Stiles and Derek sat stiffly in the Argent living room, sharing an uncomfortable sofa with a gaudy flower pattern on a burgundy background. In Stiles’ opinion, it clashed horribly with the gold wallpaper and blue curtains, but it wasn’t his house—and he was making sure Derek’s new place would be tasteful and comfortable, even if it killed him.
Allison was sitting literally on the edge of her overstuffed chair, chewing on her left thumb and bouncing her right knee in time to a tune nobody could hear.
Christopher was the only one absent from the room, and he was just down the hall in his office, gathering files and a notepad.
Stiles had decided that, in favour of the Treaty between the Argent Clan and the Hale Pack, he should tell Allison (as Matriarch) what he had learned about the Alpha Pack. At the very least, the Twins would possibly target her at or after school because she was an Argent and Deucalion had a history with her grandfather. Christopher was present because it was his house, and as a Hunter, he was most in position to offer decent protection. Allison wanted to include Scott, but Derek said he would give the younger werewolf the information he would need to stay safe.
“I have received a few more reports about the Alpha Pack,” said Christopher as he entered the room, “but the information is not new. I still don’t have any names.”
Stiles straightened in his seat. “Actually, I think I’ve managed to identify all of the members.”
Christopher’s eyes widened. “And how did you manage to do that?”
Stiles shrugged and he turned his attention to Allison. “First, I had an easy identification. Two of the new werewolves in town are in our school. Aiden and Ethan McGuire are actually Aiden and Ethan Bancroft from the Wexter Pack in Utah. There is also a Kali Steele from Oregon, and Ennis Porter from Arizona.”
Christopher quickly glanced at his notes and nodded. “With Deucalion, that makes five total, and no other numbers have been mentioned. How did you find this out?”
Stiles simply held out his right hand and allowed a few sparks to dance along his fingertips. “I just let my fingers do the walking, so to speak. Actually, Dad came up with Kali Steele while researching a separate, but not unrelated, issue.” Stiles leveled a stern gaze at Christopher. “I also need to tell you both about that, as well, but you have to agree to let me handle it. It might come down to Magic, and neither of you are equipped for that.”
Allison gave him a wide-eyed look, but Christopher nodded gravely. “I’m naturally reluctant to leave anything dangerous to a high school student, but I agree that I am not Magically inclined.”
Stiles smirked a little before settling closer to Derek, who had remained silent during their entire visit. “We all know that the Alpha Pack has gained power by killing their entire Packs, right? And that includes the Emissaries. So,” Stiles paused to get his bearings, “so—I believe that one Emissary, a Julia Baccari, did not die at the hands of her Alpha. And I also believe that this Julia Baccari has a serious jones for the Alpha Pack because of the attack on her. I know who Julia Baccari is, and when Dad did some digging on her, the name Kali Steele came up.”
“Is this woman dangerous?” Christopher asked, tension pulsing in the veins of his neck.
“She could be,” Stiles answered honestly. “She is, or rather was, a Druid. As an Emissary and Druid, she should have had a lot of power; power enough to protect her and her Pack. But some Druids have gone a little wayside, and the power isn’t strong enough in them for real protection. And I took away any natural source of possible power she would have had locally, so she’s weak now.”
“And how did you manage that?” Allison asked quietly.
Purple and green sparks popped over Stiles’ fingertips like tiny fireworks.
Miss Blake was looking extremely tired.
She had dark circles under her eyes and her complexion was pale to the point of almost-green, and her hair had lost the glossy shine it had when she first began teaching.
Lydia was giving her judgy looks, as if the woman’s appearance was personally offending her.
Stiles found himself wondering what her next move was going to be. He had done a few SparkSearches, but there were no powerful Nemeton-like areas around Beacon County other than the one he had claimed. If Miss Blake/Baccari was going to need a Nemeton, she would have to travel a long while before finding one.
The WonderTwins were also beginning to act agitated, as well. Stiles would usually be hard-pressed to use the term ‘skittish’ in regards to people, but in this case, it fit.
Shortly after speaking with the Argents, Derek was approached by someone who could only be Kali Steele; a terrifyingly beautiful woman with wild eyes and always present claws. It was not a good look, seeing as they were in public (she came to talk to Derek in front of the grocery store), but people just ignored them. She had a simple message: Deucalion would not wait much longer.
Stiles was left to wonder what, exactly, Deucalion was waiting for and why there was a time limit. At first, he thought it might be a Lunar Eclipse, because Werewolves were supposed to be affected by them, but the next one wasn’t until June. This Deucalion person did not seem to want to wait that long before any confrontation. The construction site was not touched again, which was a relief to everyone, but Derek had reported seeing other werewolves in and around town more frequently.
The Alpha Pack did not seem to know where Derek worked, because he could go to and from the sports clinic in Beacon Heights without being followed or hunted. The Twins were keeping a closer eye on Scott in the halls, but they had not made a move on him. For once, Scott seemed to take the advice seriously and he was avoiding trouble. He even managed to not give an indication that Erica was also a werewolf, but that might be because he never noticed that the Twins were ignorant of her existence.
Unfortunately, Scott did socialize a bit with Isaac Lahey and Jackson Whittemore because of the Lacrosse team, and the Twins did notice that. So they began stalking Isaac through the halls between classes, and they took an interest in Jackson as well. Of course, that could also be because one twin was interested in Danny Mahaleani and the other had his eye on Lydia Martin. Whatever the real reason, Jackson remained his usual douche-y self, and he was really antagonizing the Wolves.
Not a good idea.
Some internet searching (legal through the Sheriff’s Department computers) gave Stiles an idea of where the Alpha Pack was holing up near Beacon Hills, and he was making plans on that front. He simply wanted to leave a message, to let them know that they would not be beating the Hale Pack. Stiles knew he would eventually have to bring Julia Baccari into things, but he wanted her to feel how lost she was, first. No other abductions or disappearances had been reported, and the Nemeton was unscathed and healthy, so Stiles thought perhaps she would not be gaining strength for some time.
Stiles didn’t really understand Druidic magic and how it worked. He knew it supposed to be plant- and nature-based, but beyond that, he was lost. Druids were also supposed to be about protecting the community, and this semi-recent trend among certain factions to Keep the Balance went way against that. Regina was of no help in this department, as she did not personally know any Druids that Stiles could talk to. The only Druid Stiles knew of personally was Dr. Alan Deaton, and Stiles was reluctant to talk to him.
For one reason, Stiles did not want to drag Derek into the man’s presence. For another, Stiles really didn’t want to out himself as Magical to the man who practically betrayed the Hale Pack by not revealing the presence of Hunters in Beacon Hills.
There was nothing for it; Stiles would have to visit the veterinarian, and sooner rather than later.
But first, he had to send a message to the Alpha Pack.
When Ennis Porter opened the door of the ratty motel room on Friday, April twenty-second, there was a fully grown oak tree blocking the path in front of the door. The tree was easily four feet in diameter and twenty feet tall. After claws and teeth were applied, it took four hours for the tree to fall.
The Twins were very late to school that day.
“Do you want me to go with you?”
John Stilinski watched as Stiles and Derek prepared to leave the house, heading to see Deaton, the town vet. The kitchen table was littered with diagrams and notes about the Alpha Pack and their past victims—the Packs decimated by the Alpha Pack. Since Deucalion had been blinded, seven years before, he had convinced other Alphas or Betas to destroy their Packs to absorb the power, and four Packs were destroyed that way. Then they began to travel from state to state and Pack to Pack, and they systematically destroyed six other Packs—one for each year since Gerard Argent ruined Deucalion and took his eyes.
Some of the new Alphas, however, did not pass muster for some reason or another, and Deucalion killed them or had them killed, so that only the core five remained. This cemented Deucalion’s claim of being a Demon Wolf—a name he used when ‘testing’ the strength of Packs he deemed unworthy. He had been bested exactly twice, by Packs with strong Emissaries.
If they only did minimal research into the newly formed Hale Pack, they would know that Alan Deaton never closed up shop in Beacon Hills, and they would possibly assume that he was still Emissary to the Pack. That would explain why Scott told the Pack about that visit from a ‘large, bald’ man who was trying to intimidate the vet.
So, Derek and Stiles were off to the vet’s office, partially to warn him about the Alpha Pack and partially to drill him about Druid magic. Stiles might have to reveal his own magic, but he would never allow the man to touch him. Derek would be there to make sure that didn’t happen, because Alan Deaton did not deserve to know how powerful that Stiles was. But he did deserve to have Derek glower at him while he answered a few questions.
“I think we can handle it without law enforcement, Dad,” said Stiles as he opened the front door, “but thanks for the offer.”
“I’ll keep an eye on him, John,” said Derek as he followed his boyfriend out the door. “Although, I think he’ll be protecting me instead of the other way around.”
John laughed softly. “I have no doubt of that.”
The drive across town was silent because Stiles and Derek had managed to find a certain peace in their relationship. They didn’t need to chatter at each other at all times. In fact, since Stiles had begun to manifest and train his magic, Stiles didn’t feel the need to chatter at anybody anymore. He was calmer and more centered, and his mind was at rest for the first time ever.
Scott was not working that afternoon because of Saturday afternoon Lacrosse practice. Derek had allowed that Scott had enough control to play the game, but only if Scott agreed to bow out if he was feeling Wolfish. Since Melissa was giving Scott the stink-eye, he agreed to the conditions.
So—this was the perfect day to try and get some answers.
An hour later, and they were still ‘trying’ to get answers from Alan Deaton.
To say the man was enigmatic would be an understatement. Beyond “Mr. Hale, it’s good to see you back in town” and “Druidic magic is very complex”, Alan Deaton had very little of use to say. He began to wax poetic about the former Alpha Hale—which was Derek’s mother—and that was very weird, and it made Derek shift uncomfortably, so Stiles sent an invisible push in the man’s direction. He was unprepared for what he found.
“You were in love with Talia Hale!” Stiles exclaimed before he could stop himself.
Derek stiffened beside him and Deaton set down his book and calmly turned to his visitors. “I beg your pardon?” he said coldly. “Talia Hale was a very dear friend to me. Her family was important to me.”
Stiles gave him a mean smile. “Yeah, but not important enough. What happened, Dr. Deaton? Did you declare your feelings, only to get shot down? Is that why you let slide the information that there was a Hunter in town with designs on the Hale Pack?”
As he spoke, Stiles allowed his magic to fill the entire building that contained the vet office. He was able to check off several items of protection in just the lobby: a Mountain-Ash-lined countertop, which Deaton kept between himself and his visitors the entire time, a few runes etched into the glass of the large front window—which was for fire prevention, ironically enough, mountain ash in several places in the back examination and kennel area. Stiles could also sense the faint presence of werewolf in the back room, but Stiles figured that was probably Scott.
“You loved Talia Hale, and you wanted her for yourself, but she was happily married with children. So, what? You let your duties as Emissary slide so that you could maintain some kind of ‘balance’? Things were good for Talia and the Hale Pack, so you let some bad take over, and everyone died?”
A brief expression of pain flashed over the dark-skinned man’s face, but he schooled it quickly. “Not everyone died, Mr. Stilinski.”
Stiles chuckled darkly. “No, not everyone. Derek is still alive. But he’s the only one. Peter went insane from the injuries and coma and he killed Laura. So, how’s that for Balance, my dear doctor/Druid?”
Again, pain filled the vet’s face and he visibly crumbled against the counter. “Tell me what I can do for you,” he croaked. “Tell me what I can do to help the new Hale Alpha.”
Stiles smirked and shoved his hands into his trouser pockets. Beside him, Derek moved so that his shoulder was touching Stiles’. “We need to know how a Druid would go about taking revenge on a werewolf that wronged him or her. I know about the Nemeton in the Beacon County Preserve, and we’ve taken measures to make sure it can’t be used, but we need to make sure nothing else can possibly be used against my Pack.”
Deaton frowned deeply. “Druids don’t go for revenge, Mr. Hale. Revenge can taint the magic.”
Derek nodded absently. “Okay, consider the magic already tainted. How can this happen?”
“Well,” said Deaton, “a Druid that has turned dark is called a Darach, which means ‘black oak’. Someone like this will twist nature to fulfill their desires. Animals might start behaving strangely or plants will grow wildly where they shouldn’t. A Darach will only seek to harm, so they have no place in nature.”
Stiles frowned. “What if this supposed Darach was almost killed, but survived against all odds?”
“Then,” said Deaton slowly, “the Darach will expend a lot of energy to hurt the person or persons who attempted to kill them. The fury will burn bright and hot, but will not last long once the revenge has been taken. Do you know who the potential target is?”
“Yeah, I have an idea. This Darach tried to kidnap a young man last week, and maybe tried but failed to kill him. Any ideas on that?”
“No!” Deaton answered quickly.
Stiles glanced at Derek, who had blanked his expression. It was a lie. Alan Deaton knew of some reason this Darach would kill—or try to kill.
Stiles leaned on the counter in front of Deaton and focused his attention on the older man. “I think you do know why a Darach would try to kill someone. I think you should tell us, because she might try something again, and the people in this town deserve to not be pawns in some kind of revenge game.”
“What are you,” Deaton gaped at Stiles.
“I’m the Emissary to the Hale Pack, and Beacon Hills is my territory!” Stiles allowed his anger at the older man shine through his eyes, and sparks of energy lit the tips of his hair and fingers like flecks of fire in a dark night. “Now, tell us how this Darach could kill her way to vengeance so I can keep it from happening!”
“She has to do it by threes,” Stiles exclaimed as he and Derek entered the house. “Is there a way to search for missing persons by profession or lifestyle?”
John dropped the newspaper he was reading and rushed to meet them in the kitchen. “Who has to do what by threes, and what the hell are you talking about?”
John was long used to his son’s ability to jump from topic to topic, but Stiles seemed too centered this time. He sat on a stool at the kitchen counter and took the coffee mug that Derek offered with a grateful smile.
Stiles sipped from his own steaming mug to calm down. “Okay, so that guy that was taken and then returned? You said he was in JROTC, right?”
John nodded affirmative. “Yes, he is a senior at Beacon Heights Academy, and was slated to go into the Air Force Academy when he graduates. Is that important?”
“Yes,” Stiles nodded, “it’s very important. When Cryptic Deaton finally started giving some real answers, he said that a Dark Druid would take lives to create energy and strength. But she would have to do it in threes, because three is a magic number. So, let’s say this guy was a Warrior, because of the JROTC thing. That means that two other Warriors would have to have been taken and killed, and they would have to have been killed in a very specific way.
“And she’d take Healers, Guardians, Virgins, and Philosophers to go with the Warriors. But there would be no specific time for any of this, so I don’t know what to look for.”
John frowned into his coffee cup. “I’ll have to look along the official lines to make sure, but I don’t recognize that pattern. Would she have had to take her victims close to here, or could they have been taken elsewhere?”
“Deaton said that the sacrifices would have to be made in close relation to each other,” said Derek, “so she would not have traveled far to take her victims.”
“Right,” John said as he set down his empty mug. “That means the young man in the hospital is probably the first taken. If other victims were out there, I would have heard about it through secure channels. You’ve probably stopped the sacrifices already before they began.”
“Hmm,” Stiles hummed. “Maybe that’s why Miss Blake has looked like a wreck lately. She can’t make her sacrifices to get power, so she’s using reserves to keep going. I’m going to have to confront her, but I’d rather do that once we have the Alpha Pack in hand.”
“Derek Hale,” said a smooth-as-velvet voice from behind him. “You are a hard person to find.”
Derek turned around slowly, and saw a thin, middle-aged man in a blue blazer and dark trousers, wearing dark glasses and carrying a white cane. “I’m not hard to find if you actually take time to look. You must be Deucalion. A friend of mine wanted to know what kind of name that was.” Derek was standing in one of the many parks in Beacon Hills, enjoying a rather unhealthy lunch of dirty-water hotdogs on a clear and sunny day. It was Monday, and he had off from his job as a physical therapist. He was in the park so that he didn’t creep out the construction crew at his house site.
The man, Deucalion, laughed bright and merry. “My name is an old one, but my family was always rather old-fashioned.”
Derek gave him an unimpressed look. “And I suppose that old-fashioned family is all dead, now. I’m not interested in being judged by you, and I’m not remotely interested in joining the Alpha Pack. You might consider that and pack up to leave town.”
“But Derek,” oozed Deucalion, “there is so much to offer you! Strength that you could never imagine, and power. You could have so much power, if you gave in to us.”
Derek frowned. “And if I don’t? Give in, I mean.”
“Then you will be judged harshly and punished.” The oily smile on the blind man’s face made Derek’s hackles rise, but he gave nothing away. He could, in fact, feel a warm touch on his back, over the tattoo, that felt like Stiles’ comforting hand, and he stood proud in front of this dangerous Werewolf.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” said Derek calmly. “I think, actually, that you and your Pack of mutts are going to want to leave Beacon Hills very soon. I think you’ll want to leave my Pack alone.”
Deucalion’s laughter faded into a cruel grin. “But do you have a Pack, Derek Hale? I know of one Wolf in the high school, but one Wolf does not a Pack make. Could it be that you have allowed humans into your hold?” Deucalion sneered at the word ‘human’ and Derek could almost feel his skin crawl.
“And if I have? I had siblings and cousins that were human, and my Pack was strong when I was growing up. Humans are a very important part of a Pack; my mother always said so.”
“Your mother,” Deucalion sneered again, “was hopeless and weak. I’m giving you the opportunity to grow past her shortcomings. Take it, boy. Take the choice given to you and become stronger than you’d ever imagine!”
The painted sigils on Derek’s back began to pulse in time with his heartbeat, and it strengthened his resolve. “I think,” said Derek as he tossed the remains of his lunch in a waste can, “that I’ll take a pass. You can’t touch me, Deucalion. You would have already, if you could. The fact is: I’m stronger than you thought, and my Pack is stronger than you were prepared for. You should walk away, because that’s what I’m going to do.”
Derek turned his senses out into the park and discovered that he was alone with Deucalion, so he turned his back on the older man and walked away across the grounds to his car. Once he was sitting behind the wheel of the Camero, Derek pulled out his phone and sent a group text, warning his Pack that the Alphas might be making a move soon. Dennis and Stacy reported back an all-clear, so they could not see or sense any of the Alphas near their home or workplace.
Erica was presumably safe at the school, still wearing the shadowbox locket that Stiles gave to her. Derek was patiently waiting for the day that she could stop wearing it because it hid her scent and her Wolf, and he and the rest of the Pack hated it. Erica wanted to remove it during training, but Derek refused to allow it because it kept her safe. Once the Alpha Pack was dealt with, they would have a celebration and take it off of her together.
Stiles sent a simple ‘K’, and then there was silence. Derek knew Stiles would keep an eye on the Alphas in the school, so he wasn’t too worried about that.
What worried him was the silence from the Sheriff. Surely John knew how to text. He did have Stiles for a son, after all.
Derek had been planning to drive to the Sheriff’s station, but he turned abruptly and headed for another part of town. Twenty minutes later, Derek was standing on the stoop of the Argent house, knocking lightly. If Christopher was surprised to see him, it didn’t show.
“Alpha Hale,” he said slowly, “to what do I owe the pleasure?”
Derek squared his shoulders. “I’ve been contacted by Deucalion. The Alpha Pack will be making their move soon, possibly today. I contacted my Pack, but I haven’t heard from the Sheriff. Are you up for some Werewolf Shenanigans, as Stiles would say?”
Argent smirked darkly and turned to go back into the house. “Let me get my party gear. I’ll follow you in.”
Derek had texted John several more times before he arrived at the station. He received no response. Derek also texted Stiles, because he would be damned if he let anything happen to his father without letting him know. Stiles shot back a quick ‘Dad knows what he’s doing’, and Derek relaxed minutely. Not for one moment did Derek doubt that John could take care of himself.
The parking lot was practically deserted when Derek pulled his Camero into a public spot. Christopher pulled into the spot next to his in a large, overstated SUV. While he was arming himself, Derek allowed his senses to drift over the building in front of them.
“Can you hear anything?” Christopher asked. He spoke softly, just in case a werewolf nearby might overhear.
Derek nodded slowly. “I hear four heartbeats in the far rear of the building. Two are very erratic, but two are calm and rested.”
Christopher cocked his head to the side in thought. “The rear of the building is where the cells are. There are also two interrogation rooms in that direction.”
Derek frowned. “The cells are pretty open, but if the bars are reinforced steel, they could contain a werewolf for a short time. I’m thinking one of the calm heartbeats belongs to John. He’s not the type to startle easily.”
Christopher glanced at the werewolf beside him. “How do you want to do this? Both in the front door together?”
Derek shook his head. “Give me a minute. If an Alpha is already in there, he knows we’re here. A minute more won’t make much of a difference.” With a nod from Argent, Derek trotted around the far corner of the building, returning a moment later. “There is a window open on the other side of the building. It opens to a bathroom, and the room is empty. You can slip in that way, and I’ll take the front door. The Alpha will be expecting me; he’ll know someone else is with me, but not where. You should have the element of surprise.”
Argent nodded and checked his ammunition once again before jogging around the corner to climb in the window. Derek waited three heartbeats before approaching the front door. The lobby was blessedly empty, with no signs of disturbance. Derek peered through the windowed double-doors to the bullpen and saw a very large man pacing back and forth between desks. Derek vaguely remembered the figure from many years before: Ennis Porter.
This was the huge man that introduced the Sheriff to the world of werewolves.
He was pacing alone, like a caged tiger in a zoo. Derek strained to hear anything beyond the room, and he picked up John’s calm whisper as he tried to soothe a frightened deputy. Derek smiled to himself as he eased into the bullpen. Across the room, behind the large Alpha, Derek saw the men’s room door slide open, so Derek made a lot of unnecessary noise to mask Christopher’s entrance.
“You must be waiting for me,” Derek announced, and enjoyed the look of astonishment on Ennis Porter’s face when he spun around. “I didn’t think you had to go as far as filing a missing person report.”
“You!” Porter growled as he advanced toward Derek. “You have been found wanting! Your little Pack is finished here!”
Derek smirked at the large werewolf. “Yes, so I’ve heard. I’ll tell you what I told your leader: if you’re smart, you’ll leave us alone. We’re stronger than you think.”
“You’ll never be as strong an Alpha Pack! You could have been one of us; now I’m going to enjoy killing you!”
Porter launched himself over a desk and flew at Derek’s head, but Derek ducked to the side and Porter landed badly on the floor behind him.
By this time, Christopher had left the bathroom fully and headed back to the cell area. John Stilinski looked up from the injured deputy he was tending in time to see Argent enter the prisoner area.
“I have the keys, but I thought it would be safer in here,” John said quietly. “I have my special ammunition, if you think you’ll need my help?”
Christopher lifted his chin at the deputy. “How bad is she?”
John lifted his hand and drew back the deputy’s shirt to reveal several deep claw marks. “She’ll live, provided we get her to a hospital soon. I worry about infection over anything else.”
The sounds of battle traveled from the bullpen to the cells, and John cringed when he heard several loud crashes and bemoaned the loss of several computers. Of course, he was worried about Derek most of all, but from where he was he could be of no help.
“Do you think he needs any help out there?” John asked as another crash sounded.
Christopher shook his head and opened his pack to pull out a first aid kit. “I think we’ll hear him if he needs help. Ultimately, this fight is his, not ours. Now, let’s get this cage opened so we can treat those wounds.”
The second deputy was quiet and huddled in the corner of the cell. Christopher looked at him before asking John, “What’s with him?”
John looked over his shoulder and shrugged. “I think he’s going to ask for a transfer once this is all over. I’ll grant it because I don’t need someone on my team that can’t handle a crisis.”
Christopher chuckled softly as he cleaned the claw wounds in the deputy’s side and abdomen. The deputy lifted grateful eyes and began to grow calmer. John helped the other man dress the wounds and listened to the battle in the bullpen as it became quieter and less frantic.
Suddenly, there was one loud crash, and then silence.
John and Christopher both turned to look at the doorway, dreading what was coming their way. John heaved a huge sigh of relief when a bloody and bedraggled Derek dragged himself through the doorway. He looked like ten kinds of hell, and he would need a new leather jacket because his was torn to pieces. In fact, Derek looked like he was torn to pieces.
But he was breathing. And he was healing.
“Are you all okay?” he rasped, leaning against the wall, clearly unable to pass the threshold.
John nodded briskly. “I tossed a MagicBomb at him when he came at us. It didn’t surround him, so it didn’t knock him out, but it stopped him from coming into the back room. Unfortunately, he snagged Lemmon, here, before I got it from around my neck.”
Christopher’s eyebrows raised and he mouthed the words ‘magic bomb’, but he looked down at the threshold and saw a thin, solid line of Mountain Ash that lined the doorway and edges of wall in the cell room. He leaned forward and wiped away a patch of ash, and Derek stumbled into the room.
“I’m okay,” he muttered when John lurched toward him. “I’ll heal, anyway. But now we have a problem in the other room.”
Christopher nodded and rose to his feet. “That is something I can take care of.” Derek frowned and moved to follow, so Christopher said, “I’m not a weakling, Hale, and I won’t need to call in outside help. But perhaps…some people (indicating John and the deputies) should not know about the next step.”
“Still,” said Derek, “he was awfully big and heavy. I can help move him, at least.”
John waved them out of the room. “Just go. Get…rid of it, okay? I’ll get Lemmon to a hospital and arrange for someone to clean up the mess I heard you making.”
Once again, John was alone with two deputies; one injured, the other mentally scarred. When Ennis Porter came into the Sheriff’s Station, he was all wolfed out in Beta form, and he was a horrific sight. Deputy Michaels would never really be the same.
Stiles was on alert ever since Derek had texted the ‘all call’ emergency. In fact, Stiles had pretty much been waiting for the Alpha Pack to make a move for days now. But the Twins were now dragging their feet, and Miss Blake looked like she had a killer flu, and Stiles was almost frantic with the waiting.
That did not mean that he wanted anyone to get hurt.
But he was puzzling over what the Twins were going to do. And he puzzled over it all damned day. He kept a jaundiced eye on the Twins in all of their shared classes, but they acted as normally as they usually did. Until the last class of the day.
Stiles was watching them. They were watching Isaac, Jackson, and Scott.
And they were flicking claws in and out like little switch-blades.
After the last class of the day was Lacrosse practice, and Stiles didn’t really have a reason to head to the locker room because he’d quit the team. He tried to give Scott a heads-up, but the boy was as stubborn and clueless as ever. Stiles even texted Allison during lunch period, but Scott either didn’t listen to her or didn’t believe he had anything to worry about.
Whatever the reason for Scott’s lack of diligence, Stiles was not going to let the Twins out of his sight.
Until they were out of his sight.
Stiles was walking through the hallways, on his way to the locker room, and the Twins were right in front of him. And then they weren’t.
Isaac was dressing quickly in the locker room, well away from the rest of the team. He was no longer being beaten, but he still hid his body as much as possible. Because of this, Isaac was one of two people left in the locker room, other than Coach, when the door burst open. Isaac jumped in surprise and tried to hide behind his open locker door when those creepy twins that were always following around Lydia and Danny stumbled in looking…not right.
Not right at all.
There were…teeth, and…and…claws.
Jackson Whittemore, the other boy in the locker room with him, yelped when the twins ripped their shirts off, displaying the kind of musculature that Isaac had nightmares about. The yelp caught Coach’s attention, and the man ran from his office to see what fresh hell was being tossed about in his domain.
“What the hell are you delinquents doing in here?” Coach yelled as he ran in from his command center. “I need you all on the field yesterday!”
Coach was brought up short when he saw the half-naked twins and their saliva-dripping fangs.
“Lahey, Whittemore! Get your asses over here!” Coach was full-on in charge, and he beckoned the two players to his side of the locker room just as one twin pushed the other in front of him. The Beacon Hills trio watched in horrified fascination as the twin to the rear seemed to push his hands into his brother’s back, separating the ribcage with a moist crack. Then the twins seemed to…merge, somehow. Into a large, misshapen hulk of a nightmare.
Coach began to utter inventive curses and he shoved both of his players behind him, opening his arms wide to provide a human shield as best as he could. When the snarling mass began to stalk closer to him and his charges, Coach reached down into his neckline and pulled out a shimmery green/gold pendant hanging on a leather thong. He quickly pulled the pendent off of his neck and threw it hard at the approaching mass of a man, and it broke against its chest, spreading glowing ash in a full circle around the giant and knocking it unconscious.
“In case of Werewolf Shenanigans,” Coach muttered in disgust as he walked over to the sleeping form to watch it separate into two distinct teenagers.
Stiles stumbled gracelessly into the locker room just in time to witness the entrapment and reverse-transformation of the Werecreature-That-Would-Be-Twins. He had wondered how two Omegas could dispose of their Alpha and both turn to Alphas, and now he knew. He was sure that the ability to ‘merge’ was unique to Aiden and Ethan only, and that Deucalion would have used it to his own best advantage.
With a bare glance across the room, Stiles noticed that Coach Finstock was standing guard between the abomination and his office, where he had corralled Isaac Lahey and Jackson Whittemore as if he could protect the boys with his own body. Actually, from the way Jackson and Isaac were cowering just inside the doorway, it seemed they were of the same opinion.
Stiles might have to gloat about that later.
Stiles dropped his backpack by the edge of ash circle and opened it, removing a glass jar containing some viscous liquid, a leather pouch of Mountain Ash, and a thin paintbrush. The Twins were out cold, and Stiles could make sure they stayed that way, but he needed to remove them from the school, and to do that he would need to secure those lethal claws in case they woke before he was fully ready to deal with them. He dipped the brush into the liquid, and then into the Ash, and he began painting sigils onto the exposed wrists and ankles of the Twins.
“Bilinski!” came the bellow from across the room, “what the hell is going on around here?” Coach sounded so upset and put out that Stiles automatically answered without thought and without ceasing his work.
“These guys must have thought Jackson and Isaac were part of the Pack because they smelled slightly of Werewolf. I guess they didn’t bother noticing that Scott’s not actually part of the Pack.”
Coach merely shrugged in thoughtful acceptance before pointing an accusing finger at Stiles.
“You’re a Werewolf and you quit the team?”
Stiles paused in his work and offered an unimpressed glare. “I’m not a Werewolf, and I had good, legitimate reasons for quitting the team.”
Coach frowned. “If you’re not a Werewolf, what are you?”
“I’m the reason you have those pendants and are still alive.”
Stiles finished his painting and pushed some more magic into the sigils before carefully closing the jar and pouch and wrapping the brush in a piece of clean cloth. He replaced his tools back into his backpack and stood, brushing his hands against his khaki-clad thighs while he pondered his next move. He was totally not dressed for this shit! He really needed to get the Twins out of the locker room and into the Preserve, where they could be dealt with.
But how, exactly?
Stiles took the chance to look toward the Coach’s office and was honestly surprised to see the trio still there, since he had momentarily forgotten about them. Jackson looked a bit shell-shocked, like he couldn’t believe that Werewolves were actually dangerous. Coach looked like he was re-evaluating Stiles and everything he thought he knew about his former bench-warmer. Isaac looked…slightly betrayed.
Stiles ran thoughtful fingers through his hair before squaring his shoulders. “Isaac, we were going to tell you, okay? But there was…stuff,” he said, gesturing widely at the crumpled Twins still contained within the Ash circle. “And it was dangerous stuff, so we wanted it to be over before we said anything. And now I have to get these guys out of here before anyone else wanders in or they wake up, so you’ll have to bear with me for a little while longer.”
Isaac pushed his way between Coach and Jackson and slumped toward his locker. “Let me change and I’ll help you carry them to your car, and you can tell me everything on the way.”
Stiles shrugged and nodded, and pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed. The phone rang once, then twice, before—
“Dad!” Stiles sighed in relief. “You’re okay.”
“Stiles? I’m fine. Just a bit scratched up, and I have at least one traumatized deputy. How are you?”
Stiles sighed again and looked at his ‘prize’. “I have the Horrible Twins out cold in containment and Coach is looking at me like I’ve grown an extra head. Isaac is going to help me get them to the Jeep so I can remove them from school grounds. Is Christopher still there?”
“He’s cleaning up right now,” the Sheriff grunted. “Derek had to…let’s just say the really big one is out of the game.”
Stiles snorted. “I beg to differ on that count, father mine. These Twins can do something truly terrifying that makes them ‘the big one’. Is Derek okay?”
“He’s healing. Do you need to talk to him?”
Stiles shook his head uselessly. “Nope. But you might want to ask where he wants to deal with the rest of the Alpha Pack. After I get these losers secured in my back seat, I have to deal with the Darach issue, so I need to know where I’m going with them. I will not take them to the construction site.”
There was muffled conversation that Stiles could ignore while he watched Coach escort Jackson from the locker room. That boy really was a twit.
“Stiles?” the Sheriff asked as he rejoined the conversation, “Derek wants to know if you can get your mess to the old distillery on Switchback Road? It’s totally abandoned and there’s room to work there.”
Stiles snorted. “Um, he is aware that that is where Deucalion was ambushed way back in the way backs, right?”
Stiles could hear the smirk on his father’s face as he replied, “Derek thought it would be fitting to end things there.”
Stiles signed off and placed his phone securely in his jacket pocket as he turned to face Isaac, who was looking doubtfully at the Ash circle.
“They’re not going to wake up and attack us, are they?” he asked softly.
“Nope,” Stiles replied confidently. “I’ve got them well and truly secured and sedated. They won’t wake up until I want them to.”
Isaac looked up at him. “How do you know?”
Stiles returned the look with sincere gravity. “Because I said so, and that’s how my magic works.” He fitted the straps of his backpack over his shoulders and considered the Twins. “I’m not putting them in my backseat, so we’ll have to pile them into the cargo area of the Jeep. Do you want top or bottom?”
Isaac’s eyes widened in incredulity before he schooled his expression. “I’ll take the top on one and the bottom on the other, so we can share the load.”
Stiles pulled his Jeep up to the equipment loading zone on the side of the school and he and Isaac made two trips to load the Twins into the cargo trunk. Stiles settled himself into the driver’s seat and waited until Isaac had his passenger seatbelt fastened before starting the engine and driving away from the school. They drove in silence until they were well away from the populated areas—and until Stiles could tell Isaac was struggling hard not to ask questions.
“Okay,” he said, breaking the silence, “I’m not going to go in-depth into the history of the Pack. Derek Hale is a born Werewolf, and he is currently the Alpha of the Hale Pack; the lead dog, as it were. Scott was bitten by the previous Alpha, who was batshit crazy and killing people until he was taken care of. Scott is a Werewolf, but he refuses to submit to Derek, so Derek is training him to keep him safe and in control, but Scott is Omega—without a Pack. Other terminology you need to know is Beta—a non-Alpha Werewolf within a Pack, Emissary—a human magic-user who acts as the spokesperson for the Pack, and Pack-adjacent—people close to the Pack but not actually Part of it.”
Isaac was silent as he pondered what was said, and then he asked, “So you’re the Emissary, right?”
Stiles nodded. “I am. I’ve been training for a while, and I don’t follow any particular magical path, but I get the job done.”
“Okay,” said Isaac, “so who else is Pack or Pack-adjacent?”
Stiles cocked his head as he considered the answer. “Well, my dad is Pack, but is human, and Erica is Pack and is a Werewolf. Erica’s parents are Pack-adjacent, as is Boyd, but they have the option to become Pack.”
Isaac nodded again and he looked over his shoulder to see if the Twins were stirring. They weren’t. “So, what was up with Coach? Because he was oddly calm about the whole thing back in the locker room.”
Stiles snorted. “Okay, I can give you a little bit of the back-story. Scott can’t keep his freaking mouth shut about important shit, and somehow Jackson found out about him being a Werewolf—so Scott told him to go to Derek about it. And Dad and I had the dubious pleasure of hearing Jackson confronting Derek and trying to blackmail him into giving him the Bite. He actually threatened to tell people that Derek was a Werewolf.”
Isaac gaped at Stiles. “But…but who would have believed him? I saw what happened in the locker room, and I don’t even believe it!”
“I know, right!” Stiles snorted. “And that’s pretty much what Derek told him—that nobody would believe him. Then Derek went to Coach, who I guess used to know Derek’s mother or something, and he told Coach about Scott and warned him that Jackson would probably be an asshole about things. So I made sure to give Coach some of my MagicBombs in case Scott got out of hand and he needed to be sedated.”
“But Coach didn’t know about you.”
Stiles sighed. “No, he did not. I gave him everything on the sly, because it is to my advantage—and Derek’s—if I stay under the radar. Hell, we wouldn’t have even told Boyd about all of this, except that Boyd had become a good friend and I decided to let him in on things. I swear, Isaac, we were going to tell you. We just needed to deal with the Alpha Pack first.”
Isaac directed his attention to the rear of the Jeep again. “Are they part of this ‘Alpha Pack’?”
“Yeah, they are. And they’re really bad dudes, too, so we were going to have to be careful about things.”
“Well they certainly were scary!” said Isaac. “Okay, then. I’ll help you get them contained or whatever, and then I’ll let you deal with them. But after it’s all over? I’m in. I want to be Pack or Pack-adjacent or whatever. But I want in.”
Stiles smirked. “We can do that.”
By the time Isaac was safe back at home, the Twins were secured at the abandoned distillery—once again in a Mountain Ash circle and totally unconscious—and Derek was fully healed from his battle with Ennis Porter. Christopher Argent had disposed of the body somehow—and Stiles was not about to ask any questions—and he was sitting at the Stilinski kitchen table nursing a very strong coffee.
John was still at the Station, debriefing his traumatized deputies—well, just the one, actually. Deputy Tara Lemmon was all stitched up from the ‘wild dog’ that found its way into the Station, and while she would be on desk duty for a few weeks, she would be back to work in a few days. Deputy Clark Michaels, on the other hand, was processing to move down San Diego way—far removed from Beacon Hills and Werewolves. He had been babbling, but was coherent, and he said nothing to any of the other deputies that were away on patrol during the whole mess. Michaels wasn’t particularly well-liked around the Beacon Hills Station; he was a bit heavy-handed with his arrests and was a bit of a braggart in the office. John protected him from the other deputies, who would have loved to have seen him a broken, shattered mess, but he would not be missed.
Stiles was changing out of his messy school clothes and into grubby jeans and a comfy hoodie—red, of course—when he heard Derek enter the house. He trotted down the stairs to give his boyfriend (ha!) a well-deserved hug and kiss. “You got one of them, and I have two all tied up at the distillery. That leaves Kali and Deucalion to deal with.”
Derek nodded and leaned forward to scent Stiles behind his ear. “Your dad was totally bad-ass at the station.”
Stiles chuckled softly. “Of course he was.” He pulled back to look at Derek. “I know you had to kill Ennis, and I’m pretty sure we’re gonna have to kill Deucalion, but what are we going to do about the Twins?”
Derek frowned at him. “You have an idea, don’t you?”
Stiles nodded. “I have an idea. And I know it’ll work. But before we deal with them, we need to deal with Julia Baccari and Deucalion and Kali. The Darach can’t touch the Nemeton here, so she’s going to waste away. I bet she’d like to take her killers with her, if she was given that choice. I think we should give her that choice.”
Derek took Stiles’ hand and led him into the kitchen where they joined Christopher Argent at the table. Stiles sat while Derek prepared coffee for them both. Stiles eyed Argent carefully; the man seemed calm and sane, but with his family history….
“I take it Allison is still at school watching practice?”
Argent raised one eyebrow in response. “I’d like to keep her out of this as long as I can. Once school lets out for the summer, I’ll be sending her to train with her mother’s family. Allison deserves the chance to know them, and they, her.”
Stiles nodded in agreement. “I think that’s a good idea. And it will give us the summer to get Scott fully trained without distractions. I just hope her living grandparents aren’t as nutso as the dead one.”
Argent slowly shook his head. “The Swanns are a good family. They fully embrace the Code, which I appreciated when the marriage arrangement was made. I just didn’t understand how completely my father had corrupted Victoria before we wed. I was often out of the country and away from the family while she was living with my family. Perhaps if I had stayed around after my mother died….”
“No,” said Derek as he sat beside Stiles, “you can’t think like that. Living in the past won’t help the future. I had good people to teach me that lesson.”
Argent’s lips quirked in a wry grin and he raised his mug to drink deeply. “In any case,” he continued, “Allison has had several phone and Skype conversations with her grandmother Swann, and she is looking forward to learning about that part of her family.”
Derek nodded as he cradled his mug between his hands. “I appreciate how you’ve stuck by this treaty, Mr. Argent, but I don’t want to drag you any further into trouble with Deucalion. He has bad history with your family, and I don’t want him to have the chance to take it out on you.”
Argent nodded and stood to carry his mug to the sink. “I’ll leave you to it, then. If you need further help with disposal, let me know.”
Stiles and Derek were quiet as Argent left the house. He was an asset, but not quite a friend, and while they were happy to have his aid when things got stupid sticky, they were unwilling to reveal even of few of their secrets when the older man was present. That he was now aware of the MagicBombs was going to be a point of contention for Stiles for a long time. Once Derek indicated that Argent’s vehicle was well away from the house, Stiles leaned over and rested his head on Derek’s shoulder.
“I hate that you had to fight. And I hate that you had to kill. And I really hate that you’ll have to do it again.”
Derek kissed Stiles’ forehead, resting his lips gently along Stiles’ hairline. “I know. But I have to keep the territory safe. How did Isaac take the news?”
Stiles snorted. “Oh, we’ll have to sit him down and have a proper talk after this whole mess is over, but he took it rather well. I think whatever his father put him through deadened his ‘freak-out’ reaction.”
Derek frowned deeply. “Yeah. So, what’s your plan for dealing with the Twins?”
Stiles grinned, wide and evil. “Well, you see—I had some time to think about this.”
The call came, and they really weren’t expecting it.
They should have been.
John was sitting at the kitchen table with open folders in front of him, trying to write an unbiased, helpful recommendation for Deputy Michaels. Since John was a very observant, hands-on kind of Sheriff, he was not at all blind to Michaels’ faults, so he was struggling to find a way to word the transfer papers in such a way as to make the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department eager to have him. If Michaels had been a more fair-minded individual who fostered good relationships with his fellow officers, the job would have done itself.
Of course, if Michaels had been that kind of person, he might not have freaked out when he saw his first Werewolf, and John wouldn’t be filling out transfer papers at all.
Stiles and Derek were washing and drying dishes from dinner—and discussing the next Cooking Day menu plans—while music played softly from the MP3 player on the counter behind them.
Dinner was a casual affair, with no drama when there could have been. Stiles had driven out to the distillery to check on his captives while Derek prepared his mother’s lasagna recipe. The Twins were still trussed up and out cold, so Stiles added a layer of Mountain Ash and mistletoe to reinforce the prison. They would still sleep until he decided to wake them. When he got home, Derek dished out the food and they ate quietly.
Then came the paperwork, and the dishes. And the phone call. On Stiles’ line.
“This is Stiles. Talk to me.”
“Stiles…oh, god! I need…I need help here!”
“Melissa? What’s happened? Where are you? Are you at work?”
Derek put down the dish he was drying at the frantic sound of Melissa McCall’s voice over the phone connection. Stiles’ stammered response caught John’s attention and he left the table to join the others at the counter. Stiles flipped the connection to ‘speaker’.
“Oh, jeez! I’m at home,” said Melissa in a not so calm tone. “I was leaving for work, and this…this woman-thing, with claws on hands and feet…she just ran at me from the street!”
“Kali!” Stiles hissed. “Melissa, were you armed?”
Melissa laughed shakily. “I’ve been wearing three of those things at a time since Scott attacked me! But now I’ve got a trapped psychotic Werewolf unconscious on my front porch, and Scott’s due to be home from work in an hour.”
“Right,” said Stiles as he rinsed the rest of the soap from his hands, “I need to get my kit together, and we can move Kali off your porch. We’ll be there in ten.”
Stiles disconnected the call and pulled his oil, brush, and ash from his backpack. Derek was ready to leave when Stiles turned to his father. “We’re going to move Kali like I moved the Twins, but I need you to schedule a parent/teacher conference for tomorrow, if you can.”
John ran a tired hand over his face. “You need me to call Miss Blake tonight and arrange a meeting. Do I mention Kali or the Twins?”
Stiles screwed his face in consternation. “Um, mention the Alpha Pack if you have to—but only if you have to, but don’t let her know we have most of them down. I think Deucalion will come tomorrow, if none of the others return to him tonight. He may be the brain, but we’ve taken out the brawn, and I’m not sure he knows that yet.”
“Okay, son, I’ll follow that plan. You two be careful.”
Derek drove, but they took the Jeep because of the cargo space. He eyed Stiles fiddling with the paintbrush for a moment before asking, “What are you going to do with that?”
“Hmm? Oh! I’m going to paint handcuffs on the Werewolf so we can move her. The oil is mistletoe and aconite infused, to keep them asleep, and I paint Mountain Ash sigils that re-create the Ash circles in mobile form.”
Derek grinned at Stiles. “You’re pretty bad-ass yourself, you know?”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Miss Blake? My name is John Stilinski. I’m sorry to be calling so late, but my son is in your advanced literature class.”
“Ah, yes, Stiles. What can I do for you, Mr. Stilinski?”
“I’m having concerns about my son’s performance in class,” said John , not unironically, “and I’d like to possibly meet with you before classes tomorrow morning? Stiles will, of course, be joining us because it would be pointless otherwise.”
“Of course I will be available to meet with you before classes. I can be at the school as early as you need, but classes begin at eight o’clock.”
John smirked to himself. At least Miss Blake was acting like a concerned teacher. “I think seven would be good for all involved.”
“Very well, Mr. Stilinski, I’ll meet you and your son in my classroom at seven tomorrow morning.”
The whole exchange took less than five minutes, and Miss Blake/Baccari seemed to be totally under the impression that he was just a concerned parent dealing with classroom behavior. John appreciated the simplicity of the whole thing. After all, someone was going to get schooled tomorrow.
Derek had called out of work that next day, citing a family emergency. He did not have clients scheduled that day, so he got no grief for it. Actually, the supervisors at the therapy clinic that employed Derek absolutely loved him, as did Derek’s clients, so they would have had no problem allowing Derek time to deal with any sort of emergency, familial or otherwise.
Derek would be staking out the distillery, making sure the Werewolves that were being held there were still secure. He was armed, after a fashion, with some of Stiles’ special MagicBombs. While it was true that they contained Mountain Ash and Wolf’s Bane—and Derek really should not have been able to handle them—Stiles had coated three of the pendants with some of his father’s gun oil, creating a slippery barrier to the anti-werewolf contents. Still, Derek was careful to only hold the leather thongs from which they were suspended. He had been practicing slinging them at targets like a sling-shot, and he was rather good.
Stiles and John headed into Beacon Hills High School to meet with a teacher/Darach well before classes began. John wasn’t sure what to expect upon meeting her, but she looked….
A total wreck! Seriously! John could see where, at one point, she would have been a lovely young woman with shining dark eyes, smooth skin, and soft, wavy hair. At one point.
Not at this point.
Stiles had explained how, once he recharged the Nemeton and put it to his own personal use, he had made it impossible for any other Druid, dark or otherwise, to pull magic from it for nefarious purposes. John took that to mean that the Nemeton was like a charging station for a phone or computer, and Stiles had made it impossible for anyone but him to plug into it. What it actually meant was Stiles had blocked all transfer of energy at all, unless it was to benefit the territory, so Julia Baccari’s magic was basically eating itself—and it showed.
She was above average height, around five-foot, eight-inches, and had dark-ish hair that hung limply past her shoulders—but the brunette hair had a grayish cast to it. Her complexion was not clear and fresh, either, showing cracks around the eyes and mouth like ruined porcelain or unfired clay. Her eyes were also dull and hazy, even to an untrained eye, and she appeared as if she was about to produce cataracts.
Her Glamour was fading. John now knew what that meant.
Stiles walked into the empty classroom ahead of John and stood calmly near the teacher’s desk in the front of the room. John noted that Stiles kept himself well out of range for casual touch, though, and he was as alert as John had ever seen him. John, following Stiles’ lead, approached the woman cautiously and held out his right hand in greeting—while keeping his left in his pants pocket, clutching a brass coin that Stiles had charmed for him. When Miss Blake returned John’s handshake, her hand glided casually over a magical shield that kept her from actually pressing skin to skin, and she’d never even noticed it.
“Miss Blake? I’m John Stilinski. It’s nice to meet you.”
She smiled at him, wide and inviting, and in one brief moment (thanks to the charmed coin) John could see past her glamour to the desiccated husk underneath, and then she stepped back and the un-spell was broken.
“It’s very nice to meet you, sir. Now, what can I help you with?”
It was Stiles, however, that answered. “Actually, we’d like to help you—so that you can get the hell out of our town.”
Miss Blake looked startled. “Excuse me?”
Stiles leaned forward on the desk, still out of reach of his ‘teacher’. “I mean, Former-Emissary Julia Baccari, that I have access to Kali Steele and the rest of the Alpha Pack, and you are just dying here with no way to seek your revenge. But I can give you Kali Steele, and she can see what she has done to you.”
The image of Jennifer Blake flickered like an old film, off and on until the image was distorted from the strain. Over the benign image of genteel schoolteacher was the torn and scarred image of what used to be Julia Baccari, eyes wide with shock. “Where issssss ssshhheee?” the Darach hissed, and Stiles did not flinch away.
“I can show you. I will lead you to her. But you have to understand,” Stiles said calmly, “that this is MY territory, and you are here by my leave—and you will not spill blood here to corrupt my land!”
Much to John’s surprise, the woman backed down before his son. She actually sank to her knees and folded her hands together in supplication.
Stiles stood tall over her. “See, we can play nice. I don’t want the Alpha Pack here anymore than you do, but taking them down is a job for me and my Alpha. I will allow you your vengeance over Kali Steele, and possibly over Deucalion, but then you must bow to the earth and leave this place.”
“I understand,” she said, and John followed his son back to the police cruiser secure in the knowledge that Jennifer Blake/Julia Baccari was following them out of town to the distillery.
Derek was pacing in a tight circle inside the distillery, keeping a close watch on the two circles of Mountain Ash. Those trapped within never moved. They slept on in their magical sleep, just like Stiles said they would.
Stiles had called to tell him that he was on his way, bringing the Darach with him. Deucalion had not yet shown his face, so Derek kept watch. Of course, Derek always thought there was a possibility that blind Deucalion could not make his way to find the rest of his Alpha Pack, since Ennis Porter was dead and Derek was watching over Kali and the Twins. There were no other surprise members of the Alpha Pack. All the research that they had collected from various sources said there were only five members, and three were in the building with him.
Twenty minutes after Stiles’ phone call, Derek heard two car engines approach the distillery from the direction of town. Derek stalked to the large cargo doors and opened them wide. John had pulled the cruiser right up to the building and Stiles climbed out quickly, rushing to Derek’s side. The second car, a mid-level station wagon of indeterminate age, parked further away from the building as if the driver was afraid of what she might see if she came any closer.
“Are you okay?” Stiles asked Derek as John walked toward them at a much more sedate pace.
“Yeah,” he replied. “It’s still quiet here.”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah, well I think that’s about to change.” Stiles was looking into the building, but Derek could hear distant rustling in the scrub near the edge of the woods.
It was funny how all of these abandoned buildings in Beacon Hills are near the edge of the woods. Not necessarily the Preserve, but definitely the woods. It was like nature was recovering everything that mankind no longer had a use for.
And somewhere near the distillery, there was movement approaching from a distance. Almost surely it was Deucalion.
Stiles entered the distillery and made tracks directly for Kali Steele in her solitary holding pen. The woman from the other car, Miss Blake or Emissary Baccari, followed at a respectful distance but Derek could tell her attention was totally on what was inside that building. Derek followed her, not because he didn’t think Stiles could handle himself, but because he wanted to show unwavering support for his Emissary. Of course, Derek did not enter the building until John was standing beside him, because if Deucalion was coming it would not do to leave a human outside with no support, no matter how well armed the man was.
Stiles walked right to the edge of the Mountain Ash circle that held Kali Steele and he raised his right hand slowly, closed-fisted, and quickly opened his fist—and dispelled the charm keeping her sleeping. Quick as a flash, Kali was up and awake and snarling as she threw herself at the Ash barrier, trying to get out to attack the ‘frail human’ that stood over her.
“When I get out of here,” she snarled, spittle flying from her mouth, “you will pay with your lives! We were going to offer you a choice. Now, you’re just going to die.”
Stiles, like the little shit that he was, just crossed his arms over his chest and gave an unimpressed look. “Well, you could do that, of course—if you get out of there. But there is someone here who would like to get some payback from you first.”
Stiles stood back by Derek and John and allowed Blake/Baccari to step forward. Kali ceased her fruitless barrage on the Mountain Ash and just glared at the woman in front of her. “Who the hell are you?” Derek could have cut glass with the sneer in her voice.
Blake/Baccari stepped closer. “Don’t you know me, Kali Steele? You were once everything to me, just as I thought I was to you.”
Her glamour shifted again, flickering from the teacher Stiles first met to the scarred visage that came to seek revenge, until it settled on an image Stiles had not seen before. One Kali had seen.
“Julia?” she whispered, the red bleeding from her eyes, leaving them dark brown and sad. “Julia, is that really you?”
Blake/Baccari laughed low and humorless. “This is how you knew me, before your betrayal. When you loved me. When you would die for me. Look at what you have done to me!”
With a shout, the glamour dropped again, this time for good.
The once tall and regal woman that entered the distillery was now gone, replaced by a slouched and crippled shadow. Scars covered scars, layered deep over her face, chest, and arms. There was an entire section of torso missing close to her spine, and the left thigh was missing half of the necessary muscle. Her hair, once long and thick, if not glossy, now hung in stringy patches as if it were ripped from her scalp by an angry roto-tiller.
There was a steady, slow, drip…drip…drip of blood and ichor falling from her right eye.
Stiles watched her directly, never glancing away from the disturbing sight, giving her the respect she deserved for suffering so much. Derek could do no less.
John looked down at the dirt floor once, swallowing bile in reflex, before returning his gaze to mimic his son’s.
“See what your quest for power has done!” Blake/Baccari hissed in anger. “You should have made sure to finish the job! You refused to end me, so now I will be your end!”
Blake/Baccari raised both hands, trembling with effort almost until she was shaking herself off of her feet, and she raised the Mountain Ash circle—lifting it until it floated like a hula hoop around Kali—and then she thrust her meager power at the Werewolf, concentrating that Ash until it became a missile aimed at Kali’s own body. The Ash swirled and gathered tight, forming several spears that entered Kali’s body through her eyes, nostrils, mouth, and ears. Derek, Stiles, and John watched in fascinated horror as Kali began to choke and shudder, Ash leaking back out of her eyes and ears after the life and light left her body. When the Werewolf was down, Blake/Baccari gave a soft cry before falling to the floor, turning to so much ash herself, the cloth of her clothing drifting away in scraps on a breeze.
Stiles turned away from the scene, shoulders tense in distress, and he faced the open door of the distillery. A lone figure—a dark man in a dark suit wearing dark glasses and carrying a white cane—stood in the open doorway, devastation plain on his open face.
Devastation that was quickly replaced by rage.
“You dare to take my Pack!” the man bellowed.
Stiles raised a single wary eyebrow. “And you must be Deucalion.”
Behind Stiles John quietly drew his weapon and released the safety, and Derek popped claw and fang. Stiles stood taller in the face of Deucalion’s anger and Derek could feel the power build in the young man.
“I am much more than Deucalion,” the man exclaimed. “I am your death! I am the Demon Wolf! I am all-powerful, and you will bow before me!”
“No,” said Stiles as if butter would not melt in his mouth. “No, I don’t think so. You have no power to take any life here.”
The dark glasses dropped from the moderately-handsome face, and an Alpha-red glow filled the eyes. Deucalion’s brow thickened and his fangs grew longer and sharper. Derek did not allow his Wolf to follow suit, preferring to stay in control with faith in his Emissary.
Deucalion, who had not yet noticed the second Mountain Ash circle holding the Twins, began to stalk toward Stiles in a very menacing manner. “I am older than you can understand, and my power is stronger than you will ever know. Bow to me and I’ll kill you quickly!”
“You might be old,” said Stiles, “but that power is stolen power, and you really need to give it back!”
Red glowing eyes glowered at Stiles. “You dare to speak to the Alpha of Alphas in that manner?”
Stiles rolled his eyes. Derek was standing behind him, and couldn’t see it, but he just knew Stiles rolled his eyes. “Oh, puh-lease! You’re no more Alpha than I am! You lost that gift when you stole the lives and power of your Betas and Pack.” Derek subtly sniffed, and could detect the scent of one of the more rare forms of aconite that Stiles carried in his personal kit—a blue-purple bloom with white spots, no larger than the tip of a pencil eraser, it was actually a rare beneficial form of Wolf’s Bane; one that could draw a Wolf into a deep meditative state for healing. Stiles was releasing this bloom into the air, and Derek could feel a soft, magical current pushing it toward Deucalion. Several seconds later, Derek could see the dangerous Wolf’s eyes glaze slightly.
Stiles’ left hand was brushing Derek’s right wrist, and Derek felt a soft tap…tap…tap…tap…tap.
Deucalion’s eyes glazed further. Tap…tap…tap…tap.
Derek glanced sideways and saw the deliberate focus on Stiles’ face. Tap…tap…tap.
Derek crouched slightly, allowing his Wolf to come to the surface—feeling his fangs grow and fill his mouth. Tap…tap.
Deucalion swayed slightly, growling in anger and confusion. Tap.
Derek launched himself at Deucalion with full force, dragging the older Wolf to the floor and ripping his throat with claws and teeth. In the span of a heartbeat, the dangerous, old Wolf was dead, not even an air bubble to burst from the pooled blood on his chest.
Derek stood on steady legs and allowed his Wolf to recede, accepting a towel from who-knows-where when Stiles handed it to him. When he turned around, John was squeezing the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger but was otherwise unaffected. Derek could only shrug. “He was going to have to die, John. He was a danger to us all while he was alive.”
John sighed deeply. “Yeah, I know, Derek. That does not mean I have to like watching something like that happening. I’m just glad you weren’t right in front of me at the Station yesterday. I’m not sure I could have kept something like that from Lemmon, and Michaels would have totally flipped his shit over it.”
Derek and John turned as one and faced the Twins lying unconscious in the last Ash circle.
“So,” said Derek as he shoulder-nudged Stiles, “you had a plan for these two?”
Stiles shrugged. “Yeah, I did have a plan. But now that Deucalion is dead, I’m not sure if the false-Alpha power is still fueling these two. I’ll have to wake them up to find out for sure.”
John glanced at his son. “What was the plan?”
“Well,” said Stiles as he approached the circle, “I told you how these were basically abused by their Pack—like their asshole father made them the punching bags for every other member, right?”
“Well, I know Ethan and Aiden did kill to gain their power—um, one of their powers, at least. I’m just not sure if they actually killed every single member of the Pack. I’m pretty sure Deucalion was using them as muscle, but I know Ennis was a true killer, and so was Kali. I didn’t get that vibe from Ethan and Aiden in school. Menacing, yes; killers, not…exactly. But I’m willing to use the Spark to send their ‘morphing’ ability back into the earth, so they’ll never be able to merge like that again. Then I think we should cut them loose. They’ll either find anchors and thrive, or they’ll become total feral Omegas and die crazy and away from here. Either way, I want them out, but I don’t think Derek should kill them. I don’t think you or I should, either.”
Construction on what John Stilinski liked to call ‘The New Hale House’ was completed in mid-May, just when Stiles and his band of friends were knuckling down with end-of-term papers and reviews for final exams.
The scholarly rush in no way detracted from Stiles’ plans to celebrate the new house by forcing Derek to host a massive dinner party for the Pack and all of their affiliated friends. In order that Stiles not take on total responsibility for feeding the large brood, Derek made the occasion a pot-luck, asking that everyone bring their family-favorite dish to share.
It was the perfect occasion to bring all of the Pack families together. Boyd’s family was officially ‘read in’ on the Werewolf situation as soon as Ethan and Aiden Bancroft left Beacon County far behind. They took the news rather well, especially as ‘Vern’ assured them that he had not received the Bite—and likely would not unless an emergency came up. He was a happy human who was beginning to date a Werewolf (Erica), and being part of the Pack was just another type of family for him. Erica’s parents quickly befriended the Boyds, and they all seemed rather happy to have more close friends with which to socialize.
Also as soon as the Twins cleared the county limits, Erica removed the wolf locket and returned it to Stiles. She was happy to not have to hide her Wolf anymore, and the rest of the Pack was relieved to be able to sense her while standing next to her. Erica spent a lot of time standing very close to her Pack-mates, exchanging scents and basking in the happy.
John was manning the grill, with help from Vernon Boyd the Third. It was his best contribution to the pot luck spread, and the only way to assure he got some red meat for dinner. Mr. Boyd was not used to grilling, so he soaked in the tips from John while bragging about the delicious casserole that Boyd and Isaac collaborated on. The Cooking Days that Stiles had implemented were really paying off.
Derek stood on the wide wrap-around porch and observed the controlled chaos with a smile.
Boyd’s younger siblings were happily playing with the Hanson kids, under Stacy’s supervision, and childish laughter rang through the yard on the far edge of the Preserve. Dennis was talking shop with Mrs. Boyd on the floating porch swing near the mud-room door. Stiles and Isaac were debating the possible merits of joining the track team for Junior Year instead of Lacrosse. Boyd and Erica were discussing summer plans with Mr. and Mrs. Reyes. The new Pack was not as large as the Pack he was raised in, but Derek was happy to have this.
There were other new developments, of course. Once faced with Allison Argent’s imminent departure for the summer, Scott McCall had made tentative overtures to joining with Derek’s Pack. He still wasn’t sure if he was willing and ready to submit to Derek, and Derek would not fully accept him until he was, but Scott was now seriously thinking about it. He had, with Derek’s help, gained full control over his Wolf, and Melissa was relieved to see his progress.
The news of the Alpha Pack’s total destruction within Hale Territory spread far and wide in the Hunter Circles, thanks in no small part to Christopher Argent’s report to Grand Matriarch Cybelle d’Argent, and several Hunter Clans had made contact with the Hale Emissary in regards to possible treaties. Stiles was taking all of that with several grains of salt, but he had taken the opportunity to make personal contact with Madame d’Argent to speak with her directly. He wanted assurance that Christopher would maintain a certain level of respect in the Hunter Circles, as the man had proven to be a decent ally during the whole Alpha Pack deal. Madame was impressed with Stiles and his abilities, and put out an offer of formal training with her own Spark, Duquesne—who would make a trip to the United States for just this special opportunity. Stiles and John were willing to give it serious consideration, but it would have to wait until school was out for summer.
Jackson Whittemore was still an absolute asshole in school. That was not going to change anytime soon. Now, though, whenever Jackson tried physical intimidation in the halls, Stiles would allow a slight purple spark to fly from his fingertips, and Jackson would back right off. Lydia Martin, of course, still resented the fact that there was something going on within ‘her’ school that she didn’t know, and she still tried to pry information from Stiles whenever she could get him alone. The fact that Allison, Lydia’s best-bestie, actively shut her down was a cause for startled contemplation, but now Lydia kept her curiosity in check and would only stare at Stiles during class. It was very disconcerting.
A new deputy applied for the vacant position left by Michaels, and John reluctantly offered him the position after the young man admitted he felt ‘drawn to Beacon Hills’. His name was Jordan Parrish, and he seemed like a nice enough fellow. He had formerly been with a bomb disposal unit in the Army, and was discharged due to a blast incident. His injury—shrapnel in the left thigh that left a limp—was enough for the Army to release him, but he could pass the physical tests for the Sheriff’s Department and had no other lingering medical issues. John reported that his gun range scores were higher than average, but he’d not beat John’s own score with the sniper rifle. Deputies Carter and Reid seemed to like him, and Deputy Haigh seemed not to, so that said all that was needed to be said as far as Stiles was concerned. Haigh was an ass like Michaels was—only Haigh had never been confronted by the supernatural, so John and Stiles weren’t sure if he would freak out and ask for a transfer, too. Some days, John was almost tempted to find out.
John had also offered a consultant job to Christopher Argent, citing the need for civilian liaisons in the law enforcement community. The mayor agreed and the local branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigations vetted Argent thoroughly, and so Argent agreed to take the position. It was a regular job, which meant travel was limited and he could stay home with Allison. The arrangement suited them both very well, as it brought a stability that their small family had not had ever.
Madame d’Argent was also pleased by this arrangement since she thought it prudent to stay on the good side of such a powerful Spark as Emissary Stilinski.
Derek was also happy to be looking forward to a summertime visit from Liam Gallagher and Regina Kincaide, as they wanted to see first-hand the new home Derek had built for himself. The Gallagher Pack would always be the oldest and strongest ally that the Hale Pack would have, and since the Hansons came from there, Derek owed it to Liam to prove that he was taking care of his Betas to the best of his ability. There were other traveling Betas that were looking for a stable Pack, and the Gallagher Pack was large and settled, so Liam wanted to evaluate Hale to see if any more matches might be made.
Derek had lost his entire family due to corruption and deceit.
Stiles and John were left behind by illness and death.
Stiles’ best friend abandoned him for a new girl and a new life.
John had his entire world turned upside down by the knowledge of Werewolves, Magic, and other-worldly dangers.
Together, they gathered around them others who were left behind or overlooked, and they made a new family. They had no idea what the future might hold for them, but they knew they would be stronger together.