What Happened Was…

Fandom/Genre: Teen Wolf
Relationship(s): Stiles Stilinski, Sheriff John Stilinski, Talia Hale, Derek Hale, Scott McCall, The Teen Wolf Posse
Content Rating: Mature
Tags: Magical Stiles, BAMF Stiles, Non-Canon, GFY
Summary: An in-depth look at what happened in the first story.

A/N:   This is what happened after Future Stiles went back to his own time.
**This has been edited for content, since I had holes that needed fixed. I hate holes.

Disclaimer: Teen Wolf is owned by Jeff Davis, MTV, and other parties. I’m only playing with it because they don’t know how to treat their characters. I own nothing but the words.

 

Chapter One: At The Beginning

December 4, 2004

Three adults sat around a small kitchenette table, looking over a small sheaf of papers; Talia Hale, Alpha of the Hale Werewolf Pack of Beacon Hills, Sheriff Konstancji ‘John’ Stilinski, Sheriff of Beacon County, California, and Deputy Michael Reed, the Sheriff’s most-trusted deputy.  The sheaf of papers was a list left behind by a time-travelling enigma, and the three were puzzling over how best to deal with the knowledge they had in front of them.

“I think,” said Talia, “That I should best hand copy this list three times; once for each of us.  I don’t know much about magic, but I think this copy will fade quickly now that FutureStiles has left us.”

John looked pained.  “Can we call him, oh, FS perhaps?  That boy was for all intents and purposes my son, and I’d rather not confuse him with the boy I’ll be picking up from his best friend’s house in two hours.”

Talia smiled.  “Of course.  ‘FS’ it is.  He risked much to give us this information, so I’d rather not lose it.  Especially if it will help me get your son trained as my new Emissary.  My current Emissary does not practice much practical magic, so he’ll be of no help to us now.”

 

Reed looked up.  “What does he practice, then?”

 

Talia gave a rueful grin.  “Besides the clever art of information withholding?  He practices veterinary medicine.  He has a druidic background, and was once a clever advisor.  I’m not sure what has happened with him lately.  He hasn’t quite been the same for several years now, keeping things close to himself when he should have been giving me full disclosure on activities that affect my territory.”

John frowned as he looked over the list.  “So, my son is going to be your best bet for a replacement?  That seems like a lot of responsibility for a little kid.”

Talia shook her head.  “I’ll not have him acting as such for many years, Sheriff.  I’ll have him trained properly, in as many traditions and crafts as possible, over the course of many years.  He, well, ‘FS’ said he was told that he had a ‘spark’, which is a hint of magic.  If he was told this relatively recently, then he was around sixteen years old when he was told.  And apparently he was told by my current Emissary, who by that time had all but dropped out of practicing anything magical, so Deaton possibly could only see a small amount of magic in ‘FS’.  I’ll make some calls, get some advice myself, and choose someone who can tell how powerful your son has the potential to be.  My brother, Frederick, belongs to a Pack in Arizona.  Their Emissary may be able to assist with finding a teacher for your son.”

Talia reached out and touched John’s hand.  “Sheriff, we were given a gift; the gift of knowing.  I don’t know if our memories will fade, or if we’ll always be burdened with knowing what has happened and what should change, but we know now and we have a chance to make things better.  Your wife is going to die; we can’t change that.  But we can change how that event affects your son and your life.  We know that a crazed hunter is targeting my son and my family; we can change that, and that one difference will change so much more.  This will be difficult, for all of us, but we can do it, and I think we owe it to ‘FS’ to do this.”

John smiled.  “You’re right.  We do owe him that.  I guess there’s no way to know what or when we’ll all forget, huh?”

“No, but if we make casual changes to our regular schedules, then the impact may be lessened.  It could all blend into our timeline seamlessly, and any ripples won’t even be noticed.  I have a feeling that Derek will be the first to forget our visitor.  He’s younger, has limited knowledge of what was told to me, and he’s never seen these lists.  After I make the copies, I’ll gently bring up the hunter situation.  I’ll be happy to play it the way ‘FS’ intended and let human law take care of the situation.”

John sat back in his seat, and then made a motion to rise.  “Well, then, I guess I have some protocol changes to make in the department.  Reed, if you’re all right with this, you just became my permanent ride-along partner.”

Deputy Reed stood and walked toward the door.  “I was never comfortable with the Sheriff of our beloved county riding out alone anyway.  Too many idiots around the back roads that like to ambush police cars; it’s just not safe.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜˜

Stiles gathered his notebooks and comics into his backpack as he waited for his father to pick him up.  They were going to the hospital to visit his mother.  Again.

Stiles had been spending a lot of time at the hospital lately, because his mother’s health was not getting better.  Stiles had been keeping the real reason from his best friend, Scott, but Stiles had overheard the doctors and his father talking.

Frontotemperal Dementia.

Stiles looked it up.

Sometimes ‘Google’ was a terrifying thing.

The front part of his mother’s brain—the part that controls emotion and reason and judgment—was shrinking.

Stiles had been seeing the signs for a long time now: she could have trouble reading things sometimes, and would ask Stiles to read for her.  She would have trouble moving.  She lost time sometimes, or would forget what they were doing when Stiles was alone with her.  Sometimes she would be talking, and her words…would just not make sense.

Stiles was only ten-years-old, but he wasn’t stupid.  She wasn’t getting better, and being in the hospital meant that she would never be coming home.

So, Stiles was in the hospital a lot when he wasn’t in school or at Scott’s house.  He didn’t mind, really.  He loved his mother, and wanted to spend as much time as possible with her.

Plus, Christmas was coming up soon.  Stiles had gifts to plan, and decorations to find for his mother’s room.  Today in class, he made a card for her, telling her all the things that he loved about the holidays with her.  His mom would love it.

The Sheriff’s cruiser pulled up outside, so Stiles called back to Ms. McCall that he was headed out.  He picked up his backpack and opened the door to leave.  The Sheriff intercepted him on the sidewalk and drew him into a deep hug.

“What is it?  Dad!”  Stiles was panicked.  “Is it mom?”

 

The Sheriff pulled back.  “No, nothing is wrong.  So far as I know, your mom is fine.  I just…I think we should start a new tradition, okay?”

 

The boy frowned in concern.  “What kind of tradition?”

 

The Sheriff laid his hand on Stiles’ shoulder and he looked deeply into his son’s eyes.  “I think…I think that we should always tell each other how we’re feeling—maybe hug, or something—and we should always tell each other something that we’re proud of.  Every time we see each other for the first time that day.  Like now, for instance.  I love you, Stiles, very much.  And I’m so proud of how you’re handling all of this, so close to Christmas.”

 

Stiles wrapped his arms around his father’s waist.  “I love you, too, dad.  And, um…I’m proud of you for wanting to tell me feelings stuff.”

 

John laughed.  “Well, for a first time, that was okay.  I think we’ll have to work on it.  But, it’s good, yeah?”

 

“Yeah, dad.  It’s good.  It’s real good.  Now, can we get a burger before going to see mom?  I think it’s past her dinner-time.”

 

John opened the door of the cruiser and stowed Stiles’ backpack in the back seat.  “Maybe we should start eating better, kiddo.  No sense in slacking on our health now, when we have to pay for it later.”

 

“Okay—so a burger and a salad, then.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

The next day was Sunday, and Stiles was loaded with catalogues to show his mother.  He walked through the hospital toward the elevators with his father, and they met two people carrying boxes loaded with flowers and plants; a dark-haired woman Stiles remembered from a few days ago, and a teen boy several years older than Stiles.  He was introduced as ‘Derek’, and he seemed really shy but friendly.  After a long visit with his mother, the two knocked on his mother’s room door and Derek offered to take Stiles to the cafeteria for food while his father had alone-time with his mom.

Stiles knew he could be chatty at the best of times; his ADHD pretty much made sure that he couldn’t sit still or be quiet unless he was sleeping, and even then he knew from the state of his bed in the morning that sleep wasn’t quiet either.

Still, Derek seemed to be not annoyed as he listened to Stiles prattle on about school and Christmas decorations and books.  Stiles was polite enough ask questions about Derek’s interests and what it was like to volunteer at the hospital.  Stiles was even interested in the stories Derek told about his knitting lessons.  Of course, hearing that Derek was knitting for his mother made Stiles think about his mother—and one tradition that Stiles couldn’t perform by himself.

“We bake cookies every year.  The recipes are odd—some are old, because they came from mom’s family way, way back, but some are recipes that mom made up by herself.  I mean, we do make the plain old chocolate chip cookies like everyone else, but the special ones are just for us.  And Dad works a lot, and I can’t use the oven on my own yet.”

 

Derek frowned.  “I’m old enough to use an oven.  Maybe I can come over sometime and we can bake together.  Or I can ask my mom to bring you to our house, and we can bake there.”

 

“You can cook?”

 

“Baking is not the same thing as cooking, but, yeah, I can.  My family owns a restaurant, and my dad is the head chef.  My mom’s sister, Regan, is a pastry chef.  I’ve been cooking since I could walk practically.  We’ll get you all set, I promise.  And it can be a good surprise for your mother.”

 

When Stiles climbed into bed that night, he was sure he had made a new friend.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

December 6, 2004

 

Talia Hale called her son, Derek, into her office after dinner.

“I want to talk to you about something very serious, Derek.  You’re not in trouble.  I should tell you that up front.  You’re not in trouble, but you could be key in protecting this family.”

 

Derek sat in front of his mother’s desk.  “I’m not much help, mom—I mean, Alpha.  After what happened to Paige, I doubt I could ever be a help to the family.  I’m just a screw-up.”

 

Talia frowned at her son.  “Who said you’re a screw-up?  Derek, you are my bright boy, and you have never screwed anything up.  What happened to Paige was unfortunate, and I know Peter is remorseful, but it was not your fault.”

 

Tears filled Derek’s eyes.  “I killed her, mom.  I really, really liked her, and I killed her.”

 

Talia rounded her desk and gathered Derek close in her arms.  “Derek, you ended her pain.  She rejected the Bite—she was dying already.  All you could do was love her and stop her suffering, and you did that for her.  Derek, what you did was painful, but loving, and it wasn’t screwing up.”

Holding his chin, Talia raised Derek’s face to hers, and she kissed his forehead.

“Now, Derek, What I am about to say will sound very cruel.  I have heard about certain ‘attentions’ that you’ve been receiving from a woman.  Now, normally I would be furious about this, because she’s a teacher at your school and much older than you.”

 

Derek stiffened in her arms, and Talia could tell by his heartbeat that Derek understood what she was talking about.  Talia could also tell that Derek didn’t know of any reason why Talia could be telling him this.  Perhaps Derek had already begun to forget about ‘FS’ visiting.  She progressed with her tactics.

“Derek, the woman who is trying so hard to seduce you is trying to hurt you.  She’s possibly trying to hurt our entire family.  I believe that she’s a Hunter.”

 

Derek frantically shook his head.  “No, no, mom…I would never…”

“I know, Derek.  You would never bring a Hunter to our door, not when we have a treaty.  But she’s lying to you, and she only wants bad things for you.  She may have said she cares for you, but Derek—baby, boy, do you really think that someone who cared for you would put you into uncomfortable situations?  Situations where you would have to lie to your family?  Or where you would have to hide your relationship?”

 

“N-no.  Paige never asked me to hide.”

 

A sad smile crossed Talia’s face.   “No, she never did.  And some day, when the time is right, you will meet someone who will not only not ask to hide your relationship, they will shout it from the rooftops.”

 

Derek sighed.  “So, I guess I need to stay away from her, huh.  Drop the class or something.”

Talia rose and leaned back against her desk.  “No, I don’t think so.  Derek, I think you should allow her to continue.”

 

“What?  No!”

 

“Derek, if she has designs on you in order to get to the Pack, then staying away from her won’t allow us to keep track of her.  If she thinks you enjoy her attentions, then she’ll slip up.  I think she has a pattern—of seducing young Betas in order to kill Packs.  I’m not asking you to sleep with her.  In fact, I’d really rather you didn’t.  But I think you should allow her to think she’s getting close to you.  You won’t be in danger, I promise.  But this time, I think we should allow human law take care of the issue.”

Derek looked at his mother—his Alpha—and took a deep breath.  “Okay, if you think that’s for the best.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

December 10, 2004

 

If Stiles thought it was strange that his father was suddenly friends with the Hale family, then he didn’t let on.  Dad was the Sheriff, and he knew a lot of people through his work.  Mrs. Hale was a lawyer and Mr. Hale owned a fancy restaurant in town, so it was possible that they met through work.  In any case, Stiles was allowed to go to the Hale house after school on Friday for cookie baking, and he met the whole family.  Almost the whole family.

Cora Hale was in his grade at school, but in different classes.  She was a total jock and tomboy, and Stiles was not athletic at all, so they had nothing really in common.  Michael Hale is six years old and is only interested in cartoons and licking the batter spoon.  Derek, as it turns out, is almost sixteen, but he’s the friendliest, other than the adults.  Regan, Derek’s aunt, kept looking like she wanted to steal Claudia Stilinski’s recipe book, but she kept a respectful distance.

Apparently there is an older sister, but she kept to herself the whole time Stiles was there.  Cora said she was being weird, and Derek didn’t say anything at all, so Stiles spent his time measuring out the ingredients that his dad bought for him, and mixing up the batter, and dividing out the cookies so that the Hales had their own stock in payment for allowing Stiles to bake there.

It was an odd evening, but Stiles had fun.  There was laughter and conversation and music.  The adults wanted to know all about Stiles and his mother.  Cora wanted to know if Stiles had a topic for the vacation essay that every English class assigned before Christmas break.  Michael kept trying to steal hot cookies until he was given a small plate and some milk to go with.

And on Sunday, when Stiles took a box of homemade cookies to his mother in the hospital, he had stories to tell her about his new friends while they made their traditional tree star.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

December 31, 2004

 

Stiles had never been to a New Year’s Eve party before.  Of course, he was only ten, so that didn’t mean much.

In the past, Stiles would have a sitter alone or with Scott while his parents went out to celebrate.  Sometimes Scott’s mom would go with Stiles’ mom, if the Sheriff had to work.  Sometimes all three parents went out together (Scott’s dad walked out on them when Scott was seven).  Stiles had never stayed up until after eleven o’clock before.

This year, Stiles’ dad and Scott’s mom both had to work the over-night shift, so the boys were going to be on their own.  And then Talia Hale offered to take them both for an over-night party at her house.  They were going to watch movies and play games and drink cocoa with marshmallows.

And Stiles would be allowed to stay up until midnight, for the first time ever.

Scott was shy about meeting new people, but the Hales were really cool.  The whole family acted really happy to have them both there.  Stiles finally got to meet Derek’s Uncle Peter and Aunt Amanda, who were expecting a baby.  He never got to meet the mysterious Laura.  She was with family in another part of the country.

Robert Hale cooked burgers and hotdogs on the grill in the back yard, even though it was a chilly night.  Regan (Talbot, not Hale) baked cupcakes and a couple of pies.  They didn’t watch scary movies, since it was a family party, so they watched some old Batman movie that Stiles didn’t even know existed.  It was great!  When Talia told them that there used to be a television series based on that movie, Stiles said he was going to try to find it at the video store (he couldn’t, but he tried).

At midnight, everybody went out into the yard and lit sparklers to celebrate the New Year.  Then they all straggled back into the house and crashed in the living room for a huge slumber party.  In the morning, Talia Hale drove Scott and Stiles to the hospital where they had breakfast with Scott’s mother, and then she took them home when her shift was over.

It was Stiles’ last really good holiday.

Claudia Stilinski began to deteriorate quickly after Christmas.  Stiles tried to spend as much time as possible with her, but she began to not know him and it hurt deeply.

 

School began again on January tenth, and Stiles and Scott got thrown back into schoolwork.  Stiles noticed that his friend, Jackson Whittemore, was acting strange—really quiet and withdrawn when he was usually cheerful and friendly.  Stiles dragged Scott over to the corner of the cafeteria where Jackson was sitting alone.  Stiles knew when personalities changed so suddenly, that something was seriously wrong.  Watching his mother get sick had made him hyper-aware of personalities around him.

 

“Hey! Jackson!  How’s it going?  Did you have a good vacation?”

As always, Stiles’ voice announced his presence.  He and Scott sat across from Jackson, and they divvied-up their lunches.  Stiles slid a baggie of his homemade cookies across the table toward Jackson.

The other boy munched a cookie before speaking.  “It was okay.  We went to play in the snow.  Dad taught me how to snowboard and Mom went skiing.”

 

“Sounds chilly!  But you had a good time, right?”

 

Jackson nodded.  “Can I tell you guys a secret?  A really big secret?”

 

Stiles and Scott looked at each other, and then back at Jackson.  They both nodded.  “You’re our bro!  We can keep a secret.”

 

Jackson leaned close over the table.  Scott and Stiles leaned over as well, so they could speak lowly so they could not be overheard.

“My parents told me I was adopted.”

Scott sucked in a sharp breath.  “Is that bad?  I mean, they love you, right?”

 

Jackson nodded.  “Yeah, they told me that they did.”

 

Stiles agreed.  “Then it’s not a bad thing.”

 

“No.  It’s just…it’s weird.  They told me that the people they thought were my birth parents were killed in a car accident.  The doctors kept my mother alive long enough for me to be born.  But my mom was there when I was born, and she decided that she wanted me right away.  So she adopted me.”

 

“That’s pretty cool, dude,” said Scott seriously.  “You got picked because you were loved.  Some kids just get some grab-bag of parents.  My dad was a jerk who left.  Yours picked to stay with you.”

 

“That’s just it.  The guy that died in that accident wasn’t my birth father.”

 

Stiles’ eyes widened.  “So, what?  Your birth father is alive?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Dude!  Does he know about you?  Does he want to take you back or something?”

 

“Nah.  Dad says he wants to get to know me—be like a weird uncle or something.  But he doesn’t want to take me away.  It’s just weird, you know?  Knowing all of this?”

 

Stiles stuck his fist over the table, and Jackson bumped it with his own.

 

“We got you, you know that, right?  No matter how weird your sperm donor is, you have us as bros, and you have great parental units that love you.  Things could be worse.”

Two weeks later Stiles’ mother, Claudia Stilinski—wife of the Sheriff, devoted mother, home-maker, part-time librarian—lost her fight with dementia and passed away.  The funeral was held on the following Sunday, January 30.  While many of the citizens of Beacon Hills attended the grave-side ceremony on that winter day, mostly to support their Sheriff, Stiles was only aware of his father, Scott and Melissa McCall, and the Hale Family.  They all stood close to him, offering emotional and physical support.

Stiles had gone to school the week between Passing and Funeral, but his mind wasn’t really there.  His teachers understood, and they pitied him enough not to give him a hard time, but still he had homework to do.  Derek Hale made time every evening to sit with Stiles and study.  Assignments were finished, but if you had asked later, Stiles could not have told you what the topics had been.  They did not study at the Stilinski home often, because the Sheriff was busy choosing a burial outfit.  Stiles and Derek spent time at the Beacon County Library most days prior to the funeral.  There was a new Librarian, Ms. Vasquez, who was happy to assist Stiles with a history project.

 

Stiles was too preoccupied to notice, but Ms. Vasquez was very interested in Stiles.

On the Sunday after the Stilinski Funeral, Donna Maria Vasquez called upon Talia Hale at the Hale residence on the Beacon Hills Preserve.  She remained composed when she was admitted into the house, nodding in greeting to Robert and Peter as she was led to Talia’s office.  Once inside the sound-proofed room, however, she practically bounced around the room.

 

“Oh, my goddess!  Alpha Hale, that boy has so much potential!”  Donna Maria began a furious pacing around the room as Talia watched in bemusement from behind her desk.  “He is so subdued now, of course, but I could lay money on him having very vivid dreams.  His eyes are so intelligent and cunning!  His power is hidden now, but at any moment he could burst wide open.  I need to begin training immediately!”

“Well,” said Talia slowly, “while I agree that training should be imminent, we should talk to his father first, perhaps.”

“Oh, absolutely!  Is the father amenable to having his son trained with magic?”

Talia smiled.  “Donna Maria, would you like tea?  I have the most interesting story to tell you.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

February 14, 2005

 

Jackson Whittemore and his parents David and Anne walked through the Hale’s house into the kitchen.  There, they found Peter Hale pouring boiling water from a copper tea kettle into several mugs holding teabags.  He looked up when the small family walked in.

 

“It’s a lavender/chamomile blend.  It’s supposed to be calming.  I figured, in this case we might need calm?”

 

David nodded and took a mug for himself and passed one to Anne.  Jackson took a seat at the breakfast bar and fiddled with his own mug of tea.

“Do you have sugar?”

 

“Honey is better, but yes, we have both.”

 

Jackson nodded.  “I’ll try the honey, thanks.  So, is this weird for you, too?”

 

Peter paused as he reached for the honey.  “It’s weird in a different way for me, I think.”  Peter turned to face the Whittemores and he passed along the honey jar.  “I should probably tell you that you were loved and wanted, and that having a baby was very important.  I’m going to be a father soon, you see, and this whole thing has caught me quite off-guard.”

Peter took a seat across from Jackson, with David and Anne beside them.  He looked at the young boy in front of him, took in his features and tried to see himself.  He just couldn’t.  Fortunately, Peter also could not recognize the boy’s mother in his features either.

“I suppose you have questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them.  But I must be honest; I had no intention, at the time, of fathering a child.  I did not intend to ‘donate’—such a quaint term, really—sperm so that your birth mother could have you.  I was not much older than you are now, you see.  And I was taken much advantage of.”

 

Jackson frowned into his tea, and then took a long sip.  It was good, he could admit, and it gave him a moment to wrap his young mind around what was being said.  Without looking up, he said, “I’m only ten years old.  I’ll be eleven in June.  When you said you weren’t much older than me, how old were you?”

Peter cleared his throat.  “I was fourteen at the time.”  Peter sighed.  “Jackson, it could be said that your mother—your birth mother—wanted a child very, very much.  So much that she made a poor decision as to how to accomplish her goal.  Do not think badly of her, because without that one, poor decision, such a brilliant child as yourself would not be in this world and your parents would not have such completion in their lives.  I was merely a tool, like the proper wrench or drill bit—just needed to get the job done.  From what I can see, you have the best part of this deal.  Your parents very much love you and would never give you up.  You have a bright future, and you will have advantages that not many will have.  Your father is very well connected through the County Prosecutor’s office, you mother has a keen sense of which colleges will suit you best when you get to that age.  The genetic offerings you received from me mean that you will be strikingly good looking once puberty smiles upon you.”

 

“And I might get furry once a month, don’t forget that part.”

 

Peter’s eyebrow rose elegantly.  “See, you already possess my sass.  You will go far, Jackson.”

 

“So, you were just a kid, too, then?  And you didn’t really know about me?”

 

“I really didn’t know.”  Peter sighed.  “At younger ages, werewolves are much like humans.  We can get sick; we can be affected by certain…substances.  Until we hit puberty, and the Wolf presents, we have no advantages.  I was young, just fourteen, and was at a school gathering at the home of a teacher.  I should have been safe and protected, but like you, I was a good looking child.  I was drugged, and abused, and then sent home unaware of much that happened.  That a child could have been the result was never a concern.”

 

“And if you weren’t a werewolf, you never would have told me?”

 

“I assume that your parents would have eventually told you of the adoption when they thought you were old enough to understand.  It is not my intent to tear apart your home.  But, there is much that my sister and I can teach you, if you do present as a wolf.  I can also teach you other things.”

 

“Like what?  What do you do, anyway?”

 

Peter smiled.  “I am a bit of a financial genius.  I handle the investments of the Hale family and many of the Pack members.  I am in charge of stock trading, and investment trading, and building scholarships.  I also help with treaty negotiation between the Hale Pack and other Packs.”

 

David made noises of approval and Jackson nodded.  Then he asked, “What does your wife do?”

 

Peter folded his arms along the top of the breakfast bar.  “Amanda?  She’s an artist, with a studio near the warehouse district.”

 

“She paints?”

 

“No, she sculpts.  And welds.  It’s very loud, with sparks, and I won’t let her go back to it until after the baby is born.  The fumes will curl your hair.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

Stiles walked through the woods with Donna Maria.

He had a ‘magical spark’, whatever that meant.

Well, actually, it meant that he could do magic and it was a big deal.  Not ‘fuzzy-like-a-werewolf’ big, but a big deal nonetheless.

 

“So, the running will help the training?”

 

Donna Maria nodded beside him.  “Any physical exercise will help with the magical training.  You must learn to focus.  Your thoughts, your energy, your power.  Focus will be key.  You can fire a gun, but without aim the bullet will go anywhere and the fallout will be terrible.  Magic is the same way.  If you don’t have the focus, then the magic will take its own path and people could get hurt.”

 

Stiles hummed.  “I don’t want to hurt anyone.  So what’s this ‘emissary’ deal?”

 

“Ah, well, the Pack Emissary is a kind of ambassador.  Any supernatural being coming to the territory, be it were, or hunter, or faery, will come to the Emissary first.  Your power will allow you to see intent; you won’t be able to read their minds, but you will be able to tell if they mean ill or well.  The Emissary is the Pack law minder.  You’ll keep the library and help in research and building treaties and negotiating for land or marriages.”

 

“But I’m just a kid!  That’s a lot!”

 

Donna Maria smiled.  “Stiles, I’m going to be here for a long time, training you and acting as Emissary until you are ready to take over.  I have no intention of pushing you until you are prepared.  You shall be my baby bird, and I shall give you wing.”

 

“Okay, that’s a good deal.  I do have a question though.”

 

“Very well, ask it.”

 

“What’s with the big name?  I mean, I could see calling you Ms. Vasquez, or Donna, or Maria, or anything else.  Why so formal with the long name?”

 

Donna Maria laughed.  “Oh, Stiles, you are going to be so much fun to teach!  Okay, so when you were a handful, I’m sure your mother would call you by your full name?”

 

Stiles nodded in agreement.  “Ignacek Jovan Stilinski is quite a mouthful, so I always knew if she was really mad.”

 

“Yes, well, I was so often in trouble that I was forever hearing my grandmother yell ‘Donna Maria Ignacia Vasquez!’ that being called Donna Maria became all I knew.  I was a wild child until I found my magic and settled.”

 

“Wait, you found your magic?  How does that work?”

 

“Well, Stiles, magic can come from many sources.  Some find it, like I did, and they study and train and become powerful.  Others, like you, are born with the spark.  You will grow into it with or without training, and you have the chance of becoming more powerful than I ever will be.  Without training, you could become dangerous.  Not because of lack of character, but because having a car without learning to drive first is asking for trouble.”

 

“So you’re going to teach me to drive?”

 

“No, Stiles, I’m going to teach you to build the car from the engine out, then I’m going to teach you to dig for your own fuel, and then I’m going to teach you to drive it.”

 

“I’m going to be studying forever!” Stiles moaned dramatically.

 

“I should hope so.  If you ever go one full day without learning something new, then you have wasted an entire day.”

 

April 8, 2005

 

Stiles’ eleventh birthday falls on a Friday, so John allows Stiles to have a small party at the local bowling alley and arcade on Friday night.  Stiles invites Scott, as always, but also Jackson and the Hale children.  Derek is the oldest attendee for the party, and helps to chaperone the other kids.  Stiles has fun playing the arcade games and laughing at Scott’s attempts at bowling.  He even partners with Michael Hale against Derek and Scott in a wild Foosball game.  Jackson has loosened up a lot since his revelation about his adoption, and his relaxed attitude around the Hales allows for Scott to enjoy the company as well.

Scott doesn’t quite understand Stiles’ friendship with Derek.  He knows Derek was spending time with Stiles during hospital visiting time.  He also knows that Stiles has taken to running in the mornings with Derek and the Sheriff, mainly because Stiles asked Scott to join them sometimes.  Scott isn’t sure about running for fun, though, so he leaves them to it.  But Scott does enjoy spending time with Cora Hale.  She’s sarcastic and funny and totally into sports.  She’s also in some of Scott’s classes in school, but he’s never managed to get to know her before.  So, because Scott is a shy asthmatic boy with no coordination, he asks Cora to show him how to bowl at the party.  And she rolls her eyes and agrees.

Scott only drops the ball on his foot twice.

˜˜˜˜˜

Stiles begins to ride his bike to school after his morning runs, so that he can go to the library after school.  Scott thinks he’s working on his grades, but really Stiles has begun his magical training.  He has several spiral notebooks full of very interesting scribbles—according to the Sheriff.

Actually, the Sheriff has stopped looking through Stiles’ notebooks after reading a few of his magical notes.  As a result, the Sheriff enlisted Robert Hale and Deputy Reed to empty the guestroom of their home.  John then installed several bookcases, a drafting table he found at a swap meet, a desk, and a comfy desk chair.  He then presented Stiles with a few generic Visa gift cards worth $300, so that Stiles could, with the help of Donna Maria, outfit the room with proper decorations for a magical study.  It was John’s birthday gift for his son, and Stiles was struck silent with joy.  That John was taking Stiles’ magical potential seriously meant the world to Stiles.

One Sunday in May, Donna Maria sits with Stiles and John at the Stilinski kitchen table, a cloth-covered bundle in front of them.

“I want to show you both something very special.”  She unwrapped the bundle and revealed a large leather-covered book.  There were metal studs holding the cover together, and a hinge with a pad-lock holding it together.  “This is my personal Grimoire.  It’s like a magical journal.  I created this with my own hands over a long period of time.”  Donna Maria produced a small key and unlocked the book, opening it to show the pages within.

John delicately turned a few pages, gently running fingers over the fragile-looking paper.  They were covered with delicate calligraphy and pictures hand-drawn.  A few more pages were covered with type-set, as if from a computer printer.  Other pages were covered with stick-drawings like runes.  Still others had beautiful photocopies of classic artworks.  The whole book was connected with a three-ring snap, like a loose-leaf notebook.

Donna Maria continued, “I tanned the leather myself, after I ritually killed the animal that provided it.  Some of the pages in the front of the book are vellum—a leather by-product—that came from the same animal.  Other pages are obviously photocopied, but I used fancy cloth-paper for those.  I want to train Stiles in the ways of the First Peoples, so that he can create a Grimoire of his own.”

 

Stiles looked at her.  “What will I put in it?”

 

“You put what is important to you in it.  The reason it has a three-ring snap closure for the pages is so you can change out pages without tearing or destroying anything.   You can put in spells, recipes, book liner-notes, movie reviews; whatever is important to you, whatever is magical to you.  I have notes on astrology, astronomy, what I was wearing for my cousin’s wedding, my grandmother’s tortilla soup recipe.”

 

John looked away from the book.  “You want my son to hunt?”

 

“Yes, I do.  I want, specifically, for you to take him hunting with a particular friend of mine.  Stiles will learn to call and sacrifice the animal of his choice, then to tan the leather and create vellum pages, to turn bone to needle and sinew to thread, and how to put it all together in his very own Grimoire.  He is not yet ready for this, of course, but when he’s older he can do this.  If he wants to.  Part of the training is to teach Stiles how to revere life and how to honor sacrifice.  It is only part of what I will teach him.”

 

“Dad?  I think I want to do it.  Most people can buy a book.  I looked them up online.  They’re called Books of Shadows, and some are pretty expensive but cheaply made.  Some witches use plain binders and notebooks.  But this is awesome!  I can feel the magic in the pages.  I think I want to do this.”

 

“Okay, Stiles.  When you’re older, and when you’re ready, we’ll look into it.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

November 14, 2005

 

Stiles paces around his living room, ignoring his father sitting in the comfy recliner in the corner.  They were waiting for company, and Stiles was nervous.  Talia Hale and Donna Maria were coming for a chat, and Scott and Melissa McCall were going to be the chat-ees.

 

“Stiles!  Sit down.  Please.  You’re making me sea-sick in my own living room.”

 

Stiles sat forlornly on the sofa.  “What if this goes badly?  What if Scott hates me for keeping this a secret all year?  What if Mama McCall hates us both?”

 

John walked across the floor and sat beside his son.  He knew the boy had been stressing over this because he wanted to help Scott.  Stiles’ magical training was progressing quickly.  Apparently, as with hormonal and muscular growth, magical growth happens quickly in the years before puberty, and Stiles was experiencing a ‘growth spurt’ of sorts.  Physically, the changes were beginning as well.  Stiles’ baby-face chubbiness was thinning in his face and torso, and he was beginning to grow taller.  At age eleven, John could see the potential in his boy that he had seen in the mostly-grown teen from the future.  Stiles would be tall; maybe taller than him, and thin but lean-muscled.  With the physical training he was doing now, perhaps his own Stiles would become even stronger than that boy had been.  John wanted to reassure his son that everything would be okay, but he kept a hand-written list in his wallet that showed not everything had been okay in a different reality.

“Stiles, Melissa McCall is an intelligent and rational woman.  Ms. Hale and I have a good idea of how to make her see that no harm will come to Scott.  And Donna Maria said that the herbal remedy that you and she concocted will be incredibly helpful, but will cause no harm if it doesn’t work for some reason.  And Scott could never hate you.  He’ll understand why you have to keep some things secret.  He may pout, a lot, but he’ll never be mad about it.”

 

Stiles looked at his father.  This man believed in him, and after losing his mother, that was so important to him.  “Yeah, dad, I guess it’ll be okay.  Oh, I forgot!  We went to the Nemeton yesterday.  Some of the old, dead bark has started to flake away into ash.  We had to collect some for Scott’s remedy, but there’s piles of ash out there.  I need to collect a bunch for my lab upstairs, and Donna Maria asked if she can send some to one of her teachers to show what we’ve been doing.  That’s the guy that she wants to train me for hunting.”

 

“That’s good, right?  You want that to happen?”

 

“Yeah, we need to show how much potential I have for natural magic, or he won’t be bothered with training me.  He’s had people in the past try to use his gifts to poach, so he’s not big on being tricked.  The ash-flakes will show that I’m practicing more light-to-light-grey magic and not pure black.”

 

“I didn’t know there was a scale; well, not outside of fantasy movies and books.”

 

“There’s a scale.  When you go darkside, lots of bad can happen; not just to the practitioner, but to a Pack or a town or even a country.  Let’s just say, there’s a lot of black history in Transylvania to back-up the Dracula myth before Stoker ever wrote his book.”

 

John hugged Stiles tightly.  “I’m proud of you, Stiles.  I know your mom would be, too.”

 

The sound of two vehicles pulling into spaces in front of the house drew John’s attention.  “They’re here.  Everything is going to be fine, okay?  You have to believe that.”

 

Stiles nodded.  “Okay, dad, I’ll believe it.”

 

The ring of the doorbell forced the Stilinski men to stand.  John went to answer the door and Stiles rushed into the kitchen for his notebook and a small silk pouch.  When he returned to the living room, Scott and his mother were sitting on the sofa and Alpha Hale and Donna Maria were still in the front hall with his father.

 

“Stiles?  What’s going on?  Why is Derek’s mom here?”

 

“Hey, Scott—Ms. McCall.   We kinda have some things to tell you guys, and then I have a kind of present for you.”

 

John led the other ladies into the room and moved to stand beside the recliner.  “Melissa?  I’m going to need you to take a lot of this with an open mind.  When I found out…well, I was a bit better prepared, but I still needed convincing.”

 

“Alright, John.  So…introduce me to your friends.”

 

John gestured to Talia first.  “I’m sure you know Talia Hale.  She and her oldest son volunteer at the hospital.  Talia is also an attorney, working mainly with civil rights and environmental issues.  I deal with her during domestic disturbance cases sometimes.  And this lady,” gesturing toward Donna Maria, “Is Donna Maria Vasquez, the new librarian at the County Library.  She’s also an author.”

When Melissa nodded in confusion and Scott cast a bewildered pout at Stiles, John continued.  “I supposed I can start the way Talia started with me.  There is magic in the world, and they—and me and Stiles—are part of it.  Talia is the head of a powerful…family…here in Beacon Hills, and Donna Maria is training Stiles for a very important role with that family.”

 

“I don’t understand?” said Melissa with a frown.  “Are you talking ‘Lance Burton’ or something else?  And what does that have to do with us?”

 

Stiles spoke up for the first time, very nervously.  “I have something called a spark.  I can do things—magic things.  And I need to be trained or I could hurt someone.”

 

Melissa stood, angry.  “I have stood with this family for a very long time, and I do not appreciate being fooled with and lied to!”

 

As she made to grab Scott’s hand and leave the house, Stiles waved his arm toward her, and a cloud of rose petals surrounded them both.

“Please don’t go!  I’m not fooling, and I really do want to help!”

 

Melissa reached out to touch the cloud.  The petals formed an almost solid wall, but she could pluck individual petals from the air.  “What is this?”

 

“Yellow roses.  They mean friendship.  They’re not to harm, but I needed to show you something so you would take me seriously.”

 

Melissa sat again, stunned and looking at the rose petals in her hand.  Stiles waved his arm again and the cloud of roses disappeared into the ether from which it came.  There was no trace except for the few petals Melissa still held.  She looked at Stiles in amazement.  Scott’s mouth dropped open in shock.

 

“Okay.  I’m listening.  There is magic in the world.  Now what?”

 

Donna Maria knelt in front of the McCalls.  “This is a lot to take in.  We all understand that.  I’m certainly not expecting you to blindly follow along with anything we tell you.  I’ll be available for answers as you need them, because you will.  John comes to me often, because he needs to know that I’m not leading Stiles into harm.  Stiles’ spark will grow stronger as he grows older.  He’s going through a physical growth spurt now, and his power is also growing.  He came to me about your son, whom he is worried about.”

 

Melissa wrapped her arm around Scott’s shoulders.  “What about Scott?  Is he magic, too?”

 

“No, he’s not magic.  Scott, as far as I know, is perfectly normal.  But he is horribly asthmatic, and he wants to participate in athletic activities.  Stiles told me that Scott stubbornly will not quit the sports, but he has had several severe asthma attacks in the last few months.”

 

Melissa looked at Scott, who was hanging his head in shame.  “You have?  You told me you were fine with the running!  I told you that it could be dangerous for you!”

 

Scott whined at his mother.  “But I really, really want to get on the Lacrosse team.  We have to run cross country before we can qualify for the team.  And the attacks weren’t really bad.”

 

“Dude!” exclaimed Stiles, affronted.  “Jackson and I had to carry you back to the school after the last one.  I keep a rescue inhaler in my backpack!  Your lips turn blue when you run for too long, and I’m scared for you.”

 

“That’s it, Scott!” Melissa declared.  “You’re quitting the team!  If you grow out of the asthma in a few years, you can try again, but not now!”

 

Donna Maria reached out and laid her hand on Melissa’s knee.  “If you will, I believe Stiles has come up with a solution?  He knows how important this is for Scott, so he asked me to concentrate his training toward helping Scott.”

 

“How can a kid, even a magic kid, help Scott?” asked Melissa.

 

Stiles held out the silk pouch. “I, um, made a treatment.  I put a lot of magical push into it, but it’s got herbs and magical ash and some crushed stones in it, too.”

 

Melissa took the out-held pouch and opened it to peer inside and sniff at the contents.

 

“It’s certainly not FDA approved,” said Donna Maria, “And it probably smells awful, but it certainly will not hurt Scott.  But if it’s going to help him, he needs to inhale some every night before bed.  Stiles and I both tried it several ways, and the best method for getting the magic into Scott’s lungs will be to dissolve a small amount into boiling water, and then have him breathe the steam.  Have him do this with one teaspoon for one week, and see if he feels better.  If one teaspoon isn’t enough, make it two, for another week.  Don’t skip nights.  You should see results fairly quickly.”

 

Melissa looked at John for confirmation.  He nodded in encouragement.  “I breathed it, too.  After it’s in water, it smells like roses, so it’s not bad.  It won’t hurt him, Melissa, I promise.”

 

Melissa looked back at Stiles.  “You can really do magic like this?”

 

“I’m learning,” Stiles replied earnestly.  “I’m learning a lot.  Donna Maria found several ‘recipes’ and we mixed and matched a few together, but it was my spark that was pushed into it.   Because I believe it will work, then it will work.”  Stiles turned to his friend and said, “Scott, dude, you’re my best friend!  I want you to do sports if you want, or be able to go on nature hikes, or even walk across the schoolyard, without needing your inhaler.”

 

“Will this cure me?” Scott asked eagerly.

 

“Nope.  It’s not a cure.  It’s just a more effective daily inhaler.”

 

John stood and ruffled Stiles’ hair.  “Why don’t you and Scott go upstairs and talk while these lovely ladies and I have a serious talk about other things.”

 

“K, Dad!  Come on, Scott, I know you have loads of questions!”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

Melissa handled the news about werewolves much better after lacing her coffee with a splash of whiskey.  Talia explained about Jackson and the fact that the boy might choose to take the Bite when he was older, and that the Bite could cure Scott eventually as well.  Donna Maria told Melissa that Stiles, in fact, could not have saved his mother if he’d known about magic years ago.  His power needed to grow a lot, and even then, his mother’s condition was beyond magic.

“Stiles will do great things,” she said, “and he will command much power.  My job is to teach him respect for the magic, the world, and himself.  He uses the term ‘darkside’, and I’m here to help him avoid that.  He is training to become the Hale Pack Emissary.  That’s an incredibly important and respected role.  Since Scott and he are so close, Scott will be exposed to magic in small ways.  Even just playing video games upstairs is exposing him to Stiles’ magical notebooks and the lab/library that John built into their former guestroom.  Stiles is responsible enough not to get hurt, or to allow anyone else to get hurt, but as a parent you should still be aware.”

 

“And this magic powder is really going to help Scott’s asthma?” Melissa asked with a raised eyebrow.

 

“If it doesn’t work, then he’ll be no worse off than he is now.”

 

~~~~

 

In Stiles’ room, Scott was practicing the perfect pout.

 

“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me about the magic, dude!”

 

“It’s kinda private.  And I didn’t want anyone to over-hear.  You can’t tell anyone else!”

 

“I wouldn’t tell anyone!”

 

Stiles spun in his chair to face his friend.  “I mean it, Scott!  You can’t tell anyone!  There’s my dad that knows, and Ms. Hale, and now your mom downstairs.  Like three other people know outside of this house right now know about it, and I’m not telling you who.  So you can’t say anything about it to anyone!  We get picked on enough at school; I don’t need to start up Beacon Hills’ own witch hunt, okay.”

“But what if someone says something to me?”

 

“Who, Scott?  Who is going to say anything to you about magic and me?”

 

“One of the other people who know!”

 

“And who are those people?”

 

“I don’t know?”

 

“Right.  So they won’t know that you know.  Look, if everything works out, maybe I’ll let you in on some other secrets.  But not right now.  We still don’t know if that stuff I made is going to work or not.”

 

Scott huffed in annoyance.  “Fine!  But no more secrets!  We’re supposed to be best friends.”

 

“If it’s my secret to tell, then I’ll tell.”

˜˜˜˜˜

December 25, 2005

 

After a family Christmas with his father, Scott, and Ms. McCall, Stiles was again invited to the Hale’s home for Derek’s birthday dinner.  John dropped him off before heading into work, and Derek promised to drive him home.

Stiles got along well with the Hales.  Cora was becoming a good friend, and Michael loved to show off his new art projects.  The newest Hale—baby Nicholas—was always fun to watch for a short while.  Peter and Amanda were proud parents, and they were both obviously in love with their baby.

But Stiles really liked spending time with Derek.  The two boys had grown incredibly close, despite the age difference.  They ran together almost every day, and Stiles went to the hospital two days a week with Derek for knitting lessons.  This year, Stiles had made his father a scarf with a small love spell worked into the yarn so that his father would always feel Stiles’ love, and he thanked Derek heartily for taking him to those lessons.

“I, uh, have something special for you, if that’s okay.”  Derek was blushing shy, and Stiles thought it was kind of cute.

 

“Dude!  I didn’t really get you anything.  Just, you know, that graphic novel that you wanted.”

 

“Don’t call me ‘dude’.  And the book is great.  I just, I wanted to show you something, okay?”

 

“Okay.  Show me!”

 

Derek led Stiles down the hall from the kitchen into an area of the house Stiles had never been.  Derek opened what looked like a closet door, then flipped a light switch and led Stiles down a flight of stairs, to another door.  Derek looked apprehensively behind him at Stiles.  “This is a special place, okay?  Not everybody in the family comes down here, but Mom said I could bring you.”

 

Derek opened the door to reveal a small library.  There were floor-to-ceiling bookshelves along three walls, and family photos on the fourth.  There were scattered over-stuffed chairs in the center of the room, a sofa, several tables with reading lamps on them, and a dark patterned rug.  Since the room was basically in the basement, it should have been cold, but it was quite warm and cozy.  The overhead lights were not harsh, and the wall color was a soft sage green, adding to the warmth of the room.

 

“We keep family histories here.  Journals, textbooks, magical tomes.  We have books in several languages, and some that are just in pictures.  I come down here a lot, just to feel closer to my ancestors and the other Wolf Packs that my family has known since time began.  Some of the books I can’t even open, so I don’t know what’s in them.”

 

Stiles wandered slowly around the room, allowing his fingers to brush the backs of the books on the shelves.   “Wow!” he whispered.  Stiles turned and smiled widely at Derek.  “This is so cool!  Thanks for showing me!”

 

Derek wiped a nervous hand along the back of his neck.  “I have something else.  I talked to your dad first, before I got it.”  He walked over to one of the end tables and picked up a box that Stiles didn’t notice at first.  He handed the box to Stiles.  “This is for your magic only.  It’s to keep notes and spells and anything important you need to find quickly.  It’s not for homework or games, okay?”

 

Stiles wrinkled his brow, but said, “Um, okay.  What is it?”

 

Stiles opened the box and found a laptop computer inside, as well as a page scanner.  His bright smile could have lit the room.

 

“Um, maybe you can use the scanner for homework, if you need to, but the computer is strictly for magic use only.”

 

“Oh, my god! Derek!  Thank you!”  Stiles set down the box and threw his arms around Derek’s waist in a huge hug.  Derek returned the hug with equal enthusiasm.

 

“We have to get you trained properly, Stiles.  My mother told me today that she wanted to train me to become her successor as Alpha.  Someday, you and I are going to work very closely together.”

 

 

Chapter Two: The Tender Years

Notes:

In my head canon: Jackson is redeemable.
Isaac’s brother is Jordan Parrish–somehow come back to life after burning.
Still not sure about Laura Hale.
Here is the next part. Title is from the song “Tender Years” from the Eddie and the Cruisers soundtrack.

 

Whoa, whoa tender years
Won’t you wash away my tears
How I wish you were here
Please don’t go, tender years
–John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band

 

Stiles’ twelfth birthday is on Saturday, and John was considering allowing a sleepover.  He had to work that morning and afternoon, but he’d be home all night and into the next day, so there would be supervision.  Stiles would most likely invite Scott, because the two boys were inseparable, but he might have other friends to ask.

 

John was not prepared for Stiles to inquire about Cora and Derek Hale.

 

He really, really should have been.

 

Derek ran in the mornings with Stiles and John, and Cora was in a few of Stiles’ classes in school.  John knew they all ate lunch together, because Stiles told him they started doing that at the beginning of the school year.

 

Stiles also told John that Derek spent time with him in the Hale Family Library (yes, the capitals were indicated) after the cookie-baking was finished for the week.

 

John was just about to ponder the implications of his son’s friendship with the much older Derek, when Stiles bounded into the kitchen after school.

 

“Hey, Dad!  Um, can I invite a couple other guys to my birthday sleepover?”

 

“Who did you have in mind?”

 

“Jackson Whittemore and Danny Mahealani.”

 

“I guess so….”

 

“I know Jackson and I aren’t really close, but we’re all on Cross Country together, and Jackson wants to spend more time with the Hales.  You know, because of the whole ‘Peter is his sperm donor’ thing.  He doesn’t really have an excuse to go over to the Hale house much; not like I do, anyway.  So this is an excuse.”

 

“And Danny?”

 

“Danny is Jackson’s best friend, like Scott is mine.  Danny’s wicked smart, and nice, and he’s in some of my classes.  So, can I?”

 

“Sure, go ahead.  Tomorrow try to get some idea of what food we might need, okay?  I was prepared to feed you and Scott.  I have no idea what the rest will want.”

 

“Well, I can tell you right now that we’ll need popcorn for the movies.  Derek’s going to bring his hot-air popper, because it’s healthier.”

 

“You think you might want carrot sticks to go with the healthy theme?”

 

“You are not funny, father mine.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

John was due to be home from work around five o’clock, so he planned to bake a family-sized frozen lasagna for dinner.  Derek promised to bring fresh garlic bread from the restaurant, as well as a few gallons of his father’s sweet iced tea.  No sodas sounded good to John.  Stiles had chosen several movies from the rental place, and he had asked Ms. Hale if they could borrow the old Batman movie that they watched at the first New Year’s party.  He figured Jackson and Danny would get a kick out of it.

 

Because Cora was coming, Jackson asked if he could invite the new girl that he had a crush on, Lydia Martin.  John had to call her mother to explain the situation in order to get permission, but there were now going to be two girls spending the night in his home.  John diplomatically decided that he would crash in the living room with the boys, and the girls could have his large bed.  Before the party, Stiles asked for one important concession: put a padlock on the outside of his magic lab.  Stiles didn’t think anyone would go in there, but the lock would make him more comfortable.  John agreed, and bought a gate hinge and a lock and installed them the Friday before the party.

 

Because Derek was seventeen and trustworthy, John allowed the guests to begin arriving around three o’clock.  This would give them time to watch a movie and get themselves pretty well settled before John came home from work.  Derek drove himself and Cora to the house, and David Whittemore transported Jackson, Danny, and Lydia.  Scott had spent the night Friday night as part of Best Friend Privilege.

 

Derek popped popcorn for the group, and Stiles put Batman on to watch, promising that they would all get a good laugh out of it.  Stiles took Lydia’s and Cora’s overnight bags up to John’s bedroom and showed the girls where towels were for washing up for bed.

 

Then the movie played, and Stiles had the joy of watching his friends puzzle over whether or not to take it seriously.

 

“This isn’t as dark as the last Batman movie I saw,” Jackson said thoughtfully.

 

“This isn’t as dark as the last Batman comic I read,” responded Danny.

 

Stiles laughed.  “Yeah, but that Bat Shark-repellent was great, right?”

 

“Did you at least pick a movie that a non-comic reader can watch?”  Lydia was all girly-girl.  She even brought a pink robe and slippers for later.  Stiles saw her set them on the bed before he came back downstairs.  She was really pretty, with cinnamon-brown eyes and strawberry blonde hair.  She wore strawberry lip-gloss, too.  He could smell it when she talked.  Stiles knew Jackson had a crush on her, so that was why Stiles allowed him to invite the girl.  She could have been the type that Stiles would crush on as well, but his mind was too filled with schoolwork and magical studies to think about girls.  His eyes wandered to the kitchen, where Derek was rinsing the popcorn bowls.  Okay, so maybe Stiles’ mind was not too full.  He could have a crush.  Maybe.

 

“Yeah, Lydia,” Stiles sighed.  “I picked a classic that I’m sure you’ll approve of.”

 

Jackson groaned.  “Not a chick-flick!”

 

“Well, there’s romance in it.  But I don’t consider ‘The Princess Bride’ to be a chick-flick.  My mom loved it, and she was not a chick.”

 

“Um, dude!  Pretty sure she was!”

 

“Shut-up, Scott!  You know what I mean.  My mom loved ‘Die Hard’, too.”

 

At the time of his last birthday, Stiles was still too emotionally fragile to think about his mother much, let alone talk about her.  But his father was more emotionally open to him now, and he had Donna Maria to talk to, so mentioning his mother didn’t bother him as much.

 

“I’ve seen it a few times,” said Derek, coming in from the kitchen.  “You’ll like it.  It has sword-fighting, and comedy, and torture, too.”

 

“Ugh! Fine!” said Jackson, quite dramatically.  “But after we eat, we’re watching ‘Lord of the Rings’.”

 

“No argument from me,” agreed Derek.

 

“Okay, Jackson,” said Stiles with a smile.  “But if you pick the movies for my birthday, then I’m picking the movies for your birthday!”

 

“What makes you think I’ll invite you to my birthday?”

 

“Cuz you love me!”

 

“You wish!  What are the other choices?”

 

“’Star Wars’!  The original trilogy.”

 

Jackson hummed for a moment.  “I haven’t seen those yet.  My dad said they were good.”

 

Danny nodded.  “They are.  I have the whole set at home.”

 

Cora frowned.  “How can you watch the same movies over and over?”

 

“Well, when they’re that good, you just love to watch them all the time.”

 

Jackson nodded.  “Okay.  The princess movie, then ‘Star Wars’.”

 

Stiles put the movie in the player, and sat on the floor in front of Derek, but beside Scott.  Cora was sitting on the loveseat beside Derek, and Jackson, Danny, and Lydia were on the sofa.  By silent agreement, they all left the recliner for John for when he came home.

 

Westley and Buttercup were entering the Fireswamp when John came home.  He looked in the living room to say hello to the group, then went into the kitchen to put the food on.  Once the oven was filled, John went upstairs to change into sweatpants and an old Sheriff’s Department t-shirt.  Then he joined the kids as they watched Westley being rescued from the Pit of Despair.

 

John reveled in the enjoyment he could feel in the room as new people learned the pleasures of his late wife’s favorite movie.  For a moment, he could feel a bittersweet twinge in his chest, then it released when he looked at his son.  He thought, for a moment, of ‘FS’ and the things he was told about that possible future.  Looking around the room, he wondered how he could have managed to raise his child in that horrible, desperate time.  These kids in his living room had such a brighter future thanks to that mysterious visitor over a year ago, and they would never know it.

 

By the time the movie was finished, dinner was ready, and Derek placed the garlic bread into the already hot oven.  John loaded lasagna onto sturdy paper plates and allowed everyone to eat in the living room picnic style, since there was more room.  They all chatted about school, and summer-time plans, and favorite extra-curricular activities.  John let Stiles and Scott know how proud he was of them sticking with track in the spring semester, and Jackson and Danny agreed that it was simpler to do that since they had to do Cross Country if they wanted to try out for Lacrosse in a couple of years.

 

“Although,” said Stiles, “I’m still not sure if I want to try out for Lacrosse.  I like the running, but I’m not sure how I feel about contact sports.”

 

“That’s why you run, Stilinski,” said Jackson.  “If you get fast enough, you won’t get hit.”

 

John, Stiles, and Derek cleared plates and flatware, and the kids opted to wait a while for ice cream.  John stayed in the room while ‘A New Hope’ played (“Why are they starting with Chapter Four?” “Shut up and enjoy, Scott!”), but left for his office down the hall so the kids could feel like they weren’t being babysat.

 

When Stiles stood to replace the movie, Danny cleared his throat.  “Um, can I talk to you guys about something?”

 

Stiles turned to face him.  “Sure.   We’re all friends here, right?”

 

Danny looked around the room.  He was best friends with Jackson, and he knew Stiles and Scott a little bit, but the other three were basically strangers.  Reluctantly, he nodded.  “Yeah, I guess so.  I, uh, feel really weird doing this, but the school counselor said to start with friends I trust.  I guess I trust you guys.”

 

Jackson frowned.  “What’s up, pal?  You know you can tell me anything.”

 

“Yeah, I know.  But this is hard.  Especially since we’re in Junior High now.”  Danny swallowed deeply, and then took a long drink of his tea.  “Okay, here it is:  I think….no, I know—I’m gay.”

 

Once the words were out, Danny seemed to deflate.  Everyone was silent.

 

“Are you sure?” asked Stiles.  “Really, really sure?”

 

“Yeah, really, really sure.”

 

“Dude!  That’s not a big deal.”

 

Danny frowned, and then Stiles spoke again.   “I mean, it’s a HUGE deal, but it’s not a big deal.  I mean, I don’t care that you’re gay.  But I’m glad you trusted me enough to tell me.”

 

“Yeah,” said Jackson.  “I’m not going to not be your friend because of it.  Was someone giving you crap about it?”   Both Jackson and Derek looked angry at the thought of Danny being hassled.

 

“You guys are the only ones I’ve told.  I think my parents will think I’m too young to know, so I haven’t told them.  And, uh, I have a cousin in Hawaii who had a friend that came out at Christmas—he got hassled at home, and beat up at school.  So I was really nervous, you know.”

 

Cora stood and pulled Jackson off the sofa so she could take his place.  She and Lydia wrapped their arms around Danny and hugged him between them.  Jackson planted himself on the floor at their feet.

 

“You know I’ve got your back, right?  If anyone at school give you crap, you tell me.”

 

Stiles and Scott nodded.  “Us, too.  I mean, we’re kinda scrawny, but we’ll back you up.”

 

Danny’s eyebrows lifted as he looked to Derek, and Derek smiled in encouragement.  “Our mom’s other brother, Frederick, is gay.  He lives in Arizona with his boyfriend.  You’re not going to have any trouble with us, I swear.”

 

There was a silent mush-fest, as everyone gave Danny lots of support, then they began to watch ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Sixth grade started the same as the grade before.  Fortunately, everyone had the same lunch period again, and their tradition of eating in the courtyard continued.

 

The elderly knitters that were teaching Stiles and Derek at the hospital had been moved away by their families, so Stiles was using online lessons to continue the knitting.  It really was helping his concentration, and coupling that with the running made decreasing his Adderall dosage possible.  He might always need the drug, but he was determined to need as little as possible.

 

The magical inhalant that Stiles and Donna Maria made for Scott did help his asthma, and running was no longer a stress for the boy’s lungs.

 

Stiles moved into several advanced classes, along with Danny and Lydia, so they formed their own study group at the County Library after school on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.  Stiles still spent Friday evenings at the Hale house baking for their restaurant, since he refused to allow Regan Talbot access to his mother’s cookbook.  They were paying him well, as well as buying all the ingredients, and his personal savings account was building up.  He was able to buy his own magical tools and toys, and his workshop in the room next to his bedroom was looking more and more like a classroom from Hogwarts.

 

Stiles still ran in the mornings with his father and Derek, and several days a week Scott joined them.  Following their example, Jackson and Danny ran in the mornings in their own neighborhood.  Coach Finstock tells them all that he admires their dedication and that he expects great things from them in the next few years.

 

With encouragement from Donna Maria and his father, Stiles joins the Junior Math league, and drags Lydia along with him.  While most of the kids in the club are only trying for extra credit in their classes, Lydia shines in her own glory and Stiles becomes her best cheerleader.

 

The Fall Semester ends with the Junior High Cross Country Team placing third in the State Finals, and Scott not passing out from an asthma attack.

 

At the beginning of December, Derek sat with his mother at the Hale kitchen table as they opened college acceptance letters.  Derek had decided that he wanted to attend medical school, but he didn’t want to travel far from home.  He felt that his place was in Beacon Hills, and he wanted to be able to come home as often as possible.  Moving away for college would take him too far from his family.

 

And from Stiles.

 

Derek wasn’t sure when he grew so close to the younger boy, but he felt ‘at home’ when they were together.  Whether they were knitting or baking or browsing the books in the Hale Library, Derek constantly sought Stiles’ company.  He felt at ease with Stiles.  Derek enjoyed cheering as Stiles ran in a Cross Country meet.  Derek enjoyed listening as Stiles tried to explain his magical lessons.

 

Derek enjoyed the sound of Stiles’ voice.

 

And the smell of the magic that was settling on the boy.

 

It was tangible; a chocolate/cinnamon scent that hinted at the power Stiles was building.  When Derek encountered Stiles after a long lesson with Donna Maria, he could almost taste the power Stiles had been working with.

 

“Mom?”

 

“Yes, dear?”

 

“Did you mean it when you said that you thought I would find a human Mate?”

 

Talia looked at her son, brow furrowed.  “I did.  Have you found a Mate?”

 

Derek shook his head.  “Not….really?   I mean, I’m not ready for that right now, you know.”

 

“But?”

 

“But—there’s maybe someone.  Someone who is really not ready for that.  But I like this person.  They feel like home.  Like I’m at home when I’m with them.  Almost like I’m complete.”

 

Talia reached across the table and held Derek’s hand.  “Derek, when you have fully grown into your potential, your Mate will complete you in all ways.  You will be able to reach into yourself and feel that person inside you.  Those feelings will grow, for both of you.  But it’s best not to rush things.”

 

“I can’t rush things!  He’s so young.  Um….”

 

“Derek!” Talia laughed.  “It’s good that you recognize building feelings for someone.  The important thing is to understand that you both have years to grow.  There is no need to rush.  Take time to get to know each other.  Grow with each other.  Ask your father how to do it.  He courted me very properly when we were younger.”

 

“You don’t think I’m being silly?  That I’m rushing into things?”

 

“No, I don’t think that at all.  Derek, what you had with Paige was an innocent first love.  You should have several of those in your lifetime, and you would if the world was perfect.  You’re only almost eighteen.  You shouldn’t be expected to know what you really need in a Mate, or what you are capable of offering in return.  And Stiles…”

 

Derek blushed hard and almost-purple.  “Mom!  I never said…”

 

“Derek, please!  I can see how close the two of you are.  As I was saying—Stiles is very young.  And he has great potential.  How old is he now?”

 

“Twelve.”

 

“Alright, Stiles is twelve years old.  He’s too young to date, much less to commit to being the Mate of an Alpha.  He’s still growing into his magic and he will have great responsibility when he’s older.  In a few years, if the feelings are still there, you should think about proper Courtship.  Let him grow up for a while.  Take some time at school to get used to not seeing him every day.   Go on dates with both men and women, to see which you are happier with.  If this–with Stiles–is still what you want, and his father agrees, then I will support you.”

 

Derek smiled.  “Thanks for the advice, mom.”

 

“Of course, my bright boy.  Now—U.C. Davis looks promising….”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

˜˜˜˜˜

February twentieth, 2007, found Stiles making coffee for his very tired father.  John had been working around the clock, as had every officer in the Sheriff’s Department.

 

On February eighteenth, eight-year-old Alicia Boyd was taken from the Beacon Heights Ice Rink.  She was there with her older brother, Vernon.  He had been watching her skate, but the rink was crowded.  He lost track of her, and then called his mother when he couldn’t find the girl anywhere.  Mrs. Boyd called the Sheriff’s Department from the rink.

 

“Any luck, Dad?”

 

John sighed.  “No.  Not a trace.  We’ve been looking day and night.”

 

“I can ask around at the library, if you think it’ll help.  Donna Maria has those photos that you gave her posted all over the place.”

 

“I appreciate the offer, but I’m the cop here, not you.  I just really feel for the kid.”

 

“Who?  Vernon?  I don’t know him very well.”

 

“Yeah, well, when I got to the rink Sunday, his mother was really lighting into him.  She blamed him for the girl going missing, and nothing I said would convince her otherwise.”

 

“He’s my age, Dad.  How could he keep someone from taking his sister in a crowded place?   Someone could have taken her if her mother had been there!”

 

“I know, I know.   Believe me, I know.  He just stood there and took it, and I wanted to give him a hug.  I don’t think his father’s around, so he probably feels alone.”

 

“I see him on the way to lunch.  Maybe I’ll ask him to join us next time I see him.  I can sic Danny’s dimples on him; nobody can resist that!  And I can totally give him feels for having a dead parent, since I lost mom.”

 

“I don’t think his father is dead.  I just think he’s not around.”

 

Stiles gave his father a sharp look.  “Dad, what if his father took Alicia?  If his mother is such a hard case, then maybe she keeps the guy from the kids?”

 

John nodded.  “That’s an angle I never really considered.  Mrs. Boyd totally discounted her ex-husband.  If he’s not local, then he wouldn’t be a suspect.”  John stood and lifted his jacket from the back of the chair.  “Looks like I have some research to do.  Are you going to be okay here by yourself?”

 

“Yeah.  I have assignments from Donna Maria to go over.  I’ll be in my Lab most of the night.”

 

“You finished all of your normal homework, right?”

 

“Yeah, I finished that in study hall.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

By March, Vernon Boyd IV (“Call me Boyd”) had become a regular figure at Stiles’ lunch table under the covered courtyard.  With prodding from Scott and Lydia, the sullen boy had begun to open up to their group and had proven to be quite intelligent.

 

The Sheriff’s Department had put out an All-Points Bulletin for Vernon Boyd III and his eight-year-old daughter.  The man had gone missing from his job in Los Angeles the week prior to the girl’s disappearance.  With that information, Mrs. Boyd had finally lifted the burden from her son, but only slightly.  He still felt like it was his fault that his sister was taken.  Stiles and the rest of his friends were trying their best to get him over that mindset.

 

In a bit of good news school-wide, on March ninth, the High School Swim Team won the State Championship for the first time in fifteen years.  The whole town was celebrating, including the team themselves; they were at a loud party hosted by the team coach, Mr. Lahey.

 

Stiles knew about this because his father gave him warnings about high school parties.

 

“Just don’t be stupid, is all I’m saying.  We got seven different calls about noise complaints in an hour, and when we got there, the teenagers were borderline drunk, the whole lot of them.  And Mr. Lahey was nowhere to be found, so we had to search the place and call a lot of parents.  I don’t ever want to get a call like that, Stiles.  Never!”

 

“Don’t worry, Dad.  I’m not fond of losing control of myself since I’ve been studying magic, so drinking isn’t on my short list of things to try.  Besides, Donna Maria kinda set me some ‘rules’ to follow, and one of them is ‘Harm None; Do What Ye Will’.  I take that to mean that I can do what I want as long as I’m not hurting anyone, even especially myself.”

 

“That’s a good rule, son.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Since he had a sleep-over party for his birthday the year before, Stiles was happy to get back to his traditional Arcade party.  This year, along with Scott and the Hales, Stiles invited Boyd to join them.  Talia Hale and Donna Maria were the chaperones for the gathering since John and Melissa McCall both had to work.

 

Boyd took to Michael Hale very quickly, admitting to Stiles that he was thinking about teaching kindergarten or first graders when he grew up.

 

“I always liked little kids.  They’re smarter that you think, and they tell it like it is, you know?”

 

“Yeah, dude, I know.  It’s cool that you have a plan like that.  I have no idea what I want to do when I get out of school.”

 

“You have time.  You just turned thirteen.”

 

During the meal break of Arcade pizza and Sheriff-bought ice cream cake, Donna Maria took Stiles aside.

 

“I have a surprise for you.  Remember my Grimoire?”

 

Stiles nodded.  “Yeah.  I really want to make one of my own.”

 

“I know.  I made a few calls to a former teacher of mine.  Roland McCook, who is a Shaman of the Ute People in Colorado, will be coming to teach you this summer.  He’ll teach you the Way of the Shaman, and how to work with nature in an everyday manner.  This is serious stuff, Stiles.  I need to know that you’ll take it very seriously.”

 

“I will, I promise!  This is so cool!  Can I tell Scott and Derek?”

 

“Yes, I think they’ll understand.  I wanted you to know that I’m very proud of the progress that you’ve made the past three years.  You have come farther in that short time than many of the adult Seekers I’ve taught in the past.”

 

“I guess I have a good reason for it.  I want to do this all right, you know.  I don’t want to accidentally set off a magic bullet and hurt someone.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

In May, Derek graduates second in his class.  Stiles sits with his father and the Hale family during the graduation ceremony.  Derek invites him to the graduation party at the Hale house, and the Sheriff agrees that Stiles can go.  Derek also invites Scott and Jackson; Scott because he is Stiles’ and Cora’s friend, Jackson because he’s practically family.

 

Peter’s son, Nicholas (Nicky) is just under three years old, and Stiles and Scott amuse themselves following the toddler around the main floor of the house, catching him when he starts to fall.  Jackson is equally attentive to the child, but spends most of the party chatting with Peter and Amanda about his parent’s anniversary party the prior week.

 

Stiles and Talia have a long conversation in the kitchen, mostly about his training with Donna Maria and the training he has to look forward to in the coming summer.

 

“It’s not going to be much of a vacation, really.  I mean, last year, I had lots of time to hang out with Scott and play video games.  But this is more important, so….”

 

“I’m sure Shaman McCook will allow you time to be a boy, Stiles.  In order to serve life, you have to live it.”

 

“Yeah, that’s what Donna Maria said, too.  I’m not worried about that, though.  I know I have a lot more to learn, but I’ve learned a lot so far.  I know what I’m capable of now.  I can’t wait to see how much more I can do.”

 

“Don’t be in too much of a hurry to grow up, Stiles.  Enjoy being a kid for a long time.  It’s over so much sooner than you think.”

 

Stiles looks across the hall to the living room, and sees Derek laughing with Peter and Robert.

 

“Sometimes, when you have something to look forward to, time doesn’t seem to pass as fast as you want.”

 

Talia follows his eyes, and smiles.  “I do know what you mean.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Roland McCook is not what Stiles was expecting.

 

When you hear the word ‘Shaman’, you expect…well, you don’t expect someone who looks more at home in a court of law than riding a horse across a prairie.

 

Roland is tall, taller than Stiles’ dad, with thick, black hair, deeply tanned skin, a strong, Roman nose, and dark blue eyes.

 

It was the blue eyes that threw Stiles.

 

And the lack of white hair.

 

 

Roland looked quite stern, and he spoke with a soft but firm voice—so Stiles had to really concentrate to hear him sometimes.  Stiles was sure that was on purpose.

But he also seemed to understand the importance of play while learning.

 

Roland took Stiles and Scott on camping trips in the Preserve, where both boys learned to build shelter from downed branches, how to start a fire with dryer lint, and how to catch fish in a stream with their bare hands.  They would spend days swimming in the stream and nights laughing around the campfire.

 

After the third trip, Jackson and Danny approached for permission to join them.  Scott had been telling the other boys about the fun they’d been having, and the two best friends wanted to have some as well.  Roland agreed to host a week-long getaway at the end of July for Stiles and his friends—any friends who wanted to come—as long as Stiles kept up with his studies.

 

Stiles could tell that Jackson and Danny wanted to ask about Roland and why Stiles knew him, but they were respectful and kept questions to themselves.  Stiles kept his word, and worked hard to learn the lessons Roland had for him.

 

Stiles learned how to read patterns in fallen feathers to predict migration patterns, how to navigate by the stars, how to find edible plants deep in the woods, how to read game trails, which plants could be used for magical purposes and which could be used for medicinal purposes.

 

Stiles learned to listen to nature and ‘hear’ impending weather breaks.  He learned how to open his energy centers and ‘feel’ the animals around him.  The day before the big camp-out, Stiles spent an hour in the Preserve just behind the Hale house, having a deep conversation with a tree frog and a squirrel.  He went home to tell his father that they were going to have a dry fall, and the Forest Rangers would have to put out a burn warning to prevent fires in the forests nearby.

 

John totally took him seriously.  He also made a mental note to take Stiles into the kennels to ‘chat’ with the police dogs, to make sure they were all in good mental and physical health.

 

At the end of July, Roland and Stiles prepared to lead a merry band deep into the woods for a week-long nature camp.  Jackson and Danny, Scott and Cora, Boyd and Derek (as an extra adult supervisor, of course) all hefted backpacks with three pairs of dry socks, two heavy outer-shirts, extra shoes, two tee shirts, and one extra pair of jeans.  They all had the same supplies, and the weight was similar in each pack.  Nobody would have an advantage, and everybody would have to rely on each other for survival.

 

At the end of the week, the group walked out of the woods near the Hale house, tired and dirty and laughing loudly.  They were a mess as they greeted their parents, but they had obviously had a grand adventure.  They were all chattering animatedly at their respective parents as they loaded up to go home to warm food and showers (or showers and warm food), and John gave Roland a firm handshake and a grin of thanks.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

August 3, 2007

Stiles sat on Derek’s bed and watched as Derek packed several suitcases and boxes.  Derek was going to be moving to the U.C. Berkeley campus, where he would be living in a dormitory for his first year of college.  Freshman Orientation was in one week, so Derek had very little time to get all of his things together.

 

“So, are you looking forward to living away from home?”

 

Derek looked up from his suitcase.  “I guess.  I’ve been away for short periods; vacations and family visits.  This is going to be so weird, though.  There’s no Pack there.”

 

“Are there any werewolves at all?”

 

“I suppose there could be.  College towns are generally neutral, since students are transient.  It’s hard to defend a closed territory when people are coming and going at various times during the year, for several years in a row.  Mom didn’t warn me not to go into certain areas when we toured the campus last year, so I figured there wasn’t an established Pack that I should worry about.”

 

“What if there was?  What would you do then?”

 

“Well,” said Derek as he sat beside Stiles, “I’d have to petition the Alpha for permission to enter the territory.  I’d have to show my admissions letter and my class schedule to prove that I actually was going to attend classes.  There might be concessions to be made; like not going to certain areas of the town, or avoiding places during certain times of day.  If there was an established Pack near Berkeley, but not on campus, I’d have to make myself known as a student because I’d be travelling all around the city area.  It’ll be the same in two years when I move to Davis for the program there.  Different campus, same issue, you know?  And because I’ll be pre-med, I’d have to let any Alpha know that I’m going to be at the medical center and hospitals in the area.”

 

“That is a lot of red-tape, dude.”

 

“Don’t call me ‘dude’, and that’s what Emissaries are for.  If any stray Omega or travelling Beta was to come to Beacon Hills, your job would be to make it known that they were in a marked and defended territory, and you’d have to see what business they would have here.  That way the Alpha doesn’t have to get his or her hands dirty too soon.”

 

“Yay, me!”  Stiles shifted on the bed and kicked at Derek’s leg.  “Are you gonna miss us—um, I mean, your family?”

 

Derek grinned.  “I’m going to miss all of you, but my goal is to be too busy to dwell on it.  Hey, Stiles, I promise to call often.  And maybe we can Skype once a week?”

 

“Yeah, sounds good.  We’ll make a set date once we figure how our classes work out.”

 

Derek went back to his packing, choosing which books to take and which to leave.  Stiles busied himself by folding socks into pairs.  “Derek?  You never told me—how come you can afford medical school without your parents’ help?”

 

“Oh, well, you know how Peter is in charge of all our investments?  Well, all of us kids got a small inheritance from our great-grandfather, the former Alpha, and Peter helped invest the money for each of us.  I’m using part of the interest from my invested share.  I’ll get part of the principal when I’m 21 and the rest when I’m 25.  By the time Michael is old enough for college, he’ll be able to afford to go anywhere, but I have the money from scholarships and grants to help out.   Laura had the same as me, so I guess she would have had to get some sort of aid.”

 

“What’s up with her, anyway?  I mean, I’ve met almost all the family, but nobody ever talks about her.”

 

Derek cleared his throat.  “She was, uh, supposed to be the next Alpha.  Mom started to train her when she was sixteen.”

 

“But you mom started training you last year.  How did that happen?”

 

Derek resumed his seat next to Stiles.  “Laura got really weird once Mom told her she was chosen to be successor.  She started talking down to me and Michael.  Michael was too young to understand it, but Laura said humans in a Pack made them weak.  And she told me I was a weak Beta and she was going to run me out of the Pack once she became Alpha.  Every day, she’d harp on me about something.”  Derek caught Stiles’ eye.  “I told you about Paige, right?”

 

“Bad reaction to the bite, died accidentally.  Yeah, that’s really sad.  I’m sorry that happened to you.”

 

“Thanks.  Anyway, only you, me, and Mom know what really happened to Paige.  Peter kind of knows, but we don’t really talk about it.  Laura got it in her head that Paige killed herself because she didn’t want to be with a Wolf or become a Wolf.  She’d always get on me about how Paige would still be alive if I was a better Beta.”

 

“God, Derek!  That’s a load of crap!  How could she say that stuff?”  Stiles was practically vibrating with anger.  Derek took hold of Stiles’ hand.

 

“Hey, it’s okay.  I mean, it’s not okay okay, but we dealt with it.  Mom wasn’t going to put up with that kind of attitude, once she found out.  Mom isn’t that kind of Alpha, and she wasn’t going to train that kind of Alpha.  She took the Legacy from Laura, and told her that she needed to think about what kind of Wolf she was going to be.  She originally sent Laura to Arizona to live with Uncle Frederick and grow up a bit.  She made Laura Omega, and told Laura that she could work her way back to Beta but she had to earn it.  Laura hasn’t really called since.  She took early graduation and moved away really fast, just around the time your mom died.”

 

“That really blows.  I’m sorry, Derek.  I guess I shouldn’t have brought it up, huh?”

 

“It’s okay.  If you’re going to become Emissary, you’re going to have to know all about the Hales anyway.  Mom can give you more details.”

 

“Yeah, it just sucks that you’re so far apart from a sister.  You’re really close to Cora and Michael.  All I have for a brother is Scott, and we’re not really related.  But it would still suck if we grew apart.”

 

“Yeah, well, Laura and I didn’t grow apart.  She forced the separation when she got full of herself.  I don’t want to be the kind of Alpha that is so far above my Betas.”

 

“And that means you won’t be.  You’ll work right alongside of your Betas to have a healthy Pack.”

 

Derek smiles and ruffled Stiles’ hair, and then got back to packing.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Stiles’ seventh grade year starts much like the last year.  Stiles and Lydia and Danny are still in the advanced math and science classes, Scott and Cora are in History with Stiles, Stiles and Jackson, and Danny and Boyd have English and Social Sciences together.  They’re all split for lunch, however, so Stiles, Scott, Cora, and Boyd are leaving the courtyard as Jackson, Danny, and Lydia are entering.  Any mutual homework is passed along during the shift, and study groups are formed for after school.  The County Library is a favorite place to meet, and Donna Maria always has a private conference room in the basement saved for the group when they arrive.

 

Derek’s classes are busy for the first month, so the first Skype session isn’t scheduled until the end of September.  They decide to meet via computer every Friday evening, as Talia still brings Stiles out to the Hale house for baking.  Stiles bakes while chatting with Derek, and for a short time it’s almost like he never left.

 

Derek also comes home every other weekend so he can stay connected with his Pack and continue training with his Alpha.  He manages to arrive around three-thirty in the afternoon on Fridays, so he picks up Stiles for the baking day, and drives him home afterwards.  He and Stiles also have brunch with the Sheriff on those Sundays, and Derek talks about his classes and the running trails that he enjoys most.

*

Despite the warning he received for allowing teen drinking at his home, Mr. Lahey is still coaching the High School swim team, and sometimes Stiles, Scott and Jackson go to the local meets.   Jackson is thinking about joining the team when he gets to High School instead of the track team.  Sometimes they sit with Isaac Lahey, the coach’s youngest son, and they talk about the merits of swimming as exercise.  Isaac’s brother, Camden, graduated with Derek and had been talking about joining the Army, but he changed his mind.  Stiles is pretty sure that the bust on the party in the spring was what changed those plans, because Stiles’ dad told him that Camden Lahey was asking for recommendations for the police academy.

*

Derek comes home for semester break on December seventh.  Talia hosts a welcome home party, and Stiles and Scott are both invited.  The Sheriff and Ms. McCall are also invited, and the house is full of people.  During the party dinner, Talia brings up another possible New Year’s party and John and Melissa both agree that their sons can attend.  Stiles is happily basking in Derek’s attention as the older male tells stories about assignments and research papers.  College sounds like a lot of work, but Stiles figures he’s doing the same kind of work with his magical training.

 

Stiles tells Derek that along with his almost daily exercises for Donna Maria, he’s also having weekly Skype assignments from Roland McCook.  Roland is talking Stiles through constructing his own magical tools, like wands, staves, and fortune sticks (Because I’m not reading chicken bones, Derek), while Donna Maria is teaching him magical applications for everyday regular tools, like a hammer or Dremel hand tool.

 

“The Dremel lesson was pretty timely, because after I blessed and consecrated it, I got the assignment from Roland to carve the fortune sticks.  I had to use a hammer and chisel for the sticks, but I used the engraver on the Dremel to carve the symbols.”

 

“I’d like to see them sometime.”

 

“I’ll show you the next time you come over.  I’ll show you the whole lab!  It looks so different, now.  Dad comes in sometimes and just stares at my walls.  He says it feels busy but peaceful at the same time.”

 

“What else do you have planned?  Magically, I mean.”

 

“Well, I want to start a magical garden, with plants that can be used for spells or healing.  Dad’s going to help me clear a part of the yard for it, and we’re also going to clear out the shed so I can do some of the more…smelly—work out there.  I don’t mind doing the research in the house, but I’d rather not do something that might explode in there.”

 

“I can see where that might be a problem.”

 

*

 

“Dad?  Can I talk with you for a bit?”  Derek walked into the Hale kitchen where his father, Robert, was preparing a roast for dinner.  Talia was still at work with a case that ran late, and Peter, Amanda, and the other kids were finishing their holiday shopping.  Christmas, and Derek’s birthday, was only a few days away.

 

“Sure, Derek.  Come in and have a seat.  What can I do for you?”

 

“Can you tell me how you and Mom got together?”

 

Robert smiled as he sprinkled sea salt over the roast.  “I met your mother while we were both in school.  She was attending Harvard pre-law, and I was working my way through Cambridge Culinary School.  We ran into each other, literally, while trying to escape a sudden rainstorm in downtown Cambridge.”

 

Robert looked at his oldest son, who was enraptured by the story.  “We were both moving for the cover of a coffee shop, and after our collision, I offered to buy her coffee.  She took pity on me and agreed.  I managed to meet with her three more times before I was sure that I wanted to date her.”

 

“When did you decide to court her?”

 

“Oh, the courting came a year later, after she began the formal Law program.  First, she had to break it to me that she was a werewolf.  I’m afraid that I didn’t react well to that news, and it almost ended us.  I took some time, which she allowed that I deserved, and I made a pro/con list about dating a werewolf.  The con list was very long.  The pro list only had one item: her name.”

 

Robert got some glasses and poured them both some apple juice, then sat at the counter beside Derek.  “I asked about her family, and her goals for after school, and whether or not she wanted a family of her own.  We spent days talking about our wants and needs, and then she told me that she was next in line to become Alpha of her Pack in California.  Well, my home was Boston.  My family was there, all of my friends were there, and I wanted to open a restaurant there.  So, I had to decide what I wanted more, Boston or your mother.”

 

Derek smiled.  “I think you made the right choice.”

 

“You think so?  Because I originally chose Boston.  Your mother and I split for six months.  She concentrated on Law School, and I worked on updating my grandmother’s recipes for restaurant use.”

 

“What happened?  You obviously got together.”

 

“I saw her in that old coffee shop—with another man.  He was fawning over her, and she looked…bored.  So, I went home and dialed directory assistance and asked for Javier Hale in Beacon Hills, California.”

 

“You called Great-grandpa?”

 

“No, I called your mother’s Alpha.  I had serious questions, and I needed serious answers.  And he told me to court her.  To take her needs above mine, and to court her in the old Wolf way.  Two years later, I was putting a ring on her finger in front of her Alpha, taking her name as mine, and agreeing to take the Bite by our first anniversary.”

 

Derek shifted in his seat.  “So—how do you court in the old Wolf way?”

 

“Well, I had to prove that I could provide for a potential Alpha.  And I didn’t just have to prove it to Talia; I had to prove it to her Alpha and her family.”

 

“So you had to be able to support her?  That’s it?”

 

“No, Derek.  I had to provide.  I had to show that I could provide emotional support, and mental stimulation.  I had to show that I could support her physically and financially—not totally, but to add my skills to hers for a good future.  I had to show that I had her best interests at heart.  I had to show that she was in my every thought; that every day I would strive to make her smile.  I had to lend a soft shoulder when she needed to cry and a strong back when she needed to fight.  I had to prove to her and her Alpha that I could provide for her better than she could provide for herself.”

 

“How did you do that?”

 

“I’d give her little things.  Cheap but significant things.  Or I’d tell her a story about something that reminded me of her.  I’d call her when I knew she was having a bad day.  I’d call her when I was having a bad day.  That’s important, Derek.  When you’re providing for someone else, you have to let them provide for you as well.  It can’t all be one-sided.  You know that chintzy rainbow pin your mother always wears to court?  The one that looks like it came out of a gumball machine?”

 

“Yeah.  She wears it a lot.”

 

“When we started dating—before the break—we went on a picnic and it started to rain.  So we ran for cover, but when I walked her home later, we saw a rainbow.   So one day, I saw that pin in a flea market, for fifty cents.  I bought it and wrote a note about how and why it made me think of her, and I gave it to her when I asked her to marry me.  I didn’t have a ring for her, but she wore that pin until I found the perfect ring.  It’s her favorite thing.”

 

“So, if I want to officially court someone, I can’t just make it about them.  I have to allow them to court me back?”

 

“Something like that.  The important thing is that you totally convince this mystery person that you have their best interests in mind, and you convince the family of the same thing.  You have to prove that you’re willing to put yourself out there, that the relationship means that much to you.”

 

“Thanks, Dad.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Stiles spent as much time as he could with Derek before he returned to college.  He showed off his upstairs library/lab, and the area that would become his magical garden.  He booted up the laptop that Derek gifted to him and showed how he had the information organized.

 

Derek attended one of Stiles’ study sessions with Donna Maria so that he could understand the work involved in becoming an Emissary.  Derek wanted to be an involved Alpha, not one that ruled from behind the scenes.

 

Derek also wanted to spend time with the younger boy.  He knew Stiles was too young to date, and he knew he wasn’t in a hurry to date either.  Derek wanted to concentrate on school right now, and he wanted Stiles to enjoy being a kid.  But that didn’t mean that courtship couldn’t start lightly.  And lightly meant learning what was important to Stiles.

 

*

 

Once Derek was back at school, and the new semester started for Stiles, they were back to Skype sessions on Friday evenings.  Stiles told Derek about the changes around the school once classes began again.  For one; there was a new girl in school.  Erica Reyes had been homeschooled most of her life, until she decided that she wanted to try to be a normal girl for once.  When Scott, ever the clueless diplomat, asked why she wasn’t normal before, she responded that she had bad seizures and her mother didn’t want her to be over-stimulated in a public school.  From that moment on, Stiles and Scott vowed to keep an eye on her.

 

Derek couldn’t make it home for Stiles’ birthday that year, but he wanted to give a decent gift, so he contacted his mother about finding rare magical herbs for Stiles’ garden.  Talia thought it was a wonderful idea, so she combined the money Derek sent with money of her own and purchased an eclectic assortment.  Stiles was over the moon with joy, and he immediately sent Derek an instant message of huge thanks.

 

Derek’s father offered cooking instruction as a birthday gift, and Stiles jumped at the chance to learn to make healthy meals for himself and his father.  The Sheriff wasn’t big into cooking, and Stiles didn’t want them to depend on fast food and take-out forever.  Stiles was going to spend Saturday mornings at the Hale house, cooking freezable meals for a week, as well as his regular baking on Friday evenings.

 

*

 

Talia Hale visits the Stilinski home to inquire about Stiles and his magical training.   John makes coffee for the two of them, since Stiles is not at home, and they sit at the kitchen table chatting like old friends.  John reaches into his wallet and pulls out a worn, folded piece of paper, and Talia recognizes her own handwriting.  It’s the list—the Sheriff’s copy—and it has been a long time since she has looked at her own copy.

 

“The writing hasn’t faded yet, so I suppose we still have work to do.”

 

Talia nodded and reached for her own copy in her purse.  When she unfolded the paper, she started in shock.

 

“The writing on mine is half gone already.  I haven’t looked at it in so long, I was unaware.”

 

John reached for her list so he could compare the two.  “Your list is missing the information about the Kanima—you still haven’t explained that one to me—and the information about Peter after the fire.  I suppose that means that stuff isn’t going to happen now.  I wonder why my list is still intact.”

 

“Perhaps you’ll have to use the whole list in the future somehow.”

 

“Maybe.”  John cleared his throat.  “Speaking of the future; I’m planning a trip with Stiles at the end of August.  I’m thinking about having him take a semester away from here, so he can study with Roland McCook in Colorado.  We’re planning a hunting trip in September, but I think he’d do much better if his hands-on instruction wasn’t limited to a week.”

 

“What does Donna Maria think about that?” Talia asked with a grin.

 

“She thinks it’s a good idea.  I’ll be getting his class requirements for the semester so that he can keep up his studies and Roland will take the role of home-schooler for half the year.  Stiles will be back before Christmas.”

 

Talia’s eyes sparkled.  “Is he excited?”

 

John offered a rueful grin.  “I’m waiting until after school lets out to tell him.  He’s got a lot on his plate right now, so Roland and I want to give him a week or two of summer fun before we pack him off. He’ll want to see Derek before he leaves, too.”

 

Talia smiled.  “Speaking of Derek….”

 

John glared at her with a baleful eye.  “I have eyes and ears, Talia.  I know something is growing, but Stiles is still a kid.  And after what happened with Derek and that Argent woman, I would think he’d not want to push Stiles.”

 

“He doesn’t want to push Stiles at all.  But he does want to court him.  Derek wants to take things slow, but he wants there to be something—a chance, if you will.”

 

John inclined his head.  “Derek’s a good boy, and he’ll be a good man.  I’ll reserve judgment until Derek comes to me himself.”

 

“That’s very wise.  I will, of course, defer to you in this case.  Now, about the magic in your home.  It’s very tangible.”

 

“What does that mean?” John asked in concern.

 

“It means that Stiles is going to have to learn to shield his magic metaphysically, or every supernatural being in the state is going to sniff it out and come to find him.”

 

“Well, that’s not good,” John frowned.  “I’ll talk to him and Donna Maria.  I don’t want my house to reek, metaphysically.”

 

Talia laughed.  “Oh, John!  It doesn’t stink!  It smells good!”

 

John grimaced and reached for his coffee.  “Delightful.”

 

*

 

Stiles had a very bad day at school.

 

He had three tests, which he’s pretty sure he aced, and he tripped in track practice and jammed his knee.

 

And Erica Reyes had a seizure in Home Economics class.

 

Fortunately, that was the one class everyone in Stiles little group of friends had together.

 

Stiles and Scott broke up the crowd surrounding the shaking girl while Stiles yelled at the idiots taking video of the seizure.  Jackson and Danny started forcibly collecting phones and cameras to delete the videos while Scott and Isaac carried Erica to the school nurse once she calmed.  Stiles used his own phone to call Erica’s mom, so the woman could come to school immediately.

 

The whole ordeal took twenty minutes, and afterwards Jackson and Danny were heralded as heroes for protecting Erica’s virtue, while the rest of the school forgot that Stiles, Scott and Isaac helped at all.

 

At least Erica was okay.

 

After school, Stiles and Scott rode their bicycles to the hospital, where they would meet Ms. McCall for dinner.  They’d do their homework until Ms. McCall was finished with work, and then she would load their bikes into her SUV and drive Stiles home.  Scott spent the dinner hour asking about epilepsy and Erica’s extreme condition, and Stiles texted Derek about the situation.  The next day at school, the two boys hoped to be able to educate their classmates about the seriousness of Erica’s medical condition.  At the very least, they hoped to spare her any shame because of the seizure.

 

Those guys who were taking the videos were total jerks and they needed a reality check about the whole thing.  Stiles was willing to let Jackson and Danny take care of that.  And maybe Boyd; he was a big guy.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Stiles was totally looking forward to summer vacation!

 

Erica had only had two more seizures in school, so her mother agreed not to pull her out of school for the rest of the year.  Cora, Lydia and the boys all kept watch over her in class, and she always had an escort between classes.  On the last day of school, they were all given good citizenship commendations from the principal.

 

Stiles had a new friend, and that was what was important to him.

 

Derek was coming home for the summer, so Stiles was looking forward to spending time with him.  They were considering using the knowledge they obtained from Roland the previous summer and going on another camping trip.  They had a great time the last time, hiking in the woods, eating off the land, building their own shelters.

 

Stiles only had a month of vacation time to spend with his friends in Beacon Hills.  His father told him that he would be spending the fall semester in Colorado with Roland McCook.  He’d essentially be homeschooled in his regular subjects while he concentrated on his lessons in First Peoples Shamanism.  Scott thought the whole thing sounded cool until Stiles told him the ultimate goal of the semester away.

 

“You’re going to kill an animal?”  Scott produced an award-worthy pout.

 

Stiles sighed.  “I’m going to hunt, yes.  But it’s more than that.   I’ll be honoring the animal—the elk—by allowing it to live beyond its natural life in a magical way.  I’ve been working on this for a long time now; learning how to call to the animal and hearing the response.  Dad is going to fly out and join us for the actual hunt, so it’ll be bonding time for us.  Then I’ll be tanning the hide myself, and harvesting the bones and muscle.  I’ll be offering the organs to the old gods out of respect for the knowledge I’ll be receiving.  Then, after the leather and vellum has been finished, I’ll be making my own Grimoire.  The whole thing, from hunt and kill, to skinning and tanning, to construction of the Grimoire—it’s a huge magical ritual.  Very involved, and most people don’t attempt anything like it unless they’re lots older than me.  I’m lucky that Roland thinks I’m up to the task.”

 

Scott grudgingly agreed.  “Well, when you put it that way, it’s way cool!”

 

Stiles nodded vigorously.  “Yeah, I have to do some sort of vision-walk before the hunt, so this summer I’ll be preparing for that.”

 

“Don’t people usually have to take some sort of drug for a vision-walk?”

 

Stiles sat back indignantly.  “Do you think my dad would be cool with that?  No way, dude!  I’m going to be meditating, and sweating, and doing physically difficult tasks, just to get my mind in the right place.  It’s not going to be easy, but I think I’ll learn a lot.”

 

“You’ll have to keep a diary or something.  You can do an essay for school about it.  The whole natural experience!”

 

“We’ll see how it goes.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Derek was happy to be home for semester break.  He was going to be spending a lot of the next summer taking extra classes so that he could begin the Medical Program a semester early.  This was going to be the last time he had to actually relax.

 

Derek and Stiles spent a lot of time Skyping to each other, as Stiles had not been in Beacon Hills the few weekends Derek had come home.  Stiles had been studying in Colorado, learning the Shaman Path as part of his Emissary training.  While Derek had enjoyed hearing Stiles’ stories about his time there, Derek missed seeing the boy in person.

 

Stiles had definitely grown on Derek.  His bright wit was fun to deal with, and his humor was laced liberally with sarcasm, keeping him on the edge of cruelty without the spite that would push him over.

 

And his smile was addictive.

 

Despite the age difference, Derek was becoming hooked, and he wanted to move forward into courtship.

 

But first, Derek had to approach the Sheriff.

 

So, here he was, pulling into the driveway in front of the Sheriff’s house, two days before Stiles was set to return home.  His palms were sweaty and his heartbeat was quickening.  He needed to calm down.

 

The Sheriff was a reasonable man.  Derek was a reasonable man.  They could discuss reasonably.

 

Derek lost track of how long he sat in his vehicle trying to calm himself down, but he started in surprise when a knock fell on his window.

 

Derek looked to the side to see the Sheriff standing outside of his SUV.  Derek rolled down the window.  “Yes, sir?”

 

“You want to come in for a while?  Have a cup of tea, maybe.  Talk a bit?  Or would you rather haunt my driveway?”

 

“Sorry, sir.”  Derek unbuckled his seatbelt.  “I’ll come in, thanks.”

 

John nodded and walked toward the house.  Derek rolled the window up and opened the door to follow.  He ducked inside and removed his shoes and coat as he shut the door, and then he moved into the house toward the kitchen.

 

“I have that lavender/chamomile blend that your Uncle Peter favors so much.  Or would you like something else?”

 

“That’s fine, thanks.  I’m sorry that I’m so out of it.”

 

“Something on your mind?”

 

Derek cleared his throat.  “Yeah—yes, sir.  There’s something on my mind.”  Derek accepted the tea and took a sip to calm down a bit more.  “I’d, uh, like to talk to you about having permission to, um, court Stiles.”

 

John raised an eyebrow as he looked at the younger man.  “Court?  My son?”

 

Derek set him mug back on the counter.  “Yes, sir.”  Derek took a deep breath.  “Look, Sheriff, I know how young Stiles is, believe me.  And I remember how you handled a predator situation with me when I was his age.  I would never, ever, put him in any situation where he was not in complete control.  I don’t want him to feel threatened or stalked.  When I first met Stiles, he was a sad kid who just wanted to make his mother’s Christmas special.”

 

Derek didn’t notice John’s flinch.  John remembered when Derek really met Stiles for the first time—a much older Stiles, who was only there for two days.  Lost in his memories, John almost didn’t hear Derek continue.

 

“I asked my dad about courting, and it’s a process.  I just want the opportunity to see if we, me and Stiles, can grow together.  If our friendship can maybe, in a few years or more, become something bigger.  All I’m asking is permission to show Stiles how much he means to me, and to show him how much I can offer to him.”

 

John nodded.  “It’s a process?  Like dating?”

 

“No, sir.  I’m not interested in much more than school right now, and really he’s too young to date.  But I’d like the friendship to progress.  I’d like to be able to send gifts or private notes.  I’d like to share in more of his life.  But only if you say it’s okay, and only if he wants it.  What he wants is paramount.  I won’t go against his wishes.”

 

“Uh, huh.”  John crossed his arms across his chest and leaned back against the counter.  “And what if he wants a girlfriend, or a boyfriend, that isn’t you?”

 

“Then I’ll honor that decision,” Derek said earnestly.

 

John leveled a serious look at Derek.  “And what if he wants dates and kisses and getting serious?”

 

Derek swallowed and straightened his back.  “Then I’ll tell him to cool down and just let it be for a while.  I’m not Kate Argent.  I’m not physically attracted to a young boy.  But I am attracted to his intelligence and humor.  And I’m more than attracted to his magic, I can’t lie about that.”

 

John smirked.  “Your mother told me it smelled good to supernaturals.”

 

“It does.  It’s not just magic, it’s his spark as well.  The combination is like the best kind of chocolate with cinnamon added to it.”

 

“Well, that’s very descriptive,” John said wryly.  “Look, Derek, I’ll allow you more contact with Stiles.  And I do trust that you won’t force him into anything.  I’m not worried about that.  But what if he agrees to the courting, and then wants out?”

 

“Then I’ll back off, and we’ll remain friends.  His happiness is all that I want.”

 

“Me, too, Derek.  Me, too.”

Chapter Three—Tripping the Light Fantastic

 

December 20, 2008

“What was it like?”  Scott was sitting on Stiles’ bed, softly stroking a large, leather-bound book.  The pages were empty, but the binding was solid, and the magical intent fairly poured from it.

 

Stiles turned around to face his friend.  “What was what like?  The lessons?  The hunting?  The book-building?  I had a busy six months, you know.”

Stiles was unpacking his suitcases, and trying to get used to his house again after spending so much time living in Colorado.  His time with Roland McCook was spent in a log cabin with no indoor plumbing and a wood-stove for heat and cooking purposes.  He went to bed when the sun went down, and woke before the sun came up, and the hours between were spent learning to meld with nature in ways Stiles had only dreamed of.

 

Scott shrugged and continued to stroke the book.  “All of it, I guess.  I’ve never known anybody who did stuff like this before.  So tell me everything!”

 

Stiles smiled.  “Okay, but a lot of it isn’t glamorous.  I ate a lot of corn and cactus while I was there.  We hunted and fished every other day, because we had no fridge or freezer to store food, and we had to draw water from a well because plumbing didn’t exist.  I don’t think Dad was prepared for how rustic it was going to be when he got there, even though I called him every week.”

 

Scott’s brow wrinkled.  “If you had no power, how did you call?”

 

Stiles snorted.  “We weren’t isolated, dude!  We were near a town, but far enough away to be ‘in nature’ instead of ‘in civilization’.  And we drove to Denver and Colorado Springs a few times.  I had to go to museums and art galleries for schoolwork.  And there is a huge metaphysical center in Colorado Springs, so we went there for magical supplies and contacts.  The cabin didn’t have Wi-Fi or a phone, but contact wasn’t hard, you know.  I did call you, too.”

 

“Yeah, but not that often,” Scott pouted.

 

Stiles arched one eyebrow.  “You’re not my dad.  I also had to keep in contact with Donna Maria and Alpha Hale, so they could understand my progress.  So, anyway, Dad flew out in September for the Hunt.  Roland gave him an over-view of the bows we were going to use so Dad had an idea of how difficult it was going to be.  I cut the sapling at Roland’s direction and bent it to kiln-dry in the fire kiln we worked with, so the bow was hand-made by me so it would fit my hand.  I had been hunting for a while by then, so I was used to it.  The arrows were made from wood that I cut and carved and cured.  The arrowheads were from stone that Roland helped me carve.  The quartz was magically charged so that it would honor the elk.

“We had to scrub down with sand in a creek bed to get the smell of ‘human’ off of us before the hunt, and we slept under the stars for two days while I sent a magical reach into the wild to call the elk.  He was old and proud, Scott, and so powerful.  But he was tired and wanted to move into the Great Beyond.  I told him that his death would honor the rest of the herd; that by him moving on, there would be food for the younger elk.  I told him that his energy and life-gift would allow me to aid my Pack, and that he would live on in my magic if he allowed me to take his life.  He walked away from the herd and headed toward us, Scott, and I could feel his energy.  He was ready to die.  Heck, he was going to die soon anyway, but if he died in the wild then he would lie and rot and the rot could poison the water supply and hurt the herd.  So he came to me and allowed me to take his life.

“His faith in me strengthened my magic, and my aim was true.  I took him in one shot, and Dad helped me and Roland drain him and field-dress him, and we carried him back to camp.  That’s when the real mess began.”  Stiles shuddered.  “I had to skin the elk to prepare the hide.  I had to scrape the fat and hair off the skin and wash it, and then we had to stretch and dry it.  We boiled the brain and mashed it to make the tanning solution, and that was pretty gross.  Dad and I butchered the meat and divided it into portions for freezing, and Roland packed it all in a tub of dry ice that we got beforehand.  We cooked a leg shank for dinner that night to honor the elk.  I had to harvest the organs and pull the ligaments off the joints.  I boiled the bones to clean them and stripped the sinew to make laces.  Tanning the hide took days, and we didn’t have a cooler to help us.  We smoked it over a hot fire for two days while Dad and I talked about all the things I was learning.”

 

Scott’s eyes grew wider and wider as Stiles spun his tale.  “Dude!  That sounds so intense!”

 

“Yeah, it was.  And it was messy, and I don’t think Dad is ever going hunting again.  But he understood how much effort I was putting into the magic, and he understands that I’m taking this seriously.”

 

“So, you made the book?”

 

Stiles took the book from Scott and opened the cover.  “Yeah, see?  We used stripped tree bark for the book binding, and the leather cover is sewn with the sinew.  I used a bone from the elk for a needle and I had to hand-sew the whole thing.  The ring-binder part we got from an office supply store, but it’s more for convenience than anything else.  I could have just bound the pages, but this way I can take out or add in anything I want as I use the book.  We also talked about making vellum pages out of the hide, but I decided to use heavy cotton paper instead.  That way, I can put the pages in a computer printer instead of hand-printing all the pages.  Some of the stuff, I’ll still have to do by hand, but that’s because of magic and not necessity.”

 

Scott ran a finger lightly along the line of stitching.  “It seems like a lot of work for one book.”

 

“Oh, there was more to it than just that.  The construction was all ritual, so I was casting spells while I cut the bark and the leather binding, and I had to cast other spells while I carved the bone needle for the sewing.  The paper is blank now, but I’ll be selecting the content and there will be magic involved in that as well.”

 

Scott looked up at his best friend.  “Dude!  You have done things nobody would ever think of doing!  I want to work with animals, but you get into their heads!”

 

Stiles shook his head.  “It’s not like that, though.  I’m part of the magic, and the magic is part of me.  I can’t, like, talk to animals like Dr. Doolittle or anything.  If there is need, then I can get a message, but it’s more like the Emergency Broadcast System: all very need-to-know.  I have to learn this stuff, because of the Emissary thing.  I have to be in tune with the territory that I serve, and that means being in tune with the plants and animals and the Pack members and other population.  Everything I’m learning now, from Donna Maria and from Roland, it’s all so I can give my life back to the land and to magic.  It’s all give and take, so I can’t take more than I’m willing to give.”

 

“Yeah, but it’s so cool!  And it’s so cool that I know you!  I always knew you were special.  That’s why we’re friends.  I just didn’t know how special you were, is all.”

 

Stiles laughed.  “Shut up.  So, are you and Mama McCall coming to the Hale’s for Christmas night, or are we just doing the regular family thing during the day?”

 

“Mom’s off work, so we’ll be going out with you and your dad.  Oh!  I almost forgot!  Mom’s union got them a raise, so she took me out to dinner to celebrate.  Guess where we went!”

 

“Obviously not In-And-Out Burger.”

 

“Nah!  She wanted to go somewhere fancy that she’d not normally go.  So, she took me to ‘Carlysle’s On Baymont’.  The food was really good, but Stiles!  They have your mom’s cookies on the dessert menu!”

 

Stiles blinked.  “Yeah.  I know.  I told you that I bake the cookies for the Hale family restaurant.  The recipes are Mom’s, so I won’t let Regan have the cookbook, but they pay me to bake for them.  I spent a whole week before I left baking so they could freeze enough to last for a while.  Roland was a good sport about taking me into town to bake and mail cookies while I was out in Colorado.”

 

“But I thought the restaurant was called ‘Hale’s’ or something.”

 

Stiles sighed.  “Scott, how many fancy places are in Beacon Hills?  Talia Hale’s husband took her name when they got married.  His name was Carlysle before then, so he named his place that, for his own family.”

 

“Oh!  That’s cool.  It was just a surprise to see the cookies there.  It’s cool that you have a neat job like that.  I wish I could find a part-time job.”

 

“You want to work with animals.  Why don’t you see if the local vet or animal shelter would hire you to feed animals or clean cages or something after school?  You’re almost fifteen.  You might be old enough for part-time work.  And if you can’t do it now, you might be able to during the summer.”

 

December 25, 2008

 

Stiles nervously carried wrapped parcels into the McCall household.  It was the usual family Christmas, and he felt right at home, but he had been absent for a long time and was having trouble fitting back into his regular life.

He needn’t have worried.  Melissa greeted him with a huge smile and hug as she drew him into the house.  John gave him a pat on the shoulder as he bent to receive his own hug from the woman, and the Stilinskis moved into the living room where the decorated tree was waiting.

Stiles placed his gifts under the tree beside the modest gifts from his father, and then he strode into the kitchen to join Melissa and Scott as they finished making brunch.  The conversation was filled with little details about Stiles’ sojourn that he didn’t tell Scott: star-gazing in the Colorado Mountains and hiking in the Garden of the Gods.  Stiles produced a photo album filled with nature studies and landscapes, and Melissa cooed over it appropriately.

After the meal and photo tour, it was time for presents.  Scott and Melissa got Stiles a few new plaid shirts for school, and Scott got him a new video game that they would play later.  John gave him a California State Driver’s Course text book and a promise to start teaching him so he could get a learner’s permit when he turned fifteen in April.

Stiles handed his gifts out and stood by nervously as they were unwrapped.

Scott grinned hugely at the silver arrow-head pendant on the leather thong, and he immediately hung it around his neck.  Melissa gave a confused look at her gift—a necklace of multi-colored stones.

“They, uh, they’re carved with protection runes.  The stones are quartz and malachite, and I used a bone needle to carve the runes.  After I hand-drilled the holes, Roland took me to Colorado Springs so I could get them mounted on the chain.  I told the new-age jeweler that you were a nurse and that the necklace had to be able to stand up to hospital conditions.  It’s surgical steel, not silver, so you can wear it to work.”

 

Melissa threw her arms around Stiles’ shoulders in a rough hug.  “It’s beautiful.  Thank you so much.”

 

Stiles looked at his father as the man opened his own gift.  John’s face glowed in pride as he lifted out a leather wallet, obviously hand-tooled.  “Is this…?”

 

“Yeah.”  Stiles shrugged.  “I had the leather, and the ability, so I figured that I’d be practical about it, you know?”

 

“You’ll have to tell me about these symbols stamped into the leather, but this is beautiful work.”

 

“Thanks.  I’m glad you like it.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Dinner at the Hale house was lively.  Everybody wanted to hear about Stiles’ six-month adventure, and he proudly showed off his photos.  Derek especially seemed interested in hearing all about what Stiles learned while he was away.  It had been a lonely time for Derek, as Stiles couldn’t Skype to him the entire time he was away.

 

“I missed you, but I’m glad you had a good time,” Derek said shyly.

 

Stiles wrinkled his nose at him.  “I’m not sure if it was a good time.  I mean, I enjoyed it.  But it was a lot of work, too.  I’ll never take plumbing for granted again!”

 

Derek laughed.  “I guess camping this summer is out of the question, then?”

 

“Oh, I don’t know.  For a day or two, it will be alright.  But using a well and an outhouse for six months was a drag.  I actually looked forward to the long drives to Denver or the Springs, just to be in civilization.  I mean, the town we were close to was okay, but even Beacon Hills was larger.”

 

“But you’re ready to get back to your regular school, right?”

 

“Yeah.  I got my exam results back from my semester away, so I’m ready to jump back into classes here.  How is your school going?”

 

“It’s getting pretty intense now.  My anatomy classes are pretty nasty, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.  I enjoy the lab work, and I’m thinking about moving into a rental house with some other med students so we can all keep each other on track.”

 

“That’s pretty cool.  I guess you’ll be finished with your regular classes soon, huh?”

 

“Yeah.  I start the med program at UC Davis in the fall.”

Stiles rubbed his neck.  “I, uh, made you something.  For your birthday.  I think you can use it for your classes.”

 

Stiles ducked into the living room, where he had stashed his jacket and bag, and returned to the den where he and Derek had been talking.  He handed Derek a wrapped package.  “Don’t shake it to guess what it is.”

 

“Okay, I won’t.”   Derek carefully peeled the paper away from the box and pried the flaps open.  He reached in and pulled out a hand-worked leather portfolio, sized to hold a legal pad, several pens, and notes.  The leather exterior was smooth, but there were runes carved into the interior binding.

 

Stiles flushed brightly.  “I pushed a blessing into the binding when I made it.  The runes are for creativity and knowledge.  I was going to make you a leather watch-band, but you can’t have leather in a hospital environment.  So, I figured you can carry your notebook and notes in this.  And it’ll look all professional and stuff.”

 

Derek grinned.  “I love it.  I can’t believe you made this.”

 

Stiles shrugged.  “My elk was kind of huge, and the skin didn’t shrink a lot when we tanned the leather, so I had plenty.  I mean, after I bound my Grimoire, I had plenty.  I made your dad a wallet like I made for my dad.  I’m really working on placing protections on objects, and it’s easier when I hand-make stuff instead of buying it.”

 

“That makes sense, because you’re putting so much personal effort into something.”

 

January 24, 2009

 

John took Stiles to the Sheriff Department Kennels so that he could ‘listen’ to the police dogs.  He wanted to make sure that the dogs were mentally as well as physically fit, and Stiles had proven that he could feel for the needs of animals in his vicinity.  Stiles reported that the bloodhounds were bored but otherwise fine, but one of the regular K-9 officers was rather melancholic.

 

“I don’t know, Dad.  I mean, you can take the bloodhounds to the elementary schools for outreach programs, and that’ll keep them from being bored.  But Roscoe is really depressed.  Has there been a bad crime-spree that you never told me about?”

 

“No, nothing at all, really.   Roscoe works with Deputy Cole, and Cole’s wife just had a baby.  Could that have anything to do with it?”

 

“Maybe?  Let me go ask, okay?  You can’t have a depressed K-9 officer.  He won’t want to chase or search if he’s depressed.”

 

A few moments later, Stiles returned with news that Roscoe was feeling discomfort in his belly area, and it was putting him off his feed.  So John made an appointment with Dr. Deaton, the local vet.  John was cautious about seeing Deaton, because he remembered from ‘FS’ that Deaton was the former Emissary to the Hale Pack, and that he wasn’t really doing his job well.  Donna Maria had told John that she informed Deaton that she was training the new Emissary, but she had not revealed the name of the new Emissary.  There was no way that Deaton would guess that his son was the trainee, but John didn’t want to take any chances.

 

The next day, John and Roscoe walked into the vet’s office.  Well, John walked.  Roscoe’s head was low and his tail was tucked down, and he shuffled slowly beside the Sheriff.

 

“What seems to be the problem, Sheriff?”

 

“I’m not really sure, Doc.  He just seems…off, somehow.  He’s listless and he’s not eating well.  I thought he might be depressed or something.  Our K-9 officers treat the dogs like family, and Deputy Cole’s wife just had a baby.  But I want him checked out, because Roscoe is one of our best dogs.”

 

Deaton smiled and took Roscoe’s leash.  “I’ll just take him back and check him out, then.  Don’t worry, we’ll get him situated.”

 

As the vet came near to take the leash, John notice that he inhaled deeply.  Deaton was frowning slightly as he took the dog into the exam room, and John wasn’t entirely sure it was because of Roscoe.  Talia Hale had mentioned that his house smelled like magic.  Did John also smell like magic?

He was going to have to talk to Donna Maria about this.

 

February 2, 2009

 

John called Talia Hale to inform her that Kate Argent was going to be up for parole.  He wanted to make sure she was prepared for the event, as well as making sure she contacted Derek at school to let him know.

Argent had served her time, and was a model prisoner.  She had very few visitors over the years, and fewer phone calls.  Her father, Gerard, visited a few times just after her incarceration, but had rarely come back since.  John kept track of any phone calls that she made or received, just to make sure she wasn’t planning any malicious activities for after her release.  She called her lawyer, of course, and attempted to call her brother, but the calls were never received.

Still, with fines paid and time served, on the first Monday in February, Kate Argent left the California Institute for Women alone and without escort.

 

Derek called Stiles that night, just to bask in the comfort of his voice.  He claimed that he just wanted to talk, but Stiles could tell that something was bothering him.

 

“Come on, Derek.  This is me, remember?  I can tell by your voice that something’s wrong.  Just tell me, and save us both the trouble of me nagging.”

 

Derek sighed.  “It’s just….Kate Argent got out of jail today.  Your dad called my mom, and she called me.”

 

“That’s that woman that got after you in high school, right?”

 

“Yeah.  But there’s more to it than just that.  She’s from a Hunter family.  Mom thinks she was trying to get to the Pack by targeting me.”

 

Stiles frowned.  “That sucks on many levels, dude.  Are you going to be okay?”

 

“Don’t call me ‘dude’.  And I’m fine, really.  I’ve moved on, and she really didn’t do anything to me. And she never had a chance to get to the Pack.”

 

“Are you worried about her?  About her maybe coming after you now?”

 

“Well, I know who and what she is, now, so she’d have a hard time getting to me.  And she’d have to know where I am.  And even if she did find me, I’m a lot stronger than I was at fifteen.  And I’m more settled now.  The Alpha training is helping a lot, and I have school to keep my mind occupied.  I was in a really bad place way back then, and she was able to turn my head a bit.”

 

Stiles smirked.  “So, a pretty face couldn’t turn your head now?”

 

“Ha! No, I have too much going on with school to be head-turned by some stranger.  And…well, I have you, right?  To keep my mind straight?  You keep me grounded in the best way, so I can concentrate on what’s important.”

 

“You can’t see me, but I’m totally blushing right now.  I’m glad, you know, that you think I keep you grounded.  You, um, keep me grounded, too.”

 

“Thanks for being there for me, Stiles.”

 

“Always, Derek.  I mean it.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Spring 2009

 

Spring brought many changes and challenges for Stiles.

He turned fifteen with his usual arcade party, and Scott was finally learning to bowl without dropping the ball, thanks to Cora Hale.  Stiles studied and passed the exam for getting his learner’s permit, and as promised, his father was beginning to teach Stiles how to drive.  He wouldn’t be able to get his license for another year, but the impending freedom was exciting.

Stiles was also practicing hard to hide his magical signature.

Donna Maria told him that hiding the magic would give him an advantage, as nobody would ever suspect him of having as much power as he did.

Stiles placed special crystals around his home and property line, and the scent of magic disappeared from the house and yard.  Stiles retrieved the wallet that he made for his father and inserted a crystal into the lining, and John no longer carried the aroma of magic on his person.

Stiles had taken to smudging the house and property on the night of the New Moon, to clear out any negativity that might linger from school and job stress that he and his father brought home.  He also worked on meditating to clear his aura every night before bed.

His efforts of hiding his magical signature were so complete that Talia Hale drove right past the house when driving Stiles home after a Baking Friday.  She couldn’t ‘see’ the house, even though she’d driven there so often in the past.

 

Stiles shrugged at her astonishment.  “Sorry.  Donna Maria told me that hiding the magic would be an advantage.”

 

“Don’t apologize, Stiles.  I’m impressed with your ability.  And mildly disturbed.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Stiles and Donna Maria trudged through the woods, stumbling across the damp earth.  The spring was a wet one, and the rain had finally cleared away enough for them to make the trip to the Nemeton.

 

“So, you really think I’m ready for this?” Stiles asked with not a little doubt in his voice.

 

Donna Maria clapped her hand over his shoulder.  “You’ve shown remarkable strength and power, Stiles.  You have more control over your magical gifts at fifteen than many Adepts have at thirty.  I think you’re more than ready for this.  And this will be a good test of your training.”

 

Stiles bit his lip.  “If it doesn’t work, I can’t hurt it more, can I?”

 

“No.  You’re going to feed it positive energy.  Even if you only heal it a small amount, positive will never do harm.  This is why intent is so important in spell work.  You read the Harry Potter books, right?”

 

“Yeah.  They were pretty cool.”

 

“Right.  Well, you know about the ‘Unforgivables’ and how nobody on the ‘light’ side would use them?”

 

“Yeah, because they were supposed to be Dark spells, and the Dark would corrupt.”

 

“Well, in the last book, Molly Weasley kills Bellatrix in order to save her child.  You don’t think Molly would use a Dark spell, do you?”

 

“No, because the Weasley’s were a Light family.”

 

“Yup.  So, using a Light spell—or a light-ish spell—but intending to do harm, made it possible for Molly to kill Bellatrix.  It’s all about intent.  Sometimes, accidentally, even fiction writers get it right.”

 

“So, if my ‘intent’ is positive, and my spell is positive, then I can’t accidentally do harm.”

 

“Right.  So, here we are.  An old, dead, stump of a giant tree.  You’d never know, unless you could feel it, that this is a nexus of power.  And power attracts, so we need to make sure that this nexus is not corrupted or damaged so it doesn’t attract ill will or evil intent.  We’ll never be able to keep the bad from happening totally, because of free will and people doing stuff because they’re assholes, but we can prevent major bad from being invited here.  Do you have your supplies ready?”

 

Stiles lifted his backpack.  “Right here.”

 

“And you know what you want to do?”

 

Stiles hummed a bit before saying, “I have a good idea, yeah.”

 

“Well, Padawan, get to it!”

 

Stiles grinned at her, and then sat his pack down and opened it.  He pulled out several cloudy crystals and birthday candles.  He walked around the stump, placing the crystals and candles seemingly at random, until he circled back to the pack.  He then pulled out a bundle of dried herbs and a lighter.  He took a deep breath, centering his energy and thoughts.  He calmed his mind and reached out with his magic to touch the ley lines beneath the earth.  He drew on the power, pulling it deep within himself, and he exhaled slowly.  Stiles flicked the lighter to ignite the flame and, focusing his magic on healing and love, he set the flame to the herb bundle in his hand.

 

As soon as the herbs began to smoke, the small birthday candles flared to life, and then burned out completely, and the crystals sank beneath the earth.  Stiles carried the smoking bundle around the stump, clock-wise, until he made the full circle.  When he was finished, he waved a hand over the bundle to extinguish the smoldering herbs.

 

A sharp crack caught his attention, and Stiles turned to face the stump.

It had split widely in the middle, from edge to edge.  In the center of the crack, a green shoot began to wind upward; new life, growing from the old.

Stiles smiled widely.

Donna Maria clapped her hand on his shoulder.  “You done good, kid.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

In May, Erica has another seizure in school.  This time, it’s in gym class, and she falls from the climbing wall.  Fortunately, Scott, Isaac, and Stiles are there to catch her.  This time it’s Boyd who calls the Nurse while Scott and Isaac clear the gym of the other students.

Stiles calls Alpha Hale after school.

 

“It’s just, she’s a great girl.  She’s smart, and sarcastic, and she loves Batman.  And I think she’s got a crush on Boyd, but she’d never say anything because she thinks the epilepsy makes her a freak.  The meds are not helping.  Is there anything you can think of to help her?  I talked to her about magic, to see if I could help, but nothing is working.”

 

“Why do you think magic would work?”

 

“I helped with Scott’s asthma.  I mean, I helped make some concoction to help his asthma.  I was hoping to find something that would help with the seizures.”

 

Talia hummed.  “I don’t know enough about epilepsy, Stiles, to think that anything other than medication would help.  I think maybe the Bite could help her, but I would have to talk to her parents first.  I hesitate to reveal my Pack to outsiders.  You know what could happen.”

 

“I do.  Let me talk to them first, yeah?  I can feel out if they’re the types to freak out.  If they say yes, and Erica says yes, maybe you can do it during summer vacation?”

 

“You and I can talk to them together.  I am glad you called, Stiles.  I have an opportunity for you, if you’re interested.”

 

“What kind of opportunity?”

 

“I would like you to go to visit my brother in Arizona for a few weeks this summer.  I think the Emissary of the Arritas Pack can help you greatly.  Donna Maria tells me that you are much more advanced than she thought you would be at this age.”

 

“I guess that would be okay.  I’ll have to ask my dad, because I was gone all last summer.  But if it’s only going to be for a few weeks, then I guess that would be okay.”

 

“Good.  Now, what say you and I talk to the Reyes’ tomorrow afternoon?  I can call and make an appointment, so that they’ll be free.”

 

“Yeah, that sounds good.  You know, if she gets the Bite this summer, Scott’s gonna be pissed that we’re making him wait until he’s sixteen.”

 

Talia snorted.  “Scott can get over it.  His health is fine, as far as I know.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

“You’re going away for the summer again?”  Scott offered one of his patented pouts, causing Stiles to smile.

 

“Only for a few weeks, and I’m leaving right after school is out.  Alpha Hale wants me to learn from a real Emissary, but I have summer plans here with you and Dad.  And Derek mentioned maybe camping again before he starts the Medical Program at school.”

 

Scott smiled.  “I never thought I’d like camping, but those trips are fun!”

 

Stiles nodded in agreement.  “I know, right!  We learned a lot from Roland.  I learned even more last summer, so we can camp somewhere other than the Preserve if we want to.”

 

“So, when are you leaving?”

 

Stiles picked up his school calendar.  “Well, classes let out on May 27, so Frederick Hale is gonna drive up the week before to visit with the family, and we’ll leave on the 30th.  I’ll be coming home before the end of June.”

 

“That’s not so bad.  And, you’ll have internet and phone lines, so you can call more often than last year.”

 

“Yup.  But I also have to spend a lot of time baking before school lets out.   It’s still my job, and the pay is good.  Dad says I should just sell certain recipes to Regan for use at the restaurant.  It won’t keep me from making them at home, and I can keep the income from the sale.”

 

“I know you like baking at the Hale’s.  What do you want to do?”

 

“I think I’ll keep it up through school, and then maybe sell the recipes before college.  I gotta go, though.  Talia is giving Erica the Bite right before I leave, so I’m giving her parents the low-down on werewolves and the Pack structure today.”

 

“So they took the news okay?”

 

“Nope,” Stiles shook his head.  “They thought we were nuts.  And then Talia shifted, and Mrs. Reyes fainted, and then we had a talk.  Your mom was much cooler about it, and she thought I was teasing her.”

 

“I hope it works out for Erica.  She’s too cool to be stuck in a body that hates her.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Stiles had just left Beacon Hills with Frederick Hale and his Mate, Oscar, when Talia Hale’s office phone rang.  She kept a separate phone line in her home for business purposes, and it was linked to her work line.  This kept her law practice separate from her home life, but allowed clients to contact her for emergencies.

 

“This is Talia Hale, how may I help you?”

 

“Alpha Hale?  This is Christopher Argent.”

 

“Ah.  What can I do for you, Mr. Argent?”

 

“This is rather awkward for me, so I beg your indulgence.  My sister was recently released from prison, as you are aware.”

 

“Yes, we were informed.  Is she causing trouble already?”

 

“No, not exactly.  She did attempt to contact me when she was released back in February, but I was unavailable to her.  She tried to visit my home last month, but we could not admit her because she is on the National Child Sex Offender list and she cannot be around my daughter.  My father has been trying to recruit me for more ‘enlightenment tours’, which is what he calls trips to source out Wolves to hunt.  I have no intention on following his bandwagon, either.  And that is why I’m calling.”

 

“I’m afraid I do not understand.”

 

“May I be frank?  Long ago, my father arranged my union with the daughter of the head of another Hunter Family.  While my marriage was arranged, my wife and I did develop true feelings for one another.  She was raised to be a Hunter, but she was raised to follow a stricter code.  Whereas the Argent Code is supposed to be ‘We Hunt Those Who Hunt Us’, the Albright Code was ‘Protect From the Darkness’.  I have come to understand that code, Alpha Hale, and that is the Code I want to raise my daughter to believe in and follow.  And I have recently come to the understanding that my father is Darkness.  I wish to protect my family from my father’s influence—and my sister’s, as well.”

 

“How, if you don’t mind my asking, does this affect me?”

 

“My father can reach me, here in Minnesota.  I have a good reputation as a legal arms and ammunition dealer, but word is going to get around about my sister.  She’s already tried to reach out to me twice.  My father has realized that he has no good influence with respectable Hunters, anymore.  I need to distance myself and my family from them as much as I can.  I won’t change my name, but I can keep my reputation apart from them.  To do so, I would like to negotiate a move to your territory.”

 

Though she was surprised, Talia kept her voice calm.  “You want to move here?  After everything that has happened?”

 

“I know how it sounds.  But I believe that we can benefit each other.”

 

“I already hold treaty with the Calaveras Clan.  Why would I need other Hunters here?”

 

“Because the Calaveras Clan is closer to the Mexican border, and I would be local.  My reputation is honorable now.  At least for now, my father’s influence has not worn down the Argent name.  I hope that my presence will keep my father’s riff-raff away.”

 

Talia’s eyes brightened with enlightenment.  “And in return, my Pack can protect you and your family.”

 

“If need be, yes.  My wife and I want to raise our daughter to understand honor, not genocide.  I want her to live without the stigma of Gerard Argent over her head.  She’s fifteen, and for most of her life, Gerard has been fortunately absent.  My wife’s family visits infrequently and only during school hours, but Gerard and Kate—before her arrest—were rarely present in our home.   Allison may have known Kate at one point, but for the last several years Allison has known that Kate did a horrible thing and was paying for her actions.  Allison does not know about Wolves, and I know it’s time to tell her, but I want to give her examples of honorable Wolves.”

 

“While I do thank you for that assessment, are you prepared to answer questions about your sister’s motives years ago?

 

“I think it is past time that Allison understands the darkness in our family, so that she can grow above it.”

 

“I shall think on this matter and call you back, if I may?”

 

“I thank you, Alpha Hale.  I look forward to your call.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

 

 

While Stiles enjoyed his time in Arizona, he was glad to be returning home.  The heat in Arizona was almost unbearable, for one thing.

Laura Hale was completely unbearable, for another thing.

 

Stiles was glad that Derek told him about Laura—the small bit that he did tell.  Stiles was completely unprepared to deal with her.

 

During the twelve-hour drive to Phoenix, Stiles passed the time with Frederick (Call me Rick, please) and Oscar talking about Stiles’ studies and possible future plans.  He told the two men about his mother and how he met Alpha Hale and Derek in the hospital, and how the new librarian could sense his magical spark.  They were impressed that the Sheriff was so open-minded about the Supernatural and Magical aspects of the world, and the fact that he allowed Stiles to commit so much time to studying magic.  They told Stiles about Davi Coates, the Emissary of the Arritas Pack, and her family of dog trainers.

 

Stiles gaped at Frederick.  “The Emissary of a werewolf pack trains dogs?  That almost sounds like a bad joke.”

 

Frederick snorted.  “I know it does, but she and her husband do good work.  They train search and rescue dogs for emergency crews all over the country.  Her dogs go to earthquake sites and plane accidents to find survivors.  Her office is plastered with clippings featuring dogs that she’s trained over the years.”

 

“That’s pretty cool.  My best friend, Scott, wants to work with animals.  I think he wants to be a vet, but I’m not sure.  I’ll have to tell him about the dog training.”

 

They also told him a little bit about Laura.

 

“She knows we went back to visit Talia, because she lives in our building.  I’m not going to lie, Stiles; Laura was really messed up when she came to us.  My sister is a fair Alpha.  I’d still be in her Pack if I hadn’t met Oscar.  But Laura got some strange ideas in her head, and she let them corrupt her thinking.”

 

“So she went all ‘bad-egg’?”

 

“She’s not evil, Stiles.  But she allowed some subversive thinking to influence her.  She started thinking that humans in a Pack were a weakness and that only Born-Wolves were good enough to deal with.  Which is totally bogus, because her own father is a bitten-wolf.  And he only took the Bite because of a promise he made to our Alpha before he passed the mantle to Talia.”

 

Stiles’ mouth twisted into a scowl.  “So, she’s not going to be thrilled to meet me, is what you’re saying?”

 

Frederick shrugged.  “I honestly don’t know if anyone has mentioned that Talia is now training Derek to be the Alpha Successor.  And the fact that you’re only fifteen is going to go against you in her eyes.  Now Davi, bless her, is really looking forward to meeting you.  Talia has apparently been talking you up quite a bit.”

 

“Great.  Shoes to fill already, and they’re mine.  I hope I measure up to the hype.”

 

Still, even after being told that Laura had a chip on her shoulder, Stiles was not prepared to meet her.

He really should have been.

Stiles’ first sight of Laura Hale was when he entered the lobby of a large apartment building in a suburb of Phoenix.  She was taller than him, but not as tall as Derek, and she had her mother’s long, dark hair.  Her eyes were green, like her father’s.  Her mouth was the same shape as Talia’s, but there was a sad twist to the lips, like she almost never smiled.

And her words?  Pure anger.

 

“You have got to be kidding me!  Is this what my mother thinks is a powerful Emissary?  I’ve been gone four years, and this is the best she could do to protect her precious Pack?”

 

“Laura!” Frederick scolded, “show some respect for our guest, please.”

 

Stiles shook his head.  “Nah, it’s okay, Rick.  Respect has to be earned.  I haven’t earned hers yet, but she sure hasn’t earned mine.”  He held out a hand for a greeting shake.  “I’m Stiles.”

 

“I’m sure you are.”  And she turned and left the building.

 

Stiles turned to face Rick and Oscar.  “So, the trip was long but the weather is nice!  I really need a nap, guys.”

 

It was true.  The drive was twelve long hours.  Rick and Oscar traded off driving duties, but Stiles was left to nap, read some notes, or watch the scenery pass by.  Once they were out of California, all there was to see was desert.  And in the dark, the desert isn’t much fun to watch.  And sleeping in a car wasn’t optimal.

Rick led the way to the elevator.  “Okay, yeah, I could use a shower and nap myself.  I’ll show you to your room and leave you to it.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Davi Coates and Alpha Dante Arritas were a couple of gin rummy aces.  That was Stiles’ first impression.

Davi Coates was an older lady, around sixty, with laugh lines around her eyes and mouth.  She had long grey and black hair that she wore in a long braid, and very shrewd grey eyes.  She dressed like a stereo-typical college professor, all long skirts and denim vests and sandals, but Stiles recognized the stones of  the necklace that she wore—and some of the runes carved into them.

Alpha Arritas was sneaky.  He had long, stark-white hair worn in two braids with a leather thong holding them tight.  He looked soft around the middle, and was shorter than Stiles.  But under his loose jeans and white oxford shirt, Stiles could see the solid muscle that he associated with a strong Wolf.  This was the visage that Stiles imagined when he originally heard that he would be studying under a Shaman.

When he was led into the Arritas Pack main Den, he found the Alpha and Emissary sunk deep in a battle of cards, piles of three and four scattered in front of both of them.

Stiles had practiced his Pack Etiquette, and he was prepared to give a good show in respect to Alpha Hale.  He was not prepared for—

 

“You can’t go for the whole discard pile, Dante!  That’s practically cheating!”

 

“It’s only cheating if I don’t use the bottom card, Davi.  And I have use for that card.”

 

The man beside Stiles—Marc Arritas, grand-son to the Alpha—cleared his throat to announce their presence.

 

“I know you are there, Marcus.  I heard you drive up the lane.  When I decimate Davi with this play, then I will be available to you.”

 

“Forgive me, Alpha, but you wanted to meet the young Emissary as soon as he arrived.”

 

Alpha Arritas and Emissary Coates both looked up from their game, astonished at the presence of more than one person in the den.  Alpha’s eyes narrowed as he focused on Stiles, and Stiles shifted uncomfortably.

 

“You, I did not sense.  Come, boy, and let me greet you.”

 

Stiles shuffled toward the card table, head bent downward to that his neck was bared to the older Wolf.  “Sorry about that.  I was putting off a lot of magical aroma-residue, so I had to train to hide the signature.  I guess I got really good at that.  No disrespect was meant, Alpha.”

 

The older man chuckled.  “No, I can see that it was not.  Now that I know you are there, I can separate your scent from my grandson’s.  To hide your scent from a werewolf.  Did your own Alpha tell you how successful you were?”

 

“Um, nope.  I think she just knows my scent.  I was only trying to hide the magic.  Keep ‘em guessing, right?”

 

“Hmm, you are right.  The magic is such a part of you that hiding the magic hides part of your own scent.  It is truly fascinating.  Well,” said the Alpha, holding out his hand in greeting, “I am Dante Arritas, Alpha of the Arritas Pack of Greater Phoenix.  This horrible card player is my Emissary, Davi Coates.  We are pleased to meet with you.”

 

Stiles accepted the Alpha’s hand, and allowed himself to be pulled closer to be scented.  He then bowed in greeting to the Emissary he was sent to learn from.

 

“I am Ignacek Jovan Stilinski, future Emissary to the Hale Pack of Beacon Hills, California.  My mother called me ‘Stiles’ and it would please me if you would do so as well.”

 

Davi laughed as she rose from her seat.  “That’s quite a mouthful, young man.  You have done well, here.  Dante, I’m going to be incredibly rude and take this young person away with me.   We have much to do and little time in which to do it.”

 

“Go on with you, then.  Stiles, it was good to meet you.  We’ll have a nice feast for you before you leave, so you can meet more of the Pack.”

 

“Thank you, Alpha.  See you soon!”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Davi took Stiles to her home on a ranch outside of Phoenix.  She showed him the kennels where she worked, and introduced him to her own dogs, two Labradors named Lacy and Rex. Then she took him to a large barn on the opposite side of the ranch from the kennels.  This was her personal workshop.

There was a greenhouse attached to the barn, and Stiles could see many of the same plants as he had in his own garden.  Stiles made a mental note to check into building a greenhouse of his own.  In the main room was a stone fireplace, surrounded by bookshelves.  There were two over-stuffed armchairs in front of the fireplace, with an odd table settled between them.  The table looked like a cross-section of a large log standing on three wooden pegs, like a tri-pod.

Davi settled Stiles into a warm chair and started the fire to brew tea.  Lacy and Rex lay on the rug in the corner, obviously their favorite spot in the barn.

 

“So, tell me about yourself, Stiles.”

 

“Um, okay?  I’m fifteen years old, and I’ll be starting high-school in the fall.  I run on the Cross Country team, and I do some track events in the spring.  I knit for fun, but it helps with my ADHD, too.  I’ve learned to push magic into my knitting, so the scarves and hats I make have little protections in them. Oh!  I spent last summer and half the school-year in Colorado studying with a Ute Shaman, and I made my own elk-hide Grimoire.”

 

Davi’s eyebrows rose high on her forehead.  “Did you bring it with you?   I would love to see it.”

 

“Yeah, I brought it, and some magical inks, with me.  I figured I’d use this learning experience to practice my calligraphy, so I’ll be hand-writing pages for the Grimoire based on what you teach me.”

 

“Do you have a magical tradition that you follow?”

 

“Um, you mean like Wicca?  I’m not sure I follow a tradition, exactly.  Everything I’ve learned is pretty eclectic, so I guess I practice a bit of everything.”

 

“There is nothing wrong with that, as long as your intentions are pure.  Magical practices are all tailored to the user, after all.”

 

“Well, I’m good at vision-casting.  Um, I mean picturing what I want to happen, and making it happen.  And I can conjure flower barriers, as long as I have the flowers in my garden.  But I’ve been practicing using the plants in the preserve, so I don’t have to have actual cuttings in my possession.  And I’ve been healing the Nemeton in the preserve.”

 

“Healing it?  Was it sick?”

 

“It was a stump.  It was a poisoned tree, and someone cut it down before it fell over and did a lot of damage in the woods.  But now, there is new growth coming from it.”

 

“That’s very advanced magic,” Davi said shrewdly.

 

“Really?  It wasn’t hard to do.  It just felt right, you know?”

 

Davi handed him a tea mug.  “Well, as far as I can see, your teachers have done very well for you.  There is not much, magically, that I can teach you, so I’ll focus on working with a Wolf Pack.  Is that alright?”

 

“That’s great, actually.  Donna Maria is acting as Emissary right now, because of my age and inexperience, but I can tell she’d really rather just be the librarian and an author.”

 

Davi laughed.  “Stiles, being Emissary is a calling and duty, but our vocation—our joy and employment—is always what we would rather do.  When you find your vocation after school, you will understand.  I’d rather be working with the dogs, but sometimes I must deal with Pack business first.  It’s not always easy, but it is the life that I chose.”

 

“I guess I chose it, too.  But it chose me, too, you know?  The magic was in me, so it was all about what I can do with it.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

Stiles spent the next two weeks taking notes and listening to the stories of a life-long Emissary.

He learned how Mountain Ash—specifically the species of Fraxinus that originated in Greece, but grew all over the world—could be used as a barrier against the supernatural.

He learned about different species of aconite (Wolf’s Bane) and their uses as a poison and as a medicine.

He learned how a Wolf can become an Alpha within a Pack, or without one.

He learned the hierarchy of a Pack and how it applied to a family.

He learned about the Hunters and their codes, and the mythology of the Hunters and the Wolves.

Stiles learned how to seek signs of Hunter activity before one of his Pack was injured or killed.

Stiles learned how to read intent from both human and Wolf.

Stiles was introduced to Nona Vera Calaveras, the matriarchal leader of an old Spanish Hunter Clan.  She was the leader that Alpha Hale had a treaty with, but she was also the leader that Alpha Arritas worked with daily to keep the Pack running smoothly.  Through Nona Vera, Stiles learned that not all Hunters were out to kill indiscriminately, and that they could actually aid the Packs when fighting intruders.

 

And Stiles filled page after page with neat calligraphic writing and drawings for his Grimoire.

 

Before he packed his bags for the trip home, he proudly presented the Grimoire for inspection.  Davi, Nona Vera, and Alpha Arritas were all impressed with his dedication to his craft.

 

“It is rare,” said Alpha Arritas as he glanced toward Laura Hale, “To see one so young so determined to prove a valuable asset to a Pack.  Alpha Hale has chosen wisely, I think.  You are, of course, welcome here at any time.”

 

“Thank you, Alpha.  And thank you for your hospitality.  I’m sorry I didn’t have the time to spend with your Pack.  You’re all pretty neat, I think.”

 

Later, as he was packing the last of his things, Laura Hale came into the apartment.  Stiles wasn’t worried, much.  She was Rick’s niece, and Rick and Oscar were just next door with Marc Arritas.

 

“You must think you’re something special.”

 

Stiles looked up from his packing.  “I think I’ve been very fortunate.  I am special, because I have a magical talent, but I don’t think I’m better than anyone else.”

 

“Well, you aren’t better than anyone else.  You’re human, and you’re breakable.  And you’re weak.”

 

“You’re not very strong yourself, are you, Laura?  I know you were sent here to ‘find yourself’, but we both know that you were exiled.  I don’t know exactly what you did that made Alpha Hale send you away, but since the rest of the Pack is pretty awesome I guess it was bad.  And Derek told me you were training to become Alpha, but now you’re only Omega.  Low, without a true Pack to back you up.”

 

“What does Derek have to do with anything?”

 

“He’s training to become Alpha.  Your mother chose him and gave him the Legacy on his seventeenth birthday.”

 

Laura scoffed.  “He’s weak.  He’s pathetic, and he’ll drag the Pack down.”

 

“Actually,” said Stiles, moving to stand in front of Laura, “He’s got a very strong character.  He cares about the Pack, and his family and the territory, and he’ll be an awesome Alpha.”

 

“What do you know about it?”

 

“I know that the Hale Alpha has protected the territory around Beacon Hills since before it was Beacon Hills.  I know that the Hale Alpha protects the people who live there, whether or not they know about the Pack. I know those people under the Alpha’s protection are human, and that a good Alpha can’t turn his back on the humans.  I also know that your own father is a Bitten Wolf, and that the humans in your mother’s Pack keep her strong.  And now, you don’t have that Pack.”

 

“I’ll have a stronger Pack, when I become Alpha!”

 

“Planning on killing Alpha Arritas, are you?  Or maybe you’re planning on killing your own mother.  Laura, I know how a Wolf becomes Alpha, and you don’t have the strength of character to become a natural Alpha.”

 

Laura growled and Wolfed-out, throwing herself at Stiles in an outright attack.

 

But Stiles was ready.

 

He waved his hand, and a barrier of red berries and white-green leaves rose between them; fresh Mountain Ash to protect Stiles from the angry Wolf in front of him.

With another wave, the barrier shifted to form a circle around Laura, and Stiles began to herd her toward the front door.

 

“You’ll have to do a lot better than that, Laura.  Even if you did manage to hurt me, Rick and Oscar know you’re alone in here with me.  They’ll know you attacked, and that will mean exile from another Pack.  Right now, I have to finish packing for my flight tomorrow, so you’ll have to leave now.  Rick and Oscar are waiting to escort you away.”

 

Another wave of his hand, and the door opened behind Laura and she was forced into the hall by the berry-and-leaf barrier.  Once she was gone, Stiles waved the barrier away and went back to his packing.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

Summer 2009

 

Stiles and his father spent several days after his return just bonding.  They cooked together, and went fishing in the Preserve, and watched movies in the evenings.

 

Derek would call, just to say hello, while Stiles was gone, and now that he was home, Derek was planning on another week-long camping trip.  He came to the house one day when the Sheriff was home, laden with maps and supply lists.

 

“Derek, come in.  How are classes going?”

 

“Fine, sir.  I’ll be starting the Medical Program in the fall, so I guess I’m psyched about that.”

 

John smiled at the younger man.  “It’s good to look forward to learning new things.  What do you have there?”

 

“Some camping ideas.  We all had a good time the last time we went camping, so Stiles thought we could do it again this year.  Since he learned more about land-camping last summer, I figured we could try to go out farther than the Preserve this time.”

 

John’s face screwed up in distaste.  “That sounds like…something I want no part of.  I had enough of land-camping when I went hunting with Stiles last September.  I’ll just leave you two to it, okay.  Let me know if you want to order pizza for dinner.”

 

“Will do, sir.  Is Stiles in his room or the lab?”

 

“The lab, I think.”

 

Derek walked up the stairs and headed to the room at the end of the hall.   The door was open and the light was on, so Derek knocked on the wall next to the door.

 

Stiles looked up from his work.  “Hey, Derek!  Did you just get here?”

 

“Yeah.  I was talking with your dad.  So, I have some maps.  We can get this trip planned.”

 

“Okay, go on into my room.  I need to finish this page, and then I’ll be right there.”

 

Derek wandered into Stiles’ bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed, spreading the maps on the bed behind him.

Stiles followed moments later.

 

“What were you working on?” Derek asked as Stiles approached.

 

“Oh, I was coloring some plant drawings I made for the Grimoire.    I think I’ll make another book; one for plant information only.  Descriptions and drawings and photographs, as well as magical and medicinal uses.  I’d like to keep the Grimoire for mostly magic only, and all of my plant notes take up a lot of space.”

 

“Are you going to hunt for a new book cover, or will you use something else?”

 

“I think I’ll make a flower journal.  You know—get a blank book and fill it with stuff as I find it.  Nothing fancy, just something anyone in the Pack can use.  I found a book in the ‘Used’ section of a bookstore in Phoenix: a Victorian Flower Oracle.  It has meanings of plants, like friendship, or warning, or romance; stuff like that.  I think that stuff is interesting.”

 

Derek nodded.  “You mean like sending a message through a bouquet of flowers.  No note, but the meaning is there.”

 

“Yes! Exactly!  We could send messages for birthdays or important dates just by sending a plant or flower.”

 

“I like that.  So,” Derek gestured at the spread of maps, “where were we thinking of going?”

 

Stiles pondered the maps.  “Well, we really don’t want to go far from civilization.  Despite how well my herbal inhalant is working, Scott still has asthma, and he has to inhale the treatment every night.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

The camping trip, which was spent in the Preserve—but on the far side away from town, was a huge success.

Everybody survived.

On this trip, Cora Hale decided to opt out, but Michael Hale, who had just turned ten, was deemed old enough, and Talia allowed him to go.  He was included in the group of teenage boys—plus Derek—that headed out with not much more than the packs on their backs.

It rained the first night.

It rained the whole next day.

Isaac and Michael, who were the newbies on the trip, began to complain about being cold and wet and hungry (no fire to cook, so they didn’t fish for food), so Stiles broke his secrecy rule and demonstrated MAJOR MAGIC (all caps needed) and started a non-smoking fire with very wet wood and no matches.

As they sat around the warm (hot) fire, eating spitted rabbits that Derek caught with a snare (in the rain-HA!), Stiles and Derek told the group—Danny, Boyd, Isaac, Scott, Jackson, and Michael—all about magic and Stiles’ ability with it.  Stiles revealed the truth about his absence from school the previous fall semester, and Scott told about his new breathing treatment. (John had supplied the boy with an old tobacco pipe that he had from his grandfather.  They cleaned it completely, and Scott was able to use it as an inhaler on the camping trip, even though it tasted horrible when not mixed in water.)  Stiles demonstrated a flower barrier (Honeysuckle—Bond of Love) and shot small sparks from his fingers to amuse Michael.

 

“So, you’re Harry Potter?” Isaac asked mischievously.

 

Stiles laughed as Scott shoved Isaac playfully.  “Nah, man.  No wand.  I think I’m more like Merlin.  All I really need is a focus and intent.  But I have to be respectful, you know.  When you have this kind of power, it’s really easy to do something harmful.  I don’t want to harm anybody.  I want to protect my friends and family, and stay safe and sane.  I won’t be doing love spells or anything like that, and I can’t use it to cheat at school.”

 

“Why not?” Jackson asked.  “I mean, I know the cheating thing, but why not love spells?”

 

“Because that’s taking somebody’s free will away.  It’s like…magical rape.  When I hear someone tell me they love me, I want to know that they mean it on their own, and not because I cast a spell.  My teachers have all been pushing the ethics thing really hard.  Sometimes the easy thing isn’t the good thing, and I have to understand that easy isn’t better sometimes.”

 

“That’s cool,” Jackson said calmly.  “I was just asking.  You read stories—you know, fantasy or sci-fi, and people are always casting stuff like that.”

 

“My main instructor gave me two books—‘When, Why…If’ and ‘Before You Cast a Spell’—all about magical ethics.  Basically, the difference between meaning well and going full-on Darkside is all about ethics and intent.  I’m never going Darkside, if I can help it.  In the future, if someone I love is in danger, and I have to do something sketchy, I want to be able to do it knowing it’s for the best reason.”

 

“Do you do magic every day?”  Isaac seemed really interested.

 

“Yeah, small things, but pretty much every day.  It’s like a muscle—I have to exercise it to keep fit.”

 

The next day, the rain stopped.  The boys were able to show Isaac and Michael how to fish bare-handed, and then how to clean the fish with the pocket knives they all carried.  Derek was big on knife safety, so they all were very careful while cleaning the fish and carving sticks to spit the fish for cooking.

The night before their hike back to civilization, Derek made the decision to tell the group about Wolves and Hunters.  While the boys were swimming (and washing) in the stream, Derek used his emergency phone to call his mother and ask permission.  Scott and Jackson—and of course Michael—knew about Wolves, but only Stiles was aware of Hunters and how dangerous they could be.  Talia agreed that the boys could be trusted.  Especially since they were friends with Erica, and she had received the Bite when school let out.

 

“I know that this isn’t the whole group; that there are others that you are all friends with who are not here for whatever reason, but I need you all to keep this close,” Derek said seriously.  “Don’t go telling everybody,  because it’s not just my secret to tell.”

 

Jackson, realizing what was going to be talked about, nodded quickly.  “Lydia doesn’t need to know right now.  And Danny’s boyfriend, Lex, doesn’t need to know either.”

 

Derek nodded in agreement.

 

And then, Derek shifted.

 

Stiles had always thought Derek was a handsome man.  But his full-Beta form was astonishing.

 

Sure, his eyebrows disappeared, but his lengthened jaw line and higher brow were gorgeous.

 

Jackson and Scott took the shift in stride, and Michael all but climbed into Derek’s lap, but Boyd, Danny, and Isaac scooted far away from Derek—to the other side of the fire pit.

Stiles lost it.

 

“Guys!  Seriously!  If he was going to hurt you, don’t you think he would have done it by now.  This is the last night in the woods, for crying out loud!”

 

Boyd, ever stoic, was the one to speak.  “What the hell was that?”

 

Derek shifted back to human.  “Werewolves.  My family…well, most of my family, are werewolves.   There are humans, too, like Michael here, and my aunt Regan.  My father was human, but took the Bite after he married mom.”

 

“Why show us now?” Danny asked nervously.  “To scare us?”

 

Stiles shook his head.  “No, man.  We need you to know what is out there.  Plus—Erica took the Bite the last day of school.  Her epilepsy was really bad, and it wasn’t getting better.  Her parents were talking about surgery—cutting her brain in half, basically.  And even then, it might not have helped.  I went to the Alpha for help, and together we talked to Erica’s folks, and they agreed to let Erica get the Bite.”

 

“So she’s not at some hospital for special treatment?” Boyd asked.  He had become very fond of the blonde, and was missing her since school let out.

 

“Nope.  She’s at home, when she’s not training with Derek’s parents and uncle.  By the time school starts again, Erica should be fully in control of the Wolf and not in any danger of shifting under stress.  And no more seizures.”

 

“But,” said Derek, “Wolves aren’t the only danger out there.  There are Hunters—humans who hunt down werewolves.  Mostly they follow codes that keep good Wolves safe.  But there are some who only see werewolves as monsters.  And they see human family members as monsters, as well.  I was targeted a few years ago, in high school, by a Hunter who was after my family.  She screwed up bad, and she got sent to jail for very human crimes, but she’s not the only one out there.  You are all friends with Stiles and Jackson, so any bad hunters would think that you’re targets because of association.”

 

Danny looked confused.  “What does Jackson have to do with this?”

 

Jackson threw his arm across Danny’s shoulders.   “Remember when I told you I was adopted?   Well, Derek’s Uncle Peter is my sperm donor.  When I was a kid, they told me about the Wolf thing because they thought I could present as a Wolf when I hit puberty.  It didn’t happen, but it was a risk.”

 

“So, because some people know that you’re a Hale by blood, they might think you’re a werewolf too, and they could go after you?”

 

“Well, no,” said Jackson, “because not many people know that Peter Hale was my sperm donor.  We know who my mother was, but she was married at the time, so we all figured her husband was my birth-father.  But I do hang with Stilinski, and if you know what to look for, he’s not quiet with the magic.  And when people know that there’s magic around, other things might be, too.”

 

Isaac looked at Stiles.  “For what it’s worth, I think you are very quiet with the magic.”

 

The talk grew serious, as all of the boys were made aware that Erica could become a target.

 

“If you’re going to remain her friends,” said Derek, “you need to keep an eye out for her.  Pay attention to anyone who gets too curious about her, especially after her change.”

 

Stiles thought, watching the way that Boyd puffed up, that Erica’s crush might be returned.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

Autumn 2009

 

Stiles and company start High School in the fall.  Stiles wants to stick with Cross Country and Track as his sports choices, but Scott begs him to try out for Lacrosse as well.

To nobody’s surprise, Jackson and Danny make the Lacrosse team.

To everybody’s surprise, Stiles and Scott make the team as well.

 

Well, they warm the bench and act as tackle dummies during practice, but they’re on the team.

Coach Finstock is pleased with how fit they all are, and Stiles doesn’t even mind running suicides during practices.

 

Derek has transferred to U.C. Davis, so that he can begin the Med program.

 

He and Stiles still Skype every week, but now Stiles gets actual mail from Derek.

 

Sometimes it’s just a little note detailing some aspect of campus life.

Sometimes it a joke, printed from an online joke site, guaranteed to make Stiles laugh.  He takes those to school with him to share with his group of friends.

 

Stiles and Lydia and Danny are in the advanced math class again, without Scott or Jackson.   But they all have English and History together, and lunch, of course.

They all congregate under the cover of the courtyard, at their usual table, for the afternoon meal.  Somehow, Jackson, Danny, and Lydia have been chosen by the ‘popular’ crowd, and Scott and Stiles cheerfully wave them away from the lunch table toward the new group.  They had each other and Boyd and Isaac and Erica.  Plus, it would be interesting to see how being popular would affect Jackson.

 

Erica had taken the Bite remarkably well.  Her skin cleared almost overnight, and her hair was shinier.  She smiled more often, too, like she didn’t have a care in the world.  She also stopped wearing over-sized clothing and started wearing stuff that actually fit.

Her attitude had also changed for the better.  She was still shy around people that she didn’t know well, but she was loud and exuberant with Stiles and company.  And she delighted in hugging Boyd between classes.

 

By the time Thanksgiving break rolled around, Erica and Boyd were officially going steady, and he was invited to spend part of the break with the Reyes family.

Derek would not be home for the holiday, as he had a lot of studying to do, so Robert and Cora were driving to Davis to spend the day with Derek instead.  Stiles passed along a hand-knitted scarf for Derek—filled with affection and pride, so Derek would feel it when he wore it.

 

Once classes resumed for the semester, Stiles was smiling as he sat in a classroom before class, reading a note that Derek had sent him.  Lydia took her seat beside him and watched as he read the paper.

 

“What’s that?”

 

“Oh! Um, Derek sent me a note.  Nothing really; just observations about his classmates and instructors.”

 

“He writes to you a lot.  Doesn’t he have e-mail?” Lydia asked skeptically.

 

“Yeah,” Stiles confirmed.  “And we Skype, too.  But this is more personal.  It’s like he went out of his way to give me this, not like an afterthought on e-mail.  This was sent with intent.  He had to mean it to put it in an envelope and put a stamp on it.  I send him stuff, too.”

 

Lydia smiled.  “I think that’s great.  I wish someone would do that for me.  It sounds better than jewelry.”

 

Then the bell rang, and the classroom filled with students.

 

And all Stiles could think about was that he needed to warn Jackson, as soon as possible.

 

 

 

 

The day before Derek’s twenty-first birthday, he asks for a meeting with the Alpha of the Hale Pack and the Chief Financial Manager.  He worded it just that way, so that his father would know not to feel left out, and that his mother and uncle would know that he meant business.

 

“Derek, what is this about?” Talia asked once they were ensconced in her office. “You sound so serious.”

 

“I’m sorry, Alpha, but this is serious.  Uncle Peter, I’m about to receive half of my family Trust account tomorrow.  When Laura turned twenty-one, did she receive half of her Trust account?”

 

Peter frowned as he thought.  Because the meeting was called naming him as Chief Financial Manager, he brought all of his ledgers and bank statements pertaining to the Pack.

 

“Laura’s twenty-first birthday was the November before you graduated High School.  I flew to Phoenix on November twelfth to go over her account statements with her.”  Peter opened a large account journal, and turned a few pages.  “She was shown the balance at the time, as well as the projected balance for her twenty-fifth year.  I handed her a certified check for half of the current amount, as per terms of the Trust.  Why do you ask?”

 

Derek handed Peter an envelope.  “I got this in the mail yesterday.”

 

The envelope contained a birthday card; generic ‘Happy Birthday’ and a balloon on the front, blank inside.  There was a hand-written note within.

 

Happy 21st Birthday, Derek.

You’ve taken my Legacy.

You’ve taken my inheritance.

You will get your Just Reward.

LEH

 

When Peter finished reading the note, he passed it along to Talia.  The woman frowned deeply.

 

“I don’t understand.  You have taken nothing of hers.  I’ve seen the records myself.  Once she cashed the check, the bank notified Peter.  She has the money, and in a little over a year, when she turns twenty-five, she’ll receive the balance of her share of the Trust, including all interest earned in the interim.  The Trust is set the same for all Hale children that were born while my grand-father was alive.   Your father and I agreed to set up a Pack Trust for children born during my tenure as Alpha, just like Grandpa Javier did.  Michael will receive the largest amount from the original Trust, because he is the youngest to receive the seed deposit, but Laura received quite a lot.  And with Peter’s sound investments over the years, her final balance will also be quite nice.”

 

Derek sat heavily on the settee in his mother’s office.  “Stiles said she was pretty antagonistic when he met her in June, and she was especially upset when he told her that you made me your successor.  She actually tried to attack him, which was really stupid because Uncle Rick was right next door.”

 

Talia walked to her desk and seated herself in the large, intimidating office chair.  She picked up the desk phone and began to dial.  While she waited for the call to connect, Peter seated himself next to Derek and pulled out another ledger.

 

“While your Alpha calls the Arritas Alpha, why don’t we go over your projected earnings now, instead of tomorrow?  Christmas is such a busy day, and we’ll have all sorts of guests coming and going, both for the holiday and your birthday.  This is only a technicality, as you will not receive the official balance check until Monday because of the long holiday weekend.”

 

“Yeah, that sounds good.”  Derek’s eyes widened as he saw the ledger entries under his name.  “Wow, this is….a lot!”

 

“Yes, well, I’ve always had a talent for making money,” Peter said smugly.  “When my father passed along the job of investing for the Pack, I thought it might be a huge mistake.  I was such a trouble-maker when I was younger.  But I actually enjoy the position, and I’ve been able to help a lot of Pack members get through tough times.”

 

“I can see that.  So, if I only want to deposit half of this in my regular account, can you invest the rest for me?”

 

“Of course.  It would be terrible to allow money to languish away, not even earning interest.  Of course, in four years, when you reach twenty-five, you’ll receive the total balance.  This is the projected amount, but I can further diversify this to make more if you decide to go that route.  It won’t violate the terms of the Trust to move the money around to increase the wealth, as long as there are no total withdrawals.”

 

Derek nodded.  “Okay, yeah, let’s do that.  I’ll be finishing med school by then, and moving into a fellowship, so I’ll most likely need the income to survive until I get an actual job.”

 

“If I do this right, Derek, you’ll be able to open your own practice.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

While Peter and Derek discussed money and investments, Talia Hale was in deep discussion with Dante Arritas, Alpha of the Arritas Pack.

 

“Talia, it is so good to hear from you in time for the holidays!”

 

“I’m afraid I’m not calling with Christmas Greetings, Alpha Arritas.”

 

“So, it is like this, is it?  Business so close to a major holiday is never good.”

 

“This is not happy business, Alpha.  I’m calling in regards to Laura Hale, the omega I sent to your pack for redemption.”

 

“Ah, yes.  She is a troubled young woman, is she not?  I had the pleasure of driving your young Emissary to the airport when he left us in the summer.  He passed along the message that Laura Hale has plans to become Alpha in her own right.”

 

“So, she’s improved that much already, that her character would raise her so high?”

 

“No.  Ignacek Stilinski is of the opinion that Laura Hale intends to kill in order to receive the Alpha Legacy.  He warned me to keep my guard up and never go anywhere without an enforcer.  I should think the same warning should go to you as well.”

 

“She sent my son, my successor, a birthday greeting accusing him of stealing her family legacy from her.  I know she thinks he stole the Alpha Legacy, because Ignacek told me how she reacted to the news, but now she seems to be accusing Derek of keeping her share of the Hale Family Trust.  However, I know she received her first share in January of 2007.  She cashed the check that was given to her.  We have it on file, with her signature.”

 

“She has not, as it is known to me, spent a large amount of money in that time, Alpha Hale.  She lives in the same apartment building as your older brother and his partner.  She works as a file clerk in one of the City offices, as she chose against attending college while here.  Her one expenditure was a used car, which she uses to travel to and from work.  Two of my enforcers are near her at all times; a fact that she seems not to be aware of.”

 

Talia slumped slightly in relief.  “So you are keeping her under watch.  I am glad to hear that.”

 

“I was saddened to have her here as Omega, but I trust in you always.  I would not allow her to be in my territory unless she was under watch.  She does not travel much, and has a small social group—all low-ranking Betas.”

 

“Thank you for that information.  Please let me know if anything changes.  And, please, have a Merry Christmas!”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Talia circled her desk and took a seat near her Pack mates.  “Alpha Arritas has Laura constantly under surveillance, and he said she has not been acting suspiciously.  But he’s not taking chances, and has an enforcer with him at all times.  She told Stiles that she intends on becoming an Alpha in her own right.”

 

Derek started.   “Are we in danger?”

 

“No, not at all.   For one thing, I’m too well, surrounded and aware.  For another, she doesn’t know where you are, and I think you’re stronger than she was at your age.  Her attitude will keep her power levels low.  She’s hindering her own growth, and she doesn’t even know it.”

 

Peter gathered his ledgers and stood.  “If you like, I can try to do a financial search; try to see where she’s spending and on what.”

 

Talia held out a hand to stall him.  “While it might be handy to know that, I think that skirts the law too closely.  We’ll keep things as above-board as we can, and we’ll stay alert.  Derek, I don’t want you to stress over this.  You’re doing well, and you deserve the life you’re building for yourself.”

 

“Alright, mother, I won’t stress.  At least, I won’t stress about Laura.  But I hope she’ll get over herself soon.  I miss the way things were when we were younger.”

 

Talia smiled sadly.  “I know.  I miss that, too.  You were so close once; almost like twins, instead of three years apart.  If only we were granted the ability to see into the hearts of our children, I could have read her character and skipped over this whole mess.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

December 25, 2009

 

Stiles and Scott are in Scott’s bedroom, playing the new video game that Stiles got for Christmas.  Scott would always give Stiles a game that Scott wanted to play, and Stiles would return the favour with a game that he was interested in.  It was all good, ‘Bro-time’ fun.

 

“Man, I can’t wait until I can drive!  Riding my bike to school, practice, and work on the other side of town is getting to be a drag,” Scott said with a sigh.

 

Stiles looked at his best friend in concern.  “Is the breathing treatment still working for you?”

 

“Oh, yeah, man,” Scott said quickly to reassure his friend.  “It’s all good that way.  It’s not my breathing that kills me, it’s all the pedaling!”

 

Stiles laughed.  “At least you’ll be in shape for the Cross Country meets!  I’m getting my license before you, dude, so I can get us to school next year.”

 

“Oh, yeah?”  Scott perked up.  “Are you getting a car, too?”

 

“Let’s just say I’m looking into it, okay,” Stiles hedged.  “Plus, hey!  You’re still thinking about taking the Bite before the end of summer, right?”

 

Scott nodded and he wildly pressed buttons on his controller. “Yeah.  Mom said I could when I was sixteen, but since my birthday is in September, we figured that before school started was best.  That way, I’m under control when classes start.”

 

“That’s a good idea.  Erica’s doing so much better now.   I bet if we went camping this summer, she’d want to go.  She shifted for Boyd over Thanksgiving break, just to see if he’d freak out on her.  Apparently, her parents freaked a little bit the first time they saw her shift, so she’s shy about it.”

 

“How did he do?”

 

“He handled it like a boss!  He’s proud of his girlfriend, no matter that she gets wolfy once a month or not.”

 

“That’s cool.  I’d hate to see them break up over something that saved her life.”

 

“You coming to the Hale’s for dinner tonight, since your mom is working?”

 

Scott blushed.  “Yeah.  Um, Cora invited me.”

 

Stiles laughed and shoved his shoulder into Scott.  “You are so gone over her!  I think it’s cute.”

 

“What about you and Derek?”

 

“What about me and Derek?  We’re friends, is all.  Um, maybe more?  But we’re totally taking things slow.  Like snail-paced slow.  He’s all cautious because of that Hunter woman that went after him when he was fifteen.  She was older—like a substitute teacher-older, and he felt all slimy every time she touched him.  He doesn’t want to feel like he’s forcing me into anything because of what he went through.”

 

Scott nodded in agreement.  “That’s cool.  I mean, unless you really know you two, you can’t tell that there’s anything going on.  Other than friendship, I mean.  I can tell he likes you, but I see you together all the time.  Somebody like Isaac or Danny wouldn’t see it.”

 

“I’m not ashamed of it, or anything.  But I don’t want anyone to think badly of him.  He’s going to medical school.  I want him to be a respectable doctor-type.  And I think he wants to work with children, so having a reputation as a pedo won’t do him any favors.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

The Hale House was full of family and friends, as it usually was during the Christmas holiday.  Fairy lights sparkled from the tree and banisters, and the whole house smelled like fresh pine from the tree and all the wreaths and garlands that decorated the public rooms.  Laughter rang from living room as Stiles, John, and Scott entered the house.  They carried their packages into the den to place them under the tree before they went in search of their absent-but-heard hosts.

 

“It’s weird that they left the door open like that, Dad,” said Stiles with a slight frown.

 

“It’s only because we heard the car coming off the main road,” said Talia as she rounded the corner from the kitchen.  “I opened it before going in to remove the roast from the oven.  How are you, Sheriff?”

 

“I’m doing well, Talia,” replied John as he leaned in to kiss her cheek.  “The roast smells divine!”

 

“Well, it’s not elk, but Robert took Michael hunting during the Thanksgiving school break, and they bagged a nice deer.  We don’t hunt that way often, but it was a wonderful father-son bonding experience for them.”

 

Scott broke into a huge smile.  “That’s right!  I forgot that Michael isn’t a werewolf, so he doesn’t go on runs with the rest of the family.”

 

Talia gave both boys hugs as well.  “Well, at his age, he wouldn’t be going on the Moon Runs anyway.  He wouldn’t be in control of his shift until puberty.  If he were Wolf, we’d have a Pack member watch over him in our safe room in the basement.  Sheriff, before we start the regular party, Derek would like to see you and Stiles in the Library. Stiles can show you the way.”

 

John looked at Stiles, and the boy shrugged.  “Okay.  Save some wine for me.”

 

Stiles led John through the hall and down the secret stairwell.  John had never been to this part of the house, and he was impressed by the size of the collection on the shelves.

 

Stiles led his father to the seating collection in the center of the room, where Derek and Peter were waiting.  “Hey, guys!  What’s up?  We’re not having your birthday in here, are we?”

 

“Nope,” said Derek with a laugh.  “Aunt Regan baked a special cake for me, so I don’t want to miss a minute of the party.  But I had an idea, and I wanted to run it past you and your dad before I put it into action.”

 

John sat next to Peter and shook the man’s hand.  “That sounds rather serious.”

 

“It kind of is, sir.  Part of Formal Courting is proving that I can provide for Stiles.  Don’t frown at me; I don’t mean like pay for everything.  I mean, I have to provide emotional, mental, and monetary support.”  Derek turned to Stiles and said,  “And I have to let you support me, too.  And this year has gone really well, I think.”

 

Stiles grinned.  “I think so, too.  I like the little notes you send me.  Sometimes they make the difference between a regular day and a super day!”

 

Derek nodded.  “And I like the little cards and photos you send me.  Getting through college is hard enough, so I’m glad I have you here, keeping me grounded.  Anyway, this coming summer is the last break I’ll have during my education process.  My faculty advisor told me to enjoy it as much as possible, because I’ll be taking summer classes and hospital rounds and intensive labs from here until graduation.”

 

John regarded the young man in front of him.  “You sound like you’re doing well, though.  I’m sure you can handle the stress of medical school.”

 

“Oh, I’m not worried about it, sir.  But I do want to take my advisor’s words to heart and enjoy this one last summer.  So, Peter has agreed to help me make a plan for that, as well as help to provide for Stiles in a manner designed to prove my intent.”

 

Stiles screwed up his face in confusion.  “What sort of plan?”

 

“When my great-grandfather was Alpha of the Hale Pack, he set up a trust for his children, grand-children, and great-grand-children.  He placed a small amount, about five thousand dollars per child, in an interest accruing account.  The Trust was set that each child, upon reaching the age of twenty-one, would receive half of the value of their Trust account, with the remaining amount remaining to grow in interest until the child reaches twenty-five.  Michael was the last child born under the Trust agreement, as Great-grandpa Javier died when Michael was a year old.  When his Trust cashes out, he’ll be loaded!

“Anyway, my grandfather—my mom’s father—was the Pack Financial Manager, until he passed that title and job on to Peter when he proved to be an investment genius, and the PFM’s job was to grow the Trust efficiently.  This year, I received half of my Trust, and….it’s a lot.  More than I need for college.  Peter is stupidly good at his job.”  Derek smiled as Peter preened.  “So I’m only taking part of the amount given and placing it in my college account and Peter is going to invest the rest for me.  I want to place a partial amount away for you, Stiles, to add to your college fund.”

 

“What? No!  I don’t want…”

 

“It’s not charity!” Derek interrupted.  “You’re my intended Mate.  At lease, I hope you are.  And it’s not a dowry.  Even if you call off the courtship, I want you to have this.  It’s a head start; that’s all.  To show that I’m serious about this—about you.  I know you’re young and you could always find someone better, but I want to do this.  No strings.  Your dad is taking fake-taxes from what my dad pays you for the baking, and Peter is investing that for your college.  I just want to add to it.”

 

Stiles looked at his father, eyebrows raised in supplication.  John shrugged.

 

“I don’t have a problem with that, Stiles.  But if you object, then we’ll abide by your wishes.”

 

Stiles glanced at Peter, but the man gave nothing away in his expression.  Finally, Stiles looked at Derek, and saw the honest, open affection that the older man had for him.

 

“Okay.  I’ll let you do it, on one condition.  You do not go overboard on the amount.”

 

Derek smiled.  “I’m not going to, I promise.  It’s a one-time only deposit, and Peter will make it grow for you.”

 

“Okay, then.  Was that all?  Because that doesn’t exactly sound like a fun time to me.”

 

Derek laughed.  “No, but if you weren’t going to agree to that part, then you surely wouldn’t agree to this part.  I want to buy you a car.”

 

“Derek!” “No!”

 

Both Stilinskis jumped up from their seats in agitation.  Derek raised his hands in surrender.  “Just…hear me out, okay.”

 

John nodded and sat back down.  Stiles glared for a moment, then regained his seat as well.

 

“Now,” said Derek, a bit more confidently, “What I propose is this:  I take Stiles shopping for a junker.  Not a total wreck, but something we can fix up.  Then, Stiles and I spend the summer working on it together.  That way, I get to have fun and spend time with Stiles, and he gets to learn basic vehicle maintenance and how to care for his own car, and we both get to know each other a little bit better.  Is that okay?”

 

John looked impressed.  “No hot rods!  You find a safe car with minimal structural damage.”

 

“Yes, sir.  I learned how to work on cars from my dad, so I’m sure we can find something safe and make it drivable.   Stiles?  What do you think?”

 

Stiles grinned.  “I think that you’re incredibly sappy.  Sometimes I think you’ll come to your senses and find a pretty med student to date, and then you do something like this.”

 

“So, you agree?”

 

“Yeah, I agree.  But, you may have to put up with Scott tagging along to work on the car.  He wants to drive so bad, it’s not funny.”

 

Derek laughed.  “I have no problem with that.  Maybe you and he can learn enough to get him a junker of his own to fix up when he’s ready.”

 

“Before we join the others,” said Peter, standing, “I think I should make you and your father aware of what your investment account looks like now, so you know what you’ll have to look forward to when you get ready for college.  I have your ledger here.”

 

By the time the four males joined the rest of the party, John and Stiles were flabbergasted at the amount of money that Peter had pulled together from just a few years of Stiles baking cookies in the Hale kitchen.  Derek wouldn’t tell Stiles how much his ‘one-time only’ deposit was going to be, but Stiles would be able to afford any school he wanted when the time was right.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Spring 2010

 

Stiles, Scott, and Isaac attended the Beacon Hills High School Winter Formal as a group of single friends.  Boyd had escorted Erica, who looked positively radiant in her first formal gown, and Jackson escorted Lydia.  Jackson and Lydia had been formally dating since Christmas break, even though their ‘dates’ mostly consisted of watching movies in the Whittemore family room.  Scott wanted to ask Cora to be his date for the dance, but Michael had come down with chicken pox, and the whole Hale family had sequestered themselves away for appearance sake.  Peter and Amanda had taken Nicky out of the house for his safety, since he was young enough to get sick even though he was a werewolf.

Still, the boys all dressed up and Isaac’s older brother, Camden, drove them to the school, promising to pick them up afterwards.  They spent the evening joking around with team mates from Lacrosse and Cross Country, and they each danced with Lydia, Erica, and Danny’s boyfriend Lex—just to be fair.  After the dance, Camden drove them all to Stiles’ house, where pizza, Pepsi, and video games awaited.

Isaac had been spending a lot of time at either Scott’s or Stiles’ house, staying overnight even on school nights.  Mr. Lahey had been in a car accident, and was badly hurt.  While he did recover, he had taken to drinking quite a bit, and he proved to be an angry drunk.  Camden was still studying at the Police Academy and Community College, but he promised to get his own place soon, and then Isaac would move in with him.

Danny joined the rest at Stiles’ home after his father dropped Lex at home.  Danny was taking things casual, and Lex would have been asked to join the after-party, but Danny had questions about magic and werewolves, and Lex was not ‘in the know’.  Boyd was spending the weekend watching his younger siblings, and Erica would not have been allowed to a ‘boy party’, even though Stiles was seriously going to sweet-talk her mother into allowing her to go camping with them all in the summer.  Jackson and Lydia were spending the weekend with his parents. (Officially, it was a family double-date, but unofficially, Lydia’s father had been caught cheating and she didn’t want to be at home right now.)

 

The Sheriff was an obligatory chaperone, but he kept to his office so the boys could have privacy.  They all settled in the living room, where their sleeping bags were spread out.  Because of the lab, the upper floor was off limits.  Stiles currently had a small experiment going on in there.

 

“So,” began Danny, after the pizza had arrived, “Tell me how the Pack works.  Are Jackson and Scott going to be the lowest-ranking members once they get Bitten?”

 

“Nah,” Stiles shook his head. “It doesn’t work like that.  The Alpha is, of course, in charge.  And she has enforcers—kind of like body guards—that help keep her rules enforced.  She has advisors, like the Financial Manager and the Emissary, who help her make major decisions.  The children are the lowest ranking members, but only because they’re just kids.  Everybody in the Pack has a place and a job.  And when Alpha Hale is ready to retire and enjoy her family without the responsibility of being Alpha, then she’ll pass the power to Derek.”

 

“And you’re going to be the Emissary?” Danny asked, interested.

 

“Yup.”

 

“Isn’t that a big deal?”

 

“It’s a huge deal.  The Emissary is, like, the human face of the Pack.  And an Emissary is almost always magical.  But the most recent Emissary was kinda dropping the ball—keeping important information from the Alpha and hoping things worked out for the best anyway.  I don’t know the details, but my teacher was brought in to keep things in line.  When she discovered I had a magical Spark, she offered to train me, and when I showed a tendency toward a lot of power, Alpha Hale offered to make me Emissary once my training evened out.”

 

“Don’t you mean when your training was finished?”  Scott wiped grease from his mouth and reached for his soda.

 

“Nope.  Donna Maria tells me that if I allow a single day to go by without learning something new, then I’ve wasted that entire day.  So, I guess my training will never be finished.”

 

Scott smirked.  “What did you learn today?”

 

Stiles chucked a paper towel at Scott’s head.  “I learned that the fastest way to make Lydia frown was to compliment another girl’s dress in her presence.  I don’t have to learn a new magical thing every day, but I have to learn something every day.  Dad got me a ‘Fact-A-Day’ calendar for Christmas.  Donna Maria said it totally counts, and is not cheating.”

 

“Can anyone learn magic, or do you have to be born with it?”  Isaac was late on the Harry Potter bandwagon, but he’d been reading the books during his lunch breaks.

 

“Well,” said Stiles, carefully considering his response, “Donna Maria told me that she ‘found’ her magic, so she wasn’t born with it.  I think some things are easy for anybody to learn, but the really powerful stuff takes talent, time, concentration, and a born ability.  Like, you could learn to make protection runes to place around your house, but the flower barriers that I make would be beyond your ability.”

 

Isaac nodded thoughtfully.  “That makes sense.  So, you’re just going to be a spokesperson, and not a member of the Pack?”

 

“No, dude!  I’m totally part of the Pack.  So is Dad.”

 

Isaac’s face screwed up in confusion.  “How does that work?  Did your dad get the Bite?”

 

“No, Isaac.  Dad is still human.  But Packs have to have humans in them.  The humans keep the Wolves balanced.  And the Hales are really cool people.  I know you only really know Cora and maybe Derek, but the whole family is pretty much a class act, with one exception.  They accepted me and Dad as Pack once I got friendly with Derek when my mom was in the hospital.  It was Derek’s idea for me to go to their house to bake cookies for my mom as a Christmas surprise, and that’s when I got to know his dad and Aunt Regan.”

 

“That sounds cool.”  Isaac brought a movie over to the group for approval.  “But what about Jackson?  Is he Pack because he’s related?”

 

“Kind of?  Let me tell you something about that, from my understanding.  Let’s pretend that there is no magic and there is no such thing as a werewolf.  So, almost seventeen years ago, this woman was so desperate for a baby that she drugged a fourteen year old kid and had sex with him.  Totally heinous, right?”  The other boys nodded seriously, so Stiles continued.  “And it was way traumatic for the kid and his family, so they all tried to blank it out—just pretend that it didn’t happen.  And then, they found out that there was a baby—and they found out that the heinous woman died and the baby was put up for adoption.  They could have just kept quiet about the whole thing.  But, let’s say that there is a history of some health defect in the Hale family.  So they reach out; they tell the baby’s adopted father that there is medical history that he should know about, and they can give a more complete medical history for the kid.  And as a bonus, maybe he and his adopted family could become friendly with them all.  One big, extended family, where the Whittemore’s had none.  Mr. Whittemore is an only child, and Mrs. Whittemore isn’t close to her family.  The Hales brought them all in, first as nervous friends, then as long-lost relatives, even though the whole drug-rape thing was a traumatic event.  They didn’t have to do that.

“And with me, well, Mrs. Hale volunteers at the hospital a couple of times a week.  Derek did, too, so they could have just pushed me aside as the child of a patient.  But they reached out to me, and then to Dad, and they stood by us after Mom died.  They were all at the funeral to show support.  And then they stuck around, being supportive.  I think that if anyone really felt like they needed a place to belong; the Hales could find that place.  I was sad and lonely after Mom died, and Scott was my only friend, so when they reached out to me, they accepted that Scott was going to be along for the ride.  It never occurred to any of them, I don’t think, to say ‘Oh, no, we have enough kids, thanks’.”

 

Scott nodded in agreement.  “Yeah, I mean, I thought it was weird at first when I got invited to their house for New Year’s Eve.  But they were really nice.  And I get a nice card from Mr. and Mrs. Hale for my birthday every year.  And Mom knows that if she doesn’t want me alone for a long weekend if she has to work, then the Hales will take me in if Stiles is busy.”

 

“Do you ever go there without Stiles?” Isaac asked as he reached for his soda.

 

“Yeah, Isaac.  I go over there sometimes after practice, so I can study with Cora.  I ride my bike, and Mr. Hale will give me a ride home after dinner.  I think I’m there almost as much as I’m here or at home.”

 

“So,” Isaac said, consideringly, “on the nights that I’m here, you’re with the Hales?”

 

“Not every night, but at least two nights a week.  I know Stiles is there every Friday, because he bakes cookies for the Hale’s restaurant.  I go over there on Monday and Thursday mostly.  After study sessions on Tuesday and Thursday, I just want my own room, you know.”

 

“Yeah, Isaac,” said Stiles, jumping in when it seemed Isaac was withdrawing into himself.  “So don’t think that you aren’t wanted.  Honestly, I bet Dad would let you move in here permanently, if we had the room.  I kinda killed that possibility with the magic lab upstairs.”

 

Isaac shrugged.  “It’s okay.  Camden starts work with the Sheriff’s Department soon.  If he gets hired by Beacon County, then he’ll get a place here, and I can move in with him.  So, can you teach me some protection stuff?”

 

Stiles stared at Isaac for a moment.  “Is your father hitting you, Isaac?”

 

“No!”  Isaac turned bright red in agitation and embarrassment.  “He just…throws stuff, sometimes.  He works late at the cemetery, and he doesn’t get enough sleep.  And he self-medicates when his leg hurts.  Camden would move us both out into the street if Dad hit me, trust me.  But a little protection couldn’t hurt, right?”

 

“Tell you what: Let’s watch Ironman, and I’ll think of some charms you all can learn easily.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

Stiles’ sixteenth birthday passed with his usual arcade party.  Jackson, Lydia, and Danny were absent because of another gathering—of the popular crowd, but Isaac, Boyd, Erica, Scott, and Cora were there.

The real party was the following Saturday, after Stiles passed his driving test and officially received his license.  Derek had come home for that weekend, and they spent Sunday trolling through the want ads looking for just the right vehicle.  Stiles and his father had already made the rounds of the used car lots in town in the weeks leading up to Stiles’ birthday, so he already had an idea of what he was looking for.

When nothing new popped up in the newspaper, Derek and Stiles drove out to Walker’s Used Cars and Parts.  The name pretty much said it all: They could find the car there, as well as any spare parts they would need to fix it up.  Stiles was adamant that he find a vehicle that ran, despite needing to be fixed up, so nothing needing major repairs was looked at.

And then he saw it: An older-model, slightly rusty, blue Jeep.

Stiles lovingly ran a hand over the front seat upholstery while Derek checked out the engine.  Dave Walker, owner and proprietor, provided a detailed history of the Jeep, so they knew there was no flood damage or major structural damage to deal with.  The price was right—only five-fifty—and they could do most of the work themselves over the summer.

And the best thing was that Stiles could drive it home now.

Or, rather, Stiles could drive it home after he got it registered and put insurance on it.

 

Scott and Isaac gave approving noises upon seeing the nused vehicle, but Jackson wrinkled his nose at it.

 

“I hope you plan on giving it a paint job, Stilinski.  I think the rust is the only thing holding it together.”

“Just because it’s not a Porsche like your dad is getting you doesn’t mean it’s not a good car.  Besides, this one is better in a major way.”

 

“And what way is that?” Jackson scoffed.

 

“Derek and I will be doing all the work ourselves.  I’ll almost be a certified mechanic by the end of summer.”

 

“It’s good that you’ll have a skill.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

The last day of school was May 28th.  On May 29th, Talia Hale called Stiles with an urgent request.

 

“I’ve had a call from a Hunter—An Argent, to be exact.”

 

Stiles wrinkled his brow in confusion.  “Isn’t that the name of the Hunter that went after Derek?”

 

“Yes, it is.   This was her brother that called me.  He claims that he want to separate himself and his family from his sister and father, and that he wants to move here and form an alliance with the Hale Pack.”

 

“Uh, huh,” Stiles said doubtfully.  “And what do you think?”

 

“I’m being cautious.  I called Nona Vera Calaveras and asked her opinion.  She said that if he was being honest and sincere, then it could be a good idea for the Pack.  In France, the Argent name is greatly respected and widely known to be honorable.”

 

“And yet, what his sister did was neither respectable nor honorable.”

 

Talia nodded in agreement.  “Exactly.  And his father is gaining quite the reputation as well.”

 

“What do you need from me, Alpha?”

 

“Why, Ignacek, I need you to sense him out.  Come to the meeting with us on June first.  Meet the man and the wife, get a feel for them.  Threaten them, if needs be.  Let me know if he is being truthful.   If he is, then I shall welcome an alliance.”

 

“I’ll be there, but I need you to do something first.”

 

“What do you need?”

 

“I need you to call Derek and tell him what is going on.  I don’t want to be part of inviting an Argent to settle in Beacon Hills without his knowledge.  If this is going to hurt him, then I’m out.”

 

“And that, dear boy, is why I approve of Derek courting you.  You have his best interests in your heart.  I’ll call him now, and then I’ll call you with the time for the meeting.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

The entire Hale family was cleared out of the Hale family home in time for the meeting.  Talia wanted to maintain home-field advantage without overwhelming the Argents with the Pack—or forcing her family to deal with the Hunters.

But part of her Pack was nearby.  The enforcers—most of whom Stiles had never met—were in the woods surrounding the house, keeping an ear out for danger.

Alpha Hale was no fool.

 

Stiles arrived at the house long before the Argents.  He wanted to make his presence known right away, so he brought a few magical touches—bunched herbs, raw crystals, a medallion he was working on—and his cookbook.  Never let it be said that he wasn’t being hospitable.  By the time the expensive foreign car pulled into the drive in front of the house, the last batch of cookies (not the variety being sold at ‘Carlysle’s on Baymont’) was out of the oven and coffee was brewed.

 

Talia opened the front door before the bell rang, and admitted her ‘guests’.

 

Christopher and Victoria Argent strode into the house confidently, as if they had nothing to fear.

 

He was tall, over six feet tall, with light brown hair, ice-blue eyes, and a strong jaw line.  She was shorter—around five-foot-eight—with short auburn hair and bright green eyes.  Her look was stern, but there were laugh lines around her eyes. They nodded in greeting and followed Talia through the house and into the living room.  Stiles was waiting, coffee service at the ready.

 

Stiles was dressed impeccably.  Since he was going to be taking his role as Emissary seriously, he had asked for a clothing allowance for Christmas and birthdays, and had upgraded his wardrobe since starting High School.  When before he would wear band t-shirts under plaid and worn-out jeans with sneakers, now he tended toward khakis or slacks with button-down oxfords under tailored waistcoats.  His shoes were loafers or moccasins, and he walked softly but with purpose.  His training with Roland McCook enabled him to move almost silently no matter the ground cover around him.

 

The Argents visibly started at the sight of the teen in front of them.

 

“I didn’t know you would have one of your children present for this meeting, Alpha Hale.” Christopher said haltingly.

 

“This is not one of my children, Mr. Argent.  I’m certain that you’ve done your research, so you know that my oldest son is at school away from here and my youngest son is only ten years old.  This is Ignacek Jovan Stilinski.  He is the son of the local Sheriff; but more importantly, he is my Emissary.”

 

Victoria snorted in disbelief.  “A child?  As Emissary?  I thought this Pack was stronger and more assertive.  This meeting is a joke, Christopher.  We should go.  If we want to be taken seriously, we should think about moving to France, as we discussed.”

 

“Wait.”  Stiles waved his hand and a seemingly solid barrier of blossoms—Apple Blossom, Azalea, Begonia, and Golden Rod—swarmed between the couple and the room’s exit.  “I’m a bit more than I seem, and I’m here to make sure you mean what you say about a treaty.  So, why don’t we have coffee—or I have tea, if you prefer—and some cookies, and we’ll chat, yes?”

 

Victoria reached out to touch the barrier, and quickly drew back her hand as raw energy burned her like static electricity.  “This?  What is this?”

 

“I’ve been doing some research on flower meanings.  I like to leave messages without wasting words.  Which we’re doing now, so, please sit.  Or, if you were totally insincere, you may leave and never darken my town with your presence again.”  Stiles shrugged.  “Either way, I’m good.”

 

Christopher took his wife’s hand and pulled her farther into the room.  “Let’s get this over with.  I don’t want to leave the country if it can be avoided.  We can protect Allison here.”

 

“Very well,” Victoria said stiffly.

 

As they sat on the comfortable sofa, Stiles banished his barrier and took a seat in front of them.

 

“Coffee?  It’s fresh-brewed.  And we have real cream, because this is a special occasion.”

 

Stiles poured the coffee for the Argents first, as they were guests.  Normally he would pour for the Alpha, but she was openly observing the two Hunters as they doctored their cups to their liking, so he left her for last.

 

“Alpha Hale tells me that you want to form an alliance with the Hale Pack.  Tell me what you hope to accomplish here.”

 

Christopher raised an eyebrow as he sipped his coffee, but he allowed his wife—as current matriarch—to speak.

 

“My family is very important to me, Mr. Stilinski.  My daughter is everything.  And Christopher’s father, Gerard, has become…erratic, lately; almost manic in his hunts for Wolf Packs.  He has become reckless, recruiting outcasts from Hunter clans to aid him in his rabid persecution.  I would not have this influence in my daughter’s life if I can avoid it.  The Hale Pack is well-established and respected, even among old Hunter families.  The Calaveras clan was almost glowing with regard when speaking about the protection the Hales offer to this territory—to both Wolf and human alike.  Even if Allison were never to learn about werewolves, I feel that this would be a safe place for her to grow up and go to school.”

 

Stiles tilted his head in consideration.  “And how old is your daughter?”

 

“She’s sixteen.  But we’ve moved so often in the last few years, hoping to stay away from Gerard, that she would be starting high school here as a sophomore.”

 

“She’ll be in my year, then.”  Stiles set his coffee cup on the table in front of him.  “Look, from what I can tell, you’re being honest.  I can sense your distress when you mention the elder Argent.  But, well, frankly your sister tried to screw this Pack in a major way.”

 

Christopher spoke for the first time.  “I had no knowledge about that.  Honestly.  She was acting alone, like she had so often in the past.”

 

Stiles nodded absently.  “Okay.  So let me tell you what I know about what was going down back then.  I was only ten when it happened, and I was dealing with my own stuff.  But my father is the Sheriff, and when you placed your call to Alpha Hale about this meeting, I sat down with Dad and asked the hard questions.

“So, here’s the deal:  about five years ago, Kate Argent meets with Adrian Harris in a bar in Oakway one hot summer weekend.  I know this because Harris talked to my father after Kate’s arrest.  She hit him up for some drinks and asked about his job.  I’m pretty sure she knew who he was, because she never seemed like a person not to do her research.  Harris, if you aren’t aware, is the chemistry teacher at Beacon Hills High School.  Kate gets him good and juiced, and starts asking stuff about chemicals and fires, and if there’s a chemical treatment to start fires without alerting anyone investigating to possible arson.

“Next: in early October, Madame Holcombe goes on maternity leave, and a long-term substitute teacher for French, a Miss Kate Taylor, was placed.  Miss Taylor began taking an abnormal interest in fifteen year old Derek Hale.  She apparently liked touching him in class and holding him after class for ‘discussions’.  I think you get the idea.”  Stiles watched as Victoria’s mouth twisted in disgust.  “Of course, once she began teaching, Harris recognized her, but he never mentioned their drunken discussion or engaged her outside of school.  When Kate was arrested, along with the weapons found in her vehicle, there were several false IDs, under several names.  Dad did some digging, and found that those names corresponded to other encounters with minors—and subsequently the deaths of the adult care-givers.  He couldn’t link her to those deaths, but he had her dead to rights on the weapons and statutory rape charges.  When they searched her apartment, looking for more weapons, they found bags of sawdust.  Lots of bags of sawdust.”

 

Talia leaned forward and spoke for the first time.  “My former Emissary was able to identify the sawdust as that of Mountain Ash.  Here’s is what I hypothesize:  I think your sister was planning to trap my family in this house, during a Wolf Moon celebration when all of the Pack would be here, and I think she was planning to set fire to the house to burn us alive.  My youngest son is human.  My younger sister is human.  My younger brother’s wife, pregnant at the time, is human.  There are other human Pack members who would have been here—family members and friends of Pack who are not of the Hale family.  So tell me, Mr. Argent:  How can we really trust anyone with that name here?”

 

Victoria’s hands began to shake so badly that she knocked over her cup when she moved to set it down.  She had paled so quickly that Stiles thought she might pass out.  Beside her, Christopher almost turned a lurid shade of green.  He reached out to wrap his arm around his shaken wife; to offer support in the wake of such horrid news.  From his view-point, the Argents truly were horrified at the actions of their family member.  They honestly wanted to separate themselves and their daughter from that influence.  Stiles reached for a towel and mopped up the spilled coffee.

 

“I’ll go brew some calming tea, if that’s okay.  It’s a magic blend that I found soothes frazzled nerves without a drugging effect.  Have a cookie, because you could use some sugar.  Talia, when they calm down, feed them a little bit.  I have a shopping date later, so I’ll be leaving you.”

 

“Thank you, Ignacek,” said Talia as she rose to walk with him to the kitchen.  “So, you think they’re trustworthy?”

 

“Well, that reaction wasn’t an act.  I figure Kate glossed over anything she did when she tried to contact them.  At most, they knew she was inappropriate with a minor, because she can’t be around kids now.  But the rest?  They didn’t know, and I think Victoria—who could be the scariest woman I know besides you—was gonna throw up.   Anyway, Derek and I are shopping for parts today. The Great Jeep Project is a go!  Call me and let me know how things go from here.”

 

Talia brought a tea tray into the living room after Stiles left, but she remained standing until the Argents took notice of her position.

 

“If you would both please follow me.  There are things I must tell you—that one of my most trusted advisors told me to tell you—that should not be overheard.  As you should have guessed, I have enforcers observing the house.  My office is sound-proofed, so we’ll be able to speak there.”

 

Carrying the tray, Talia led the two Hunters down the short hall into her office.  She settled the tray on the low table and allowed them to pour cups while she closed and locked the door.  Then she walked to her desk and opened a locked drawer and pulled out a folded sheaf of paper.  The papers were partially blank, with sporadic hand-written notes.

 

“When I made the courtesy call to inform you of your sister’s arrest, I was working under the influence of a sort of prophesy.  Normally, I would never believe future-telling, but these were extenuating circumstances.”

 

Talia took a seat in an armchair adjacent to the sofa the Argents occupied.  She took time to sip some tea and read over the papers in her hand.  Schooling her expression, she looked up to face her guests.

 

“There are only three copies of this list, and I’m not entirely certain of the condition of one of them.  The second copy is totally complete.  My copy has partially faded to nothing but blank paper.  It is my belief that, once I tell you this tale, most of the rest of this list will fade to nothing.”

 

“Is this tale pertinent to our moving to Beacon Hills?”  Victoria had regained her composure and was once again asserting herself as a strong, stern woman.

 

“Oh, I believe it is.  This is a list of what once had passed.  Think of this as the Ghost of Future Might-Have-Been.  In December of 2004, a very odd visitor came to Beacon Hills.  He just appeared one day, and was gone the next day, but in those two days he drastically impacted my life and my Pack.  His name was Ignacek Jovan Stilinski, and he was seventeen years old.”

 

Christopher’s eyes widened.  “Isn’t that the name of the boy who was just here?”

 

Talia nodded.  “Yes, it is.  In fact, in a year’s time, the two boys will be one.”

 

“Do you expect me to believe,” Victoria scoffed, “that that boy visited you from the future?”

 

“I don’t expect you to believe much, Mrs. Argent,” Talia said with a raised eyebrow.  “I know that the boy was from the future.  Magic was involved; magic so strong that I sought out an Adept to train the ten-year-old self of that future visitor.  He told me things.  Very frightening things.  He thought he was dying or dreaming, you see, so he figured that he could tell me things that had already happened in his time so that I could prevent them from happening.”

 

“And I suppose he told you about Kate, then?” Christopher said with a sneer.

 

“He told me and the Sheriff about Kate and her plans to seduce my son, Derek.  He had a specific date, a time of day, and the location.  All we had to do was make sure that a police patrol was in place on that date, and Kate practically arrested herself.  And it wasn’t even entrapment, so that was the best part.  When I originally heard about her plans for my family, I wanted to hunt her down and kill her.  I would have been in my rights to do so, in defense of my Pack.  But ‘FS’, as we called him—for Future Stiles—convinced me to allow human laws take care of her.”

 

“We should all be thankful of that, then,” said Victoria softly.  “If you had killed Kate, Hunters from all over would have taken down your entire Pack, regardless of your reasoning for it.”

 

Talia nodded in acquiescence.  “Yes, well, it all worked for the best in that regard.  And that part of my list faded into nothingness, as if I never wrote it at all.  But I still have a list of things pertaining to you and your family.  Things that I discussed with the Sheriff, and we decided to tell you some of them. It may change thing further; it may not.  Either way, there are some things you should know.

“I’ll be honest: once you learn of these things, the knowledge may fade from your memory completely.  Or they may fade into the remnants of a dream—only half remembered.  For example: Derek was completely unaware that he ever met ‘FS’ only hours after the boy disappeared from our time. And yet, Derek spent more time in his presence than all of us.  The boy you met today is completely unaware that his future self ever travelled back in time.  Nobody has ever mentioned it to him, and I doubt we ever will.  I am convinced that once the future has changed mostly for the better, everybody involved with the ‘FS’ phenomena will forget anything happened at all.

“For the record, the Sheriff’s list is totally complete.  I saw his copy not long ago, and I didn’t remember events that he has written down but had faded from my copy.”

 

Victoria cleared her throat.  “And how do you know they are the same list?”

 

“Because I’m the one who hand-wrote them.  ‘FS’ originally wrote the list out while waiting for us all to gather, but I copied it three times because I had an inkling that the original would fade after ‘FS’ went back to his own time.  As it turns out, I was correct.”

 

“Do you want us to read the list, or do you want to just tell us what you want us to know?” Christopher asked.

 

“I think I’ll tell you, because for now I can still remember the conversation I had with ‘FS’ before I received the written list.  I think I can emphasize the important parts without letting you see things that won’t affect you.”

 

Christopher sat back and clasped Victoria’s hands in his.  They sat on the settee, holding each other for comfort, as they waited for the Alpha to begin her tale.

 

“Firstly, you must tell no one what you hear here today.  The telling won’t change anything, I don’t think, but people just really don’t need to know some things.  Also, I shudder to think what would happen if your father found out any of this information.  The reason for this caution will become clear.”

 

Talia took one last swallow of her tea and flattened the papers in her hands.

 

“Item One:  After the fire that killed most of my Pack, one family member, crazed from injury and grief, became murderous.  He killed the new Alpha to gain the Alpha powers and began killing everybody involved with the fire.  Eventually, he killed Kate, and that brought your father Gerard to Beacon Hills.  Apparently, you and your family moved here to find the rogue that was killing people, so you were already established here in 2011.  The rogue Alpha bit a young boy, turning him because of a need to build a new Pack.  Unbeknownst to anyone, your daughter fell in love with a boy in school that happened to be a werewolf.  He didn’t know about Hunters, so the whole romance was rather tragic.

“No, I won’t give names here, because that part has already been circumvented.  But after Kate was killed, the rogue Alpha was killed and my son Derek, who is actually my successor, now, was Alpha—and he also felt a need to create a Pack.  Your father came to find the Alpha.  You apparently thought he wanted to avenge Kate’s death, but that was not the case.  He has cancer.  He has plans to trap the Alpha and force a Bite.  Then he wants to kill the Alpha and become Alpha himself.  This would be a horrible thing, because, in the words of ‘FS’, Gerard Argent is crazy as fuck.”

 

Christopher took a deep, calming breath.  “I had heard that he was sick and was seeking alternative treatments.  I haven’t had much contact with him in recent years.  I know he has tried to reach out to Victoria’s family, but they turned him aside because of his abandonment of the Argent Code.”

 

Victoria nodded in agreement.  “He’s sent me private messages as well; asking to meet and for me to bring Allison to him.  He has never agreed with our decision to keep Allison ignorant of werewolves until she is old enough to make informed decisions about how she’ll act.  My family agreed with the choice, of course.  I was not informed about werewolves and Hunters until I was fifteen and could be rational about it.”

 

Talia hummed for a moment.  “This brings us to Item Two: Gerard and his influence over your wife.  You may not be close now, but things change.  In the past time-line, after the fire that took out the Hale Pack, Gerard spent a lot of time with your family.  Your daughter is not close to him, but your wife is.  He began to mentor her and turn her mostly rational thinking into his radical philosophy.  Victoria Argent, I’m sorry to say, became a very scary werewolf hater of the shoot-first-never-ask-questions variety.  When Kate comes back to Beacon Hills to visit you and help hunt the rogue Alpha, she manages to capture Derek and torture him.  She introduces your daughter to werewolves that way—by showing her a chained and almost feral Wolf being electrocuted in a damp basement.  When young Allison eventually learns that her boyfriend is a Wolf, they agree to part ways.  But somehow, Victoria thinks the boy is still sneaking around with Allison, and she traps the boy with Mountain Ash and proceeds to poison him with aconite incense.  My son, Derek finds them, and in his rescue attempt he accidentally bites Victoria and she is turned.

“Gerard convinces Victoria that suicide is the only option.”  Talia looks up and notices that Victoria has once again grown pale.  “I’m sorry about this, but I do need you to understand how bad this could get.”

 

Victoria shakes her head.  “No, I do understand.  My family does not believe in suicide for the Bitten, but I remember hearing Gerard talking about a nephew who killed himself after being Bitten.  I’m just sick thinking about how that man could get to Allison.”

 

Talia pursed her lips.  “I’m afraid it isn’t pretty.  After your suicide, he takes the note that you wrote Allison, and instead of handing it to her he paraphrases it to make it sound like you want her to kill the Wolf who bit you for revenge.  In this future, Gerard had Allison assist him in trapping the Wolf he thinks is Alpha and tortures him so that he’ll be too weak to prevent Gerard forcing the Bite.”

 

“Does that happen?” asks Christopher, throat dry.  “Does my father become an Alpha?”

 

“No.  The boy that Allison dated somehow switched Gerard’s medication with Mountain Ash, and the Bite poisoned him instead.  But before all of this happened, Gerard kidnapped Stiles—the boy who came from the future—and beat him severely, trying to get information about the Alpha.  The man is clearly insane.  I cannot have him in my territory.  I will kill him, or someone else will, but I will not allow his influence in my home!”

 

Christopher nodded in agreement.  “I broke with him several years ago, before Kate came here and began her campaign against your Pack.  He has tried, in the past, to send letters and cards to Allison, but I open her mail and prevent her from seeing anything from him that might be pervasive.   Is that all you need to tell us from this other timeline?”

 

“Yes.  We’ve done a good job keeping most of the horrible things from happening.  Derek remained unscathed through High School and is in college now.  The fire, obviously, did not happen and my family is healthy and alive.  According to the other timeline, this is the year the killings would have begun in revenge for the fire.  Your family would have moved here in the winter, and by this time next year, your wife would be dead, your father would be dead, and your daughter would be on the path to insanity that your father currently walks.”

 

Christopher rose from the settee and pulled his wife along with him.  “I realize that most Hunter families are Matriarchal, and that Victoria should be the leader in our family now until Allison is of age, but I’ll be taking charge from now on.  I want my daughter to live freely in the world without being stalked by vengeance-seeking Wolves hounding her.  I want my father to stay away from her.  I want my sister to never darken our doorway again.  I think Kate will avoid Beacon Hills for a while longer.  She’s still too well-known here for a return.  But my father…we said that he’s been manically hunting werewolves.  Perhaps he’s looking for an Alpha to give him the bite even now.  I swear, I’ll use my good name to get the word out in Hunter circles.  Everyone who can know, should be made aware that Gerard is looking to receive the Bite so that he can become an Alpha.  With that kind of power, he would bring about total terror.”

 

Talia walked the Argents to the front door and bid them farewell.

 

“For now, your family is welcome here.  I’ll welcome the opportunity to build a treaty with you.  But you will be watched closely.”

 

“I understand, Alpha Hale.  Thank you for the meeting.  In anticipation of this going well, we have already been house-hunting.  We hope to be fully unpacked before school starts in August.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

While the Argents were driving back into town, part of their meeting already mostly forgotten, Stiles and Derek were making a list of needed repairs versus wanted repairs for the jeep.  Scott and Isaac would be joining them for the engine rebuild, as both boys were interested in being able to perform their own maintenance when they had vehicles of their own.  Derek and Stiles had purchased the necessary parts for a complete engine overhaul, and Stiles was driving the jeep to the Hale property so the old engine could be lifted out of the vehicle.  Since werewolf strength was being used, they couldn’t do this part of the work in Stiles’ garage.  Robert and Derek would be doing the heavy lifting in the Hale driveway.

 

“My dad is actually happy that you guys are teaching me how to work on cars.  I think he’s hoping I’ll get a job with the Sheriff’s Department Motor Pool.”

 

“You could maybe carry tools there,” Derek scoffed.  “You’d need real certification to work there officially, and you can’t get that until you’re eighteen.”

 

“That’s okay.  I’m happy baking for the restaurant anyway.  I know it’s not a real job, because I was underage when I started, but it’s fun and something that I enjoy.”

 

“Are you going to keep doing it?”  Derek was reading his part list while Stiles carried boxes from Derek’s car to the driveway.

 

“For now, I guess.  I’m busy with schoolwork and magical training, so getting a real job after school isn’t realistic.  Donna Maria is hopeful that my formal training will be finished by the time I start college, so I’ll be on my own after that.  The money I earn by baking in your family’s kitchen is keeping me in decent clothes and fuel for the jeep, as well as a nice savings account.  Peter is investing for me, now, too, so I’ll have that for college.  Oh!  Did I tell you that Dad asked Peter to take over his retirement investments?  Well, not really, because his State-Employee IRA is not really under Peter’s control, but Dad is making the investment choices based on Peter’s ideas.  He wants to take total advantage of Peter’s talent with money so he can retire in style.  He’s even told several of the deputies about the stock options that he’s chosen that are paying big, so they’re making the same choices.  Deputy Reed has a family to plan for and Greenway is expecting his first baby–well, his wife is, anyway.  Peter’s financial genius is making Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Department a lot of money.”

 

Derek looked up and smiled.  “Good.  Maybe he can retire healthy and young then.”  He took time to admire the younger man working beside him.

 

Stiles was wearing his ‘work clothes’:  older jeans and torn sneakers, an old sweatshirt under a plaid flannel shirt.  He had taken to dressing better, more business-casual than grunge-teen, and he had finally begun to grow into his body.  Stiles’ hair was longer, too, and he wore it in a slightly spiky style that drooped fashionably over one eye.  Lydia had had much to say about that.

 

While Derek could admit that his attraction to Stiles began with his personality and humor and wit, he was now growing attracted to his physicality.  Running and hiking had given Stiles lean muscles; strong but not bulky.  His time spent in natural settings had given his skin a healthy glow.  He was still pale-skinned, because tanning is not healthy, but the fresh air had done wonders for his complexion.  Stiles also laughed often, so the lines around his eyes made him seem approachable and friendly.  Derek spent the time they were together finding reasons to touch him.  He’d brush their hands together or give him side hugs.  Stiles seemed to like it, so Derek never stopped himself.

 

He was never inappropriate, though.  Derek had never tried to kiss Stiles.  His hugs never lasted too long.  He kept a respectful distance between them when they were on the sofa watching movies.  Even the notes and gifts that he sent to Stiles speak more of friendship than courting.

 

And the notes that Stiles sent back did the same.

 

Derek would honestly think that Stiles would rather only remain friends, if he didn’t see the way Stiles looked at him when he thought Derek couldn’t see.

 

Stiles looks at Derek like he’s Stiles’ favorite candy; something to be tasted and savored and kept to himself.

 

It makes Derek feel special, knowing that Stiles returns his affection and attraction.  The age difference between them is closing, with Stiles getting ready to graduate High School and go to college and Derek finishing his basic education and beginning Medical School.   They could talk about more intellectual pursuits, now, instead of the latest comic books.

 

They still talked about comic books.

 

And while Stiles was open and friendly with most people, and he was always laughing and smiling, there were special smiles that he had only for Derek.  Derek knew, from how Stiles acted around him, that he could further the courtship and would meet no objections.

 

So, Derek does not push.

 

He’s happy with the way things are.

 

“Do you want to get started now, or would you rather wait until Camden gets here with Scott and Isaac?”

 

“Um…let’s remove the engine now,” Stiles said after some thought.  “That way, some of the heavy stuff is done and we can get right to cleaning and repairing when they get here.  They should be here soon, anyway.”

 

“Okay, I’ll go get my dad then.  I like that he’s teaching you the way he taught me.  It’s like passing the mantle, you know?”

 

“Yeah.  My dad teaches me how to fish and interrogate suspects, your dad teaches me to cook and work on cars, Scott’s mom teaches me basic first-aid.  I’m really fortunate that I have all of these people willing to pass along experience like this.”

 

“Is any of it helping you figure out what you want to do when you graduate?”

 

Stiles laughed.  “Not really, no.  I have an inkling of an idea, but I want to wait a bit and see how I can make it work before I tell anyone.”

 

“That’s cool.  I can respect that.”  Derek slapped Stiles on the back as he walked past him to retrieve his father from the house.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

On Sunday, July Fourth, Robert Hale was in charge of the grill for a huge cook-out in the Hale yard.  Stiles, John, Melissa McCall, Scott, and the Whittemore family were in attendance.

 

Scott and Jackson were going to receive the Bite.

 

Melissa and the Whittemores wanted to stand as witness, to make sure their children survived, and Talia agreed that it would make the change easier for the boys.

 

Stiles was there as Emissary, because it was kind of his job, but also because Scott and Jackson were his friends.  John was there as support for Melissa.

 

After everyone had been fed, Talia explained the risks and benefits of the Bite.  Jackson and Scott had to understand that there was a risk of death, no matter how unlikely.  If the Bite succeeded, the boys would have increased senses and strength, a mental and emotional tie to Alpha Hale and the rest of the Pack, and a tie to the phases of the moon.  Scott’s asthma would be a thing of the past.  Jackson would have a permanent tie to the Hale family.

They would also be required to spend every evening at the Hale house, training and learning to control their new Wolves.  If they couldn’t control themselves, they would not be allowed to participate in team sports—or possibly even to return to school the following month.

 

Once everyone acknowledged their understanding, Alpha Hale bid the boys to remove their shirts and bare their hips.  They would have scars, but only small ones, so it would be best if the scars were hidden from easy sight.  Then she stripped and shifted into her full-wolf form, and—well, she attacked.

 

It was swift; faster than human sight could follow.  Neither boy had a chance to react.

First they were standing, next they were lying on the ground, bleeding.

Their parents rushed to them, offering comfort while Alpha transformed back into her human form.  By the time Melissa had cleaned their wounds, they had begun to heal.

 

Both Jackson and Scott had survived and welcomed the Bite, and they would be turning into werewolves.

 

Stiles had been watching Derek through the entire process, and he could almost feel the relief pouring off the man as both boys survived.  Stiles understood that Derek had witnessed Paige reject the Bite, and that he was afraid that Scott and Jackson—two boys he had grown to be friends with—would also reject the Bite.  Stiles reached to hold Derek’s hand in support.  Derek looked at him with relief.

 

John had noted the exchange, and gave a private grin.  He was not entirely ignorant of Derek’s growing feelings toward his son.  He was only happy that Derek was not forcing the issue of intimacy.  Stiles may have hinted that he wanted a closer relationship, but he never seemed discontented to take things slowly.

But with every phone call or Skype session with Derek; with every e-mail or package; with every shared joke or small trinket—Stiles was falling for Derek Hale.

 

John only wanted to make sure that his son’s heart was not irrevocably broken.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

At the end of summer, after the jeep had been completely overhauled and repainted (“Sky-blue and black is not offensive, Jackson.  Your Porsche is offensive.  Flashy is offensive.” “Shut up, Stilinski.  My car is a dream!”), Stiles led Derek through the woods at the heart of the Preserve.  They were quiet as they walked, listening to the sounds of the forest.  It had rained earlier that day, and water dripped gently from tree branches.

Derek could feel a charge in the air.  It wasn’t quite electricity, like when a storm is near, but there was a definite hum.  Finally, they reached a clearing in the woods.  In the center, there stood the remains of an old stump.  In the center of the stump, a strong sapling was growing, full and lush.

Stiles stopped walking and reached out to take Derek’s hand in his.

 

“This is the Nemeton; the nexus of power of the energy of the Earth.  This is where the magic of his area is harnessed.  I can reach out to it and recharge my internal batteries when I get magically weak.  Of course, I’d have to be doing some serious mojo to become weak, so I hope it never comes to that.”

 

Derek frowned.  “I can feel it.  I can feel the life here.”

 

Stiles smirked.  “I would hope so.  You’re becoming Alpha of this territory, so you have to be aware of all of the energies in this territory.  What you’re feeling is probably the magic healing itself.  Before I was strong enough, this place was slowly dying.  It had been dying for a long time—longer than your mother was Alpha, even.  Someone, possibly a naturist or Adept, cut it down before it fell and damaged more of the area, but the magic was damaged and no amount of cutting trees was going to help that.”

 

Derek squeezed Stiles’ hand.  “But you helped, right?  You healed it?”

 

“Yeah.  And it was awesome!”

 

“I wish I could have been here to see it.”

 

“I’m glad you weren’t.  I would have been too nervous.”

 

Derek looked into Stiles’ eyes.  “I make you nervous?”

 

Stiles shook his head.  “I would have been afraid to disappoint you.  It was such a huge deal, you know?”

 

Derek reached out and cupped Stiles’ cheek with his hand.  “You could never disappoint me.  You are so amazing, and you don’t even know.”

 

Before he could stop himself, Derek leaned forward and brushed a soft kiss across Stiles’ lips.

Stiles gave a soft gasp, and Derek pulled back.  He started to apologize, but Stiles stopped him with another soft, innocent kiss.

 

They walked back to the Hale house holding hands.  Stiles rubbed the fingers of his other hand across his lips, and smiled the whole way.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

August 30, 2010

 

On the first day of Stiles’ sophomore year, he parked in the High School parking lot with Scott and Isaac in his jeep.  They were going to meet Erica and Boyd in front of the school and walk into First Day Assembly together.  Jackson, Lydia, and Danny were already there.

 

Scott and Jackson had proven to be very good werewolf students.  They had gone through two Full Moons, and their control was very good.

 

Still, Stiles would wait to reserve judgment until Lacrosse practice began.  When they had to get physical with other guys in a sports setting, then Stiles could see where the control was.  Scott and Jackson would have to keep their tempers in check, so they didn’t accidentally shift on the field, and they’d have to hold back the super wolfy-strength so they didn’t arouse suspicions of steroid use.

 

Cora Hale appeared at the tree-line next to the athletic field behind the school, and Stiles and the rest exited the jeep and walked to meet her.  She greeting Scott with a kiss on the cheek and Isaac teased him when he blushed.  Scott and Cora ‘officially’ began dating after he received the Bite, because she didn’t want to accidentally hurt him if they ever got physical.  Spending two months training together, running through the woods chasing rabbits and squirrels and wrestling around it their Beta forms brought Cora and Scott together faster than regular dating normally would.  They held hands as they entered the school, followed by Stiles and Isaac.  Boyd and Erica joined them in the auditorium and the group sat in seats behind Jackson, Lydia, Danny and Lex.

Stiles noticed how Jackson relaxed minutely after Scott, Cora, and Erica were near him, and he figured it was presence of Pack that did it.  Stiles knew that Jackson had told Danny about becoming a werewolf, but he wasn’t sure if Lydia was in the know or not.  She didn’t seem like the type who would let a possible advantage get past her, and if becoming a werewolf would help her in any way, Lydia would be all up on that.  Since her parents split, she was spending a lot of time with Jackson and the Whittemores.

 

Schedules were passed out, and the small group of friends immediately began planning lunch and study breaks.  Once again, Stiles, Lydia, and Danny were in advanced math together, Stiles had history with Scott, Isaac, Boyd and Cora, and English with Cora, Scott, and Erica.  Jackson, Danny, and Scott were in Stiles’ Chemistry class.  And they all had the same lunch period.

 

Since English was first period, Stiles and company parted ways after promising to meet in the courtyard for lunch.  It might well be the only lunch they had together, since Lydia, Jackson, and Danny would most likely be joining the more popular upperclassmen after that first day.

 

Stiles didn’t begrudge them popularity.  They were looking toward their futures and popularity now might help them when they applied for college.  Stiles was destined for great things as well, but he didn’t need to be liked by everyone in school.  He held his few friends dearly close and was happy to have them.

 

Stiles took his usual seat half-way down the middle row in the classroom, with Erica on his right and Scott and Cora behind them.  The rest of the class filed in, followed by their teacher.  As the teacher settled her papers and books onto the desk on front of the classroom, the door opened, revealing a very pretty and confused girl.  She had long brown hair and gentle green eyes, and her dimples showed when she apologized for interrupting.

 

“Sorry, sorry.  It’s my first day, and we were late, so I missed assembly.  And I got my class schedule from the front office, but I got lost in the halls.”

 

“That’s quite alright, dear.  Let me see your schedule.”  The girl handed a paper to the teacher, and looked nervously at the class.  “Yes, dear, you’re in the right place.  Class?  This is Allison Argent, and she’s new to this school.  We’ll skip all of the embarrassing new student tripe for now.  Which of you have Economics in 202, followed by Social Sciences in 215?”

 

Startled, Stiles raised his hand.  “Um, I have that schedule.”

 

The teacher nodded.  “Very well, Mr. Stilinski.  Do you mind playing tour-guide for the morning?”

 

Stiles shook his head.  “Nope.  And, hey, this seat beside me is empty!  Come on back!”

 

The girl, Allison, smiled in relief, and walked back to sit beside Stiles, who smiled encouragingly.

 

“Hey!  I’m Stiles.  And this lovely lady beside me is Erica,” who waved slightly, “And behind you are Scott—my best bud—and his girlfriend, Cora.  I can get you to your next two classes, and at lunch I’ll introduce you to some more pals, okay?”

 

“Yeah, thanks,” Allison sighed in relief.  “I feel like such a dork for being late this morning.  We moved here, like, a month ago, so you’d figure that we’d be all unpacked already. But we aren’t, because my mom is still getting settled, and they weren’t sure if they wanted me to go to school here or to Beacon Heights Academy, so it was all last-minute shenanigans all morning.”

 

Scott piped up with, “You’ll be glad you’re here instead of BHA.  They have a lousy Lacrosse team, and the HomeEc classes here actually teach important stuff.  Do you have HomeEc?”

 

Allison looked at her schedule for a moment.  “Yeah, right after lunch.  I also have Chemistry before lunch, and History after HomeEc.”

 

Stiles reached over and took her schedule.  He looked at it and compared his own.  “Well, it looks like you have class with one of us, or one of our friends, every period.  By this time tomorrow, you’ll have the layout of the school down pat, and you’ll be signed up for loads of clubs.”

 

“Oh?  Do they have an Archery Club here?”

 

Stiles winced.  “Um, no, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start one.  If there’s interest, then people will join.  Except for knitting.  I just can’t seem to get a knitting club started.”

 

Allison laughed, and class started.

 

By lunch, Stiles had figured that Allison Argent was a very nice girl.  She was smart and had an easy laugh.  He could see becoming her friend, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t going to keep a close eye on her.  He didn’t think her parents had informed her about her family legacy yet, but he wanted to be ready for when they did.

 

They were all laughing when they entered the courtyard carrying their lunch trays.  Stiles led the group to their usual table in the center of the courtyard, and Lydia took one look at their new addition and squealed,  “I love that jacket!  You have to tell me where you got it!”

 

Allison blushed.  “Oh, um, my mother was a buyer for a large department store in St. Paul before we moved.  She has insane fashion sense.”

 

Lydia gave Allison a huge smile.  “I think you’re going to be my new best friend.”

 

“Um, okay?  I guess that’ll work.  I hated moving, but winters here have to be better than Minnesota.  And everyone needs new friends, right?”

 

“Right!  So, let’s see if we have any classes together.  And after school, we’ll get together and figure out rides to school and study stuff.”

 

Allison looked a little out of her league, but Stiles figured that if she was going to make new friends here, she could do worse than Lydia and Jackson.   They sat together during lunch, and sat together in HomeEc and History.  They split up after History, when Jackson led Allison to his Ethics class and Stiles, Lydia, and Danny went to their Advanced Math class.

Danny leaned across the aisle to speak to Stiles when Lydia was talking to another girl.

 

“So, Allison seems nice.”

 

Stiles nodded absently.  “We’ll see.”

 

“You don’t like her?  You just met her.”

 

Stiles glanced around the room, noting that nobody was paying attention to him and Danny.  He leaned toward Danny, speaking low.  “I met her family this summer.  Remember that Hunter that targeted Derek when he was in High School?”  When Danny nodded, Stiles continued.  “That Hunter woman was named Kate Argent.”

 

Danny sucked in a sharp breath.  “Allison’s related to her?”

 

Stiles nodded.  “That’s Allison’s aunt; her father’s sister.  Listen, don’t say anything to anybody, okay?  As far as I know, the Argents haven’t told Allison anything about werewolves or Hunters or anything supernatural.  If she doesn’t know, she shouldn’t hear it from us, okay.”

 

Danny nodded.  “She seems really nice, though, so I hope she doesn’t turn into a psycho.”

 

Stiles laughed.  “Yeah, me too!”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

A few days later, sign-up sheets went up all over the High School.

There were notices for try-outs for sports teams and cheer squads.  There were sign-ups for social clubs, and academic clubs, and intramural sports, and community clubs.

 

Allison optimistically put up a sign-in for an Archery Club, and Stiles gamely put his name down.

He also signed up for the Mathletic Team, and stood aside so Lydia could do the same.

 

“I’m not sure this year,” Lydia murmured, biting her lip.

 

Lydia was standing closely beside Jackson as they surveyed the lists of clubs being offered.  Jackson was looking at the Archery thing, too, but his mind was obviously on Lacrosse and the Swim Team.

“Why not?  You’re great at math,” Jackson asked, confused.

 

Lydia looked at Jackson apprehensively.  “I have an image here.  So do you, now.  You have lots of popular friends, and an image to maintain.  I don’t want to bring you down by being a geek.”

 

Jackson frowned and took Lydia by the shoulders.  He pressed his forehead to hers and breathed deeply.  It was so typically a Wolf thing, but Stiles and Danny ignored it because Jackson still hadn’t told Lydia about werewolves.

 

“I’m not as smart as you, Lydia.  I’m okay, but I’ll never be as smart as you.  And I’m so proud and happy that someone as smart as you are chose to be with me.  So don’t you ever pretend otherwise just to prove something to me.  I don’t want you in my shadow.  I want you to shine right beside me.”

 

Lydia’s smile was bright as she kissed Jackson and then signed her name next to Stiles’ on the Mathletic Club sheet.

 

Danny leaned into Jackson’s personal space and whispered, “I thought you said you weren’t smart?  That was the smartest thing you ever said to her.”

 

“She’s important to me.  I need to talk to the Alpha about telling Lydia.  I want to know that I mean as much to her as she does to me.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

Stiles was cleaning out the shed in the Stilinski back yard.  Part of it was used as storage for the lawnmower and tools and other yard implements, but part was being used as a workshop for most of Stiles’ messy projects.

He was clearing a large space for a crucible and kiln.  He was working on his ‘magical graduation’ project: medallions for the Pack.

He had read in an ancient text (thank goodness for the library) about talismans and their use in history.  He was going to create medallions for protection against Wolfsbane weapons.  He was also going to make a talisman for his father—a magical bullet-proof vest, if you will.

Roland McCook had mailed him raw copper and tin, and he also had a small stash of arsenic—for which he needed to do this outdoors—so that he could smelt his own bronze.  Stiles was going to use the crucible to melt the metals so that he could pour it into spelled forms.

He thought about making the medallions into wolves, but he thought that would be too cheesy, so he chose the form of an aconite blossom.  He was also using charged stones: agate, malachite, and turquoise; that meant protection, friendship, luck, and fulfillment of desires.  Since he ‘desired’ for his Pack to be protected, he figured that he made the correct choices.

For his father, he carved a mould in the shape of a Sheriff’s star.  Symbolism is everything.

 

While he cleaned, he chanted a purification spell.  When the area was cleared, Stiles read and re-read the instructions for melting the metals and creating the bronze.  His crucible looked like a large crock pot or double boiler, but it needed to be sitting on a flat surface that could handle high temperatures.  The thick cement floor of the shed would do, according to his research, but he would need to keep the double-doors open for air circulation and to prevent a fire.

While the metals were melting and blending, Stiles would whisper the spells needed for protection.  He was working on the intuition that protection spells placed throughout the construction of the object would work better than a single spell placed on the finished project.  Stiles had already placed layers of protections on the moulds being used for the aconite blossoms.  Once the metal was poured into the moulds, he would carefully place the tiny stones.  The talismans would have to sit and set for a full month for the power to increase, and he would have to start the process at moonrise on the night of the full moon so that he would be using positive energy when beginning the spells.

John was willing to allow Stiles to stay up late on a weeknight and skip school the next day, just this once, because he said it was important magic.  Stiles promised not to use the magic card too often, because abuse of power could corrupt it.  Stiles had to promise to get any assignments ahead of time, and have them finished over the weekend, so John wrote him a note explaining ‘family issues’ to allow his absence from classes.

 

As Stiles organized his supplies and laid out the moulds for the talismans, he wished quietly for some werewolf strength of his own.  Lifting that crucible to pour the molten metal was going to be a bear!  But he had to do this on his own.  For one thing, these talismans were going to be Christmas gifts, so he wanted them to remain a secret for a couple more months.  For another thing, having someone here that was strong enough but that he could trust completely meant either Jackson or Scott, since the Hales would think he was nuts for doing this.  And Jackson was still spending loads of time with Lydia and his parents.  The Whittemores were totally forcing a family bonding thing ever since Jackson got the Bite.  It was like they feared that Jackson would consider himself more of a Hale than a Whittemore now that he was a Wolf, and they wanted to reinforce their parentage.

Silly, really.  Anybody who saw them all together could see how much Jackson was a Whittemore.  It was in his eyes and attitude.  Jackson knew he was loved and wanted, and that was more important to him than blood.  He only took the bite because there was a good chance that any kids he produced would be werewolves, so he wanted first-hand experience with that.  In theory, his parents agreed with his reasoning.

So, that left Scott to offer him help, and Scott would never stop with the questions.  Stiles would answer any questions anybody had about magic, because he’d rather people got correct information than bad mis-information.   But for this?  He needed complete concentration.

So, he had to be alone with this project.

He wouldn’t even allow his father to bring him food or water while he was working.

 

Finally, the sky darkened and Stiles began casting his spells in earnest.  Once the moon rose high into the sky, he would begin to melt his base metals.

This was either going to be a huge mess or the most awesome spell work he ever did!

 

October 2010

A small group of High School students gathered in a large clearing at the public park area of the Preserve.  Allison Argent led the way, followed closely by Stiles, Lydia, and Isaac.  They were the new Beacon Hills High Archery Club, and since none of the students had ever seen a bow up close and personal, other than Stiles and Allison, they were going to use loaner bows, owned by Allison’s parents.

Christopher Argent was setting up large targets on piles of hay bales at one end of the clearing. Victoria Argent was laying out the bows in order of size.  Quivers of arrows were leaning against a folding table in front of the bows.  A total of eight students were curious enough to sign up for the club, so the small number allowed responsible parents to ‘sponsor’ the group.  Since Victoria had established herself as a substitute teacher for the Junior High School, she was considered an employee of the Department of Education, and therefore was able to be in charge of an extracurricular club.

Both elder Argents were surprised to see Stiles among the group of wanna-be archers, but neither let on that they had met the boy before.

The formal introduction to Archery, and its proper history, began like a class.  Notes were taken by the serious students; hand-outs collected and passed around.  Each student was allowed to lift the different bows: compound, recurve, longbow, and crossbow.  Some were obviously factory made, but others were hand-crafted and very expensive.  Some were easy to draw, like the crossbow and the compound bow.  The longbow took some serious strength, and the differently sized recurves took different draw strengths.  Then they used wooden yardsticks to measure draw length, so they each knew the length of the arrows they would use.

 

When it was Stiles’ turn for personal instruction with Mr. Argent, the two stood aside from the rest of the group.  Stiles was holding a 35-pound recurve with a 36-inch arrow.  It was similar in weight to the one he personally carved in Colorado, but was factory made.  While they stood there, Stiles holding the arrow in a draw so he could feel the strength needed to fire, Stiles took time to consider the man beside him.

Christopher Argent was calm—much calmer than the last time Stiles saw him.

He was confident in his teaching methods, and he certainly knew what he was talking about.  He questioned Stiles about his previous archery experience and seemed impressed when Stiles described his hunt.  Argent was also impressed when Stiles admitted that he had to carve his own ritual bow for that hunt.

Of course, Hunting werewolves would make you an expert in using a bow, Stiles supposed.

 

“Have you told her yet?” Stiles asked quietly.

Argent shook his head.  “Not yet.  We’re waiting until the school break for Thanksgiving.  Victoria and I think Allison will deal better if she has a few days away from her classmates after we tell her.  Now, focus on the target and gently release your fingers from the string.  Don’t release too quickly, or you’ll lose the arrow.”

Stiles did as he was instructed, and the arrow flew from his bow and struck the target just off from center.

Stiles whooped!  “Dude!  That was totally awesome!  It’s not like the one I used at all!”

Then he turned to the older man beside him.  “If you want—not that you need it, or anything, but me and my dad can help break the news.  Dad got a shock when he learned about werewolves, so he has experience with that sort of thing.  And I can explain the magic/Emissary thing, if you want.”

 

“I appreciate that, but I think we’ll be fine.  Allison will need a friend or two after we tell her, so we may call you afterward.”

 

“That’s cool.”

 

“By the way,” Christopher asked as he handed Stiles another arrow, “How did you father find out about werewolves?”

 

Stiles took the arrow and nocked it against the bowstring.  “You know, I have no idea.  He never told me.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

(time-stamp)

In mid-November of 2010, Peter Hale made a return trip to Arizona.  His goal was to present Laura Hale with the remains of her share of the Hale Family trust.  The amount was not negligible, a lump sum of $40,000.00, and since Laura had accused Derek of stealing her legacy and inheritance, Peter wanted nothing more than to present her with the check and be done with this business.

Laura Hale was not in Arizona.

Peter met with Dante Arritas, the Alpha of the local Pack, to find where Laura had gone.

 

“She was here as a favor to your sister, Mr. Hale.  And to your brother.  She was made Omega, and was given the opportunity to learn and change her ways.  She was antagonistic while she was here, and offered me and my Pack no respect.  She did not spend Moon nights with us.  Since she was legally an adult, I could not force her to obey.  As to where she went?  I have a few ideas.  I will give you any information that I have.  I am sorry that you had to hear it this way, but I forbade Frederick from calling, in case she returned.”

 

“I do understand, Alpha Arritas.  She is an adult, I agree, and you should not have been her babysitter.  Her disappearance is a concern, however.  I’ll report to my Alpha immediately.  If we come across news, I’ll be glad to pass it along.”

 

“Thank you, Mr. Hale.  Give my regards to your young Emissary.”

 

No word was heard from Laura Hale.

The Trust money was placed back into an investment account and reabsorbed into the Hale coffers.  If Laura returned, Peter had record of how much she was to receive.

Alpha Hale called Derek to let him know that Laura had disappeared.

Then she called Stiles, so that he could be on guard.

As Emissary, his duty was to protect the Pack and project their strength to outsiders.

At this point, Omega Laura Hale was of no concern to the Hale Pack.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

Since Derek would not be coming home for his birthday (and Christmas), John was allowing Stiles to travel to Davis, with Cora and Scott, for a few days after the holiday.

So, Stiles was spending most of his free time (free time?) working on the talismans.  He kept his grades up, and still spent Friday evenings at the Hale house baking, and he called Derek every Saturday morning after his run.

Those Saturday phone calls meant the world to Stiles.

He heard how Derek was doing in class.  He heard about Derek’s roommates.  He heard about the new running trails that Derek found near the hospital where he was studying.

And he told Derek about…everything.  His classes and extracurricular activities.  His magical studies.  His meeting with the Argents at the Archery Club.  He never mentioned what he was working on in the shed in his back yard.  He did mention that Allison Argent seemed like a very nice girl, but he had doubts that she would handle the news about werewolves very well.

 

“It’s not your problem if she doesn’t handle it well, Stiles.”

 

“Oh, I realize that.  But her aunt is crazy-pants, and I hear that her grandfather is crazy-pants, so I don’t relish the idea of being in school with someone from a Hunter family that could go crazy-pants on my friends.  I mean, she started an Archery club at school.  Which is cool, I admit, but really…it means that she has access to weapons.”

 

“So what do you plan to do?”

 

“What I plan to do it inform my school-age Pack members that there is a Hunter family in Beacon Hills, and that one of them is in our English class.  Or History class.  Definitely our HomeEc class.  I’ll be discussing this with Alpha Hale, obviously, but I think the teen wolves need to know, so they can be aware.  I think Jackson wants to tell Lydia about his wolfy side anyway, and she’s Allison’s new bestie.”

 

“Just…be careful about it.  Do it on neutral territory, if possible.  Mom says the Argents seem level-headed, so get them in on it if you can.”

 

“Yeah, I will take every precaution possible. I’ll even line the room with salt if I have to.”

 

“Is that really a thing, or is it just from that show you keep trying to get me to watch?”

 

“The fact that you even asked me that question proves that you watch the show.  So, I really wish you were going to be here for Christmas.  I have something special that I’d have liked you to open with the rest of your family.”

 

“Can you mail it, so I can open it on Skype?”

 

“Um, no.  It has magical components, so I don’t want to put it in the mail.”

 

“So, you’re going to have to tell the family not to mention it to me when I call.”

 

“Yeah.  I’m really stoked about visiting before New Year’s, though.  Scott is, too.  Cora?  You can never tell with Cora, can you?”

 

“Has she mentioned it more than once?”

 

“Yeah—she told Erica about the outfit she’s packing for our dinner out.”

 

“Then she’s excited.  I’ll be glad to see you all, too.  My housemates will be visiting family, so we’ll have the place to ourselves.”

 

“I can’t believe that you managed to find a married couple to rent a house with.”

 

“And I can’t believe there is a married couple in med school.  Of course, she’s studying for pediatrics, like me, and he’s going dental.”

 

“Nice—she can deliver the kids, and in twelve years he can put braces on them.  What a set up.”

 

Derek laughed> “Have a good Thanksgiving, Stiles.  I’ll talk to you next week.”

 

“Bye, Derek.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, Stiles was hosting a tea-party of sorts, in his favorite study room in the Library. Technically, he shouldn’t have been allowed to have food and drink in that room, but technically the library was closed—so nobody had to know about it.

The tea was the lavender/chamomile blend that Peter always recommended for calming nerves.  The food was a large selection of cookies that Stiles was experimenting with.  Since his mother was an accomplished baker, Stiles figured to honor her memory by creating his own recipes.

The party-goers were let into the building by Donna Maria, who understood the necessity of the meeting.

Talia and Peter Hale (Peter was now advanced to Talia’s Second, as well as Financial Manager)

Scott McCall

Melissa McCall

Cora Hale

Danny Mahealani

Isaac Lahey

Erica Reyes

Anita Reyes

Vernon Boyd IV

Jackson Whittemore

David Whittemore

Lydia Martin

Christopher Argent

Allison Argent

John Stilinski

 

Stiles had taken Derek’s advice and held the meeting on neutral territory, which the Library qualified as.   Donna Maria unlocked the doors and let Stiles in to set things up and then she waited for everyone else to show up.  Once they were all inside, she passed the keys to the Sheriff and told him that she’d pick them up the next day at the station.

Everybody looked confused when they saw who had been invited to the little get-together.  The teens all knew each other, of course, but only a few of the parents knew each other.  Every parent there knew Talia Hale, and what her position was in regards to the rest of the party.  Once Danny saw Allison and her father enter the room, he had a feeling that he knew what was going on and he shot Stiles a subtle thumbs up.  Stiles responded with a smile and a cookie.

 

“So,” said Stiles once everyone was seated, “I suppose you’re all wondering why I called you here today.”

 

John rolled his eyes. “If you follow that up with ‘I always wanted to say that’, I’m going to smack you.”

 

“Nope.  I have my moments, Daddy-O, but this isn’t one of them.  But, please, everyone have some tea.   It’s really good, and acts as a magical sedative.”

 

Peter’s eyebrows lifted high into his hair line.  “The tea I gave you does not such thing!”

 

“It didn’t.  But I tweaked it.  It’s not dangerous, but it’ll keep tempers in check and guns in holsters.  And claws and fangs safely hidden away.”

 

Everybody looked confused, but they all drank deeply.  The teens helped themselves to the cookies and Stiles refilled cups.

 

“Okay, so just about everybody here knows who everybody else is.  At least one of you needs some pertinent information about this little group, and we all need to know about Mr. Argent.”

 

Everybody at the table looked around at everybody else.  Christopher Argent looked cool and composed, but Allison looked slightly uncomfortable.   Lydia reached across the table and took her hand.  Allison smiled at the contact.

 

Stiles clapped his hands.  “Okay, so here’s my spiel:  There is magic in the world we live in.  Everybody here is part of it.  I’m a big part of it, mainly because I’ve been studying it since I was eleven years old.  And I’m not talking parlour tricks, either.  I study the magic of life and nature.  And part of that nature is the Werewolf.  Last year, my dear friend Erica took the Bite so that she didn’t have to have dangerous brain surgery, and she’s done wonderfully.”

Erica blew him a kiss.  Lydia looked confused.  Stiles continued.

 

“Even more recently, my friends Jackson and Scott took the Bite, for reasons, and they are also doing very well.  Scott was able to go back to work at the vet’s office after school, now that he’s in control enough that the animals don’t freak out.

“But along with the werewolves—and Lydia, please don’t glare at Jackson.  He’s here because he wanted to tell you, but he needed his Alpha’s permission to do it—come the werewolf hunters.  I’m not sure how many Hunter families—or clans—there are in this country, but I’ll be doing my research, believe me.  And most Hunters have a code of conduct.  Like, they don’t kill kids, or they leave the humans in a Pack alone.  But there are a few who totally disregard the codes.  Several years ago, one such hunter targeted the Hale family by way of Derek, and she was arrested and put away until this year.”

 

Stiles looked at Christopher in query, and the man nodded with permission.

 

“That Hunter’s name was Kate Argent, and she is the sister of Christopher and the aunt of Allison.  Now, I guess the Argent family is some hot shit in Europe, but in this country the family is getting a bad reputation.  For a lot of reasons, Allison wasn’t told until, what—Wednesday?—about werewolves and the truth about her family.  So if she seems off, well, she is.  This kind of news is shocking.

 

“And that’s why I called you all here today.  We go back to school on Monday, and all of our lives will go back to normal.  Well, normal to us.  But I figured that if Allison was going to know about werewolves, then the Wolves had a right to know about the Hunters that have moved into town.  I want to prevent a war, people.  I like Allison.  I think she’s swell.  And I like the Archery club, too.  I believe Christopher is an honorable man who wants to protect the family he lives with from the family that has the bad rep.  You all don’t understand what could have happened all those years ago, but it wouldn’t have been good.  Most of us here are in High School, and these are supposed to be the best years of our lives.  So I want us to sit here, over tea and cookies, and talk.

“I want us to discuss what it means to be a Mage and Emissary, a werewolf, a Hunter, and a regular parent of slightly irregular children.  I want us to try and trust each other.”

 

And Stiles took his seat, refilled his teacup, and munched a cookie.

 

And the room erupted in loud, but not angry, discussion.

 

 

As there were locking the library doors afterward, John looked at Stiles and smiled.

 

“You made me really proud of you in there, kiddo.  I’m not really sure when you grew up, but you did it well.”

 

“Thanks, Dad.  I figured Alpha Hale wanted me appointed to be her Emissary, so I should start acting like it.  Do you think this worked?”

 

John shrugged.  “Well, if any of the werewolves end up being hurt by a Hunter, I think the PTA is going to hunt down Argent first.  But I think progress was made today, and that’s what matters.”

 

The following Monday, Stiles sat in his English classroom talking to Scott and Cora when Allison walked into the room and paused uncomfortably at the front of the room.  Stiles tried not to stare, but he could tell that Allison desperately wanted to join them as she had since the first day of school.

The decision, however, was taken out of her hands when Erica bounded into the room and wrapped her arm around Allison’s shoulders and loudly asked, “What are you doing your Shakespeare essay on, because I have got no clue at all?”  And Erica led Allison down the row and planted the girl into her regular seat.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

December 30, 2010

 

Stiles was grinning the whole trip back to Beacon Hills from Davis.

He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel along with the beat of the song on the radio and absently listened to Scott and Cora chattering away in the back seat.

The front passenger seat was occupied by a very large plush wolf.  Its glass eyes reflected the sun through the windshield, reminding Stiles of the twinkle in Derek’s eye as he gave it to him.

 

“To keep you company while I’m busy studying my ass off here.”

 

Stiles giggled at the memory.

 

Another memory flitted through his mind:  Derek unwrapping his talisman.

 

“What is this?  Is this Wolfsbane?”

 

“It’s a Wolfsbane blossom, yes.  But the pendant is actually a protection talisman designed to keep you safe against Wolfsbane weapons.  It is meant to neutralize the toxicity, so that if you are poisoned—or punctured with something coated with aconite—your body will be able to fight the toxin.  A Hunter can’t kill you easily, and you can’t be accidentally poisoned, either.  I made them for everyone in the Pack.”

 

Derek smiled.  “You are amazing!  This must have taken a long time to do.”

 

“Eh, I worked the spells out way before making the pendant moulds and smelting the bronze.  There are crystals embedded in there, as well.  The protections are on several levels and depths, so if some witch comes along thinking she—or he—can break the spell, they can’t actually.”

 

“Did you paint it purple to match the flower?”

 

“Um, no.  That was a side effect of the spell work.  They all turned purple after I finished casting the last protection and pushed the magic into the talisman.   It was like, push the magic, chant the spells, loop the chain around the top of the pendant, and –Ta-DAAAAA!  Instant purple!  I had to make the chains by hand, too, because my instinct was to use a leather thong, but you can’t wear leather in the hospital.  Everybody else got a leather thong.”

 

“This is perfect.  Thank you.  I’m never taking it off.”

 

“That was the idea, you know.  Heck, I even enchanted the leather so that it won’t get damaged by swimming or showering.  I made my dad one, too.  Not a blossom, and not for werewolf protection, but an amulet.  It’ll work like a bullet-proof vest without the vest.”

 

“You are so good for us, Stiles.  You are so good for me.”  Derek leaned forward and kissed him lightly.  “I’m so glad I got to know you.”

 

Stiles pulled Derek into another kiss.  “Me, too, Derek.  Me, too.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

March 2011

 

Stiles was once again attending the Winter Formal alone, but with friends.  Boyd and Erica were, of course, going together, as were Jackson and Lydia and Scott and Cora.  Isaac got up the nerve to ask Allison, and she said yes, thus sparking a manic shopping spree where all of the girls set about making the boys nuts with fabric color and corsage options.

Boyd was the only smart one about it.  He had paid attention when Stiles would occasionally wear flowers–a single bloom or a small cluster–pinned to his waistcoat, and he noticed the secret smile Stiles would wear along with the flowers.  He cornered Stiles at lunch two weeks before the dance.

 

“Hey, you know about flower meanings, right?”

 

“Um, yeah.  Knowing what a flower ‘means’ is helpful in spells and sending messages in code.  Why do you want to know?”

 

“I want to get flowers for Erica for the dance.  But I want it to mean something special.”

 

Stiles nodded.  “Yeah, I can see that.  It certainly beats a dying orchid or over-priced rose.  What did you have in mind?”

 

“Well, I really love her, you know.  But I don’t want to rush her into anything, because we have a long future in front of us, you know?  But I want her in my life forever.”

 

“Give me a few days, and I’ll work something up, okay?”

 

Once Scott heard about it, he told Jackson and Danny at Lacrosse practice, and all three boys ganged up on Stiles in the locker room.

 

“Alright, already!  Geez, guys, let me breathe.  I’ll tell you what I told Boyd: Write down what you want to say, and give me a few days to work something up.  And never mind what color your date’s dress is—or suit, sorry Danny.  Once they see the flower message, they won’t care if it matches or not.”

 

“I’m good, Stiles,” said Danny.  “I’m not emotionally invested in Doug yet.  We’ve only been together for a couple of months.  I’ll stick to the standard Carnation.”

 

“You might want to re-think that one, Danny.  Different colors of carnations have different meanings.”

 

“Great.  Give me a list, then.  I don’t accidentally want to pledge my undying love to someone I only just started dating.”

 

Since everyone agreed to meet at the Argent house for photos before the dance, Stiles arrived early carrying boxes of flowers.  Christopher greeted him at the door and helped to carry the corsages.

 

“No date for you, Mr. Stilinski?”

 

“My heart is elsewhere, Mr. Argent.  Oh, I have one here for you, too.”

 

“Really?  But I’m not going anywhere.”

 

“That doesn’t mean you can’t give your wife flowers.  I read that if you do that often enough, she’ll stop thinking that you did something wrong.”

 

Christopher laughed and led the way into the living room, where Victoria waited with her camera.

 

Stiles began to organize the flower boxes on the coffee table.  Then he discreetly handed Christopher a florist’s box.  “Go on—give it to her. The meaning is on the inside of the box.”

 

Christopher took the box and approached his wife.  “This is for you, because our daughter is not the only one who deserves flowers tonight.”  He removed the corsage and gently pinned it to Victoria’s shoulder.  He recognized the daffodil, but not the other two flowers, so he referenced the lid of the box.

Daffodil—Respect

Fennel—Worthy of all praise

Forget-Me-Not—True Love

 

He showed Victoria the memo inside the box.  “I totally approve of this message, Stiles.  What does your flower message mean, if you don’t mind me asking?”

 

Stiles looked at the nosegay pinned to his lapel.  Derek had had it delivered to his house this morning, so he would have it for the dance.

 

“This is Daisy and Winter Daphane.  My one and only sent it to me.  It means ‘Purity’ and ‘I Would Not Have You Otherwise’.  We pass messages like this to each other a lot.  It’s sneakier than love notes, and if I lose a flower in the hall at school, just anybody can’t pick it up and read it.”

 

Victoria smiled.  “That is very clever.  May I see the other arrangements?  Or should I wait for the others to arrive.”

 

“I think it would be best to wait.  It would be rude if you knew what they meant before the other girls did.”

 

“I see you had one made for Allison.  It was my understanding that Isaac and she were not dating as of yet.”

 

“Oh, they aren’t.  But she couldn’t be left out, you know.  I’ll let you see hers, if you like.  It’s very innocent, I promise.”

 

“I’ll wait, then.  I trust you, Stiles.”

 

Stiles slumped in relief. “I’m so glad to hear that.  I swear, I’m not making flower porn.”

 

“Who’s making flower porn?”  Allison and Lydia descended the stairs and joined them in the living room.  “Oh!  Are these our flowers?  Can we see?”

 

Stiles stood to protect his arrangements.  “No!   We all have to wait until everybody is here.  Is Jackson bringing Danny and Doug?”

 

Lydia sat on the sofa in front of Stiles.  “Yes.  We’re all carpooling together.  Scott is borrowing his mother’s car, and Erica and Boyd are coming with him and Cora.”

 

“I guess I’m the odd one out, then.”

 

Allison curved her arm around his.  “No, you’re not.  You’re taking me and Isaac.  Everybody should be here soon.”

 

Just then, the doorbell rang and Christopher went to admit the other party-goers.  In an amazing feat of teenage timing, everybody arrived all at once.

So, they all trooped into the Argent’s living room, admiring dresses and tuxedos as they went.  Stiles handed out florist’s boxes to the guys so that corsages could be applied before photos were taken.

Boyd was first, and he gleefully pinned a nosegay of Bluebell, Arbutis, Buttercup, and Baby’s Breath on Erica’s shoulder.  As he pinned, Victoria dutifully read the flower names and meaning from the card inserted in the lid of the box.

“Constancy, Only Love, Cheerfulness, and Everlasting Love.”

Jackson opened his box and frowned at the contents.  “What the hell, Stilinski!  Weeds?   I paid you for weeds?”

 

“Jackson, dude.  Trust me.  Pin it on her, and I’ll read the card.”

 

Jackson lifted out the colorful nosegay, and Lydia got her first look at it.  She started to frown as well, as Stiles read: “Cornflower, for refinement. Dahlia, for Dignity and Elegance. Dandelion for Faithfulness.  You told me how you felt about Lydia, so I figured this was a good choice.  I’m sorry if I got it wrong.”

 

“You didn’t get it wrong, Stiles,” said Lydia, gazing into Jackson’s eyes.  “You got it just perfect.  I love it.”

 

Scott moved next to Stiles and made grabby hands.  “I want to see what my message to Cora says.”

 

Stiles handed it over, and Scott pinned it to Cora’s shoulder.  Stiles read: “Camellia, for Admiration.  Chamomile, for Patience.  And Daffodil, for Respect.”

Cora bypassed Scott and gave Stiles a huge hug.  “It’s great! Thanks, Stiles!”

 

Danny and Doug stepped up.  “I guess I’m next.  There’s nothing funky in there, is there?”

 

“Nope.  Just what you wanted: A Carnation.”

 

Danny opened the box and pulled out a flower and the meaning card.  “Purple Carnation, for Whimsy and Capriciousness.  That’ll work.”

Doug blushed lightly as Danny pinned his flower to his lapel.

 

Isaac blushed as everybody turned to look at him. “I guess I’m it, huh.  I hope you like this—I have no idea what it is.”

 

Allison laughed and presented her shoulder for a flower.  Isaac opened the box and pulled out a single bloom, and read from the card: “Gardenia.   It means ‘You are Lovely’.  And you really are, Allison.”

 

Allison giggled and gave Isaac a kiss on the cheek and then gave one to Stiles.  Victoria ushered the teens into some semblance of order and began taking pictures.   All of the couples posed together, then all of the ladies, then all of the lads.

After the last flash had faded, Allison kissed her parents good-bye and they all exited the house in search of their vehicles.

Stiles turned to the Argents as he walked through the doorway.  “I promise to not let them get stupid.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Stiles’ seventeenth birthday was on a Friday again, and he asked his father to allow him to have another sleep-over/movie night at Casa Stilinski.  It was too cold for camping, or that would have been his choice.  He promised to cook decent food, because Stiles loved his cooking lessons, and he promised that there would be actual slumber at the slumber party.

John had to work the late shift, so he agreed that his son’s friends were mostly mature enough to handle staying in the house without a chaperone.  He made Stiles an egg white and spinach omelet for breakfast after their morning run.  Stiles had chosen a fine selection of werewolf movies for his gathering, thinking that they could mock them if nothing else.  He even found some chick-flick like movies, just for the girls.

The teen Pack were all coming over after school, even Allison had permission to stay the night for the party.

 

“Actually, ‘Party’ is kind of a misnomer.  We’re going to eat, and watch movies, and maybe bake cookies or a cake.  We might talk about school stuff or magic, because everybody always has a question or two that I can answer.  My dad is working late that night, so I know that he and several deputies will make the rounds near the house, to make sure I haven’t burned it down.  We’ll be very responsible, I promise.”

 

And so, Allison was going to join the group for Stiles’ birthday.

 

“Isn’t your dad afraid there might be drinking there while he’s not home?”

 

Stiles shook his head.  “No point in it, really.  The werewolves can’t get drunk, and I don’t like not being completely in control of my mind and body, so I’ve not drunk any alcohol other than a sip of champagne at New Year’s.  Once you get to know us better, you’ll realize that we’re really weird.  I run for fun and relaxation.  I also knit.  Scott loves working with animals, but he can’t have pets because his mom is allergic to everything.  Which makes his being a werewolf hilarious.  Lydia is half fashion plate, half math genius, and Jackson’s biggest goal this summer is to convince her to go camping with us.  We’re not the type to drink or try drugs.  It’s too much fun arguing over which movie to watch.”

 

Lydia joined them at Allison’s locker.  “What movies are we going to be subjected to tonight, Stiles?”

 

“I have a selection of werewolf movies for our viewing pleasure.  I even have a romantic movie, just for you.”

 

“A romantic werewolf movie?  I’ll believe it when I see it.”

 

 

In the end, Lydia did agree that ‘Blood and Chocolate’ was decent love story, even with the werewolf twist.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

“Dude!  That’s a motorbike!”

 

Scott grinned widely.  “I know!  I’ve been saving for it.”

 

Scott showed up in front of Stiles’ house on the last day of school, riding a motorbike that he had apparently been yearning for for a long time.  Since he had only mentioned owning his own ‘vehicle’, and never actually said the word ‘car’, Stiles could be forgiven for thinking Scott was getting a junker like Stiles had.

 

Stiles walked slowly around the offending vehicle.  “I thought you were saving for a junker car we could fix up together this summer.  This isn’t a junker, is it?  A junker motorcycle is not a good idea!”

“Nah, it’s a refurbished bike, from a decent and reputable dealer.”

 

“Did your mom freak?”

 

“Yeah….a little bit.”  Scott was sheepish.  “She bought me my helmet, and made me promise to always wear it.”

 

“As she should, Scott.  She’s a nurse.  Don’t you think that she’s seen a lot of motorcycle accidents over the years?”

 

“I’m a werewolf, Stiles.  An accident isn’t going to hurt me.”

 

“Don’t put money on that, Scott.  You’re harder to hurt, but you can still get hurt.  And decapitation in a motorcycle accident cannot be cured.”

 

“Don’t bring me down, Stiles.  I wanted a motorbike.  I’m safe.  I had to take the course, you know, and pass it, before I could get one.”

 

“I know, Scott.  I also know that you’re safe on it.  If you weren’t, then Melissa wouldn’t have let you have it, and you’d have had to wait until you were eighteen to get it.”

 

“Yeah.  But we can always help Isaac work on his car this summer.”

 

“Isaac got a car?”

 

“Isaac’s brother has been driving a police cruiser all the time, so he kinda gave Isaac custody of his car.  It’s not bad, but it could use some mechanical work.”

 

Stiles sighed.  “I guess we can do that.  Dad wants me to work on his truck, too.  I’ll have a very mechanical summer this year.”

 

“Are you going to visit Derek at all?”

 

“Yeah, I am.  I’m making a solo trip at the end of July, before our camping trip.  I know Derek wishes that he could take the time off, but school is important to him.  He’s taking summer courses, and since he’s going to be a doctor, he’s just getting used to not having time off.  But we’re still calling and Skyping.  And he sent me flowers this week, before finals.  For good luck, you know.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Ever since it began when he turned fifteen, Stiles has done a wonderful job of hiding Derek’s courtship from his close friends and Pack members.

Oh, his father knows, because John had to give his permission.  And the adult Hales know, because Talia is the Alpha, and Peter is sneaky, and Robert is sort of coaching Derek through the whole thing.  And Scott knows, because Stiles can’t not tell his best bro, you know.

But everyone else?  Not a clue really.

And it pretty sad that they’re all so clueless.

Because Stiles always shares the funny notes that Derek e-mails to him, especially the ‘Joke-a-Day’ stuff.  And Stiles smiles all day after a Skype session.  And sometimes Stiles wears a flower or herb in his lapel slot on his waistcoat—something they all know by now has a specific meaning, even though he never tells what the meaning is.

And on the flip side; when Stiles has a bad day, he doesn’t reach out to any of them, even though they would totally listen if he needed them.

 

And the other teen boys are doing so much more for their girlfriends.  Openly dating at the movies or bowling alley, special milkshakes at lunch, flashy (but inexpensive) gifts, dressing alike.  Everyone in school knows who is dating whom.  The relationships are clearly delineated.  Everyone is happy about that.

 

So, it became a huge deal at the Hale Fourth of July barbeque and picnic when Lydia, disenchanted with Jackson’s poor attention to her, shouts out: “That Derek guy treats Stiles better than this, and they’re not even dating!”

Stiles trips over an invisible rock.

John fumbles his burger into the fire pit.

Talia and Scott choke on their iced tea.

Peter flat out begins to giggle.

 

And really?  He should have seen something like this coming.

Jackson tried his best, really.  He always complimented Lydia’s outfit, even if it was jeans and a sweatshirt on set-painting day for the school play.  He gave her flowers—hand-picked from his mother’s garden.  He even jokingly gave her dandelions once a week, because of the meaning.   Jackson even endured watching ‘The Notebook’ when ever Lydia wanted, which was often.

 

But Lydia’s mother caught her husband in bed with his secretary—in their bed, of all places—and Lydia was struggling to deal with a faithless father.  So all males got painted with that brush, no matter how sincere their feelings were.

 

So….yeah.  That happened.

Stiles, wide-eyed, looked to his father for guidance.

John ignored him in favor of another burger.

Heavy Sigh

 

Stiles walked over to the unhappy pair, and motioned for the rest of the ‘couples’ to come around.

 

“Um, Lydia?  That’s really not fair to Jackson.  Firstly—Jackson totally loves you.  You know this.  He has stood by you through all the crap with your family.  He tries to build you up all the time when you get depressed.  He’s even let you drive the Porsche, for Pete’s sake!  He might not be ideal, but he’s ideal for you, and you know that.”

 

Lydia nodded, almost reluctantly, and reached to pull Jackson closer.  Stiles took a deep, cleansing breath.

 

“And secondly: Derek has been engaging in Formal Courtship with me for a year now.  He decided to ask permission for it on his twentieth birthday, and Dad said yes, but he had to keep it on the down-low.”

 

All heads turned to face him, and all but one wore incredulous expressions.

 

“Do you mean Derek is actually your boyfriend?”

 

“I, uh, think the official term is ‘Courting Mate’, but yeah, he’s my boyfriend.  The whole courtship thing is meant as a way of getting to know each other, as well as allowing him to prove that he has serious intent and can provide for me in all ways.  That’s why we have all those phone calls, and why we send each other little gifts and notes.  We’re providing for each other, mentally and emotionally.  Lydia, Jackson is trying to do that for you.  I understand that you’re hurting now.  But you’re fighting someone who really cares, and nobody wins that kind of fight.”

 

Lydia sniffled a bit and then she hugged Jackson.  “I’m sorry, sweetie.  I know it’s not your fault.   You just keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll work on getting myself together, okay?”

 

“Yeah.  I figure I can be strong for both of us.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

Autumn 2011

 

Just before school started for Stiles’ junior year, he got a call from Christopher Argent, requesting a meeting.  Stiles asked if it was only him that Argent wanted to talk to, or should he contact Alpha Hale as well.  Christopher agreed that Alpha Hale should be informed as well, so a lunch meeting was planned at the Stilinski house.

Stiles made a sandwich platter and iced tea, and made sure his company was comfortable in the dining room.  Talia motioned for Christopher to speak.

 

“I got a phone call from Gerard.   He used my business number, which I can’t change because of business contacts.”

 

“And what did he want?  Does he know where you are?”

 

“He’s not aware of my current location.  He tried to visit the house in St.Paul, and found out that we moved.  Since we haven’t lived there in a year, I can’t think of what he wanted there.  He told me that he was sick, and he wanted to reconcile the family.”

 

Stiles frowned.  “He wants to get the family together again?  Does he mean Kate as well?”

 

“I’m not sure.  I told him that I was sorry to hear about his illness, but there was nothing that I could do for him.  He’s pressuring me to allow him access to Allison.  He thinks we still haven’t told her about werewolves.”

 

“Why not let Allison tell him that she doesn’t want to see him?  Or does she want to talk to him?”

 

“When I told her that he called, she ran from the room in tears.  I think she called Lydia.  If he figures out where we are, he’ll come.  And he’ll bring Kate.”

 

Talia hummed lowly for a moment.  “If Kate returns here, she’ll have no more luck that she had the last time.  If Gerard thinks he can find an Alpha here to give him the Bite, then he’s sorely mistaken.  Tell him that you’ll meet elsewhere, while Allison is in school.  Don’t you have a conference to attend in Santa Fe?”

 

“Yes, I do.  I was supposed to be taking Peter with me so that he could network with some of the police outfitters that I do business with.  Do I want to know why your brother is interested in meeting police arms buyers?”

 

“He’s actually looking into building contacts within fund directors.  Since Sheriff Stilinski asked Peter to invest his retirement fund, Peter has seen a need for making sure public protectors have decent retirement income.  He’s been networking all across this part of the country.”

 

“Well, if he doesn’t mind missing the conference next month, I can arrange to meet Gerard there.”

 

“Good deal, then,” said Stiles, clapping his hands together.  “Once you see what he really wants, then we can make a plan of action.  I don’t want Allison hurt by her grandfather, or her aunt.  You’ve got such a ray of sunshine there, Mr. Argent.  It would be a shame if her light got put out.”

 

“I totally agree, Stiles.”

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Stiles was running hard and fast along one of his favourite trails in the Preserve.  Cross-Country had started, and he needed to step up his game if he wanted any ribbons at the end of the season.

 

The heavy beat of his footfalls eased his mind.  He was deep in meditation as he ran.   The air was crisp and clean around him, with a hint of coming rain.  His mind was clear, and he was able to concentrate on the problem currently bothering him:  How to get his father to sign off on a tattoo.

Stiles had thought of a whole Pro/Con list for the tattoo.

He had a design in mind.

He knew where it would be place on his body.

Sure, he was seventeen now, so there was only a year until he could get one without parental permission.  But the tattoo he had in mind was magical.  Literally.  And the sooner he got it, the better for the protection spell involved.

 

Pro: Permanent Protection

Con: Temporary Pain

Pro: Magical Connection to Pack

Con: His Dad

Step…Step…Breathe in….Breathe out

 

The trees hummed beside him as he ran the path.  He was close to the Nemeton, and he could taste the energy of the Ley Lines.

 

In his front pocket, Stiles carried his wallet, car keys, and a small pouch of herbs and crystals.  Around his neck, Stiles wore a leather thong with a bronze pendant of an eight-pointed star.  In his blood, he carried the magic of the world around him.  Stiles could feel the energy of small animals in the woods around him.  Stiles could feel the leaves of the ferns talking to him; telling him all was well today.

 

As he rounded the final bend on his way back to his jeep, Stiles thought to himself: This magic thing is so cool!

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

“Gerard admitted to me that he has cancer, and that unless an alternative treatment becomes available to him, he has less than a year to live.”

 

Christopher Argent was sitting at Talia Hale’s breakfast bar, holding a cooling cup of coffee.  He had only just returned from Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he had been showing guns at a Police Conference.

 

“He wants to meet with Allison just once, to see how she’s doing now that she’s older.”  Christopher let out a bitter laugh.  “He said she has a right to know her grandfather before he dies.”

 

Talia sipped at her own cup for a moment.  “There aren’t any Packs in New Mexico that I know of.  Not enough wooded areas, it seems.  Did he say what type of alternative treatments he was looking into?”

 

“I think we all know what he’s looking for.  He mentioned seeing Kate not long ago.  My sister, it seems, managed to flee the country.  She was headed to Germany.”

 

“Do you have family in Germany?”

 

“No.   If Kate is meeting other Hunters, they are Hunters that I do not know.  As soon as I got home, I placed a call to Anton Argent in Strasbourg.  I told him about Kate’s antics here and her subsequent arrest.  If she shows up in that area, he’ll pass the word around.  Gerard didn’t seem inclined to share her plans if he knew them.”

 

“Christopher, you should allow Allison to make up her own mind about seeing her grandfather.  She knows what he is about, so she’ll not be fooled.  I know you don’t like it, and that you don’t want him to have any influence over her, but he is family.  I have a daughter that I forced to become Omega in order to protect my Pack, but she is family and if anything happened to her, I would mourn greatly.  Allison is a bright girl.  You should have faith in her.”

 

“I have all the faith in the world in Allison.  I just have no faith in my father.”

 

November 2011

 

Thanksgiving this year was a huge deal.

Literally, HUGE!

 

Derek was going to be home for the holiday, something nobody was sure of until a week before, so the Hales were hosting a large family-style dinner.

The guest list was so large that Robert had to suggest that they should use the dining room at ‘Carlysle’s on Baymont’.  That decision led to the suggestion of using the kitchen there to prepare the food.  Robert, Regan, and Stiles were all recruited for cook duty.  When Talia extended the invitation to the Argent family, Victoria offered to help in the kitchen that day, as well.

 

Derek arrived back in Beacon Hills on the morning of November twenty-fourth, the day before Thanksgiving.  Since the restaurant was open on that day, the Pack descended on the building after closing.  While the kitchen crew was shutting down the kitchen and cleaning up for the holiday, Scott, Jackson, Isaac, Boyd, and Derek were moving furniture in the dining area.

 

Tables were moved into groups, or out of the way altogether.  Extra chairs were moved into a sitting-room formation, and a large-screen television was placed for maximum football viewing.  Scatter-rugs were spread to protect the floor from any heavy traffic.

The next morning, the cooks carried bags of groceries into the restaurant kitchen.  Several turkeys were being prepared, along with pork ribs, sausages, and a large deer shank.  The list of veggie dishes was larger, so Allison and Scott were asked to help in the kitchen.

 

Melissa and John tried to volunteer, but as they had to work that evening they were forbidden from entering the kitchen.

The cooks began early, and Stiles was amazed at the easy camaraderie going on in the kitchen.  He had always heard that too many cooks was a bad thing, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

They were talking and shouting and laughing.  They were dancing around each other and tossing gadgets and implements over counters.  Family members kept moving in and out of the room, carrying snacks and munchies as they were ready, and offering football scores to those who couldn’t watch the games.

 

Those that didn’t cook or move furniture were conscripted to wash dishes, so the old ‘clean as you go’ method was pressed into use, and dishes didn’t pile up.

 

Once the food was finished and served buffet-style, and everyone was seated next to someone they loved, Stiles stood and announced that they should all tell one thing they were thankful for.  It was a cheesy idea, but everyone loved it.

 

It was one of the best Thanksgivings Stiles had ever had.

 

Being able to hold Derek’s hand during dinner was just icing.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

December 2011

 

Stiles were tired.

Bone deep tired.

And feverish.

 

There had been a Full Moon gathering that Saturday, and Stiles was running through the woods with all of his wolfy friends.  The ground and air had been damp, but Stiles doubted that the damp had made him sick.

 

There was a nasty flu going around the country this winter, and thousands of people were sick.  The anchors on the nightly news said this was the worst Flu epidemic in decades.  So far, there were few deaths, but the casualty count was growing.

 

So, here was Stiles, camped-out on the sofa watching the news while his father made canned soup in the kitchen.

 

His throat was dry.

His chest was horribly congested.

He could barely move because of the muscle aches.

He was freezing.

 

“Hey, kiddo.  How are you doing?”

 

“M’thirsty.”

 

“Okay.  I’ve got some water here.  I need to check your temperature, okay, buddy?  You’re not looking too good, and I think we might have to think about the hospital.”

 

“Nnnnnn….”

 

John had the temporal thermometer that Melissa loaned him, and the screen read 104.  That was high, wasn’t it?

 

John was reaching for the phone when Stiles fell suddenly silent.  John checked his pulse, and it seemed fast to him.  Stiles’ eyes were also rolled far back into his head.

John placed two phone calls:  The first to Melissa, telling her that he was bringing Stiles into the hospital, and the second was to Derek, to tell him that Stiles had contracted the virulent flu and was very sick.

 

An hour later, John was filling out paperwork to admit his son, whose temperature was still climbing.   Stiles kept drifting in and out of consciousness, and was totally incoherent.  Once Stiles was settled into a room, John let Scott make calls to let the Pack know that their Emissary was down for the count.

 

Four hours later, a frantic Derek was lurching into the private room.  John stood and drew the younger man into a hug.  “He’s out right now.  His temperature is too high, and the doctor has ordered hourly sponge baths with cool water.”

 

“I can do that.  I mean….”

 

“Derek, it’s okay.  I want you to be here if you need it.  If you want to give the sponge baths, that’s okay, too.  I’ll tell the doctor that you have full permission to be in here.  Now, take my seat and rest a bit.  I’m sure you broke all sorts of speed records to get here.  Does your mother know you’re here?”

 

Derek shook his head, but his eyes never left Stiles.  “No.  I just got in the car and drove.  I didn’t even pack a bag.”

 

John gave a rueful grin.  “Okay.  I’m going to get coffee.  I’ll call your mother and let her know where you are.  Maybe she can bring you some clothes.   I’ll bring you something to eat.”

 

“Okay.  Thanks for…everything.”

 

“You just watch my son, and we’ll call it even.”

 

 

Over the next three days, Stiles drifted in and out of consciousness.  His temperature rose to dangerous highs, and the doctor had recommended submersion in lukewarm water.  John and Derek watched over him in shifts, but Derek rarely left the room.  Melissa brought in a cot so the two men could sleep somewhat comfortably next to Stiles.

Finally, the fever broke, and Stiles was drenched with sweat.

John allowed Derek to carefully wash the sweat from the boy, and then he sent Derek to the cafeteria for food and water.  Derek had borne the brunt of the care-giving while Stiles was in the hospital.  When Stiles was awake enough to eat, Derek would spoon-feed him.  When the nurse came to bathe Stiles, Derek took the wash tub away from her.  John figured the other man needed a break, although he seemed reluctant to leave.

 

John sat beside Stiles’ bed, gently holding his son’s hand.  There was an IV slowly dripping saline into the boy’s arm to prevent dehydration, and John was careful not to nudge the line.

 

This was his boy.

This was the only family John had left.

And they were two floors above the room John’s wife died in, just seven years ago.

This was too close a call, as far as John was concerned.

 

Once Stiles got out of here, John was going to savor every moment he had with his son.  And he was going to allow Stiles to grow in every way possible; personally, magically, emotionally.

 

And as for Derek?  Well, John could see how good Derek was for Stiles.  There was deep affection and respect there, on both sides.  John was totally going to honor that relationship from now on.

 

“Mmmmm…Dad?”

 

Stiles’ eyes opened slightly.

 

“Hey, kiddo!  You want some ice chips?”

 

“M’kay.  I feel so dopey.”

 

John laughed for real.  “Oh, kid!  There are so many responses.  You’ve been really sick, Stiles.  Your fever got too high, so I had to bring you into the hospital.”

 

“Derek?”

 

“I called him right away.  He drove here straight from class.  He hasn’t really left your side.  I just sent him to get some food.  He’ll be back soon.”

 

“M’kay.  Dad?  I had the strangest dream.”

 

 

˜fin˜

 

 

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