumble after him, grumbling. They ended up in front of an enormous rotted tree stump that Stiles could have easily parked his Jeep on top of.
The aura it put off was quiet and lonely, but it was not evil—not yet.
Stiles walked closer to the stump, but John placed a hand on his shoulder to halt his progress. “This isn’t going to hurt you, is it?”
Stiles shook his head. “Not at all. The energy of this thing is benign, like a—like an electrical current, okay? It could light a room or it could shock someone to death, but it has to be applied. All I have to do is apply my own magic to it, and it’ll either heal the Nemeton, or it will make the whole thing totally inert and unusable. Either way, this Baccari woman will not be able to use it for any purpose, and that’s what’s important right now.”
“And you’re sure this is going to work?”
Stiles nodded, confident. “My magic is literally running on ‘because I said so’. I have no doubts about this, so it will work.”
John nodded and released his son. Stiles dropped his backpack at the edge of the stump and opened it to remove several paper bags. In the preparation for this trip, Stiles drove to San Francisco—a four-hour trip one way, but his dad trusted him—to visit a few occult shops that Rachel recommended. He looked through a few helpful books on natural healing (not quite what he wanted, but it gave him ideas) and bought…rocks.
From his paper bags, Stiles pulled salt crystals (2-inch cubes), a few tiny moonstones (Ha!), several bits of snowflake obsidian, and a few inch-long pieces of rutilated quartz. The whole lot put him back a couple hundred bucks, but his father had agreed to let him use college money since it was important to protect the town, county, and territory. There were also shavings of wood from birch, walnut, oak, cherry, and maple trees—more than a fist-full of each. Along the hike, Stiles took time to pick early flowers and bush-buds, figuring the local flora could only help with whatever he found in the woods.
Now, Stiles took the time to make several circuits of the stump, layering the wood shavings as he went. All Stiles thought about was SafeHomeFreefromdangerHealthy, and he continually pushed his Spark into the stump. After his fourth go around, Stiles started dropping his rocks near the root-base, watching closely as they sank into the dirt at the base of the stump.
It was on his sixth circuit that Stiles stumbled and almost fell. John, who had been watching closely with one hand on his weapon, was at his son’s side immediately.
“I’m okay,” Stiles said as John helped him back to his feet. Stiles looked down and saw what appeared to be a cellar door—a rotted cellar door—at the base of the tree. John bent to touch the opening, but Stiles stayed his hand. “Wait…just wait, okay? Let me….”
Stiles ‘sparked’ down into the opening, reaching with his magic to investigate the hole.
And he drew back in horror.
“Oh, my god!” Stiles gasped, and he fell to his knees.
“Stiles!” John dropped beside his son. He pulled Stiles away from the hole and drew him against his chest. “I thought you said this wouldn’t hurt you!”
Stiles was trembling, but he wasn’t in pain. “I’m not hurt, Dad. It didn’t hurt me. It’s just…full of pain. It’s so full of pain.”
John moved away from Stiles and shined his flashlight down into the cellar hole. There were stairs there, and they looked solid, but all was black inside.
“I bet,” said Stiles softly, “that if we did a very old property search, we would find that the Hale family—or some iteration of it—owned this. Maybe they still do. And this…Nemeton…was an important power source for an ancient Emissary. But it has known pain—so much pain.”
John nodded grimly. “You can only feed something badness for so long before it starts to corrode. This tree was cut down, I dunno, maybe fifty or sixty years ago. The cut has healed over but the roots still look strong.”
“Yeah,” Stiles whispered. “Remember when Derek told us about Paige Krasikova? I think this is where she died. I can feel a shadow of it, but it’s faint—like the pain of that act is not as bad as anything else that happened here.”
“Right, then,” said John as he helped Stiles to his feet. “We’ll be kind and tell Derek about this, so he doesn’t accidentally run the Pack through here and find it without support. Do you think what you did is going to make a difference?”
Stiles chuckled weakly and nodded to the tree. “Yeah, I think it helped a lot, actually.”
A single, strong sapling was sprouting in the center of the old stump.
The April Full Moon passed uneventfully. Scott seemed to have finally gotten with the program, and Derek reported that, while he did have Scott chained, the stubborn teen was not nearly as snarly as he once was.
Maybe the ‘snarly’ part was all Stiles’ interpretation.
But Erica was happy to report being able to run free with the rest of the Pack for the first time, and she happily regaled Stiles and Boyd with tales of hide-n-seek with the Hanson kids on the ride into school. She might have preened about her control a bit because she knew Scott was having trouble, but Stiles let it slide because Erica deserved to preen. She fought hard for her control.
When Stiles and Boyd entered their first-period English class, the first thing Stiles noticed was that Miss Blake seemed all out of sorts.
So Stiles preened a little, himself.
The newbie twins, however, seemed not to have been affected at all. They didn’t even seem tired from the Full Moon, and Stiles knew that they should have been all sorts of exhausted. Alphas without a Pack, according to the sources that Stiles had been cultivating, expended a lot of personal energy to keep in control with the Moon took them. Peter Hale was all out of control during the Full Moon—and people died horribly back then. Derek was okay, but he had the Pack to keep him balanced.
The Alpha Pack should not have been relaxed like this.
Stiles used his Spark to ‘look’ closer at them during their shared classes. He could finally see the strain around the eyes—a tiredness that looked a lot like lack of sleep and headache. Stiles saw that a lot while his mother was sick, as her illness to a toll on the Sheriff. The twins were affected, so that probably meant that the rest of the Alpha Pack were affected as well. Between classes Stiles sent a text to Derek, warning him to keep an eye out.
Derek texted back, telling Stiles to stop goofing off in school.
All was right in his world.
“How do I go about learning about Emissaries and who they belonged with?”
“You’ll have to give me more information than that, Stiles.” Regina Kincaide laughed over the Skype connection. “Emissaries leave Packs for many reasons, and there are not always records kept.”
Stiles sighed and refrained from banging his head against the desk. “Okay, so I told you about my new teacher, right? And she ‘smells’ like Bad Druid to me, so I did some magical digging. The name that came up was Julia Baccari.”
Regina sniffed. “And how did this name ‘come up’?”
“I did some Sparkage spell on the teacher’s handwriting, and when all was done—Julia Baccari was the name written on the paper.”
“Hmmm—what else was on that paper, Stiles. Perhaps I could use that information to find out where she came from.”
Stiles nodded and pulled the spell paper out of his desk drawer. “Okay—here it is: Julia Baccari, from Wildwood, Florida.” Stiles snorted. “Sorry, I shouldn’t laugh, but seriously—a Druid from Wildwood?”
Regina gave a small grin. “Yes, yes, very amusing. What is the rest?”
Stiles looked abashed. “Sorry. Um, she lived and trained near Orlando, and moved to Missouri for a while—Wildwood again. I know she was an Emissary there with the Kliner Pack, but I did call someone there and their Emissary is now a Hedgewitch named Micah Trellis. He seemed very nice, by the way, and could tell me that Julia Baccari fell out with the Pack when she tried to have several of the humans jailed in order to ‘keep the balance’ with the rest of the population. He gave no details, and I never asked, because he sounded really bitter and it was only ten years ago.”
Regina frowned. “There are no ‘Wildwoods’ around here, so that can’t be her only identifier. Have you tried to look deeper? Tried to find any ties to the West Coast?”
“Dad is looking into her from a law enforcement point of view, so that might help if she’s broken any laws and got caught.”
“Okay, then,” said Regina, “let’s wait to see what he finds. That information combined with your Spark could lead to your answers. What else have you found?”
Stiles shrugged and pulled out a notebook. “I had to fish through a classroom trashcan to get a handwriting sample, but the McGuire twins are actually the Bancroft twins from Red Canyon, Utah. The Wexter Pack was in charge there, and by any account Monroe Wexter was a horrible son of a bitch. He was abusive to the point of terrorism, and he allowed or forced the rest of the Pack to be the same way. They took vicious control of Red Canyon, like the Mafia or something—and then the Pack was wiped out about three years ago. The twins were around thirteen years old then, and they were never heard from after the massacre.”
“So,” Regina hummed, “you think the twins killed the Pack and somehow became Alphas? How would that work, with two of them?”
Stiles shook his head. “I have no idea, but I almost commiserate with them. Being abused all their lives, but able to heal quickly because they are Werewolves, must have been horrible.”
“I agree with your sympathy, Stiles, but if they killed once—they’ll surely do it again. Circumstances don’t matter; you know that. Have you managed to identify any of the other possible Alphas in the Pack?”
“Um, yeah,” Stiles flipped through his notebook. “There is Ennis Porter from Pine, Arizona. By all accounts, he was with Deucalion when he came to see Alpha Hale seven years ago. From any description I could get, Ennis is a ‘huge motherfucker’—pardon. So he might be the one Dad saw in the woods back then, and he could be the one that bit Paige Krasikova and ultimately killed her. So—Derek needs to stay away from him until he can promise to keep in control.”
Regina gave an undignified snort. “I’d love to see how you manage to make that happen.”
“I could offer to kiss him into submission.”
The whole Pack, including Erica’s parents, stood in a clustered group as the huge digger made the first incision into the earth, starting what would become a new ‘root cellar’ for the new Hale House. The weather was good—cool but sunny—and the earth was soft from recent rains, but not overly muddy. It was a good day to begin construction, and Derek was in a great mood. Lately, Derek had been in very high spirits. His life was turning around for the better, and the reason was standing all around him: his new Pack—so supportive and loving.
Veronica Dempsey was there as well, looking comically in control with her pink-and-purple hardhat and pastel coveralls. Nobody there laughed at her or the way she dressed, because she was large and in control and knew exactly what she wanted. She stood there, bright among the darkly-clad construction workers, and directed the machines to the proper places to dig, laughing and conferring with the foreman. All of the contractors were ones she had worked with before, so they followed her instructions well. Derek was in awe of the tiny woman.
After knowing Regina Kincaide, and living with Laura Hale for so long, Derek was practically in awe of all tiny women.
But Stiles was not tiny at all; he was almost Derek’s height, but he was thin and lithe, and Derek was in awe of him as well. Stiles had power, yes, but he also had compassion and love and a wicked intellect. Stiles’ father was much the same. Derek was in awe of the fact that these two men accepted him with no question; in fact, they both went far out of their way to help Derek when he needed it the most.
And now they stood there, as part of his Pack, and watched as a construction crew began to build what would become the official seat of his territory. It was a happy time for Derek.
Almost happy enough to ignore the jagged spiral carved into one of the trees that the crew had cut down that morning.
The Alpha Pack was again making itself known.
They had not, however, harassed any of the Pack. Dennis went to work every day, just like Derek, and there were no confrontations. Stacy took the kids to the park and library regularly without incident. Erica walked through the halls at school with confidence, and her parents had no unusual encounters during their day.
Scott had reported, during the last Full Moon, that the twins were stalking him in the halls, but they never spoke to him. Derek had tried to tell Scott and Melissa about the Alpha Pack, but only Melissa seemed to understand how dire the circumstances could be. Scott remained stubborn as ever. The only information Scott had that was any good was that his boss, Alan Deaton, had had a visitor the previous week—a large muscled man with a bald head and a square jaw—who said nothing to Scott but seemed to be trying to intimidate Dr. Deaton. Scott didn’t mention if the large man smelled like a Werewolf, but his senses weren’t completely under control yet. Derek continued to work with Scott because he genuine liked Melissa McCall, but sometimes he despaired of the boy.
The first of many holes were dug and foundation supports were brought in. Derek gathered the Pack together and they left as a group once the heavy construction was begun, so they would not be in the way. It was decided to have a large group lunch to celebrate the new construction, and the Reyes’ led the procession out of the Preserve and into town. They converged onto a pizza joint, where several tables were shoved together and laughter rang through the building.
Thanks to Stiles’ ‘notice-me-not’ spell, they did not fear being seen together in public. Even if someone came into the restaurant right after they did and questioned the waitress about them, they would get no answers. Derek was, indeed, in awe of Stiles.
Allison caught Stiles by the arm in the hall before lunch and pulled him into an empty doorway. Stiles went willingly, motioning for Boyd to go ahead to the library. The bigger boy shrugged and moved on.
“What’s up, Miss Argent?” Stiles asked evenly. He glanced around the hall but saw no sign of Lydia or Jackson or Scott.
“A man went missing this weekend, Stiles,” Allison hissed. “Scott told me he was the last person to see him.”
Stiles frowned. “No, I haven’t heard anything. When did this happen?”
Allison shrugged. “I’m not sure, but Scott told me that he had a customer at the clinic this weekend—a young man with a poodle. But when Scott left work, he found the dog in the parking lot and the man was gone.”
“And you’re telling me this why?” Stiles wracked his brain for any hint of what might have happened. He came up with nothing. “The Pack had nothing to do with that.”
Allison shook her head. “No—no, that’s not what I meant. I mean, you said the Alpha Pack would try and cause trouble for you guys. Could they do something like this?”
“No, Allison. An Alpha Pack wouldn’t do something like this.”
“How can you be sure?” she hissed, watchful for any intruders into their conversation.
Stiles sighed. “Because this guy was last seen at the vet clinic. If he was taken, it would only serve to antagonize Scott, and he’s not part of the Hale Pack. The Alpha Pack will attack us directly. They’ll find people that we’re close to, not some random stranger with a cuddly dog. Was the dog okay?”
Allison blinked at the question. “I’m…I’m not sure. I guess so.”
Stiles smiled gently at her. “Look, if it will make you feel better, I’ll ask my dad about it this evening and I’ll call you. But I’m sure it’s not the Alpha Pack that did it.”
Stiles walked to the library making a mental note to add this to the discussion he would be having with his father. John was going to be bringing home the results of his search for Julia Baccari, and they would be comparing notes over dinner.
John greeted his son in the kitchen with the words: “A young man that went missing this weekend has turned up this evening in the hospital.”
Stiles stopped stirring the stew and turned to face his father. “What?”
John sighed and dropped a file folder onto the kitchen table before sitting heavily in a chair. “A young man was taken on Saturday morning, and was reported missing on Sunday. That damned twenty-four-hour hold on emergency calls….anyway, he was last seen on Saturday by a vet tech who gave his dog shots: Scott McCall. Didn’t Scott tell you any of this?”
Stiles huffed and turned back to the stove. “No. But he told Allison, because she told me before lunch today. So the guy is okay?”
John wiped a hand over his face in frustration. “Yeah, he was drugged and he has a lot of bruising around his neck and throat, but he’s alive. He was very confused and asking about his dog, but he had no idea who took him or where he was.”
Stiles carried two bowls of stew to the table, where two water glasses were already waiting. “Who is this guy? Is he from around here?”
John shook his head. “He’s from Beacon Heights, and he’s a senior in the JROTC. I’m assuming that he could have fought back if he hadn’t been hit from behind. The only thing he remembers is being in the woods before blacking out again and waking at the hospital—where he was dumped in the early-morning hours. Nobody there saw anything, either.”
Stiles frowned. “I think I might need to make another trip into the woods, just to make sure the Nemeton hasn’t been tampered with.”
“I thought you said whatever you did would keep that from happening.”
Stiles shrugged. “I said that, yes. But what I did wouldn’t keep anyone from trying to tamper with it. And if they failed, that might be why this guy is still alive. But I want to be sure. So—what did you find about Julia Baccari?”
John swallowed his bit of stew before flipping open his file. “Well, I was right that I had heard the name before. Four years ago, a woman was found in the woods in Sunny Valley, Oregon. She was torn apart, literally. The call went out to all law enforcement on the west coast because she looked like a victim of an animal attack, but there were human handprints on her body as well. Her name was Julia Baccari, and she was mostly dead when she was found. According to this report, she went missing from the long-term care facility that she was placed in about four months ago.”
Stiles paused in his eating to frown at his father. “That would have been in January, Dad. And that was right around the time Peter Hale was on his rampage. She must have some kind of attachment with the Alpha Pack, because they would have been on the way here by then.”
John hummed in agreement. “Once she was identified, there were witnessed that came forward that said she was always in the company of Kali Steele: a part-time park ranger in Wolf Creek Park. Right around the time of Julia’s attack, Kali Steele went missing and several other women were found dead in that area—all with throats slashed. A drifter with a violent past was brought in for questioning, but that went nowhere.”
Stiles picked up his spoon again. “What are the odds that Kali Steele is an Alpha Werewolf and Julia Baccari was her Emissary?”
John leveled a look at his son. “You know I don’t believe in coincidences, Stiles.”