Building a Better Tomorrow (part one)

Title:Building a Better Tomorrow
Fandom/Genre:Teen Wolf
Relationship(s):Stiles/Derek, Scott/Cora, Lydia/Jackson, The Teen Wolf Gang
Content Rating:Mature
Warnings:Violence, Minor Character Death, Magical Stiles!, BAMF Stiles, BAMF John, BAMF Talia, Peter Hale Is Sassy, do not try this at home, alternative universe, Mention of torture, mention of violence, Consenting Adults Having Sex, There is no canon here, GFY

Summary:The continuing saga of Stiles Stilinski, Mage and Emissary of the Hale Pack of Beacon Hills, and his wonderful family of humans and werewolves.

 

 

NOTES:  This may well be the last story of this ‘verse. I’m bringing it to a (hopefully) satisfying end. Good friends will be back, enemies shall return, and lots of magic will happen.

Chapter titles come from songs by The Mamas And The Papas, because I though I’d try something different.

This story picks up after Stiles is out of the hospital after that horrible flu that almost killed him. I hope you enjoy.

Disclaimer: Teen Wolf and all characters are owned by Jeff Davis, MTV, and other parties. I’m only playing with it because I wanted them to have a good life. I own nothing.

Stiles and the Sheriff

Talia Hale

Peter Hale

Derek Hale

Scott McCall

Lydia and Jackson

Allison and Isaac

Melissa McCall

Chapter One:  All The Leaves Are Brown, And The Sky Is Gray

–California Dreaming

 

December 2011

 

“Sir?  Could I have a moment of your time?”  Derek resolutely did not shuffle from foot to foot in nervousness as he stood in the doorway to the Sheriff’s office.  He had come to know Konstancji Stilinski, known as ‘John’, pretty well over the years.  He was a good and honorable man.  Derek should in no way have been afraid to speak with him.

“Sure, Derek.  Come on in and close the door,” John waved him into the office and pushed back from his desk.

Derek entered the office and shut the door behind him.  He took a seat in front of the Sheriff’s desk and took a deep breath.

John stared at the younger man, bemused.  “What’s on your mind, Derek?  Are you headed back to Davis?”  Derek had come home to Beacon Hills when John’s son, Stiles, was struck with a virulent flu and was admitted to the hospital.

Derek nodded.  “I’m about to hit the road now.  Since Stiles is home, I felt it was okay to head back to school for the end of the semester.  My professors were very understanding about allowing me to leave like I did, but then, a good portion of campus was down with this Flu, so it’s not like classes were full or anything.  But before I left, I wanted to talk to you.  I have a plan, but I need your permission do follow through with it.”

John’s eyebrow lifted high on his face.  “The last time you wanted my permission for something, you put a rather large amount of money into Stiles’ college fund.  And the time before that, you asked permission to formally ‘court’ my teen aged son in the, what was it?   Oh—the Proper Werewolf Way.  I can’t wait to hear this.”

Derek blushed hard.  “I know this is odd to hear, in regards to your son.  I care for him deeply.  When I asked permission to court him, it was with the intention of getting to know him; to see if feelings could or would develop as we grew as people.  In my case, even though we have been mostly separated, feelings have grown.  I find myself entertaining thoughts of settling with Stiles and maybe raising a family.  Definitely I want to rule the Pack with him at my side.”

“Raising a family?”  John sat bolt upright in his desk chair.  “Can Alpha Werewolves get human males pregnant?  Is that a thing?!”

“Uh, NO!” Derek stammered.  “No, I meant…like adopting, or something, when he’s out of college.  Males, human or werewolf, can’t get pregnant.  At least, I don’t think they can.  I’m pretty sure they can’t.”

John heaved a sigh of relief.   “Okay.  Adoption.  That’s good.  For what it’s worth, I think he’s pretty gone on you, as well.  I mean, he doesn’t prattle on about you day in and out, but when you two do talk to each other, he practically floats for days afterward.”

Derek smiled.  “I feel the same way.  He’s the best part of my week.  I don’t know how I would have survived school if it weren’t for him being on the other end of the Skype call.  And that’s what I want to talk to you about.  He’ll be eighteen in April.  He’ll be starting his senior year in high school in August, and he’ll be planning his future.”

John frowned slightly.  “I can’t, in good conscience, allow you to put more money toward his education, Derek.”

Derek blushed.  “No, no, that’s not what I want.  Although, from what Peter tells me, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about affording his college education.  No, I want to give him a ring.  A promise ring, not an engagement ring.  I would respectfully request permission to place a physical sign of my devotion and affection for your son on his finger, to show the world my intentions.”

John stared at Derek for a few moments.  This young man, whom John had known since he was fifteen years old, had grown so much in the last few years.  He graduated high school at the top of his class.  He was in college—medical school—now, and from all account was doing quite well.  He was devoted to his education.  He was devoted to his family.  John knew he could expect great things from Derek.

And apparently, one of those great things was becoming John’s son-in-law.

John sighed.  “I hope my son knows exactly how good you are, Derek.  I would hate if he was taking advantage of you in any way.  I want to see this ‘promise ring’ before you give it to him.  Parental approval, you know.”

Derek blushed again, and nodded in agreement.  “I have something in mind, but I think I’ll have to have it made instead of just going to a jeweler.  Stiles deserves something unique.”

The two men stood and John offered his hand.  Derek shook it firmly, an acknowledgement of respect for the older man.

“Drive safely, Derek.  I’ll keep the secret for you.”

“Thank you, sir.  I hope to have it for Christmas.  I know it’s only a week away, but I think it can be done.  If it can’t, then I’ll wait.  I’ll not settle for anything less than perfect for Stiles.”

John smiled with genuine happiness.  “Well, then, welcome to the family, Derek.”

˜˜˜˜˜

Christmas wasn’t the over-the-top affair that it had been in years past.

For one thing, Stiles hadn’t been out of the hospital all that long.

For another thing, the flu epidemic that caused Stiles to be hospitalized in the first place was still going strong, so the Sheriff’s Department was still understaffed, and Melissa McCall was working very long hours at the hospital.

Isaac and Boyd had gotten sick, as had Lydia, but none were as bad off as Stiles was.

The werewolves, of course, were immune, so they were off and running, taking care of those that were ill.

Erica was on Boyd-duty, caring for her boyfriend and his younger siblings who were sick, but not dangerously so.  Scott was bouncing between Camden Lahey’s apartment—and Isaac—and the Hale House, where human Michael was deposited on the sofa for days.  Jackson took it upon himself to care for Lydia, much to his parents’ amusement.

So: Christmas.  Not a big deal this year.

As gifts, because he was so not up to taxing himself magically, Stiles and Scott (Don’t laugh, he can follow directions, Dad) decided to cook several meals for all of the invalid-bound families, and they drove around town delivering them on December 23.

Stiles also managed to bake many dozens of cookies, and he took them around to the hospital for the nurses in thanks for their care of the younger, crankier patients. (He was one, he could relate.)

Those were his gifts for everybody.

Nothing magical.

Nothing knitted.

Nothing fancy at all.

But they all ate well, and family was together.

The important bases were covered.

On December 25, Stiles wandered through the Hale’s house, looking for Derek.  He found him, of course,  in the library, a large, map-sized book open in front of him.

“Hey, there you are!” Stiles exclaimed happily as he pulled the door shut behind him.

Derek looked up and smiled.  “I totally wasn’t avoiding you.  I knew you would find me.”

Stiles sauntered further into the room.  “And were you in here for a reason?  Because I gotta say, every time I find you in this room, something spectacular comes my way.”

Derek shrugged.  “I think of this as ‘our room’, you know.  It was in here that I realized how important you are to me.”

Stiles smiled and held out a hand to Derek.  When Derek stood, Stiles pulled him into a light kiss.

“I missed doing that.  I was too sick to enjoy it the last time I saw you.”

Derek lightly stroked the back of his hand down Stiles’ cheek. “I hated seeing you like that.  I was so scared that I was going to lose you.  Your dad was scared, too.”

“I’m glad you were there for him while I was out of it.”

Derek pulled Stiles onto the sofa he had been occupying.   “Of course I was.  He’s Pack, and he’s your father.  What is important to you is important to me.”

Stiles gave a small grin.  “Is that how it is with Mates?”

Derek looked down at his lap.  “That’s how it should be with Mates.  Stiles, I want to ask you something.  Something serious, okay?”

Stiles reached out and lifted Derek’s head so they could meet eye to eye.  “Derek, I promise, whatever you want to ask me, I’ll take it seriously.  Okay?  You’re my One-And-Only.  I will always take you seriously.”

Derek nodded and reached into his blazer pocket.  He pulled out a small box and held it for a moment while he gathered his thoughts.  Finally, he held it out and motioned for Stiles to take it.

“I want everybody to know that you are mine.  I want everybody to know how much you mean to me.  That’s for you, for now, as a symbol of my affection.”

Stiles frowned and looked at the box, and then he opened it.  Inside was a golden ring, like a family signet ring, inscribed with a black-enameled triskelion—a Celtic spiral-knot.

“Derek?  Is this…?”

“It’s a promise ring,” Derek said hurriedly, “not an engagement ring.  I’d rather wait until after you were out of college for that.  But, I can’t give you the Mating Mark, because we’re not Mated yet.  And I have a need…that I really can’t explain.”

Stiles raised one eyebrow incredulously.  “You want to mark me as yours, but since you aren’t actually an animal, you aren’t going to chew me up or pee on me.”

“Stiles!”

“Sorry—not a dog joke!  I’m just trying to make sure I understand.  By the way, I agree about waiting for an engagement.  But, I must insist—if you want me to wear this, you have to put it on my finger yourself.”

Derek smirked and took back the box, removing the ring.  He held it over Stiles’ finger and looked the boy in the eye.

“Ignacek Stilinski, will you accept this promise of a future with me by your side?”  Derek slid the ring over Stiles’ knuckle and kissed it when it was in place.

“I will so accept this promise!  But now you gotta explain what that symbol means.”

Derek stood and walked to a bookshelf and pulled an old journal with the same symbol on the cover.  He returned to the sofa and opened the book.

“This is sort of a family tree of the Hale Pack, going back many generations.  They symbol is a Triskelion.  You can find it in Celtic artwork, but this symbol was part of our Pack long before Celtic settlers came from Europe to this country.  It’s a triple-spiral, and there are many variations of it throughout the family history.  Sometimes it’s squared-off, sometimes the spiral has more curves.  It means many things to our Pack: Alpha, Beta, and Omega, or Past, Present, and Future, or even Life, Death, and Rebirth.”

“What does it mean to you?” Stiles asked as he traced the symbol on his ring.

“To me, it means Alpha, Beta, and Omega: that any Wolf can become any of those at any time.  I was born Beta, and would have stayed Beta if Laura hadn’t turned into a raging psycho.  She was supposed to become Alpha, and was made Omega.  It means that nothing is set in stone, and all we can aspire to is to be the best we can. It means so much to me, that I got a tattoo of it at the start of the semester.  It’s in the middle of my back, so it can’t be seen by accident.  I’d have put it close to my heart, but tattoos on the chest have a way of being seen.”

Stiles smiled at Derek.  “I like that meaning.  It’s like saying that anyone can rise above their situation, or be brought down, depending on how they live.  It’s like ethics or karma—what comes, goes ‘round too.  And I totally want to see that tattoo some time.  I’m gonna get one, soon.  I have a design I want to show you later.”

Stiles stood up and held out his hand for Derek.  “Come on!  I wanna show this off! Lydia is going to be so jealous!”

Derek rolled his eyes.  “Can we keep Lydia out of it for a while?  Jackson has been bombing my e-mail with requests for Courting assistance.  Oh, by the way, don’t be surprised if your dad doesn’t look too impressed.  He’s seen the ring already.”

Stiles laughed.  “Of course he has!  Because you did the honorable thing and asked his permission first.”

Derek frowned.  “Did he tell you?”

Stiles rolled his eyes.  “No.  But it’s such a you thing to do.  You asked his permission before beginning the Courtship, so it stands to reason that you would ask his permission for this as well.”

Derek shrugged.  “You are still under eighteen, you know.  I don’t want to be accused of being inappropriate.”

Stiles gave Derek a quick kiss on the cheek.  “I don’t think anyone who knows you would ever think you were being inappropriate.”

˜˜˜˜˜

On Sunday, January First, John took the day off from work in order to support his only son as Stiles prepared for his first Magical Tattoo.  Derek had offered to go, but John was adamant that it be a Father/Son moment.  Stiles was all for it.

John, once he had given permission, had helped Stiles research Tattoo Parlors.  He didn’t want Stiles to go somewhere that had a sketchy reputation or dodgy health record.  They split the research: John looked into health code compliance, and Stiles looked into magical possibilities.  They narrowed the choices down to four that John approved of, and they went on a ‘tour’ the week of Thanksgiving.  The visits allowed John to see first-hand how clean the places were, and how talented the artists, and Stiles got to get a ‘feel’ for the magical energy.

As it turned out, the first place they looked was in Paradise, about a thirty-minute drive from Beacon Hills, and it was perfect.  The storefront was decorated to look like an old-fashioned apothecary shop, and it shared a parking lot with the local Health Department headquarters.  The interior was clean and neatly arranged, and Nurses from next door kept popping in and out with coffee or snacks.

From Stiles’ point of view, the perfection lay in the power sigils that were etched into the front windows.  Once he walked inside, he could feel the power that emanated from the walls.  Once he spoke to the proprietor, a large, burly, heavily-tattooed fellow, Stiles was sure that this was the place that he would be getting his tattoo.  Stiles explained his need for a magical tattoo, and the artist showed him a special catalog: one filled with spiritual tattoos that he only did on ‘power days’ by appointment only.

After negotiating back and forth on price and design, Stiles made an appointment for January first.  It was a good ‘power day’ and symbolic of a new start in Stiles’ life.

 

At noon, John and Stiles walked into ‘The Colorist’s Studio’ and Stiles could feel his magic settle.  This was right, in every way.

Stiles approached the counter, and the dyed-blonde waiting at the appointment book.

“Hi!  I have an appointment with Jasper.  Name is Stiles.”

“Okay.  Jasper is setting up now.  Let’s get you signed in, and he’ll be right with you.”

Stiles nodded and signed their ledger.  He pulled out the sketch he had made of his tattoo, and when Jasper appeared, the two continued their plans for location and position.

Stiles’ design was a simple protection sigil, blended with a ‘safe travel’ spell, a ‘family’ rune, and Stiles’ personal charm, which Roland McCook had helped him find through meditation.  Derek’s initials, John’s initials, and the Argent family sigil were present in the tattoo as well.  Stiles had requested that the tattoo be done with white ink, so that it would only appear as a scar, and that he be allowed to burn his own blend of incense during the process.  He was going to be chanting his own personal spell during the inking of the design, so that the spell would settle with the tattoo.  He also requested that any tissues or paper towels used to wipe excess ink and blood from Stiles’ body be given to him so that he could dispose of them himself.  Jasper, a magical practitioner himself, readily agreed, and Stiles stripped off his shirt to expose the skin over his heart.

Jasper asked if John wanted to watch, or just sit with Stiles, and after conferring with his son, John agreed and a stool was provided for him near Stiles’ right shoulder.  Once the buzzing of the tattoo gun began, John placed his hand on Stiles’ shoulder, and inadvertently added another layer of protection to the spell that Stiles was having put under his skin.

Two hours later, Stiles was carefully bagging the bloody paper towels and replacing his shirt, and John was talking with Jasper about aftercare.

“You sure you don’t want one, while you’re here?” Jasper asked the man. “I don’t have another appointment until this afternoon.”

John shook his head.  “No thanks.  I appreciate the offer, and if I change my mind, I’ll come here.  Stiles gave me my own protection.  It might be around my neck, but it’s good enough for me.”

Jasper nodded.  “Mind if I take a look?  No touching, I promise.  He’s got a lot of power.”

John lowered the collar of his shirt and withdrew the star-shaped pendant that he wore.  “I know he has power, but it’s always nice when someone else confirms it.”

“Police Shield, huh?  I can feel the love wafting off of it.”

John smirked as he tucked the pendant back under his shirt.  “I’m Sheriff of Beacon County, so it seemed appropriate.”

John and Stiles both shook Jasper’s hand and left the building.  John clapped a hand on Stiles’ shoulder.  “Well, it wasn’t painless, but you handled it well.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

Stiles nodded.  “Yeah, that place was designed to be mellow.  I can’t imagine a lot of screaming goes on in there while people are getting tattoos and piercings.  But my euphoria is wearing off, so I’ll need to eat soon.”

“Right.  Let’s get lunch, and head on home.”

˜˜˜˜˜

January 28, 2012

 “Gosh, Mom, I can’t believe you’ve been gone for seven years.  It’s been a wild ride, hasn’t it?”

Stiles sat on a low bench at the foot of Claudia Stilinski’s grave.  Peter Hale, knowing how Stiles and his father came here often, in order to ‘talk’ with the late matriarch, paid to have it placed there three years after she passed.  It was simple marble, and horrendously uncomfortable, but it served a purpose.

“I know Dad keeps telling me that you would be proud of me, but I wish I could hear it from you.  School is going well, of course.  I’m still in deep competition with Lydia Martin for grades, but it’s mostly in fun.  I’m thinking hard about college, now.  I’ve finally decided what I want to do with my life, you know—for a living.  I always knew magic would have to be involved, somehow.  Now that I’ve been practicing so long, it’s a part of me; like my moles or my eye color.  I can’t not use it, you know.  Every day starts with a little blessing spell to make the day good.  I cast one for me and one for Dad.  It’s okay, though.  He gave me permission.

“So, I wanna open a shop.  Books, mainly, and charms and maybe jewelry.  I’ll have a good normal selection, but I want to have a specialized reading room for magical texts.  Dad thinks I’m nuts, because of online booksellers and how the printed word is going out of style. But I think that people will always want books.  And some people will want spells.  And people are going to dabble, you know.  Someone is always trying a shortcut with magic, and if they don’t have someone to lead the way to proper usage, then they abuse the magic and people can get hurt.  So, I’m going to be a ‘seeker’s bookseller’.   I have to admit, though, that there’s an ulterior motive.  I want to keep an eye on anyone using magic in my territory.  I don’t want anyone to try and corrupt the Nemeton.  And I want to keep magical danger away from the Pack.

“Speaking of the Pack: Scott and Jackson are doing well.  Like, really well.  Scott is so in control that he’ll be able to study Veterinary Medicine like he always wanted.  And Jackson is going to make one hell of a lawyer.  Because werewolves can tell when someone is lying.  I think Boyd was thinking about asking for the Bite, but he wants to wait until after college.  And the Argents have actually proven to be honorable.  Mr. A is being good at keeping his psycho-dad away from Beacon Hills.  At this point, I’m not even sure if old-man Argent even knows where his son and daughter-in-law are living.”

Stiles paused in his discourse, and rubbed his thumb absently over the ring on his left hand.   It looked golden, but Derek had taken a page from Stiles’ own book and had it caste in bronze.  The black triskelion was acid-etched to look like enamel.  It was a magically sturdy ring, and it didn’t interfere with his natural energy at all.   In fact, Stiles noticed that some spells were cast easier since he began wearing it.  The love imbued into the ring enhanced his own skills and ability.

“Derek really wants to marry me, Mom.  Not right now, of course.  But I think as soon as I graduate college.  It’s made me think hard about school and how I want to do it.  I don’t want to wait a long time before I join with Derek permanently.  I’ll need at least a B. A. to get the know-how to get the shop up and running.  Ideally, I’ll have an MBA under my belt.  But Grad School takes so long.  I don’t want to half-ass it, you know.  I pray to Great Spirit every day for guidance.  And I get it, most days.  I’m not at a total loss, but I have a lot of planning to do.

“It helps to know that you’re watching over me, too.  I wish you could be here to see what I’ve become.  But, we’re good, me and Dad.  We’re not totally lost without you.  We have good people around us.  I just wanted to make sure I got out here, because once I start college, my visits will be few and far between.  I’ll carry you with me always, Mom.  You were my heart before I ever met Derek Hale.”

*  *  *

Chapter Two: We Make Every Minute Count

–The In Crowd

NOTES: 

More original characters, because I just can’t help myself.

Stiles’ boutineer= Resolved To Win, Magic, Protection

 

The second semester of junior year is a flurry of activity.  Not only are their teachers bearing down on them for final essays and end of year projects, but the guidance counselor is harping about college and the preparations needed to be done before summer break.

Once Stiles decided what his goal ultimately was—open his own Magic/Book Shop—he began looking into college programs designed to make it a reality.  He looked into business schools, mainly, because he’d need to know how to run the shop once it was opened, but he also looked into Library Studies.  Owning a store was one thing, organizing it was another.  There were a lot of online classes offered, mainly for continuing education programs, but John was adamant that Stiles live on campus for at least a year, in order to get the ‘Whole College Experience’.  John wasn’t worried that Stiles would find a fraternity and drink his college years away, but Stiles had lived in Beacon Hills his whole life and they never really travelled.  Stiles’ summer in Colorado was his first time away from home, because day camp totally didn’t count.

Scott and Jackson took to haunting Talia Hale’s office in the down-town law firm.  They needed the comfort of their Alpha as they made life-altering decisions.  Scott wanted to be a vet in the worst way.  Working in Deaton’s office only made the want more solid.  It was a fulfilling occupation, if sometimes gross, and his werewolf ability to sometimes ‘take’ pain from a suffering animal (When Deaton wasn’t watching, of course) gave Scott a feeling of real accomplishment.  Thanks to all of the study sessions with Stiles and Lydia and Danny, Scott’s grades were good enough to qualify for loads of scholarships and grants.  His only worry was being away from Pack.

Jackson had the same worry.  He wanted to go into Law, like his father, and there were no decent Law Schools really close to Beacon Hills.  He didn’t want Harvard or Yale, even though Talia promised that she could write a great recommendation, but he didn’t want to be so far away that he couldn’t come for Moon Runs.  David Whittemore was proud that Jackson wanted to follow his footsteps, and he was glad that Alpha Hale would write the recommendation no matter where Jackson attended school.  David had had a few years to become accustomed to the Pack’s role in his son’s life.  The fact that the Hale family was supportive of him and his wife as well really helped.

Talia promised to go over college applications with both boys one Saturday afternoon, so that she could tell them which schools were near other Packs and which would give them easy access to wilderness areas for Moon Runs.  Lydia wanted to join them, but Jackson was adamant about choosing his school preferences without Lydia’s influence.

“Look, Lyds, I love you, and I’m sure I always will.  So if we don’t go to the same school, it won’t matter.  I don’t want you to choose something to be near me, and I won’t choose to be near you.  We have to be grown-ups about this, okay?  I want you to go where it’s best for you.”

“I know, Jackson,” Lydia sniffed.  “I doubt any distance will make any difference in how I feel about you.  I just like having you close.”

Jackson snorted.  “Yeah, well, my Wolf wants you close, too.  I’m pretty sure you’re it for me, Lyds.  So, if we split up for college, then we’ll find each other again if we’re meant to be.”

Lydia huffed quietly.  “Okay, fine.  We’ll apply separately.  And we’ll accept separately.  I won’t tell you where I’m going until after I send in my acceptance letter and receive my dorm assignment.”

Jackson smiled.  “Same here.  It’s a good deal, Lydia.  I have a good feeling about us, you know?”

Jackson wrapped his arms around the shorter girl and hugged her hard.  When he learned about Mates, and their importance, Jackson wasn’t really sure if Lydia was his. But on the Full Moon back in October, Lydia and Danny got permission to attend a Moon Run with the Hale Pack.  Stiles had been attending for years, because he was training to be Emissary, and Danny and Lydia wanted to see werewolves in action for themselves.  The two humans dressed warmly and dutifully marched deep into the Preserve behind the Wolves.  When the moon rose high in the sky, Jackson shifted for the first time in front of his girlfriend and best friend, and they got to see his Beta Form—sunken brow, glowing golden eyes, long sideburns, elongated fangs, dangerous claws on disjointed fingers.   Lydia took one step toward Jackson and threw her arms around him and kissed his hair-roughened cheek, and Jackson’s Wolf….settled.  He felt complete, for the first time since he found out he was adopted.  Jackson had raised his head and looked for his Alpha and his parents, and found the three adults watching him with love and pride on their faces.  Alpha knew that this was his mate, and David and Anne Whittemore both looked like they approved his choice.

Now they had to get through the college years.

And grad school, if Lydia was any gauge of how college was going to go.  Oh, and Law School was going to be a long haul.

If they could survive being apart for that long, then they would be golden.

 

Scott had no problems going away for school.  Cora was going to stay local, because she wanted to become a Forest Ranger.  Scott was happy with being able to visit when he could, and Cora and he still hadn’t figured if they were Mates or not.  Once Talia assured him that he would be part of the Pack whether or not he stayed local for school, Scott began comparing programs so that he could choose the right one for him.  Dr. Deaton was especially helpful in choosing a school program, since he studied in California as well.

In the end, Scott sent several applications, but hoped for UC Davis, because that was where Stiles wanted to go.

˜˜˜˜˜

Stiles’ eighteenth birthday was on a Sunday, and he delighted in his usual party at the Bowling Alley/Arcade.  He figured it would be the last party here, so he wanted to enjoy it.  Scott and Cora dominated at bowling for once.  Erica and Boyd gave them some solid competition, though.  Peter and Amanda Hale attended, along with six-year-old Nicky.  Allison, Isaac, Jackson, and Lydia rounded the numbers, and a good time was had by all.

The fact was, Stile’s other classmates didn’t really understand the need for such an innocent party.  Every year, Lydia hosted a Halloween party, and people sneaked in alcohol and other illicit substances.  Lydia never drank, after hearing Stiles’ explanation for not doing it, but she didn’t begrudge anyone else ‘enjoying’ themselves.  And on the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and New Year’s Eve, John would tell Stiles about the calls he would get for noise complaints that turned into raids on underage parties.  Stiles would hear talk in the locker room about the guys sneaking drinks and ‘having fun’ when their parents were out.  They would get drunk and get stupid, and then they would suffer hangovers the next day.  In the meanwhile, some would get hurt, and others would lose time, and still others would get sick and vomit horribly.  And this would seem like fun to them?  Stiles didn’t understand how losing control of their bodies could possibly be fun, and so neither did Lydia.

Especially after watching her mother struggle with alcohol after the divorce.

So, birthday parties within the Pack were sober, innocent affairs.  Board games were played, card games were invented or explored, and movies were watched.  Nobody drank, no drugs were taken, and everybody remained sober and in control.  And everybody had a good time and laughed a lot.

Lydia, Jackson, and Danny remained part of the popular crowd, and were often called upon to be Designated Drivers.  They didn’t mind, because that way they could make sure nobody drove drunk.  They weren’t called prudes; in fact, they were respected for their choices.  But if they chose to have two separate parties of their own—one birthday for the school friends, and one party for the Pack—nobody said anything.

But Stiles had one birthday surprise that he hadn’t really anticipated: Derek came home for a visit to take him on their first real date.  Actually, Derek came home the following weekend, because they both had classes, but the timing was not lost on Stiles.

“Where are we going?” Stiles asked, practically bouncing in place.

Derek shrugged.  “Nowhere special.  I wanted to have a picnic, but it’s too cold still.”

Stiles glanced into the backseat of Derek’s Suzuki Samurai and saw a large picnic basket.  He raised his eyebrow at Derek, who shrugged again in return.  “I wanted to have a picnic in the woods by the lake, but it’s too cold still.  Is that better?”

Stiles nodded seriously.  “Very much, yes.  I can’t believe you still have this car!”  Stiles gently stroked the door frame before opening the door of the vehicle.

Derek huffed a laugh.  “It’s a good vehicle, and it’s dependable.  I keep up the maintenance.  It’s not like I have the time or resources to invest in a new car.  Besides, I’m sure you’ll have your Jeep long after it’s supposed to be dead.  You fell in love with that thing much too quickly for you to let it go easily.”

Stiles nodded as he got into the vehicle.  “That’s probably true.  It’s a good thing you and your dad showed me how to keep it alive, then, huh?”

Stiles settled into his seat and fastened his seatbelt as Derek walked around to the driver’s side.  When Derek slid into his seat, he leaned over and pressed a kiss to Stiles’ mouth.

“I missed you.  I know it’s only been a few months, but I really missed you.”

Stiles returned the kiss, and added a fond smile.  “I think I’m more aware of my feelings for you since you ‘put a ring on it’.”  His grin grew when Derek huffed a rough laugh.

“Beyonce, Stiles?”

“Hey!  You recognized it!  Where are we going, really?”

Derek started the ignition and pulled out of the driveway.  “There are cabins out in the Preserve.  They get a lot of use in the summer, but not so much this time of year.  My family owns them, and I got my Uncle Peter’s permission to have a picnic in one of them.  I had to promise not to tear the place up, so you’ll have to control yourself when you’re there.”

“Ha, ha.  Wolf’s got jokes.”

˜˜˜˜˜

The cabin was farther in the preserve than the Hale property, and on the opposite side of town.  It was near the lake, so Derek thought it was a good substitute for his original plans.  The cabin was heated, so that was another plus.  Stiles took the key and unlocked the door while Derek retrieved the basket.  Stiles flipped a light switch, and a central ceiling light illuminated a nicely decorated room.  There was a comfy-looking sofa and low table near a small fireplace, and a kitchenette with a small dining arrangement.  Stiles bypassed the dining area and proceeded to move the low table from in front of the fireplace.  He shoved the sofa back toward the door and went in search of wood for a fire.  When Derek walked into the cabin, he saw Stiles’ decorating choice and moved to assist.  He set a blanket on the floor in front of the fireplace while Stiles built a fire.

“I hope this flue is clean.  Getting smoked out would be a shame.”

Derek hummed in agreement.  “Regular maintenance on the cabins goes on in January.  Cabin use usually stops around November and picks up again in May, so Peter makes sure all of the cabins are in working order well before spring sets in.  You know, in case of off-season clients.”

Stiles smirked.  “Or in case of lovesick werewolves looking to romance a Mate?”

Derek smirked in return.  “Yeah, in case of something like that.”

Together they spread the blanket and set out the food.  “Did you make this, or did you get it from the restaurant?”

“Why?  Don’t you think I could have done this by myself?”

Stiles gave Derek a flat, unimpressed look.  “Oh, I know you could do it.  But I also know that you would not have had the time.”

Derek sat cross-legged on the blanket and reached to hold Stiles’ hand.  “That is true.  I came back to town this week to begin plans for my Residency at the hospital.  I had to deliver transcripts and letters of recommendation all over the place.  But I wanted to see you.  And I wanted to take you on a real date, now that you’re officially old enough.  So, yes, I got the food from the restaurant, because of time constraints.  Is that a problem?”

“Oh, no, not at all!  ‘Carlysle’s on Baymont’ is the hottest place in town!  I’d love to go there some time for real, not like at Thanksgiving, but it’s not really the sort of place to take your dad, you know?”

Derek frowned.  “Would you rather I had taken you out to eat instead of this?  You know I’m not ashamed of you, Stiles, right?  I’d love to show you off all over town.”

Stiles laughed and kissed Derek.  “I’m not afraid that you’re ashamed.  And I fully expect you to take me out formally some time really soon.  But I would rather you didn’t take me to your father’s restaurant, if you please.  It would be too weird.  I like this, because I get to try the food.  I’ve heard that it’s fantastic.”

“It really is.  And I agree that taking you to the family restaurant would be weird.  But, while I do intend to take you out in public and show you off, I wanted our first date to be just us.”

Derek dished out food and handed Stiles a plate.  He poured chilled limeade from a thermal container.  They ate in silence, except only for Stiles’ exclamations about the food.  Once they finished eating and cleared away their plates and utensils, Derek settled himself against the front of the sofa and pulled Stiles to sit between his legs, back to chest, and wrapped his arms around Stiles.

“So, tell me about school.  Have you decided on college yet?”

Stiles hummed for a moment.  “Well, I’ve decided on a course of study.  I have a handful of applications to send in.  I’m trying to go local, because I want to stick around for Dad, you know?”

Derek nodded.  “I went to Davis for much the same reason.  Well, that and Alpha Training couldn’t really be done long-distance.  But Davis was an excellent school, so I’m glad I made that choice.”

“Yeah, Davis is on my short-list, too.  They have a good business program.  Scott’s applying for their Veterinary program.”

“So, you want to study business?”

“I want to learn how to keep a business going.  I want to open my own shop, and I would like to make sure I don’t screw it up.”

Derek kissed the back of his head.  “I think you’ll be a huge success.”

“But I don’t want to be a huge success.  I want to make enough money to survive and pay taxes, and I want to have a good clientele.  But huge success means a lot of people with nasty motives coming to my door, and I’d like to avoid that.  I’ll be dealing in books, which anyone can get online anywhere.  But I’ll also be dealing in magic.  If I get too well-known, too many people with not-so-nice concerns will be crawling around Beacon Hills.  I want to keep this place safe, you know?”

“So why open a shop?” Derek asked.

“So I can keep tabs on who is practicing openly and what they’re doing.   I won’t be able to police the closeted practitioners, but if someone is doing magic openly enough that they’re going to a shop for supplies, then I can keep watch on what they’re doing.  I can also be on hand to make sure nobody does accidental damage.  If I hadn’t had guidance from Donna Maria and Roland McCook, I could have screwed up a lot of things.  Look at that talisman around your neck, for example.  Using the crucible alone could have burned down half the block because of the spells I cast on the metals and other components.”

Derek winced slightly at the thought of a fire.  “Okay, so tell me about the shop that you want to open.”

They talked most of the afternoon.  Stiles told Derek about his plans for a magical shop, and Derek told Stiles about his apartment hunt.

“I need a place to myself, you know.   I love my family, and traditionally the Hales all live together.  But I want to go into my Residency without the distractions of family around me.  I’ll most likely move closer to home once that is finished.”

Stiles’ brow furrowed slightly.  “So, once we’re, you know, married, we’ll be living with your family?”

“Probably.  We’ll be living on Pack land.  We can build a house near the main house, if we want.  Or we can live in the main house.  I’ll have to be centrally located once I’m officially Alpha.  Cora will be moving out after her studies are finished.  Laura is already out, because of reasons.  Aunt Regan and her husband have a house near the center of town, not far from the Whittemores.  But since I’m Alpha Successor, my place will be near the center of the territory.”

Stiles leaned his head backward onto Derek’s shoulder.  “Yeah, I can see that.  But with hospital hours, won’t you need to be near work?”

“After the Residency is over, my hope is to get a Fellowship at Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital.  Either that or a job with a private practice.  Either way, I’ll want a sanctuary away from work, like Mom does.  And I do better near the preserve.  I feel more at home here.”

“That makes sense.  Do I get a say in any of this?”

Derek nuzzled Stiles’ cheek.  “You totally get a say in it.  I want everything about us to be a partnership.”

Stiles turned to face Derek, kneeling between his legs.  “I am glad that we’re working together on this relationship, Derek.  I’m not sure why you chose me.  I’m not much; just a geeky kid with a propensity toward magic.  And you’re so awesome.  But I feel you, in my heart.”

Derek cupped Stiles’ face in his hand, and he looked deeply into Stiles’ eyes.  “You’re more than a geeky kid, Stiles.  You have great capacity for love. When I met you, your mother was in the hospital, possibly dying, and you were left alone a lot.  But you didn’t feel sorry for yourself.  Your first concern was making Christmas special for her because she was away from your house.  You’ve learned to cook so you can make your father healthy meals.  You’ve studied hard to learn magical principles.  You learned about me being a werewolf, and you still wanted to be a friend.  And even though I’m so much older, you never tried to get me to further our relationship beyond what I’m comfortable with.  You allowed me to build trust in you.  Why wouldn’t I want to choose you?”

Stiles shrugged.  “Because you have so much going for you.  You’re smart and kind and funny.  And I could be totally shallow and mention your looks and wealth, but I won’t.”

Derek leaned forward and kissed Stiles.  “I’m glad you aren’t shallow.  But allow me to be shallow for a moment.  You have the most amazing whiskey-colored eyes.  And your mouth is almost sinful.  I love your smile, but I always want to kiss it off your face.  And all of the running you’ve done has given you a handsome figure.  I like that you have strong shoulders, because I want to hold you tightly and never let go.  Your strong body is definitely a turn-on for me.   I also like that you can mostly keep up on Moon Runs.”

“So, you find me physically attractive?  I’ve never really had anyone find me attractive before.”

Derek huffed a surprised laugh.  “Are you kidding?  Stiles, I talk to your friends, too, you know.  Jackson and Scott are Pack, and everybody else comes on a week-long camp-out every summer.  They tell me so many stories!”

Stiles sat back, affronted.  “Like what?  Tell, me, Derek!  I’m totally yours, but I have a right to know if I’ve somehow accidentally offended anyone by ignoring them.”

“You haven’t offended anyone.  But Danny told me that lots of girls watch you in the halls.  He said that since you’ve started dressing like you care, you’ve gotten a lot of attention.  And Jackson said some of Lydia’s friends asked about you, but she told them you weren’t interested.”

“Well, I’m not,” Stiles snorted.  “But it would have been nice to know that more people were interested than you.  Especially before you started the whole Courtship thing.  I could maybe have dated some, or something.”

Derek lifted one eyebrow incredulously.  “Do you regret allowing the Courtship?  I can take back the ring, if you want to freedom to date in College.  Your senior year is a big one, you know.  You should have the freedom to date and have different relationships.  Mom made sure that I dated in school before I cast my lot with you, because of all the romantic trauma I had in high school.  You should have had the same options.  You still should have those options.”

The happy had completely fallen from Derek’s demeanor.  His head tilted forward until his chin almost met his chest and his shoulders slumped and curved inward.

Derek Hale, who had always seemed larger-than-life to Stiles, almost shrank before his very eyes.

Stiles leaned forward and pressed his forehead to Derek’s.  “No, no, no.  Don’t even think that, okay?  I was always yours.  Always.  You aren’t around here, so you don’t know, but Lydia says I glow every time I get a note from you, even if it’s only one of those ‘Joke-A-Day’ posts.”

Derek lifted his head and looked into Stiles’ eyes.  “Really?”

Stiles nodded.  “Remember my birthday sleep-over, when Danny came out to all of us?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I never went through that.  When everyone around me was figuring out if they were gay or straight, or if someone liked them or not, all I could think was ‘Does Derek Like Me?’  I couldn’t care more or less if anyone else had a crush or not.  I’m not saying that I imprinted on you like a baby duck, but I was always yours.  And when you gave me this ring, you showed that you are mine, too.”

“And you don’t think I’m forcing you?”

Stiles snorted indelicately.  “Derek, glaciers move faster than you did in this relationship.  You gave me support as a friend when I needed it.  You helped me study.  You encouraged me to find my own talents.  You ask about my day and tell me about yours.  I have a more mature relationship now than most adults do.  We don’t fight, we debate.  You don’t tell me what you want; you force me to make my own decisions.  You asked my father for permission to court me!  Who does that?!”

Stiles ran his fingers through Derek’s hair and across his jaw until he cupped Derek’s chin.  “You know the best and worst parts of me.  You understand the problems that we’ll have because of the age difference, and you’re willing to stick with me anyway.  When I was in the hospital recovering from the flu, Dad made sure to tell me that I could always back out of our courtship.  He told me that I was still young enough to make other choices.  And do you know what I told him?”

“No,” Derek replied softly.  “What did you tell him?”

“I told him that I understood that.  That you weren’t my everything.  But I think you are my everything.  You’re super smart, and super considerate, and honorable, and incredibly hot!”

Derek laughed and pulled Stiles into a hug.

“And I couldn’t choose better than you anywhere, Derek.  I don’t mind if we’ve moved slowly.  I don’t mind that I had to wait until I was eighteen to go on my first date.  But you had better be prepared to go to my Senior Prom with me, because I’ve been going to school dances stag since freshman year, and it’s getting old.”

Derek smiled against Stiles’ cheek.  “I’ll be there with bells on, I promise!  I can’t believe you wanted to stick with me, when you could have been dating this whole time.  And I couldn’t tell anyone about this wonderful guy back home, because you were underage.  I wanted to tell everyone!”

“Hey, I only recently told my friends, officially, that we were Courting.  I mean, Scott knew, but he’s my best bro.  I tell him everything.  But he kept it a secret, even from Cora.  I think the entire school thinks I’m asexual, which is a valid lifestyle, but it is not mine.  I dream about you all the time, Derek.  I tried looking at porn online, but it seemed so fake.  And then you kissed me for the first time, and it blew my mind.”

Stiles could feel Derek smile against his neck, where he had nuzzled while Stiles was speaking.  Stiles resumed dragging his fingers through Derek’s hair, as it seemed to relax the man.  That Derek wanted him was always a source of amazement to Stiles.  He still only saw himself as a gangly, geeky kid with few social skills.  Derek was popular in high school; a good student and a basketball jock.  Stiles was ten years old when he met Derek in the hospital one day, and the older boy had immediately befriended him.  Derek stayed friendly in school, even though he was much older.  Stiles developed a crush on Derek, a huge crush, but he never said anything because he didn’t want to lose the friendship.

And how that friendship had grown.

Stiles pulled back slightly and kissed Derek’s forehead and nose.  “I’m not going to do something stupid and offer to ‘prove how much I love you’, but I need you to understand that I’m in this for the long haul.  I think we’re going to be good together, because it’s not all about sex with us.  I care for you on another level, a spiritual level, so I’m pretty sure that when we do get around to sex, it’s going to be spectacular.”

Derek snorted.  “Well, if you expect spectacular, I think I should do some research.”

“Derek, you’re a medical student.  I’m sure you can manage to figure this out.”

“I don’t have practical experience, Stiles.  I was physically close to two other people in my entire life; both were female, and both were when I was fifteen years old.  I only got to kissing with Paige, because we were both young.  And you know about the other one.  Even the few dates I went on at Berkeley were mostly hands-off.”

Stiles grimaced.  “Argent,” he sneered in distaste.  “Man, that woman gives me a bad taste, and I never met her.  I hope I never do.  I’m not a violent person, but I feel really….arrrgh! about her, you know?  Like I could strip the skin off her body, and make a purse out of it.”

Derek pushed Stiles off of his lap and stood up to re-pack the basket.  “That’s a nice image, Stiles, really.  Let’s pack up and head out, okay.  I did have another plan for the rest of this date.”

“Really?” Stiles brightened.  “What’s next on the agenda?”

“I thought we could go skating at the ice rink.  Since it’s an all-season rink, I figure we could take advantage of it.”

Stiles faltered.  “Um, I don’t skate.”

Derek looked over at Stiles and smiled.  “That’s okay.  I can teach you.  We can hold hands.”

Stiles laughed.  “We can hold hands in public, you mean.”

“Yes.  That exactly.”

˜˜˜˜˜

Stiles was finishing his final History essay when the phone rang.  He let his father answer, since it was the house line and not his cell.

A few minutes later, John called up the stairs, “Stiles, Roland is on the phone for you.”

Stiles jogged down the stairs and into the living room to retrieve the phone.

“Roland, hi!  How are you doing this fine day?”

“I am well, Young Hunter.  I have a request for you.”

“I will help you in any way that I can.”

“Do you remember me telling you about my son, Jacob?”

Stiles nodded even though Roland could not see him.  “He was killed in a car accident about sixteen years ago, right?”

Roland sighed.  “Yes.  Unbeknownst to me, he left behind a son.  Miles is sixteen and had never been introduced to anyone in my family.  His mother, Isobel, had wanted to keep his paternity a secret because, while she found Jacob to be stimulating as a boyfriend, she found our ‘superstitious’ lifestyle to be intolerable.”

“Sounds like a very nice lady.”  Stiles was mellowing his sarcasm.  Really, he was.

Roland laughed.  “No, she doesn’t.  Anyway, upon Miles’ sixteenth birthday, which was in February, he began to exhibit signs of magical ability.”

“Like my ‘spark’?  That must have been a shock.”

“He, so I hear tell, blew up his History textbook when he got frustrated by an essay.  Isobel contacted me for help.  It appears my ‘superstition’ has some use after all.”

“So, you’ve been training him, I suppose?”

“Yes, Stiles.  And he has taken to it like a duck to water.”

“Then why do you need a favor from me?  You trained me, remember?”

“Yes, and you were a most remarkable student, Stiles.  You are at ease with many magical traditions as well as regular teen-age issues.  And that is why I need your help.  I would like to bring Miles to spend some time with you this summer, much like you spent time here.  I want him to see first-hand that he can be magical and normal at the same time.”

“Roland, dude, you just referred to me as ‘normal’.  I’m not sure that’s the best definition of me.  I’m a young Emissary to a werewolf pack—and does Miles even know about werewolves?  And I’ve been studying since I was eleven years old.  The magic is so much a part of me now that I don’t think I could be anything except magical.  Being a normal kid wasn’t in the cards for me.”

“Yes, but that is what Miles needs now, Stiles.  He needs to see that being a ‘magical kid’ isn’t a bad thing.  I’m his grandfather, and my teen years are long behind me.  I can teach him to control his magic, and I can teach him how to use it for the good of others, but I can’t teach him how to enjoy it as you enjoy your magic.  Take him camping, and show him how magic can help in a practical way.  Introduce him to your Pack, and let him see how magic can make the natural world mesh with the supernatural world.”

“I would love to, Roland, but this house can’t really hold another person.  My dad turned the third bedroom into my magical lab.”

“That’s okay, Stiles.  I called Donna Maria, and we’ll be staying there with her.  She’ll also be training Miles.  I can’t keep him out of school, so he only has the summer.  Isobel has graciously allowed me to take temporary custody in order for him to gain control of his magic.  I would like for him to become Shaman like me, but I have to convince him that a magical life is a life worth living.”

Stiles hesitated only for a short moment before agreeing.  “Okay, send him here.  The gang could use some fun this summer.  Senior year is gonna be a bear, and we’re all stressing over college applications.”

I shall also be making the trip, Stiles.  I’ll spend most of the summer with you and Donna Maria, teaching Miles as much about enjoying his gifts as I can.  I only want you to show him that he can still be a mostly normal person.”

“I can do that.  And if I can’t, then my friends can.”

˜˜˜˜˜

“Lydia, who was that man I saw you with in the diner this weekend?”

Lydia whirled away from her locker to face her friend.  “Oh, hey Allison.  That was a college recruiter.”

The pretty brunette began to laugh.  “A college recruiter?  Like for sports?”

Lydia’s strawberry pink mouth turned into a pout.  “No, Allison.  I’m being recruited for engineering programs.  My brain is much sought after, if you must know.”

“That must be pretty exciting, then.  What colleges are asking about you?”

Lydia glanced around the hallway, making note of Jackson’s absence.  “I’d rather not say just yet.  Jackson and I have a deal.  We’re not telling anyone about what colleges we’re looking into until we make final decisions.  He doesn’t want me to pick his school for him, just like I don’t want him to pick a school just to stay close to me.”

Allison grinned wryly.  “I can understand that.  I only have to worry about picking a school that my parents can agree with.”

Lydia linked arms with Allison and began to guide her down the hall toward the cafeteria.  “Have you decided your area of study yet?”

Allison nodded.  “I think I want to teach.  I know it sounds weird, but I want to separate myself from the family’s Hunter past.  I talked to my folks about it last weekend, when we were looking at college catalogues.  Mom understands.  Dad said he’d go along with whatever I wanted.  I think his father and sister have soured him on the Hunting thing.”

“Have you heard from either of them?”

Allison shook her head.  “Nope.  I doubt I will.  Dad won’t even tell his father where we’re living.  I’m sure the old man could find out, but he hasn’t made any move toward us as far as I know.  And Dad said that Kate was heading to Europe.”

Lydia sighed deeply.  “I wish my father would go to Europe.  And he could take his secretary with him, the bastard.”

“How is your mother doing?” Allison asked sympathetically.

“Mr. Whittemore has given her some great legal advice, so I think she’s going to come out on top in this one.  I hope she meets some hottie and gets all scandalous when the divorce is final.”

˜˜˜˜˜

“So, what can you tell us about this guy who’s coming to spend the summer here?”

Stiles looked up and wrinkled his brow.  “Absolutely nothing, Scott.  I’ve never met him.  All I know is he’s Roland’s grandson, and he has a ‘spark’ that is maybe more sparkly than mine was before I got trained.”

“So he’s magically dangerous?”

Stiles rolled his eyes.  “No, Scott.  He’s magically immature and untrained.  Dangerous would be if he were magically mature and untrained.  Roland started his training a few months ago, after he popped a spark and blew up his History book.”

Scott scowled.  “I’d like to blow up my History book!  I can’t wait for finals to be over!”

Stiles laughed.  “Only three more weeks, Scottie-boy!  Is Dr. Deaton going to give you time off for a week-long camp-out this summer?”

“Yeah, we talked about it, and he agrees that I should try to enjoy my freedom for as long as I can before college.  I’ll still have my job during the summer while I’m at school away from here, and he’s thinking about letting me do my residency here in his clinic.”

“That’s cool, bro.  Has he figured out that you’re a werewolf yet?”

Scott shrugged.  “If he has, he hasn’t said anything.  Why should he know, anyway?”

Stiles sighed.  He supposed he should have mentioned this before, but it had never come up—even before Scott got the Bite.

“Well, while I was beginning training, Donna Maria was acting as Emissary because the standing Emissary was slacking on the job.  Remember how Alpha Hale said her Emissary knew about the Hunter trying to get to Derek, but not saying anything?”

Scott’s nose wrinkled.  “Yeah.  That was a pretty sucky thing to keep from the Alpha.”

Stiles sighed in agreement.  “Ye—ah….Alan Deaton was the Emissary.  I haven’t had a chance to talk to him, because I was ‘officially’ just a kid.  But now that I’m legally an adult, Donna Maria wants me to talk to him and officially take the title—and any texts that he has that belong to the Hale Pack.  She couldn’t take them because she was only ‘acting Emissary’ and he didn’t have to release them to her.  But he does have to release them to me.”

Scott’s eyes widened dramatically.  “Wow.  Do you want me to come with you?”

“You might have to.  So will Alpha Hale, actually.  She’s going to back me up, and she can make sure he doesn’t give you a hard time.”

“Do you think he would?” Scott asked timidly.

“Well, he was willing to allow a Hunter to try and kill off the local Pack, so he might be an ass and fire you for being furry.”

“His heartbeat is steady when we’re together.  He’s not nervous around me.”

“Donna Maria said he was all about ‘keeping balance’, meaning that if something good happens, then something bad must happen as well.  Peter’s wife was pregnant with their first baby, so it was okay if some of the Hales died because of a Hunter.  I don’t understand the reasoning.  I don’t like the attitude.  And I hate when people I love get threatened.”

Scott nodded in agreement.  “When are you going?”

“After school lets out.  I’m going to want finals behind me when I deal with him.  So—back to the books, Scott.”

˜˜˜˜˜

On May twenty-fifth, Stiles bounded out the doors of Beacon Hills High School for the last time that term.  He was due to meet Talia Hale at the vet’s clinic at five o’clock that evening, just before closing time, and he wanted a shower and change of clothes before the meeting.  Scott jumped into the Jeep beside him and they waved good-bye to their gang as they headed off.

“Are you sure you don’t mind me going along for the ride?” Scott asked.  “I mean, he’s my boss, you know.”

“Scott, dude, he’s got to know about you being a werewolf by now.  Even if he hasn’t said anything.  I mean, your asthma has not been acting up at all, and you sneezed and wheezed every time you went in there to ask for a job.  Hell, he might think that you being turned is part of the ‘balance’, whatever that means.  But we need to make sure he doesn’t set you up for some kind of balance failure just because you’re part of the Hale Pack now.  Also, I might have to spell a bit, and you’ve never seen me do that.”

“Why would you have to…oh!  You might have to show him that you’re seriously the real Emissary.  Sorry.  I think I have brain lag from all the tests.”

Stiles stole a quick glance at his friend.  “I hope you get over that sort of thing before senior year.  They’re going to spend the whole time getting us ready for college, and you can’t have ‘brain lag’ then.”

After a stop off at Scott’s house, and a shower and change at Stiles’ house, the duo drove to the veterinarian’s clinic across town.  Talia Hale was there already, along with Peter Hale and Donna Maria Vasquez.  All three were dressed to impress, wearing sharp business suits in dark, imposing colors.  Only Talia wore visible color—a tiny enameled pin shaped like a rainbow.  Of course Stiles knew that Talia and Peter wore leather thongs around their necks bearing pendants shaped like purple flowers, which would count as color if they could be seen.  Of all the Pack, only Erica wore her pendant to be seen.  She liked the design and wore it like jewelry.  She even accessorized earrings to match.

Stiles was dressed rather spiffy himself: dark summer-weight slacks and dark moccasins, white button-down oxford with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, dark waistcoat, un-buttoned.  Around his left wrist, he wore a simple watch and leather band.  Around his right wrist, he wore a coiled-leather cuff etched with magical sigils.  Around his neck, visible from behind his open collar, Stiles wore his own pendant, an eight-pointed star on a protected leather thong.  On his vest lapel was a purple columbine blossom layered with fern and white heather, a gift from Derek for the occasion, and of course he was wearing his promise ring.  To someone who knows what to look for, Stiles was a walking advertisement for magic.  Since Deaton had a druidic background, but did not openly practice, Stiles doubted he could read the symbolism.  Which was a shame, because Stiles took a lot of time with his appearance these days.

Scott was dressed in his usual work garb: nice, dark jeans and a short-sleeved Henley.  Scott was anticipating being told he no longer had a job, but he dressed as if he was going to be working after-hours in the clinic.  If he still had a job, Stiles promised to pick Scott up and drive him home when work was done.

Stiles approached the werewolf contingent.  “Are we ready?”

Talia smiled.  “Of course we are.  I have to reclaim the power given to Deaton by the Hale Pack.  You have to claim the texts he holds as Emissary.  Donna Maria has to pick up her cat from her flea treatment.  We’re all ready.”

Stiles gave Donna Maria a blank look.  “That’s all you’re here for?  Picking up Tabby?”

Donna Maria shrugged.  “You have this in the bag, Stiles.  You hardly need me anymore.  Your magic has settled.  You will always learn more, and teach some.  But you have matured enough to do this alone.  So, little bird—fly away.”

Stiles gave her a side-hug.  “If you say so.  But I’ll always need you.  Good friends are hard to find, after all.  And you have to help me with research next year.  Senior year is going to be a tough one.”

The quintet walked together into the clinic.  The bell above the door rang when they opened it, and Dr. Deaton came into the lobby from the examination room.

“I’m sorry, we’re just about closed….oh, hello, Talia.  Scott, you’re a bit early for work today.”

Scott waved to the man.  “Hey, Dr. Deaton.  I’m here for other things first.  Um, sorry, Alpha Hale.”

Talia smiled at Scott.  “That’s alright.  Alan, we really need to talk.  But first, perhaps you should get Donna Maria’s cat for her.  She has to be going soon.”

If Deaton was disconcerted, it did not show in his calm demeanor.  “All right.  Tabby was particularly easy today, Ms. Vasquez.  I’ll bring her right away.”

Deaton withdrew from the lobby and returned minutes later with a large orange cat. “Here you go, Ms. Vasquez.  You can settle the bill later, if you like.”

“Thank you, doc.  I’ll see you Monday morning.”  Donna Maria placed her cat in a pet carrier and walked to the exit.  “I’ll see you soon, Stiles.  Roland will be arriving on June first.”

Stiles waved and then turned to face Deaton.  Talia stepped forward.  “May we talk in your office, Alan?”

“Of course, Talia.  Please come through.”  Deaton lifted the edge of the counter and ushered them all into the back room.  Stiles had never been here, even with his father and the police dogs.  Scott rode his bicycle to work at first, and now his motor cycle, so Stiles had never given him a ride.  Deaton gave him a questioning look as he walked past and into the inner office.

Inside the office, Stiles sent out a ‘reach’ to search for magic, and he immediately looked behind a filing cabinet against the far wall.  He motioned to Peter, who moved the cabinet away from the wall and Stiles reached behind to find three slim books stacked neatly in an indentation in the wall.  He had them in hand by the time Deaton had locked the door and joined them in the office.

“How did you find those?  Talia?  What is going on here?”  Deaton did not wear his confusion well.

“Alan, I would like to introduce Ignacek Jovan Stilinski.  He’s the Emissary for the Hale Pack.”

“Stilinski?  As in Sheriff Stilinski?”

Stiles smiled.  “He’s my father.”

Deaton gave Stiles a considering look.  “Aren’t you rather young to be Emissary for a prominent Pack?”

Stiles shrugged.  “I’m as old as I need to be.  I’ve been training for six hard years to get my magic under control.  I’ve been working with the Hales the whole time, learning about Wolves and Packs and Hunters.  I’ve studied several traditions of magic, from modern witchcraft to Native American Shamanism to Vaudon to Hoo-Doo.  I have a particularly strong talent, and a desire to protect my home territory.  I am the perfect choice for an Emissary, and I’m only sorry that I had to wait this long to do the job.”

“I see,” Deaton said calmly.  “And you found the books how, exactly?”

“I felt them.  They were trapped and angry, so they weren’t hard to find.  Even in their shielded hole, they were easy to find.”

“You ‘felt’ them?”  Deaton turned to Talia.  “How did you find this child?”

Talia frowned.  “Alan, he’s not a child.  Not any longer.  I’ve basically watched him grow up.  When I realized that you had all but abandoned your post and called for Donna Maria to come help, she felt the magic in Ignacek.  She came to me and begged to be allowed to train him.”  Talia shrugged negligently.  “Of course, I had to get the Sheriff’s permission.  That led to a rather difficult conversation about magic and werewolves, I can assure you.  But once I convinced him of the importance of proper training, he readily gave permission.”

Deaton sank heavily into his desk chair.  “The Sheriff knows about werewolves.  And his son is magical.  I seem to have missed a lot.”

Talia gave him an unimpressed look.  “You turned your back on the extra-natural world, Alan, and I’m not sure why exactly.  When you first came to us, my grand-father had such hope for your tenure as Emissary.  You were strong then, and held such high convictions.  And you let it all slide away.  Things have indeed changed, Alan, for the better.”

 

Scott seemed to think that now was a good time to speak up.  “Um, Dr. Deaton, I think you should know—I received the Bite before sophomore year in order to cure my asthma.  I’m sure you must have noticed.  But I’m not sure if that will impact my employment or not.”

Deaton turned his puzzled face toward his part-time assistant.  “Hmmm?  You received the Bite?  How have you moved past the front counter?  It’s made of Mountain Ash.”

Scott looked over his shoulder at the front desk area.  “Um, I come in the back door all the time.  Whenever I needed to go out front, the counter has been lifted.”

“And how long,” asked Talia, arms crossed in front of her chest in aggravation, “Has the front counter been Mountain Ash?  Do you realize I could take that as an act of aggression?  It would certainly seem as if you had much to hide from me, Alan.”

Deaton shook his head, as if trying to clear his thoughts.  “The counter is new, Talia.  I put it in around the time Laura was sent away.  I thought you were having troubles in the Pack, and I wanted to provide a safe space.  You are without Successor and I was not sure if my position would be safe.”

Talia snorted.  “If you had been more forthcoming with your change in ideologies, you would have known that there is no problem within the Pack.  I have a Successor, and he has trained up just fine.  I have a proper Emissary.  This Pack is strong, and you turned away from it.  No!  Worse, Alan, you chose to allow a Hunter into this territory without intervention, and you chose to hide that information from me.  I should run you out of town, but many people are fond of you and the way you care for animals.  Do not cross me, Alan.  Not again.  You will not like the result.”

Talia, Peter, and Stiles turned and walked out of the Clinic.  Stiles caught Scott’s eye as he passed him, and Scott indicated that he’d be fine.  In the parking lot, Stiles handed the retrieved books to Talia.

“I’m not sure I want them in my home right now, so you should put them in a safe place,” Stiles said when she made to question him.  “Do you have a shielded safe room?  Because I’m thinking that Deaton hid these away for a reason, and they might need to be scanned magically, which I can’t do here.”

Peter took the books from Talia.  “I have just the space, in the family vault.  I’ll hold them there until Stiles can get his supplies ready.”

Stiles looked back at the clinic.  “Do you think Scott is going to be okay in there?  You were pretty hard on Dr. Deaton, and Scott works here.”

Talia turned to face the building and tilted her head slightly.  A few moments later, she turned back to Stiles.  “He’s going to be fine.  Alan was congratulating him on getting over the asthma and joining a good Pack.  For all of his numerous faults, Deaton knows not to turn against the Hale Pack.  He’s safe here, for now.  And now that he’s met his replacement—the formal replacement—he won’t go against you or the Pack overtly.”

“Okay, then.  I’ve got to head home.  I have a Skype date with Derek.  And I have to get out the maps so we can pick a camping spot for this summer.”

Peter snorted in amusement.  “I can’t believe that you still enjoy open camping.”

Stiles shrugged carelessly.  “Yeah, well, we do it in the summer, so it’s not so bad.  If it were in the fall, or early spring, I’d insist on tents or cabins.  We’ve been watching the weather stations to make sure we won’t hit any summer storms.  This year, I’m finally going to get Lydia out there with us.  And she’ll probably dominate on all levels, because that lady is scary smart on a new dimension.”

Peter smirked at Stiles. “Photos, or it never happened, dear boy.  We require proof for the Independence Day celebration.”

Stiles was still laughing when he pulled into his driveway.

˜˜˜˜˜

“Sheriff?”  Deputy Michael Reed poked his head through the doorway of John’s office at the Sheriff’s Station.  “You, um, have a visitor.  And you’re not going to like it.”

John looked up from his ever-lasting paperwork.  “Who is it?”

“You remember Federal Agent Rafael McCall?  He’s out in the lobby, looking like nothing ever went down around here, and he’s asking for you.”

John sighed and wiped a hand over his face.  Dark memories flooded his mind for only moments, and then he composed himself.

Rafael McCall was Melissa McCall’s ex-husband and Scott’s father.  A smart-as-a-whip junior Federal agent with the local branch of the FBI, he took his job very seriously.

Maybe too seriously.

When a case got bad—maybe a difficult kidnapping or armed-robbery—Rafe sometimes drank a little after hours, just to let it all go.

Ten years before, the Sheriff’s department was in a joint investigation with the FBI on a multi-murder case, and John—just a deputy at the time—had the misfortune of carrying Rafe home several times.  John would go home and watch his young son sleep in order to calm his mind from the case, but Rafe would drink a few more beers before passing out.  John would hear Melissa complaining to Claudia about it over morning coffee while their sons played in the yard.

Then one dark night, Rafe stumbled into his house, and Scott, only seven years old at the time, ran downstairs to greet his father.  Rafe was on edge, drunk, and hyper-sensitive.  Scott rounded a corner to see his father, and Rafe reacted badly.

He struck out at Scott, and sent him flying into a wall.

Melissa heard the crash and came running, screaming all the while.  She had the phone in her hand and dialed John’s home number instead of the police station, mostly by reflex.

John escorted Rafe away from the house.  Scott was dazed, but fine, and in a day he wouldn’t remember what happened.

Melissa refused to press charges, but she never allowed Rafe into the home again.

She filed for divorce two days later.  It went uncontested, and Rafael McCall was sent to another office of the FBI.

John hadn’t heard from or about him in ten years.

And now he was standing in John’s lobby, waiting to speak to John in a professional capacity.

“Tell him I’ll be right out.  Oh, and Reed?”  The deputy turned around.  “What’s his demeanor?”

“Grim and serious.  And sober.”

John took a few minutes to get his paperwork in order and filed away.  He thought about calling Melissa, to warn her, but he figured he’d let it play out differently.  Rafael could make himself known to his family on his own time.  John had a feeling he’d be picking up the pieces sooner or later anyway.

John walked to the front lobby and spied the man in question, tall and dark, looking over the official notifications.  “Agent McCall.  What can I do for you today?”

McCall turned to face him, and John got a good look at the man for the first time in a decade.  He was slimmer, more angular.  Time showed on his face, like the years had hardened him somehow. His dark eyes had deep circles under them, as if he hadn’t been getting much sleep, and his beard was starting to grow.  His suit was neat, but his tie was askew.  When he turned, he removed his hands from his pockets, and John could see that he no longer wore a ring on his left hand.  Unconsciously, John’s thumb sought out his own wedding ring, still there long after Claudia’s death.

“Sheriff, John?  You’ve done well for yourself.”

John nodded.  “I like to think so.  Was elected Sheriff around eight years ago.  The county must like me, because I’ve kept the job.  How have you been?”

McCall scowled.  “I’ve been very busy.  My current posting is down near San Diego, but I’m looking to move again. The summers there are too humid for my liking.”

John narrowed his eyes.  “And you’re up here, why?”

“I’m working a missing-person case.  Several people, actually, have gone missing in the SoCal region, and they were all seen in the company of someone witnesses identified as Laura Hale.  I came up here to see if that might be the same Hale as Beacon Hills’ more prominent family.  There might be a connection here.”

John frowned.  “I doubt it.  Laura Hale from Beacon Hills left town over six years ago.  The last I heard, she was living in Arizona with her uncle.  Let me call Talia and have her meet us here.”

As John moved to the phone, McCall said, “You’re awfully chummy with the Hales, Sheriff.  That much has changed.”

“We have a lot of things in common lately, McCall.  I met Talia in the hospital.  She and her oldest son were volunteers while Claudia was a patient.  The Hale family has been good to my son and me over the years.  You’ll have to take my word that, if Laura has anything to do with those disappearances, there will be no conflict of interest.  I know how to do my job and how to keep personal friendships out of it.”

Talia and Peter agreed to meet at the Sheriff’s Station to discuss Laura.  While they were waiting, John placed a discreet call to Stiles, to let him know what was going on.

“So, Scott’s father is back in town?  Have you called Melissa?”  Stiles proved that he was ever thinking about the welfare of those he loved.

“I figured Rafe would let her know himself.  But if he’s going to be here for any length of time, you might want to warn Scott.  I know he’s in control, but I’ve seen angry Wolves shift if they’re agitated.  Scott doesn’t need to do that in front of a Federal agent, even if it is his father.”

“Point.  I’ll call him and tell him.  I’ll also call Davi Coates, down in Arizona.  She’s the Emissary of the Pack Laura was living with.  She might have some ideas of what Laura was up to when she left.  Of course, Davi might not know anything at all.  Laura kept herself separate from the Pack in a huge way.”

“Yeah, okay.  Is there some kind of magical search you can do?”

“Yeah, if she was a member of the Pack in good standing.  I have the energy patterns of the whole Pack in a mental file, so I can find any of my Wolves if they get hurt or taken.  But Laura was long gone before I got that ability.  And I don’t know if Davi has that ability, or if Laura was close enough for her to get the pattern.  Laura’s bad news, Dad.  If she’s around, you could get hurt.”

John laughed lowly.  “I can watch myself, Stiles.  You just be careful, and tell Scott about Rafael.”

Half an hour later, Talia and Peter Hale strolled into the Sheriff’s Station and greeted Deputy Reed at the front desk.  Reed notified the Sheriff and then showed the Hales back to an interview room.

“Sheriff, how are you today?” Talia asked as she held out a hand in greeting.

John shook her hand gamely.  “I’m fine, Talia, Peter.  Please take a seat.  Agent McCall needs to speak with you about a possibly difficult subject.”

“Very well.  Agent McCall, I will give any help that I can.”

McCall leaned forward to shake hands with Talia and Peter.  “I appreciate that.  I’m currently investigating several disappearances along the California/Arizona border.  The missing people have nothing in common that we can see, other than a few witnesses tell us that they were seen with a young woman called Laura Hale.  When had you last seen your daughter, Ms. Hale?”

Talia thought for a moment.  “I admit that I haven’t personally seen Laura in some time. Almost five years, actually.  We had a difference of opinion, and she left to ‘find herself’, I believe is still the term used.  Peter saw her more recently than I have.”

Peter cleared his throat.  “Yes, I went to Arizona just after Laura’s twenty-first birthday, to give her the first distribution of her portion of the family trust.  She seemed well, if a bit discontented.  But when I returned four years later, she was missing.  My older brother, Frederick, said she just left one day, and hadn’t been in contact.  She’s of age, and has money.  I wasn’t worried about her until now.”

McCall frowned.  “What was the purpose of your visit the second time?”

Peter offered a small grin.  “In matters of the Family Trust, beneficiaries receive the first disbursement at age twenty-one, and the rest of their share is left to build until age twenty-five.  I made the first trip in 2006, and gave Laura a certified check from her investment account.  I was notified when she cashed it, as the amount was quite large, but she didn’t cash the check until January.  I might have thought it was odd, but she was working at the time and might not have needed the money immediately.  When I went back in 2010, I was told that she was gone.  She left for work one morning, and never arrived.  Rick had an emergency key to her apartment, and it was cleared out when he went to check.  Everything but the furniture was gone.”

McCall frowned.  “And nobody filed a missing person report?”

Talia leaned forward.  “Agent McCall, I’ll be frank, shall I?  Laura made some threatening remarks about my younger children, especially my youngest, Michael.  I told her that, while I understood that she wanted to make her own way in the world, I would not tolerate threats in my home, and perhaps she would be happier living away but still with family.  My older brother Frederick said he could find her a job, or help her get into a good college, and that he would look out for her.  So, she applied for, and received permission for, early graduation.  Laura was understandably angry with me, but Frederick called often to let us know she was well. When she left again, I merely thought she wanted away from family altogether.  As we stated; she is of age, and she has money.”

“And how much money does she have?”

Peter pulled a ledger from his briefcase.  “As of 2006, her disbursement check was for Forty Thousand dollars.  The rest of her share was placed back into the investment account, as per the Trust requirements.  When I went to see her in 2010, I had a check for another Forty-Thousand.  When Laura was not there to sign for it, the amount was listed as her final share, and the money was replaced into the investment account to grow and add to the Trust.  If she turns up, the Forty-thousand is hers, no question, but she’ll not receive any of the new interest that it has accrued.  That money will go to the other recipients of the Trust.”

McCall looked up from the notebook he was writing in.  “And who are those recipients, Mr. Hale?”

Peter smiled.  “When my grand-father set up the trust, the only recipients were Laura, Derek, Cora, and Michael Hale, my older sister’s children, and Adam Talbot, my younger sister’s child.  I was not yet married at the time of my grand-father’s death, and Frederick had not considered fatherhood, so we had no children for the Trust.  Derek received his first disbursement in 2009.  The trust had grown quite a lot in that time.”

McCall nodded, and pulled out two business cards.  “I see.  If you do hear from Laura, would you please call me?”

Talia and Peter both took the cards.  “Of course we will, Agent McCall.  Would you be so kind as to return the favor?  If my daughter is in some kind of trouble, I would like to know about it.  Estranged we may be, but I am still her mother.  That kind of bond isn’t broken easily.”

McCall stood.  “I will let you know.  I have to place a few calls now.  Thank you both for coming in.”

After McCall left the interview room, John led the Hales into his office and closed the door behind them.

Talia immediately turned to face him.  “John, what do you know?”

John took his seat behind the desk, leaving Talia and Peter to sit in front of him.  “I only know what you know, right now.  I’ll make some calls of my own; try to find out who is missing and where they were located.  Stiles is calling Davi Coates in Arizona, to do some Emissary stuff.  I don’t even know.  But you should call any Pack contacts you have in that area.  Stiles said Laura mentioned getting a Pack of her own, so she may be trying that.”

Talia frowned.  “There are only a few ways to become Alpha, and none of those bode well for any missing Wolves.  Her character was less than pure when I made her Omega.  She doesn’t have the ability to give the Bite to a human; not a transformative Bite, anyway.  She had never managed a Full Shift Transformation, even when I was training her.  Derek managed it before age twenty.”

Peter interjected, “When she signed for the disbursement check, she seemed to think that her share should have been larger.  She only spoke when necessary, and she left the room quickly once the paperwork was finished.  She was beyond rude, and I was not sorry to see her go.”  Peter clasped his sister’s hand in his.  “She’s changed, Talia, from the sweet girl you began to train for Succession.  Her threats against the Pack humans show that.”

John looked up sharply.   “Wait!  She really threatened your other kids?”

Talia gave her head a sharp shake.  “I never mentioned it before, but Laura had been ragging on Derek ever since she began training for Alpha.  I chose her when she was sixteen, so maybe I rushed into it.  She wasn’t mature enough.  Derek said she began obsessing about the Old Ways, when humans were subjugated in Packs.  And when I say ‘Old Ways’ I mean really old—as in before civilization really took with werewolves.  Before Wolves realized how good humans were for stabilizing the Packs, they were treated as slaves or worse.  Decent Packs haven’t thought that way in centuries, although there are some bad ones out there still.”

John frowned.  “So, if she fell in with one of those bad Packs, she could be danger to your family.”

Talia smiled.  “She could be, if we didn’t have the protections that Stiles has gifted us with.  We’ll go now, and I’ll make those calls.  I’ll let you know what I learn, John.”

John stood with the Hales and offered his hand to both.  “I’ll do the same.  I don’t doubt that Rafael McCall has changed some over the years, but he doesn’t need to know about Wolves if we can avoid it.  The last thing I need around here is a Federal agent snooping into Pack business.”

˜˜˜˜˜

June 2012

Roland McCook rolled into town at the edge of sunset, a gangly teen boy by his side.  Stiles met them at Donna Maria’s modest home in a pleasant neighborhood not far from Scott McCall’s house.  Roland introduce the boy as ‘My grandson, Miles Dubois’, and the boy looked as different to Roland as Stiles looked to Lydia Martin; he was short, around five-four, and had pale blond hair and dark brown eyes.  He had the stocky build of a wrestler, but wore thick-rimmed glasses perched on a snub nose.

Stiles looked askance at Roland, and the older man withdrew his wallet from a pocket and pulled out a photo.  “This is my son, Jacob.  He was an Anthropology Professor at Northwestern when he was killed.  I had never met Isobel Dubois when they were…involved.  Miles takes after his mother’s family.”

Stiles offered his hand to the boy, and they shook in greeting.  “Nice to meet you, Miles.  I’m Ignacek Stilinski, but my friends call my Stiles.  Hmmm…Stiles and Miles; that’s going to get old really fast.  We’re going to have to find you a nick-name of some sort for while you’re here.”

Miles laughed.  “My grand-pop, the other one, calls me Bud.  You can use that, if you want.”

Stiles nodded easily.  “Okay, Bud.  How was the trip in?  I know Beacon Hills isn’t exactly metropolitan, but we all like it.”

“The trip was fine.  I didn’t set anything on fire on the plane.”

Stiles raised one eyebrow in a most impressed fashion.  “Do you do that often?  Set stuff on fire?”

“Um…not often.  It’s just…stress, you know.  I guess I was nervous on the way here.”

Stiles chuckled.  “We don’t bite here.  Well, some of us maybe do, but not most of us.”

Miles blushed bright red.  “Do you really know werewolves?  Do they turn into big wolves?  Are they dangerous?”

“Miles, man, you have a lot to learn.  Let’s get you settled, and we’ll all get together tomorrow.  We have to go over options for the camping trip—and the packing lists—so you can meet the rest of the crew then.  You’re here to have fun, remember?”

 

Early the next day, Stiles drove to Donna Maria’s home to pick up Miles before driving to Scott’s house.  All of the campers were meeting at Scott’s place to go over packing lists and maps.  Stiles and Miles arrived first, and Stiles made himself at home in the kitchen, cooking breakfast for everyone, so it would be ready when they all arrived.

Scott to an instant liking to ‘Bud’, and he gave the new boy a run-down on the Pack members that he would be meeting that day.

“This is the last camp-out before graduation, so we’re trying to get the whole crew in on it.  In the past, it’s been mostly the guys—except for Cora, who is so tom-boy it isn’t funny.  Erica wanted to come last year, but her parents took her to visit relatives for the summer.  Allison is new to the group, because her family only moved here three years ago.  Her family are Hunters, so they tend to be nervous about her hanging with the Wolves, even though her father has a treaty with the Alpha.”

Miles looked slightly alarmed.  “What is that like, having Hunters in town?”

“Well,” said Stiles, breaking in, “We have a bit of history with that particular family, so it’s kind of rough.  There are some members of the Argent family that are really bad eggs, but Allison and her parents are cool.  Allison started an Archery club her first year here, and it’s still going strong.  We don’t have a lot of members, but we meet every Saturday in the fall and winter, and we’ve taken part in a few competitions.  Her mother is a teacher in the Junior High School, and her father travels all around the country selling new guns and ammunition to law enforcement agencies.”

Miles’ eyes widened in appreciation.  “Wow!  That means he’s a legal gun-runner!  That’s almost scandalous!”

Scott and Stiles laughed.  “No, not really.  But he’s way scary when he wants to be.  I mean, we’re certain that he’s almost always armed, so we try not to piss him off.  Oh, yeah, this summer, we’ve finally gotten Lydia to join us.  She’s Jackson’s girlfriend, and Allison’s best friend, and she is such a girly-girl.  It’ll be hilarious watching her camp-out!”

Stiles clucked at his best friend.  “Tut-tut, Scott.  You know better than that.  Lydia kicks ass without even trying.  I bet she designs a better rabbit snare before we set out, and she’ll catch more food than anyone.”

‘Bud’ took a sip of his juice.  “My friends back in Chicago would never camp-out.  I go to this swanky private school, and their idea of roughing it is a hotel room without cable or Wi-Fi.”

Scott nodded.  “Sounds like my mom, actually.  So, we’ll get you squared as far as equipment goes, not that we take much.  But we’ll hit the Army Surplus place for a pack and some boots for you.”

 

The sounds of cars pulling up outside broke the conversation, and Scott went to the door to admit everyone else.

Stiles started dishing scrambled eggs onto a platter, and ‘Bud’ helped load another platter with toast.  They carried the food into the living room, where the rest of the group had gathered.

“Hey, guys!”  Stiles announced.  “This is Miles, otherwise known as ‘Bud’.  He’s going to be joining us on the camp-out.  ‘Bud’, this is Cora, Isaac, Allison, Boyd, Erica, Danny, Jackson, and Lydia.  Is that all?”

The answer to that question came when the door opened again, and Derek and Isaac’s brother, Camden, came into the house.  Stiles immediately brightened.

“I didn’t know you were going to be here so soon!”  Stiles set down his platter and pounced on Derek, giving him a sound, but chaste, kiss on the lips.  Stiles did that whenever he could, since he was eighteen now and Derek was openly dating him.

Stiles turned back to the room, to find the whole group smirking at him.  He stuck out his tongue in response.  “Derek, Camden, this is Roland’s grand-son, Miles.  Call him ‘Bud’, please.  He’s never been camping at all. And Camden, are you joining us this year?”

“Yeah, your dad gave me the week off so I could spend quality time with Isaac.”

Isaac frowned.  “We live together.  How much more quality time do we need?”

Camden laughed.  “Shut up.  I keep hearing about these camp-outs, so I wanted to go and see for myself.”

“That’s cool,” said Stiles.  “I’d take my dad, if I could get him to go along with it.  He’s more of a ‘tent camping’ type, though.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” stammered ‘Bud’, “You mean we’re not sleeping in tents?”

Stiles could see Lydia, Erica, and Allison frowning, so he stepped in to stop any possible damage.

“Okay, so when I was doing the nature training with Roland, we concentrated on blending with our surroundings.  So—no tents.  We used a fire for cooking, and a stream for washing, and sticks for brushing our teeth.  We tried not to stick out from the natural element the whole time we were in the woods.  At first we would only go for a day or two, but then Scott wanted to go as well, so we graduated to three-day trips.  By the end of summer, we were on a week-long natural camp-out, and Jackson, Danny, Boyd, and Derek went with us.

“The point of the camp-out is bonding time—with our friends and with nature.  We get wet and dirty, and we get smoke up our noses, and we get rained on.  But that first year, we were all better friends for having spent the week living off the land in the woods.”

“So, we’re going to sleep on the ground?”  Lydia wrinkled her nose.  “Do we get sleeping bags, at least?”

Stiles shook his head.  “Nope.  You gotta get bugs in your hair for it to be a real camping experience.”

So the group sat around the living room, passing paper plates filled with food, and talking about possible locations for the camp-out.  Weather advisories were considered as well.  Finally a location was chosen in the Lassen Volcanic National Park, just three hours drive from Beacon Hills.  Drivers were also chosen: Stiles, Derek, and Camden each had high-occupancy vehicles with decent storage areas.  Cora, Scott, and ‘Bud’ would ride with Derek,  Stiles would take Jackson, Danny, and Lydia, and Camden, whose SUV was larger, would take Isaac, Allison, Boyd, and Erica.

“So,” Stiles clapped his hands together, “We’ve gotta hit the Army Surplus place to equip ‘Bud’ with a pack and boots.  Should we get anything else, or just make a group outing of it?”

“Well,” said Camden, offering his first opinion, “We could pick up some MREs, in case natural food is scarce.”

Stiles and Derek both negated that idea.  “We’re going to be gone only a week.  I know enough about edible plants to keep us well fed in that time frame.  Derek is a good trapper, and Scott, Jackson, and I are really good at catching fish.  We won’t need MREs, and we don’t want to worry about disposing of wrappers.  The less we take, the less we have to bring back with us.  The idea is to leave very little footprint of our visit.”

Camden nodded.  “That makes sense.  But I hate the idea of you guys fishing for me.”

Isaac smiled at his brother.  “Don’t worry about it, Cam.  It’s time I gave a little back to you, you know?  And we’re all helping each other.  They get the food, and you help gather water and firewood.  It’s all good.”

“Well, I’ll need appropriate clothing for this little jaunt, so I’ll go with you.”  Lydia certainly looked like she’d need grubby clothes.  Normally, the red-head was quite the fashion-plate.

Erica and Allison nodded.  “Us, too.”

“Girls, don’t get too far into the shopping thing, okay?”  Danny broke in, thinking about his first outing with the others.  “We’re packing the bare minimum.  The first time I went, we only took several pairs of socks, one extra pair of shoes, one extra pair of jeans, and a few flannel shirts.  You have to carry your pack, so you don’t want it to be too heavy.”

“Yeah,” agreed Stiles.  “Only this time, we’ll have water canteens, and water is heavy.  We should also take at least one phone, in case of emergencies, and disposable cameras to record this for posterity.   So, shopping day after tomorrow?  Tomorrow, I’m helping Roland teach grounding techniques to ‘Bud’.”

˜˜˜˜˜

Stiles was correct: Lydia did design a better rabbit snare.  Actually, Lydia showed them how to ‘braid’ parachute cord into bracelets, so they were always carrying their snares with them.

The werewolves ‘hunted’ using their senses while shifted, which gave them an extreme advantage over plain snares.  Derek even performed a Full Shift, and became a huge black wolf with glowing orange eyes.  That impressed everybody, especially Camden, who wasn’t sure if he believed that werewolves existed when Isaac mentioned them one day. (He had thought it was a code word for a gang.)

Miles had a blast, helping Stiles start the cook fires with his ‘spark’ and digging for edible roots.  Stiles helped the whole group identify loads of edible plants—and some poisonous ones—so they certainly did not go hungry.  Erica was more than adept at hand-fishing, but Allison spent a lot of time bemoaning the lack of her bow and quiver.

Miles took copious notes in a journal, detailing his trip, and Stiles taught him how to ‘listen’ to the animals around them.  “It’s actually a cool way to find out what the weather forecast is.  Animals always know when bad storms are heading in.”

Lydia and Allison won the unofficial shelter competition, using fallen pine branches after shaking loose any termites that still remained.

Everybody took photos.  They each invested in disposable cameras, and Danny promised to set up a webpage to commemorate the trip.

Camden thought they were all crazy, but he had a good time and said he wished he had joined them sooner.

The only hard part for Stiles was keeping his hands off Derek.

Oh, they held hands when they walked.  And they sat closely when they ate.

But they did not sleep next to each other.  None of the couples slept next to each other, to keep things proper and above board, even though they all bathed together in the river.  They kept on their underclothes, but washed out socks and shirts.

The lack of contact was driving Stiles crazy.

Especially when he found Derek sunning himself on a rock, shirtless, the day before their return to ‘civilization’.

Stiles dropped Lydia at Jackson’s house (Lord, I need the longest shower!) before taking Miles to Donna Maria’s house.

“Did you have a good time?” Stiles asked his girly friend.

“You know?  I really did.”  Lydia looked surprised at her answer.  “I won’t be doing it again soon, but it was fun.  And educational.  At least I know that I could survive in the woods if my car broke down in the middle of nowhere.  Bye, Stiles.  Nice to meet you, ‘Bud’.”

Miles was quiet on the last length of the drive.  Stiles looked over at him for a moment.  “Are you okay?”

Miles nodded.  “Yeah.  I just…when I blew up that book, I thought something horrible was happening to me.  And when other things started happening, I thought I was going crazy.  And then I met Roland, and I figured that my life was over, you know?  Everything was changing.  But this week, I camped with werewolves and performed magic to start and put out fires.  And it was so cool!  So, thanks, okay.  For showing me that magic wasn’t the end of the world.”

“You know Roland would like to train you to become Shaman like him, right?  How do you feel about that?”

“Mom wasn’t real religious.  I know Shamans are supposed to be very spiritual people.  I’m not sure I can do that.  I’d have to re-learn everything that I know.”

“Well, Roland won’t hate you if you say ‘no’, okay?  He’s just really glad for the chance to get to know you.”

˜˜˜˜˜

“Sheriff, I hope you don’t mind the interruption.  I have disturbing news.”

John blinked twice before responding over the phone lines.  “Alpha Hale.  No, I’m fine with the interruption.  Does this have something to do with Laura?”

“It does.   I’d rather not do this over the phone.  Could we meet somewhere?  Not your office, of course.  I realize that Agent McCall is still hanging around there.”

John looked at the clock on his office wall.  “It’s almost lunch time.  Would you like to meet at my home?  Stiles should be there.  He has some experiment going on in the shed.”

“Yes, of course.  I would have called him in any case.  This is something he should know as Emissary.”

“So, how about half an hour from now?”

“I’ll leave now.  Thank you.”

 

Thirty minutes later, Talia Hale sat at the Stilinski dining room table with Stiles and John.  It was lunchtime, but no one was eating.

“When Agent McCall said that people were missing, I think we all assumed he meant regular people.”  Talia made sure to make direct eye contact.  “They were not.  Arnold Biggs, Evalyn Ross, and James Brewer were Omega Wolves.  They were drifters who stayed on the fringes of human society.  They were known to the Arritas Pack and the Willard Pack in La Quinta.  Alpha Willard allowed that all three had stayed within his territory shortly before their disappearances, but not all together.  He allowed them to work a bit, earn some money before moving on.  Not all Packs are tolerant of Omegas, as they tend to be unstable.”

“And you made your daughter Omega.  Wouldn’t that mean that she could become unstable?”

Talia shook her head.  “I took away her legacy, and I turned her from the family home.  I did not steal her anchor from her, and an Omega with a steady anchor is stable.  Biggs, Ross, and Brewer were Omega by choice.  They didn’t seem to want to belong to a Pack, but they would seek permission to use Pack facilities on occasion.  Alpha Willard said that Ross was a frequent visitor to his territory, as she travelled between La Quinta and Canyon Lake quite often.  She was originally from Canyon Lake, but her Pack was mostly exterminated by Hunters.  Alpha Arritas used to hire Brewer as a ranch hand on a seasonal basis, and he was the first to disappear.”

John nodded.  “So Laura would know of him, because she would most likely have seen him over the years.  Now, the question is what did Laura have to do with the disappearances?”

Talia frowned so deeply Stiles feared her natural laugh-lines would disappear.  “Alpha Willard is going to phone the FBI Field office in Palm Springs tomorrow.  This morning, he found Evalyn Ross’ body at the edge of his territory while doing a perimeter run.  Her throat was torn out.  He only made the perimeter runs once a month, after the new moon, which was June 19, so he has no idea how long she was there.  From all appearances, it looks like an animal attack.”

“I know Laura would have to kill an Alpha to become an Alpha,” said Stiles, finally breaking into the conversation, “But why would she kill an Omega?  What would she get out of it?”

Talia sighed.  “Many years ago, before Kate Argent came to town, there was a group of Alphas that came to me, asking for allegiance.  They wanted to make treaty with Gerard Argent, who was living near here at the time.  No, John, you would not have known about this.  I warned them away from Argent, as his instability was well known, but their ‘leader’ Deucalion persisted.  Argent ambushed him, and he was attacked and blinded with silvered thorns to the eyes.  One of his Betas thought to kill him and take over his pack, but Deucalion was stronger, even while blind and wounded, and defeated his attacker.  And he grew stronger still.  It seems he discovered that if an Alpha kills a loyal Beta, he can absorb their power.  Laura fell under his influence, and was of the opinion that weak Betas should be destroyed at all costs.  When I questioned her, whether or not she would kill her own family if it meant temporary strength, she indicated that she would.  That is why I told her to leave.”

Stiles gave a low whistle.  “That is totally Darkside stuff!”

“It is.  And Laura may have decided to try to gain power by killing Omegas.  I only know when the last body was found, so I do not know where the first would be.  Obviously, I can’t go to the FBI.  But I felt that you both should know.  Given that Laura wants my Pack, as she sees it as her due, if she has gained power she may be on her way here.”

“Do you think she would challenge you, Alpha Hale?” John asked reluctantly.

“I think she would try.  But she would have to gain much more power, and her anchor would have to withstand the corruption of murder.”

“Explain anchors to me, please,” John requested.  “This is a language that I really need to learn.”

“May I?” Stiles deferred to the Alpha, and was granted permission to continue.  “All werewolves have an anchor—a person or thing that keep them centered and in control.  It could be a Mate or a child, an emotion—like anger or fear—or it could be a territory.  The anchor is constant, but it can change as a Wolf grows and evolves.  In some rare cases, there is an Omega that acts as his own anchor—his sense of self keeps him sane, you see?”  When John nodded, Stiles continued.  “A Wolf without an anchor can go slowly insane.  They have no inner balance.  But if, say, Alpha Hale had her son, Michael, as her anchor, and she started killing at random, Michael might start to pull away from her—and the anchor would become corrupted.  She wouldn’t be able to depend on Michael to keep her sane.”

“Okay, that makes sense.  Do you know what Laura’s anchor was?”

Talia shook her head.  “I’ve no idea.  It’s a private thing, John.  We don’t really talk about our anchors.  Mine, in fact, is not Michael, but that was a good example, Stiles.  If her anchor is an emotion—anger, perhaps—then that could withstand corruption.  I’m afraid it’s all a waiting game from here.  But you both should be on alert.”

“Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Alpha Hale.”

Talia stood and gathered her purse.  “Before I take my leave, I want to remind you both about the Independence Day barbeque out at the main House.  I know Stiles will be there, but you and Melissa McCall are both invited.  I’ll be calling her myself later.”

“I’ll try to make it for part of the day, Talia.  I may have to work later in the evening.  I have to set a good example as Sheriff, you know.”

˜˜˜˜˜

“Mom is totally freaking out!  She peeks between curtains before she leaves for work every day, and she calls before leaving work every night, to see if I’m alone.”

Scott was loading a tray with condiments to take out to the picnic table in the backyard.  Looking out the window, he could see his mother huddled close to Stiles’ dad, looking like she had run a marathon.

“I don’t like seeing her like this, you know?”

“I know, Scott.  When you’re over here with Cora, Melissa is on our sofa.  She only leaves to go home after you call to tell her you’re on your way home.”  Stiles sighed heavily.  “I wish your paternal unit would get a lead and leave town already.  Dad hates that he’s been hanging around the station.”

Scott turned incredulous eyes to his friend.  “Paternal unit?  Doesn’t that imply that Rafael has been, oh, ‘paternal’ in the last ten years?  No, he just needs to leave.  But I doubt he’ll get a miraculous lead in this case, because that would mean letting him know about werewolves, and just…no.  Nope!  Not gonna happen, if I can help it.  I’ve done fine without him in my life so far.  So has Mom.”

Stiles grabbed two pitchers of limeade and jerked his head toward the door, indicating that Scott should open it.  “Well, on the plus side, Melissa has been slowly getting closer to my dad.  I’d love for them to get together.”

Scott smiled wistfully.  “So would I, but he still wears your mom’s ring.  I don’t want him to rush into something he’s not ready to, just to keep my mom happy and safe.”

Stiles gave his best friend a flat look.  “Dad is not that self-sacrificing, trust me.”

Out in the wide yard, several mini-albums full of photos were making the rounds among the partiers.  The albums were from the camp-out, and each camper had their own.  Stiles and Scott brought theirs to the barbeque, and Derek and Cora had theirs out as well.  Peter was currently laughing at a photograph of Lydia knee-deep in the river, flinging a fish out of the water.

Melissa and John were looking through Derek’s album, which was embarrassingly full of photos of Stiles.   John took it as a sign that Derek was truly serious about dating and possibly Mating his son.  Melissa sat close to him, her shoulder tucked under his arm.  It felt right to him, and he said a private prayer to Claudia, asking for her blessing.

John heard the door open and he looked up as Stiles walked out bearing drink pitchers.  Stiles caught his eye and winked.  John blushed, and Stiles cracked up.

˜˜˜˜˜

While the majority of her Pack was enjoying their annual Independence Day Barbeque, Talia was in her sound-proofed office, engaged in a phone call from Arizona.

“I’ve had word of Laura, Talia, and I wanted to tell you as soon as possible.”

“Thank you for calling, Dante.  What have you heard?  Did Laura kill those Omegas?”

“Of that, I am not certain.  But I have heard from a travelling ranch-hand—a human that I trust implicitly—that Laura is in Penon Hills.  She is with the Hollis Pack.”

“Why would she go to the Hollis Pack?  She knows—or rather, she had known how Brendon Hollis treats Omegas.  Hell, he treats Betas as little more than servants.  He keeps his own sons subservient in the Pack, so he wouldn’t be very welcoming to an Omega.”

Alpha Arritas gave a considering hum.  “He might be welcoming toward a child of yours, Alpha Hale.  Especially if he thought he might have something to gain.”

“Harumph!  I’ll have to ask my Emissary to put out feelers, then.  I’ll increase patrols along the southern border of the territory.  I’ll also have to inform Derek of this development.  He’s come home for his residency, so he really doesn’t need this stress right now.”

“I’ll let you get back to your family, Talia.  Give my best to your Emissary.  Tell him he is welcome to visit my territory anytime he wants.  It would be a good Spring Break destination, if he sees fit.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, Dante.  He’s only going to be a senior in High School, though, so Spring Break will have to wait a while longer.  Right now, he’s only concerned with getting Derek to take him to prom.”

 

Chapter Three: Go Where You Wanna Go

–Go Where You Wanna Go

 NOTES:All medical knowledge was barely researched. I wanted facts, not a text book.  This one is long, so I hope it’s not boring.
There’s an annoying OC that may pop up in future chapters–I’m not sure yet, so don’t get too invested. She was necessary, but not important.

 

It was a sultry evening in August, two weeks before the start of the new school term, and Stiles was walking through the Preserve, following the invisible Ley Line that ran from the north east direction.

The woods were silent; not even the chirp of crickets or the thrum of frogs could be heard, but Stiles followed a signal his senses told him was there.

In the dim light of the filtered dusk, fog was swirling among the trees.  Stiles disturbed neither a twig nor a leaf as he moved along the invisible path.

A pale blue light drew him onward through the woods, toward the Nemeton.  The tree had been growing stronger and taller in just the past year since Stiles officially claimed the title of Emissary to the Hale Pack.  Stiles could see it clearly above the fog, but more importantly—he could hear the silent vibrations of alarm coursing through the mystical conduits of Power that converged here.

As Stiles drew closer to the Nemeton, he could see clearly a stain spread on the ground across the exposed roots; thick and red, the blood fairly shone in the dim light.

 

Stiles sat bolt upright, gasping, as his alarm blared to life.  All week long, he’d had a nagging feeling of something not quite right.  His dreams were both vivid and unclear; he could see the pictures but could not read the message.  But he could not find the source of the distress.  This morning, he would be having a breakfast meeting with Donna Maria Vasquez—still a trusted advisor—and Talia Hale.  Donna Maria had news that she wanted to share, and Stiles had a feeling that it has something to do with his visions.

 

The sun was rising, but the room was dark, as Stiles had taken to keeping his blinds firmly closed.  As he dressed, he criss-crossed through a stubborn beam of light that had forced its way through a crease in the blinds.  Stiles sat on his bed to pull on his moccasins and he suddenly looked up to watch the sunbeam.

As he watched, the narrow shaft of light crept across his desk until it landed on a blotter decorated to resemble the Periodic Table of Elements.

The pin-point of light stopped on the square marked ‘Ag’.

Silver

Argent

Stiles checked the time on his alarm clock—7:08am—and then glanced at the window, which had gone dark as if a cloud had passed over the sun.

Stiles grabbed his wallet, keys, and phone, and sent a quick text to Talia on his way to his Jeep.

Pit Stop

Be a Bit late

Tell U L8R

 

By 7:30am, Stiles was pulling to a stop in front of the mini-mansion that housed the Argent family.  From his vantage point, he could see Victoria Argent puttering about in what should be the kitchen.  Stiles opened his door and exited the vehicle, moving slowly and deliberately to make himself known.  Stiles could see Victoria as she spotted him, and she turned to look over her shoulder.

Stiles glanced at the rising sun, barely visible above the tree line, and made his way to the front door.  By the time he reached it, Christopher Argent was stepping out of the house.

“Mr. Argent,” Stiles said in greeting. “How are you and your family?”

“A bit early for a social call, isn’t it, Stiles?”

Stiles gave a sardonic grin. “If it were social, I’d have brought coffee.  How are you and your family?”

Christopher immediately alerted to the repeated query.  “What’s going on?”

“I can’t go into it right now.  I’m on my way to a breakfast meeting with the Alpha.”  Stiles once again looked toward the morning light, now clear above the trees.  “Nothing has happened here, has it?”

Christopher followed his gaze and frowned.  “No.  Is this a closed meeting?  Could I join you, if this has something to do with my family?”

Stiles whipped out his phone and sent another text.  He immediately received a reply and answered Argent.  “Do you want to ride along, or would you rather follow?”

Christopher deliberated for a moment.  “I’ll ride along, if you don’t mind.  Let me grab my wallet and tell Victoria where I’m going.”

 

Christopher kept silent on the drive into town because it was obvious that Stiles had something troubling on his mind.

They pulled into the parking lot of ‘Carlysle’s On Baymont’ and Chris gave Stiles a questioning look.  Stiles walked to the front entrance.  “They have Breakfast/Brunch Sunday through Wednesday.  Talia is footing the bill, and we’ll have a private room.  We’ve found that we all think better when our bodies and brains are well fueled.  We usually meet at the Hale house, but Talia has an early work meeting today.  Robert opened early for us.”

 

“Victoria and I have only been here once, when we first moved to town, other than that Thanksgiving feast we were invited to.  I wasn’t aware that they did brunch.”

“It’s a relatively new development.  Basically, they just extended their lunch hours a few days a week.”

 

Talia and Donna Maria were sipping coffee when they entered the private room.  ‘Carlysle’s’ had four private dining rooms, with seating for four to twenty people, on two levels for private parties.  On brunch days, only the three private rooms on the first floor were open.  Talia had claimed the room closest to the kitchen, so any conversation would not likely be overheard.

Talia stood and offered her hands in greeting.  “Christopher, so good to see you.  How have you been?”

Chris leaned in and kissed her cheek.  “I thought I was doing well, but now I’m not so sure.”

“Really?”  Talia turned to her Emissary.  “Stiles, you look…disturbed.  Have some coffee and tell me what has you vexed.”

“I’ll have coffee,” said Stiles, “And I’ll even have an omelet and fruit.  But you’re going to tell me why we were called to meeting before I go into my vexation.  The two topics might be related.”

Robert Hale entered the dining room pushing a cart laden with food items.

“Here you go. There’s an extra carafe of coffee on there, as well as juice and water.  I’ll turn on the white noise emitter on my way out.  Enjoy.”

Robert flipped what looked like a light switch hidden by a potted fichus, and a low, almost inaudible, hum filled the room.

Stiles and Chris filled their plates, while Talia only took a muffin and a bowl of berries.  Donna Maria was picking at a honeybun when she spoke.

“I received a call from Julia Baccari two days ago,” Donna Maria said.  “That’s why I called for this meeting.”

Stiles frowned in concentration, while Christopher’s face remained blank.

“Do I know that name?  Why do I know that name?”  Stiles wracked his brain for an answer.

Talia shook her head minutely.  “I doubt that name has ever come up in your hearing.  I last spoke with Julia Baccari on 2004.  She was Emissary to Kali Steele’s Pack.  Kali is closely associated with Deucalion, so I called Julia to warn her of the other Alpha’s plans to gain power by killing their Packs.  I warned her to leave Kali and disburse the Pack elsewhere.”

“That’s where I know her!” Stiles exclaimed.  “In my dreams there is a dark-haired Druid crying in anguish at the loss of her Pack!”

Donna Maria sighed.  “Yes.  When she called, it was to let me know that her Pack is gone—absorbed into other Packs to keep them safe.  She began finding them safe places almost immediately after Talia’s call, and they all went.  But,” Donna Maria seemed to have trouble finding her words.  “But she found her Alpha two days ago, dead.  Kali’s arms and legs had been broken multiple times.  Her eyes had been put out and her eardrums had been pierced.  Her throat had been slashed and her heart had been ripped from her chest.  The position she had been found in looked ritualistic, but Julia was unaware of any covens or Solitaries in the area that would practice Dark Magic like that.”

“Was she calling for information,” Stiles asked, “or as a warning?”

“Mainly, she was calling to give us the information.  She is deeply mourning Kali’s lost life.  I believe the two had been lovers before Kali went Rogue.”

Stiles chewed slowly as he thought about this revelation.  He knew about Deucalion, of course.  The Alpha’s madness made him especially dangerous.  He had killed his entire Pack, becoming monstrously strong, and his insanity grew with each kill.  But Deucalion hadn’t been heard from in years.  It was rumored that he left the country, heading into South America.  Laura Hale had fallen under his spell once, but she was never under his direct influence.  Was it possible that Deucalion had killed Kali Steele, another Alpha that had followed him fanatically?  Kali’s Pack had been tossed to the wind in order to keep them safe from her, so she wouldn’t be as strong as Deucalion.

Finally, Stiles took a long sip of his coffee and spoke to Talia.  “I know I should know this, but I need to ask:  If an Alpha goes rogue and loses his Pack, is he still Alpha even though he’s Omega?”

Talia’s eyes widened.  “I…don’t actually know.  An Alpha can only lose power if killed or if he gives the power away to a Successor; that much I do know.  Rogue Alphas usually don’t live very long, because Hunters will take them out as quickly as possible.  Christopher, have any Hunters in your acquaintance made noises about Kali Steele?”

Christopher swallowed his coffee before answering.  “No.  I wasn’t even aware that she was Rogue.  I suppose because her Pack was disbanded, there was no news about them.  If a Pack doesn’t exist anymore, then they can’t misbehave or break laws.  I can make some calls, if you like.”

“No,” said Stiles, clearly with something else on his mind.  “Donna Maria, where was Kali’s Pack located?  I know Deucalion was in Nevada.”

“The Steele Pack was in Oregon.  Julia said she never left the state; she only moved to the coast in order to distance herself from her former territory.”

“Okay, what part of Oregon?”

“A small town called Joseph, north-east of here.  The Pack wasn’t large; only ten members.  Kali hadn’t even chosen a Successor.”

Stiles nodded thoughtfully.  “Okay.  Mr. Argent, have you heard from your absent family members lately?”

Christopher almost sneered in disgust.  “You mean Kate and Gerard?  No.  I last spoke to Gerard last year, at that convention in Santa Fe.  Kate, as far as I know, is in Europe.  I can call a contact there to see if she’s been heard from, but Gerard said he was based in New Mexico now.”

“And nobody in your family has heard from him?”

“Allison gets cards every once in a while, birthday and holidays and the like.  I don’t open them anymore because Allison knows how dangerous he can be.  Victoria hasn’t told me if Gerard is still trying to gain allegiance with her family, so I assume he is not.”

“Stiles,” Talia drew his attention.  “Does this have to do with your vexation?”

“Well, Alpha, I’m not sure.  My dreams are disturbing, but if there’s a message there, I don’t know it.  But this morning, I had another whopper of a dream, and then I had a waking vision right after.  The dream had me walking toward the Nemeton along the North-East to South-West Ley Line, following a distress call.  I saw what looked like a large blood stain on the ground, and then I woke up.  After I woke, an annoying little sunbeam worked its way to my desk blotter, and landed on the periodic station of silver.”

“That hardly seems unlikely,” said Chris, pouring some orange juice into a glass.  “Sunbeams in the morning do happen, you know.”

Stiles looked blankly at Chris.  “Do you happen to remember the position of the sun when I arrived at your house?”

Chris frowned in thought.  “The sun was just rising over the trees, even though the day was already bright.”

Stiles hummed in agreement.  “Uh-hmmm, it does get bright here early in the summer.  So bright that I installed light-blocker blinds in my bedroom.  I still get light, but not directly. At that time of day, the sun isn’t over the tree line in my neighborhood, just like at your house.  There should have been no way for a ‘sunbeam’ to be in my bedroom that early.”

Stiles pushed his plate away from him and sipped some water.  “I hesitate to use a geek reference, but there is a disturbance in the force.  I can feel it, but I don’t know what it is.  It’s just out of reach, but I can feel it just the same.  Mr. Argent has anything been going on with your family that might seem…alarming?  Anything at all?”

“No.”  Christopher paused for a thought before continuing.  “Well—Victoria has been unwell, but there is still a late summer flu going around.  A lingering reminder of that epidemic we had last winter.  She’s going to the doctor this morning, so I hope that will be all there is to it.  Allison is looking forward to acceptance letters and choosing a school to attend after graduation.  My business is going well, and I’m able to stop travelling so much now that I’ve settled in California.”

“Harumph!” Stiles grumbled.  “Well, I’ll have to do some heavy meditating, then.  I’ll head out to the Nemeton after I take Mr. Argent home.  Maybe I can get some clearer answers from the source.”

**

On the drive back to the Argent house, Christopher was silent for a different reason: now he had something on his mind.  His wife will have left for her appointment by now, but he would be speaking to her once she returned.  Between the two of them, they had enough contacts to be able to track Gerard and Kate.  Chris long ago swore to protect Allison in any way he could.  It was time that he took that vow to heart.

˜˜˜˜˜

Hours later, Victoria Argent somberly walked into her home, still digesting the news she received from her doctor.

“Chris, are you home?”  She called to her husband as she walked into the kitchen.  She desperately needed a drink, but tea would have to do.

She filled her tea kettle with water, and Chris walked into the kitchen to greet her with a kiss.

“What did the doctor say?  Just the flu, or something else?”

Victoria rolled her expressive eyes toward her spouse.  “Oh, it’s definitely something else.  Sit down.  We need to talk.”

Worriedly, Chris sat at the breakfast bar, staying near Victoria to be close at hand.  “What’s wrong?  Is there anything I can do for you?”

Victoria set out two mugs, and rifled through her cabinet, searching for the tea she knew Stiles had given her for Christmas.  “I don’t have the flu, Chris.  I could almost handle the flu, despite how horrible it was last winter.”  She turned and placed the tea diffusers into the mugs.  “I’m pregnant.”

Chris stared dumfounded at his wife.  “You’re what?  Pregnant?  How…no, just stop me now before I make myself look worse.”

Victoria poured the now boiling water.  “Do you think I haven’t wondered the same thing?  How could this have happened?  We’re very careful, Chris.  I explained that to the doctor.  I’m on the pill.  We use condoms every time we have sex.  I’ve never skipped a period.”  She watched the tea steep for a few minutes as she gathered her thoughts.  “I wanted more children, after Allison was born.  But we travelled a lot.  And I was more involved in the Hunting aspect of my family life.  And then Allison was a teenager, and you had removed yourself from Hunting, and I was older.”

Chris reached across the counter and took Victoria’s hand.  “You’re not so old, you know.”

Victoria snorted.  “Chris, I’m forty-seven years old.  I may not feel old, but this pregnancy…they say pregnancy is difficult, if not dangerous, after forty-four.”  She looked up at her husband, expression dim.  “I’m apparently almost three months along.  I don’t know how I missed this.”

“What do you want to do?”

Victoria shook her head.  “I don’t even know.  I have another appointment for next week.”

Chris smiled.  “I’m going with you, then.  We’ll take the time to go through our options.  When we have an informed opinion, we can discuss with the doctor what would be best for you.  You are the important one here.  I’ll follow your lead.”

Victoria smiled, and sipped her tea.  “What I don’t want to do is mention this to Allison until we decide what we’re doing.”

Christopher shook his head.  “Uh-uh—until you decide what you’re doing.  Your body, your choice.  I’m just the person in love with you.”

˜˜˜˜˜

Stiles sat, cross-legged, leaning against the Nemeton.  He opened his mind to the Power that converged around the roots of the tree.  His eyes were closed, and he breathed deeply, pulling in the scents of the woods around him.

Damp Earth

Pine Needles

Decaying Leaves

Earthworms

Animal Musk

Blood

 

Stiles opened his senses to all of the scents, and he could ‘see’ what was around him, and what had been near here in the recent past.

Rain in the past week caused the ground to be soaked; the water had receded on the summer heat, leaving only damp earth under the trees.

The soft wind that blew through the preserve caused most of the fir trees to drop needles on a daily basis, even though the trees were healthy.

Remnants of the yearly cast-off were rotting on the forest floor, giving nutrients to the plants that survived there.

Ground-dwellers often rose to the surface after a rain, and their distinct scent lingered for days, un-noticed by most people.

There had been animal visitors in this area recently.  Foxes were most likely the main culprit, but there were also skunks, squirrels, and chipmunks.

The blood was troubling.  The animals that usually wandered through this part of the preserve did not do so wounded.  Scott ran here on a daily basis now, and if he had ever found a hurt animal, he’d bring it to the veterinarian that he worked for.

 

Stiles focused his mind on the blood.

Where had is come from?  What was the source?

 

Colors and sounds flitted through Stiles’ mind like a moving picture show.

Red, coppery blood

Blue, mountain rain

Brown, fallen leaves

Black, eyes open in death

Blue, eyes open in life

Red, eyes open as Alpha

 

Stiles shook himself out of his trance and struggled to his feel.  He placed his hand directly on the Nemeton.  A shock of light burst along his arm, and Stiles could see:

 

A distorted half-wolf, crippled and bleeding, staggering through the woods.  He, and Stiles was certain it was male, was not too large, but his half-wolf Beta Form was mis-shapen, almost deformed.  The fur was graying brown, and shaggy, like a bad clip job had been done to it.  Blood dripped from its mouth.  It staggered past the Nemeton, not realizing the power that would normally call to it, and wandered deeper into the woods, away from Beacon Hills.  It turned its head once, to face the tree and Stiles could see a reflection in its eyes:  A woman, dusky-skinned and dark-haired, screaming in pain.

 

The vision ended, and Stiles staggered away from the tree.  He leaned over, balancing himself with his hands on his knees, and he took several calming breaths.  Once his heart rate had calmed and his vision cleared, Stiles stood and patted the tree lightly on the trunk.

“Thanks, buddy.  I’m not in the right mindset now, but I’ll be back soon to give you a Push.”

Stiles trekked through the woods toward the Hale house, since it was closer than town from this direction.  He figured that one of the Hales could give him a ride back to his Jeep.

Once he arrived at the house, Stiles politely knocked on the door, even though he was sure that they knew he was there.  Peter opened the door and admitted him into the house.

“Hello, Peter.  Is Talia home?”

“She is.  Do come and have a drink.  You look dreadful, my dear boy.”

“Water would be nice, thanks.  I feel dreadful.  I had a vision, and I think I know what it was, but I need verification.”

Talia met them in the kitchen.  “What sort of verification could I give you for a vision?”

“Well,” said Stiles, opening the bottle of water that Talia had handed him, “You could tell me if you have a photograph of Kali Steele.  That would be verification.”

Talia’s face scrunched in concentration.  “I don’t know.  Peter, did anyone take photos when Deucalion came to see me back in 2004?”

Peter frowned.  “I don’t think so.  It was hardly an event worth commemorating.”

“Hmm.  Maybe Donna Maria can convince Julia Baccari to e-mail us a photo.  Why do you need one, Stiles?”

“I want to see if my vision was what I think it was.”

Talia wrinkled her nose at him.  “Well, that isn’t cryptic at all.  Let’s go to the office and call Donna Maria, and you can tell me about this vision.”

 

Several phone calls and an e-mail later, Stiles and Talia were looking at a photograph of Kali Steele—the woman reflected in the abomination’s eyes.

Stiles raked his hand across his face.  “Okay, so I saw who killed her.  Kali Steele.  I don’t know who it was, but he’s an Alpha now.  And he’s—wrong.  Really, really, wrong.”

Talia frowned.  “What do you mean ‘wrong’?”

“Like he’s deformed.  Crippled somehow.  The thing I saw in my vision was ragged, like an old doll.  He was half-shifted, like a Beta Form, but it wasn’t right.  The fur looked like it went through a blender, and it limped—like walking was painful.  It was just…wrong.”

“And this new Alpha is in my territory?  How have I not felt it?”

Stiles shrugged.  “I don’t know, Alpha.  But I didn’t feel it, either.  I still don’t feel it.  Maybe there’s a magical cloak on it.  Or maybe we can’t feel it because it’s not natural.  I mean, I know Born and Bitten werewolves have a natural magical signature, so maybe the magical signature is off on this one because of its ‘not-right-ness’.   The deformity somehow cloaks it.  I don’t know, but it went away from Beacon Hills in my vision, so it’s not here now.”

“Okay.  I’ll increase patrols around the perimeter of the territory just in case.  Thank you, Stiles, for being so vigilant.”

“It’s kinda my job, Alpha Hale.  This is my territory, too.”

˜˜˜˜˜

August 27, 2012

 By prior arrangement, Stiles and Scott drove to school together on the first day of the term.  They would be meeting their friends in the parking lot and sitting together during First Day Assembly.  Stiles also picked up Erica and Boyd, who was still looking for a car he could afford before college started.  Isaac was riding in with Allison, who got a used pick-up truck for her birthday in January.  Her parents never questioned her choice of vehicles, but they were surprised when she dithered at the dealership while they were looking at sporty little minis and convertibles.  All she said was “They’re not really practical, are they?” and the family moved onto the sportier models.  She picked a newer model with a crew cab and deep bed.  Stiles had never figured her for a ‘truck’ girl, but then he’d never figured her for a fierce archer—and he knew she was a Hunter when he met her.  She just gave a different vibe.

Allison pulled into the parking space beside Stiles’ and Jackson (and Lydia and Danny) parked on her other side.  Cora stalked across the parking lot toward them, as she trekked through the woods to get to school.

As it was the first day of his senior year, Stiles was dressed to impress: Black loafers, with lucky pennies, creased black slacks, black belt with silver belt buckle (Nickel, actually, and carved with the Hale Triskelion), White-with-Blue-pinstripe button-down oxford shirt (sleeves rolled to the elbows), black linen waistcoat with an apple-blossom and cherry-blossom pinned to the lapel.  The top two buttons of his shirt were unbuttoned, and the leather thong supporting his eight-pointed star could be seen clearly.

Stiles had offered to provide a little flower magic for everyone in the group, but only Allison and Lydia took him up on the offer.  Both girls wore pretty print dresses (Lydia in green and blue, and Allison in pale yellow with blue stripes), so he gifted them with their own flowers—apple and cherry blossoms pinned to hair clips.)

“These are very pretty, Stiles,” said Allison, clipping her hair back from her face, “What do they mean?”

“Oh—‘good things to come’ and ‘education’.  I thought they’d be appropriate.  Happy, positive energy on the first day can only help, you know?”

Lydia took her clip and added it to her crown braid.  “I agree and I approve.  Erica, you look great!  I love that blouse!”

Erica blushed prettily.  “Thanks.  I don’t know why I didn’t wear a dress on the first day.  I feel like I should change or something.”

“Why,” asked Cora, who had finally joined them.  “I’m not wearing a dress.”

Scott kissed her cheek.  “Because you never wear dresses.  If you wore a dress to school, the world would probably end.  I think you both look great.”

Erica looked down at herself and blushed again.  “Thanks, Scott.  My dad picked this out for me.  Mom wanted us to do some father/daughter bonding after I successfully went camping with you all this summer.  I’m not sure if she meant to punish me or him, but he has great taste in clothes.  Either that, or he spent a lot of time reading Teen Vogue when I wasn’t looking.”

 

Erica was wearing a white eyelet peasant blouse with ribboned piping.  There were tiny bunches of cherries embroidered randomly all over it; little flashes of red and green to add color on the blank surface.  She paired it with black jeans and knee-high black boots with four-inch heels.  As a concession to his girlfriend, Boyd was also wearing black jeans and boots, but his white shirt had charcoal stripes.

Jackson was wearing a dark blue button-down silk shirt and dark blue jeans with brown loafers.  He looked good standing next to Lydia; his dark colors complimenting her pastels.  Lydia smoothed down the front of Jackson’s shirt and she placed a light kiss to his chest over the place where his talisman settled on the leather thong he never took off.

Danny and Scott both wore new jeans and short-sleeved henleys over clean sneakers.  Danny work red—a color that worked with his Hawaiian heritage and Scott wore forest green.

All of the teens carried notebooks and pens, because the first day was for assembly and class- and locker- assignment.  Later this week, when class books were handed out and assignments were given, the backpacks would make an appearance.  They walked into the school and headed to the large auditorium for assembly.

“I hope we have at least lunch together this year.  It would suck not to have that in our last year,” Scott sighed.

“Yeah, Scott, I know.  But we’ll have Lacrosse and Cross Country, and all of our after-school study sessions, so we won’t be in a scholastic No-Man’s Land.”

Scott bumped Stiles’ shoulder as they found seats in the auditorium.  “Shut-up.  You know what I mean.  I’m not in any of the AP classes with you and Lydia.  What if we don’t have any classes together?  And if we didn’t have the same lunch assignment, it would totally suck!”

“Scott, bro, you worry too much.  We’ll at least have HomeEc together, because we signed up for the same electives.”

After assembly, they all compared schedules, and they found that:

Stiles, Lydia, Danny, Cora, and Allison had math together.

Stiles, Jackson, Allison, Lydia, and Scott had social sciences together.

Stiles, Scott, Isaac, Erica, Boyd, and Lydia had Chemistry II together.

Jackson, Boyd, Scott, Cora, and Erica had English together.

Stiles, Lydia, Danny, Allison, and Boyd had computer sciences together.

Stiles, Scott, Erica, Isaac, Allison, Cora, and Jackson had HomeEc Package together.

Stiles, Allison, Isaac, Cora, and Boyd had first lunch.

Jackson, Danny, Lydia, Scott, and Erica had second lunch.

 

They agreed to meet at the down-town diner after school to arrange study sessions at the library.

“Okay,” said Allison as she passed straws around the booth table, “I have another request now that school business is over.  Stiles, can you teach me to magically knit?”

Stiles choked on his milkshake.  “Um, you don’t ‘magically’ knit.  You have to use knitting needles.”

“No,” she laughed.  “I mean, can you teach me to knit and to put spells into what I’m knitting?”

“Oh!  Yeah, sure, I can do that.  Did you have anything in mind?”

“I want to make a happy/love/protection scarf for my mom for Christmas.  I figure I have time enough to learn between now and then.”

“Yeah, okay.  Are you free this weekend?”

“I think so, why?”

“Because we can go to Paradise this weekend for supplies.  There is a craft supply store there that has a fantastic selection of up-class luxury yarns, like cashmere and angora, that aren’t that expensive.  I’ll teach you with the cheap stuff, but you’ll want to see what’s available so you can pick a pattern.”

Allison looked slightly confused.  “Aren’t all scarves the same pattern?”

“Nope.  I’ll show you the different patterns you can try.  Does anyone else want to learn to knit with needles and magic?”

Several of them shook their heads in the negative, but Isaac raised his hand.  “I would, if that’s okay.  I feel bad that Camden took me in, and I really haven’t repaid him, you know?”

Erica, who was sitting next to Isaac, choked on a curly fry.  “Isaac, you don’t have to re-pay family for loving you.  He got you out of a bad situation because of love, not obligation.  So make him something because you love him back.”

Stiles nodded in agreement.  “Yeah, dude.  Remember, intent is very important, even in simple spells.  Go into it thinking that you love and appreciate Camden, not that you owe him anything.  Dad says he feels my love spell every time he wears the scarf I made him.  It’s tangible, just like the texture of the wool.”

“Okay, then,” Isaac nodded.  “I can do that.  Because I do love my brother.  He’s been watching over Dad the last few years.  His drinking has tapered off, fortunately.  Camden thinks that’s because I’m not in the house, so he had to do some hard thinking about how he’s living his life.”

“That’s probably true,” Stiles agreed.  “If he came to realize that he might lose you—or worse, hurt you—by drinking, then he’d want to stop and take stock of his life once you were out of the house.”

“Yeah, I know, Stiles.  I just wish he never got that bad in the first place.  I don’t even remember why it got bad, but it did.  Camden got me out before I had to be really afraid, you know?  I’m better off now.”

“Okay, then, this weekend, we’ll go to Paradise and look at yarns and patterns, and you’ll get some ideas for your projects.  Then we can go local to get practice supplies.”

Allison leaned around Danny to kiss Stiles on the cheek.  “That sounds good, thanks.”

˜˜˜˜˜

While Allison was enjoying her first day back at school, Victoria and Christopher Argent were sitting in the waiting room at Beacon Hills Women’s Health, an Obstetrics/Gynecology clinic.  They had spent two weeks talking about the unexpected pregnancy, going over pros and cons about both keeping the pregnancy and ending it before it progressed further.

Chris was holding her hand in support, but Victoria looked distracted.  He followed her gaze, and saw a woman holding a small infant, clearly only a month or so old.  When he glanced back at Victoria, he saw that she was smiling slightly.

“Do you remember when Allison was that small?” Victoria asked softly

“No, I do not,” Chris said as he followed the baby with his gaze.  “It seems forever ago, doesn’t it?”

Victoria sighed.  “I know what we decided, Chris.  But I think I changed my mind.”

Before he could reply, their names were called by the receptionist, and they were shown to an examination room.  They went inside and Chris allowed Victoria to sit in the one visitor’s chair.  He leaned against the wall, casually keeping his hand on her shoulder.

A few minutes later, he was shaking hands with the doctor when he came into the room.

“Christopher, I take it?  Good to meet you.  Victoria, how are you?”

“I guess I’m okay.  I’ve done some hard thinking.  We both have.”  Victoria turned her face up to smile at her husband.  “When we got here today, I was prepared to tell you that I wanted to end the pregnancy.   But I can’t do that.  I know it’s risky, but we always planned for more children and it never happened.  I’m at a good place in my life right now.  I want this baby.  I want my baby.”  Victoria looked at the doctor.  “So, what do we do to make this pregnancy healthy?”

The doctor, Dr. Hresan, sat back in his chair.  “Well, Victoria, there are tests that we should do first.  To make sure the baby is viable.  There are reasons that late-in-life pregnancies are difficult. The stress on the mother’s body is one thing.  The stress on the baby is another.  There are chances of gestational diabetes for you, as well as heart conditions.  You’re healthy now, and active, so you might have a perfectly normal pregnancy.

“But we can now screen for birth defects, and there are a few that are higher risk because of your age.  Top of the list is Down’s Syndrome.  There are others, of course.  And there is a risk of Autism, which we won’t find in a pre-birth screening.  Are you sure about this, Victoria?”

She nodded concisely.  “I’m sure.  I know there are risks, but I’m strong and healthy, and I have a good marriage.  We can handle this.”

“Okay, then.  Since we essentially missed three months of pre-natal care due to lack of knowledge, let’s take this from the top and screen for everything we can now.  If a termination decision comes up after the tests come back, we can discuss it then.  I’m going to send for a nurse with a very long needle.  We’re going to do an ultra-sound and amniocentesis.  Amniotic fluid can tell us a lot about your baby.”

Chris cleared his throat.  “How long until we have those results back, Dr.?”

“I’ll put a rush on it.  I’ll have the results before the end of the week.”

 

Labor Day 2012

 The Hales decided to host a Labor Day cook-out on their property that year.  In the past, Labor Day was an over-looked holiday punctuated by children bemoaning homework.  This year, there were more teenagers than usual in the Pack, and Talia and Robert had grown close to all of them.

The Sheriff had the day off, and so did Melissa McCall, so they were invited to enjoy the holiday with the Pack.  Since Rafael McCall had taken up residence in a local hotel, she readily agreed.

Actually, Melissa agreed to accept the invitation because Talia Hale was her son’s Alpha, so it was good to foster relations between them.

And also, Melissa had recently begun dating John Stilinski.

It was an unforeseen development, but one that Stiles and Scott both reveled in.

It started slowly, at the July Fourth party, when Melissa took comfort with John after Rafael showed up at her house uninvited.  The next week, John had asked her to dinner, and she accepted.

She invited John to her home for dinner the following week, and he took lunch to her at the hospital two days later.

By the time school started, they were an established couple, and Stiles and Scott were over the moon.

Especially since the whole thing rankled Rafael McCall.

“It’s not like he’s a total asshole and is showing up at all hours.  And he’s stayed away from my work, which is good.”  Scott was holding the meat tray for the grill while Stiles was arranging the burgers he helped Robert Hale make.  “But he stops by the house when Mom is at work, and he’s trying to be all buddy-buddy.  I hate it!”

Stiles eyed his friend carefully.  “You could tell him to kiss off, you know.”

“Don’t think I haven’t tried it,” Scott grumbled.

Erica hooked her chin over Scott’s shoulder to sniff at the grilling meat.  “So, what’s the big deal?”

“The big deal, Erica, is that until this summer, I haven’t seen him in ten years.  Mom told him to get out because he was drunk, and he left and never looked back.  Now, he’s trying to be my father, when he couldn’t be bothered to call or write since I was a kid.  He paid child-support, because without it Mom couldn’t afford the house.”

“Huh!”  Stiles huffed as he turned to face Scott.  “Maybe that’s why he’s sniffing around now.  You’ll be eighteen this month, and child support will be over, so he’ll have no ties to you anymore.”

Scott scowled.   “He’s got no ties to me now!  He actually apologized for hitting me when I was a kid.  I don’t even remember it, and I told him so.  But do you know what I’ll never get over?  Not having a father.  Geez, Stiles, your dad is the closest thing I’ve had for a father since I was eight years old.”

“Well, I know Dad feels the same way.  He’s always looked out for you, you know.”

“Yeah.  I just wish I didn’t have to be forever linked to Rafael McCall.  I once asked Mom why she didn’t change her name back to ‘Delgado’ after the divorce, and she told me it was because ‘McCall’ was my name and she didn’t want to put that distance between us.”

“Well,” said Erica, handing Scott a bottle of water, “You could always change your name.  You’ll be eighteen, so it’ll be legal.  You could both be ‘Delgado’, if you want.”

 

Scott’s expression turned thoughtful.  “I could do that, couldn’t I?  I may have to talk to Mom about it later.”

Stiles looked across the back garden and watched his father talking with Peter and Amanda Hale, his arm comfortably around Melissa’s shoulders.  “Just don’t do it today.  You might ruin a mood.”

Just before the food was ready to be served, Allison’s pick-up rolled into the Hale drive, and Allison and Isaac flowed out to join the party.  Isaac went immediately to join Jackson and Danny, to talk about the swim team, while Allison intercepted Stiles at the folding buffet table.

“I really need to learn how to knit a blanket now, as well as a scarf.”

Stiles looked at her with surprise.  “Why?   It doesn’t get that super cold here.  Or do you just miss St.Paul that much?”

Allison grinned widely.  “My mom and dad told me this morning: My mom is pregnant.  At first, she was going to abort, because there are a lot of risks with a late pregnancy.  But at the doctor’s appointment, she changed her mind.  There are still risks, but now I want to make a blanket for my new brother or sister.”

Stiles nodded, smiling back at the girl.  “Okay.  I can teach you that.  And I can look into spells for a newborn, if you like.”

“I’ll ask Mom about that.  I’m just excited.  And nervous!  I’m going to be away at college while my new sibling is at home.  I’m going to miss all of the fun stuff!”

“I’m sure they’ll let you babysit on your breaks,” Stiles said wryly.

Allison gave him another bright smile before bounding off to find her boyfriend.

Stiles walked over to his father and Melissa, carrying plates of food for the both of them.  “Hey, people!  The food is going to be all gone if you aren’t careful!  These people eat like wolves!”

John chuckled loudly, while Melissa giggled.  “And they willingly allow you to darken their doors.  Oh, is this for us?  Thanks, son.”

 

“You’re welcome. Actually I have a question for Melissa.”

“Okay—ask away!” said Melissa as she took her own plate.

“What exactly are the dangers of a late-stage pregnancy?”

John choked on his burger and Melissa blushed bright red.  Stiles mentally reviewed what he asked, and then he blushed.  “No—no, no, no!  Not that I wouldn’t love a little brother, but I’m not talking about you two.  Allison said her mother is pregnant, and decided at the last minute to keep the baby instead of playing it safe.  So, I was wondering about those risks.”

Melissa recovered quickly.  “Ah, well, there are several risks to the mother.  Diabetes, heart issues, possible miscarriage, to name a few.  And there are possible birth defects that crop up in late pregnancies.”

“Okay.  Thanks.  Enjoy the party, you two!”

Stiles strolled toward the buffet table to get his own plate of food.  The whole remainder of the party, Stiles wondered if his vision had to do with this pregnancy.

Only time would tell.

˜˜˜˜˜

On the first Saturday in October, the Archery Club was meeting at the family picnic grounds at the edge of the Preserve.  Stiles and Allison were discussing knitting patterns while they unloaded equipment from Chris Argent’s SUV.  Suddenly, the hair on the back of Stiles’ neck started to stand on end.

He was being watched.

Stiles turned toward the woods at the edge of the picnic grounds on the other side of the playground.  He couldn’t see anyone, but that meant nothing.  He sent his senses toward the woods, and he could feel corruption and anger.

That ruined Alpha was there, somewhere, watching him.

But the power was cloaked still, so Stiles couldn’t pinpoint the exact location.

 

Stiles knew enough not to go into the woods alone, and he wasn’t about to stop the club meeting in order to get Chris Argent to go with him, so he tried to follow the feeling of anger deeper and deeper, but it just…disappeared.

Nothing

Gone, as if it had never been there.

 

Stiles would call Talia once the meeting was over.

˜˜˜˜˜

Allison felt that she needed to be more active in order to physically keep up with her wolfy friends, so she signed up for the Cross Country team.

She found that she enjoyed running through the parks and woods around the High School beside Stiles and Scott and the rest.  It was an activity that she could do in the company of her boyfriend instead of watching him from the bleachers during Lacrosse games or swim meets.

Since Scott had picked up early-morning work at the vet clinic, and the Sheriff was working more late shifts, Stiles, Allison, and Isaac often ran in the mornings before school.  They developed a habit of taking the woods near Stiles’ house, and making a circuit around the large play park near Scott’s house, and around the neighborhood back to Stiles’ house.

They did this three days a week, and Isaac and Allison brought changes of clothes and showered in the Stilinski spare bathroom (separately) before school on those days.  They didn’t try to hide their pattern.  Allison’s parents knew that they could reach her at the Stilinski’s house in case of emergency, and Camden Lahey knew the same.

So, Stiles only thought it slightly odd to find a letter addressed to Allison in his daily mail delivery.

“Hey, Allison!  Wanna hear something weird?”  Stiles figured he’d call her at home, since they weren’t running tomorrow.

“Is it about our HomeEc assignment?  Because I just can’t get that soufflé to rise!”

“Um, no, but I can help you with that at school tomorrow.  No, there was a letter delivered to the house today, addressed with your name but our street address.”

“Did you open it?” Allison asked hesitantly.

“No,” said Stiles slowly, “because it’s addressed to you.  Do you want me to open it?”

“Um, no?  Can you just bring it to school tomorrow?”

“Sure, I can do that.  Hey, Allison?” Stiles asked as an afterthought,  “this isn’t you using our address to hide something, is it?”

“Of course not!  If I was using your address, I’d have the decency to tell you so you could watch the mail for me.  Is there a return address?”

“Nope.  I’d say it was a birthday card, but your birthday is in January, so it would be way late.  Or extremely early.”

“Okay.  I’ll see you tomorrow morning.  Thanks for letting me know, Stiles.”

“Sure thing.  How is your knitting going?”

“Better than the soufflé.”

**

The next day, Stiles met Allison in the parking lot at school and handed her a card-sized white envelope.  She took it nervously.

“You know,” Stiles said as he watched her handle the envelope, “just because your name is on it, doesn’t mean you have to open it.”

“I know.  But I want to know who thinks they can contact me at your house.”

“Oh, probably anyone who has seen you, me, and Isaac running every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday since mid-September.  We pretty much keep the same route because of the physical difficulties.”

Allison sighed.  “You’re right.  Hey!” she brightened significantly, “Maybe it’s some pre-teen with a crush!  That’s harmless, right?”

“It would have to be someone who is not aware that the Sheriff also lives at that address.”

“Yeah,” she sighed.  “Okay, let’s do this!”  And she carefully opened the envelope and pulled out a blank card.  Allison opened it, and gasped in shock.

“What!?” asked Stiles, alarmed.  “Allison, what is it?”

“It’s…It’s from my grandfather.”  Allison looked up, face pale in shock and anguish.  “I have to go home, now.  Tell Isaac I’ll call him later, okay?”

And she got back into her truck and drove off, just as everyone else was arriving in the parking lot, leaving Stiles to stammer and explain.  Before he walked into the school building with his friends, he pulled out his phone and called Talia’s office.

“Hello, Talia Hale speaking.”

“Alpha, this is Stiles.  I wanted to let you know—Allison Argent was just contacted by Gerard.”

“Why hasn’t her father called me?”

“Because he probably doesn’t know yet.  But he will, in about twenty minutes if he’s still home.”

“What does that mean?” Talia asked, confused.

“It means, Allison got a letter addressed to her, but sent to my house.  I gave it to her this morning.  She read it, and then took off for home.  I wanted to give you the heads up before class.”

“Thank you for calling, then Stiles.  I’m going to call the Argent house in a few minutes.  I’ll let the bad news sink in first.”

Stiles disconnected the call and joined his classmates in First Period.  Since Allison was in his first class, he calmly explained to the teacher that she had a family emergency and had to return home right away.

It wasn’t even a lie.

**

After school, Stiles ditched the rest of his friends and drove to the Argent house.  Talia’s car was parked outside, so he parked behind it and walked to the front door and rang the bell.

Allison answered the bell and showed him to the den, where Talia and Christopher were talking.

“Hi,” Stiles said as he entered the den.  “So, what’s the word?”

Wordlessly, Christopher handed the card over to Stiles, who opened it and began to read it.

Dear Allison—

The time has come, I think, for you and I to get to know one another before it is too late.

I know you must have been told horrible things about me, but everything I’ve done, I’ve done for the betterment of society.  You do not understand the evils of the world, and for that I blame your parents.

Things have changed for me, and I have a new lease on life.  My only wish is to reunite my family so that we can all be close again.

I will call on you soon.  You are the future of the Argent name.  It is time you embraced that.

 

“Wow!” exclaimed Stiles.   “Egomaniac much?”

Christopher raked a hand over his face.  “What I want to know is what has changed for him that he has this new lease on life.”

Talia frowned.  “I want to know the minute he passes into this territory!  He is a danger to my entire Pack, human and Wolf alike.”

“I agree with you, Alpha Hale,” Chris said grimly.  “If he does contact Allison again, I’ll be sure to notify you first.  I’ll also be keeping a closer eye on her away from school.”

Stiles looked sharply at Christopher.  “Watch the woods!  Every week, three days a week, Allison, Isaac, and I run the same route from my house and through the woods, for Cross Country practice.  It’s a difficult route, and the landscape gives us good experience for actual meets.  That may be how he knew to use my address for this letter.”

“Well,” said Chris in response, “You’re going to have to change your pattern, or stop altogether.  Or I can run with you.”

“Yeah, you can do that, and we can change our route.  I, personally, don’t feel safe knowing he’s around here, and I have defenses.”

“Okay, then,” said Chris, obviously thinking about his father, “Let’s make a plan of attack.  Or, rather, a plan of defense.”

 

The three of them, Alpha Hale, Christopher Argent, and Ignacek Stilinski, sat in the Argent den talking for hours.  At one point, Stiles called his father and told him to order pizza for dinner, as he would be late coming home.

They set down new rules of engagement if Gerard Argent was spotted in or around Beacon Hills.

Allison was never to be left alone, because she was who Gerard had fixated upon.  Stiles offered to spell her some protection, and she agreed to take it if she got to pick the physical form it would take.  She chose a ring that belonged to her father, and Stiles took it home to work the spell on the ring and a chain Allison would use to wear it around her neck.

Isaac was given a photo of Gerard so that he could possibly identify the man if he showed up in a crowd around the school or at Cross Country meets.  The rest of their group of friends was shown the same photo for the same reason.

A phone tree was put into practice, in case Allison was approached while she was with different friends.

It was agreed that the teen Wolves would not act in defense, because Gerard was dangerous to werewolves, even if he was weakened by cancer.  Talia made sure to use her Alpha Voice when ordering that edict, so that the teens would unequivocally obey her.  She would not risk her Pack for any reason.

Victoria agreed to stay with Christopher or a large group of people, because she didn’t want to risk the life she carried within her.  She was taking very close care of her person now that she had decided to keep the baby.

 

By the time Stiles got home and explained to his father what was going on, he was exhausted.  But because it was Thursday, Stiles took the time to make a quick phone call to Derek.

“Hey,” said Derek as he answered, “it’s late.  I figured you weren’t going to call.”

“No way, babe.  You can’t keep me from my sweetie!  But I had a really long day, so this is going to be short.”

“What happened today, Stiles?  You can tell me anything.  You know that.  My job is to take your burdens, just like yours is to take mine.”

“Okay, do you have some time?” Stiles said around a yawn as the tension of the day finally hit him.

“For you, I always have time.”

˜˜˜˜˜

November 2012

 The confrontation with Gerard Argent came the week of Thanksgiving.

The school district was on a week-long holiday and Stiles was anxiously staring at several large envelopes that have been arriving all month long.

College acceptance letters.

They’ve all been getting them.

By general agreement, the whole gang had decided to open them and reply privately, and then to announce at the New Year’s Eve party where they’ve decided to go.  This was mainly for Jackson and Lydia’s benefit, but the whole gang agreed to it.

Stiles has opened three so far, and there are six others in front of him. He’s waiting until his father is home so they can go over them together.  Stiles only applied to ten colleges, so there is one more letter left to arrive.  He’s been accepted to all of them so far.

UC Davis is the one he wants.

UC Davis is the one that hasn’t come yet.

 

Stiles’ cell phone rings just as he’s preparing dinner, and it’s ‘Silver’ by Echo and the Bunnymen—Allison’s ringtone.

“Hey, Allison!  What’s up?”

“Oh, god, oh, god—Stiles, call the Alpha!  We’re at Holiday Center!  Dad killed him, but he bit Isaac!”  Allison was in hysterics, crying and screaming, and Stiles could barely make her out.

“Wait!  What?  Are you okay?”

“No!” Allison screamed.  “Call the Alpha!  Now!  We have to save him!”

She disconnected the call, and Stiles immediately called Talia Hale.

“Stiles?  What can I do for you?”

“No time for pleasantries, Alpha.  You’re needed at Holiday Center.  Isaac was Bitten, I think.  Allison called and told me to call you.”

Stiles could hear Talia bustling around her office.  “I’m on my way.  I’ll meet you there!”

Stiles called his father as he was climbing into his Jeep.  “Hey, Dad, I’m on my way to Holiday Center.  I think you should come.  Allison and Isaac were attacked.”

 

Holiday Center was a large sports park, with running trails, tennis courts, a skate park, and a lake with a fake beach.  It was in the north-east part of town, and was popular with families.  Allison and Isaac had taken to running there on weekends because the terrain was varied on the running trails.  With the new rules about never leaving Allison alone, Christopher would run with them, only paced far enough behind that they wouldn’t look like a group.

Christopher also ran armed.

 

Stiles and Alpha Hale arrived at the same time, followed shortly by the Sheriff.  They all ran toward the wooded trails, as that was the most likely area for an ambush and attack.

They found Allison on the ground, cradling Isaac’s head in her lap.  He was bleeding profusely from a large wound on his neck.  Christopher was standing over the body of…what the hell was that?!

It was man-shaped, but not human-looking.

Just as Stiles was recognizing the abomination from his long-ago vision, the form began to change shape, shifting from ‘thing’ to an elderly man.

Gerard Argent, dead with a bullet hole in his chest.

 

“What happened?!”  Talia, Stiles, and John all spoke at once, but Christopher was the one to answer.

“He came out of the woods just over there,” he indicated the wooded area to the north of the trail, “and he approached Allison and Isaac quickly.  He hadn’t seen me yet, so I was able to get close enough to hear him.  He kept talking about finding a way to stay alive after contracting cancer, and that Allison should take her place by his side as a new generation of a better, stronger Hunter.  She told him that she wanted no part of him or his ‘new lifestyle’, and he said that he could entice her by taking her boyfriend.”

Christopher looked tired and aged.  “Allison asked what he was talking about, trying to buy time, and Gerard told her that he found a weak Alpha and forced her to give him the Bite; that he was stronger now and he could make her strong, too.  He lunged for her, and Isaac got in the way.   Gerard grabbed him and bit him before I could get a shot off.”

John examined the body closely.  The bullet hole was center chest, near the heart.  Thick black goop was oozing from the wound.  “It looks like you managed to get him pretty good with one shot.  What is that stuff?”

“Wolfsbane,” Chris rasped.  “I carry hand-packed rounds laced with Wolfsbane.  It’s poisonous to werewolves.  With a shot close to the heart like that, death is practically immediate.”  Chris looked at John—the lawman in front of him.  “He threatened my daughter and her boyfriend.  I shot in self-defense of another person.”

John nodded.  “It’s a legal kill.  I’ll talk to the DA personally.  I believe Mr. Whittemore will be very understanding in this case.”

“Yes,” Chris agreed. “But what about Isaac?  Alpha, will he survive?”

Talia looked at the boy in front of her.  “The wound is beginning to heal already, so he hasn’t rejected the Bite.  Sheriff, have you called his brother?”

“I’ll do that now,” said John as he pulled his phone from its holster.

“Tell him that Isaac was Bitten by a Rogue Alpha that has been killed.  No,” Talia changed gears quickly, “give me the phone, and I’ll tell him myself.  This bit is very urgent.”

John dialed Deputy Camden Lahey’s private cell.  “Deputy, are you in a secure place?”

“Yes, Sheriff.  What’s going on?”

“I’m going to put you on with Alpha Hale.  There has been an incident.  She needs to speak to you.”

John passed Talia the phone, and she spoke very calmly.  “Deputy Lahey, your brother was Bitten by a Rogue Alpha. He has not rejected the Bite, but there is a problem.”

“What is the problem?  He’s not dying, is he?”

“No, but the Alpha that bit him is dead.  Isaac has no Alpha now.  He will be a Wolf without balance, because he will instinctively seek his Alpha, who will not be there.”

“Can you do it?  Can’t you be his Alpha?”

Talia looked into Isaac’s eyes as she answered the brother. “I can become his Alpha, but I will have to Bite him again, in the same place as the original Bite.  It will be painful and dangerous, and there is a chance that he will not survive the shock.”

“And if you don’t do this?”

“Then he will be driven mad by the absence of the Alpha, and he will have to be put down.”

There was a long, dark pause, and then Camden’s voice came clearly from the phone.  “Do it.  I’m on my way there now, but do it.  Don’t wait for me.  I trust you to do right by my brother.”

“All right,” said Talia calmly.  “I will do as you ask.  Here is the Sheriff again; he can tell you where we are.”

Talia handed the phone back to John and looked tenderly at Isaac.  “Do you understand what you heard?”

Isaac nodded.  “Yea—yeah.  Yes, I do.  You have to Bite me again, or I’ll die.”

“Do you understand that you might die anyway?”

“Yeah.  But half a chance is better than no chance.”

Talia smiled at him and then looked at Allison.  “Hold him still, dear.  This will be a shock, and he will struggle.”

Allison whispered “Okay” and tightened her hold on Isaac’s shoulders.  Stiles moved to kneel behind her to offer support and help in holding Isaac down.  He looked at Isaac and drew his attention away from Talia, who was Shifting in preparation for the Bite.

“Hey, Isaac!” said Stiles soothingly.  “Look at us, okay?  You don’t need to watch this.  You’re going to be okay, you hear?”

Isaac nodded minutely and made to answer when Talia struck quickly.   Isaac screamed in pain and passed out cold.

Allison began sobbing in earnest, and Stiles hugged her from behind.

 

John was on the phone again, now with Deputy Reed, arranging the crime scene crew.  Reed agreed to come to the scene himself in order to back up the Sheriff’s claim that there was a weapon—a knife that Gerard actually had on his person—involved in the threat to Allison and Isaac.  After Reed said that he was on his way, an ambulance and coroner were called, and then John called the District Attorney’s office, asking for David Whittemore.  Whittemore had been apprised of the Gerard situation, so he was not surprised to hear that Christopher shot him in defense of his daughter.  Whittemore was surprised to hear that Gerard was a Wolf, albeit a deformed and corrupted Wolf.

“It definitely sounds like just cause, Sheriff.  I’ll be sure to give the relevant information to the judge.  There won’t be a trial.  There is enough personal history of bad blood between father and son here that defense is believable.”

John was assuring Christopher of his innocence when a Sheriff’s Department Cruiser pulled into the parking lot and Camden Lahey came running over the hill toward them.  He saw his younger brother covered in blood and lying unconscious on the ground in Allison’s lap, and he fell to his knees beside them, softly stroking his hands over his brother’s body.

“Is he okay?  I can’t tell if he’s okay or not.”

Talia laid her hand on the distraught deputy’s shoulder.   “His heartbeat is steady now.  His breathing is fine.  He just passed out from shock, but he’s going to be fine.”

Camden gave a huge relieved sigh. “Oh, thank god!  I was so afraid!”

“I know,” said Talia gently.  “But we can take care of him now.  He’ll be a welcome member of my Pack.”

Camden looked at the older woman and smiled.  “It’s not something he wanted, you know?  He was a happy human.  And now he has to deal with this almost half-way through his senior year.”

“Well,” said Talia reluctantly, “he’s going to have to be out of school for a while.  You can claim serious injury in the attack that needs time to heal, but he’ll need to train up before he can go back into a school environment.  His senses will be all over the place.  If you like, I can take him home with me now.”

Camden nodded.  “Yeah, that might be for the best.  I don’t want him accidentally hurting someone while he’s getting himself under control.”

Talia stood up and straightened her suit.  “He should be fine by New Year’s.  I’ll devote as much time as I can to training him, and Scott McCall and Jackson Whittemore can come by to help after school.  He’ll have two Moon Runs behind him by January First.”

“As long as he keeps up with his school work, that will be fine.”  Camden stood and helped Talia lift Isaac from the ground.  “I know you can probably carry him by yourself, but he’s a mess and your suit is still clean.  This way, if someone sees me covered in blood, I can explain about Isaac’s attack and it will be believable.”

“Of course, Deputy.  We’ll even have a doctor look at him, to give a medical excuse for his school absence.  I have a doctor that my family uses.  He’s in the know about wolves, so he’ll understand the urgency.”

 

Stiles helped Allison to her feet.  “Hey, Dad, do you need us here?”

“Yeah, son,” John replied with a sigh.  “The DA will have questions for Allison, so you should stick around.”

“Okay.  I’m going to take her for hot chocolate at the coffee stand by the skate park.  We’re gonna stay clear of the scene, because when her shock wears off, the sight of that body isn’t going to be good for her.”

“Oh, god!”  Christopher rushed to his daughter’s side.  He pulled her into a hard hug, rocking slowly back and forth.  “I’m so sorry, Allison.  I’m so sorry you had to see that.”

“It’s okay, Dad.  He would have Bitten me, too, if he had the chance.  He was crazy.  I could see it in his eyes.”

Allison allowed Stiles to guide her off to the coffee shop, and they sat closely together while they sipped their chocolate.

“Why do you suppose he looked like that?” Allison asked with a quake in her voice.

Stiles started at the question.  “Hmm? Oh, all deformed and such?”

“Yeah.  I’ve seen Scott and Jackson when they Shift, and they don’t look like that.”

“Well,” said Stiles after a moment of thought, “he was sick, right?  Cancer?  I think his treatments—the medication he had to have been on when he was Bitten—combined with any deterioration of his body from the cancer may have corrupted his form.  That’s probably why neither Alpha Hale nor I could sense his magic in the territory; the magic was corrupted by illness.  That, and he was bone-deep crazy, and would most likely gone Omega if left for much longer.  He would have to have been put down sooner or later.”

“I’m glad he’s gone,” Allison said finally.  “He scared me so much!  Does that make me a bad person?”

Stiles shook his head.  “I don’t think it makes you a bad person, Allison.  He wasn’t a warm, fluffy grandpa.  He was dangerous, and he could have done a lot of damage to you and your family.  He could have used you to harm your family.”

“What do you mean?” Allison asked, startled.

“Well, Scott and Derek have both told me that the Bond of an Alpha calls to the Beta.  Like, they can feel Talia’s will under their skin.  If the Alpha is a bad Alpha—like unlawfully bad—he could force the Betas to hurt people, or steal, or kill, because the Alpha’s will is what keeps the Beta alive.  That’s why strong Packs are important and Omegas mostly go insane.”

“Do you mean ‘mind control’?”

Stiles shook his head.  “Not really like that, no.  It’s more like…well, this is going to sound really bad, but it’s like puppeteering.  The Beta can break the Bond if they try hard enough, but a good Alpha is a welcome presence in a Beta’s mind and life.  A good Alpha won’t yank the strings too hard.  Talia Hale is a very good Alpha.  She really cares for the Wolves and humans in her Pack.  She wants them to all be happy and healthy, and to have free will.  Something tells me Gerard wouldn’t have been like that.”

Allison stared morosely into her cup.  “He really, really would not have been a good Alpha.” She leaned against Stiles’ arm and laid her head on his shoulder.  “Isaac’s really going to be okay, right?”

Stiles nodded against her cheek.  “Yeah.  He’s going to be fine.  He has a great Pack, and they all take care of each other.  The question now is: Is your family going to be okay with you dating a werewolf?”

“I don’t even care.  I really like Isaac.  I don’t know if we’re going to last forever, but we’re going to last for now, and that’s what matters.”

Stiles patted her knee.  “Good girl.”

**

Camden Lahey was invited to spend Thanksgiving with the Hale Family, because Isaac was staying there until his training was complete enough for him to be around people.  Since the Lahey patriarch was planning to fly to Wisconsin to visit his sister, Camden accepted the invitation.  He wanted to see for himself how Isaac was progressing.

 

Allison was prepared to throw down with her parents over Isaac, but they beat her to the punch.  Victoria allowed as to how Isaac was a very respectful young man who treated Allison well, so she didn’t figure being Turned would change that.  Christopher backed her up, reiterating the fact that Isaac put himself between Allison and Gerard when the old man began to attack.

“I’m glad to have someone like that with you, Allison.  He puts your needs first.  A man needs to do that for the woman he loves.”  Christopher was eyeing Victoria’s growing baby-bump as he spoke.  He really wanted the baby, but he was so afraid that she would choose the abortion—which she almost did.  He would have supported her, but he would have grieved for the baby.

˜˜˜˜˜

December 2012

 Stiles was busy driving his father crazy bouncing all over the house.  He was cooking, and baking, and cleaning, and doing laundry.  John would be happy about the chores getting done, if only Stiles wasn’t vibrating with excitement while doing them.

Derek was coming home to stay.

Stiles was over the moon!

Derek’s classroom education was over, and he was officially moving back to Beacon Hills to do his Internship and Residency at Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital.  He would be moving into a loft apartment in the industrial district near the hospital, and Stiles would be helping him move in.

 

John had given strict restrictions about how often Stiles could spend time at the loft.  Stiles agreed to follow the rules, even though he was eighteen and legally an adult.  He respected his father too much to ignore dating protocols.

Derek also agreed that Stiles shouldn’t spend a lot of time alone at the loft with Derek, but mainly that was because they had only been on a handful of official dates and were still taking things slowly.

Whatever!

Derek was coming home!

 

Stiles was baking Derek’s favorite cookies in celebration of his return, and would be taking them to the Hale house that weekend.  He was also taking Derek’s Christmas/Birthday gift, so it could be placed under the tree in the Hale’s living room.

Stiles also had to take Isaac’s brand-new talisman pendant with him.  Stiles began crafting the spell work for it the day Isaac was Bitten, and he smelted and poured the bronze on November twenty-eighth, the full moon right after Thanksgiving.  The talisman would have to sit and set in a purified salt bath until December twenty-eighth before Isaac could wear it, but Stiles figured he’d like to be near it for a while so he could begin to feel the magic in it.  When he was informed that he would be receiving an aconite-blossom talisman of his own, Isaac requested a chain instead of the spelled leather that the other teen wolves had, so Stiles casted a bronze chain identical to Derek’s.  Stiles figured that Isaac wanted the extra protection of a chain because of how traumatic his Turning was.

 

Today was December fourteenth, and school had let out for Winter Break.  Stiles knew that his friends were planning on converging upon the Hale house on the weekend to ‘help’ Isaac with his school assignments that were due in January when the new semester began.  Lydia, for one, refused to allow Isaac to fail out because of an unfortunate werewolf attack.

Those were her exact words.

Isaac almost crushed her, he hugged her so hard.

 

Derek was due in by dinner time, so Stiles wanted to be there to help prepare the meal.  He loaded a basket with the cookies—four dozen, so there was plenty to share—and called out to his father, “Dad, I’m heading out now!  Call me when you’re on your way, okay?”

“I will.  Tell Derek ‘hi’ for me!”

“I will, even though you’ll be seeing him yourself in a few hours.  Bye!”

 

Stiles loaded his cookie basket and gifts into the Jeep, and buckled himself into the driver’s seat.  He drove carefully, not only to keep from breaking anything, but also because this December brought a freak snowfall and the roads were slick with snow and ice.

California sometimes got snow, but not this part of it, and everyone was giddy with excitement at the idea of sledding and building snow people.  Talia used the unusual weather as a training exercise for the teen wolves, because the extreme cold stifled natural scents in the wild.  Stiles, Lydia, and Allison gathered on the Hale’s back deck, wrapped in warm blankets and sipping cocoa, and watched Erica, Jackson, Scott, and Isaac try to track Boyd and Michael Hale through the snowy woods.  Isaac found Boyd first, which was a source of great amusement for the rest of the Pack, and Erica found Michael just as quickly.

Boyd had been talking to Talia about possibly receiving the Bite after college, because he wanted to share that with Erica, and Talia agreed that being a werewolf teacher could be interesting.  For one thing, he’d be able to tell when his students were lying to him.

Allison was enjoying the fact that, as a Wolf, Isaac put out more body heat than a regular human, and they stayed outside longer just to watch the snow fall.

 

But it had been a few days since the initial snowfall, and Stiles was officially sick of driving in it.  Apparently, everybody else in Beacon Hills was tired of it, too.  There were a lot of traffic accidents as the unhappy citizens tried to drive normally on the slick roads, only to find that their ‘normal’ reflexes were not enough.  Stiles passed several cars in ditches on his way out to the Hale house.

 

He breathed a sigh of relief when he finally arrived, and he just sat in the Jeep for a few minutes to calm his nerves before moving to the house.  By the time he opened his door, Isaac was standing beside the Jeep watching him curiously.

“We heard you pull onto the drive.  What’s taking you so long?”

“I needed to get into my peaceful space.  The roads are a disaster out there!  I’ve been very lucky not to have been in an accident, because driving in this is not fun!”

“Yeah, I know.  Camden has been telling me all about the traffic calls he’s had to take all week.  And his patrol area is in the outer parts of the county.  I bet it’s even worse in town, where there are more drivers.”

“It’s not peachy, I’ll tell you that.  Help my carry this stuff inside, would you?”

 

Stiles handed the cookie basket to Isaac, and he carried the box of gifts himself.  Isaac carried the cookies into the kitchen while Stiles stacked gifts under the tree.  When he stood up and turned around, he found Talia watching him with a bemused smile.

“Making yourself at home, Stiles?”

Stiles nodded.  “Yes, I am.  Oh, hey—I need a window that gets good moonlight exposure.”

 

Talia raised an eyebrow at the boy.  “Most people look for good sun exposure when placing windows.”

Stiles shrugged carelessly.  “Yeah, well, most people don’t have spell work that needs to finish by moonlight.  Do you have a good spot?”

“There’s a spot, but it’s not inside.  Will that matter?”

“Not if it’s free of animal activity.  The pendant really shouldn’t be disturbed while it’s curing.”

Talia nodded.  “That’s fine.  Follow me.  There is a ledge over the back deck that catches moonlight all year long.”

“That’ll work.”

 

After positioning the dish of salt, Stiles joined Robert Hale in the kitchen to fix dinner.

“What are we making, boss man?”  Stiles asked as he washed his hands.

“I was thinking about veggie lasagna.  With fresh garlic bread and a field-green salad.”

“Good deal,” said Stiles, clapping his hands.  “What would you like me to do?”

“Can you get started on the bread?  The dough has risen twice already.  Once you get that in the oven, you can mix up the salad dressing.”

“Okey-dokey!  Do you just want garlic on the top of the bread, or mixed into the dough?  Because I saw this neat bread recipe online that used whole cloves mixed in and baked in the dough.”

Robert looked very interested in that.  “That sounds really good, Stiles.  Why don’t you try that?”

They worked side by side in silence.  Well, Robert worked in silence.  Stiles was not silent.

As he prepared the fresh vegetables for the lasagna, Robert listened to Stiles’ low murmur as he chanted health spells while he worked.  Robert was used to this.  Stiles had begun casting magic into his cooking around the time Robert began to teach him to do more than bake cookies.  It was second nature at this point, almost as easy as breathing, and Robert believed it made the food taste just a little bit better.

Stiles also tried his hardest to always be happy while cooking, because he saw ‘Like Water For Chocolate’ and believed that emotion could transfer into the food, and nobody wanted sad and miserable pot roast.

Robert and his sister-in-law Regan spent a lot of time debating the possible success of pulling Stiles into the restaurant business.  It would certainly be a successful partnership, but Robert had a feeling that Stiles’ heart lay elsewhere.

Still, it was a joyful experience to work with Stiles in the kitchen.

 

Eventually, Michael and Cora wandered into the kitchen to watch Stiles work.  They were always amazed at the magical sparks that flew from his fingers as he chopped or kneaded or stirred.  Michael wanted to cook like Stiles, but he hadn’t worked up the courage to ask for magical training yet.  Since he was almost fourteen, he figured he’d better get on that soon.

“Stiles,” said Michael as he sat at the counter, “can you teach me to do that?”

Stiles looked up from his task.  “What?  Make salad dressing?”

“Well, yeah,” Michael stammered, “but no.  Can you teach me to cook with magic like you do?”

Stiles wrinkled his nose as he thought about the request.  “I don’t know, Michael.  I can teach you to cook—but then, so can your dad.  I can teach you little bits of magic, like I’m teaching Isaac and Allison with the knitting.  But the magical cooking thing?  I think that’s my natural ‘spark’.  I started doing this when I was younger than you.  Have you asked Donna Maria if you have a spark?”

Michael shook his head. “No.  Can’t you tell?”

“I guess I could if I was looking for it.  How about this:  You let me finish in here with your dad, and you go ask your Alpha if you can get a scan.  And if she says yes, I’ll scan you.  But if she says no, it’s no-go, okay?”

“Okay.  Thanks!”  And Michael ran out of the kitchen, looking for his mother.

Robert snorted.

“What?” Stiles asked, indignant.

“Oh, nothing,” said Robert dryly.  “It’s just—I’m standing right here, and not once did it occur to you to say ‘why not ask your father’.  It’s funny.”

Stiles smirked.  “Well, I know you share parenting duties, and that you basically rule the household, but magical training is under Pack purview, and so Talia is Alpha and in charge.  I’m sorry if I stepped on your toes.”

“You didn’t.  But not everyone would understand the distinction.  You picked up on it right away, when you were younger than Michael.”

Stiles shrugged.  “I guess it just made sense.  This family works, and the Pack works, and somehow you manage to keep it separate.  I hope I can do that with Derek, when the time comes.”

Robert smiled.  “I don’t think you’ll have any problem, Stiles.”

 

Talia agreed to allow Stiles to search for magic in her youngest child, but said they had to wait until after dinner.  With that answer, Michael went into the living room and put a movie into the DVD player.

Derek came in half way through ‘Ella Enchanted’.

 

Stiles shot off the sofa and launched himself into Derek’s arms for a welcoming hug.

 

“I missed you!”

Derek laughed.  “I can tell.  I’m sorry I couldn’t come home more often.”

“Don’t be sorry about that.  We got to camp together this summer, and we talked on the phone or Skype every week.  I knew you had to knuckle-down with the studying.”

Derek kissed Stiles on the forehead.  “I had a classmate this semester, in Anatomy, that would complain every day—over a cadaver, mind you—that his girlfriend wanted him to not be a doctor because he never had time for her.”

Stiles stepped back and gave Derek a flat look.  “Well, that’s just stupid.”

Derek laughed and kissed Stiles softly on the mouth.  “I think I’m very lucky.”

“I know you’re very lucky.  You’re lucky, I’m lucky, everybody in this Pack is lucky.  How was your drive up?”

“Messy and cold.  I need to fix the heater in the Samurai.  It went out fifty miles ago.”

“Well, come into the living room and sit by the fire.  I’ll help you work on the vehicle tomorrow.”

Derek allowed himself to be pulled into the other room, ignoring his family’s amused glances.  “While I would appreciate your assistance, I think I’d rather have Dad help me. We have more body heat than you do, and it’s supposed to snow again tomorrow.”

Stiles shuddered.  “Ugh!  This winter is horrible!”

Derek sat next to Stiles on the floor in front of the fireplace and endured many questions about his trip home and his immediate plans now that he was there.  John arrived just before dinner was to be served, and he greeted Derek with a manly hug and back-slap.

“Good to see you, son.  I’m glad you made it home in one piece.”

“Yeah, me too.  How have you been, sir?”

 

Stiles left his two men to their chit-chat and he went to pour drinks for dinner.  Isaac was setting the table and Michael and Cora carried dishes of food and salad to the table.  They were using the formal dining room, which had an expandable table large enough to seat twenty.  It was perfect for large family gatherings.  Stiles sat between Derek and John, and felt happier than he had in a long time.

**

On Christmas Day, Stiles woke early and padded lightly to the kitchen to make coffee and think about breakfast.  His father worked the late shift the night before, so Stiles wanted to allow him to sleep as long as possible.

Especially since Melissa had spent the night.

Stiles smiled at the memory of watching her walk past his bedroom door on her way to brush her teeth.  It was a new development in his father’s relationship, much like John’s placing his wedding ring in an old jewel case on his dresser instead of wearing it all the time.   Stiles was happy for his father and Melissa.  They deserved a little happiness in their lives.  They had been friends for so long; romance was the next logical step for them.

Just like him and Derek.

 

Stiles had finished his first cup of coffee and had decided on a French toast bake, so he got up to make bacon for the dish.  The sun was up and reflecting off the snow in the back yard, giving the kitchen a nice glitter effect.  Stiles hummed a little tune while he placed the bacon into the oven, and he heard his father—or Melissa—moving around upstairs.

Minutes later, Stiles heard footsteps on the stairs and he turned to face…his father.

“Is Melissa still sleeping?”

John scratched his belly and yawned.  “Yeah.  I think she had a worse night than I did, so I didn’t want to wake her.”

Stiles turned back to the stove.  “That’s okay.  Breakfast won’t be ready for a while.  Is she going to the Hale’s with us tonight?”

John poured himself some coffee and took a seat at the kitchen table.  “Yeah.  One of the other nurses switched shifts with her at the last minute because her family couldn’t make it in for the holiday.  Did Scott stay over there last night?”

“He did unless one of the Hales drove him home.  His motorcycle is of no use in this weather, and I left early because I didn’t want to drive in the fresh ice.”

“I don’t blame you, kid.  I don’t like driving in it either.  Do you want to carpool over, or were you planning on staying over?”

Stiles looked over at his father and raised an eyebrow.  “Really?  You want me to stay over?”

John gave a shrug.  “You can, you know.  I know you want to spend as much time as possible with Derek.”

“I thought you didn’t want me to spend a lot of time alone with Derek.”

“Not in his loft, no.  But in his parent’s home?  That’s okay.”

Stiles stared at his father.  “I see.  You do realize that we can get up to no good while his parents are home, right?  The bedrooms are sound-proofed, just like Talia’s office.”

John fiddled with his coffee mug.  “Well, maybe I’m counting on Derek’s good character to keep you from doing too much ‘no-gooding’.”

“Uh-huh.  And maybe you’re counting on having the house to yourself so you can be alone with Melissa.”

John smirked and drank deeply from his mug.

Stiles huffed at his father.  “Right.  I’ll call Derek later and let him know that I’ll be staying over.”

 

 

By the time the casserole was out of the oven and a second pot of coffee was brewed, Melissa had made her way out of bed and down the stairs.   They ate in companionable silence, and Melissa volunteered to wash up since she was such a lay about all morning.

“Okay,” said Stiles easily, “I’ll leave you to it.  I’m gonna go call Derek.”

Stiles placed the call in his bedroom, while packing an overnight bag.

“Good morning, Stiles.  What’s up?”  Derek sounded good that morning.

“You’re gonna have me all night tonight, so I hope you don’t mind.”

“Why would I mind?  I love having you around.”

“That’s good.  Talia isn’t going to freak if I spend the night?”

“Stiles, you are aware that Scott stays overnight here all the time, with Cora, right?”

Stiles paused in his packing.  “Well, yeah.  But this is different.”

Derek laughed lightly in his ear.  “Not really. We’re all in committed relationships.  Actually, you and I may be in a more committed relationship that they are.  It’ll be fine.  And it will give us an opportunity to find out if we can sleep next to each other.”

“Why?  Do you snore?”

“I don’t know?  I’m asleep, so I don’t hear myself.  Would that be a deal-breaker for you?”

“Nope.  I’d just invest in earplugs.”

“Okay,” Derek laughed.  “When are you coming over?”

“This afternoon.  I want to let the sun melt some of the ice a bit first.”

“Sounds good.  Call me when you’re on your way, so I know when to start worrying.”

**

Sometime later, Stiles walked back downstairs and heard Melissa complaining to his father.

“Scott says he was waiting outside of the school before break, wanting to give him a ride home.”

“Has he been bothering you at all?”  John’s voice showed concern.

“He’s come by the house a few time when I was home.  I invited him to leave.  Then, yesterday he came to the hospital at the start of my shift.  I just wish I knew what he wanted.”

John snorted.  “I would like to know what he’s doing still in this area.  Laura Hale hasn’t shown up or even contacted her family.  There are no more missing persons in this case that I’ve heard of.  He’s not hanging around the Station anymore.  Do you want me to call the FBI branch in San Diego and find out why he’s still here?”

Melissa sighed in relief.  “If you wouldn’t mind, that would be great.  It’s not an abuse of power?”

“It’s more of an abuse of power for Rafael to be sticking around without a case, just so he can harass his son and ex-wife.  I’ll make the call after the holiday, okay?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

 

There was silence in a long pause, so Stiles figured they were getting cozy.  He stomped louder than usual as he walked toward the living room.

“Hey, guys!  I’m gonna head out toward the Hale’s now.  Michael wants to bake banana bread with me.”

John grinned at his son.  “So he still wants to cook, even if he doesn’t have any ‘spark’?”

“Yeah.  I think food is in his blood, you know?  A chef for a father and a pastry chef aunt, plus Rick Hale is a total foodie and so is Oscar!  The least I can do for Michael is spend time with him in the kitchen.  He’ll kick ass in HomeEc in high school next year!”

˜˜˜˜˜

Later that night, after all the gifts were opened and a large dinner was eaten, Stiles sat cozily next to Derek on a sofa in the private library.  They were looking through an old picto-book that detailed Native American myths from several tribes along the western seaboard.  Derek’s arm was stretched out across the back of the sofa, and Stiles was curled into the other man.  The book rested on their shared laps, and Stiles carefully turned the pages as they tried to make sense of some of the drawings.

Stiles stifled a yawn and Derek leaned over to kiss his temple.

“It’s getting late.  Are you about ready for bed?”

Stiles looked at his watch in alarm.  “Holy cow! I didn’t realize it was so late.  No wonder I’m so tired.  Yeah, let’s head up.”

Derek replaced the book on its shelf.  “I like that we can lose time with each other.  I never feel rushed when I’m with you.”

Stiles reached out a hand to pull Derek close.  “That’s all well and good, until we have somewhere to be in a hurry.”

Derek led Stiles up the stairs to his bedroom.  For all that Stiles had spent a significant amount of time in this house while growing up, he had never been on this floor.  It was a private, family place, and Stiles never felt like he had the right to come up here.

Until now, that is.

Now, Derek was leading him into a nicely decorated bedroom and closing the door behind them.

 

Derek had a nice queen-sized bed that was positioned under the single window.  A mirrored dresser was against one wall, next to a closet, and the other wall was covered in bookshelves.  There was a chair and floor lamp along the wall with the door.  The floor space was clear and neat.

“It’s a bit snug, I think,” said Derek as Stiles took in the room.  “I’m putting a king-sized bed in the loft.  I tend to both read in bed and sprawl when I sleep.”

Stiles turned a bemused look at his boyfriend.  “So your goal is to be able to sprawl next to a pile of books?”

“Something like that.  I’ll get changed in the bathroom, so you can have some privacy, okay?”

Stiles nodded.  “Yeah, that’s good.”

 

Stiles dug into his bag for his sleep pants and t-shirt and Derek pulled his own sleep clothes out of the dresser and walked into the hallway toward the bathroom.  Stiles changed clothes, carefully folding his day wear and placing it on the chair.  He pulled out his toothbrush and was heading toward the door when Derek returned to the bedroom.  Derek kissed Stiles’ cheek as they passed in the doorway, and Stiles made his way down the hall to the bathroom.

Stiles used the facilities and brushed his teeth, all the while giving himself a mental pep-talk.  Finally, he looked into the mirror.  “This is no big deal, Stiles.  It’s just Derek.  You like Derek.  You like sleep.  You can like sleeping with Derek.”

Stiles rolled his shoulders a few times and then left the bathroom.  On the short trip back to the bedroom, one single thought entered his head and made him smile.

 

“Hey, Derek,” he said as he closed the door behind him, “We can finally show each other our tattoos!”

Derek gave him a considering look as he drew back the blankets.  “I guess we can. Do you want to go first, or me?”

“You can go first, since mine has to be seen up close and personal.”

“Okay.”

Derek straightened and turned his back to Stiles and stripped off his shirt.

 

Stiles forgot how to breathe.

 

There, in front of him, was the most amazingly muscled back he had ever seen.  And he was on the Lacrosse team with insanely fit werewolves!

Derek’s shoulders were broad and well-muscled, which Stiles knew intellectually because of all the hugs the two shared.  But to see it in the flesh….

The shoulders tapered to a slim, defined waist and hips.  Derek’s sleep pants dipped low over his hips, and Stiles could see the jut of bone above the waist-line.  And in the center of it all?

A dark, thick triskelion that fitted neatly in the space between Derek’s shoulder blades.

 

Stiles wanted to touch it.  For many reasons.

The naked flesh was calling to him in a primal way.

The mystical meaning of the tattoo was calling to him, magic to magic.

 

It was Derek, at the heart of things, and Stiles was attracted in every way possible.

 

“It’s beautiful, Derek,” Stiles sighed.

Derek turned his head to look over his shoulder.  “Do you really think so?”

“Yeah.  It’s simple, but so striking.  I’m glad you hide it away, though.  I want to touch it so bad, I figure everybody who sees it will want to touch.”

Derek swallowed reflexively.  “You can, if you want to.  I don’t mind, if it’s you.”

Stiles stepped closer to Derek and reached out to run the fingers of his power hand lightly over the tattoo.  The skin was warm, and the ink was slightly textured under his touch.

“Can I?  Just give it a little….”

“Yeah,” Derek whispered.  “Whatever you want.”

Stiles reached deep within himself and pushed.  The tattoo, dark and solid, glowed blue and shimmered for a long moment, then went still and black again.

Derek shivered.  “What?  Was that….that felt good.”

“That’s how I feel when I’m with you.  Now you’ll feel it, too.”

Derek turned to face Stiles, and Stiles’ mouth went dry.

 

If Derek’s back was wonderful, his chest was perfection.

Those broad shoulders were supporting sculpted pecs and chiseled abs—a full six-pack, even.

The jut of Derek’s hips was even more defined from this angle.

Stiles was staring so hard, he didn’t realize that Derek was speaking.

 

“I’m sorry, what?” Stiles asked dumbly.

Derek smirked.  “I said, I wish I could show you how I feel about you as easily as that.”

Stiles frowned.  “But, you do, Derek.  You show me how you feel every time we speak.  Or spend time together.  Or just work on our vehicles together.  You showed me how you felt when you asked my father for permission to Court me.  And when you gave me this ring.”

 

Derek blushed and reached for his shirt.

“You don’t have to put that back on, if you don’t want to.”

Derek nodded.  “Okay.  Did you want to show me your tattoo?”

Stiles swallowed hard.  “Yeah, but you’ll have to come closer, I think.  I’m not flirting, I promise.  It’s a white-ink tattoo.”

“I’ve never seen one of those before.”

Stiles pulled his sleep shirt over his head and angled his body toward the light.  He raised his hand to outline the scar-like mark on his chest.  “I designed it myself.”

 

Derek stepped closer, and lifted his hand to touch the skin.  He leaned in to see the mark more clearly.  “That is so cool.  Wait…is that?  Are those my initials in there?”

Stiles nodded.  “The tattoo is a mixture of power sigils and runes for protection, safe travel, home, and safety.  So, I figured that you should be part of it, naturally.”

Derek lifted his head and looked directly into Stiles’ eyes.  “I really love it.  Maybe I can get one like it, with your initials worked into it.”

“Well, I could take you to the witch that did mine, but I don’t think he knows about werewolves.  I know you had to have special ink for yours.”

Derek nodded.  “Yeah.  It was infused with Wolfsbane.  That might not work with white ink.”

 

Stiles raised a hand to touch Derek’s on his chest.  “We can maybe work something out.”

 

Derek leaned forward and pressed his lips to Stiles’.  This kiss was more intimate than any previous kiss they had shared.  The exposed flesh was only part of that.

 

Derek’s tattoo was an intimate part of him, as was Stiles’, and this was the first time they shared those parts with each other.

 

Stiles allowed his free hand to drift over Derek’s shoulder, and Derek wrapped an arm around Stiles’ waist and pulled him closer.  Their mouths rubbed together intimately, and Stiles parted his lips slightly.  Derek took the opening and licked into Stiles’ mouth tentatively, deepening the kiss.

Stiles gasped and touched his tongue to Derek’s, and electricity shot through him.

Derek gasped and pulled away.  “I think, maybe, we should wait a while longer before doing this.”

Stiles nodded.  “Yeah.  Like maybe when you’re moved into your own place?  But can we still sleep with our shirts off?  I want to be close to you while we sleep.”

“Yeah, we can do that.  Both of that…those things. I’ll be moving into the loft on January first.”

Stiles smiled.  “I know that.  I’m helping you move, remember?  Come on—into bed.  I’m sleepy.”

˜˜˜˜˜

New Year’s Eve

 All of the younger members of the Hale Pack were gathered in the family room; each holding a college admission acceptance letter.  They had all agreed to get together here to announce which school they had chosen.  All of the teens had been collecting acceptance letters all semester, and by now they had all made their final choices.  Their parents and guardians already knew about, and approved of, the choices, but they were sworn to secrecy.

“Alright!” announced Stiles, “Who wants to go first?”

Lydia stood up.  “I will.  I want to make sure that Jackson knows that I chose what was best for me, regardless of his own choice.”

Jackson smiled at his girlfriend.  “I love you, Lyds.”

“I know.  I love you, too.  That’s why I chose—Stanford.  Their Engineering Department actually sent a scout to see me.  They told me I could be a rock star, so I decided to prove them right!”

Jackson’s jaw dropped.  “You picked Stanford?”

“Yes,” Lydia said archly.  “What about it?”

“I picked Stanford Law.”

Stiles cracked up.  “Oh, my god!!  After all of that angst, you two are going to the same school anyway!  That is hilarious!”

Jackson bumped shoulders with Stiles.  “Shut up, Stilinski.  Where are you going?”

“I, after hardly any deliberation at all, am going to UC Davis.”

Scott gave a fist pump.  “Me, too!  Their Veterinary program is really good!”

Cora smiled at her boyfriend.  “Well, you’ll have to visit often, then.  I’m going into the forestry program with the National Park service.  I’d like to become a Ranger here in the Preserve.”

Boyd spoke up next.  “I got accepted to San Diego State University.  I’m going to become a teacher.”

Allison laughed out loud.  “Me too!  To the college and the program!  I was really nervous about mentioning it to my parents, but they’re okay with it.  They’re really okay with it after the whole Gerard fiasco!”

“Well,” said Erica from her place on Boyd’s lap, “I’m headed to the Police Academy.  I want to protect and serve, and there’s a good chance I can get hired on here.”

“Me, too,” said Isaac.  “I’ve been talking to Camden about it.  It’s a tough job, but very fulfilling.  He had originally wanted to join the Army, but changed his mind when he decided to serve the local community.”

“Hmm…,” Stiles hummed. “Two werewolf cops in the area.  What did my dad say about that?”

Erica smirked.  “He made a crack about having a two-legged K9 squad.  But really, I think he’s very proud that two of us want to work with him.”

Danny sighed.  “I guess that leaves me, then.  I’ll be going to Davis with Stiles and Scott.  I like their computer program.”

“So,” said Scott, as the group moved back into the main party, “I guess we’re not splitting up after all.”

“Not far, at least.”  Stiles bumped shoulders with his friend.  “So the Pack can still support each other all through college.”

**

Stiles cozened up to Derek for the rest of the night, talking and laughing with the rest of the Hale family.  It was a good night.  It was a good party.

And at midnight, Stiles got to kiss the man he loved.

All was well, finally.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

2013

 The second semester of Stiles’ senior year brought many changes for the group of friends.

Derek was living in his own loft apartment near the hospital, and had begun his Internship/Residency combo course.  He would be spending a lot of time at the hospital now, learning the different medical departments before finalizing his own personal specialty.  Right now, Derek was set on Pediatrics, but that could change at any point.

Derek saw Melissa McCall on an almost daily basis, so they often took meal breaks together.  Because of this, the Sheriff was able to get to know Derek on a more personal level.  Derek welcomed the opportunity as well, because John was eventually going to be his father-in-law.

Of course, the attention of one of the senior nurses and the local Sheriff drew the censure of his fellow med students.

“Why is the Sheriff so interested in you, Hale?  You got a troubled past?”

Derek laughed.  “Nope.  He’s just a family friend.  I’ve known him since I was a kid.”

“And he’s still keeping tabs on you.”

Derek blushed.  “No, I’m, uh, dating his son.”

The other medical student, Arlena Schiff, stared at Derek.  “You.  Are dating the Sheriff’s son?  Are you serious?”

Derek nodded.  “I’m very serious.”  Derek was also very annoyed.  Schiff had been flirting with him since their term began on January sixth.

Her and every other female med student in this group.

And a few of the nurses’ aides.

And several of the nurses.

 

Derek was aware of his appearance.  His mother had often called him ‘bright boy’, and told him he was attractive when he was young.  He got his fair share of attention in high school, and in college.

And the way Stiles reacted to him was very telling.

 

But from an early age, looks were never important to Derek.

As a werewolf, Derek relied on other senses than sight to learn about people.

 

And when he finally found someone to care about—Paige—he fell for her soul.  And then she died.

 

The next person to claim to care for him…well, the less said about her, the better.

 

Derek hid from personal interaction for a long time afterwards, concentrating on his studies and sports.  By the time he started college and was ready for dating again, this little kid had wormed his way into Derek’s life and heart.

Stiles was five years younger, but he never seemed like a child to Derek.  They were equals in Derek’s mind.

They shared hopes and fears, dreams and nightmares.

Stiles was always around, learning to cook from Derek’s father or learning Pack business from Derek’s mother.  He was mature for a child, and even more mature as a teenager.

By the time Derek was twenty, he knew Stiles was the one for him; Derek’s true Mate in every sense.  Because Stiles was only fifteen at the time, Derek took the time to just get to know Stiles.

Four years later, and Derek was more than sure that he was in love.

And Stiles seemed to feel the same.

 

So, Derek kept ignoring the flirting directed his way.

And the arousal he smelled when the females were in close proximity.

 

“You can’t possibly be gay!  That’s just not fair!”  Schiff looked extremely annoyed, as if Derek’s personal life had personally offended her.

Derek cast an unimpressed look at Schiff.  “Really?  Because every man in the world just has to find you attractive?  Life doesn’t work that way, Schiff.”

The other woman sniffed.  “I don’t believe you.  Look at me!”  She posed like Vanna.  “I know I’m hot.  I have everything a man like you could want.  You just have to give in a little.”

Derek cocked his head as he looked the woman over.  Yes, she was pretty, in an overly made-up way.  She had a curvy figure and carried herself well.  But she was arrogant and nosy.

And also completely unaware of her surroundings.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace, Dr. Schiff, is on the ‘NO’ list.  Try to rein it in before Dr. Hale files an official complaint.”   Dr. Dunbar was a wonder in Emergency Medicine, and a complete badass as an instructor.

He also worked closely with Melissa McCall, so he knew all about Derek’s personal relationships within the hospital.

Dunbar was trying to get Derek to switch concentrations from Pediatrics to Emergency.  It wasn’t working yet, but Dunbar had Derek’s best interests in mind.

“Now,” announced the older doctor, “Let us begin rounds.”

As the group of students followed Dunbar like a flock of baby ducks, Schiff kept eyeing Derek like she was trying to deconstruct him.  Derek was content to let her stare.

He knew who he belonged to.

˜˜˜˜˜

February 2013

Allison ran through the halls of the school, barely aware of her surroundings.  Stiles saw her and called her name.

“Allison!  Class is in the other direction!”

“Can’t talk now, Stiles!  Dad just called the school office—Mom went into labor!”

Stiles ran alongside her.  “Wait!  Now?  Is she on schedule?”

“It’s a day early, but she’s on track.”

“Okay, let me drive you.  You are way too agitated to drive right now!”

Allison stopped and looked at her friend.   “Okay.  You can drive.”  She tossed Stiles her keys, but he tossed them back.

“Give them to Isaac, so he can come after class is out.  We’ll take my Jeep.”

“Right.”  Allison paused to take a deep breath.  “Very good idea.  Oh. My. God!  Stiles!  I’m gonna be a sister!”

Stiles grinned as the two friends walked into the cafeteria.  “Yes, you certainly are.”

**

Christopher Argent stood patiently by his wife’s shoulder, allowing her to break all the bones in his hand as she pushed hard to deliver their second child.

Victoria was doing well.

At least, she was masking her pain.

Chris could no longer feel his fingers, but he dutifully coached Victoria with her breathing as if nothing was wrong.

 

Nineteen years ago, Chris was on a Hunt with Gerard when Allison was born, so Chris missed all of what he was experiencing now.

It was loud and smelly and painful and gross—and Chris loved every minute of it.

 

Dr. Hresan was sitting on a low bench in front of Victoria, gently guiding their child into the world.  All Chris could see from his vantage point was blood and…other things…in a pool on the delivery table.  A surgical sheet protected and covered everything else, and Chris was grateful for it.

Victoria screamed and clamped down hard on his hand with both of hers.  Chris could have sworn he heard bones breaking.

“Okay; good, Victoria! One more push—the head is crowning!  Here it comes!”

Victoria panted laboriously and pushed, even though her heart wasn’t in it.  She was exhausted from the labor; Chris could see it in her eyes.

He heard a cry of victory, and looked up to see Dr. Hresan lift the baby toward a waiting nurse.  The nurse took the baby to be cleaned up and checked over.  Her eyes widened in shock and pity, and she stole a quick glance at Chris and Victoria.  Chris nodded to her.

“It’s okay,” Chris said soothingly, to both his wife and the nurse.  “We’re all okay.”

The nurse nodded back, and finished her job while Dr. Hresan cleaned up Victoria and raised her into a reclining position.

Finally, the nurse carried over their child.  “It’s a boy!” she said as she presented the baby to Victoria and Chris.

Victoria held out her hands and cradled the child to her chest.  She pulled aside the blanket and revealed a shock of dark hair, round cheeks, snub nose, and slightly elongated eyes.  The eyes opened and revealed shocking ice-blue to gaze back at them.

Christopher James Argent was born on February 13, at 4:05pm.  He weighed six-pounds, eight-ounces, and was twenty inches long.  He presented with Down’s syndrome.

He was perfect.

**

Allison entered her mother’s hospital room carrying a large blue balloon, a red heart-shaped balloon, and a stuffed Classic Eeyore.  She stood in the doorway for a long moment, just watching her parents fawn over the new baby.

Her brother.

Her angel.

 

Chris looked up and spied his daughter.  “Hey!  Come in and meet CJ.”

“CJ?”  Allison walked farther into the room.  “That’s his name?”

Victoria looked up and smiled.  “Christopher James is so long, you know, for such a small baby.”

Allison looked down into her mother’s arms and saw clear blue eyes watching her right back.  “I think CJ is just fine.  I know he’s too little for this, but I think Eeyore should be his favourite.  Always cheerful, even with a storm cloud over his head.”

Chris frowned.  “I thought Eeyore was the gloomy one.”

Allison shook her head. “Oh, no.  He might sound gloomy, but he has a surprisingly bright outlook on love and friendship.”   Allison trailed her fingers over CJ’s tiny hand.  “He’s so beautiful!”

From the hallway, Isaac peered through the window into the room.  He saw the small family, now bigger by one member, and he smiled.

They were going to be his family now.  He was going to do everything he could to protect them.

˜˜˜˜˜

April 2013

 Stiles’ nineteenth birthday was on a Monday, and Derek had rounds all day, so he decided to take Stiles out to dinner on Sunday night.

He debated taking Stiles to his loft and cooking for him, but he really wanted to show Stiles off.  After all, the entire town wasn’t aware that they were dating yet.

Derek picked up Stiles at home, and he was pleased that the younger man had dressed with his particular care: Blue slacks and a blue vest over a white pin-stripe shirt.

Derek had taken great care with his own outfit because he usually just wanted sweats and a t-shirt after a long day at the hospital.  Tonight he was wearing charcoal grey slacks and a maroon button-down with black loafers.

Derek smiled when Stiles opened the door.  “Happy early birthday, Stiles.”  Derek handed Stiles a small florist box.  Inside was a boutonniere of Red Catchfly and Figwort.

Stiles grinned.  “That is perfect!  Do you want to pin it on, or should I do it?”

Derek took the flowers.  “I can do it.  If I mess up, well—I’m very good with stitches now.”

“Ha, ha, funnyman!  You know, I think the local florist may think we’re absolutely nuts!”

“She might,” Derek agreed, “if I hadn’t given her a copy of the ‘Victorian Flower Oracle’ four years ago when we started this whole thing.  When I placed the order, she asked about your health until she realized the alternative Catchfly meaning.  She said she keeps trying to coach her other customers in flower-speak, because it’s so much fun.”

Stiles leaned in for a kiss.  “I don’t mind, as long as it remains ‘our thing’.  So, where are we going?”

Derek took his hand and led him to the car.  “I made reservations at ‘Carlysle’s on Baymont’.  I figured you deserved the best, now that we’re officially dating and I’m back in town.”

Stiles narrowed his eyes.  “You just want to lay claim to me in public!”

“Yes, I do!”

 

Over dinner, in the very crowded public dining room, Derek told Stiles about his work in the hospital, including the troubles he was having with all of the flirting.

“At least Dr. Dunbar seems to know that it’s a problem for me.”

“Yeah, that’s good.  Are any more of the senior staff making note of it?”

“The Chief of Pediatrics isn’t pleased about it.  He actually sent the head of Human Resources down to talk to Schiff the other day.  I saw her coming out of the lounge before morning rounds.”

“Did you hear what was said?”

“No, I only arrived after Ms. Marshall was leaving.  But Schiff kept giving me these looks.  It almost reminded me of when Kate Argent was after me in high school—I felt like a slab of meat in a piranha tank.”

Stiles reached across the table and covered Derek’s hand with his own.  “Look, tell her to lay off, or just deal with it however you see fit.  I’m not threatened.  I know how you feel about me.  I know how I feel about you.  Frankly, I’d be a little insulted if nobody flirted with you at all.  You are hot like burning, and you’re all mine!  As long as you don’t flirt back, I’m a little flattered.”

“I’m glad you’re flattered,” Derek said dryly.  “I find the whole thing to be a pain in the ass.  At least when the older nurses flirt, you can tell it’s all in fun.  When the younger aides do it, it’s like they’re preying.  When Schiff does it, it’s aggressive—she honestly can’t believe that I’m not interested.”

Stiles nodded.  “Okay, well, if it gets too troubling, remember—there are stalking laws in this state.  And sexual harassment laws.  And you have a magical Mate who would have no trouble at all spelling this chick into another state if I have to.”

Derek tipped his head forward to hide his blush.  “Can I….is it too soon to tell you that I love you?”

Stiles blushed in pleasure.  “I don’t think so.  We’ve been together a long time, Derek.  Even if we were only friends long ago, we’ve been together for years.  Hey!”  Stiles paused until Derek looked up.  “I love you, too.  You are so it for me.”

“Me too.  Do you want dessert?”

“Not from here.  I’d be tempted to get the cookie plate, just to see if Regan made them as well as I do.”

 

Stiles had finally officially chosen to sell the recipes of several of his mother’s special cookies to Regan Talbot and ‘Carlysle’s on Baymont’.  He picked four favorites that he only made for the restaurant—or for special occasions—and offered them over for a fair price.  Regan calculated the popularity of the cookies in the restaurant with possible future sales, and offered $5000 per recipe.  Since they could not be replicated anywhere else but Stiles’ own kitchen, Regan figured they would make the money back in a few years.  Stiles filtered the money back to Peter for investment purposes.

**

A week later, Peter called a Pack meeting at the Hale house.

 

After several years and many failed attempts, Amanda was once again pregnant.

Seven-year-old Nicky was thrilled.  He was going to be a big brother!

 

Peter made the announcement in order to explain his next piece of business.

“We’re moving out of the main house.  When it was just the three of us, our suite was fine.  But with a new baby on the way, we’ll need more room.  Plus, Derek has moved out, and Cora is on her way, so Talia and Robert are finally getting the privacy they need to keep the marriage strong.”

“So?  What are you planning, Peter?”  Stiles asked what everyone else was wondering.

“We’re going to build our own place on a bit of land near the main house.  All of the big Pack gatherings will still be here, and I am Second to Alpha as well as Financial Manager, so I’ll be here anyway.  But Amanda and I want our own home now that the family is growing.”

Talia smiled.  “Of course you do.  You should have done this when you first married.  Every new family needs their own space.”  She hugged her brother and sister-in-law.  “I’m so happy for both of you!”

The rest of the meeting was spent looking over the blueprints that Peter’s architect and builder had drawn up.  It would be a small cottage, with four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, an open kitchen/family area, and a studio for Amanda to plan her sculptures in.  The ground-breaking was scheduled for the end of April.

˜˜˜˜˜

May 2013

 The end of the school year was approaching, and Stiles was getting pretty excited.  Stiles’ grades were so high, it looked like he and Lydia would be competing for Valedictorian of their graduating class.  Stiles would have to start packing for college, so the summer free-camp was out this year, which was a shame, since they finally got to see Lydia and Erica all grubby last year.  At least they had photos for proof.

But Prom was coming up the week before graduation.

Stiles had attended the Winter Formal stag, as usual, but he had PLANS for prom!

Derek had promised to be there with bells on, and Stiles knew he would do everything possible to make it happen.

So, Stiles was spending a lot of his down time with Lydia, Allison, Erica, and Cora (and just when did Stiles become the girl in his relationship?) comparing prom dresses and colors and tuxedo styles.  Stiles was in charge of the flowers, of course, so he was making the girls pick flowers for their dates, just like the men were choosing flower conversations for them.

The five of them were sitting in the covered courtyard during a free period, while other aimless students flowed around them in search of something to do.  The Beacon Hills Pack was flipping carefully through Stiles’ scrap-book, in which he kept his flower notes and his pressed nosegays.

 

Allison giggled.  “I think we can all be sure that Lydia will get at least one dandelion for her corsage.  Jackson is nothing if not consistent.”

Lydia preened until a group of vapid cheerleaders approached their table.

“Yeah, what’s up with that?” asked the ring-leader, a blonde wearing too much gooey lip gloss.  “I would have figured that Jackson Whittemore had better taste than to give weeds to a girl.  I guess he doesn’t think much of you after all.”

Lydia spun in her seat and focused her narrowed eyes on the other girl—Symone-something who had been chasing Jackson for years.  “You know, I thought so, too, when I first saw it.  But then Stiles explained the meaning behind it, and I’d rather have that than a dozen long-stemmed roses.”

Over-hearing, a pretty Korean girl from Stiles’ History—Kira—walked over.  “What does it mean?  Can you explain it?”

Lydia motioned for Stiles to take over, so he slid to the side to allow Kira to sit beside him so she could see the book.

“Back in Victorian England, people would use flowers to send messages.  Sometimes they were secret lovers or unfaithful spouses, but sometimes they were actual spies.  Every flowering plant has a meaning.  Some have the same meaning, while others have more than one meaning, so it depends on the combination of flowers to get the message across.

“For example, you always see white calla lilies at funerals, so you would think that they’re a funereal plant.  But they actually mean ‘magnificent beauty’, so they’re a good tribute for a loved one.  They’re also a good wedding flower.”  Stiles pointed out his birthday boutonniere.  “This red one has two meanings, and it almost caused my boyfriend some grief because we’ve been educating our florist about flower meanings.  One meaning of Red Catchfly is ‘Fall Victim’, but the other is ‘Youthful Love’.  It’s coupled here with Figwort, which means ‘Future Joy’.”

“So what does dandelion mean?” asked Kira, seemingly very interested.

“Dandelion means “Faithfulness and Happiness’.  All of the nosegays that I design have flowers, wildflowers, and herbs in them.”

Kira looked at Stiles and smiled shyly.  “I’ve seen you in the halls a lot, and you wear different flowers or greenery in your vest sometimes.”

Stiles nodded. “Yeah.  They’re love-notes from my boyfriend.  They have special meaning to the two of us, and nobody can read them over my shoulder.”

“That’s really cool.  My mom’s birthday is coming up.  Can you help me arrange a bouquet for her?”

The other ladies at the table relaxed as they realized this new girl had no designs on Stiles.

“I’d be happy to,” said Stiles kindly.  “Let me give you my number, and when you figure out your message, you can call me and we’ll get together to design the arrangement.”

“Okay, thanks.  I’ll let you get back to your thing.”

Kira left, but Symone-something lingered with her cheer squad.  Stiles looked up at them.

“Was there something you wanted?”

“I’m trying to figure how full of shit you are.  Those ugly flowers can’t really be love notes.”

Stiles looked at the pressed flowers in his book.  “Well, they’re ugly now, because they’re all dried out and dead.  And flat.  But when I got them, this one was bright red, and this one was purple and cream.”

Another cheerleader frowned at Cora.  “I saw you at Winter Formal.  Your flowers didn’t even have Baby’s Breath.  Every corsage has to have Baby’s Breath.  It’s, like, a rule or something.”

Cora laughed.  “You’re an idiot.  The first flowers Scott ever gave me had Baby’s Breath.  I don’t need that flower anymore.”  Stiles snorted and the other girls broke into giggles.

“I don’t understand,” said vapid-girl.  “What does that mean?”

Stiles composed himself enough to answer.  “Baby’s Breath means ‘Innocence’.  I’m pretty sure Cora and Scott are past that by now.”

Symone-something huffed.  “I still don’t believe you.”

Lydia shrugged.  “You’re still an idiot.  Look, Jackson picked me a long time ago.  I know I’m lucky for it, and I never take him for granted.  Get over yourself and find a guy with lower standards.”

The cheerleaders stomped off angrily, and the flower discussion recommenced.

“Are you going to tell us what the guys have picked?”

Stiles shook his head.  “Sorry, Allison.  I love ya like a sister, but I have been sworn to secrecy.  Actually, I have no idea what they’re choosing for you all.  They have decided that, since I’m helping you pick their flowers this time; they were going to figure yours out on their own.  I hope they do their research.”

Lydia sighed.  “Well, I’ll get my weed, if nothing else.”

**

On the night of Prom, everyone once again gathered at the Argent house for group photos.  John, Melissa, Talia, David Whittemore, Camden Lahey, and Gloria Martin had all given disposable cameras to Christopher Argent with requests for a large photo-shoot.  Christopher acquiesced, and he and Victoria gathered the cameras in the living room, where furniture was pushed aside.

Tiny CJ was asleep in a travel-cradle in the corner, blissfully unaware of the chaos around him.

Stiles arrived early with the flowers, as was his habit.  He kissed Victoria on the cheek, shook Chris’ hand, and walked over to the travel-cradle.

“Hello, baby,” he whispered. “I have a gift for you.  I hope you like it.”

From a paper bag, Stiles pulled a hand-woven dream catcher.  It was worked with soft black leather and a bronze hoop, and the colored threads held amethyst stones in the pattern of the constellation Aquarius.  Instead of feathers, Stiles had hung soft-crafted figures of Classic Pooh characters.  He pulled a thumb-tack from the bag and hung the dream catcher over the cradle.

“You can put that over his bed upstairs after we all leave.  I hope you don’t mind.”

Victoria gave a tremulous smile, tears glistening in her eyes. “It’s beautiful.  Thank you, Stiles.”

The other Prom-goers arrived shortly, and they were quickly posed for photographs.  Derek arrived with Scott and Cora, as they would be taking Stiles’ Jeep to the dance.

He was dressed in a black tuxedo with a bottle-green cummerbund and bow-tie to match his eyes.  He looked stunning, but that was not what delighted Stiles.

On Derek’s lapel, where his boutonniere should go, Derek was wearing a small cluster of brass bells.

**

Derek was actually having fun.

He never attended his own Prom, so this was a new experience for him.

He and Stiles danced together most of the night.  Then they danced with all of their lady-friends and several of their man-friends, just to shake things up.

Derek knew he was attracting a lot of attention, but Stiles took away the tension.

“I know you think it’s because you’re so much older than everyone here, but that’s not why they’re staring.  It’s because you should be on the cover of a magazine, you’re so ridiculously good-looking.  And you’re all mine.  They just can’t believe that you’re all mine.”

Derek nuzzled Stiles cheek as they danced.  “You’re crazy, you know?  I’m the lucky one here.”  Derek pulled back to look at Stiles. “Are you sure you want to come back to the loft after this?”

Stiles reached up to cup Derek’s cheek.  “I’m sure that I want to spend Prom Night with my boyfriend.  We don’t have to do anything more than drink tea and watch bad movies—I hear ‘Prom Night’ is good.  But I want to spend the night with you.”

“Good, because I want that, too.”

 

At midnight, the party was well and truly over, and everyone was leaving the gymnasium in small and large groups.  Stiles knew there would be after-parties.  That was why his father and Deputy Lahey had to work late tonight.  Stiles was not heading to an after party.

 

In the parking lot, Derek and Stiles bid adieux to the rest of the Pack and bundled into Jeep for the drive across town.  In the backseat, Stiles had a packed overnight bag filled with sleep clothes, clothes for the next day, and several DVDs.

There was also a new tube of lube and a box of condoms, just in case.

 

Inside the loft, Derek locked the door behind them while Stiles carried his bag to the sleeping area.

The floor plan was open-concept: a kitchen/dining/living area on one side, a sleeping area on the other side, with a large bathroom sectioned off between the two.  The huge king-sized bed took up a lot of the space on that side of the loft, with two night stands on either side, a standing wardrobe and a mirrored dresser backed by a folding screen as a wall.

Stiles had been here before, of course, but never to spend the whole night.

Previous visits had consisted of homework at the dining table and cuddling on the sofa, but he was sure he and Derek had planned to do much more than that tonight.

“I’m gonna get out of this tux so that I can hang it up.  I’ll make some sandwiches while you get changed, okay?”

“Okay, Stiles.  I, uh, have some beer or wine, if you want.”

“Nah.  I know you like the taste, but I don’t need it.  Do you have tea, or should I make some?”

“I have a pitcher of iced tea in the fridge.”

 

Stiles changed quickly, placing his rental tux into the packed garment bag and hanging it in the wardrobe with the shoes underneath.  His sleep pants were loose and thin, because Derek put off a lot of heat, and he topped them with a thin tank top.  He padded barefoot to the kitchen area, kissing Derek as they passed along the way.

 

Several minutes later, Derek, dressed much the same as Stiles, was pouring the iced tea to accompany the sandwiches, and they ate while debating which movie to watch.

“I can’t believe you want to watch ‘Prom Night’ on the night of your actual Prom!”

“When else would I watch it, Derek?  Christmas?”

“Your love for hack horror movies astounds me sometimes.”

“Your total lack of taste in any cinematic entertainment astounds me, so we’re even.”

Derek carried the plates to the sink, while Stiles wiped the table.  “You know, it’s late.  We, uh, don’t have to watch a movie tonight.  We could just…go to bed?”

Stiles swallowed.  “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.  Let’s do that.  Um, go to bed.”

“You go ahead, and I’ll get the lights.”

 

Stiles wandered into the sleeping area and flipped on a table lamp as the rest of the loft went dark.  He busied himself opening the safety seal on the lube and tossing the wrapper in the trash.

Derek walked up behind Stiles and wrapped his arms around the smaller man.  He leaned in and kissed softly behind Stiles’ ear.  “Hey.  I love you.  We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”

Stiles turned in his arms and returned the embrace.  “Are you sure you want to do this?  It goes both ways, Derek.  Nobody is forcing anybody here.  I want you.  I want to touch you and kiss you.  I want to feel your body close to mine.  I want to feel you inside of me.  But if you don’t want that, or you aren’t ready, they we can still wait.  I’m not going anywhere.”

Derek groaned and pressed a hard kiss to Stiles’ mouth.   “You can’t just say things like that and expect me to say no.  I want that, too, Stiles.  I want to kiss you all over and feel you around me.  I want to claim you as mine, for all to see.”

 

Derek’s eyes were glowing gold as his Wolf was rising to the surface, and Stiles swallowed again.  “You want to bite me, so everybody knows who I belong to?”  Stiles tipped his head to the side, exposing his neck.  “Do it.  Mark me, Derek.”

Derek growled lowly, eyes glowing bright gold, and pulled Stiles into a hard kiss, tongue thrusting deeply into the younger man’s mouth.

Stiles could feel Derek’s fangs growing against his own mouth and he gave an answering moan.

Derek pulled back roughly.   “I need to know you.  All of you.  Are you ready?”

Stiles nodded as his cock hardened in anticipation.  He was beyond words now.

Fingers hooked into claws, Derek shredded Stiles’ tank top from his body, exposing a runner’s form; firm shoulders, lean muscled arms, tight abs with a hint of cut musculature.  Derek hated how Stiles hid his body under loose shirts and fitted waistcoats.  Derek leaned in and licked a broad stripe across Stiles’ chest from shoulder to shoulder.

Stiles shivered as Derek moved to roughly tongue over each nipple.

Then Derek did the unexpected and raised Stiles’ right arm to push his nose into the armpit.  With a ragged sigh, Derek drew in Stiles’ scent, and then he licked across the pit, from rib to elbow before doing the same to the left arm.

“You smell so good—like Mate.  Like mine.  Always mine.”

Derek dropped to his knees and gently pulled Stiles’ sleep pants downward, over Stiles’ fully erect cock and past his thighs and knees.  He lifted the younger man’s right leg and then the left, allowing Stiles to step free from the pants, and then Derek threw them behind him, toward the dresser.

Stiles opened his lust-heavy eyes in time to see Derek nosing along the crease of his thigh, scenting him there as thoroughly as his did Stiles’ upper body.  Derek’s eyes were closed in ecstasy, but Stiles could imagine the golden glow under the thickened brow of a Half-Beta Shift.  He could see a hint of fang as Derek opened his mouth to lick at Stiles’ groin, circling around his navel and hips, but completely bypassing his cock.  Derek crouched lower to lick along Stiles’ long legs, down to the tops of his feet and over his toes.

 

“Derek, baby,” Stiles’ voice was rough with passion, “I know you have to do this.  But my feet are really ticklish, so unless you want to ruin the mood, you need to not go further.”

 

Derek grunted in response, and lifted Stiles’ left leg over his shoulder so he could nose behind Stiles’ heavy, hard testicles.

 

With a deep, heavy breath, Derek lifted from the hips and twisted slightly, tossing Stiles onto the bed so that he landed softly, face-down.  Derek knelt at the foot of the bed and ran his tongue over Stiles’ calves and thighs, biting gently at the backs of his knees.

Stiles shifted as electricity ran along all of his nerve endings.  He had tried to do research about Mating, but nothing he read had prepared him for this.  He could feel Derek’s hot breath climbing up his thighs with each harsh exhale.  Derek’s hands drew circles on his hips, claws out but not abrasive, and his thumbs were massaging Stiles’ buttocks.

Stiles relaxed into the touch, savoring each pass of Derek’s tongue and hand.

 

“I need…Stiles—I need…”

 

“Oh, god, yes!  Please, Derek!”

 

A hot burst of air blew across the crack of Stiles’ ass as Derek parted his cheeks and breathed in his most intimate scent.  Derek licked into the crack, forcing his tongue into Stiles’ pucker, and out again, memorizing the scent and taste of his Mate.

 

Stiles raised up on his knees slightly, pushing back onto Derek’s tongue, and Derek added a finger—pressing into Stiles’ hole gently.  Derek fingered Stiles slowly, pressing one, then two fingers inside his ass while licking along the edges of the pucker.  When his spit proved to not be lubrication enough, Derek reached for the bottle of lube that Stiles had opened earlier.

 

Stiles kneeled up fully onto his knees, keeping his shoulders and head low on the pillow.  He felt the trickle of lube pour over his crack and moaned as Derek worked it into his ass.

 

“More, please, baby.  I need…Ahhh!”

 

Derek pushed three fingers into Stiles, thrusting in and out and twisting until he could feel the rough spot of Stiles’ prostate.  He pressed gently over the prostate and Stiles bucked hard against Derek’s hand.  Derek reached around to his cock and felt the pre-come leaking from the tip.  Derek rubbed his thumb through the musky liquid and lifted it to his mouth, tasting Stiles’ essence for the first time.

 

“Derek!  Please!”

 

“Okay, baby.  I have you.  I don’t want to hurt you, so we’ll go slow.”

 

Derek pulled his hand free and reached for a condom, ripping it open and rolling it quickly over his own hard cock.  He spread more lube over himself, and lined up against Stiles’ hole, pressing gently but firmly until his tip pushed past the tight ring of muscle inside.

 

Stiles moaned and shivered, the burn of pain overshadowed by growing pleasure.  He felt so full, but he wanted so much more.  He began to pulse his hips up and down, running counterpoint to Derek’s gentle thrusts, until he could feel Derek slipping deeper inside.

 

Derek clutched hard onto Stiles hips, trying to control himself so he didn’t do any major harm, but Stiles’ movements had him quickly losing control.  With a wild growl, Derek slammed home, and Stiles let out a howl of his own; one of deep pleasure and yearning.

 

“Derek—so close, please…”

 

Derek began thrusting harder and faster, pressing onto Stiles’ prostate with every thrust, until he could feel his own orgasm building quickly.  As the tingle built at the base of his spine, Derek leaned forward, changing the angle so that he was a constant pressure on Stiles’ prostate, and he opened his mouth widely—fangs sharp and dangerous.  Derek thrust in deep, pulled back on Stiles’ hips, and lowered his mouth to bite deep into the juncture of Stiles’ shoulder and neck—a Mating mark that would scar and show everyone that he was Claimed.

 

Stiles shuddered against the pain of the bite and the pleasure of the fuck, hands scrabbling against the mattress, and his orgasm tore through him sudden and quick.  Thick streams of come shot into the bedding and over his stomach, and he collapsed, pulling Derek down onto his back.

 

After a few moments, he could feel Derek beginning to soften inside him, and he groaned at the loss of pressure.

 

“I totally think you broke me.  But it was so worth it!”

 

Derek chuckled and pulled out, holding the end of the condom to contain the mess—as much as he could, anyway.  He stood and removed the condom, tying the end and tossing it in the trash in the bathroom.  Then he ran warm water over a washcloth and returned to his Mate, intending to clean the come and blood from the young man.

Derek gently rolled Stiles onto his back and washed around the bite.  “I’m sorry….”

 

“Don’t you dare apologize for the single-most wonderful thing to ever happen to me!”  Stiles opened his eyes and held Derek’s gaze.  “Der—it was wonderful!  I’m glad we waited.  I could not have asked for a better moment between us.  Yeah—it hurt.  But it was a good hurt.  And now we know I get turned on when you bite me.”

 

Derek smiled.  “So, we’re good as long as I avoid your feet?”

 

“Yeah—I think uncontrollable giggles would have ruined everything.  Now—give me that cloth!  I’m all gross, and I don’t want my spunk drying on me.”

 

 

Moments later, as they cuddled together under the sheet (Derek was much too hot for the blanket), Derek kissed Stiles in the forehead and whispered “Mine!”, and Stiles squeezed his fingers in response.

 

˜˜˜˜˜

 

Stiles and Lydia tied for highest grades and activities, so they shared duties as Valedictorian of their graduating class.

Lydia gave her speech first, and spoke of making life-long friends and moving on into a bright future.  She wore a crisp, white dress under her red graduation robes, and she had a single flower pinned to the front, over her heart: A Coronilla cluster, which stood out bright yellow in the sea of red.  Stiles had given the clusters to everyone in his group of friends.  The girls wore them on their chests and the boys wore them pinned to their mortar boards.  The Principal asked about them, and Stiles explained about the language of flowers that he had been using for years.  The Coronilla meant simply ‘Success to You’, and it was the best choice for this occasion.  Because of that, they were allowed to wear the decorations.

Stiles smiled as he listened to his dear friend speak.  In the rows of chairs in front of the stage—set up on the Lacrosse field—were the people he cared most about: Scott–his best friend since childhood, Cora, Jackson, Erica, and Isaac—all members of his Pack, Boyd and Danny—the humans who kept the secret of the Wolves, and Allison—daughter of a reformed Hunter Clan.  Together, they were going to change the world, he just knew it.

 

Finally, it was his turn for a speech.  Stiles stood and took a good, long look at the audience.

 

The Hale Pack, led by Alpha Talia, were sitting at the far left of the bleachers, ostensibly there to support Cora, but really supporting all of the teen Wolves and their partners.  Derek sat in the center section, beside John Stilinski and Melissa McCall. (She had talked Scott into keeping his name, but making him promise to rise above his father’s influence and actions.)  John and Melissa were openly holding hands, and Stiles felt light in the heart at the sight.  Lydia’s mother sat with the Whittemores, since they had offered so much emotional support  during her divorce, and Boyd’s family was mixed with Erica’s—a finally-happy blending after all these years.  Camden Lahey sat with his father in the row above John and Melissa, Coach Lahey sober and proud for the first time in a long time.

Stiles took a deep breath and spoke loud and clear:

“I have been so lucky to have formed the friendships that I had in this school.  The one ideal that I know that has sunk in is that this generation is magical….”

Summary of Chapter Four:  In order to progress this story, here are some timestamps explaining what was going on elsewhere

 NOTES: Still plotting the next part, but this was important. So, here it is–not exactly a chapter, even though it has a chapter number.

 

2011—SheepholeValley Wilderness Area, California

 The Alpha stood over his cowering, bleeding sons and growled in displeasure.

 The lowly Betas had served their purpose and lured Deucalion to his doom, but they had almost seemed too eager to do so.  It was as if they truly believed that Deucalion could elevate them over their own father.

 Not likely.

 They had killed their mother, the one brightness in the Alpha’s life, and he would make certain they understood how little their lives were worth.  The only thing they were good for was to act as bait.

Bait for Beta Training.

Bait for Hunting Practice.

Bait to trap a rabid Alpha/Omega.

 

The Alpha turned from the cowering twins and looked over the dismembered body of Deucalion.

 The once proud Wolf was now in pieces and the Alpha could feel the new power running through his veins.

 Movement in the doorway caught his attention:  The Omega Bitch.

She came to him for help, actually believing he would allow her to evolve into Alpha-hood.

She was only worthy of breeding, if that.

 “You should have let me kill him,” she whined.  “We could have gone after my mother as equals.”

 The Alpha shrugged.  “It makes no difference.  You’ll have your chance.”

 He turned to his sons.  “Torch the house.  Make sure nothing remains, especially the body.”

 The Alpha left the dilapidated cabin, heading farther into the woods, the Omega Bitch following at his heels like an eager puppy.

 “Tell me what you know about your former Pack.”

 The Bitch snorted.  “My mother has lost track of what it means to be a Wolf.  She has long ago gone soft and is far too lenient with the humans in the Pack.”

 The Alpha sneered.  “And her Second?”

 “She doesn’t have one that I know of.  My Uncle Peter might serve in the position, but he’s too fond of number crunching to be much of a threat.  He married a human as well.”

 “I see.  What about the Successor that took your place?”

 “Derek?”  The Bitch laughed.  “He was a skinny geek that liked knitting with the old women at the hospital.  I doubt anything there has changed.  That pathetic child-Emissary should be no problem to take care of, either.”

 “You said he was magical.  That could prove problematic.”

 The Bitch shook her head.  “He does simple tricks with flowers.  His father is the local Sheriff.  If we take him down, the Emissary will fall quickly.  He won’t put up a fight.”

 

The scent of smoke had reached them, and the Alpha altered his direction away from the wind.

The Bitch hurried to catch up with him.  She reached out to grab his arm, and he forced himself to remain calm.

He wanted to rip out her throat, but she was key to his plans for taking a larger Territory.

 

“Remember what you promised,” she said breathlessly.   “We kill as many as we have to, but you’ll let me take my mother so that I’ll receive her Alpha Gift.”

 The Alpha smiled a toothsome grin.

 “Don’t worry.  You’ll get everything you deserve.”

 

 January 2012—Underhill, Vermont

 The intel was good, so the Hunt was on.

 A small Pack of werewolves, only two Betas to one Alpha, were purportedly roaming around the Mt. Mansfield State Forest.

 There were no known natural wolves in the forest now, but howls were heard by hikers as recent as New Year’s.  No one had been harmed.

 It didn’t matter.

 The abominations had to be exterminated.

 It had taken Kate Argent years to find a decent group of Hunters to network with.

 That idiotic Sheriff and his stupid-smart timing had ruined EVERYTHING for her in California.

 If she had only had a little more time, that freak Hale would have been putty in her hands, and she could have used him to eradicate the entire Pack.

 Instead, she spent years in a Women’s Correctional Institution, and suffered the loss of her reputation as a Hunter.

 Once she was released, she couldn’t even get a reference for a rental car.

 She was even forbidden from visiting her family—her precious niece, Allison—all because of that Sex Offender Registry.

 Her father couldn’t get her a decent lawyer.

Her brother stopped taking her calls.

Her in-laws refused to allow her into their territory.

 

And now, she had lost track of her father for good.

The last Kate had heard, Gerard was ill and seeking treatment from alternative sources.

 She had tried to make amends, but Gerard refused to speak with her after her release.

 Now, after all this time, she had found a group to welcome her.

 Sure, they were mainly redneck mountain men, but the Hunts were valid.

 

 The first Hunt Kate had joined them on turned out to be just a group of naturists in a public campground.

 Naked old people.

In tents.

 Robards had killed two with a shotgun before Kate realized that they were human, and therefore harmless.

 Jenkins killed the others to keep any witnesses from testifying.

 Kate had stood, dumbfounded, and watched the massacre go down, shock and awe keeping her in place while chaos raged around her.

 After the campsite was razed and burned, Robards damned-near beat Kate to death to keep her from going to authorities.

 Robards needn’t have worried.

 After so long between Hunts, Kate had a thirst for blood—any blood—and would stay silent if it would get her Wolves to kill.

 Finally, after listening to the Hunter Underground Network, they had a lead in Vermont, and Kate was going to make ALL the Wolves pay for what Hale had done to her.

 

The mountain road was winding and treacherous.

They had skidded on Black Ice twice now, and in the dark it was impossible to see if there was more.

 The closer they got to their target area, the more agitated Robards got.  He pressed on the gas a little harder, and the pick-up truck lurched ahead, closing in on a blind curve.

 Before they hit the curve, oncoming headlights momentarily blinded them all, and Robards cursed and hit the brakes.

 The pick-up skidded and swerved, heading onward toward the logging truck that had been heading their way.

The last thing Kate saw was the bottom of the logging trailer as the pick-up slammed into it sideways.

PART TWO

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