Those Left Behind-Chapter 16

Chapter Sixteen

 

 

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 in 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 a 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.  “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 that 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 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 factor 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 he 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 in 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, on top of 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-quoted 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 work space 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 more slow 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!”

 

 

˜˚˜  ˜˚˜

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