Fandom/Genre: Teen Wolf
Relationship(s): Peter Hale
Content Rating: Mature
Warnings: There is no canon here. This is a time-travel story.
Summary: Peter burned a lot of bridges, only to be locked away for his crimes. Can atonement come from beyond the grave?
A/N: I’ll be honest–I stopped watching Teen Wolf after Derek managed the FullWolf shift and left Beacon Hills. I don’t know what happened after that, and I don’t care.
This story was part of a Rough Trade challenge in 2015 for Do-Overs and possible Time Travel. I got an itchy plot bunny and tried hard to scratch it. Story is told by Peter Hale, and I tried hard to find his voice and stick with it. The time shifts are subtle, so don’t feel bad if you get confused–it’s supposed to be that way.
The prison is different: a glass-and-mountain ash cage rather than my own crippled mind and body, but I am trapped nonetheless.
Eichen House is hell and I have my own personal Devil as a jailor.
Dr. Valack, the man with the hidden eye. He sits on his own cot and he watches me. If I am lucky, he will only watch at a distance. If I am unlucky….
I was forced in here, foiled by a teenaged do-gooder; a choice made badly by me in a moment of weakness.
If I had but known how Scott McCall would turn out….
Of course, that is why I tried ultimately to have him killed.
I spend my days in terror, never knowing when Valack will uncover his demonic eye and reveal new torture unto me. I spend my nights, when I am not screaming, in quite reflection, waiting for sleep to calm my troubled mind.
Sleep is my only refuge; Valack’s torture drives me to the edge of madness daily, and only in sleep is there hope.
For in sleep there is the dreaming.
In my silent, merciless meditations, I am able to too clearly see the mistakes I made. Ultimately I made many, but they can be traced back to a few key points.
Kate Argent, of course, should have been disposed of in a fire. The irony of that thought is not lost on me, even in my weakest state.
She killed my family with ash and flame, and my dear nephew and his flunkies disposed of me the same way.
Kate was and continues to be a blight on this earth, and she needs to be purified.
Across the room, Valack stirs. Once again he has noticed me, and he unwraps his bandaged head and sends his demon out to touch my mind. My screams echo into the empty corridors. My throat is ripped and blistered by the time unconsciousness takes me.
̽̽̽ ̽̽ ̽ ̽
“Peter, wake up.”
I struggle to open my eyes, and I see my sister, Talia, burned and bloody and covered in ash.
I blink, trying harder to open my eyes. “Wha—what? What is it? You aren’t real, why are you here?”
Talia’s broken mouth twists into a cruel smile. “I’m real enough,” she says, her voice rough and unused. “You’ve been a very bad boy, Peter Hale. I’ve come to see that you reflect on what you’ve done so that you can begin to make amends.”
I struggle to sit upright and choke out a laugh. “Amends? There are no amends to be made, sister mine. You are dead. The whole damned family is dead. I couldn’t save you—any of you, and I suffered for it, and I was abandoned for it.”
Talia sighed and wisps of smoke drifted from her mouth. “I know you tried to save us, Peter. That is the only reason that I’m here. Everything that you’ve done since you tried to save us has brought me here.”
My eyes feel dry just from watching her, so I wipe them carefully with numb fingers. “This is all just Valack; all just a mind trick. Why do you torment me now, when you could have done so while I was trapped in my mind?”
Talia turns to face me and a scowl mars her once-lovely face. “You were given a chance, Peter, and you ruined it. Now I need to see that you don’t waste away here until your conscience is clear.” Ashy flakes of skin float from her face leaving empty places where flesh should have been. My sister, once my Alpha, is a nightmare before me.
“My conscience? My life is over—your life is over—and you worry about my conscience?” My voice is rough with tears, but I am long beyond caring. “Where were you when your son was allowing a Hunter to defile him? Where were you when he gave her all the information she needed to destroy the family? You were trapped, that’s where! Trapped and burning, along with the weak and innocent of the Pack, and my conscience was clear at that time!”
Tears blurred my vision, but when I wiped my eyes clear I was not in my prison-room.
I was in an old ruin of a temple, surrounded by dust and decay; piles of bones lay piled in the corner and wooden pilings tilted at dangerous angles, threatening to dump the wrecked roof down on top of me.
Mexico. I can smell the desert beyond the building.
This is the Temple, La Iglesia, where I sent Scott McCall to be turned into a Berserker so that he would lose his Alpha powers and I could kill him.
Kate Argent, now a were-jaguar, was here somewhere. Somehow she gained control over the undead Berserkers even as control over her inner beast eluded her. She proved, once again, to be dangerous and unpredictable, but I was able to use that to my advantage—until McCall escaped his fate.
The colors around me were muted, confirming that this was a dream, but I moved forward anyway. If I had to relive this horrid memory, then I would do it on my own terms.
I walk carefully through the catacombs, ducking under falling pilings and skirting fallen stones. I can’t smell any other people, but my memory never has failed me—they are here. Deeper and deeper I walk, until I hear the sounds of struggle ahead of me. There is a fight here, and I want to see it again.
I round the corner and enter a dimly-lit chamber, and there it is: McCall is draped in ceremonial robes and a hollowed bison skull, and he is fighting against friend and foe alike. There is a female—the Kitsune, I believe—trying to hold off the Berserkers alone as McCall aims his strikes at a young boy. I remember this fight well, although I missed the dangerous finale. The boy, a werewolf, should have been strong enough to kill McCall, and then I would tear his throat out and become Alpha once again. In my memory, it didn’t work out that way. Even in a weakened state, McCall was able to survive.
And Kate—lovely, treacherous Kate—was able to escape my nephew once again.
The thought of that, of Kate running into the desert instead of paying for her crimes, fills me with anger like I never remembered feeling before. I turn wildly, looking around the chamber, trying to find that wicked bitch.
I see her, beyond the fighting teens, running for the cleared exit, and I howl in outrage! That she should live while I waste away in a mental institution is beyond the pale!
I charge after her, all thoughts of watching McCall die leaving my head in favor of making Kate Argent pay. The air around me shimmers like heat-haze when I reach her, and when I reach out a hand I make contact with her shoulder and she stumbles to the ground.
I am on her quickly, turning her face-up so that the shock and horror is revealed to me. But—she laughs at me. She mocks me. Again, as if my presence here is a joke.
“You again? What is this, reunion time?” Her husky laughter ignites a fire in my head and I snarl louder, drowning out the battle behind me.
My claws extend from my hands before I have another thought, and I again reach for her throat. But instead of ripping, I dig deeper into her skin and muscle, and Kate Argent’s eyes widen in shock before they cloud over in death, and I rip her head completely from her body and throw it behind me where it rolls into the middle of the chamber where McCall is regaining his humanity.
And I howl! I weep and snarl and howl in victory, and the air shimmers hazy once again.
My eyes slowly open as the orderly brings breakfast—tepid oatmeal and cold tea again. I force myself to eat even though my appetite is nonexistent. I look across the room to spy my ‘room-mate’, but Valack seems to be still sleeping. I blink once at that, because I feel rested for once. I feel that I had a good dream, but I can’t quite remember it.
“Hale! Come to the door, you have a visitor!”
I lift my head from my pillow and turn to stare at the orderly at the door of my prison. I don’t get visitors. Nobody here gets visitors.
And yet, there is Scott McCall, standing awkwardly in the antechamber and shifting from foot to foot and looking distinctly determined.
Other than the orderlies, he is alone.
I stand and give a questioning look to the orderly, but he ignores me in favor of fitting a key into the lock of the glass door. I shoot a quick glance toward Valack’s side of the room, but he is apparently asleep. Or ignoring us. However it turns out, Valack’s attention is not on me and I am grateful.
I exit to the antechamber where three rather large orderlies are waiting to keep me docile. I refrain from rolling my eyes, because really? But McCall is looking rather stern, so I nod that I will behave.
“What can I do for you, Scott?” I ask pleasantly. I can behave, see?
“I just thought you might like something to read while you’re in here.” McCall meets my eyes directly and I can hear no lie with that statement. I finally take notice of his hands; they are clutching a small-ish cardboard box that is closed at the top but not taped shut.
I look him in the eye again. “Any kind of time-passer would be welcome, thank you. It gets rather…dull here, and my cellmate is not much for conversation.”
McCall’s eyes dart past me for a moment as he looks at Valack briefly, then he returns his focus to me. “Yeah, well, this place isn’t supposed to be a vacation you know. You’re supposed to be getting treatment here.”
Really? Is that why he thinks I’m here? He forced me into this place….but I take a deep breath and calm down.
“Yes, well, it’s good of you to take an interest while I’m here. Thank you for bringing me some reading material.”
McCall shrugged and handed me the box. As the orderlies made no objections, I assumed they had already checked the box and its contents. “The whole Pack chipped in to send you something,” McCall whispered to me so they wouldn’t overhear him. I nodded at him again, but my nerves were zinging. The entire ‘Pack’ sent me gifts? Who, exactly, would that be and why are they interested?
“Yes, well, I don’t want to keep you from anything important. Thank you again for coming, Scott.”
McCall shoved his hands into his pockets and turned away as Orderly Michaels opened the glass cage door and ‘invited’ me to enter my cell once again. I carried my prize to my cot and sat so I could gingerly open the flaps. The ‘Pack’ as it was had no use for me when I last checked, so I would not have put it past some of them to lace anything inside with Wolf’s Bane or mountain ash.
There was neither in the box.
Instead, there was a thin sheaf of notebook paper with samples of handwriting from several different people, and an eclectic selection of tomes. I decided to indulge in a bit of self-torture and read the papers first. They were notes and letters, signed by the teenaged miscreants known now as the Beacon Hills Pack—and one lone letter from my nephew Derek.
˜I know you’ll appreciate this one.—Derek
Hmm—‘The Prince’ by Machiavelli. Very funny, nephew, very funny.
˜Keep up your good behavior, dude! We’re watching you. Always watching.—Stiles
‘Batman-The Man Who Laughs’. How quaint. I do remember reading some comics in my younger days. I always thought the Joker was the worst of the villains because his insanity made him beyond reasoning. Is that how young Stiles sees me? I do wonder, sometimes, if I’ve slipped beyond hope. Perhaps I have.
˜We’re reading this in school. Scott says what happened to you was a tragedy. I hope you get better.—Liam
I have never really met this child. I don’t care much for his sense of humor. ‘MacBeth’? Really? The only play by the Bard where everyone dies, manipulated by an obsessed young man seeking revenge on a murderous uncle. The irony there just slaps me in the face. I may have to rethink my image a bit.
˜This was Scott’s idea. He’s very sweet, so I’ll go along with it, but as far as I’m concerned you are right where you belong. If you have to be alive, that is. Enhance your mind or whatever, I really don’t care. You can’t touch me anymore, and that suits me just fine.—L. Martin
It really is regrettable, what I had to do to dear Lydia. She is a lovely girl. Brilliant as well. Still, she served a purpose, and no real harm was done to her. Her offering is a bound collection of scientific essays by Isaac Asimov. Most people now consider the man to be a genius of science fiction, so many are unaware of his non-fiction works. This one really is a treat, whether it was meant as such or not.
˜Um, I don’t know you well at all, but you’ve probably read this already. Still, maybe it’s worth a second go. Get better.—Kira
Hmmm…’Less is More: Embracing Simplicity for a Healthy Planet, a Caring Economy and Lasting Happiness’. I flip to the title page and see that it was published in 2009. I wonder why miss Kitsune would have thought I had read this before? Surely she knows I was in a ‘coma’ until just recently? Whatever her reasoning, this looks to be the most promising read, along with the Asimov text. But there is one more book in the box, and one last note to accompany it.
˜I know what your goals were, and I don’t approve of them, but ultimately I am your Alpha now and you are my responsibility. Take the time in here and try to heal, so that you can become a productive member of the Pack at some point. I will be checking in.—Scott
How kind of him to take my situation and rub it in. I reach into the box and pull out ‘Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self’. What the hell? Does he know what Valack is? Is that why I’m in this cell?
Across the room, Valack stirs on his cot. I am immediately on the defense, knowing at any moment he could choose to send me into hell once again. Warily I watch as Valack sits and stretches from his long sleep, but he does not turn my way. He does, however, begin his inane pacing along the length of his side of the cell, so to distract myself I open the dreaming book. I think I’ll save the comic for last. I do have standards.
To try and keep the peace, I have offered to share the books with my demon-jailor. He accepted the Asimov book with an even temper, and for several days we read. When he finished Asimov at the same time I finished the dreaming book, I took over Asimov and offered him the book on Japanese Philosophy. I intend to keep the dreaming book from him, because I really don’t want to give him any ideas.
It was all for naught, as he turned quite ugly after a visit from his treating doctor. I can understand the mood swing, truly, because my own psychologist seems to turn my own inner-peace against me. In any case, a week after McCall’s visit Valack has turned on me again, unwrapping his horror and focusing his attention outward.
This time, it is not just my screaming that exhausts me. My head is pounding as if Valack has actually reached into it with searching fingers and is physically stirring my brain. My vision swims as the colors of the cell bleed together and fade out. I welcome the unconsciousness,
̽ ̽ ̽ ̽
“Peter, wake up!”
It is my sister, Talia. Her smoke-husky voice calls me from the darkness, but my eyes are still glued shut.
“What do you want from me?” I know I’m whining, but the pain is horrendous. Still, she only laughs at me.
“I want for you to wake. I want for you to understand what your actions have done! I want to show you the error of your ways, so that you can repent!”
Penance? Really? Is that why I imagine my long-dead sister—my former Alpha—visiting in her horrid skin, dripping grease and gore and vile ash all over my bed and body while she berates my past actions?
I struggle to sit, opening my eyes slowly so that the full impact of the visage waiting for me does not shock me again. As a theory, it is sound. In practice, I am still unprepared to see Talia sitting at the end of my bed.
Honestly, she doesn’t look as bad as she did the first time I saw her. Her hair is longer and less singed. She has eyebrows now, as well as lashes, and her eyes are no longer cloudy—although one is droopy at the corner and is leaking clear ichor. She is still scarred and smoking, but flakes of skin are no longer falling from her body. Her clothing is intact, but there are still large, burnt holes in the fabric. She resembles a living human more now than the last time, and for that small thing I am grateful. She even smells more human—more real—this time, and less like a memory. She was truly horrifying the last time, and now she is only mildly horrifying.
With my eyes fully open, I ask her, “So I am to repent, now? And are you my confessor?”
Talia scowls; a terrible sight. “I am here to keep you honest! You once destroyed everything that you touched, and I am here to make sure you don’t do that again!”
I barely manage not to roll my eyes. “I’m trapped in a mountain ash cell, dear sister. I can’t exactly touch anything here, much less ruin it. I don’t even have a Pack here, now, not really. It is the one thing I truly want; it’s the only thing I ever wanted, after the fire. Everything I did was to re-create the Pack that I lost. I couldn’t bring any of you back, so I did what I could to rebuild.”
Talia does not believe me. I can see it in her rheumy eyes. I have only destroyed from her point of view, never rebuilding.
“You may want to believe that, Peter, but those thoughts will not heal you. You have much to atone for.”
Talia raises her hand toward me, and ash flies into my eyes. I blink furiously, eyes watering to clear the contaminant from the sensitive surface.
When my eyes are finally clear, I am no longer in my cell. Again. But I am still in the hospital.
No—I am in a hospital, but I am no longer within the walls of Eichen House. Everything here is cleaner, and more used. The machines here are beeping and whirring, and the lights are brighter in the corridors.
I hear a voice—a familiar voice—and I follow it to a curtained-off section in a well-traversed ward. The voice is Derek, I can hear him clearly now.
He is leaning on a hospital bed, shoulders hunched in agony, and he is whispering words of comfort to the person lying in the bed. I walk softly and quietly through the door and cross the room so that I can peer over Derek’s shoulder.
My beautiful niece Cora, who was poisoned and weakened, is in that hospital bed.
I remember this now. I managed to trick Derek into giving up his Alpha powers to heal Cora, because I knew he would make a good Alpha and I wouldn’t be able to defeat him at his full strength. Still, I had to sacrifice Cora in the process, and she left again after she was healed. I remember when she looked at me before leaving, and she did not trust me. She did not look to me as a loving uncle, like she did when she was so much younger. Even if Derek had not healed her—if Cora had never been poisoned—she would never have stayed because of me.
A noise in the hall attracts my attention, so I stand back to watch this new show. A boy; a skinny, awkward boy, runs into the room from the hall.
“Derek! They’re coming! You have to get your sister and run!”
Stiles. That is his name. I never had much to do with the boy, but I grew to admire him. He’s intelligent and sassy, but he cares deeply for a few important people—important to him, in any case. I remember him throwing fire at me. I remember him begging for Derek to kill me again. That boy never cared for me, after I gave his puny friend the bite that saved his life. Stiles only saw the bad in me; he never grew to appreciate my vision.
While he is badgering my nephew, I lean through the door and look to see what Stiles is talking about. The corridor is dark, but I can hear approaching footsteps. Two sets, if I am not mistaken. From around the corner comes the Twin Terrors of the Alpha Pack. These two I could never figure out. They became Alphas after joining forces to kill their abusive father, which I can appreciate. Alphas that abuse their Betas do not deserve to have Packs. My own sister was a stern and strict Alpha, but she led by example. When I became Alpha, I only wanted to lead the same way. If only my mind hadn’t been twisted by the fire….
But once again, I digress. These twins had been raised with only each other to depend on. When Deucalion gave them a place in the Alpha Pack, he chose them because they were identical twins.
Deucalion liked the novelty, any novelty, and the Alpha Pack was his own personal side-show. Really, any supernatural circus would pay large to have the Alpha Pack in cages to show off. Twin Alphas, able to join into a hulking menace, Kali Steele, who never fully un-shifted because her lover liked the animal side best, Jacob Ennis, who embodied the Circus Strongman so totally that one could forget that he was a mindless danger—an Alpha who could only take orders. And then there was Deucalion himself—blinded by an Argent but able to see in his shifted form. The Alpha Pack liked to lord over other Packs, acting like werewolf police to stop Packs from getting out of control, but they were merely thugs. Talia knew it, back when they first came to Beacon Hills. It was one of the reasons she refused Deucalion’s offer to join forces in a truce with Argent.
The other reason was that Talia knew Gerard Argent was a twisted fucker who only wanted to slaughter werewolves.
Now Talia was gone, by the hand of Argent, and the Alpha Pack had returned to ‘recruit’ Talia Hale’s son. But I knew better. Deucalion wanted some sort of revenge on the Hale Pack. That was the reason he hunted and found Cora, imprisoning her in order to use her against the new Hale Alpha. That was the reason the twins were skulking through a hospital now, searching for the Hale Alpha.
And the Hale Alpha was watching his lone sister die from mistletoe poisoning.
Behind me, Stiles was offering to distract the twins while Derek took Cora to the ambulance bay for an escape. Derek was certain that he had to give over his Alpha powers to save her, and I was the one to convince him to do it. But there was another way. Alpha Powers work in very mysterious ways.
I move back into the room and watch Stiles flail away in his effort to lure the twins away from this ward. They aren’t buying, though, and they roll their heads in determination. I can see that they’re ready to shift and join together, and that just won’t do. If they become ‘one’ again, they will be stronger than Derek in his sorrowful state. I can stop this.
“Derek,” I say, not even sure if he can hear me. I’m never sure if I’m really here or not, when I have these dreams. “Derek, use your Alpha! You can save her! Reach into her and force the poison out!”
Derek is still leaning over Cora, a frantic, wild look in his eyes. I’m almost sure that he’s lost in his grief, and there is nothing I can do. Stiles rushes past the door again, heading in the opposite direction, and he shouts about stealing an ambulance. Derek looks up—looks me right in the eye—and asks me for help.
“What can I do, Peter? I need to save her. She’s family. She’s the only….”
A flash of guilt, when he remembers that I also am family, but I can’t let that stand. I’ve wronged him, and there is no going back from that.
“Derek, you are an Alpha now. You are her Alpha. Reach down inside you, and feel that power. You can raise the power within you and force her Wolf to the surface. She can purge the poison from her system with the help of a strong Alpha. You can heal her, Derek.” I look around the treatment room, looking for something to help, and I find two syringes full of adrenaline. For a human, this drug will keep a heart beating. For a werewolf, it can offer a temporary strength boost. I uncap the syringes and plunge the needles deep into my own torso, dispensing the drug into my bloodstream. I can feel the drug take effect; my blood is surging and I feel like I’m on fire—something I am uncomfortably familiar with.
“Take Cora and heal her, Derek,” I shout from the doorway. “I’ll hold off the Terrors!”
I run into the hall, adrenaline surging through me, and I face the twins. They are snarling at me, but they have not joined yet. But they are ready for the change. Twin One is shirtless and half-shifted, and Twin Two is ripping the shirt from his own shoulders. They move toward each other in the narrow corridor, and I know now is the time to make my move.
With a roar, I charge, launching into Twin One with all the fury I can muster. When I roared at him, he became distracted enough not to shift, and I quickly took the upper hand. I extended my claws and charged, aiming for his belly. His muscles were tight, but the skin still split under my claws, and I quickly drew blood. It wasn’t enough to kill him, but he dropped just the same.
I spun quickly, turning to face the second twin, but he was distracted by the blood of his brother and gave no challenge at all. Behind me, I heard Cora speaking to Derek as they ran from the treatment room, but I had a singular task ahead of me and could not afford to move my attention to my family.
Twin One was gasping and bleeding on the floor, begging for help, and Twin Two was in no position to give that help. I gave Twin Two all of my attention now, striking quickly and fiercely, and soon his head was rolling across the floor to land beside his bleeding brother. Twin One looked at me in shock, but I was in no mind to pay attention to his suffering. I drew back one foot and kicked out, landing the hit directly between the wounded boy’s eyes. I felt his skull crush under my foot, and I tilted back my head and roared, my vision clouding in red.
When I next open my eyes, I am again back in my cell. Valack was sleeping on the other side of the room, and all was silent. The room is dark, so I figure it must be evening. Or it was a very cloudy day. The only windows are in the hall beyond my cell, so it is very difficult to tell the difference between night and day. The hospital staff differentiates between the hours by dimming the lights, but it is never truly dark in here. The absence of light could cause bad things to happen, and they could never have that.
I try to sleep again, for lack of any real entertainment, and I must succeed for a while. When I open my eyes again, the room is slightly brighter and Valack is singing to himself in his corner. When I look into the corridor, a trio of orderlies is making their way toward us. The one in front is pushing a cart with food trays on top, so I figure this must be breakfast. There is no way I slept long enough to be meeting the lunch delivery.
The orderly—‘Tom’ is on his name tag, but I don’t recognize him—opens the door while the others flank him. They may try to look harmless, but I can see the stunners at their sides and I can smell the ozone in the air. These men, who are supposed to guard and protect the patients, have recently fired those stunners—and I am not so certain it was in defense of anyone.
Tom-the-Orderly places Valack’s tray on a table near his bed, and then he turns to me. I manage not to sit up, because I’m sure those guards will take any small movement as a threat. My tray of food, such as it is, is also placed on a table near my bed. Tom then holds out an opened packet toward me.
“You have mail, Hale, from your family.” Tom gives his fellow orderlies a side-eyed look before focusing on me again and shrugging. “Sorry it’s been opened, but you know the rules.”
I smile and slowly reach for the packet. “Thank you for bringing it to me, then. It will be nice to read something for a while.” I lay the packet on my pillow as the orderlies leave the cell, and I try to concentrate on my food.
Ahh—the food. Apparently I was wrong about how long I slept, because this is definitely not breakfast.
The diet is bland, because they certainly don’t want the crazy people to stimulate their taste buds. The food is warm, at least, but I really wish they could give me salt and pepper at least. Or ketchup.
I sate my appetite with the bland meatloaf while I try to figure the letters that wait for my attention. Really, I’m not sure how long I’ve been in this place. Weeks. Months. Perhaps only days.
I remember the burn ward at the regular hospital. I was there for so very long. My dear niece and nephew visited when they could, but they didn’t stay in the area for long and only phoned once or twice a year. Not that I could have spoken to them. But I was in that burn ward for three years, until I had healed enough to be placed in the Long-Term ward. The nurses there would hold a phone to my ear when Laura called, as though it was a kindness. But my Pack had abandoned me, and no small human kindness would heal that hurt.
I was in the Long-Term ward at Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital for three years before a nurse tried to kill me. A human serial killer trying to take out the Big Bad Wolf. Her efforts to end my life actually saved it. I almost smirk at the irony. I’m sure Nurse Jennifer would not be so happy with the results if she was still alive.
In any case, I remember my long stints in both places, but I can’t remember how long I have been in Eichen House. That should bother me. I dislike not knowing things, especially things that pertain to me. I do remember how I got here—or rather, I remember the events that led to my being installed here. I killed Laura when she wouldn’t agree to attack the Argent family in revenge for the fire. I killed the Argent bitch, as well, ripping her throat out before she could call for help. I killed…many, many people, all in the search for revenge. The blood felt good, running across my fingers, but the revenge was empty.
Then Derek killed me. I obviously did not stay dead; I’m a better planner than that. But after Derek built his little Pack of miscreants, he had no real need for me, so he sent me here. I just don’t know how long ago that was.
Finished with my ‘meal’, I reach for the packet of mail on my pillow. There are five letters inside the packet: Derek, Cora, Scott McCall, Young Stiles, and Lydia Martin have seen fit to write to me, for some ungodly reason. Still—entertainment is entertainment, and there is a severe lack of that in my cell. I try very hard not to engage my cell mate, because frankly that man is horrifying.
I hope this letter finds you doing well, even if you are still in the hospital. We’re still trying to deal with the Alpha Pack, and if you have any ideas, I will be happy to hear them. I just think that you’ll be safer if you stay locked away for now. Cora and I would be devastated if anything were to happen to you. Scott still manages to give me trouble about being part of the Pack, but Cora and Stiles are working on him. I wouldn’t be bothering with Stiles if it wasn’t so important to have humans in the Pack. I’m thinking about letting the Sheriff in on the Big Secret, if only to keep the Argents off our backs. Cora is thinking about returning to South America and the Pack she was staying with, so I’m going to contact them to make sure she’s safe with them. Keep up good spirits, Peter, and you’ll be out of there soon.
How…nice. And uplifting. Still, the letter shows concern for the safety of Pack and family, as a good Alpha should, so that is something. I flick through the rest of the envelopes and decide to read Cora’s letter next. I have no connection to the girl, so her letter will have little-to-no impact on me.
Hey! Sorry I never got to know you. I’m really sorry that I ran after the fire, and you had to watch everybody die. I was so scared; I just didn’t know what to do.
It was really scary, being all alone when I was a kid. I was running so hard and so fast, I don’t think I would have been much help to the rest of the Pack, even if I thought anybody was still alive. I spent so much time running from imaginary Hunters, I was afraid to rest. The Pack in Rio was good to me. I’m going back there soon, Peter, so I’ll have to say good-bye in this letter.
I’m sorry we couldn’t get to know each other while I was here, but I spent most of my time tied up. Literally. I thought, when Deucalion told me that he knew my family, that I could come back and we would be whole again. I believed him when he told me that the Hale Pack was strong and happy despite the fire. I know, from talking with the Alpha in Rio, that Pack is important for our survival, and I was lucky to find that Pack. As an Omega, and a kid, I was in so much danger—and I never knew it. And I brought that danger back to you all, and I’m sorry. I guess it’s a lousy thing to do, leaving now while you’re all still dealing with the problem, but I need to be safe again. I can’t do that here, not any more.
You’re safe in that hospital, you know. The trouble can’t reach you in there, so you have time to heal properly. Take that time, Peter. Derek won’t tell me what you were like, right after the fire, but I know some serious stuff happened to you and it wasn’t all good. You need to get your head on straight so you can help the Pack. Derek is going to need your help to keep the Pack strong. They’re a mess, you know. That McCall kid—I don’t know who had the bright idea to give him the bite, but that was a mistake. He’s too selfish to be Pack. The only thing he has going for him is that kid, Stiles. And Lydia is truly scary—worse than the Alphas or the Hunters. If she wants to help, then Derek is set. But if he gets on her bad side, heads will roll. She always looks mad when your name gets mentioned, so maybe you’re better off in the hospital
When I get settled, I’ll write again. Be well, Peter.
Well, that was enlightening. Cora grew up well, if not too fast. My memories of her are hazy. She was a bright child with a ready laugh—that much I remember. Of course, the last time I saw her, she was only ten years old. She should be, in a more perfect world, worrying about a History test or if she has the right eye shadow for her prom dress. Only sixteen and already so world-weary. Still, she has the right of it in regards to McCall. When I bit him, I was looking to rebuild my Pack. He was young and healthy and full of promise, and I made the wrong choice. I can admit that.
I hoped McCall would fit into the Pack—into MY Pack. Instead, he’s fighting the whole thing. I know he wanted to kill me, the night Derek ripped out my throat. I know McCall was under the mistaken impression that taking my life would cure him of lycanthropy. Cure. As if. Anybody else, under any circumstances, would have flourished after the Bite, and McCall wanted to go back to being weak and helpless and…human. BAH! I should have waited and given the bite to Stiles. He’s a smart kid. He would have appreciated the chance at being greater than human. With Stiles at my side, I could have retained Alpha-hood and made the Hale Pack great again.
With that thought, I fish through my pile for Stiles’ letter. If nothing else, it should prove entertaining.
Sorry you’re in the nut-house, but maybe it’s better this way.
We both know you aren’t really good for Derek, or for the Pack. I do my best, but Derek needs support, and you’re just waiting to tear him down.
I’m glad we found Cora, and I’m glad you were able to give us the information we needed to get her to safety. I’m also glad you had the presence of mind to keep some of the more important Pack books locked in your vault, so they didn’t burn in the fire. I’m really going to enjoy looking through all of them. You have the knowledge to make this Pack great, so I really don’t understand why you needed to terrorize everyone.
Look, Derek has me now, and Lydia when she wants, so we’ll take care of him. But if you think you’re going to be able to manipulate him into giving you the power, think again. I personally will kill you if you try anything. I burned you once, I’ll do it again.
Well, now. That was refreshing.
I knew I gave the bite to the wrong person. Stiles would have made a right proper werewolf!
However—given the tone of his letter, I really need a break from reading. I have an idea that the tone of the other letters will be the same—or along the same line, at least. Lydia Martin, whom I bit to release her Banshee Powers, and Scott McCall, whom I shouldn’t have bitten at all. I may need more food to deal with those letters.
Warily, I look across the room, but Valack is not paying attention to me or my letters. Actually, I’m not sure what he’s paying attention to.
He’s watching the blank wall as if it were a television, and his mouth is moving like he’s reciting something. I hear nothing, but that could be the mountain ash boundary of the cell muting my senses. Inside this cell, there is only silence and pain. Other inmates of Eichen House have community rooms and an exercise yard. In this isolated supernatural ward, they can’t risk giving any of us those freedoms. We can’t be drugged to keep us complacent, and they can’t chain us to keep us controlled. Since this ward is unknown to the public, there are no inspections to make sure we’re treated humanely. I have no books, no phone privileges, and no way to keep my mind occupied. And when my mind is unoccupied, scary things happen.
Lately, those scary things have been happening to me rather than around me.
Still, I keep silent in my musing. It would not do to attract the attention of Valack. His gifts, such as they are, are not hampered by the mountain ash. Only his bandages hide his horrible talents, and he can unwrap them at will. I dislike being his victim.
I pass the day in quiet contemplation.
Derek has written to me, to tell me that he hopes I can be rehabilitated.
Cora has written to me to tell me that she’ll not be around to get to know me better.
Stiles has written to me to tell me that he wishes I stayed dead.
There are two other letters waiting for me, and I’m almost afraid to read what they say. The fact that they’re unopened is a curiosity to me. Most certainly the people in charge of this wonderful establishment opened the packet containing the letters, if only to make sure there were no weapons hidden inside, but I do wonder why they did not feel the need to open the individual letters themselves.
Opening the letter from Ms. Martin gives me the answer to that question.
I was going to fill this envelope with aconite blossoms, but I was assured that the letters would be x-rayed and I didn’t want to answer any uncomfortable questions about the little purple flowers.
Rest assured, while you’re in there I will be protecting the Pack—just so you can do no more harm if you ever get released. I’ve got the Beastiary and access to your library—and Stiles is not inconsiderable when it comes to research, so we’re going to keep the Pack strong. If I thought for one moment that you had any good ideas about getting rid of the Alpha Pack, I’d be there now torturing it `out of `you. So, if you have anything to contribute, so let us know.
No signature, no pretty prose, no personal touches. I only know it’s from Lydia because of the reference to aconite. She has not mellowed toward me.
Do I have any ideas of how to get rid of the Alpha Pack? Not really, no. I wasn’t even prepared for Deucalion to show up to begin with. Before the fire, when Deucalion first approached Talia for help with a treaty, he was a lone Alpha hoping to unite Packs. He fancied himself a leader or diplomat, and he certainly had charisma. I was not a part of the meeting with Talia, so I only have information that I obtained second-hand.
I remember hearing dear Derek tell McCall and Stiles that he was never meant to be Alpha, and I believe the boys took that to mean that Derek doesn’t have the gumption to be a good leader. That simply isn’t true. Derek was meant to be the Alpha’s Right Hand—the Wolf that stood by the Alpha and gave counsel. He was such a bright student, and he was looking forward to studying diplomacy after high school. He was also going to study business and finance, so he’d have a good job ahead of him. Laura was, of course, trained to become Alpha, but she had no head for business. My own place was to be as ambassador. I am not without my charm, of course, and I do have a way to make others trust me.
Unfortunately, after the incident with Ennis and Paige Krassekova, Talia never really trusted me again. I was sent to study languages, of all things, so that I might ‘learn how to interpret actions better’. My sister had a lousy sense of humor.
Still, the fact that Derek was not trained to become Alpha does not mean that he would be a bad Alpha. All he really needs is confidence in himself and a loyal Pack. He has the loyalty from Stiles and Lydia Martin, at least, so there is that. If he can build the confidence, he’ll be a fine leader. It’s really too bad I’m in here and will never be able to see that transformation.
The final letter in my stash is, or rather has to be, from Scott McCall. He might not consider himself part of Derek’s Pack, but he really has no other choice. He’ll become Omega otherwise.
Of course, after his actions in the debacle with Gerard Argent show that perhaps he should become Omega. I may have done some despicable things, but I never betrayed Pack. I killed Pack, but I never betrayed them. McCall has betrayed almost every member of the Pack at one point or another, and still they try to reel him in like a prodigal son.
I can understand that he would turn from me. I was clearly insane when I bit him and I tried to use his mother to manipulate him. If I were him, I’d avoid me as well.
But McCall continually brushed-off his best friend so that he could spend time with his Hunter girlfriend, thus betraying a friendship. And he kept secrets—important and hurtful secrets—from Derek in order to use Derek’s Alpha powers to trap Argent. I don’t know my nephew well, but I am almost certain that Derek would have gone along with any plan available to take down Gerard Argent, had he only known about it first.
I slowly open the last letter, suddenly not sure if I want to read the contents.
I hope this letter finds you well. My mom says the care in Eichen House is pretty good, but sometimes they’re under-staffed, so you might not be as comfortable as you would be at Beacon Hills Memorial.
I don’t know what to say to you. Obviously you’re not well, or Derek wouldn’t have placed you there, but you’ve done some crappy stuff. Maybe Eichen House is better than jail. Maybe you’ll use the time in there to heal and get better. I hope you won’t be plotting to take over again. I’m not really part of Derek’s Pack, but he deserves better than that.
Maybe you should use this time to think hard about what you’ve done, so you don’t make those mistakes again. I hope so.
How very preachy that was. And short.
Not that I think I deserve sonnets or epic poetry. At least Derek put some thought into his letter, as did Cora. Of course, they’re family, so I would expect nothing less.
When nobody thought I was listening—or thought I was even in the loft—I would hear Stiles bemoaning the fact that Scott had unexpectedly cancelled long-standing plans once again. I would hear from my perch how Scott blew off training once again. I would hear how Scott refused to hunt for the missing Pack members in order to go on a date with the hunter girl once again.
When I bit Scott McCall in the woods that night, I thought I had found a solid Pack member. I thought his strength and determination were indications of his character. In my crazed-Alpha state, I thought I could scent his strength, but I could not. I fooled myself into thinking that he would fall into line as a good Beta and that I could rebuild with him. I was very wrong about that.
So, I’ll fold those letters away to read another day, when I’m not so emotional, and I’ll eat my bland dinner and hope for dreamless sleep.
I am dreaming. I must be dreaming.
But this dream has not come from my memories.
It is deep night, in this dream, and the air is still. There may be muffled noises in the night, but they are indistinct.
I can see the images clearly.
Cora. Sweet, young Cora. She is being led into the dark by Deucalion. He has told her that he is an old friend of her mother’s, and it is only half a lie.
In this dream, the fire is long past, and Cora is fifteen years old and so alone. She ran. I know that now. She ran from the smoke and flames that ate her family alive while she was hiding in the tree-house. She thought we were all gone, so she ran to find safety. She was six years old at the time of the fire, and she ran to save her life.
Instead she became Omega; free from death but never able to find peace. Cora drifted from town to town, from state to state, seeking shelter where she could find it and asking for hand-outs when she could risk it. I remember when she told Derek and me about travelling in South America; how she had to learn a different language in order to get by and how she slept in doorways in busy cities between full moons, and in the dark jungles during the Moon times, always wary of Hunters.
She was isolated and scared and lonely.
And she became prey.
I watch as Deucalion spins a tale of keeping her safe while he contacts the new Hale Alpha. Cora seems happy to hear that not all of her family is dead, but Deucalion is coy about the names of the survivors.
It occurs to me that Deucalion may not actually know, at this point, exactly who the Hale Alpha is. Laura certainly was unaware that Cora was alive, else she never would have left California for New York. Laura would have tried to save Cora. Laura was a kind soul when she was younger, so she would never have left a sibling behind when she fled the carnage.
An uncle, of course, but never a sibling.
I follow, in this dream/memory (not my own), as Cora is led to a silver cell lined with mountain ash. This particular Alpha Pack is working with a Druid Emissary, and she wields the mountain ash with flair. Cora is trapped and subdued and the Emissary never blinks an eye.
The scene shifts in front of me several times.
I watch as Cora is beaten down by Deucalion’s flunkies; beaten but never bloodied. Deucalion wants her weak and broken but still alive. She is half starved and overly tired as the Pack travels through South America. With each stop along the way, Deucalion takes the time to tell Cora the story of how her mother, her precious Alpha, kept Deucalion from achieving his treaty; if only Talia Hale had stood beside him, he never would have been blinded and beaten. He never would have had to kill his Pack. He never would have had to seek this revenge. Certainly it was too late for revenge on Talia Hale, but not too late to punish the new Hale Alpha.
Like some sad comic-book villain, Deucalion laid out his plan in grisly detail: He would take each Beta, one by one, and drive the Wolf out of them. Cora was step one, of course. By the time they reached California, Cora would be weak from hunger and lack of sleep.
The years have passed, and they have not been kind to dear Cora. During this dream I watched my niece grow up, something I would have at one time given my life to see. I remember her as a bright child, full of questions and sunny smiles. I stand here, trapped in Dreamtime, and I watch Cora shift from happy child to sad and lonely teenager, and I feel so helpless.
It is a feeling that I despise.
And now Cora is trapped in an abandoned bank vault, weakened by the mountain ash that keeps her prisoner. Her only company is a pair of newly turned Betas, and one of them is dead. The lunar eclipse is keeping them docile. They are practically lifeless, Cora and this still-living Beta, and I know what is yet to come: Derek will soon break through the vault wall, leaving Stiles to break the mountain ash barrier. Derek is aware that the lunar eclipse will weaken him, but he is unaware that the long time trapped in the vault—two months at least, and without exposure to the moon—will drive the captives feral and that he is placing his own life in danger.
In reality, I was nowhere near Beacon Hills when Derek exacted this rescue. In Dreamtime, I am forced to watch as Derek risks everything to save his only sister. The vault is dark, and the glowing eyes of Cora and the unknown Beta are the only light. They are golden, but they are tinged with blood-hunger. Even muffled the growls and snarls are frightening.
I stand by, a mere shade in someone else’s memory, and watch as Derek leads the feral werewolves away from the bank and away from the population of Beacon Hills. I watch him draw the attention of the wolves onto himself, so that when they are driven to claw and snatch and bite they find only Derek’s body as a target. He is torn to shreds before Cora and the dark boy are calm, but he seems to glory in his injuries because it meant that the humans of the town were safe and the werewolves did no real harm.
That is what it meant to be Alpha. That is what it meant to be Pack.
I had almost forgotten.
The strange dream is still fresh in my mind when I wake the next morning.
The meaning of the dream is not lost to me: Pack is everything; Pack is Life.
When I was laying in that hospital bed, healing from my burns and trapped in my mind, all I could think about was Pack. More specifically, all I could think about was that I needed my Pack to heal, and they left me behind. My Alpha left me behind, unable to defend myself. There could never be an excuse big enough for that. I was, at that moment, the weakest member; the one that needed Pack the most.
In my reckless youth, I watched lazily as my older sister was trained to become Alpha by our grandfather. I would ‘oversee’ the lessons, picking up anything I could while Talia took everything to heart. They never minded my presence because I would eventually become Talia’s Second, so I needed to know how Packs—healthy Packs—ran.
We were taught to honor the weaker members, that the Pack was only as strong as the weakest of us. We were taught that nobody gets left behind, not ever, because Pack was everything.
In her haste to hide from Hunters, darling Laura must have forgotten all about those lessons. Either that, or Talia never managed to get that far into Laura’s training before the fire happened.
Laura took Derek and ran, never giving much thought to any other survivors. She placed me in the care of hospital workers and called once a month to check that I was still breathing, and I was left without an Alpha to care for me.
And now I’m stuck in some psychiatric ward, sealed away from the outside world, and again I only have an Alpha on the periphery of my life. Derek is learning, I’ll give him that. He does remember what happened the last time I was left alone to heal.
Ostensibly that is why I am here.
I do not remember what caused the break in my mind, this time. I remember fighting the Alpha Pack alongside Derek and his pups, and then I was here—and there is a huge gap where the cause of my interment is supposed to be.
Derek, at least, keeps in touch on a daily basis. I am not allowed visitors much, but there are notes smuggled in to me every now and again. Small words of encouragement and the like.
Perhaps Derek remembers all too well what happened to Laura when she left me to my own devises. Not that I would ever try to kill Derek.
He’s much more reasonable that Laura was in regards to my care.
My only exercise is walking, and my cell is large enough to lap around, but my muscles get twitchy if I sit too long, so I begin to pace while I think about that dream.
There is no reason for me to be dreaming about things I had no personal stake in. I was never present for Cora’s capture, so there is no reason for me to be ‘reliving’ it, as it were. If I had had any indication that Cora was still alive, I would have told Laura about it when we met again last year. I was speaking at that time. I used my speech to plea with Laura to seek revenge on the Argent family, so surely I could have used my speech to tell Laura that her younger sister was still alive.
Laura refused to see reason in regards to the Argent family, but perhaps she would have found it necessary to search for her remaining relative.
Alas, this is something I shall never know. Laura is dead, regrettably by my hand, and Cora is alive and well. She’s alive, anyway; well is yet to be determined. I’m certain she will be fine in South America with that Pack that took her in. I may miss her, at some point in the future. She grew up while I was in my coma, so I never had a chance to get to know her—not like I got to know Laura and Derek. Perhaps she will continue to write letters to me once she is settled.
My pacing has caused irritation in my cell-mate. Valack rises from his slumber to glare at me, and I try to ignore him. Truth be told, Valack frightens me. I don’t know why, but he sets my teeth to itch. There’s something about that horrid bandage around his head—it’s not right, somehow. The doctors here never seem to treat him for injury, and I can smell no blood in the vicinity of his side of the room, but that bandage call for attention.
It is attention that I would rather not give. I try very hard to have no interaction with Valack at all. In the vernacular of Stiles and Scott McCall, that man gives me ‘major creepy vibes’. I’m sure that they could understand the sentiment.
I retake my seat on my bed when Valack turns to me. I am nervous, but unsure as to why.
But he turns to face me and he unwraps that horrid bandage, and I feel my skin crawl. In the middle of his forehead is…is…is…
I hear myself screaming, and then all goes black.
“Peter, wake up!”
That voice…it’s my sister, Talia. She sounds choked with tears, but that can’t possibly be right.
“Peter, you’ve been having nightmares. Wake up!”
I struggle to open my eyes, but they are heavy and my head is pounding, and I really do not want to face my long-dead sister.
She pokes me, hard, in the shoulder. I rub my closed eyes with a clenched fist as she laughs at me softly. When I finally open my eyes, I am surprised at her appearance.
She has no burns, no scars, and her clothing is intact. There is a slight graying in her hair at the temple, and crow’s feet at the corners of her eyes. She looks old, does my sister, older than I remember her being when she died.
“What do you want?” I am surly, I know. I almost can’t help myself. I remember dreaming of Talia in the past, but I don’t remember the context of the dreams. I know she is here to torment me. I’m not in the mood.
“I’m here,” she says, ignoring my moodiness, “To keep you honest. You’ve only brought this upon yourself, you know, so you might as well deal with it.”
I sit upright slowly. “Deal with it? Deal with what, Talia? You’re dead, I’m in hospital—a very questionable hospital—and what is left of our family is getting on just fine. There is nothing to deal with, as far as I’m concerned.”
The cruel twist to her mouth is not at all attractive. “You think so, Peter? Let me tell you a few home truths: What is left of the family is only ‘getting on’ because you left them no choice! And this so-called ‘questionable’ hospital is the only place they could put you safely. They know you can’t escape from here, and they don’t want to kill you.”
Then Talia smirks at me. “Well, they don’t all want to kill you. A few of the new Pack would dearly love to see you in the ground.”
I glower at her. “So, you’re haunting me to make sure I don’t forget all of my sins?”
“No, Peter. I’m haunting you to make sure you remember why you sinned. If you had kept the Pack in mind at all, you never would have done what you did. You would not be suffering in this place.”
Her voice is like so many buzzing bees, rattling around in my head and sending pain shooting down my spine. She does not make sense.
I would have always killed Laura. She had an opportunity to help me, to save me and seek vengeance on those that killed our Pack, and she ignored my pleas and left me to rot.
My head is spinning. I can still hear sister-dear, but the words are indistinct now. I close my eyes to get rid of the dizziness.
When I open my eyes again, I am no longer in my cell.
Derek is standing beside me, and we are looking at the ruin of the old Pack house.
On the front door is the engraved sigil of the Alpha Pack. Their calling card, so to speak.
Derek looks concerned, and he has good right to be.
“This is a warning, isn’t it? They’re coming here, to test me.”
I look at my nephew, and all I can see is an insecure, untried Alpha, struggling to keep his Pack together. “They may be coming, but it is not to test you.”
Derek turns questioning eyes to me. “What do you know about them?”
I shrug and turn away from the house. “This is clearly not the place to discuss anything. That mark is fresh. It is the only warning you are likely to get. Come. We have much to discuss.”
I lead Derek through the woods and away from the house. The smell of smoke and ash still surrounds that place. It sickens me.
Derek had been haunting some abandoned train depot—very unhealthy, but not as unhealthy as living in that rotted husk in the woods—so I lead him to the small, comfortable apartment that I rented for myself. He looks about the place with undisguised distain, but I don’t mind.
I like my comforts, no matter that I have spent the past six years, at this point, in the hospital. Derek seems to think that we should suffer because the family is dead. It is his opinion, and it is one I do not share. The Hales are dead; what should they care if I have a feather pillow or not.
I turn on the electric kettle and prepare two mugs for tea. “That symbol on the door is from the Alpha Pack. The myth is that they are a sort of Werewolf Police, seeking to judge Packs and render punishment on those that prove to be unstable. That myth is wrong.”
Derek prepares his tea in silence, but he keeps his very judge-y eye on me. “You know about them?”
I nod. “I do. They came, long ago, to see your mother. They weren’t so mysterious back then, of course.”
Derek takes his tea and finds a seat in my small parlour. “Did they come to judge the Hale Pack back then?”
“Oh, no,” I laugh. “The mere thought of anyone judging you mother is ridiculous! No, the leader of that mystery Pack, an old wolf called Deucalion, came to ask your mother for assistance in gaining a treaty in this part of California. Since this has always been Hale territory, he needed Talia’s permission enter. Talia, of course, refused to aid that foolish endeavor.”
“Why?” Derek’s eyebrows crinkle in confusion. “I thought that Mom was all about setting treaties and keeping peace?”
“Oh, she was,” I confirm. “But Talia’s main concern was always the safety of her Pack and family, and that is how it should be. Deucalion wanted to make a treaty with a very powerful—and a very deranged—man: Gerard Argent.” Derek’s eyes grew large at the realization of the folly, so I continued. “Deucalion asked Talia to go into the meeting with him, to stand as a second of sorts. Talia tried to warn him against it. I do remember that meeting well; Talia told Deucalion that Gerard Argent was a fanatic and that any hope of treaty is a false hope.
“But of course, Deucalion was an optimist at that time. He had successfully brought together three separate Packs to live harmoniously, so he thought that he could easily bring about a treaty with a hardened Hunter like Argent.” I sip my tea and look at Derek. He is silently considering what I have said.
Of course, neither Derek now, nor Talia back then, were aware that I followed Deucalion to his ill-fated meeting. I witnessed the whole massacre.
Massacre. That is one word to describe what happened in the old distillery. Ambush is another.
“How do you know all of this, Peter?” Finally! He asks a pertinent question.
I offer a small smile in response. “I was trained to be your mother’s Second—a sort of right-hand-man, so to speak. The safety of the Pack was supposed to be my sole concern. Deucalion and his lofty ideals were going to be a risk for the Pack, so I followed him.”
Derek’s eyes narrow in thought. “That must have been around the time that Paige was bitten. Did you have anything to do with that?”
I manage to keep from rolling my eyes. “There were two Alphas with Deucalion when he came to town that year. Parker Ennis was one of them, yes. Could he have learned about your issues with young Paige? Possibly.”
“No bullshit, Peter!” Derek growled at me. “I know you didn’t give Paige the bite, because you know it would have killed her outright if it wasn’t a turning bite. You were the one to suggest I ask an Alpha to bite her and you strongly suggested that I not ask Mom because she would have refused. Did you ask Ennis to give Paige the bite?”
“No! As much as I delighted in my little mischiefs back then, I knew that biting Paige would not solve your problem. I did some snooping around, and I discovered that Paige already knew about the existence of werewolves, that she already knew about you, and I was on my way to tell you when she was bitten. Parker Ennis was trouble back then. I’m sure he’s trouble now, but back then he didn’t believe in Deucalion’s treaty. Personally, I think he wanted to make sure Deucalion never survived his little meeting with Argent so that he could take over as Alpha leader. Sowing dissention would have been right up his alley.”
Derek seemed to take that answer, which is good, as it was the truth.
Never did I ever ask Parker Ennis to bite Paige Krassekova.
I could tell that she had a bright future away from Beacon Hills, so I really wanted her far away from Derek. Derek would have pined for her—would have given his life to be with her—and Derek was destined for great things within the Pack. Having Paige around would have ruined things for both of them, so I really didn’t want her to get the bite. I certainly never wanted her to be killed.
“So,” said Derek, once his mind was back on track, “Tell me about the Alpha Pack.”
“What do you want to know?” I have to consider my answers carefully. Derek is not unintelligent and lately he’s been able to see me very clearly.
“Why are they here, if not to judge my Pack?”
Ah. That. He would have to ask the big question.
I settle into my chair and get more comfortable. This is not going to be a happy story.
“I am not a mind reader, Derek, so I can only suppose. But Deucalion, back in the day, blamed his failure partially on the lack of your mother’s support. Remember that I said I followed him that day?” Derek nodded at me, enthralled with my tale. Or perhaps that was wishful thinking.
“I kept my distance, of course, so that I would not be taken by the Hunters that Deucalion was meeting, but it was a total ambush inside that distillery. Gerard had seven men with him, all established hunters and none eager for any treaty. Gerard had this horrible weapon; a metal club fitted with torn werewolf claws laced with aconitum. I watched through a crack in the door as Gerard trapped Deucalion and his lieutenant in a circle of mountain ash. Then he turned that weapon on his own men, slashing at them until they looked as if they were attacked by the wolves. For an old man, he was quite strong and savage.
“Deucalion didn’t seem to understand what was happening, but I knew. A werewolf attack in Hale territory, even if no Hales were involved, would have resulted in war. Gerard would have all the evidence he needed to kill us all, and no Hunter Code would have saved us. After his own men were dead or dying, Gerard turned on the lieutenant and shot him full of Wolf’s Bane, leaving only Deucalion alive.”
I paused my story there because Derek’s face hardened into some kind of hatred. I didn’t want him to hate, not like that. He would only want to hurt Gerard Argent, and as far as I knew that old man was out of his reach. Instead, I needed him to understand Deucalion’s insanity; to understand the ‘tests’ that Deucalion was planning for him.
“Derek, before I ran into town to seek help, I saw what happened to Deucalion. Gerard blinded him with silver arrows, leaving him weakened. In that state, any of his Betas would kill him to put him out of his misery, and then they could take the Alpha-hood and rule the Pack. But it didn’t quite work that way. I got help to him, and he was taken to Deaton’s clinic. When I spoke quietly to Deaton later that night, Deucalion was alive and gone, but the Beta left with him was dead. I think that Deucalion killed that Beta and took his energy so that he would be healed.
“What I am certain of is that Deucalion blamed Talia Hale for his defeat, and he would certainly seek revenge on her. Since she’s dead, any Hale Alpha will do. Deucalion’s crazy. Talia sought word of him after he left, and the word was that he killed his own Pack—every last one, man, woman, and child. And then he convinced all the other Alphas that travelled with him to do the same. Not even the Emissaries were safe. That is what the Alpha Pack is, Derek. Crazed Alphas without Packs or Betas, full of power and hate. They don’t judge Packs, they destroy them. And they have their sights set on you”
Derek was frowning deeply. “What can I do, then? I’m not strong enough to stop them. The Pack is weak, just kids, and the Alphas will kill them.”
“No Derek,” I said, not at all in consolation, “The Alphas will force you to kill your Pack. And with each death, you will get stronger and more insane, until the person you are now no longer exists.”
I watched my nephew fall closer to despair. He only chose his new Pack based on a need to belong. Those obnoxious children needed, for one reason or another, to be part of something whole. Derek wasn’t strong enough to give them the Pack they needed, but I could work with that. I could give him the strength he needed to pull the Pack together.
I only hoped it wasn’t too late.
“Your Pack is splintered right now, Derek,” I said carefully. “It needs to be cohesive. Will those children still listen to you, or have you lost them for good?”
“I think they’ll still listen.”
“Good,” I smiled at him, hopefully encouragingly. “Call them to order. Ask them to meet…somewhere that is not that train depot, because that place is disgusting.”
Derek offered a wry grin. “I do have a place now. A nice loft apartment in a good part of town. I own the building, in fact, as a good investment. I’ll have them meet there.”
“Good. I know they won’t like to deal with me, but I can talk to them. I am, after all, the one who has been a werewolf longer. I do know what a Pack is supposed to be like.”
Narrowed eyes glaring at me again. I could do without the attitude, of course, but Derek will not trust me completely
“Derek, I know I’ve done horrible things, but I do not actually want to see you die. You are all I have left, you know. But unless your Pack pulls together, you will not be able to resist the Alpha Pack and you will all perish. I don’t want to be alone again.”
Derek slumps in his chair and I know I’ve made him feel guilty again about leaving me in the hospital. That really was not my intention.
“The loft has two floors and plenty of bedrooms, if you wanted to stay with me there.”
I gift him with a true smile. “I’ll think on it, Derek, but thank you.”
I leave the room to make more tea, and I hear Derek placing the call to his pack.
They agree to meet at his loft, but through the tinny phone I can hear the reluctance. They are spoiled children, seeking the power of the Wolf but avoiding the obligations.
They need to be taught what Pack really is.
I may not be the best example, but I do know what I’m talking about. At least, in this case I do.
We cross town together in silence. Derek is probably stewing in depression at the thought of losing yet another Pack, but I’m planning my BIG SPEECH.
I do not know these children. Derek chose them while I was dead.
By the time I was resurrected, Derek had a Pack of stubborn teenagers wearing leather jackets and trying to look tough.
It was ridiculous, really. I was a Born Wolf, and I never once owned a leather jacket.
Fine wool is more my style.
Derek’s loft is rather nice, if sparsely decorated. Derek was never one for the finer things. That being said, the furniture is quite comfortable.
I find my preferred perch on a plain armchair in the center of the room. Derek assured me that his small Pack was on the way.
I want to tell him to make refreshments, to make the whole thing more homey, but it would be a useless sentiment. From what Derek has said, two of his three Betas are ready to flee town and McCall had never decided to join with the Pack. This group is already splintered. I am merely trying to make sure it doesn’t break totally.
The first to arrive is a curly-haired youth with fascinating cheekbones. He ducks his head shyly when he comes in and I can sense that this may very well be the best family that he could have.
Very shortly the other two come in; a vivacious blonde and her dark boyfriend. She is all sex appeal and confidence, but it is pure show. In her eyes I can see how unsure she really is, how afraid. Being turned was her last chance, and now she has doubts of whether or not she can survive it. The large boy is quiet but observant. He is the one that chose this, sought it out, but it’s not quite what he thought it would be.
Being a turned werewolf is harder than they thought. It’s not just strength and health. It means fighting, every day, instincts that tell you to kill or run. It means hiding what you are from everyone around you, even the ones who love you most.
These lessons I learned by watching, by observing and creeping around. I learned them by visiting other Packs and watching how they interacted, the Born and the Bitten. I learned by listening to the complaints of those that chose this life.
And now I had to share what I learned in order to save this Pack.
“What is he doing here?” asks the blonde with a sneer.
How lovely; a rapturous, captive audience. And so generous, too.
Derek crossed the room to stand beside me, offering some pitiful form of support. “He wanted to talk to you, before things got really bad. I figured it couldn’t hurt at this point, so I agreed. You don’t have to stay, if you don’t want. I’d like you to listen, but you can leave after if you want to.”
The curly-haired boy nodded and sat on the sofa in front of me. He was leaning toward following McCall, I knew, but he still felt loyal to Derek. The others fell in line and joined him. They looked anxious, like they would rather stand in front of a fast-moving train.
I do understand the sentiment. I’m not looking forward to this speech, either.
Oh, well, best get to it.
“My name, as you know, is Peter Hale, and I’m Derek’s uncle. But I don’t want to talk to you in that capacity. Rather, I would like to address you as part of Derek’s Pack.”
I take a moment to study the three teens in front of me. I can see what attracted Derek to them. They look strong and bright, and they could make a formidable Pack if they only learned to pull together.
“For some reason or other, Derek chose the three of you to take the Bite and become Pack. I’m sure you all had very good reasons for agreeing to it; reasons as different as you are to each other. One of you may have yearned to belong to a strong family. One of you might have been weak and needed to be strong. I don’t really care what your reasons were; the fact is, you took the Bite and you survived. I’m sure Derek gave the obligatory talk about survival chances and how you could be part of something bigger, but there is a part of Pack that Derek might have neglected—because he didn’t know about it.
“I travelled much, when I was younger, and I had opportunities to interact with different Packs. During those travels, I had many occasions to watch how those Packs treated both Born and Bitten wolves. The Hale Pack has never had many Bitten members. We were a large family, and only those that married in chose to take the Bite, so Derek would never have known what exactly to teach you.”
“And you think you can teach us?” The snappy blonde has sass. Usually I like that, but now it’s annoying.
“I won’t even pretend to want to teach you. Your physical training has given you all pause in your yearning to be Pack. You thought it was going to be easy, and it’s not. You thought it was going to be a clean thing; that you would just go on as if nothing had changed. But everything has changed.
“You can be hunted now, just for being. It’s not a nice thought, is it? You can be hunted and killed, and nobody is going to come to your defense because werewolves don’t exist, so Hunters don’t exist. Derek may have told you all that much. He may have told you that you could possibly die from the Bite and that you would have to fight for control, especially during the Full Moon. But there are things that Derek could not tell you, because he has never spent time with Bitten wolves. But I have.”
The look of confusion on Derek’s face should amuse me, but it leaves me cold. He was thinking that I had nothing to offer, and now he knows differently. I won’t be so easy to ignore now, and Derek does not like that.
“I’ll be plain here, alright? There are a few things that you need to know, and I’m going to tell them to you. If, after you hear me out, you want to run away, I’ll not stop you and neither will Derek. A disloyal Pack is worthless to him.”
The sassy blonde and her boy both flinch. Obviously they were the ones thinking of leaving.
As I look at them, there is a strange flash, and I see them both hanging from chains in a dank chamber. It is only for a moment, but I have a sense that I can save them from that, if only they will listen.
I fold my hands together and lean forward with my elbows on my knees. I try very hard to look earnest. I don’t know if I succeed.
“It is very simple: Pack is Life. Pack is Everything. Those two things you must know to survive. When you agreed to take the Bite, you agreed to become Pack. Pack can make you stronger. Pack can give you family and a sense of belonging. Pack can give you stability. But you must offer your life to Pack for it to work.
“It is true that an Alpha is stronger with a Pack, but that’s because when the Pack is united they are unbeatable. When the Pack is healthy—when the Alpha is healthy—then everyone benefits. Derek could lift you all up if you gave him your unquestionable support. Yes, he has much to learn about being an Alpha, but that was never supposed to be his place. Derek was being trained to be the Peace-keeper and treaty-maker. His job was to be the Second—the most important Beta in the Pack. He’s had to learn the hard way how to be Alpha, and he’s doing the best he can.
“But you’re fighting him all the way. You want this to be easy. You heard the words, but you missed the meanings: Being a werewolf is hard. People, mostly unscrupulous people, will want you dead just for breathing. The moon literally brings out the worst in you, and your savage urges will be difficult to control. That takes work. Plus, you’re physically stronger and the Wolf makes you aggressive, so you need physical training to get the aggression out. Derek may not have known the words to make you believe, but I know he told you there would be trials. He taught you the best way he knew how, and at the first sign of difficulty—real difficulty—two of you are ready to jump ship and the third is looking to move on with another Beta who also has no clue how difficult being a Wolf is.”
My earnest look isn’t really working, but the words are getting through. Now I have to put the final nail in, and then we’ll all see if Derek’s Pack has a chance.
I lean back in my chair and cross one ankle over my knee. I project all the confidence that I have, and I’m gratified to see the three Betas leaning forward to better hear my words.
“I know you all know there are other, more hidden Packs in the world. I know you’ve heard sounds of howling in the woods, and you might think that means there is an alternative to this Pack waiting close by for you. When the going gets too tough, everyone always looks for an alternative. I will tell you one final truth, so I hope you listen to this if you listen to nothing else: If you leave this Pack and seek another for safety, no other Alpha will take you in. They will see weak Betas who abandoned their Pack and they will see you as dishonorable. You will become Omega—without a Pack—and you will become weaker, until you go slowly insane and then you will die. And you will die alone.
“If you stay with this Pack, you will be stronger. You might have a chance to survive. There are Hunters in the area, and they’ll be seeking the weakest of you. By torturing you, the Hunters can weaken the Alpha, and then they can destroy the Pack. Hunters use recorded howling and the sounds of Pack to lure Omegas. All Omegas seek a Pack, because they know that they’ll be safe and whole in a Pack. You think you’ll find something better if you leave, but you’ll only find weakness, sorrow, and death. But it is your choice. That is all I have to say. Take what you want from it.”
I uncross my legs and move to stand, but I catch Derek’s eye, and he is smiling at me.
It’s not a huge, happy-to-see-you smile, but it is a smile. I managed to get through to him, at least. As for the rest of them, I do not know.
I walk to the door so that I can make my way back to my own, lonely place, but when I look back I see the Betas huddled together, talking.
It’s a start, I suppose. Perhaps they’ll stay, and Derek will survive the Alpha Pack.
When I move through the doorway, my vision blurs. I feel dizzy and fall against the wall, but nobody seems to notice this.
When my vision clears and I have regained my senses, I am lying on my cot in my cell, waking from a shuddering dream.
A dream I can’t quite remember.
“Hale, you have a visitor!”
Orderly Matthews is standing in the chamber just outside of my cell, and he is alone. That means my supposed visitor is waiting in the main hall, possibly waiting for my acknowledgment.
I stand and walk to the area near the door and fold my hands behind my back. Once I’ve shown that I am no danger to his person, Matthews retreats and opens the main door.
To my surprise, my visitor is Scott McCall. He does not look particularly happy to be here, but then again, neither am I.
We stand facing each other through the glass silently. I’m here by force, so I really have all day to stand still, but he came for a reason. I have no idea what that reason is.
After a few long, agonizing moments, I speak. “Hello, Scott. You’re looking well.”
He scowls at me and begins pacing. I manage not to roll my eyes, because that would be rude.
I also manage to stop myself from pacing along with him, shadowing his every move. It is tempting, though.
Finally, he speaks. “You ruined my life, you know.” He still does not look at me.
I wait some more.
“I was happy, before you bit me. All I wanted to do was try out for Lacrosse and work at the vet’s and maybe get a girlfriend. And then Stiles asked me to go out into the woods with him, and you ruined everything. I tried to blame Stiles, for a long time, but it was all you.”
When it seemed he had finished, I kept quiet for a short while. Very short.
“If I’m not totally mistaken,” I say shortly, “you are co-captain of the Lacrosse team, you have a good part-time job with Dr. Deaton, and you are dating Allison Argent—are you not?”
Scott’s eyes flash dangerously golden at me, and a tip of fang appears at the split of his lips. “I used to be HUMAN! I’m not that, now. Not anymore. I’m a monster, all because of you!”
I keep my indignence to myself. He really is too much. When he calms, just a little, I speak again.
“Let me ask: you figured if Derek had allowed you to kill me, in that horrible ambush, you would miraculously become human again? Was that the plan?”
“Yes!” he growled at me. Not so calm after all.
“And did Derek allow you to believe this, or did you watch too many horror movies from the 1940s? Never mind, don’t answer. I know Derek would never have told you such drivel. In fact, dear Scott, if you had managed to do me in that fateful night, you would now be Alpha. You would be a weak Alpha with a small—probably nonexistent—Pack, and either Hunters would have taken you down like a wild animal or another Alpha would have come and taken your territory. Either way, you would be dead before you ever got your driver’s license. Is that what you would prefer?”
“I would prefer,” he said—again with the growling, “If you had never bitten me at all!”
I sigh. Deeply. It is an old argument. As I am rather a captive audience here, I suppose I’ll give it one more go.
“Scott. I can’t apologize more for that. I was, as you well know, insane from injury and grief, and I was instinctually looking to add to the Pack. Derek did the same thing, you know. Do I wish I had chosen more…wisely? Of course I do. I never meant to ruin your young life. But it has been done, and you can’t change that. But you can learn to live with it.
“Honestly, do you miss the asthma so much? Or the weakness? Bench-sitting instead of playing first-string? Surely it’s convenient to be able to smell when people are upset with you so that you can plan your actions? Isn’t there anything about being a werewolf that works for you?”
I’ve never seen it before, but Scott visibly deflates in front of me. It’s like I pulled a plug or something. I watch as he rubs his hands over his face while his emotions calm. He slumps against the glass wall that separates us—not the smartest move, really, but well.
“I wanted to be normal, you know? And now, I’m…not. And I don’t know what to do now.”
“I do understand that, Scott. If it makes any difference, this isn’t what I wanted, either. I only wanted my Pack back, and that is never going to happen.”
We stood there, in silence, for a long while. Scott was feeling sorry for himself and I was missing my sister and nieces and nephews.
“You killed your Pack, you know. You’d still have them, but you killed them.”
I feel my eyes widen in surprise. Who knew the kid had spunk?
“Actually,” I clear my throat, “I only killed Laura. And I really don’t remember doing that. Kate Argent killed my Pack. And I killed Kate—I do remember that. And now, you’re dating the younger Argent girl. Are you so sure that she won’t go after you? She went quite blood-crazy once, you know, and you are now her mortal enemy. You have to be careful of her, now, you know. And staying away from the rest of the Pack—well that’s just not smart. The Pack will give you more than strength; it gives stability. You’re not doing yourself any favors by not being Pack.”
“I know,” he sighed. “I just…I thought that I could be normal again if I wasn’t Pack. And I still have Stiles; he’s like Pack for me, right?”
“I’ll concede that Stiles can be like Pack to you, but he’s actually becoming a member of the Hale Pack proper. He’ll never abandon you, because you are best friends, but he knows that the Pack needs him. And in a small way, he needs the Pack as well.”
Scott opens his mouth to argue, but I cut him off. “I know he has you. He’ll always have you. But you’ve let him down lately, you know. You always seem to find time for dear, sweet Allison and you never find time for your best friend. From what little I know, it was only the two of you against the world, so where is he to go when you have your study dates and make-out sessions? He has the Pack now, and you could be part of that.”
Scott leaves with a sullen “Whatever” and I am again left alone.
Later, I eat my solitary dinner and work through some push-ups to kill some energy. Seeing Scott has exhausted me, really. As I am alone, there is nobody to object if I go to bed early.
In my dreams, I am free to remember what set me on this path.
Laura left me behind.
She rightly feared the Hunters that killed our family, so she grabbed Derek and she ran. But I was left behind, helpless in the hospital.
Laura couldn’t care for me, the way that I was, and she was too noble to kill me and put me to rest. So I had to languish in my despair and grief. In my weakened state, I could not begin to heal properly, and with my Alpha absent I had no means to regain my mind.
I remember waking in the hospital bed, unaware of how much time had passed. There was a nurse standing over me, but she was not there to offer comfort and care; that woman was trying to poison me. It was the poison that brought me from my weakened state.
The irony wasn’t lost on me, but she never had time to dwell on it. That nurse was my first victim.
How I dearly wish she was the last.
In my dreams, I remember so much.
I remember seeing my sister’s children on the first day of school; how excided they were in their new clothes. Laura had dragged me off to shop for a special sweater that was bright and fuzzy and covered in glitter. It was so obnoxiously a teenage-girl-thing that I had to buy it. Talia could hate me later, but Laura’s smile was so worth it.
I remember watching Cora learn to ice skate at the local rink, falling all over the place when it was proven that a werewolf’s reflexes were not going to be an advantage. Derek and Laura laughed at her, but I soothed her temper with cocoa and marshmallows, and then I took to the ice to show her how it was properly done.
I remember standing beside Talia when Deucalion came to call, seeking help with a new treaty. I thought it was folly, so I took to the streets to find any information I could about that group of Hunters. Since Talia kept the territory safe enough, there had been no Hunters in Beacon Hills in almost a generation. Our grandfather was just as protective and pro-active as Talia; in fact, she learned very well at his side.
I also learned well at his side; to be a good Second and to watch for the best interest of my Pack.
I gathered all information about the Argent Clan and I took it to Talia. She knew some things, but she didn’t know that the Elder—Gerard—went against the Hunter Code as often as possible. I was able to give her that, and she used the information to deny Deucalion aid in his folly.
But what if I could help more? It was my dream, after all. Surely I could whisper in my dream-sister’s ear.
“I fear for Deucalion’s life, Talia, if he sees fit to follow through with his plan. Gerard Argent is without honor in all ways. The Argent Clan is supposed to be matriarchal, but the Elder has become unhinged in a way nobody could have foreseen.”
“What do you know, Peter?” asked my dream-sister. “How did you find the information? How credible is it?”
“I asked, and I received information. In 1977, Alexander Argent—brother of Gerard Argent—was bitten by Deucalion. There are records of this. Now, it may be that Deucalion simply does not remember the incident, or it may be that Deucalion has decided to let bygones be bygones and he expects Gerard Argent to do the same. Either way, the Argent Code demands that any Hunter that is bitten must commit suicide rather than endure the Change, and Alexander Argent did just that. I’m almost certain that Gerard does not have a short memory.”
Dream-Talia frowned. “I agree. Deucalion is a fool if he thinks to make peace with the brother of a man he essentially killed. I’ll have to warn him off. Deucalion thinks that he is strong enough to force the treaty.”
“I can follow, if you like, to offer aid if things get rough.”
“No, Peter, I need you here. You’re strong enough to hold the homestead in case Argent sends Hunters to find us. Also, I don’t trust the other Alphas that Deucalion has following him. They’re strong enough physically, but they smell off somehow. I would rather know my family is safe when I’m following to keep Deucalion alive.”
“You know he’ll be incredibly underhanded,” I tell my dream-sister. “If he finds you, he’ll kill you just to prove that he can. I rather like you as my Alpha.”
In my dreams, I begin to ‘remember’ again:
A small shift begins; a ripple in the dream that is almost imperceptible. Talia goes to her office to make a phone call, to whom I do not know. But she is in her office for the rest of that day. The children come home from school and I herd them to the kitchen table for homework.
Derek is glassy-eyed with the flush of first love and he is stubbornly refusing to sit still. I have to remind him that algebra waits for no-one. Laura tries to make fun of him, but I stop her. A young man’s first love is very important to his development and she would be a poor Alpha if she teased her best Beta.
Talia is gone after dinner and I pull the Enforcers closer to the main house. So far, the children don’t notice anything amiss, and I plan to keep it that way.
Hours later, Talia returns looking slightly disheveled but not bloody. I take that as a good sign. She is followed by a Sheriff’s Deputy with a grim look on his face, and she calls me into her office with them.
My dream goes slightly sideways as Talia explains that she called the Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Department to report what might possibly be a hate crime. She told them that a visiting Jewish scholar was in town to work on a dissertation in Olde World Mythology, and he had contacted someone who was a known rare book dealer for a meeting. Then she told them that that known book dealer was complicit in several hate-crime attacks, although nothing could be proven, and that she feared for the life of the scholar. She knew where the two were planning to meet, if the police were interested, and that she would like to prevent another possible attack.
I looked at her in askance, and Talia informed me that Jacob Martin Deucalion walked into the meeting with only his research partner, only to face several armed men lying in ambush. Deucalion’s partner was injured, and Deucalion was beaten hard enough to cause damage to his vision, but the police arrived in time to see Gerard Argent turn his odd weapon on his own men and the police responded in kind; Gerard Argent was shot on the scene and did not survive to meet the paramedics.
I did ask why I was called into this meeting, and the Deputy—Stilinski, I believe—wanted to hear how I came upon information leading to the ambush. I’ve always been glad to be a quick-thinker, and I spun a tale of an old oddly-paired romance between Deucalion and Alexander Argent that led to Argent’s suicide when he though his family would not approve.
Unsurprisingly, the deputy bought the story, and he left after giving us his thanks for preventing what looked like a horrific attack and murder. After he left, I only questioned whether or not Deucalion was actually Jewish.
He is. Who knew?
Talia wavered in front of me, like heat distortion on a desert highway. I felt at once dizzy and nauseous, and I felt behind me for the chair I had recently occupied. I stumbled a bit, and then I sat down—hard.
“Peter, wake up!”
It is my sister’s voice, cutting through the haze of exhaustion. I have not slept well lately, and my dreams are my only solace.
“Peter! You’ve been having nightmares! They’re not going to help you, you know!”
I struggle to open my eyes, but the sunlight streaming through the window is making it difficult.
She sits there, at my bedside, and she looks so alive. Her hair is slightly singed, but her eyes are bright and alert. There are only small soot stains on her clothes, but they are otherwise in good repair. She might have only stood too close to a fire pit or barbeque, her appearance is so clean and healthy.
But I know differently.
“What do you want? Why are you here, Talia? You’re dead!”
“Oh, don’t I know it, Peter. I’m dead, we’re all dead, and you’re stuck in a hospital. But I’m here to make sure you understand your mistakes.”
I struggle to sit up, but my body is weak. I can barely lift a hand to touch the side of my face, and then I can feel the burn scars that run down my face and onto my chest.
“Which mistakes am I supposed to understand, then? I’m rather a captive audience, here, so you can take your time.”
Talia laughs, rich and deep, and I am almost transported into our childhood. “Oh, Peter, you and I both know that you’ll be out of that bed soon. You might be sleep-drunk, but you’ve certainly been active. Do you really think killing those pitiful men would bring satisfaction?”
The feeling has finally come back to my body and I sit upright. I glance around the room, but it is empty save for me and my phantom dream-sister. The nurse, Jennifer Weatherbee, isn’t due for rounds for some time now.
“I’m doing what I have to do. I have to seek vengeance for the fire, Talia. Nobody is left to mourn but me.”
“And Laura? Did you have to kill her as well?”
“She didn’t understand, Talia! She was Alpha, and she left me…she left Pack behind! When I asked her to help, she laughed at me!”
“Of course she did,” Talia scoffed at me. “Revenge would not bring back the Pack, Peter! Killing those responsible did nothing but attract the attention of Hunters! You acted rashly, Peter, and you must be shown the folly of that!”
Talia reaches across the bed and touches my forehead with her finger.
Pain like I have never felt shoots through my skull and down my spine, and I jerk and writhe, blacking out in an instant.
When I next open my eyes, I am standing in a clearing in the woods—a very familiar clearing.
This is the place we brought the children of the Pack when we needed to exercise them.
If I looked over the ridge behind me, I could probably see the family house from here, but as I can smell faint traces of smoke and ash—lingering as if long forgotten—I will not take that chance. The sight of the burnt husk of my home sickens me.
I hear light footsteps approaching me from the south, too light to be human, and I turn to face my visitor.
It is Laura, sweet Alpha Laura, who left me alone six years prior when she ran from the Hunters.
I remember now: I woke from my coma and I tried to contact her, but I only got through to her voicemail. Laura had run, fast and far, and was not in contact with any of the Hale allies that I could find. I tried for several days, exhausting every old contact that I had remembered from Talia’s datebook, and I left messages everywhere. None were ever returned.
I do remember that Laura would call every so often, to check on any progress that I might have made. The day nurses were always happy to mention if a call came one day or another, assuring me that I had not been forgotten after all. Laura would make her inquiries and make arrangements for the hospital bills to be paid—she even paid extra so that I received better than average food deliveries—but there were no contact numbers to reach her in return.
Somehow, a message that I left got through to her. An intermediate told another ally, who told another intermediate, who passed along the message that I was awake.
And now, after six long years, my niece has come back for me.
I’m certain she tried the hospital first, because that was the logical place for an ailing uncle to be. But I have not willingly spent an entire night in that place since I woke. I don’t trust it. During daylight hours, there are plenty of staff and visitors wandering the halls, but at night there are few. There was a reason I woke after so long, after all.
So she sought me out in the shadow of the home we both shared and lost. Creatures of habit and all that, I suppose.
I watch her come through the underbrush, cautiously stepping over fallen leaves and twigs as her Wolf navigates mostly familiar ground. She looks good—healthy, even—and I hate her for it.
“Peter?” She sounds so nervous, like she can’t possibly believe that I’m actually here, so it must be a trick.
I can’t even muster a small smile for her. “Hello, Laura. It’s so good of you to come.”
She brushes her dark hair from her face, and her eyes flash briefly red at me. I’ll not be intimidated by that now.
“What are you doing out here, Peter? You should be in the hospital, where you’ll be safe.”
“Safe?” I bark laughter at her. “You think I’m safe there? Is that why you left me? Is that why you took your healthy Beta and abandoned me?”
“Peter…I couldn’t care for you, not like you were. But you can come, now, and we’ll be whole again….”
“No! Never whole again, Laura!” I stalk toward her, yearning to scent her even as I hate her for leaving. “I know who did this! I want them to pay!”
Red eyes again. Solid red, glowing in the night. Angry and agitated. “Stop with those thoughts right now, Peter! I won’t lose the rest of my family to Hunters, not after all this time. Derek and I have a home, now. We stay under the radar, and the Hunters don’t bother us.”
“And that makes you happy? Hiding in the shadows and trying to be normal?” I let the bitterness bleed into my voice. “They’ll find you eventually, Laura. They’ll find you unless we take them now, when their guard is down and their defenses are low. I can find them, and we can hunt them like they hunted us!”
She shakes her head in denial. “No, Peter. We have a chance to live our lives now, where we won’t be found. Come with me, and we’ll all be safe.”
She sounds so earnest, I want to believe her. But then I remember the hospital.
“Safe? Like I was when you left me? Do you wonder why I woke now, after so long? A nurse—a beautiful, deadly nurse—tried to kill me while I was helpless, Laura. In the place you put me to keep me safe, I would now be dead if I were human! Her poison kick-started the healing, and I woke confused and dazed and all alone. And I could not. Feel. My. PACK! You left me to die, Laura!” I take a deep breath to calm myself. “I have to wonder if you only returned to see me dead yourself, as you took no personal care to look after me. Did my waking up ruin your plans for a perfect new life?”
Laura gasped and covered her mouth in shock. “No! It’s not like that! They told me you might never wake, and I wasn’t in a good place to care for you. I always wanted you to be okay! I promise!”
I look at her with disdain. She was so young to become Alpha, but the years have not seasoned her. She became a shadow, weaker than the light and always hiding. And she took Derek with her into the dark, leaving me as a sacrifice so that they could live.
“I fought to get into that house, Laura, to save them. Where were you when that happened? Could you not feel them dying? And I have the chance to get revenge for all of those deaths! I only want your help. If you can’t give that, then leave me again. Maybe they’ll actually kill me this time, and you won’t have to worry about me again.”
“Don’t say that, Peter!” She reaches for me, to hold me close, but I don’t think I can trust her. “If I knew for certain who they were—their names or identities—I would bring them to justice. But killing them would only bring more grief to our family.”
I smirk at her meanly. “But I do know, Laura. I know the big names, and some of the followers. I’ve already dealt with one—a peon, really, who was left behind much like I was. I want them all, though, and I’ll do it myself if I have to.”
Laura argues with me, wanting to distance herself from violence and death, and I listen with half an ear. Something here is not ringing true. I clearly remember this conversation, as this is my dream, but I also remember a different conversation happening in this same place in the past.
Or is it in the same place in the future?
Perhaps the same place in a different plane?
Images shift before my eyes, overlapping in a kaleidoscope of real/not real.
I see myself slashing at Laura, opening her throat without a thought and ripping her body in half.
I see myself agreeing to call in the law so that the Hunters that destroyed my family can be dealt with in an official manner.
I see myself begging Laura to kill for me, and driving her away with my efforts.
I see myself running away from my reluctant Alpha, bringing destruction in my wake.
I see so many things, and I cannot tell what is real and what is fantasy.
Perhaps it is all fantasy.
The images blur and blind me, and I close my eyes to them, wanting to never see them again.
I open my eyes and see that Laura is sitting beside my hospital bed. There is faint light coming from a window, but I know it is artificial—night has fallen and I can hear the sounds of nature waking up. I open my mouth to speak, to ask what Laura is doing here—what I am doing here—but no noise will pass my lips.
I feel weak.
My skin is tight and painful. My eyes are dry and burning. I can’t move my hands, or even my fingers.
But I can hear, and Laura is speaking.
Sort of. She is muttering to herself, mostly, but I can almost hear the words—if I still my mind and strain to hear.
“…so sorry that you’re here. It should have been me. I know that, now. I have no idea what I was thinking, going to that stupid assembly. I should have been the one to try and save them. And now they’re all gone, and you’re in here. I don’t know what I’m going to do!”
Ahh! Now I understand what I am feeling. I am weak from trying to fight the flames and smoke that took away my family. My skin is tight because of the burns.
I am hyper-aware, but all Laura can see is a weakened spirit. She does not know that I am listening to her, or she would probably be saying something profound about my recovery.
I close my eyes, already tired of her self-pity. If she would have been the one to try and breach the magical circle trapping the family, the Alpha spark of the Hale Pack would have been lost. It would have served no purpose.
Far better was it for me to have been the one to suffer.
“But are you suffering, Peter?”
That voice. I never thought to hear it again. Talia, my sister, dead now from the fire.
And yet, she speaks to me.
I open my eyes, which are no longer dry and painful, and I see Talia’s silhouette beside me. Her image is blurred to me, but it is very distinctly her.
“Alpha,” I whisper, and the shadowy figure turns toward me.
“Are you suffering, Peter?” she asks again. “Are you regretting your actions, or are you plotting your revenge still?”
“How are you here, Talia? You died. I heard your cries under the roar of the flames.”
The shadow leans forward to be closer to me, and I could finally see her clearly. She is burned, of course, but the burns look remarkably fresh. The skin is still bubbling in places and blood is oozing from her left eye. Still, she is beautiful to me.
I thought I had lost her.
I glance around the room, trying to spy the others: Robert, my brother-in-law, young Cora, baby Matthew, my darling wife-to-be Amanda—they are not here.
“Peter, look at me.” Talia’s voice draws my attention and I turn back to her. “Are you suffering?”
“Of course I am, Talia! I lost my family! You’re dead, and I had to witness that happen. Laura is planning to leave me behind when she takes Derek on the run. To be alone, without a Pack, is something no werewolf wants!”
Talia reaches out with a charred, oozing hand, and gently brushes my brow. I lean into the touch and it calms me. “I miss you, Talia,” I whisper, and she smiles at me.
“I don’t want you to suffer, Peter. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’ve been here, guiding you through the long nights.”
For a moment I don’t know what she’s talking about. And then the memories—all of the memories—slam into me, all at once.
Taking Derek to summer basketball camp when he was twelve.
Shopping with Laura for her first prom dress.
Proposing to Amanda on the wharf in San Francisco.
Standing beside Talia when she accepts the Alpha spark from our grandfather.
Holding infant Laura just minutes after her birth, while Talia smiles beside me.
Driving the children to school in the first day, every year since Laura started kindergarten.
Flicking flour at Amanda during pie preparations before Thanksgiving.
Every high and low in my life shoots through my brain at high speed like the world’s worst movie. There are only images, no sound, so I have to supply a memory of my wife’s voice—a voice I shall never hear again.
I have to pretend to hear the music that Laura is singing to as we drive to the local mall.
I feel tears pricking at my eyes as I see Cora witness her first short snowfall.
I no longer know what year it is or how long I’ve been laying here. And all the while, Talia is sitting beside me with her fingers brushing along my brow.
Seconds—minutes—hours later, when I am sobbing and choking, Talia lifts her hand and watches as I try to compose myself.
I try to focus on her, but the light is dimming and she is starting to fade from my view.
“What would you do, Peter? What would you do to change everything?” Her voice fades into nothingness, and I close my wet eyes and drift to sleep.
I open my eyes to a foggy, dimly-lit room. The walls are there—I can hear sound bounce from them—but they are indistinct, the ceiling is too high to see, and the floor is padded like a mossy forest clearing.
This is no hospital room.
This is not my home.
But I am not alone here, as I first thought. I can see a familiar shape in front of me: young Derek, my nephew as he appeared in high school. He is slightly slouched, because he felt that if he made himself appear smaller then nobody would notice that he was stronger than everyone else. It was an odd theory, but it worked for him.
I recognize his expression; he has fallen in love.
I have seen this expression only twice in his short life. Once was shortly before the fire, the other time….
“Derek,” I say to the figure in front of me, “I’m sure this girl is very fine and proper, but you should not rush into anything. You are a werewolf, and she is human, and you are bound to feel things more deeply than she will at first. Take your time and let her get to know you. That’s what I did with Amanda.”
“But what if my Wolf scares her away?” His voice is plaintive and faint, as if he was some distance away rather than right in front of me. His face is blurry as well, but I can still see the expression of almost-hopelessness. “She barely likes me now as it is.”
I reach out to touch his shoulder, but the distance is greater than I thought. “If she likes you, if she truly likes you, then she will also like the Wolf. But you must be patient with her. If you rush things, you will scare her off, and it will have nothing to do with being a werewolf. She’s young and talented, and she has interests other than you or dating. Get to know and understand those interests, Derek, and she will—in turn—get to know and understand you.”
A small smile appears. “Thanks Uncle Peter. I’ll be patient, I promise. I’ll get to know her really well, and I won’t even stalk her.”
The fog thickens and Derek disappears. A noise behind me makes me turn around, and I see another blurry figure: Laura this time, leaning as if against a wall, though there is no wall there.
“You’ll make a fine Alpha one day, Laura,” I tell her. “You have a good heart and a smart head.”
She smiles at me and says, “I have a lot to live up to, though. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready.”
I walk to her, making sure not to try and touch. “Don’t try to rush it, Laura. You have plenty of time to learn. And if we’re all very lucky, your mother will decide to stay Alpha instead of retiring, and you can form a daughter-Pack with a small Alpha spark. Then Talia will be there to guide you through your first rough spots.”
Her smile grows brighter, almost negating the fog that surrounds us. “I hope she’ll be around for a very long time. I’d like to have her help me form my own Pack. She is such a confident Alpha.”
“I’ll do everything in my power to make certain that you have everything you need to become a strong Alpha just like her. And Derek will be your Second, like I am for your mother. The Hales will have a strong and healthy dynasty, and we’ll protect Beacon Hills for many years to come.”
“Thanks for that, Peter,” she says to me. “I would be just as proud to have you by my side, you know.”
Again the fog thickens, and Laura fades from sight.
Again a noise behind me makes me turn around.
This time, it is not a family member that I see; it is Deucalion.
He stands formally with his hands folded behind his back and his shoulders squared. I was never afraid of him, and I think he appreciated that. At least I hope he does.
“You’ve been doing research on me,” he says softly, a hint of threat in his voice.
“I have,” I reply, not bowing to the threat. “I’ve had reason to research, you know. We don’t like interlopers in our territory.”
“And you think I’m an interloper?”
I allow myself a smirk. “But of course. Talia is Alpha here, and she has had no cause to invite you. I can tell that you only bring problems with you.”
“Ahh, I see,” he says with a grin. “I only came to ask for help, but you don’t seem to see it that way.”
“We have no help to offer you,” I reply. “Gerard Argent is a bitter old man who hates you on principle. Talia has never been on the man’s radar, and yet you want to place her directly within his sights. That strikes me as a problem. I see only a lone Alpha that plans to drag others down to the depths of disease. You will bring only destruction to those you claim to want to help, and asking my Alpha to aid you will destroy this Pack. I can’t allow that to happen, you know.”
His grin is almost feral. “And you think you can stand up to me? You think you can stop me from getting what I want?”
I bare my teeth at him in return. “I think that if you try to drag Talia into your issues, and if you try to bring those issues to my territory, then I will end you. I will personally make certain that your Pack will know the trouble you bring, and you will lose the Alpha spark that makes you so formidable. You have no place here. Take your delusions of treaty and unity and leave us all alone!”
Deucalion shimmers and shakes and blinks out suddenly, leaving me in the fog-filled room alone.
There is no other sound; only my breathing.
Bright light flashes as if lightning was striking in the air around me. It’s all very ominous, though the fog does not grow any darker.
There is no pounding thunder, but I do hear a death-rattle breathing behind me.
I turn to see what is making the horrible noise, and a huge figure rises out of the foggy depths.
It is huge and misshapen, a deformity beyond nature. Long limbs end in razor-like talons and tufts of coarse hair cover most of the body, so that the bald patches are emphasized. The creature-shape turns to face me, and I am struck by glowing blood-red eyes and sharp, dripping fangs in a snarling mouth.
I am aghast at this figure, and I try to scent it because it is clearly a supernatural creature, but the only scent I can find is my own.
And then it hits me—this is me, as an Alpha.
Talia could, as a rare Alpha, transform into a full wolf form. She was larger than a natural wolf, but she had a distinct canine form with four paws and a tail and multi-directional ears. Only her eyes betrayed what she truly was, because no wolf in nature will have red eyes.
But this…this version of me….
It is beyond un-natural. It is an abomination.
Clearly I was not meant to be Alpha, if this is the form that I will take.
Perhaps it is injury. Perhaps it is insanity. Whatever the reason, this creature would strike fear into the heart of any creature that happened upon it.
Alphas are meant to nurture and protect. This…this thing…it is not a protector. It is not a nurturer. It is a horror!
The creature stalks toward me in a rather menacing manner, but I stand my ground.
It snarls at me. I growl back at it.
It lurches toward me. I bat its paw away from my face.
I laugh. “Ha! Really? Is that the best you can do?”
It takes a step toward me, but I stick out my foot and trip it.
“You have no power over me! I am not you! I will never be you! I can rise above my own desperation and I can over-power you! You will not destroy my life and my Pack!”
With each word, the creature shrank a little bit.
Slowly, the abominable Peter-Alpha went from gigantic to man-sized to dog-sized to mouse-sized.
With each word, my self-confidence grew.
Slowly, I went from feeling like a lonely failure, to feeling like a normal human, to feeling like I could be a valuable Pack member.
I began to no long feel as if I was alone in the world. The Pack was fractured, certainly, but I could repair it.
I stalked over to the now-ant-sized abomination and I stepped on it.
There was a huge roar of thunder and the floor below my feet began to shake like an earthquake. The flashing lights were back and I began to stumble from one side of the room to the other, but I never hit a wall.
I was dizzy and disoriented when the commotion stopped. The room was a bit brighter now, but the fog was just a thick as it was before. I seemed to be finally alone, so I decided to take the time to explore a bit.
I began to walk to the left, holding my hands slightly in front of me so that I could feel a wall if I hit it. I walked for several minutes trying to use my werewolf senses to stay on course, but I found no wall.
I was debating turning in another direction when a noise drew my attention. It came from behind me and slightly to the right, so I slowly turned my head in that direction.
Instead of the usual fog, I saw a brightly-lit fireplace with a rag rug and armchair in front of it.
It looked rather…homey.
It also looked familiar.
The mantle was the same as used to be in the Hale house parlor; carved oak and maple, with embossed florets at the corners. The top of the mantle was white marble with silvery-black veins running through it. That mantle-top didn’t even survive the fire, the heat was so great.
The rag rug was made using old baby clothes from each Hale child, going back to the time of my great-grandmother. My mother made that rug with Talia, painstakingly cutting and braiding each shirt, skirt, and blanket until a rainbow pattern was formed in the center.
The armchair was my favorite place to sit and read on winter evenings. The fire was usually bright enough that I never needed to light the floor lamp that stood behind it. It was an antique oak chair with striped upholstery. I helped my grandfather re-cover it when I was fifteen.
I thought my heart would stop beating at the sight of it all.
As I stood staring at the idyllic scene, a striped ottoman appeared in front of the armchair. And then the wood and brass floor lamp appeared behind the chair.
A wheel-tossed pottery vase was now on top of the mantle, filled with dried pussy-willows and wild lilies.
A stylized brass candle holder appeared next, complete with beeswax candle.
I walked to the armchair and reached out to touch it, to see if it was real.
It felt solid enough. The worn upholstery was soft to my touch. It would have needed to be redone soon. Talia and Robert were in the process of choosing the new fabric. They had decided this Christmas to have it done by Christmas next year. And then the fire happened in January, and all was for naught.
A book appeared on the ottoman; leather-bound with gilt edging and a tooled cover. I knew that book well. It was the Family History, Volume Six; the volume that included my own grandparents and parents. There were enough blank pages in the back of the book that I could add information about myself and Talia, and her husband and children, and my own future wife.
I had spent many an hour sitting in this chair, reading this book.
I told the family history to the children of the house instead of fairy tales, because fairy tales only have happy endings and are not practical. Often Derek would be sitting at my feet while Laura and Cora shared the ottoman, and I would read aloud before bedtime.
I picked up the book and the weight of it felt comforting in my hand. I gently opened to a random section, certain that it would be blank, but familiar words and handwriting filled the pages.
Carefully, I sat in my usual place in the armchair, and I opened the book to the final written section. I leaned back in the chair and began to read about Talia’s courtship with Robert, and the birth of their oldest child. With each word, I could feel tears forming in my eyes, but I refused to cry.
I had this now, this fantasy of my home, and I would not see it ruined by sorrow.
I do not know how long I passed the time there, reading words I already knew by heart. The sound of softly falling footsteps drew my attention from the book, and I looked up to see Talia approaching from where should have been the kitchen.
She looked as she did when I saw her last; bright and healthy, a little tired from working all day in the garden. She was still in her gardening clothes: worn denim pants with patches on the knees, a wash-worn sweatshirt with painted hand-prints of her children decorating the front. Her feet were bare, but I knew her wooden clogs would have been left by the back door.
She smiled at me.
“Are you reading that again?” she asked as she took a seat on the ottoman. “Those words are never going to change, you know.”
“I know,” I reply as I close the book and set it on the floor beside the chair. “But I like the familiar words. They’re safe when the world is so uncertain.”
As I spoke the gentle words, Talia’s appearance changed.
Old denim and cotton became stylish satin and silk as her gardening clothes shifted into her office wear. Her hair was upswept into a careful twist that showed off her elegant neck and the pearls that Robert gave her for their anniversary. On her feet were the silk stockings that she always preferred to nylon pantyhose, and her hands were holding her expensive high heeled shoes. She always took them off at the door when she got home from work. She said that she needed to look imposing at the office or in the courtroom, but home was for comfort.
“So,” she said to me, “Derek seems…pre-occupied lately.”
I nod absently. “Yes, I’ve noticed that.”
One delicate eyebrow lifts in query. “And is that all you’ve noticed?”
I fold my hands together in my lap and lean toward her. “Talia, if I tell you something possibly horrible, do you swear not to react badly?”
Her eyes widen in shock. “Why? Are you going to tell me that Derek has impregnated some girl?”
I shake my head and offer a contrite grin. “Not exactly. In fact, I rather think that Derek himself does not know how horrible this thing is that I must tell you.”
Talia sets down her shoes and folds her hands over her knees. “Okay, now I’m intrigued. I promise not to react badly.”
She means the promise, but I can tell that she’s not really taking this seriously. “I mean it, Talia. If you react badly, you’ll do severe emotional damage to Derek. If you don’t react at all, you could bring physical harm to this family. There is a situation, but it has not progressed past the harmless phase just yet.”
Her entire demeanor changed.
Talia went from home-maker and lawyer to AlphaPrimeBitch in mere seconds.
Now she was taking me seriously. “I’m listening,” she said, and I knew it to be true.
“Derek, as you know,” I began carefully, “was emotionally wrung after the unfortunate incident with Paige Krassekova. And that is completely understandable. First love is hard enough when both parties survive. But I’ve noticed a faint scent of perfume about him, and it is entirely too feminine for it to be Derek’s new preferred scent.”
“So?” she asked as she began to relax. “You think he has a girlfriend again? Should I be worried about roaming Alphas again?”
“Not at all,” I say as I shake my head. “I know there is a female in his life, but he won’t talk about her. At all. Neither to me nor to his older sister, who is his best friend. And he’s been late coming home after school when he doesn’t have basketball practice.
“And he’s looking rather shifty whenever someone mentions dating, in case you’ve not noticed.”
Talia frowns at me. “I actually had noticed that, but I figured it was because he lost his last girlfriend tragically. Is that not the case?”
“It is not the case, Alpha mine. And that case leads to my next information: Do you know who has been seen publically in Beacon Heights? Also Oakdale and San Francisco?”
“They are public places, Peter. They, in fact, are cities where people live and work and shop and visit. I’m sure lots of people are publicly seen there.”
I nod in agreement. “Yes, but Kate Argent is not normally one of those people.”
This news brings Talia to full alert. “An Argent? Seen near here? You’re certain?”
“I am. And as usual, I did some research when I found out. And I learned that Ms. Argent has been a very busy woman in the past three years.”
Talia’s claws are beginning to grow dangerously long, and I am beginning to fear for her silk stockings. “Tell me, Peter, what your research has shown.”
It is a struggle for me to keep my seat, but I do not want to anger my Alpha and this information is going to be difficult to impart.
“In the past three years, three small Packs—located in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada—have been obliterated. They, specifically, have been burned out. All fires were ruled accidental, of course, but they did all have something specific in common.”
“Do tell, please, Peter.” Talia’s voice is close to a growl. “This suspense is killing me.”
“Ahem, yes, well—all three Packs were close family units that lived in one house. And all three Packs had adolescent male members. I placed some discreet phone calls—possibly impersonating legal professionals—and found out that each of those young men were in new relationships. The descriptions given of the lovely couples all match to a T: teenage boys dating a slightly older blonde woman. I was able to obtain a photograph of Ms. Argent—it wasn’t difficult, Talia, so don’t judge me—and two of my contacts were able to confirm that she was the woman seen with those young men before their families were killed.”
Talia’s Alpha-red eyes glowed fiercely at me as her anger and fear settled around her like a shawl. She rose to her feet and began to pace furiously in front of the fireplace. She was also muttering furiously, making noises about calling the Hunter contacts that she had and grounding Derek for life if he was involved with an older woman.
I stood quietly and backed away from the chair and rag rug and fireplace, turning my back on the memory-that-wasn’t.
Slowly, one-by-one, all of those comforts began to disappear: the floor lamp, the pottery vase with pussy willows, the book, the ottoman, the rag rug, the armchair, and finally the mantle and fireplace. All that remained was Talia.
She turned to face me then, once all that was left was the fog, and her appearance began to shift and change again.
Business suit to gardening clothes.
Gardening clothes to hostess dress.
Hostess dress to jeans-and-sweater.
And Talia herself shifted from made-up to grubby to flour-covered to burned and singed.
I began to feel dizzy again; sleepy and slightly nauseous. I wanted to sit down, but I was unsure of the floor even though I was standing on something.
“I’m so sorry, Peter,” said Talia as she walked toward me. “I never wanted you to suffer or to lose your way. You were my treasured brother and my Second. I should have been there to protect you. Instead, I sent you away.”
I stumbled to my knees and grasped my head. “No. Don’t say that, Talia, You didn’t send me away. You asked me to check some facts for you—I don’t remember what exactly. Everything was fine at home. You weren’t in any danger. The children were fine. You and Robert were making pies to take to a charity event. All was well.”
I was gasping in pain as my head pounded with tension.
I could feel my skin starting to burn, as if I was in the burning house again.
I began to smell smoke where once there was fog.
I wanted nothing more than to curl into a ball and make the world go away.
The pain of memories was unbearable.
“Peter, I can make the suffering stop.” Talia was close to me now, almost touching me. “You’ve done so well; much better that I had ever hoped. And you’ve grown so much since the fire. If you want me to end this for you, I will grant you that wish.”
The fog is lifting in this torture chamber, and the light is brightening. I can feel the floor now, and it is not actually a floor.
The cushioning is a mattress, not moss.
The walls that I tried so hard to reach are now visible, as is a doorway.
There is a window near the bed that I am laying on, and dim sunlight is beginning to come into the room.
Dawn is approaching.
A new day.
A new beginning
Only, it’s not a new beginning. I recognize the hospital room. I waited here to die after the fire. I was burned horribly all over my body, but my face, neck, and hands were the worst. I could not see. I could not speak.
Not that there was anyone to speak to.
I was all alone here, day after day.
A nurse or orderly would bring meals, but I could not taste.
A different nurse would change my bandages, but the pain was so great that I blocked out all sensation in order to protect my mind.
My burns were scrubbed to clear away dead skin. I wasn’t healing as quickly as I should have because I was disconnected from my Alpha.
My Wolf was damaged and my body was broken and my mind was splintered.
The Alpha that should have been caring for me had left town—left me—and there was nobody to keep me from going off the rails.
“Peter,” said Talia’s voice from nowhere and everywhere at once, “You need to rest, to sleep. You need to heal and regenerate. You need to come out of your head and learn to live again.”
I feel tears forming at the corners of my eyes. I am not sure if the cause is the pain that I feel or the emotions that are overloading my brain and body.
My last conscious thought is that of running to the edge of our property and seeing the large house enveloped in flame and smoke. I could hear the cries and screams of my family inside those burning walls, but I could not break through to save them.
I remember clawing against an invisible barrier, burning my hands and arms in an effort to reach my loved ones. The smoke choked me as I screamed for help—help that was not coming, because no alarms had been sounded. My clothes burned around me as I watched through broken windows as my family tried in vain to break free of the house.
I did not know at the time that two were still alive; that Derek and Laura had decided to attend a school sports assembly and were gone since before dinner. I had only returned myself from a trip out of town, Talia having sent me to learn about possible Hunter activity near our territory borders. She did that often, after the Paige Krassekova incident. Possibly she blamed me for the girl’s death, because I was the one that told Derek to seek the bite for the girl. Talia looked at me differently after that, and now she would look at me no longer.
“You’ve been having bad dreams, Peter,” Talia’s voice echoed in my head, “and those dreams would only lead to your destruction or death. I am here to soothe your dreams. I am here to make certain you account for your actions in this life.”
I feel her sit beside me on the hospital bed, and I whimper in pain at the movement of the mattress. She is solid for an hallucination, and the warmth of her non-existent body wars with the heat of the burns on my arm and torso. Her touch on my face is cool against the bandages. I try to open my eyes, to see her once again, but the soft gauze covering half of my face makes it difficult. I try to lean into her touch, but movement is hindered by the straps holding me into the bed.
“You’ve been having bad dreams for a long time now, Peter,” Talia says to me softly. “You sought revenge on those who killed us, but you never thought about what that would ultimately do to you or to the rest of your Pack. We were destroyed by fire and smoke, but you were destroyed by bad dreams, and it hurts me so much to see you like this. Your bad dreams reach me, you know. I could see you suffering and I could hear your tormented thoughts as you slowly healed.
“I only wanted what was best for you, and you took every opportunity to turn it around and make bad plans. You made the bad dreams a reality, Peter, and you dragged my children along with you. My heart–my cold, dead heart–ached for you as you dreamed those bad dreams, and I longed for a way to reach you so that I could help you heal.”
“Talia,” I whisper, “I’m so sorry. I am so very, very sorry. Leave me, please. Let me suffer alone. All alone…I’m all alone….”
“Calm yourself, Mr. Hale,” a strange voice says, and I manage to open my eyes to a brightly lit hospital room. A dark-haired nurse is checking some machinery near my bed and I can hear the constant beep-beep-beep of a heart monitor. I look at the nurse’s face, but her features are muddy to me; the bandages keep me from focusing on my surroundings. She seems to be smiling in encouragement, but I can’t really tell. “You’ve been through a tough time,” she says in an astounding act of understatement. “You need to rest.”
After a few more checks, she turned off the light over my bed and leaves the room, leaving the door slightly ajar. The soft noises in the hallway begin to lull me back to unconsciousness. I drift off and allow the images play through my mind.
Cora at her first ice-cream party in the first grade.
Laura begging to go to the movies with a boy when she was only thirteen.
Derek scoring the winning basket at the state championship game his freshman year.
Talia walking down a wooded pathway to meet Robert on her wedding day.
Laura sitting at the wheel of Talia’s station wagon as I teach her to drive.
Cora carving a jack o’lantern on the front porch with her father while Talia reads the newspaper on the porch swing.
My grandfather gifting the Alpha spark to Talia when we are still in our early twenties, because he wanted to travel the world before he died.
The long night passes, and the images still continued to flow like a raging river of regret. All my wonderful past moments disappeared in the burst of a Hunter’s match, and my future moments loom over me, dark and stormy.
Coming back to awareness in a dark hospital room with my murderous caregiver looming over me.
Stalking a drunken Hunter Duo through the woods at the edge of the Preserve and slashing them with my claws when they fall.
Slowly ripping the former arson investigator apart on the school bus while he begged for mercy.
Digging my claws deep into Kate Argent’s throat inside the burnt husk of my former family home.
Practically driving poor Lydia Martin mad in my attempt to gain a sort of immortality.
I had a wonderful life before the fire, with a loving family and a promising career. I could have spent my time enjoying that family, but I had plotted against them instead.
Everything good in my life, I squandered away, even when I was ‘reborn’. I could have—should have—taken the time to help Laura, and then Derek, build up the Hale Pack so that the remaining members had the solid support that I had when I was growing up. Instead, I plotted against them all and tried to build my own Pack with a weak-minded teenager.
As I drift further into my mind, the dream images fade and darkness is all that I see.
“Peter, wake up.”
I struggle to open my eyes, and I see my sister, Talia, looking younger than I remember.
I blink, trying harder to open my eyes. “Wha—what?”
“You’ve been having bad dreams,” she says. An understatement if I ever heard one. Talia reached out and brushes cool fingertips across my brow. “Wake up now. You wanted to be up to help send the kids off to school.”
I notice, now, that this dream is more solid somehow. The colors are more vivid, more real. And I can smell the house; the faint scents of coffee and juice from somewhere beyond this room. Talia smells more real as well.
Movement behind her catches my eye, and I look to the doorway.
Laura—it has to be Laura—standing in the hall, grinning at me as only a fourteen-year-old can; bold and mischievous and slightly shy. She is dressed in dark jeans and a glittery blue sweater and bright, new sneakers. I remember that outfit well; she nagged at me to buy it for her for the first day of Junior High.
Beside her was Derek, all of eleven years old, hiding in the shadows. I remember now, that he had a new haircut and his ears were quite prominent. Now that I was more awake, I could scent his embarrassment.
I return my gaze to my sister and she smiles brightly at me.
This was real. This is real. This is my new “now”.
I close my eyes and begin to weep in relief.